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Musings and Meanderings

Saturday, July 31, 2004

So the DNC is over

Just a few thoughts, some of which are more detailed in the blogs below.

I watched most of every night from 8 to 11, so that's a lot of speeches. The party was on message and on track. Even the much criticized Al Sharpton overtime speech had some very strong things to say. The party is wonderfully energized and united. Having all 9 candidates speak at the convention was a good touch, and Kerry mentioning them in his speech was masterful.

For the first time in a long time there seems to be a real difference between what the Reps and Dems offer to the country. For me (and I'm sure for you) the Dems offer the bright promise of the future, not the old tired ways of the past. It's a philosophical contest between this century and last. I know I've said before that I hope that the Bush Administration (be it one or two terms) is the last gasp of a blood soaked Century. We know the White House is staffed with leftovers from previous Republican Administrations, acting as if they still have a job to do. blah blah blah...


Barak Osama is a great rising star, but hopefully he will reach his potential and not burn out before hand. If you missed his speech, that's a shame, but take the time to read the transcript. You will miss his oratory style, but his words are powerful.

John Edwards' really rocked the house, with a refocused message from his campaign trail. I like his message and hope he can convey it well to the swing votes.

Pound for pound the genetic descendants of Heinz Kerry and Kerry are amazingly telegenic, probably more so than the Bush kids. They are certainly better spoken.

Kerry's speech was just bloody amazing. He conveyed who he was, what he wants to stand for, and where he wants to go. If America doesn't know who John Kerry is, then they were asleep during the speech.

Bill Clinton is still the darling of the party. And he can deliver a speech better than anyone I know. His contribution was very powerful, but only for the "faithful". The Reps revile him and I'm sure most swing/independent voters still have some sort of "Clinton fatigue".

I know that it is "what they do", but I really disliked all the placards during the convention. Not the Name placards, that is expected. But the slogan placards completely took away the power of the "spontaneous" chanting during the speeches. If I was the marketing manager, I would have counseled that it looks better for people to be reacting directly to a speech, rather than prepared before it even starts. It's all a matter of inches, because of course they are prepared ahead of time. But it is all about appearances.

I was also bothered that there was so little discussion of Kerry's Senate record. This goes back to the swallowing by the Democrats, that "liberal" is somehow a dirty word. We are all libs here so I wont sing to the choir, but I'd rather see them stand up and say "Yea I'm a liberal, this is what I have accomplished, and this is the history of liberalism in the Democratic party." (Although as I type this, I do realize without specifically saying that, there was much painting of the history of the great social movements that the Dems have helped.)

So anyway a couple years in Vietnam were important, but 20 yrs in the Senate are just as important. A mild criticism but there none the less.

The talk of "bounce" is all about expectations, and there just isn't that much room in our 50 50 America for bounce. We are not going to see one of these 15 point bounces, just won't happen. I would consider 5 points a home run.

And now the next month ahead will be tough. It's easy to appeal to the faithful, lets see how he does on the trail now.
posted by Mike 6:56 PM
Back, for a week at least

Well flight 725 from Las Vegas arrived a bit late but safe at 11:57 last night with an unaccompanied Alex. Yours truly has misplaced his drivers license, and having not grabbed his passport on the way out was nearly put into an untenable situation.

MW had put my name as the pick up person, and L's as the alternative. Problem was they didn't notice L's name so when she (who doesn't loose things like licenses and debit cards on a regular basis) tried to "accept" him from the plane they wouldn't let her! Sheer lunacy of course.

Anyway we ended up in the "night office" of SWA for all of two min as the duty person noticed the alternate name and all was well.

Alex stayed up till 2am (as did I) which of course is only 11pm his time. Slept till 10 this am (which of course I did not) and seems less worse for the wear.

So next up: NEXT Sunday not tomorrow he and I are off to the local Boy Scout Reservation for week of fun in the dirt. Oh gosh I can't wait.
posted by Mike 4:09 PM

Friday, July 30, 2004

The Convention Day Four

So this is what we had been waiting for. John Kerry the person, and we got it in droves.

Sen Kerry's 43 min speech was the best anyone could have asked for. He was personal and personable, he told America why he was running and what he stood for. He let a glimpse of the man that his family knows shine forth, in clear non-"senatorese". Yes it was long, but I don't think it got strung out. My only criticism is that he seemed to be in a hurry! The meat of convenions are the party faithful going banana's over a phrase or slogan. Kerry seemed to have little patience for the cheering and wanted to charge ahead. A small enough thing, but something I noticed.

