Thursday, July 29, 2010

Delmon Young, Twins' MVP (and it's not close...)

July 23, 2010: Twins outfielder Delmon Young  in action during the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 win versus the visiting Minnesota Twins at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland.
The Twins' resurgence after the All-Star break has been fun to watch, and it has been instigated by #21.

Delmon Young is on total fire - now moving to second on the team in BA, and moving to third in the AL for RBI. His BA with RISP is a sick .430 something, and he's carried the franchise on his stocky frame.

It is incredible to think that for this team, which sports two of league's last MVP's out of the past four years on its roster, that Delmon Young is hands-down the clear MVP for this year.

If Delmon can stay hot, Mauer can continue to heat up, and Morneau can find a way back into the lineup at even 80% of his usual production, this team should walk away with the Central.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Minnesota Tornado Cloud

A couple of weeks ago, the area just 8 miles to the north of us was hit with a tornado. It thankfully weakened and rose back up as it approached our town, but I was still able to capture some of the remnants of the cloud and the rotation as it approached.

This was also my first video with the iPhone. Good picture clarity, but a shaky cameraman!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Terra Waconia - Wine Dinner Review

Last week we attended Terra Waconia's first Wine Dinner. Chef Craig's focus was on really letting the fresh, locally grown food carry the day, so seasonings and sauces were held back a touch to let food itself really show through. Tracy developed the wine pairings, and overall things were a home run.

Here's a review of the dinner:

1st Course - Tomme chesse with olives, honey, and almonds paired with Eric Bordelet organic cider. While we didn't expect to see a cider with a wine dinner, the sparkling start worked very well with the sweetness of the honey and salty olives.

2nd Course - Chicken heart, mellon and veggies paired with Blue Cove Viognier. The Viognier was just OK at its coldest and alone, but once warmed a bit and taken with the chicken it worked better than I thought it would. I'm not a big organ guy at all, but the fresh heart was surprisingly tasty.

3rd Course - Crios Rose of Malbec paired with a fresh vegetable plate. The Rose was clearly the wine surprise of the night. A great bottle to have while sitting on the deck on a summer night. Outstanding.

4th Course - Domaine de Font Sane Cotes du Ventoux paired with lamb ribs. On this course, Craig completely knocked it out of the park. Simply the best lamb I've ever eaten, and by a long, long shot. Literally pick up the bone and gnaw on it good.

5th Course - Bodegas Olivares Monastrell "Altos de la Hoya," paired with beef tenderloin. Chef Craig solicited some groans from the room when, in introducing this dish, described that he actually met the cows we'd be enjoying, but folks, that's where food comes from. The meat was fork-tender, done perfectly and the wine big enough to really compliment the wonderful red meat.

6th Course - Broadbent Rainwater Madeira paired with fig tart with blue cheese ice cream. When I saw this one on the bill of fare, I figured this would be the one course that would not appeal to me. I couldn't have been more wrong. We'd tasted the Madeira previously, and thoroughly enjoyed it so I knew I'd be OK there. But figs? Blue cheese ice cream? Well, count me among the converted. The fig tart was incredible, and the ice cream obscenely rich and flavorful. You wouldn't want to eat much more than a tablespoon, but those bites are really outstanding.

Overall, it was an superb inaugural wine dinner for our favorite restaurant. We can't wait for the next one.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Four, "Dog Training, Sir!" Part 3

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

The time had finally drawn for my annual Iowa pheasant hunting opener trip with my three buddies. This crew and I go back a long way; all the way back to my days in junior high. In those days my dad would take me along with him to the Minnesota fishing opener with guys with whom he worked. It just so happened that they were also the core of the company softball team, so there was already established a strong bond of camaraderie that can only be forged by those that shared battle on Hopkins, Minnesota's famed Central Park, and later in Archie's Bar. One of these guys also happened to be my uncle, so I had an in with this crew on two fronts.

As time progressed, I got old enough to join the softball team, and with families, work, and other commitments, the fishing crew got progressively smaller. In fact, by the time that I got into college, we were left with a solid four of us - my uncle, two other buddies, and I. Our exploits over the years were renown, and we spent our times together regaling our old tales while always seeming to create new ones. If I take time to write a next book, it could easily be filled with just fishing opener stories of this gang of four.

