Scott's Soapbox

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Cool Fall Night

It is a perfect fall day here- the air crisp and cool, a gorgeous sunset outside, the sky a rich mosaic of pinks and blues. I just got back in from a nice, long walk around the neighborhood and our little community park. I am so at home in a sweater and khakis. The only problem is, it is supposed to be spring!

Oh well. That is central Ohio for you. Two weekends ago- 70s and sunny. Last weekend- snowstorm. Who knows?

Quiet night at home tonight, just chilling out with some great new music and kicking back.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Today is a Monumental Day

Not because New Order has finally released their latest album in the US (more on that later). But because I never thought I would see the day when all Syrian troops have pulled out of Lebanon. I'm not sure how much play this story will get here, but it could be huge. Another Middle Eastern country with a troubled, divided past takes a big step towards democracy. I wish them all luck. After reading Tom Friedman's remarkable From Beirut to Jerusalem, I have an affinity for the hardy citizens of Beirut. One cannot help but root for them.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

New New Order

No, that is not a typo. The new album by New Order comes out Tuesday here in the US. Of course, it was out a month ago in the UK, where it (Waiting for the Sirens' Call) reached #5. Of course, you already knew that the talent behind New Order- that which arose from the ashes of Joy Division following the tragic suicide of ling singer Ian Curtis some 25 years ago- is responsible for some of the greatest moments in music history. There is no band around whose influence still resonates so much through rock and dance music. They count amongst their fans Moby, The Smiths, The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, The Killers. If you have not heard of all these, don't worry, your kids have.

This new album is a grower. The more I listen, the more I like it. My all-time favorite band has produced one of their most best records. The whole album has a dynamic, organic, big sound. It flows. The usual things are there, Baernard Sumner's distinctive vocals and guitar over the foundation incredible basswork and drumming. But this time more than most it all fits together perfectly. Is it groundbreaking? No. Is it a revolution? No. Is it the best album I have heard in a few years? Yes. So help them out and pick up a copy. Or better yet, come with me to the sold-out show in Chicago next week.

Don't take just my word for it:

Billboard says:
It's impossible to mistake a New Order song for anything else; the band has spent 25-plus years spinning infinite variations on a theme established in dance-rock classics like "Temptation," "Blue Monday" and "Bizarre Love Triangle." The trademark chiming basslines, wall of synths and fragile vocals return on "Waiting for the Siren's Call," but throughout, the band sounds better than ever. These 11 tracks are instantly familiar, yet most reveal greater depths with repeated listening.

And We Danced says:
Jangly guitars, crystalline synths and the mellow longing of Bernard Sumner's voice will stir emotion. Like the best in pop music, it first settles into a comfortable place in the head then ultimately comes to rest in the heart. 4 1/2 stars.

Amazon says: "shockingly vital." Manchester Online: "improves with every listen." Rolling Stone: "New Order have nothing to regret...They just keeping making brilliant new records." 4 stars.

Ok, enough already. But go get your copy today.

Should I Be Worried About This?

Venezuela is not exactly on my political radar, but...what the heck is going on here?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Technology Marches On

This is not a headline you see every day:

"Qatar to replace camel riders with robots"

Yep, there is a picture.

I bet this sentence has never been written before either:

By 2007, rulers of this energy-rich emirate say all camel racers will be mechanical.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

More Strange Religious Sightings

Highway overpass? This one really seems like a reach to me. But look at the pictures yourself.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A Satanic Turtle and "Hogzilla"

From the "In Case You Missed It" department:



From Today

Now spring has officially sprung here. Was winter officially over when the calendar said so? Was it last weekend when I went to my first barbeque and had my first burger off the grill? Friday when I went to the first home baseball game of the year, and saw not only the green grass, heard the crack of the bat, and the unmistakable sound of a pitched fastball into a catcher's mitt? Was it yesterday, when I got up early and watched the whole world awaken? Or last night, when I had my first piece of corn on the cob? Are these rituals, these flavors, these sensations, now what marks a change in season?