I cannot compete with the professional talking heads on Kerry's speech. I am edified to see across the journalistic spectrum, of those journalists who do not have an philosophical axe to grind, be it liberal or conservative, that there was near universal acclaim for this speech. Hopefully you watched it too and drew your own conclusions.

My comment at this point is the day after stuff. Working in complete harmony with their fantasy world they live in, distorting reality less than 8 hours after the speech ended, the conservative pundits and the Bushies are saying talking about the "bounce". How the Kerry campaign will have failed if they don't see a 10 or more point bounce. The reality is that in this 505o nation we live in there are not 10 points to play for. A five point bounce will be a home run for the Democrats.

This goes to the heart of how Bush got to where he is today. Its quite insidious. Its the art of the underacheivement. When he ran for Governor, when he ran for President, and now for re-election, the insidious job of the Republican spin doctors is not to talk UP Bush, but to talk him DOWN. Lower the expectations so when he comes out the average man that he is, he appears to have done well. RAISE the expectations of the opponent in the eyes of the voting populace so that when the opponent does not do as well, they can say "well see, they are not so hot".

However I do think that the Bushies have a complicated handful in their hands. Its the concept of being positive. Now the Democrats were nearly Rovian in their ability tonight and the last four nights to subtly attack the record of the last four years, and then call for a non negative campaign. Their position is that pointing out the shortfalls of the last four years is not negative, it is just being observant. And frankly it's a brilliant marketing campaign.

The Republicans don't know how to be non negative. The Democrats set the table and the Republican's will be eating from it now until the end of August when we do this all over again in New York for the Republicans. The Bush campaign up to this point has been to paint a very negative picture to America of who Kerry is. Now that Kerry has shown America what he is made of on Prime Time, they are in a bit of a quandry.

It was a good week to be a Democrat. However great expectations make for great disappointments if not handled correctly, and I don't believe for a second that those people will not do everything and anything they can, legal or quasi legal to stay in power. I just hope come November we have a solid winner, and not another disputed election.
posted by Mike 6:59 PM

Thursday, July 29, 2004

The Convention Day Three

This was semi-military day at the convention, Gen. Shalikashvili, Lt. Brozak, and Gen. Kennedy all served in the military and came out for Kerry. Brozak especially who served in Iraq and came back so disgusted he switched parties and is running as a Democrat for congress.

Then there was Al Sharpton - Given 6 min he took 20, and lit the place up like a fire. He directly connected with the African American delegates in a way only Mr. Obama had, from the looks of their faces. He directly answered the President's question to the Urban League "Have the Democrats taken you (African Americans) for granted?" He answered it well.

The generals were, frankly exceedingly dull, but it was important for the Democrats to show how strong they were. Again, again and again..... Hope America gets the point.

The ramp up to John Edwards' speech was fairly enjoyable. First came their 22 yr old daughter, a spitting image for her mom, there to introduce her mom. I think its important for America to see "normal" people in the mix here. Neither Mrs. Edwards nor her daughter are the perfect looking model material that the Bush or Kerry girls are, a majority of American women are slightly overweight, and that goes now a day's for the 20 to 25 crowd as well. What the daughter said was really immaterial, it was scripted and etc etc. But she looked lovely and introduced her mom well.

Mrs. Edwards speech was nice, but she's no orator. Nor did we probably expect that. L said she sounded like a greeting card company. I thought it was sweet that she shared their little anniversary routine with the world, showing how they remember their roots 27 yrs ago though they are obviously very well off now.

Then came the first John! Let it be known to the readers of this blog I supported Edwards in the Primary, I voted for Edwards, and I'm still not completely convinced that he wasn't the best candidate for the top of the ticket. Edwards' populist non negative message played well in his speech, as did his obligatory laudatory phrases of Kerry's service record. Although it was a bit prepared, the "hope is on the way" message/chant at the end of his speech was a real "rabel rouser".

It gave me chills actually, to think that hope is on the way. Hope that the greedy viscous men who have been running this country for the last four years will be swept into the dustbin of history. Hope that some of the bright ideals of the Clinton/Gore years like better health coverage, tax cuts that help the average American and not the rich corporations, and something near and dear to my heart, hope that the voodoo science of the last four years will be replaced by new initiatives in medical, computer and manufacturing technology.

