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03/16/09: We had two concerts on two consecutive Fridays in March. March 13 we saw Poi Dog Pondering at the Beverly Arts Center. We've seen them play to thousands of people at Naperville Rib Fest and to hundreds of people at Fitzgerald's and they are always terrific. The Beverly Arts Center is where we saw the Ventures last year and it's a great place to see a show. Well, it is if you're not on the main floor where the drunk concertgoers are constantly going up and down the aisles while the band is playing, or standing in the middle of the aisle talking on their cell phones. And these two girls in our row seemed to have gone out and come back every other song. And what's with all the empty seats? The show sold out in two days, but the four seats in front of us and the two next to us were empty the whole time! And don't get me started on the talking between the songs and during any somewhat quiet part. Sheesh! Um, sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah, the Beverly Arts Center is a great small venue, especially when you're sitting up in the balcony.
      The big revelation, though, was the week before, when we went to the House of Blues to see Great Big Sea. I thought GBS was, well, great, which I expected ever since picking up their "Something Beautiful" album a couple years ago. I'd have to say that is one of my favorite albums of the last five years. And they really looked like they were having fun on-stage. A couple weeks ago we watched the DVD of 'The Last Waltz', and in it Robbie Robertson of The Band briefly spoke about what a hard life touring can really be, but when I was watching these guys, I kept thinking "That looks like a lot of fun!".
      But as good as Great Big Sea was, the opening act might have been better. These four guys came out on the stage with no introduction, picked up their instruments (drums and washboard, guitar, and two violins) and had the crowd jumping from the first song, and really didn't let up for forty-five minutes! The band's name is Scythian, they're from Washington DC, and here's a clip I found on youTube (not the show we saw, unfortunately):

These guys were tremendous! Except for maybe the Lackloves a couple years ago, I never had an unknown opening act blow me away like that. After their set I went and bought all three of their CDs. Of the three, I'd recommend "Immigrant Road Show", which is the only one that contains the current lineup of musicians. They said they have a live CD coming out in the spring, and if it captures half the energy of the show we saw at the House of Blues, it will be in heavy rotation here and in the car! I'd go see them again in a heartbeat.

03/01/09: A bunch of things to catch up on:

- A couple weekends ago we went to Galena for a little Valentine/Birthday weekend getaway. One of the highlights of the trip (and the main reason for going) was the eagle-watching tour that we took on Saturday morning. We climbed on a bus and rode around the Galena/Dubuque area, which happens to be right on the migration path of the Bald Eagles as they move up along the Mississippi river to their summer home in Wisconsin and Canada. We had an unofficial count of 45 eagles, between the ones we saw in the trees and the ones we saw soaring through the air. They are magnificent animals to see in an artificial setting like a zoo, but they are breathtaking to see in the wild. The tours are held on Saturday mornings in January and February, so if you find yourself in Galena around those times next year, you can do worse than taking a couple hours to see our national bird in the wild.
      We also discovered that it's best if I drive and Stephie navigates when we go places. I was not feeling well so we reversed our usual assignments for the trip out, but I thought I was paying attention. Imagine my surprise when we saw the sign that said "Welcome to Wisconsin." (For those of you who don't know, Galena is not in Wisconsin, nor is Wisconsin on the way to Galena.) Turns out I missed an exit and had been driving 20 minutes in the wrong direction!

- Galena is a cute little town, with lots of nice shops and restaurants, but in the middle of winter they don't have much of a night-life, so we found ourselves flipping through the cable channels and discovered that Comedy Central was showing "Idiocracy". I had read some positive things on this movie (in fact it's near the top of our Netflix queue) so we settled in to watch. The story in a nutshell is that a regular guy is selected for a hibernation project by the Pentagon, but instead of waking in a year he wakes in 500 years and finds a society so "dumbed-down" that he is now the most intelligent person in America.
      It was not a great movie, but it made me laugh many times. I thought the premise of the movie, that dumb people are breeding at an alarming rate while the intelligent people are not, was brilliant. Maybe the execution left a little to be desired, but it was entertaining and really made me fear for where society is going. And watching it on Comedy Central really hammered home the central theme of the movie, since the commercials seemed to be part of the movie. We're watching these characters do stupid things, then the next thing you know you have Larry the Cable Guy on the screen, and you have to remind yourself that it's a commercial and not part of the movie! It looks like it's on Comedy Central again next weekend, so you can check it out for yourself.

- And speaking of movies, we finally watched "Yesterday Once More", that DVD that we received damaged from Netflix four times. So was it worth all the aggravation? Yeah, I'd say so, at least up until the ending. So many times lately we have been enjoying a movie up until the very end when something happens that either ruins it for us, or just disappoints us in some way, and this was one of them. The movie was very well done, with great scenery, good acting, interesting characters, a complex plot but not too complex to follow, and of course, the adorable Sammi Cheng. I liked it all the way up until the ending.

- Last week a guy at work told me that I had one of the coolest screen-savers he had ever seen, but what he didn't know what that it was just one of the default options in Windows: "My Pictures Slide Show". If you select that from your Display Properties dialog box, you can point it to any folder on your system, then when the screen-saver kicks in, it will cycle through the pictures in that folder. I currently have it pointed to a folder full of old pulp covers, so when I'm not at my desk you can see a steady stream of Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, Weird Tales, Operator #5, Black Mask, Captain Future, and other colorful covers. I used to have a folder full of silent movie posters, and that was pretty cool, too. All you need is a bunch of pictures (and Windows, of course) and you're all set.

- If you've been reading this site for a while you may recall that I had written about a Flash-based Theremin app that I had that required an old version of Shockwave to run. Well, for some reason I found myself on the theremin.info site and found that a guy named Jim Spinner had created a free Theremin Simulator that did more than what the Flash one did, and it ran as a single executable, so you don't have to install anything on your system. Sure, it doesn't have a virtual Leon Theremin that you can control like some kind of a puppet, but it can make some pretty cool sounds. Check it out!

- And the picture? I was digging through one of my junk drawers and found three strips of stickers that Chris, Ricky and I got when we went to the old Disney Quest indoor theme park that they had downtown many years ago. They had these vending machines that took your picture and inserted it into one of the backgrounds you select. This is the one Chris took. I could have sworn that I put mine up on this site sometime ago but I may be mistaken. I'll have to get mine and Ricky's up soon.

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