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Kathy Mattea at Wolftrap

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Last night we saw Kathy Mattea for the second time on her Coal tour (that’s the name of her new CD). The previous time was at Joe’s Pub on October 24th, 2007 covered in this post. We both thoroughly enjoyed that show, as you can see for yourself if you clicked on that post.

To me personally, the most important nugget in that review was my statement that:

Bill Cooley is possibly the greatest acoustic guitarist I have ever heard!

I’ve been following him closely ever since (and have written about him and his CDs a number of times). Here are two links for Bill Cooley, one being his new MySpace page. When he let me know about his new MySpace page, I blogged about it. During that first visit to his new page, I saw that he was going to be at the Barns at Wolftrap with Kathy on April 1st and 2nd, 2008. We already had tickets to see Girlyman there (which was to be our first time at Wolftrap) on March 26th, 2008.

I told Lois that I would be happy to pass. I think Kathy is wonderful, but the Coal stuff, while extremely interesting and moving (she delivers it with all the emotion due such a project!), is heavy stuff, and hearing it again live wasn’t a priority.

Lois is a long-time fan of Kathy’s, and I would have been thrilled to go there if Lois really wanted to see it again. I shouldn’t have been surprised by Lois’ (unselfish) answer. She said “Bill Cooley is your favorite guitarist, how can you pass up an opportunity to see him?”

OK, that cinched it, we grabbed two tickets, unfortunately, in the balcony, since Kathy is a big name that fills seats quickly. At the time we bought the tickets, we had no idea whether that was going to be nose-bleed territory, or good seats. Also at the time, we were scheduled to be down at Zope for two weeks (the week before during the Girlyman show, and then this week).

If you read this space regularly, you know that got turned upside down with our unplanned trip to back to NYC to see Girlyman again on Sunday March 30th, 2008, covered in this post. That meant running back to VA to see Kathy. We had to drop our young guest off anyway, so it wasn’t a chore.

When we saw Girlyman, we saw that the balcony seats weren’t that far. Lois noticed that they were plastic, while the chairs in the main area are like padded dining room chairs. At least we knew what we’d be in for last night, a week in advance.

OK, finally, the show, followed by tons of background info (trust me, it will be worth reading the background if you like connectedness stories).

Kathy came on the stage just with Bill at 8:03. That was already exciting (for me). πŸ˜‰ She sang a slow ballad without her guitar, with only Bill accompanying her. After that song, the other two members of the band came on stage. Eamonn O’Rourke and David Spicher. Here’s what I wrote about Eamonn in the Joe’s Pub post, and there’s no need to change a word:

Eamonn O’Rourke is an outstanding mandolin player. His fiddle playing is even better. In the past few years, I’ve seen some amazing fiddle work. While I wouldn’t say that Eamonn is the best (like I did for Bill Cooley above), he certainly isn’t far from it. He also sings harmonies with Kathy.

David Spicher plays the upright bass and is new to the band. He was absolutely outstanding! Like Eamonn, he sang harmonies with Kathy (more on that later). Here’s David’s bio from the above link:

David Spicher (bass & vocals) The son of session fiddle king Buddy Spicher, David’s performed with Crystal Gayle, Merle Haggard, Pam Tillis, the Jerry Douglas Band, polka queen Lynn Marie, the Nashville Symphony, and his own Nashville Swing Band.

They can now safely add Kathy Mattea to the above string of stars that David has played with. πŸ™‚

The new Coal CD was released yesterday, so last night was the first chance for anyone to buy it. Kathy talked about the release as a birthing process, so she intended to change things up on this special day from previous nights on the tour. At Joe’s Pub, she intermixed the mostly Coal songs with a smattering of her hits. Last night, she announced that the first set would be the hits part, with Coal coming in one long shot after an intermission.

This was a crowd well familiar with Kathy’s hits. One wonders whether they come there to really discover the Coal stuff, to simply support the new effort, or secretly hoping that Kathy will do enough of the hits to make it great, regardless of how they respond to Coal. The first set didn’t disappoint even for a second. She was great on the hits, and the crowd loved every second of it.

Roughly four songs into the set, she asked if there were any requests. The Barns have phenomenal acoustics, so you could hear the individual requests quite clearly, even in the balcony! People screamed out so many different titles. After a bunch were screamed out, someone yelled out another, and many of the people in our section starting murmuring to each other (not loud enough for Kathy to hear) “Yes, that’s a good one.”

All the while, Lois was trying to get me to yell out Asking Us To Dance. I didn’t do it, and I could tell she was disappointed in me. I don’t recall hearing anyone else yell it out either, so that meant that we could only hope it would be played later in the set, by design, rather than by request.

A minute later Kathy had decided what she was going to play. She turned to the bass player, and said “You’ve never heard this one before, so just fake it in C”. πŸ˜‰

Then she started playing Asking Us To Dance! I have written before that Lois is Always Right (search if you want to read it, it pains me to link to it so many times) πŸ˜‰ but what I am not sure I’ve ever mentioned in public before is that Lois also conjures people and things by simply speaking about them out loud. No, I’m not kidding! Perhaps that’s why we have such an affinity to Wicked! πŸ˜‰

To repeat, the rest of the set was spectacular as well, and the band is scary good, as individuals and as a group. Of course, Bill nails every single guitar riff, the subtle ones, and the scary fast ones as well.

Here’s an admission that I hope will be taken in the spirit it is intended (meaning, this has nothing to do with Kathy’s abilities!). On occasion, without trying or thinking about it, I realize that I’m concentrating on Bill’s playing, and Kathy’s voice becomes the background accompaniment to this extraordinary guitar playing. Again, that’s not to say that Kathy isn’t an amazing headliner, she truly is.

This is possible because Kathy is extremely generous in giving Bill so many opportunities to shine. I am willing to swear on a stack of bibles that she looks over at Bill with the same awe that I do, every time he takes a solo. They’ve been playing together for 18 years, and she’s no slouch on the guitar herself, so if I’m right, it’s a beautiful thing to see that she appreciates him now as much (if not more!) than she did in the beginning.

In addition, Bill arranges much of their music (he arranged the Christmas Tour and worked with Kathy on the Coal album as well). In other words, in addition to being a genius on the guitar, he’s also an amazing musician from a theory point of view as well.

The first set lasted 55 minutes. After a 15 minute intermission, they came out for the Coal set. As Kathy herself jokes, it’s quite depressing. It’s historically important to never forget the stories and times that these songs are about, but that doesn’t make it any more lighthearted. It’s beautiful stuff, extremely evocative, but it’s not something I’d want to listen to constantly.

Ironically, it’s in this set that Eamonn really wailed on some fiddle playing. You have to blink really rapidly to make sure it’s possible to move your fingers and the bow that fast and make such gorgeous sounds at the same time. Wow.

They finished with the same instrumental (the only instrumental of the night) that they did at Joe’s Pub, including Kathy playing on the penny whistle (or piccolo, or tiny flute, who knows?). I am crazy about that song. I could swear it’s something either Nickel Creek or Chris Thile plays too, but I’m not really sure. Simply brilliant.

