Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Project Feeder Watch

To help combat the winter blahs, I decided to sign up for Project Feeder Watch, which is sponsored by the Cornell Ornithology Lab. I've put up a feeder for the last couple of years in my little, postage-stamp yard and enjoy watching the birds who come to visit. This year I'm going to count my birds and send in the data. I love watching the chickadees, finches, titmice, etc., duke it out around my feeder, or queue up on the back fence, if they're feeling courteous. Then there are the squirrels...arrrgghhh! They're diabolical--but at least I have something to distract me from the cold, gray days and the bare trees. The thing that sent me to Cornell's site was a book called Songbird Journeys by Miyoko Chu. If you're interested in songbirds, particularly their migratory behavior, this is a great book. It is always so humbling to be reminded of how much our lives are connected and intertwined with the rest of the natural world. Chu makes you think about the small things that you do (or don't do) that can affect our songbird populations, migration patterns, and ultimately their survival.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ozomatli and Los Lonely Boys

I like Los Lonely Boys, but I have to admit I showed up mostly for Ozomatli--a gem of a band that I stumbled onto with Street Signs. I 'm no hip-hop expert, but I like the way these guys do it with lots of Latin music influences and all kinds of other stuff thrown in like Middle Eastern and African beats, symphony strings (on the recording, not live), brass and a plethora of percussion. They had to work hard to win over a crowd waiting for LLB at the show, but I think they did it in the end with great energy, dance moves, and playing bravely to a Kentucky audience that didn't come out for any hip-hop dudes from LA. At the end of their set, they jumped off center stage, over the pit barrier, and led a Samba-style march up the center aisle. It was pretty awesome. I spoke to a couple of the guys out in the lobby after, telling them how I actually got scolded for standing up during their first song. Dudes! That lady was lame. Thankfully, they got the house standing for the last two songs at least. Vindication. It's not music you should sit through!

LLB were pretty entertaining. I like their sound, but I don't get that much into the long, jamming guitar solos. I admire the dexterity, but I'd rather hear the songs. I think they've got great harmonies when they're not overwhelmed by the instruments. That's just my preference. I'm sure guitar-heads would beg to differ.

Anyway, for heaven's sake check out Ozomatli! They have a new CD coming out soon.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Barenaked Ladies are Me!

We saw Barenaked Ladies in Columbus on their BLAM tour. Being a true fan girl, I had already bought third row tickets as soon as they were available, but unbeknownst to me, my surfer hubby (Web surfer, that is) had entered a Microsoft Live Spaces contest and outdid me by winning front row tickets and backstage passes. Darn him. We met the band before the show, which was equal parts kind of cool and painful. I was dreading it a bit because I knew it would be contrived and weird. So it was contrived and weird, but they were all very nice about it and took the time to sign autographs and say hello. I think it's usually NOT the big fans that end up in an official meet-and-greet, which probably accounts for the subdued, slightly apprehensive atmosphere. They probably approach everyone with the thought, okay, is this person going to be a complete headcase? I think it's mostly people who happen to work in the venue, were caller number nine, or are there for some other purely random reason that may not have anything to do with being a BNL fan. My primary goal was to be as polite as possible and go get in my seat.

I enjoyed every minute of the show. They sound great live and look like they're having a good time. Everyone seemed to be in fine voice, and I'm a sucker for a tight harmony. And I always admire Steve's super-high leg kicks. When you get to the 35-and-over checkbox, you find that you are not as springy as you used to be, so it's that much more inspiring. Sometimes I'll get a wild hair and want to turn a cartwheel or roll down a grassy hillside, and invariably I think--I could really hurt myself. Still, I'm totally enchanted by their willingness to frolic on stage. I like a little frolic every now and then myself.

They played a very fan-friendly mix of older songs and new stuff. I was secretly hoping for something a little more obscure from Maroon like "Conventioneers" or "Off the Hook," but they did a couple of different ones. One of our favorite songs from the last album is the bluegrassy "For Me," which we did get to hear. It's the second time I've got "Alcohol" live, and I thought it was a real treat to hear Ed sing "When I Fall." That, with "Hello City," "Jane," and "Brian Wilson" were fine classics. Of the new stuff, I love, love, love "Home;" and "Running Out of Ink" is fantastic. I like songs, as Ed put it, with lots of words! They don't really do the yeah, baby, yeah too much. They are the literate person's band.

Friday, November 03, 2006

When We Were Orphans

This is the only novel I've read by Kazuo Ishiguro, and granted, it may not be representative of his work. It left me kind of cold, even though it had moments that were really nice. It's one of those novels where the sum of the parts didn't really add up to a satisfying novel for me. I think I was disappointed because I thought I was being tuned up by an unreliable narrator for a really BIG denouement, but it sort of pooped out in the end. As it turns out, the narrator-detective Christopher Banks was only moderately delusional and the effect was sort of--well--boring. Oh, well, they can't all be gems.

I'm not sure what I want to read next. Perhaps Richard Ford. He's just published the last novel in a trilogy that I've not started, so start at the beginning with The Sportswriter. It's that time of year when curling up with a good book is especially cozy. The holidays are almost here, and it seems like it's been such whirlwind of activity lately. I've been really fortunate to see so many great musicians this year: Marah, Jackie Greene, Joe Ely, Tom Waits, Bruce Cockburn, Eric Clapton, Barenaked Ladies, and next week--Ozomatli and Los Lonely Boys. My goal is to catch the elusive Kelly Willis somewhere next year. I keep hearing whispers that she's been working in the studio. I didn't get to see the Raconteurs, but it was getting really hard to squeeze in yet another out-of-town concert trip. I can start plotting for next year.