Sunday, January 23, 2011

If Evan Dando Ever Needs a Backup Guitarist ...

Had a great time seeing Evan Dando (of Lemonheads fame) and Juliana Hatfield's sold-out show last night at Iota in Arlington, Virginia.

As an added bonus, Fran and Rachel and I bumped into Evan outside and hung out with him awhile. He's such a nice and down-to-earth guy and, as you can see in the photo, even let me strum his "bass heavy" acoustic guitar for a bit.

He talked to us about how his best friend is Keith Richards' son and how he's the godfather of Keith's grandchildren (he has their photos stuck on his guitar). I told him I had put The Lemonheads' "Outdoor Type" on the first mixed-tape I ever made for outdoorsy Rachel.

Throughout their show, Dando and Hatfield's voices matched up beautifully as always, with choice selections including the Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes," "Somebody is Waiting for Me," "Ride with Me," Teenage Fanclub's "Cells," "Brain Damage," "Evan," and many tunes off the most-classic Lemonheads' album It's a Shame About Ray. A pretty similar set list is here.

Great idea for Dando to have encouraged the "semi-retired" Hatfield to get back out on the road. Hopefully they tour together more than just this brief trip.

***** out of ***** stars

Monday, January 17, 2011

Shaking Off the Skating Rust in Silver Spring

As the family hopefully gets ready for a couple of spring skiing vacations, we thought we'd hit the ice yesterday for a quick tune-up on skates at the nice new Silver Spring downtown outdoor rink.

Jackson got his first taste of ice skates and did well. No falls! (And even able to mug for the camera, see the photo to the left.) Ski school should be a little more difficult, but it's good to know he looks like a natural with winter sports.

It was the first time I'd been on skates since one trip to a rink in Baltimore about 5 years ago. Before that, it had been since my days growing up on Dunlap Lake in Edwardsville, Illinois. I got to be a pretty good skater in those days, but have definitely acquired significant rust since then.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Brad Pitt Misses a Primo Role in The Fighter

Not that I would usually recommend replacing Brad Pitt in any movie role, but the stroke of genius in The Fighter is the casting of Christian Bale. He plays real-life Lowell, Massachusetts boxing great Dicky "The Pride of Lowell" Eklund, known for knocking down the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978.

Pitt was originally cast in the role that Bale nails, thanks to his perfect ability to play a lanky, unhinged, drug-addicted creep. He luckily becomes sympathetic as the film progresses. And his little brother, Micky, played By "Marky" Mark Wahlberg and Micky's girlfriend, played by Amy Adams, show enough individuality from their mom and all the big-haired weirdo ladies hanging around their family house that you have to come to cheer for them.

Fittingly, Wahlberg (in his best performance since 2006's The Departed), Bale, and Adams are each up for Golden Globe Awards. All three are deserving of awards, although Bale is probably the only one who's a lock to win.

The fight scenes are all great as well, even though the pattern of "losing then suddenly coming back to win" is now beyond trite in the boxing genre.

***1/2 out of ***** stars

Friday, January 7, 2011

Bad Boy of Belleville, Illinois Gets An Education

Considering An Education was nominated for three Academy Awards last year, it flew a little under the radar. But Peter Sarsgaard and Carey Mulligan turn in a powerful portrait of an older man seducing a 16-year-old school girl in the beatnik-dandy England of 1961.

As Mulligan and her parents fall under the seemingly suspicious spell of Sarsgaard's character, viewers begin to feel less creepy about the inappropriate age difference of the couple. The complexity of their relationship draws us in and we forget (at least somewhat) about the political incorrectness (less so, I guess, by the standards of 1961) of what's happening.

An Education also has captivating messages about the importance and necessity of both formal academia and "the school of life."

Mulligan was nominated for the best actress Oscar and the film itself for best picture. Sarsgaard couldn't quite break through the fierce male competition, but his performance is every bit as great as anyone else's last year. I may be somewhat biased, however, since he grew up a few miles from me (and was born one year later) at Scott Air Force Base near Belleville, Illinois (also former home of Jimmy Connors and Jeff Tweedy).

Sarsgaard is putting together quite a resume, with highlight roles in Boys Don't Cry, Shattered Glass, Garden State, Kinsey, and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

**** out of ***** stars

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Beach Time in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

OK, this is ridiculous. I haven't been blogging here nearly enough. In fact, I never even mentioned the four days of R&R I took with Rachel and Jackson after a hard two weeks of work at the UN climate conference in Mexico.

Just a 30-minute ferry ride off the coast of Cancun, which I wouldn't recommend to anyone other than people who love going to other countries and staying at resorts without absorbing any local culture, was a beautiful little fun island called Isla Mujeres ("Island of Women").

Although the weather was too cold to ever let us dip into the acclaimed beautiful beaches of the island, and the winds were fierce from time to time, there was plenty to do. We rented a golf cart (which Jackson absolutely loved, except when we had to return it!) and cruised the five-mile length of the island from our nice little hut of a hotel (quite a change from the swanky Hilton in Cancun) on the north end to the picturesque sculpture garden, rocky-cliff trails, and crashing waves at the south end. We stopped at a turtle reserve along the way.

The rest of the time we wandered the streets, where there were lots of great $1 tiny toys that Jackson loves and thankfully-not-Hilton food to enjoy.

Highly recommend Isla Mujeres if you're ever in the neighborhood.

Here are a couple of decent photos pulled from my iPhone.