They left the stage at 10:20pm, which made for two hours of playing (not including the intermission). A very generous show! I’m extremely glad we went. That said, as much as I loved the show (and I did!), it’s the rest of the story, coming up right now (to a browser near you), that really made the evening special!

I said I’d mention the harmonies. They are pleasant (and professional) enough, but very sparse (only during choruses) and both Eamonn and David seem to sing the same notes (meaning, two-part harmony, not three). Bill doesn’t even have a mic, so he doesn’t sing on stage. After seeing Girlyman twice in the last week, the harmonies last night felt gratuitous. Nothing wrong with them, but hard to call them harmonies in comparison…

OK, now is the part of the post that I most enjoy writing, and I hope I don’t lose you along the way.

When I first posted the above-referenced announcement of Bill Cooley’s MySpace page, I got a lovely comment on my blog from a complete stranger, Willa Shaffer. After replying to her comment, I visited her MySpace page. As a result of that, and another page of hers that I visited, we exchanged a few emails directly.

She is a very big Kathy Mattea fan and saw my Bill Cooley news via a Google alert. Since she has been to many Kathy concerts, she knows the band well too, including Bill. She’s a big fan of Bill’s as well! Great! She let me know that she would be at the same show we would be at, and that she had seats in the first row, so coupled with her photo on MySpace, I should be able to find her easily. Cool. After a few more emails, we stopped communicating until a week ago, when we confirmed that we would try and get together.

As an homage to Willa, let me provide a link to another of her favorite artists. She feels similarly about Krista Detor as Lois and I feel about Girlyman. Meaning, not only does she love Krista, but she really works hard to make sure others discover her. Here’s my small attempt to help her on her mission!

We got to the Barns at 7:15 and bought both the Coal CD as well as a John Vezner CD (that’s Kathy’s husband, who is an amazing songwriter, who Lois really loves). There was a sign at the merch table saying that Kathy would be out to sign CDs after the show. It was our intention to get on line and get both CDs signed.

We went in to the Barn (theater) at 7:40 and took our seats in the balcony. It seemed further away from the stage than the view from our fifth row seats made it appear the week before. On the other hand, the plastic seats were surprisingly more comfortable than the padded ones on the floor. We looked for Willa, but she had let me know in advance that she couldn’t make it early, so we decided to wait for the intermission or after the show.

At 7:45pm, both Lois and I noticed that Bill came on the stage to set up his guitars. He was alone on the stage. Lois encouraged me to go down and say hello. We were very far away, and I didn’t know if he’d still be there after I climbed down the stairs and made my way to the stage, but Lois insisted, so I dutifully went. I indeed got to shake his hand. He remembered that I was from NY (which was cool in itself!), and thanked me for coming. We agreed to connect after the show. Here’s a grainy photo that Lois took of that encounter from the balcony:

Hadar and Bill Cooley at the Stage

Yes folks, that’s my honking bald spot. Nothing more to see here, keep moving along…

At intermission, Lois told me to go down and look for Willa. Given my mental image of her (with reasonably light hair color being the key, since we could only see the back of people’s heads!), I declined, since I had no likely suspects. Lois went instead. After standing there for a few minutes, and asking one woman (who declined to accept being called Willa), Lois was about to head back.

At that point, the real Willa stopped her and asked if her name was Lois? Haha. Thank goodness I sent Willa a link with our pictures in it as well, so she recognized Lois from that! From the balcony, Willa’s hair looked jet black. It wasn’t.

Willa mentioned to Lois that there were four empty seats in the row behind them. Lois asked the usherette whether we could move down from the balcony and she said yes. Cool. So, for the second half of the show, we were in the second row, in the exact same seats that we were in three rows further back for Girlyman! While it would have been great to sit in those seats for the entire show, I have to admit that having both perspectives during the same show was quite interesting.

After the show, we got on line and waited to get our CDs signed. I was also waiting for Bill to come out. After a while, Willa joined us and said that Bill almost never comes out, and that I should go back to the stage to catch him while he was packing his guitars. I hesitated, and didn’t go. After a few more minutes, I decided to hit the men’s room before our long drive back to NY.

When I came out, Bill was standing there with Lois and Willa. Willa was so kind to have gone back and asked Bill to come out! Thanks Willa!

We chatted briefly with Bill and Lois took this photo of us together:

Hadar and Bill Cooley

By this time, it was getting late, and we were going to push through all the way back to NY, so reluctantly, we bailed on meeting Kathy. Bill signed our CDs, so it wasn’t a loss. πŸ™‚

Willa informed me later that Kathy got caught up with a group of her former Music Teachers, and ended up coming out much later than she usually does. Great for her, and slightly bad luck for us. We’ll catch her next time!

I noticed as we were leaving that people were surrounding Bill and asking for autographs. He had admitted to me during our chat that he rarely comes out. He should, as Willa told me today that people continued to surround him long after we left. We’re not alone in understanding that this man has more talent in his 10 fingers than most people have in their entire bodies! πŸ™‚

Kathy is playing at the Barns again tonight. Ironically, we’re headed (in a few minutes) back to Joe’s Pub, to see Tim O’Brien. Tim writes amazing songs, a number of them have become big hits for Kathy. So, we’ll continue to think about Kathy, Bill, Eamonn and David as we enjoy Tim tonight! πŸ™‚

We got home (to the house) at 3am. We slept for three hours and 40 minutes, and got up and drove to the city. Now we’re off.

Today, we exchanged a ton of emails with Willa. She’s a hoot, and writes fantastically, and we are so glad to have made a new life-long friend. Have I mentioned how much I love the Internet? If not, let me say I love the Internet! πŸ™‚

Don’t forget, we have a Girlyman Live CD Contest going on. One entry so far, and it’s a very good one! πŸ™‚

Girlyman Live CD Contest

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Girlyman is my favorite band. There, I’ve said it, it’s official now. Of course, if you know me, or have visited this blog before, you’re probably laughing at the fact that there might be someone on earth who doesn’t know that yet. πŸ˜‰

I love music in general, and tons of different bands and individual performers, and I write about many of them in these pages. Still, if I were about to be stranded on a deserted island forever, and could only pick one band to listen to, it would be Girlyman!

I’d like to believe that I am the #1 Girlyfan, but that’s not likely true. I was late to the party, discovering them accidentally on August 19th, 2007. There are many fans who have been following them since the start, and even longer when they were performing great stuff before the three of them came together.

Back in September 2007, I announced to the world that I was on a Girlyman Mission. It pains me to think how easy it is for people with this talent and spirit to share with the world, to not be noticed by a critical mass of people. While they’re not alone in this, I am aware of Girlyman, and on my mission to make sure they get noticed!

This is the next step in my mission. When I heard they were producing a new Live CD, I instantly wanted to promote them through a contest. I contacted the band and told them about it (more accurately, I ran the idea by their manager Genevieve Barber). She gave me the go ahead, but it’s important to note this is entirely my doing, so if it annoys anyone, don’t blame the band!