When we first started out fishing together, we shared Spartan accommodations, but as the years and careers progressed we had upgraded along the way, with one of our group building a beautiful cabin (and subsequently his home) on Minnesota's Ten Mile Lake. It was there one day, as we were standing around the kitchen table turned bar, that talk went to the annual Iowa pheasant opening trip. Now I had never gone on this trip, as the property was owned by a friend of one of our group, and the invitation had never been extended. I had heard enough stories, though, that I knew it would be a fun trip, and one in which we could further bond our little gang. In our conversation, it just so happened that the owner of the property was there with us, enjoying cocktails and swapping stories. He ultimately asked, "Mikey, how come you never come down with these guys pheasant hunting?" "Because I've never been asked," I pointedly replied. "Hell," our Iowan friend replied, "you're welcome any damn time." Thus began a new chapter with the gang of four.

When I first started out pheasant hunting with this crew, I was newly married and dirt poor, so my hunting gear constituted a hand-me-down blaze orange vest and tennis shoes. While the outfit looked terrible, and was painful for keeping burrs and twigs out of my shoes, it proved to be an effective attire for keeping up with one of the rangier dogs when on a running rooster. Shouts of "Go, Mikey, go!" as I sprinted hither and yon proved to be good motivation, and evidently, high entertainment.

The years past, money was no longer as tight, and the seriousness of which I took pheasant hunting had deepened greatly. My gear was upgraded, my aptitude increased, but my speed for tracking down a dog following a running rooster had taken a huge hit. Regardless, I was a fully established member of this team. And note that the membership was not limited to the four of us - it was also extended to the dogs with whom we hunted.

And what dogs they were. JP's Max was a black bruiser, and while I only hunted with him at his end, there were clear visions of what he was in his prime. He was a hard dog that hunted as hard as his personality. Pauly's Sam spent most of his time chasing Kansas quail, and while he was reluctant to fetch, his nose and flushing capabilities were simply outstanding. Finally, JT's Sam, the very dog that had endeared herself to my wife and had ultimately let open the door for allowing me to have a dog in the first place, was one of the finest dogs I have ever hunted behind. She was methodical, smart, and always, always right. If she got birdy, I always stayed with her, as her nose never lied, and her intelligence would find a way to get a running rooster into the air sooner or later.

While I was always a part of this crew, I never felt a full part, simply because I didn't have a dog. There's a level of camaraderie that's shared by letting dogs out in thirty degree weather, feeding them, watering them, and caring for them. There is a level of stories that can only be shared and appreciated by those who own dogs. So when the time finally came for me to take Blitz on her first-ever hunt to Iowa, I knew that I was more excited than she was. I, and her, had arrived.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Nick Punto Watch - The Case of the Disappearing Moustache (and Hits)

Our intrepid hero spends his All-Star break  growing a moustache, and what a beauty he produced. There are dozens of 1970's porn stars that would have killed for a 'stache like that.

And you know who else liked it? The Baseball Gods. Sporting his new hirsute look, Nicky slapped the ball around the field like Rod Carew to the tune of a 2-3.

So what does our hairy hitter do to celebrate his new found offensive prowess? He shaves. The Baseball Gods were instantly displeased with this affront, and immediately cursed Nicky to his standard 0-3 in the next game.

Note to Nick Punto: don't trifle with the Baseball Gods.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mikko Koivu - A Lot of Money, Zero Team Improvement

VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 4: Mikko Koivu #9 of the Minnesota Wild carries the puck up ice during the NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks on April 04, 2010 at General Motors Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
The Wild's big off-season move has been made, and Mikko Koivu, their steadfast, two-way center has been signed to a seven year, $47 million extension.

Don't get me wrong, Koivu is a very, very good player. His two-way skills are unquestioned, his face-off performance strong, and leadership established. Unfortunately, he doesn't put the biscuit in the basket. His highest goal production is 22. Yep, 22.