I don't like living in an America where it is plainly obvious that my generation is on the whole less well off than the previous one. Where it takes two incomes to reach the standard of living that one sufficed before the hyperinflation of the 70's. This is a long term problem we are faced with, and not one that the go go years of the 90's fixed, although it did ameliorate to some extent.

So I think that someone like John Edwards, who in the best Democrat fantasy, becomes the President of the US in 2012 after 8 yrs of a Kerry administration, is a good start down the road of putting Americans back on the track where every generation lives a bit better than the last.

I want that for Alex.

posted by Mike 3:39 PM

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Convention Day Two 

Day two was supposed to be all about Senator Kennedy, and his hometown speech; as well as, Teresa Heinz Kerry, who was supposed to tell us all about John Kerry.

Instead, completely missed by the National Networks, was the first ascendancy of a man who is not even a national leader (yet).  By now you have probably heard of Barak Obama and his speech.  Reading the words however does not really convey the power of the messenger.  His speech was one part MLK, and one part politician. His message was of a true uniter, more than any of the other speakers up until then (and as of Wed night after then as well).

Briefly Barak Obama is a young(ish) democrat from Illinois whose father was a Kenyan, mother an American from Kansas, raised in Hawaii.  He is a successful lawyer as well as married to a successful lawyer and has two children.   His campaigns have appealed to all groups in a way apparently no one has in a long time in Illinois.  He is apparently running unopposed for US Senate after his opponent self destructed.

What will probably be the most often quoted part of his speech was a call to those who would divide the country:

" Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America... there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America ... there is the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we've got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?"

Powerful stuff. He has a great future.

As for the other speakers.... Oh there were other speakers....

I was disappointed with Teresa Heinz Kerry's speech.  I like many of the pundits expected an insight into John Kerry the man.  Instead we got more of the record, the accomplishments and achievements.  Nothing wrong with that, but as his wife Mrs. Kerry was uniquely positioned to help America to LIKE John Kerry.  This is of course what is missing in the campaign so far: John Kerry the man, the father, the husband.  It's fairly agreed that the groudswell to remove the incumbent is there, but the voters need to want to replace him with someone they know.  They don't yet.  Maybe after Thursday they will. 

 Honestly I missed Ron Regans speech.  Not that I'm not for embryonic stem cell research, but I just was not interested in what he had to say.   It was a nice coup to get a "Regan" to speak at the convention, but this guy allegedly voted for Nader last election.  So although his subject was important, I've read enough about it to not really need to see it.

Howard Dean also spoke tonight.  He spoke eloquently and forcefully about what he believes, and about why he ran to begin with.  It was he that originally energized the party, getting young "Deaniacs" to be political when they probably would not have been.  One part of his speech really worked for me. 

"We are not going to be afraid to stand up for what we believe in ever again. We are not going to let those who disagree with us shout us down under a banner of false patriotism. "

I will leave you with that thought.

posted by Mike 8:11 AM

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Convention Day one 
I quite enjoyed the parade of Ex-Presidents, Shadow Presidents, and future Presidential hopefuls across Monday's convention speaker rostrum.  Carter, Gore, Hillary and Bubba all got out their whupping sticks to some extent and took it to the opposition, which is their job.

Ex-President Jimmy Carter had the second best speech in my mind, and then graced the PBS studio at the Fleet Center with his presence.  He was eloquent in his charges that the Iraq war was something planned long before 9/11, something no other Democrat seems to pursue.  (Its a matter of public record in Wolfowitz and Perle's writings if you thing its just partisanship).  He held up well under the crossfire from the talking heads at PBS.  The speech itself was quite enjoyable, very much the no holds barred accusatory speech I expected from this Nobel Prize winner.  Of course the dogs of the Bush Administration in the guise of some undersecretary of something felt it appropriate to call him "the worst president in the history of the US".  (In psychology we call this projection.) 

His most salient point to me was the view from the world.  One of the themes of this Convention is certainly the enormous damage the present Administration has done to America's ability to build coalitions, the enormous damage that has been done to the common folk's attitude towards the US, and the unbelievably self righteous way in which it was accomplished.

If this were Europe, the Shadow President would be Al Gore.  But it's not, and he was invited to speak anyway this year.  Usually the defeated are not allowed back, but the stain of the 2000 election makes him a martyr.  Not surprisingly his message was about how a vote counts, and he directly addressed those independents and democrats who voted for Bush, and Democrats who voted for Nader 4 yrs ago asking very pointed questions.  For Bush, "did you get what you voted for?" and Nader "do you really believe there is no difference btw the candidates?"  Of course the rest of the speech was dedicated to the candidates, going over the standard laundry list of accomplishments.  His speech was on theme, and on the mark.