The new CD is called Somewhere Different Now (Live). It’s available (for a very short time!) on an early bird special. I reviewed the CD in this post last night.

Again with their agreement, I told the band I was going to be buying 13 copies of the new CD at Joe’s Pub. To save them time (and spare the rest of their fans), I asked them to pre-sign 10 of them as follows:

Congratulations on winning the contest!

The other three were signed to us and our friends. In all, we purchased 17 CDs at Joe’s Pub. 10 of those are for YOU.

We had no idea, no clue, but when we opened the CD cover, we found both of our names being thanked in the dedication. We were blown away. Thanks Girlyman! If you don’t believe me, rush out an by one now, or try really hard to win one here!

Here’s the point of the contest: Promote Girlyman Far and Wide!

Finally, the rules, and some requests:

  • You can simply leave a comment on this blog with your reason for deserving a CD
  • You can be more creative, and explain to the world why you deserve it, by posting on your own site, creating a YouTube video (or any other service), etc. In other words, do something that shows your love for Girlyman in a very public way. Then you have to comment on this blog, and link to your work
  • When you comment here, you must fill in a valid email address on the Disqus Comment Form (I will be the only one who can see it, and I won’t share it)
  • If you publish your work on another site, you must link back to this post. Remember, the point is to spread the word far and wide! That way, other people who find your work, will be able to find all other odes to Girlyman, with this post being the hub. Let’s get those comments flying!!!
  • All entries must be completed by April 30th, 2008, 11:59pm EST. That coincides with the end of the early bird release of the CD

The second bullet above is the best way to do it, because it promotes Girlyman on the maximum number of sites rather than just this post. Still, you have to leave a comment here with a link to your work, or I may not know about it, and I also need a way to contact you if you win!

In addition, whether you enter or not, I’m requesting (for the first time ever!) that you bookmark this post to your favorite social network sites (there are buttons below for some of them, e.g., Digg, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, etc.), but feel free to spread it wider than the ones I’ve pre-loaded. Feel free to just link to this post on your blog, even if you aren’t entering the contest. The point isn’t really to win (unless you are lucky and creative enough to win) πŸ˜‰ but rather to get Girlyman to the next level of exposure!

Now for the inevitable question: What’s in it for Hadar?

The answer: Nothing Financial!

I get zero money out of this contest, in fact, since I paid for the CDs and will pay for the shipping, it’s costing me money. I also don’t have a single advertisement on this site, so I get zero money for any extra traffic generated here either! Also, opticality.com already has a page rank of 5 (not shabby, but not extraordinary either), so I don’t really need the links either.

What I do get (if this succeeds) is the psychic, karmic reward of doing the right thing, and helping this ultra-deserving band become better known. It’s really that simple.

OK, so how do we determine the 10 winners?

Ultimately, it’s entirely at Lois and my discretion, sorry, that’s the way it goes. That said, we’re happy to hear everyone’s opinions, so feel free to comment here and point to anyone who you feel is deserving. At the end of the contest, we may post a Poll and invite people to vote. We may be swayed, but we still reserve the right to ignore any and all input (so don’t bother ballot stuffing) πŸ˜‰ and make the final decision ourselves. We will get the winning CDs in the mail no later than the end of May (we’re swamped with work and graduations of both of our godchildren in mid-May!).

That’s it. Get to it! πŸ™‚

This is not an April Fool’s joke!!!

New Girlyman Live CD

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I just wrote about an awesome show put on by Girlyman last night at Joe’s Pub. In that post, I mentioned that they have a new Live CD called Somewhere Different Now (Live). Because I have a bunch of things to say about that CD, and because I always ramble on, I decided to break out these thoughts into a separate post.

Lois and I like to support the group in any way that we can. Aside from going to see them live, and taking new guests each time, we also buy a lot of their CDs and give them as gifts. Our first order (after seeing them for the first time) was for 11 CDs.

If you go to a live show in April, you can buy the new Live CD for $15. If you order it online, through the link above, by April 5th, 2008 at midnight, you can get it for $16.50 (that includes shipping). Why April 5th? Unitl then, the band is selling the CDs directly, so all of the proceeds go directly to them. Help them out (and enjoy yourself in the process!) by ordering the CD now!

On May 1st, the CD becomes officially available through normal distribution channels, including downloads, etc. If you haven’t bought it by then, you still should, but the band will get a much smaller cut.

OK, aside from supporting the band, is there any other reason to buy the CD? Are you kidding? πŸ˜‰

There are many awesome live CDs out there. Two of my favorites are CSNY’s 4 Way Street and The Allman Brother’s Band Live At The Fillmore East. As great as both of those double live CDs are, there are a few songs on 4 Way Street that I nearly always skip, and at the risk of being stoned by uber-fans of ABB, songs like Whipping Post, while awesome, go on a bit too long to listen to too often.

Somewhere Different Now (Live) is a terrific CD, from the first second, remaining good to the last drop. πŸ˜‰

Why buy this CD?

  1. If you’ve ever seen Girlyman live, you can instantly transport back to a front row seat, and enjoy the experience all over again
  2. If you love their studio CDs (and who doesn’t? No, really, who? Tell me, and I’ll straighten them out!), but have never seen them live, you’ll get a sense (a good sense) of what you’re missing
  3. If you’ve never heard them before (live or on CD), then this is very good and broad sampler of their songs, along with some hysterical on-stage banter
  4. Three of their new songs (one each by Nate, Doris, and title cut by Ty) are only available on this CD (so far). If you want to hear how they continue to grow and stretch, or if you’ve already heard these and desperately need to own a copy, now’s your chance
  5. There are three covers (songs written by non-Girlypeople), that aren’t on any other of their CDs
  6. Some of their best banter and tuning songs are on this CD. We’ve seen them live four times now, and most of the stuff on the live CD was new to us (and completely cracked us up!)
  7. 29 Tracks, over 70 minutes of wonderful music and great laughs

Enough, go, buy it, now! Better yet, get to one of their shows this month (April that is), and enjoy a live show, followed by purchasing a signed copy of the live CD!

So, I started this by telling you how many CDs I bought the first time I saw them. Actually, that was a little bit of a lie. At the show itself, we bought two CDs. After listening to them each once (Joyful Sign and Remember Who I Am) we ordered 11 more.

Last night, we bought 15 of the new Live CDs (yes, fifteen). We also bought copies of Joyful Sign and Remember Who I Am as gifts for our guest.

There’s a story as to why we bought 15 copies of the new CD, and that will have to wait until tomorrow morning. I’m crashing, and that post is too important to just wing

Goodnight, but before you log off, buy the new CD. πŸ™‚

Update: I meant to mention that the minute I got back on Sunday night, I ripped the new CD into iTunes. I was surprised (perhaps I shouldn’t have been) that the CD was recognized by Gacenote and all the track names were filled in, etc. I sync’ed to the iPod and went to bed. For many reasons, I was restlessly awake at 4am. By 5am I couldn’t toss and turn any longer, so I listened to the CD, finally. Then yesterday, during the drive from NY to VA, Lois and I listened to it in the car, so I’ve been through it twice, which is what the above review is based on.