This team suffers from an unacceptable level of offensive power, and lack of salary cap room. Subsequently, this deal with Koivu assures that the St. Paul faithful will be treated to a continued number of 2-1 losses for years and years to come.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dysfunction on Parade

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 04: Actor Mel Gibson (R) and Oksana Grigorieva attend The Hollywood Reporter's Nominees' Night Prelude to Oscar presented by Bing and MSN at the Mayor's Residence on Thursday, March 4, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
One thing that has come abundantly clear to me in this past week is that life is absolutely filled with dysfunctional people. They can be your co-worker, your family member, your executive, your direct report, you name it, they're everywhere. Even people that you'd consider to be immune from it, due to their stature and success, are easily as susceptible to be abject psychos- right Mel Gibson?

Unfortunately, dysfunction seeks to propagate dysfunctional environments, and it is really easy to get sucked into that maelstrom. The key to living a healthy and happy life is avoiding that whirlpool of psychosis, at least as much as is possible. Sure, sometimes it can't be avoided, and that point it becomes critical to steel oneself and rise above the craziness. However, what's even more important to surround yourself with good people, and to do all you can to protect and cement those relationships. Those folks in our lives are our calm in a storm; are our foundation when our top levels are crumbling around us.

A wise man once told me that you cannot truly appreciate joy until you've known pain, and the same applies to our healthy and unhealthy relationships. This week has made me see, with abundant clarity, how much I need and cherish those around me that care about me, support me, and do so all out of love and kindness, and not due to a game or agenda. For them, I am so very grateful.

As you head down your respective path, I wish you the same level of support, honesty, and health that I am blessed to have.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mosques, Cartoons, and What's Right

An organization called The National Republican Trust has funded a television advertisement to protest the proposed mosque that is to be built on Manhattan's Ground Zero land. I'll grant you that the NRT is bombastic, but in this message, they're 100% correct.

Don't get me wrong - this is America, and Islamic citizens have a right to build a mosque pretty much anywhere they please. But just because you can do something, doesn't mean it is the proper thing to do.

Take, for example, making a cartoon or a caricature of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Legally, the First Amendment would protect this freedom of speech. However, given its offensive nature to Muslims, it is almost never, ever done. Unfortunately, when it is, it is met with massive outcry and death threats (or worse).

Whereas a simple commercial protesting the mosque and eliciting a similar (but non-violent) outcry can't even make it on TV.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Best Advice for Job Seekers

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19: Job seekers line up at a job fair held by National Career Fair on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. Hundreds of job seekers attended the one-day job fair as the national unemployment rate rose up to 9.9% in April, after having remained steady at 9.7% for the previous three months. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
In this economic environment, getting the absolute most out of an interview is critical - there simply are too few jobs and too many candidates. When you get your time at bat, you absolutely must get a hit.

This article, written by Mark Jaffe, offers some impeccable advice for job seekers.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Trigeminal Neuralgia - Floored

It has been a good six months since my last update, which is a good thing. Frankly, there's not been much to offer as an update. The Trigeminal Neuralgia is still present, but has been under control and manageable these past months.

Unfortunately, all of that changed last Saturday.

I've been inconsistent on taking my Carbamazepine at night, and with an incredible load of current stress (stress is a notorious trigger for me), I found myself on the floor on Saturday afternoon due to pain. This was the worst pain episode since first diagnosis, and was acutely horrible. Thankfully, sleep turns off the pain somehow - the only benefit for this malady - and I was able to get in two naps during the day to provide a path through the really bad stuff. Ever since, I've been left with a dull ache like I've been hit on the left side of my head, but things are definitely better. I'm doing what I can to address the stress, and hopefully things resolve themselves on that front in a couple of weeks. I'm also a believer now in staying on top of my meds, so hopefully before too awful long I can get to where I was just a couple of days ago.

Man, this stuff sucks.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Twins Strike Out on Cliff Lee, and Elsewhere

Minnesota Twins batter Justin Morneau reacts after striking out during the first inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Toronto July 7, 2010.  REUTERS/ Mike Cassese  (CANADA - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
The Twins are a horrid 9-16 in their past 25 games; a paltry .360 winning percentage. Their season winning percentage has fallen to a weak .523, they've lost their lead on first place in the division, and now are looking up a Detroit from a distance of three games. The entire time fans have been clamoring for Cliff Lee, a game changing starting pitcher, as the savior that will turn our season around. Unfortunately for them, Lee was dealt to the Rangers yesterday, thus ending the vigil.