Will Hillary ever run for President?  I sure hope not, but not for some of the same reasons that some of my readers think.  Just as I believed that what Bubba did was his own personal business, I believe Hillary's handling of her own marriage is her own damn business as well.  No I hope that Hillary never runs for President because the Republican Dogs are waiting to eat her alive, and they will.  I think she knows this, and hopefully her cool head will prevail.  Alas I took a phone call during Hillary's speech and didn't get a chance to hear her.

Then there was President Clinton.  I don't know if he writes his own speeches, but it was excellent.  Not only did it get the faithful into a froth, but he had some very salient points.  Best though was a succinct condensation of the Republican "attitude":

"On the other hand, the Republicans in Washington believe that America should be run by the "right" people -- their people -- in a world in which America acts unilaterally when we can and cooperates when we have to. They believe the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who embrace their economic, political and social views, leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves on important matters like health care and retirement security. Now since most Americans aren't that far to the right, our friends have to portray us Democrats as simply unacceptable, lacking in strength and values; in other words, they need a divided America. But we don't. "

It was an excellent end to a night of themes of unification not division, moral leadership not leadership steeped in artificial morality, and a bit of a vision as to what America might be doing better both at home and abroad.

posted by Mike 8:31 AM

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Alex off to California for the week
Dropped off MW and Alex at the SW terminal at 730 this am so they could fly to/back California.  Alex gets to spend a week there with Mom and family. 

MW arrived around 8:15 last night and we went to Garcia's and as requested had our favorite wait person Sergei from Belorus.  Hes a great wait person and the food as always was good.

Had some great discussions and fine time.  The visit was too short as usual, so after getting up early I took these two to the airport.  We got a call around 6pm our time stating that he had arrived safely and was a "great traveling companion" according to MW.

posted by Mike 11:15 PM

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Spiderman 2
We had Lucas over for the day to spend with Alex.  His only full day home without Grandparents, as Emmy arrives tomorrow to whisk him off to California Saturday AM early.

So we decided last night to go see a matinee of Spiderman 2 today.  What a fantastic movie.  From the superb opening credits (you don't hear that often) to the final scene this is great movie making.  My good friend cwritesj said it well; this is just not a great action film.  It is just a great film.

There is much wink wink as to exactly who knows Peter is Spiderman during the film, especially in a very poignant scene with Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) where she tell Peter how people need hero's.  This movie had a message about sacrificing what you want to do for what is right. Ironically Peter gets both in the end.   In addition I have a strong weakness for the goodness of people.  There were two scenes, one where Peter (not Spiderman) goes in and saves a little girl in a fire, and another where he is protected from the villain by the common folk who he has just saved that particularly touched me.

Alfred Molina as Doc Ock was just brilliant, although his transformation from Dr. Octavius to the villain Doc Ock I felt missed the mark just a tad, when the four AI tentacles took over his personality.  I felt it should have been a bit more pronounced this transition.  Molina’s performance was excellent in each of the three phases of his role, as Dr. Octavius, then as Doc Ock and finally as Dr. Octavius at the very end.  His was a very poignant ending.

Of course Toby McGuire was completely in his zone as Peter Parker and Spiderman.  His portrayal of the conflicted super hero was very believable.  His quiet mannerisms as Peter Parker are a far cry from the comic book or animated cartoon versions, but they are a great interpretation of the legend.    The whole loss of powers sequence was well done showing how his internal conflicts affected his physical well being.  A lesson for many of us I'm sure.  Even if we have not been bitten by a radioactive genetically enhanced spider.

One of my favorite scenes was the entire sequence of Doc Oc fighting Spiderman and capturing him for Harry Osborn (the very talented James Franco).  McGuire's portrayal of the effort to stop the run away train, as well as his dialog with Harry Osborn after he broke his barbwire bonds was completely believable.  Think about that, we are talking about a comic book character, a super hero.  Completely believable.

Last but certainly not least the wonderful Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane again captured the whole conflicted love interest perfectly.  I greatly enjoyed the ending where she goes to Peter.  I was always troubled by Peter's decision not to be happy with her, and MJ's dialog at the end regarding letting it be her choice was excellent.