Last Update: I also meant to mention that there’s a cool surprise on the live version of Postcards From Mexico. Since the band recorded all of their live shows last fall, they could have picked a flawless version. Instead, they chose to share the reality of a live show. Bravo, it was a lot of fun! πŸ™‚

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

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The wait between Girlyman concerts wasn’t quite as challenging this time around. As I reported in this post, it had been 143 days between concerts until we saw them last Wednesday at the Barns at Wolftrap. This time, we only had to amuse ourselves for four days. How we came to see them first in VA, then four days later in NYC is a long story, which I’ll tell after reviewing the concert itself.

The show was at Joe’s Pub. Aside from being our favorite place to see concerts, it also happens to be the first place we saw Girlyman, on August 19th, 2007. We were back at the same table, right up against the stage.

Girlyman took the stage at 7:03pm, so we were cheated out of three minutes of their wonder. πŸ˜‰

They opened the show with the same song that they had opened the previous two shows we saw, On the Air (from the Little Star CD). If you read my post about the Wolftrap show, then you know that I took them to task about experimenting with the song. I have no idea whether they read the entry, nor if they did, whether it had any influence on them at all. That said, they played On the Air straight down the middle (which is to say, awesomely), and it was obvious that this night was going to be pure magic.

Lois prefers for me to share my bottom line first, mostly because she says people who skim won’t know how I really feel. I think she’s just too polite to say that people will likely fall asleep trying to get through my post before they get to the bottom line. So, in honor of Lois, here’s the bottom line on last night’s concert, followed by the details:

Girlyman was/were PERFECT last night!

OK, you can safely stop reading now, and go back to your real lives.

The banter was great (as always), but it wasn’t 100% identical to last week. That’s very cool. I’ve discussed this before, where some groups have great stories, but they’re repeated identically at each show. I still like those stories, but fresh is always good.

The set list was close to Wolftrap as well, but also not identical, and that too was great. One of the marks of a creative group is that they have too much material to fit into a single show. That means that you have to leave wanting more, because inevitably, they simply can’t play everything you’d like to hear.

Putting to rest the other problem from Wolftrap, Through To Sunrise. That was the other song that they played with. Last night, perfect. Whew.

The night before (therefore not in time for the Wolftrap show), the band finally started selling their new Live CD, Somewhere Different Now (Live). The link to the CD is an earlybird special. Run (don’t walk) to your favorite browser and buy this CD now, you have five days left (if you’re reading it shortly after I’m writing this). I’ll have more to say about this CD in one (possibly two) more post(s). The point of buying it now, is that all of the money goes to the band, so show your support, and just order it, don’t think about it!

The reason I mentioned the CD above, is that they tailored the set (at least that’s what I read into it) to match some of the selections that are on the Live CD. To me, it was a very nice touch, because it meant that those who would take the CD home could instantly relate to their own personal live experience with the band.

Their singing and playing was simply spectacular. Above, I described it as perfect. If you’ve made it all the way here, I’ll tell you a secret. While playing Kittery Tide, Doris actually missed one riff on the banjo (shhhhh). Why did I call the performance perfect then? Because Doris handled it perfectly. She laughed, made a funny exasperated face, and plowed on wonderfully. I got a big kick out of it, and that’s part of the live experience. We’re not paying to see automatons.

Last comparison to Wolftrap. In that review, I took Ty to task for getting a cheap laugh at Bush’s expense. Last night, she didn’t, but during the introduction of the same song (Through To Sunrise), Nate took a similar shot, and received a similar reaction (positive, of course). OK, next time, we’ll let Doris get the cheap laugh, so that no one is ahead in the collection of cheap laughs, and then we can all take a deep breath. πŸ˜‰

Because we sat touching the stage, we could see the set list. That meant that we knew what songs they were going to play, in what order (it pays to learn to read upside down!). They got through every song on the list, except for one of their new songs. Usually, when they do their request section, I scream Through To Sunrise at the top of my lungs (that’s Lois’ favorite song, and near the top of my list). We saw that they were going to play it so I showed a drop of class (not typical for me), and I didn’t call out for anything.

The problem is that I wanted to yell out at least five different songs. They settled on Hey Rose, and did it wonderfully! It happens to be on the new Live CD as well, so I think that may have influenced them choosing it from the many songs that were yelled out at them.

OK, I could give more details, but I’d end up repeating myself saying things like “They sang great! They played great!”, etc., etc.

Instead, on to the back story leading up to the show, then the after show stuff. I’ve decided to follow this post with a separate post on the new Live CD.

The second I noticed the tickets to Girlyman at Wolftrap, I snagged four of them. We invited our friends in Richmond, knowing that if they couldn’t make it, finding other people wouldn’t be a chore. We like to introduce new people to Girlyman live (they already have copies of Joyful Sign as gifts from us) so we buy extra tickets.

We were scheduled to work at Zope that week (or rather, once we bought the tickets, we were committed to making that a work week at Zope), and we were intending to work through the next week (this week) as well. Because we knew we’d be down here already, I snagged two tickets to see Kathy Mattea (and Bill Cooley!), also at Wolftrap, tomorrow night (Tuesday, April 1st). So far, so good.

Then, a few weeks later, Girlyman adds a previously unscheduled show to their site, Joe’s Pub on March 30th! I went to Joe’s Pub site, and the show wasn’t even up yet. Hot off the presses. We discussed it, and even though we knew it was crazy (or least those that don’t understand the magic of Girlyman would think we were crazy), we decided to do it. Do it meant coming back to NYC over the weekend, then returning back to VA no later than Tuesday to see Kathy Mattea.

A few days later, Joe’s Pub listed the show, and I grabbed four tickets and a dinner reservation.

I had just connected in an interesting way with another VC in NYC, who also is a music fanatic. We’ve never met, just exchanged some emails and commented on each other’s blog. Lois thought it would be nice to invite him and his wife along as our guests. She sent him an email, and he never replied. From everything I know about him, it doesn’t seem to be his style, so we both assumed it went to a SPAM folder, never to be seen again.

I could have written (and Lois wanted me to), because he was getting my emails (and responding), but I didn’t want to, mostly because if he had seen Lois’ email, we would essentially be stalking him, which was most definitely not our intent.

Then we had a brainstorm. We’re very friendly with a family of five in Leesburg, VA. Dad, Mom, 10-year-old boy, 7-year-old boy, 2-year-old girl. We thought that we could take the two boys, picking them up on our way back to NYC, dropping them back home on Monday, since we had to return for Kathy anyway.

When we called, it turned out that the 7-year-old was attending his ceremony for attaining a first-degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do on the day of the concert. No way he was missing that. The older boy already has his, and was getting a certificate at the same ceremony. He was willing to miss the ceremony. So, we locked in picking him up on Friday, on our way back to NYC.