At the end of the day, Cliff Lee wouldn't have righted this ship. In the last 15 games the Twins lost, they averaged a mere 3.13 runs per game. I don't care if you have Cy Young taking the mound for you every five games - scoring so little is going to mean a lot of games are going to fall into the "L" column.

I've become tired of hearing how this team is so potent, and how the new lineup with Cuddyer at 3rd is the making of an offensive juggernaut. Thus far, the only thing that's been offensive is the Twins inability to score runs. Gardenhire needs to get the team's attention before we're completely out of the race. Now that the Cliff Lee distraction is officially over, a good place to start would be with some extra batting practice.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The NRCS Duck Plan: Duck Clubs Win, Ducks Lose

BURAS, LA - JUNE 11: Pelicans with oil on them wait to be cleaned at the Fort Jackson Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on June 11, 2010 in Buras, Louisiana. It is thought that thousands of birds and other wildlife have been contaminated due to the oil spill. U.S. government scientists today estimated that the flow rate of oil gushing out of a ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well may be as high 40,000 barrels per day. The oil spill has now been called the largest environmental disaster in American history. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
In an effort to keep waterfowl from progressing all of the way to the gulf coast this winter, the National Resources Conservation Service will spend upwards of $20MM to subsidize private land owners (note: not excluding private duck hunting clubs) to create feeding areas for waterfowl. Ducks Unlimited received a $2.5MM grant to basically conduct similar activity.

While efforts have begun to start transferring the dollars, missing in all of this is a simple ban on hunting on these feeding and "resting" areas. As any Minnesota duck hunter knows, once waterfowl are harassed, they move for peace and habitat - hence our typical poor hunting during week two of our season. Thus, shooting in these areas will force birds directly into the area in which this multi-million dollar program is supposed to protect them from entering.

If the goal was really about protecting the ducks, the money would be spent on baiting public lands and those lands would be off limits for hunting. Since that simple solution has not been followed, what's the real goal? Killing as many ducks as possible since they'll likely die more horrific deaths (and create horrific photo ops) once saturated in oil? Serving to "pay back" those big DU donors and large, well-connected hunt clubs? The theories get more crazy from there, but when a plan like this is so poorly orchestrated, the only thing that makes sense is outlandish speculation.

It has become clear that we now live in an era where it is considered prudent, or even resourceful, to "never waste a good crisis." It is unfortunate that our migrating waterfowl will now be the ones to suffer the consequences of this wasteful, greedy and careless philosophy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Dog Named Blitz - Chapter Four, "Dog Training, Sir!" Part 2

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

Three things quickly became evident to me. 1) I had one hard-headed dog. Between the subtle episodes where commands needed to be repeated thirteen times before being accepted to the outright defiance of the "screw you" look, she had a mind of her own. 2) I was not cut out for this dog training business. The trauma at the dock was a crisis that was narrowly averted, and I couldn't take additional chances. 3) My wife needed a break. From skinned knees from walkies incidents, incessant barking for dinner upon arriving home, and random jailbreaks with their wake of destruction, my wife was at a point where returning to being a non-dog home, even if for a short while, had significant appeal. Hence, shipping Blitz out for training seemed like a good solution on multiple fronts.

In preparation I did the necessary research to find an appropriate spot to mold my little blond hellion to a disciplined and methodical hunting machine. My research quickly pointed me to Holzinger Kennels, which ran its shop out of the Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club; a shooting preserve located in nearby Prior Lake. I had been to MHHC on numerous occasions as a good buddy of mine was a member there, likewise, I had been in a sporting clays league for a couple of years out there as well. The facility is among the finest in the nation, and Terry Holzinger, the owner of the kennel, came quite highly regarded on his own. He had previously worked with Tom Dokken, one of the best dog trainers in Minnesota, and had brought much of that successful and proven philosophy and approach to his own business.

Terry and I agreed on a plan for some basic obedience along with gun and bird exposure, shook hands and I handed my handful of a pup over. Blitz was sad at my departure, but was quickly distracted by all of the new smells of all the other dogs, gunpowder, and birds. I knew she was in good hands.