I am however troubled by the obvious string left dangling for the third movie.  One of the joys of the Batman movies (one of few) was that we got to see different bad guys.  If Spiderman 3 ends up being about Harry's revenge as the newly created Goblin I will be disappointed.  However perhaps we will see a villainous team in Spiderman 3, the Goblin and some other of Spiderman's various Villains.  Alex really wants to see Venom or Kingpin.  Alex is a big Spiderman fan.

I also want to give a quick nod again to the cameo by Bruce Cambell and the portrayal of J Jonah Jameson by J.K. Simmons.  Cambell is always a delight, though I don't remember his cameo from the first movie (GOSH I guess I'll have to see it again.)  In both One and Two JK Simmons hits JJ's role so perfectly I thought he had been somehow pulled directly out of the comic book.

I give this one a solid "A".  This movie has a great script, great acting and superb action.  The special effects, though sometimes a bit shimmery at the edges, were not overdone; this was not a special effect movie, but a film about people in conflict.  Always a great recipe for a fine film.

posted by Mike 10:36 PM

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Why Dubya will change soon in his campaign strategy.
Read an interesting piece in showing some interesting numbers regarding that ephemeral percentage of the US populace that will really determine who is going to be the next President.
Of course I speak of the undecided in the swing states.  Note I did not call them the "so called" swing states.   If we call them the swing states then we call them that, and don't need announce that we are going to call them swing states before hand.  What? Oh, sorry......
Anyway this piece compared the predicted support that each candidate was getting with the actual polling numbers.  Needless to say the entire piece revolves around said prediction, but the author seemed fairly sure of himself so we will give him the benefit of the doubt.
"Bush nearly matches expectations among Democrats (at 10 percent, only two points below where he should be) and Republicans (at 90 percent, only one point below expectations). But with only 34 percent support among independents, Bush is running 15 points below the objective for a Republican hoping to capture 50 percent of the national vote. Bush's task is thus to make huge inroads among an amorphous group of voters, most of whom do not align with his party.
The same poll shows Kerry with 83 percent of the Democratic vote, 6 percent of the Republican vote, and 53 percent of the independent vote. These numbers suggest that Kerry is running reasonably well -- two points better than expected among independents, three points worse than expected among Republicans, and five points worse than expected among Democrats. The latter figure should give his campaign pause, however, as Kerry should be doing better among Democrats. And it also highlights the value of a meaningful baseline. While 83 percent sounds pretty good, the baseline value informs us that Kerry is not doing as well as he should be within his own party."
Ok your brain just got hurt and your head numb.  I know I had to re-read it myself a couple of times.
Here’s the quick and dirty - Bush has run himself to the end of his turf, and Kerry still has room to grow.  WHY?  With such an extraordinary low polling with independents, Bush's message has obviously not worked.  More to the point, after coming in with the slimmest margin of victory in modern history, this administration has played like they have a mandate from the moral majority, and independents don't like that.  Bush has a very difficult road ahead because he has to convince the group hardest to convince.  Hence the change in tactics coming up as he blathers about all he will do in his 2nd administration.  As if we can believe a word he says.
Kerry on the other hand has a problem.  He is not polling well enough with the Democrats.  This however is the easier road to follow, as all he has to do is appeal to the faithful.  The Convention, if anyone watches it, may just shore up the "in house" support he is missing.
Anyway that’s my take on all this.  It's still not a new dawn for America, but the night may be finally receding. 

posted by Mike 11:11 PM

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Ok so maybe every other day, or so.....
Did you know that if you do a Yahoo on Tour de France you get back over 19 MILLION responses.   19 Million is a lot of people talking about the Tour de France is what that is...

Spent a good portion of the day cleaning the house.  MW arrives on Friday, then leaves Sat am, with Alex, whom I am picking up tomorrow halfway btw NH and NY.

So we are down to the final five in "Last Comic Standing".  I knew the ladies would get in, they are genuinely funny.  Gary G withstood two standup shootouts, so he deserves it as well.  As for the other two, John's set last night was very funny and once again Liza and I got the winner wrong, but not the looser.   Do you care?  Well I didn't think so.... lol

This CIA cum 9/ll commission report thingy is bugging me.  I need to do more research.  However I wish to state uncategorically that ALL the investigative journalism that I read, from Slate to New Yorker to NYT to Atlantic Monthly, all agreed that the Bush whitehouse got the Intelligence it wanted, by continually asking operatives to go back and get it right.  So whom do I believe?  A Republican investigative committee investigating their own President in an election year or a bunch of independent journalists.  This may be the biggest white wash of this administration.