That left us with one ticket. The universe likes to fill these kinds of voids, usually elegantly (at least if you pay attention to the cues). A day or two later, I received an email from someone in MN that I had only met once, through a mutual friend. We got along great during that one dinner. Of course, during that dinner, I raved about Girlyman (do I ever shut up about them? No!). He bought Joyful Sign on iTunes the next day.

In the email, he mentioned that he was in love with Joyful Sign, was ready for another dose of Girlyman, and could I recommend Remember Who I Am or Little Star as the next taste. They’re both fantastic albums, but I recommended Remember Who I Am. Even though he lives in MN, I mentioned that we had an extra ticket to the March 30th show, and he was welcome to join us. I couldn’t believe it when he replied that he already had a business trip scheduled to NYC and would be in that night! Wow, thanks universe! πŸ˜‰

So, on Friday, we drove from Fredericksburg to Leesburg and took the Mom and the three kids to lunch, then headed to NY with the 10-year-old. On Saturday we took him to the circus (and I wrote about that here).

Backing up, when we got home on Friday night, there was an email from my new friend in MN saying that he had to cancel his trip due to a nasty cold. He kindly offered to pay for his ticket, and I told him that was unnecessary. First, the show was sold out and I could have sold the ticket if I wanted to. Second, I expected the universe to bail me out again. πŸ˜‰

I quickly made a phone call to someone I know loves live music, and lives in Manhattan. He was busy and had to pass. We then sent out a number of emails, but in particular, wanted to take someone I’ve written about before in this space, Jonathan Pytell. He’s a wonderful pianist, who we’ve also previously raved to about Girlyman, and I thought he’d really appreciate them. The rest of the people were informed in their emails that if Jonathan said yes, we’d have to rescind our offer.

Again, the universe delivered. Jonathan was the first to answer, with a Yes, so I was able to send emails to everyone else before they responded.

Here’s one part of an unedited response from one of my friends who received an invitation. He happens to be as funny (to me) as any professional comedian out there, and this is but a tiny example:

I was sooooo looking forward to a mention in the inevitable blog entry on the Girlyman concert. “Last night, Lois and I took our two favorite boys, one who’s 10 and another who often acts like he is, to the Girlyman show at Joe’s Pub. What a night! The set selection included…” Perhaps you could still squeeze me in with “Although distraught that our favorite pre-teen compatible friend could not make it, we nonetheless loved Girlyman at Joe’s Pub last night…”

Here’s a photo that Lois took of the three boys in our party at Joe’s Pub:

The Boys at Joe\'s Pub

We had excellent meals (as always) at Joe’s. I had the Seared Tuna Steak, on top of Artichoke Hearts and Pine Nuts. It too was perfect. The other boys had burgers. Lois had a salad, because she’s always so good

While we were eating, we were staring at the shiny GIrlyman instruments on the stage, just tantalizing us. Nate’s electric guitar is not in this shot, as it was hiding behind another piece of equipment:

Girlyman Instruments

After the show, we lined up with tons of other fans to finally meet the group. We did, and we can prove it:

Girlyman, Lois and Hadar

It was a very exciting moment for us. Thanks Ty, Nate and Doris, we’ll never forget it! πŸ™‚

This morning, we woke up and drove our young guest back to Leesburg. After dropping him off, we headed to the office in Fredericksburg, and are now in the hotel. A very long day. I don’t know if I have the energy to bang out the post about the CD, but if not, it will arrive early tomorrow morning. Look for it! πŸ™‚

March 2008 Poker

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March saw a radical change in my online poker playing. Heretofore, I was playing in a ton of tournaments, most of them qualifiers, many of the $1 qualifiers. When I would win a seat to move on to the bigger tournament, I would play that. When I wouldn’t, I would skip the bigger tournament.

While it greatly reduced the amount I was risking, and greatly increased the amount of time played, ultimately, as I reported already, it was simply soaking up too much time (even though I loved every single second of it, even the losses!).

This month, I played in extremely few qualifiers (five or six, I have to squint too hard to be sure at the moment). Instead, on a few occasions (very few), I simply paid the full entry fee for the big tournament, when I was in the mood, and had the time. That included paying the full $215 entry fee for the big Sunday tournament, three times this month. Previously, I had only done it once, when I had the snafu with my Tournament Dollars.

I lost the first two, so I was down a healthy amount. On the third try this month, I came in 47th out of 890 entrants (top 90 got paid). That returned $700 for my $215 entry fee. Coupled with two other smaller cashes in Omaha Hi-Lo tourneys, and I ended the month…

Yes, I had to break the paragraph purely for dramatic effect…

+$1.10 (yes, more than a whole dollar, in fact, 10% more than a dollar!)

Clearly, this new strategy rocks! πŸ˜‰

Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus

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We have a 10-year-old boy spending the weekend with us in NYC. I’llΒ share the details on that in tomorrow’s post about tonight’s Girlyman concert. πŸ™‚

A few weeks ago, I walked over to Madison Square Garden and picked up three tickets to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I was able to get great seats. Nothing at MSG is cheap, but it wasn’t completely outrageous either. The show was scheduled to start at 11am.

We got there pretty early (a nice walk from the apartment, but very windy and cold). We spent some time browsing around in Borders, and finally went into the Garden at 10:40am. There was mayhem on the floor, as many people purchased an All Access Pass, which included a pre-show entry to the floor, where many of the performers and animals were out and about.

I’m glad we didn’t do that, because it looked crushing, but there’s no doubt that the people/kids who were down there were having a blast (being 10 feet from an elephant, for example), and it gave us something to gawk at as well.

They cleaned up very quickly when the pre-show was over, and actually had some clowns out warming up the crowd a few minutes before 11. The show started promptly at 11am.

It’s really not necessary to give specific details on the various acts, but I’ll summarize by saying that the entire experience is tons of fun and reasonably entertaining throughout the show. I was very pleasantly surprised at the length of the show. I assumed it would be 90 minutes (with or without an intermission). It turned out to be 140 minutes including a roughly 25 minute intermission.

There were many things that seemed to thrill the adults (me included) more than many of the kids. Part of the reason/problem is that many times, there are simultaneous performers doing things in different places in the arena. I can see how deciding what to watch can be distracting (even to adults). Of course, while clowns amuse kids physically, the humor itself is often way over their heads.

They bill themselves as The Greatest Show On Earth. Obviously, that depends on your taste. That said, from a pure spectacle point of view, it’s arguably an accurate description. There are so many peformers in the show it’s a little mind-boggling. Even though our tickets weren’t cheap, it’s hard to imagine a mathematical split of our collective fees that can even feed that many people and animals, let alone have them make a nice living. I’m sure they’ve worked it out, but still…

Speaking of money, these kinds of events are meant to soak parents out of every extra cent they own. The only two things we broke down and bought were a $7 box of popcorn (which was actually quite tasty, if not value priced) and a $15 DVD of the Circus itself.