I admit that I was sad to not have her around at home during this period, especially at night. It was just too darn quiet and uneventful. Ultimately, though, I found the time without Blitz to be relaxing – not having to get pulled down the street by a dog that desperately had to poop at 4:00AM in the morning can really change one’s perspective for the better. Despite these changes, the biggest one, to my surprise, was that my wife appeared to miss the dog. A mere week into an 8 week training session, she was bugging me to call Terry to “find out how doggy is doing.” We debated this, with me explaining that the dog is just fine, it is a lot like camp for Labradors, and we don’t need to check in.

Vera was adamant and eventually wore me down, which resulted in my first call at week two. I remember it distinctly: “Hi Terry, its Mike ,” I said, “I’m just calling to see how Blitz is getting along.” Long silence. “Uh, I don’t know…She really has a mind of her own…We’re working though things, uh, I don’t know…” stammered Terry. I figured this was dog trainer-speak for either “Buddy, your dog sucks!” or “I’m setting the expectations bar low here so the guy doesn’t demand his money back.” Either way, I knew it wasn’t good. But Terry closed with an optimistic sign off and my hopes were at least slightly buoyed. That’s when Vera chimed in, “How’s the dog doing?” “Not real good,” I correctly replied. “WHAT? What’s the matter? Do we need to pick her up?” my wife frantically quizzed. “No,” I muttered, “the dog is fine, it is just the training that is not going good.” Vera pressed, “I don’t care about the training, how is Blitzy doing? Is she getting along with the other dogs? Does she get enough attention? Does she like it there? That’s what I want to know.” “Uh,” I replied, “we really didn’t talk about that stuff.” “WHAT? How could you not ask about how the dog is doing? Call back and find out!”

l assured my wife that the dog was doing fine and that doggy camp was definitely the place to be, but soon found that the questions of “Did you talk to Terry today? When are you going to call him?” would be a new part of my daily life. I tried not to be a thorn in my trainer's side, and limited my contacts to about once a week. Unfortunately, subsequent updates from Terry weren’t that dissimilar from our first, until one day at about week six in which he called me to come out and see how Blitz did in the field. “Perfect,” I responded to his request, “what do I need to bring?” “Just some boots and an open mind,” he ominously replied. This was going to be interesting.

I arrived at the appointed time with the requisite boots and attitude, and was giddy to be seeing Blitz again. Step one was to get us reunited, and we had ourselves quite the dog party getting reacquainted. I'm not sure who was happier to see who, but it didn't matter, as there were smiles all around. Blitz had the same mannerisms, but I could tell she'd gown some, and that made me realize just how long she'd been gone, which did make me a touch sad.

Ultimately it was time to work, and Terry loaded Blitz into the trailer and we headed off for some field work. The game plan was to plant four bobwhite quail in the field to show off Blitz's hunting - including flushing the bird and retrieving it. Given all of the dummies I'd thrown for her in her life, I knew retrieving wouldn't be an issue, but I was worried how she'd hunt. I was excited to see her perform in this first test. Terry and his apprentice set the four birds in a two acre switch grass field, then loaded up an old pump gun and released Blitz from her crate. Immediately I noticed that my crazy little pup had transformed into a hunting dog. She dashed at full speed across the field, using her nose in a frantic search to find the birds. At about 20 yards out and to our left, she caught a whiff mid-dash, spun hard to her left, and a quail exploded from the cover. A quick shot by Terry dispatched the quarry, with Blitz following the flight and fall of the bird the whole way. She found it immediately, and brought the bird back to us like she'd done so for years.

I was ecstatic! Look at my big dog hunting those birds up! Once the bird was dropped off, Blitz dove back into hunting and continued her pace like a retriever possessed - back and forth, nose down, tail twitching, and feet moving in basically a dead sprint. Given the cover and her size, she sometimes got lost out view, but while one might not have been able to see her, the wake she made through the switch grass was unmistakable. She burst out of one such clump, took a hard right, and froze in a dead stop in front of a small weed patch. Immediately Terry yelled, "Point!" I couldn't believe it. My Labrador, a breed that was bred for their flushing abilities, appeared to be on point. Pointing as a trait has been attempted to be bred into Labs for years now, and a number of kennels have launched that specialize in Labs that are predisposed to point. Given this unique ability, these dogs command huge prices, and to think that I might have a pointing Lab for what I had paid Randy Bartz seemed too good to be true. "She points?" I asked aloud, still dumbfounded. "Yeah, she's doing it right now," replied Terry in a "well, duh" tone.