I have noticed now, that even the coffees change. Right now there is creme bulee and chocolate macadamia to enjoy...the fall brings pumpkin and cinnamon, winter nutmeg and egg nog. Everything now is lighter, faster, brighter, happier than it was just a few weeks ago. Downtown has changed to a more vibrant, more talkative, more colorful place to walk through- gone are the days when each of us huddled only with ourselves, jackets held tight against the biting wind.

I spent part of yesterday at a farm- Slate Run, part of the Columbus Metro Parks system. It consists of an historic farm which has been restored to function much as it did in the 1880s. One is greeted by rooster calls and squawking poultry, hears mooing and oinking and the hissing of geese. I fed sheep, pet a young piglet, and watched horses stir. The centerpiece is a beautifully constructed farmhouse, originally built in 1856. As I toured it, I thought about my wonderful and treasured heritage, both as an American and as a Stuart.

When I arrived, the farm was still awakening-all the young piglets (2 groups of about 8 each) were still all piled up with each other in sleep. The night before was cold, and these siblings were huddled together with a leg thrown over here, a tail there...blissfully dozing in the sun. From time to time, one would wake up and move around. After checking out the situation and making sure nothing was going on, they would squeeze there way back into the pile, often resulting in awakened brothers and sisters, all of which would sort of shrug and this intrusion and try to go back to sleep. Sort of a pig version of the snooze alarm. One of these roused pigs woke up and came over to me. These were obviously domesticated oinkers, and it quickly poked it oinking nose through the fence to inquire of me. "Corn!" it was saying, judging from the picked over cobs that were spread out over the pen's floor. "Pardon me, kind sir, but do you have any corn?" I told it I did not, both verbally and with simple hand gestures. (Yes, I actually said out loud, "I'm sorry, I don't have any corn. No corn!") It sort of squinted at me, and in an uncannily human way, disdainfully brushed me off "tut-tut, be off with you then" and left me. After poking around and finding that mom was still asleep as well, it returned to the pile, just one more piglet looking for a warm place to rest.

Springtime on the farm made me think about how much more dependent on the seasons, on the weather than we are today. Their 1880s farm lives were governed by time. A time to plant, a time to harvest, a time to feed, a time to milk. Morning chores and evening ones. A regularity of schedules established simply by the realities of nature. Today, we are liberated from these demands. All the weather requires of me is a choice of clothing and occasionally some extra time alloted for travel. This, as with so many things, has made our lives both simpler and more complicated.

In the meantime I will enjoy the long walks and beautiful colors of the spring while I wait for the seasons' cycle to once again turn.

From Two Weeks Ago

As I walk through the park this morning, the temperature is rising towards the upper sixties- a bright blue sky welcomes the spring. Yet traces of yesterday's snowfall linger on, hiding under trees and plants and man-made structures. A pile of it in various states of existence (from flakes to ice to water to airborne) sits under me now. This is the battle for spring here in Ohio.

As I stretch out on a bench, tilting my face back to catch the rays of the sun and feel the warming light, I look up and see the trees. While the ground has begun to turn- green life poking its heads stubbornly through the ground, squirrels and insects scurrying- the trees still remain silent. They stretch upward, skeletal, like bony hands dark into the shining sky. Perhaps the trees are the oldest, and the wisest, and they knew winter had not gone yet. Winter's final cry, this stubborn snowstorm of yesterday, was unexpected to the lesser plants, yet the trees knew. This is the battle for spring here in Ohio.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Um...What? I read this Headline Twice.

And it still says:

Mich. Church Slammed for 'Porn Weekend'

The story might not be quite what you think, but still. Any AP story which includes the paragraph:

Porter said Wally the Wiener, a 25-foot penis, is not an appropriate teaching tool. Nor is it right to advise children that "God kills a kitten every time you masturbate," he said.

The site uses the kitty analogy, it says, in a lighthearted manner. It recommends teens should e-mail each other to keep a lid on raging hormones. "Ask your buds if they killed any kittens this week," the site advises.

Your jaw just dropped, right? Mine did. Then I thought- there seem to be an awful lot of kittens still around if that's true. Hmmm....