We watched the DVD last night. It’s highlights of the show. We were actually quite pleased with the ability to relive the experience, even though it was only seven hours after we left. So, that too wasn’t a bad value. πŸ™‚

On the other hand, a snow cone was $10 (but you got to keep the plastic cup). If you bought cotton candy, you got a circus hat which was like the one worn by the Cat In The Hat (but in circus colors). I think that was $12 or $15. Of course, kids screamed for every one of them, and parents often relented. It would have been trivial to spend more on the junk than on the tickets…

After the show, we walked up to the giant Toys ‘R Us in Times Square. It was so mobbed I can’t even describe it. Recession my foot! Yes, I know about the math of this supposedly dead economy, but everywhere I go (and yes, I mean everywhere), there are mobs of people, spending tons of money, on completely discretionary things, like circuses, concerts, toys, movies, Broadway, restaurants, etc.

A good time was had by all yesterday, with the adults possibly enjoying it even more than the kid. πŸ˜‰

Welcome WordPress 2.5

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My last post announced a physical move of this server. Before the server was shut down, I saw the announcement for WordPress 2.5 final. I installed it locally on my laptop, and saw that everything on my site worked, with the exception of the Popularity Contest plugin. I had the time to update the main server before it was scheduled to be shut off, but I chose to take the more conservative route, and wait until it came back up.

The server move was very successful, with one unfortunately notable exception. I had an artifact in my IPTABLES firewall rules that made the machine semi-invisible to the outside world when it came back up, even though all of the appropriate DNS updates had been performed.

I count myself as wildly lucky that one of the few things I was able to do successfully was to ssh onto the machine using a direct IP address. It took me a while to accidentally discover the one bad firewall option, but once I changed that, everything started working. Whew! Queued mail started flowing as well.

That left me free to update to WordPress 2.5. That went pretty smoothly too. Of course, just like with the laptop, Popularity Contest doesn’t work, so it’s not on now. There are three other wierdnesses, neither of which I have the time to track down at the moment, but hopefully will later this afternoon:

  1. The Sociable plugin is once again formatting the bullets in a block list, rather than inline. This can be fixed with my own css (as I’ve done in the past), but I have no idea what broke in the upgrade…
  2. TinyMCE (in WP2.5) won’t allow me to display the link editor (AJAX form). It comes up blank. I am posting this from IE until I figure that out. Not cool, but also not stuck…
  3. This ordered list is not showing the numbers in IE7, but is in Firefox. πŸ™

So, welcome WordPress 2.5 to this space. Welcome this server into the new data center. Hopefully, this will be the last move for this specific server, not that it was that much of a hassle. Thanks Dave for taking care of the move and making it so painless! πŸ™‚

Server Relocation

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Tomorrow night, probably at roughly 8pm EST, the opticality.com server (the one serving up this content to you) will be heading south, literally.

It will be moved from one data center (in Northern Virginia) to a data center in Central Virginia.

For a number of reasons, I have chosen a less than fault tolerant setup for this server. The most notable example is that there is no secondary MX server. That means that while the machine is in transit, all email sent to it will be deferred (at least I hope it will be).

Also, this blog will be down (obviously).

While the downtime is expected to be 3-4 hours, I may not be awake when the machine comes back online, and I have little doubt that I will have to update things once the machine is back, in order for it to perform its public duties in the manner it currently does. That might not happen until the morning, though I hope that email just works.

Anyway, sorry for any inconvenience, and here’s hoping it goes as smoothly as possible…

Girlyman at Wolftrap

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Last night finally came, thankfully! We’ve been waiting (not so patiently!) since November 4th, 2007 to see Girlyman live again. That’s 143 days, in a row (if you can believe that). Somehow, we survived, but I’m not sure how!

Continuing with the new tradition, I’ll cover the concert first, then circle back and share lots more stuff from the day. That will allow people who only care about their Girlyman Fix to bail out after this part.

This was our first time at the Barns at Wolftrap. It won’t be our last. Not just because the place is simply fantastic, but we just so happen to have tickets for this coming Tuesday night (April 1st, 2008) to see Kathy Mattea (and of course, accompanying her, the amazing Bill Cooley!).

We had four seats in the fifth row, left center stage. Excellent! Opening for Girlyman was a group called We’re About 9. I have quite a bit to say about them, but I’ll save it for the section immediately following Girlyman, before the rest of my shtick, since this post is really about Girlyman.

Girlyman came on stage at exactly 9pm. It’s hard to describe the joy and excitement that was evident in the entire crowd. There might have been a reasonable number of newbies in the audience, but even the vast majority of those have either heard the band before (CD, streaming, etc.) or were there with friends who are die-hard groupies.

In fact, the two people we brought were seeing Girlyman for the first time live, but each have separate copies of Joyful Sign (gifts from us) even though they are a married couple. πŸ˜‰

The band feels the love immediately, and reflects it back. These are not jaded people who take the love for granted, even though they absolutely should expect it at this point! It’s heartwarming.

They open the show with the same song that they opened the Highline Ballroom show with (that was our last time, on November 4th, 2007), On The Air (the first cut on the Little Star CD). Unfortunately, for the first time ever (OK, we’ve only seen them live twice before) πŸ˜‰ they actually take liberty with the song and do it somewhat differently than the CD version.

It was OK, but not as good. Sorry folks, I have to call it like I see it. Many might disagree (perhaps everyone except for me), but while very nice, it wasn’t as good. I was immediately nervous. If this was going to be a night of complete experimentation, I would probably be somewhat disappointed. Not the least of which is that one minute before they came on, I leaned over to my friend and said “Wait until they come out, it’s complete magic!”.

I’ve written about this before, in a different (but somewhat analogous) situation (about the lead performers in Wicked the Musical). I can understand how an artist can be bored doing the same thing every night for years on end. They want to grow, stretch, etc. In the case of Girlyman, for me (I realize this obviously isn’t true for them), it shouldn’t apply. Here’s why:

  • They actually don’t tour as much as other road bands (e.g., The Wailin’ Jennys)
  • They have more material than a single show, so they can mix it up
  • They have quite a lot of new material, so they are experimenting!
  • While they’ve been around a while (7+ years?), it’s hardly an eternity…

So, I say that their fans (a constantly expanding group, especially if I have anything to do about it!), are hardly sick of the current versions.

Whew. Onward. The fear passed quickly, as they only fooled around with one other song, more about that later.

While everything was beautiful, even from the beginning, to my ear, it took a while for their voices to warm up, get stronger, and gel together as wonderfully as we’ve come to expect. That’s not so much of a complaint as a surprising observation. They dazzled last year from the first note at both Joe’s Pub and the Highline, and the acoustics at the Barns were good.

Once they got rolling (not too long into the set), they were spectacular (you better not be surprised!). πŸ™‚

They always have an amazing stage presence, rapport with the crowd, and banter (between them, and separately aimed toward the audience). Last night took it to new heights. Seriously, they were so on, I’m not sure people would have stoned them if they didn’t play a single song! OK, perhaps a slight exaggeration, but not as much as you might think.