We both crept in behind Blitz, who was still statue still, and sure enough were able to see the quail about four feet in front of her nose. Finally the additional company got to be too much for the nervous quail, and it burst from its hide into the sky. Terry's first shot was true, and soon Blitz was headed back to us with another bird. The final two birds were taken in similar fashion, with Blitz moving like a mad-dog, ultimately locking up like somebody hit her pause button, Terry shooting, and Blitz returning with the bird.

Upon completion, we kenneled Blitz back up in the truck and recapped what we just witnessed. "What did you think?" inquired Terry. "I can't believe it!" I exclaimed. "I didn't think I'd ever see a performance like that our of her. Never" "You ain't seen nothin'," chimed in the apprentice with a grin. "Usually she cleans that field in about half the time." "He's not jokin'," Terry said, shaking his head.

There were still a couple of weeks of training that Blitz needed to do before she'd come home, and I had an upcoming trip down to Iowa for their pheasant opener coming up. I asked Terry if he thought Blitz would be ready to go our for her first hunt. He replied in the affirmative, reminding me that it was critical that she have fun, was able to screw up without consequence, and ultimately to have no expectations put upon her. Seemed fair enough to me, so I agreed to pick her up next weekend for the trip. I did have one last question: we had been working with small quail - how would she react to the much bigger pheasant? "Oh, don't worry" Terry said knowingly. "I think she'll probably figure it out just fine."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Too Bad We Can't Gain Independence from the Lousy American Educational System

Post-Independence Day, I was struck by this latest installment of Jaywalking.

Lest you think these are just some random outliers, note that at pretty much the same time, the Marist poll recently released results on a survey conducted on our history. They called 1,000 adults and asked them from where the U.S. claimed their independence. Here's their write up:

There’s good news for American education. About three-quarters of residents — 74% — know the U.S. declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776. The bad news for the academic system — 26% do not. This 26% includes one-fifth who are unsure and 6% who thought the U.S. separated from another nation. That begs the question, “From where do the latter think the U.S. achieved its independence?” Among the countries mentioned are France, China, Japan, Mexico, and Spain.

One in four of our adults have no clue about the birth of this country, yet the billions that get spent annually on education is still not enough; the educational machine continually asks for more. How about instead of granting tenure, taking days off, modifying lesson plans to instill personal and/or political bias, molesting our kids, and otherwise wasting our money you get the answer to this one down to something like 10% wrong? Can you do that, big public education?

I didn't think so...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Devo Concert Review - Minnesota Zoo

I first found out about Devo by watching Saturday Night Live in October of 1978. I remember the evening very clearly. Fred Willard was host, and I was sitting in our living room watching it with my dad. Neither of us got it - not at all. By the time the band got to the bridge and stripped, I figured that things were going to get better and they'd play like a typical rock band. If you're familiar with their peformance (which you can see here), nah, they didn't. 

I distinctly remember looking at my dad, and each of us asking each other, "What the hell was that?"

They proved to be an acquired taste, but by the early '80's I figured it out, and have pretty much been a spud boy ever since. Hence, when the guys released a new album and subsequent tour, I knew I needed to be a part. Sure enough, they listed the Minnesota Zoo as a tour stop, and I was luck enough to nab 7th row tickets.

Here's the set list from the show:
Don't Shoot (I'm a Man)
Peek a Boo
What We Do
Going Under
That's Good
Girl U Want
Whip It
Planet Earth
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
Secret Agent Man
Uncontrollable Urge
Jocko Homo
Smart Patrol / Mr. DNA
Gates of Steel
Freedom of Choice
Beautiful World