Does the Schwarzenegger "Girlie Man" comment bother me? Not in the least.  Politics needs a major sense of humor upgrade and this man provides it.  Having lived in California and New York I will tell you that he also has a good point.  AND I'll tell ya something else. :-)  This guy is a good antidote to the neo con version of Republicanism.  He harkens back to when Republicans were almost bearable enough that I called my self an independent.  Now a days, though I don't kowtow either party line, the Reps are so obnoxious that one cannot avoid voting Democrat.

Do you care what kind of summer we are having? Well I'll tell ya anyway.  WEIRD.  Its been much cooler and much more humid than normal.  Suspiciously like one of the working "global warming" models I've heard of. Hmmmm


ok ok one last thing.  If you spell check whitehouse within the blogger spell checker it returns whitewash. GO FIGURE

posted by Mike 11:59 PM

Sunday, July 18, 2004

The week in Review
Very busy week.  Monday was spent settling back into life from the week in VA and the Nearfest weekend.  Technically I got home on Monday, at 230am.  Ran some errands with Alexander and got my pictures developed.  I was a bit nervous as I had never shot a concert strictly on manual, but when I picked up the pictures the girl at the shop said she was glad she was there cause she wanted to meet the person who had taken such fantastic pictures.  They are available at the Mike Montfort site under NEARfest 04.  Tuesday was strictly scanning my photos and getting them up on the site, as I had quite a few people interested in seeing what I was shooting with that humongous lens! 
I spent most of Wednesday on the road.  Alex and I got going around 930, but I had do come back for my license.  So around 10 am we set off for Swanzy NH to drop Alex off at my Dad's.  I spent a few hours there and got home by 5pm.  Since then we have had some empty nest here, but we are surviving.  Thursday was the time I spent concentrating upon some important trades I needed to do for my friend George in California, as well as scanning the Chincoteague pictures for our Hosts the Farrells.  Needless to say Friday came fast!  Liza and I watched the 8th Season Stargate SG-1 after dinner that we had DVR'd while on vacation.  Quite Enjoyable. 

 Saturday rolled around and I headed up to a local park for a four hour Boy Scout Picnic.  You can see the pictures over at the Troop 611 blog, which is at the top of the menu at the right.  Had a nice mellow time with the kids and parents.  Getting ready for the week at Rotary in August.  We are fairly near the mess hall and the showers, so this is a very good thing.  Unfortunately the food didn’t agree with me so I spent most of the afternoon laying in bed.  After being fully awake today - Sunday - I stepped outside to mow the lawn.  I finished less than 10 min before the rain started, and it has not let up all day.  Tonight we watched the season premiere of Stargate Atlantis, which is also pretty good.  Then I put up some different pictures on the blog and wrote this.... Whew.