When they talk to the crowd, you feel like you’re at a family reunion, sharing laughs and catching up with relatives, people who you deeply care about, and want to hear about, even though you have mostly separate lives the rest of the year!

They had a phenomenal mini-set of fun stuff. Sorry, but I don’t like to ruin these kinds of surprises for those that have tickets to see them on this tour. What’s really cool is that while the songs are fun, they still share all of the musical qualities that we’ve all come to expect from Girlyman, great musicianship, great voices, and impeccable harmonies. If you get that, and get to laugh out loud at the same time, who can complain? πŸ™‚

All three of them were on top of their game yesterday. Ty actually spent a bit more time on the guitar (she’s excellent!) than she has before. The new material is a real hit. They have a new Live CD coming out this week. Unfortunately, it wasn’t ready last night. Thankfully, it will be available when we see them again this coming Sunday, in NYC. Yippee!

Time to pick one last bone with the band. Their politics are reasonably obvious. No problem, we all have our own politics (of some sort or another), whether we make it obvious or not. In the case of Girlyman, its often laudable. For example, I learned more about biodiesel (the good and the bad!) from Nate and Ty’s separate blog posts than I had previously known. I admire their effort and caring to do the right thing!

That said, I’ve written before that I don’t pay for musical entertainment with the expectation to be lectured to on politics (by either side!). Having seen Girlyman twice before, I had no reason to expect that to happen (as it hadn’t happened at Joe’s or Highline). It didn’t really happen last night either (meaning, no lecture, no speech, etc.).

But, during the intro to Through To Sunrise (Lois’ favorite song of theirs!), Ty couldn’t resist saying that she partially wrote the song looking forward to the end of the Bush Presidency. The crowd ate it up, giving her a rousing ovation. That’s all she said, hardly a lecture. Also, hardly necessary.

I’m not writing this in support of Bush, or the Presidency in general. I’m writing this because it’s odd, that a group that writes so deeply and passionately about love and other subjects, should find the need to take open slaps at anyone, including someone who they obviously disagree with politically.

I’d actually go further. I found it to be pandering (to the audience!). It’s a guaranteed laugh and clap getter, in most venues. To me, it’s a cheap laugh, especially given that one way or another, he’s out in less than a year. It’s no longer wishful thinking on the part of his detractors.

Sorry to drone on, but I need to put a fine point on it. Earlier in the show, in a more light-hearted romp on the current crop of candidates, Ty made it clear that she believes in Obama (at least it was clear to me). Until Obama got dragged into the mud relatively recently, his rhetoric lectured us on being united, not divided. No one with a public megaphone needs to take cheap shots at the opposition (though they all do…).

Sorry. It’s off my chest now. Do I love Girlyman (or Ty) any less? Not a single drop. It wasn’t egregious, didn’t show me a dark side I was previously unaware of. It was just unnecessary.

The other disappointing thing about Through To Sunrise is that it was the only other song last night that they heavily experimented with. It too was fine, but not even close to the standard that Lois and I are nuts about. Oh well.

Everything else was perfect! πŸ˜‰ Including a one and a half song encore (with a fun surprise). Girlyman was on stage for 105 minutes. Very nice!

We loved it, in every way, so the amount of words dedicated to the negative stuff shouldn’t be used to judge the overall effect of the evening. Our friends loved it as well!

We really wanted to hang around and finally say hello to the group, but our friends had a very early flight out of Dulles and we wanted to drop them off at their airport hotel as quickly as possible. Hopefully, we’ll rectify this on Sunday at Joe’s Pub.

OK, that’s the end of the Girlyman section, and you can safely stop reading if that’s the only reason you landed here. Next is We’re about 9.

Whenever I buy tickets to see a headliner that I’m in love with, I get a twinge when I see an opening act announced that I’ve never heard of. There are two reasons:

  1. The group might stink (which can affect the crowd too, possibly spilling into the headliner’s vibe)
  2. The headliner might simply play a short set (perhaps much shorter!) especially when the venue has hard time deadlines

When I saw that We’re About 9 was opening for Girlyman, I went to their music page and listened to the songs available there. I liked them instantly, so #1 could be scratched off the list. Just as Girlyman was complementary when opening for the Indigo Girls, We’re About 9 was going to be complementary to Girlyman.

I’ve already reported that Girlyman was on stage for 105 minutes, so #2 turned out to be nothing to worry about this time either.

From their website, We’re About 9 has three members. When we were reading the program waiting for the show to start, we noticed that the full page ad showing the group, only had two people in the picture. The Bio on the next page talked about all three. We remarked that it seemed strange. They never mentioned the third person the entire night, even though only two of them performed last night (Brian Gundersdorf and Katie Graybeal).

It’s hard to describe them succinctly (of course, it’s hard for me to do anything succinctly). πŸ˜‰

They are old-style folk meisters, with very nice harmonies, and excellent musicianship. Brian is very good on the guitar, and Katie is excellent on the bass (and on the one song that she played the guitar). They both have good voices.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Bob Dylan, especially in my youth. Brian reminds me of him in some ways. There is a depth to most of their lyrics that can be insightful and instructive. His voice isn’t gravelly like Dylan, but it has an earthy quality, passion, and driving nature that is still reminiscent of Dylan.

On the other hand, some of their songs are incredibly playful (not that this wasn’t the case for Dylan as well!). But, even the playful songs are rich and complicated in their lyrics. At their heart, they are story tellers, sometimes with a deep message, sometimes a playful one, but almost always with a story.

Many of their lyrics are also sophisticated. By that, I meant that you have to listen very closely to get the meaning, as well as sometimes just to understand the actual words. Some of their songs cram so many words into a stanza of music, that you wonder not only how they can remember all the words, but how they can sing them in synchronized harmony without missing a note, breath or word. It’s extremely impressive!

I could go on, but I’ll end by simply saying that they were a hit with the four of us, and Lois went and bought two of their CDs during the intermission (signed, of course). πŸ™‚ They have more CDs, and after I listened to both today (Engine and Paperdust::Stardust), I am sure I will be buying more of their music (I think they have six CDs out, but I’m not sure).

They are not playing with Girlyman this Sunday at Joe’s, but they are playing in a number of other future dates with them. There was a cool surprise during the We’re About 9 set, but I won’t ruin it, in case they repeat it in future shows.

They were on for 38 minutes. As much as I enjoyed it, it made me a little worried that Girlyman wouldn’t be on for as long as I would want them to be, but it all worked out (as reported above).

OK, if you came just for the music, leave now. The rest is about everything yesterday leading up to the concert. πŸ™‚

We bought last night’s tickets a long time ago. We bought four tickets, in the hopes of bringing our friends from Richmond, but knowing that if they couldn’t make it, we’d have no trouble enticing other people to discover the wonders of Girlyman.

Our Richmond friends committed right away, so we were set. The original plan was that they would drive to Fredericksburg (where we often work) and we’d drive up together to Vienna, VA. A week ago, those plans changed. They needed to fly out early this morning from Dulles to CA. They got to Fredericksburg via car service, and we drove them to the show, and as reported above, dropped them afterwards at an airport hotel.