Random notes:
  • The band was fantastic. They looked great, sounded great, and rocked our world. Mark Mothersbaugh was a bundle of energy throughout the show. His brother Bob put in a great performance on guitar. Gerald Casale looked great, included lots of lewd gestures, and basically didn't look or act anything close to his 62 years. His brother Bob had a ball the whole night; he was grinning the entire time. Josh Freese, their latest incarnation on drummer, was incredible, especially since this was an outdoor concert in 90 degree heat and horrible humidity. I was soaked just by bopping around - I can't imagine what playing durms that whole time would have been like.
  • With some of these guys in their 60's, it is good to see  that at their core (via lyrics, gestures, and video snippets) they're still a bunch of horny nerds. 
  • As in any Devo show, there were lots of theatrics. This included video snippets for the new material, Mark tearing off jumpsuits during Urge, shotguns during That's Good, Mark breaking out the cheerleading pom-poms for Mongoloid (which I was surprised they played, given the PC state of things), and Booji Boy singing lead on Beautiful World at the end.
  • Vocal interaction with the crowd was sparse, but Gerald had the line of the night when he asked "Do you believe in Devo-lution now? We didn't really want to be right about that one..."
  • Booji Boy had a lot to say, and was encouraging people to provide the zoo animals with their liberty and let them out as we were headed home.
  • People watching was incredible. Best moments were multiple sightings of man purses, the guy in the Daisy Dukes, the guy in the "As Seen In Porn" T-shirt, and the guy with the nasty dreads that were dyed to match his dyed back hair. Note, that's not a typo.  Back hair. 
  • Power domes were everywhere; mostly the new blue model, but there was some old school red out there as well.
I've seen lots of shows; probably 100 in total (of major bands), and that was about as much fun as I've had at a concert. Knew every song, every word, sweating like nobody's business with a bunch of Devo brethren, and jamming to a band that was on their game and having a ball. It doesn't get much better than that.

Great show, great night.

Duty now, for the future!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Derek Boogaard - The Best Goon in the NHL. Gone, But Not Forgotten

EDMONTON, CANADA - MARCH 5: Derek Boogaard #24 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the Edmonton Oilers on March 5, 2010 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
He's 6 feet 8 inches, 260 pounds, and the baddest goon in the NHL. He's also gone from Minnesota.

The Boogyman and his terrifying presence was about the only thing the Wild did with any kind of success in its history. He will be missed. 

Here's a little compilation of some highlights from his time in Minnesota:

Tool Concert Review - St. Paul Xcel Energy Center (with Set List)

I attended the Tool concert tonight at the X in St. Paul - my first time seeing them live. What a great show, pretty much all of the way around. The set list included just about everything you'd want to hear, the band was incredibly tight and sounded fabulous, and the stage show was impeccable. My ears are still ringing, but I'm also still grinning.

Here's the set list to the best of my recollection:

Third Eye
(-) Ions
Eon Blue Apocalypse
The Patient
Forty-Six & 2

Some random thoughts on tonight's show:
  • It really is remarkable the sound that these four guys can put out. The rhythm section of Danny Carey and Justin Chancellor pound out a heavy pulse that is the core of all that Tool does, while guitarist Adam Jones weaves into the deep and then back out again. Mix in the great vocal arrangements of Maynard James Keenan, and the band really does sound bigger than the sum of its parts.
  • There was a lot of use of their videos, which was OK, but I would have preferred original material for the live show.
  • Opening band was Dälek , an industrial hip-hop duo, and frankly they were a total miss. There was very little connection between the crowd and the band. It didn't help that the vocals were incredibly muddy in sound. I just didn't see much of a fit there, although they did join the boys for a jam on Lateralus at the end of the show that actually worked pretty well.
  • I found the crowd really interesting. They were much more subdued than what I had expected; into it, yes, but not raging and hopping all over the place like something you might see a a Buckcherry show or something like that. It was interesting to watch, and I kind of likened it to crowds at a Rush show vs. a Van Halen show in the early 80's. The Rush/Tool crowd just seems more cerebral. And that really is the word I'm looking for - cerebral. 
  • It's interesting these guys are touring as they haven't had a new release since 10,000 Days in spring of 2006. Whatever the reason, I'm glad they did.
  • Keenan spent the entire night in the shadows, and had scant interaction with the crowd. There was one quick "hello" and the message "everything will turn out alright," after the opening song, then a "see, I told you everything would work out," right before the closing number. That's it.  Definitely not your typical rock-star stage presence.

Great band, great show. Highly recommended.