posted by Mike 10:54 PM

Saturday, July 17, 2004

NEARfest 2004 - July 9 - 11
It's been a crazy week settling back into life after being gone on the vacation the week before NearFest.  So I have not had the chance to put into words my NearFest experience.  Since you have already read tons I thanks to those who stay with this till the end. 
Overall I enjoyed Sunday significantly more than Saturday with one Exception.  This is not to downbeat the Sat lineup, I just felt that Sunday was more "Proggy" for me.  I don't ever "hate" bands. I completely do not understand people that do, or walk out on a performance.  Minds are like parachutes, and they should stay open to work properly.  Giving an artist or artists their due by listening to the entire offering of a performance is a must for any one who says that they truly appreciate music.
Anyway off my soap box and on to the meandering.....
Musical Box.
My first impression of them was, gosh if this is how Peter really was it's a wonder they ever got off the ground, all that silly behavior on stage.  Now those that know me know I have a good sense of humor, so it's not that.  I just wondered is all?  Of course after the third song I was really digging the Peter Character doing Peter so well.  Overall I really enjoyed the Musical Box, their musicians are extremely talented and the show was superb.  I really felt I had slipped back in time to see Genesis of that era.  On the other hand I can't see how people go see the same tour recreation multiple times.  Just my personal taste I guess.
Yezda Urfa
I enjoyed the musical complexity of Yezda Urfa enormously.  What is it about the opening bands that R&C find?  For me I always thoroughly enjoy these gems.  Anyway YU was a great band and the barefoot bassist was right in front of me.  They remind many of Gentle Giant and I can see that, but they have their own unique sound that sets them apart.  Of course their sense of humor makes them almost Canterbury, even if their sound isn’t.  I gave them a hearty B for their music and performance.
"Neo-Prog" is a take it or leave it for me.  Sometimes it seems very pretentious and soul less.  Sometimes it really works.  I guess that's why the sub-genre is one of the most ephemeral to nail down.  I even read an article in Progression that posited that it really doesn't exist at all. Certainly the bands lumped into it don't like the name.  Regardless of that I approached Pallas with a bit of caution due to their being in that "camp".  However I fully enjoyed the show.  The lead had a wonderful energy and ability to connect with the audience that was very professional. His excitement and exuberance over his music was great to see.  The set was good, and the band, though not completely my cup of tea, was enjoyable to see.  I gave them a B as well.
Bad planning, not realizing how the spotlight performers were operating I didn't see him.
Mike Keneally Band.
I had a long conversation with Guy LeBlanc about this performance on Sunday.  I asked him if he liked the show and he was exuberant, as was Chuck and Gayle from DK.  I posited this to Guy: I said that as a musician, he could understand things that Mike K was doing, and appreciate them as technically excellent. He agreed with this. I further posited that MK was a "musician’s musician".  Again he agreed.   The sad fact is that I felt this set was too long, or, didn't hold together well.  I have not decided.  Even with the disclaimer about not hating bands, I am the least tolerant of technical virtuosity for the sake of technical virtuosity.  In my youth I called it musical masturbation.  Now masturbation is not a bad thing, but its fairly personal and should not be done is public.  For the few songs that held together I was absolutely spell bound as to MK's ability.  But when he got too experimental for me, I just got lost.  The last medley had me waiting with anticipation for the end so I could get some aspirin.   I give his abilities an A+   I give his performance a C.
Univerz Zero
So even after a two-hour break and a wonderful time at the Brew Works I was still burnt from the MK affair.  It was with a bit of trepidation that I sat down and began to take in the UZ show.  I knew I was not prepared for more technical excellence with no content.  I was happy to see my worries were not realized.  Two songs in I was mesmerized by the chamber rock that this band plays.  I very much enjoyed the films running behind the band as well, as I felt it gave some understanding to the content of the music.  This is pretty modern stuff, and RIO is a broad category, but I'd challenge any lover of modern classical not to absolutely love this band.  Like Mamga, the drummer composer was outstanding in his work on stage, as was the woodwind and string trio.  The bass was delightfully understated, and the keyboards filled the pieces in well.  I gave them a solid A.
Hidria Spacefolk
  Considering that British Airways lost their equipment until late Sat night or Sun morning it was amazing how comfortable the band looked on stage.  How many opening morning performances get an encore?  Frankly I cannot remember if any have, and Hidria Spacefolk very much deserved it.  YES they sound a bit like Ozric Tentacles in their early years (I personally think OT is getting tired in their recent stuff). But this is a new band, with young musicians who are evolving their sound.  As others have commented, who knew where I was sitting, I was bopping big time to their swirling guitar and keyboard work. 
Of all the bands at NF04 this was the only one where I had actively searched out their music by getting the first CD off their website, and taking one of their shows with me.  So I was excited about seeing them and loved the performance.  They have a great product, and should go far.  As I was leaving the Strawbs show to go home, I had a chance to speak with the two members who were fluent in English and expressed to them that they had a great sound that was very popular in the US now with the JAM BAND circuit.  I encouraged them to look into spreading their sound through the Phish / Dead model of recordings and touring.  Time will tell.  Because they were yet not truly unique in their sound, though it was very enjoyable, I give the show a B+.
Well I just love Italian Prog.  Always have and always will.  So this band did not disappoint me at all.  The lead has a remarkable voice, and obviously is just his own self on stage.  The rest of the band was very talented and I see why this band was so well received when they formed in the 70's.  Who would imagine that it would take till 2004 to get them to the US?  I gave this show a B only becuase I don't stand a word of Italian, and I'm sure the lyrics were as powerful as the music.
Sean Malone
Talk about a quckie clinic on Bass and Stick work. This guy is very talented, and self-assured on stage.  Imagine being there all-alone at NF with the hardest audience to please, and calmly building those great intricate chord progressions with his sequencer (that repeating device - I'm not a musician).  In speaking to folks after the show I don't think many realized just how many layers he buit up for each piece that he performed.  Sitting so close I was able to see just what he was playing real time and what he wasn’t, and how he filled and built on each layer.  A great performance by a skilled musician.  I give him an A for technical ability.  The performance itself gets a B as he needs to work on stage presence if he is going to do these one-man performances.
Planet X
I have wanted to see this band since I read the article in Progression Magazine last year about them.  Again I was not disappointed.  I have rarely seen a band so tight.  As for the music I personally dig their style so that for me was a no brainer, I loved the performance.  But I was astounded again and again as to just how together these guys were.  Here was technical virtuosity with content.  Songs that completely held together, had form and function, and were not a showcase for one musician.  Watching TJ tap right in front of me was great to behold, and they all were very much enjoying playing together from their expressions.  Well all except Derek who couldn't get the soundman's attention to get his monitor up high enough to hear himself.  After that was fixed he was pretty happy.
Believe it or not this band was the least looked forward to of the NF for me.  Not that I thought they were bad, don't get me wrong.  I just didn't particularly care for their albums over the years.  Prog is a big category, and I just didn't see the fit.
Boy was I wrong.  From the moment they came onstage to the much-delayed minute I had promised my family I would hit the road; I was absolutely enthralled by their music.  Lyrical and beautiful, full of warmth, it must be the finest melding of English Folk and prog out there today.  I may have not said that for an acoustic tour, but as an electric band, I loved them.  I was amazed on how many songs I DID actually know, not having listened to their stuff in ages.  A solid A performance.
 Sadly once I finished up my film exposures and my digital back up card I had to leave NF04 early because of a promise made to my wife.  15 yrs of happy marriage are kept happy by these compromises, and since I didn't think I'd mind heading back on the four hour drive home a bit early (I got home from Hackett two yrs ago at 330 am) I didn't mind making the promise.
posted by Mike 9:30 PM