In between, we had dinner in Vienna. We would have been happy to have sandwiches at the bar at the Barns. They don’t open their doors until an hour before show time (7pm last night), but we were in the neighborhood by 6pm. So, I asked the GPS to highlight nearby restaurants. It generated a large list, but we decided to go simple, and headed for a local TGI Friday’s.

When we arrived, we didn’t see it. We asked a group of people relaxing outside in the gorgeous 75 degree weather where it was. They laughed and said it was long gone. Oh well. Right there was another choice that the GPS had shown, Hunan Lion. We went in there instead.

Fantastic food, fantastic value (prices), fantastic atmosphere, great service, zero complaints! The only thing that made me feel bad (and always does) is that the place was relatively empty. The staff still went out of their way to enhance everyone’s experience by spreading out the guests widely in what is a very large restaurant. We appreciated the comfort and privacy, but it made the place feel even emptier than it really was.

Hunan Lion in Vienna, VA is highly recommended.

When we got to the Barns, at 7:05pm, we had coffee and cookies in the bar. Yummy, and bodes well for the sandwiches, which Lois and I will likely do for dinner this coming Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, someone I worked with for many years at UBS stopped by the office to visit. When he was at UBS, he worked in our London office (he relocated from VA just for the job). His family fell in love with the UK, and when the stint at UBS ended, they moved back to VA for a few years, but really missed the UK. Roughly five years ago, they moved back, and he runs his own software company there.

I hadn’t seen him since he moved, and we had a very leisurely lunch together, and had a great time catching up. Thanks for making the drive down Chris, it was great to see you! πŸ™‚

Tomorrow, we head back to NYC. We’ll be seeing Girlyman again on Sunday night at Joe’s Pub. We head back down on Monday, and have Kathy Mattea back at the Barns on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we’re back at Joe’s Pub to see Tim O’Brien, so we have an insane travel schedule ahead of us, but all for good and fun reasons, so we promise not to complain. πŸ™‚

Professional Apologists

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Unless you live under a rock (and even then) you’ve heard/seen Hillary Clinton’s latest gaffe, regarding being shot at while in Bosnia in 1996. You can read the story from a professional news organization, on the off chance that you do live under a rock.

Nowadays, making a gaffe like that requires some sort of mea culpa, which Hillary most certainly did deliver (it’s in the above article, and you can judge for yourself whether it’s good enough). A single apology just isn’t good enough in today’s society. We need, or rather demand, constant apologies and explanations.

Since it would be unseemly for a candidate to appear to be constantly on the defensive, apologizing over and over for the same mistake, they generally have professional apologists, who run around to various news outlets, and explain (or rather defend) the gaffe and the candidate. While one can understand the reason, their stance often strains credulity.

Before I introduce the object of this specific post, let me share one of the more credible explanations of how Hillary came to mis-remember an incident like being shot at! One of her detractors was actually quite kind (and in my opinion quite sincere!) in saying the following (I’m paraphrasing heavily!):

Since 1996, Hillary has likely told this story hundreds of times, perhaps even thousands of times. Each time, it got just a little bit better, and became that much more ingrained in her psyche. By the end of these many tellings, she was getting shot at, possibly even believing it to the point where she could have easily passed a lie detector test!

Not terribly implausible, even though getting shot at isn’t something you’re all that likely to really forget. Especially, when you are reminded by a reporter that Sinbad repudiated your story, and you can’t back off even a little once your memory is jogged…

OK, back to today’s story. Last night, one of Hillary’s professional apologists was on TV, along with Retired Colonel Hunt. The apologist was Lanny Davis. Lanny is extremely intelligent, and generally extremely professional. By that I mean that he’s firm, but polite, rather than an attack dog (like some are).

Last night, he crossed two lines that he rarely crosses, which shows just how far the apologist part of their roles is supposed to go! First, he simply gave up all of his intelligence (and therefore his credibility) when he said the following:

A journalist traveling with Senator Clinton in 1996 in Bosnia wrote that there were snipers there to protect the group.

His (apparent) claim was that:

  • There were snipers there (a word Hillary might have used at one time!)
  • She was right to remember it as dangerous!

Let me back up. Colonel Hunt was there that trip as well. He was reporting directly to the commander in charge (an Admiral). He reported (before Lanny made the above comments) that there was a brigade of soldiers there. There were fighter jets patrolling the air. There were 40 tanks, and yes, there were sharp-shooters as well.

His conclusion (different than Lanny’s) was that Mrs. Clinton (she wasn’t a Senator at the time) was reasonably safe (as all of the videos clearly show), and that by dramatizing the event, she was insulting the soldiers that were there to ensure her safety (something they obviously did well).

I don’t agree that she was insulting them (in any way!), though I do agree that it could come across that way to someone who was charged with protecting her.

Lanny’s response seems to imply that because we (the American Army!) had snipers on the ground, Hillary was somehow correct in her recollection that she was under fire from snipers. Come on, this doesn’t even pass the remotest of smell tests, and it’s embarrassing to have him try to parse words to recharacterize her previous statements.

The second way that he disappointed last night was that he lost his cool (rare for him) and essentially called Colonel Hunt a liar (not exactly that straightforwardly, but in a cowardly back-handed way), for suggesting that Hillary was never fired upon. Huh? She too admits she wasn’t fired upon. Video proves she wasn’t fired upon, but somehow, Colonel Hunt is lying that she wasn’t fired upon (or that she didn’t honestly believe that she was!).

That would be bad enough, but it never ends badly enough with professional apologists! There is another tactic that is sickening (both sides do it, 100% of the time that they are apologizing for someone else). They try to use moral equivalences to soften the gaffe in question.

In other words, if he did something similar, and he’s still allowed to run, be in office, live, breathe, then why are we spending any time talking about my candidate’s problem?

It simply sickens me 100%, no matter who uses it. It’s one of the reasons that our society has fallen into such disrepair. If someone else does something wrong, that’s justification for us to do it too, no?

No!

But, when the moral equivalences simply don’t line up, it’s significantly worse. Many people correctly cited the lack of equivalence of Barack Obama comparing Reverend Wright’s statements with those of Geraldine Ferraro or his grandmother.

Lanny Davis crossed that line way worse last night. He actually had the nerve to liken McCain’s gaffe regarding Iranian training of Al Qaeda (as opposed to generic terrorists), which got corrected (by Joseph Lieberman, instantly!), with Hillary’s gaffe about getting shot at!

Wow! Mis-speaking in an impromptu interview, and being corrected (and accepting the correction immediately!) is equivalent to telling about something that supposedly happened directly to you, and then defying people when they claim that it didn’t happen (until the video comes out!) is equivalent?

No. What would be equivalent would be if it now came out that John McCain never spent any time as a prisoner of war. If, in fact, he mis-remembered the incident and now had to admit that, because definitive video just surfaced.

Shame on you Lanny Davis, and shame on all professional apologists, on both sides!