Thursday, July 15, 2004

What it means to be a Neo-Conservative Republican
1. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

2. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

3. Government should relax regulation of Big Business and Big Money but crack  down on individuals who use marijuana to relieve the pain of illness.

4. "Standing Tall for America"; means firing your workers and moving their jobs to India.

5. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

6. Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

7. The best way to improve military morale is! to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

8. Group sex and drug use are degenerate sins unless you someday run for governor of California as a Republican.

9. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

10. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

11. HMOs and insurance companies have the interest of the public at heart.

12. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

13. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

14. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

15. A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense.  A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

16. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

17. The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.

18. You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have a right to adopt.

19. What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80s is irrelevant.

20. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.
posted by Mike 11:24 PM

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

A Little Perspective By Michael Moore

If you can't get through this list without wanting to throw up, I'll
understand. But pass it around anyway. This is the nail in the Iraq War's
coffin for any sane, thinking individual, regardless of their political
stripe. (Thanks to Tom and the Center for American Progress.)

To get some perspective, here are some real-life comparisons about what $87billion (some of the money allocated for Iraq control) means:

$87 Billion is more than the combined total of all State budget deficits in
the United States. The Bush administration proposed absolutely zero
funds to help states deal with these deficits, despite the fact that their
tax cuts drove down state revenues. [Source: Center on Budget and Policy

$87 Billion is enough to pay the 3.3 million people who have lost jobs
under George W. Bush $26,363.00 each! The unemployment benefits extension passed by Congress at the beginning of this year provides zero benefits to workers who exhausted their regular, state unemployment benefits and cannot find work [Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

$87 Billion is more than double the total amount the government spends on
Homeland Security. The U.S. spends about $36 billion on homeland security.
Yet, Sen. Warren Rudman (R- N.H.) wrote, America will fall approximately $98.4 billion short of meeting critical emergency responder needs for homeland security without a funding increase. [Source: Council on Foreign Relations].

$87 Billion is 87 times the amount the Federal Government spends on After
School Programs. George W. Bush proposed a budget that reduces the $1
billion for after-school programs to $600 million cutting off about 475,000
children from the program. [Source: The Republican-dominated House Appropriations Committee].

$87 Billion is more than 10 times what the Government spends on all
environmental Protection. The Bush administration requested just $7.6
billion for the entire Environmental Protection Agency. This included a 32
percent cut to water quality grants, a 6 percent reduction in enforcement
staff, and a 50 percent cut to land acquisition and conservation. [Source:
Natural Resources Defense Council].

There you go. In black and white. A few million of you will receive this
letter. Please share the above with at least a half-dozen people today
and tomorrow. I, like you, do not want to see another approval rating over
50 percent.

posted by Mike 11:50 PM

The musings and meanderings of an overworked and underemployed mind