Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jeff the Brotherhood Rocks My Hood at the Fillmore

The Fillmore has been a few blocks from my home in Silver Spring, Maryland for a while now, but the place has never featured any concerts I've wanted to see. That's pretty amazing, especially if you know about the expansiveness of my music collection.

But I think Jeff the Brotherhood has one of the best releases of the year, and they rolled into the Fillmore Saturday night with another group that has a few albums in my collection, Delta Spirit (and their arguably better side project Middle Brother). So Rachel, Lori, and I decided to go.

Further, the show was reasonably priced at $22 per ticket (check), it was great to finally get to see what turned out to be a pretty decent venue (check), and I was psyched about Jeff the Brotherhood (check).

Jeff the Brotherhood
The band is a duo from Nashville, who play what I would call laid-back stoner rock, with basic but enjoyable lyrics. The whole thing borders on a punkier version of Weezer.

Then came headliners Delta Spirit, which has a "whole thing" as well. That whole thing equated in the three of us walking out five songs in. Everything was just wrong about this band. Its performance style just didn't add up, even though the cult-following looks on the audience's faces appeared to be approving enough.

They began with a pretentious light show and some sort of piped-in music designed to build the drama before they honored us with their stage entrance (a stark contrast to Jeff the Brotherhood, which set up its own instruments and ran a sound check before their set, all the while with their butts hanging out like plumbers).

Delta Spirit
Delta Spirit, from San Diego, entered the stage like they were U2 and proceeded to immediately creep my group out. With an Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) from Full House lookalike on vocals wasting no time in encouraging the crowd to lift our hands and clap along, the band proceeded to sound nothing like the mildly pleasurable alt-country of their albums. They had a hippie on bass and a spazzy Radiohead-wannabe on lead guitar. The singer screamed a lot, lacking any sense of likableness or bluesy-ness (which I think they were going for), and sent us away a little disgruntled from our first Fillmore experience.

Jeff the Brotherhood: **** out of ***** stars
Delta Spirit: 1/2 out of ***** stars

Monday, November 26, 2012

Best Magazine Reads: Vanity Fair Features 5-Year-Old Boy Lost From His Family in India

I love magazines, so I love the app I'm subscribed to on my iPad called Next Issue. It allows me to keep up with about a dozen of some of the best glossies out there.

Last night, I was glued to an article in the November 2012 issue of Vanity Fair called A Home at the End of Google Earth. The accompanying video is also very compelling.

A 5-year-old Indian boy is riding a train with his older brother. He falls asleep and realizes his brother is gone. He can't find him but assumes he'll be back. He falls asleep again and wakes up many hours later. His brother is still gone.

The train has ended up in Calcutta and the boy hadn't really known much of anything about where he was from. He wanders around the city and escapes at least one risky situation before heading back to sleep at the train station.

Soon he lands in government custody and is adopted by a loving couple from Tasmania. He lives there for many years, adjusting to life thousands of miles southeast of India. But finally, one day in his 20s, he has an inspiration to see if he can retrace the steps of his journey away from his birth family. He starts using Google Maps.

It is four years later when, after many sleepless nights scanning the web site in the dark, he thinks he might have found his home. He flies to India and is reunited with his mother, younger sister, and lots of other relatives. He discovers that his brother had died on some train tracks not long after being separated from his little brother. His mother had searched for the boys, but a fortune teller told her she would be reunited with the boy someday, so she ended her search and hoped for the best.

A truly inspiring and amazing story, and one that is not surprisingly being turned into a movie.

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence Psyche Out in Silver Linings Playbook

I'm not sure that all the Oscar talk is exactly deserved for Silver Linings Playbook, which opened today at the enjoyably artsy Charles Theater in Baltimore.

But it is an entertaining love story that follows the troubled psychological times of heartthrobs Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in hardscrabble Philadelphia.

Robert DeNiro touchingly plays a die-hard Eagles' fan, gambler, and father of Cooper, who comes home from a psych ward at the beginning of the movie. He runs into the equally "psyched out" Lawrence and the two improbably try to use dancing to find their way back to normalcy.

With Argo, Lincoln, Cloud Atlas, The Hobbit, and several others in the running, it would be improbable that this little flick could pull off the award for best picture. But it certainly shows that there's more to Cooper and Lawrence than just The Hangover and The Hunger Games.

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Luray Caverns is a Virginia Treasure

Growing up near St. Louis, we had close access to some of the best caves in the U.S.

Meramec Caverns in Missouri is known for its long, narrow steps down into its seven stories and is rumored to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad and a hideout for the Jesse James Gang.

Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is the longest cave in the world and was also a stop for slaves heading north in the 1800s.

So it was fun to have a cave-age child and stop in at an eastern cave, Luray Caverns near Skyline Drive in Virginia, on our way back from a family vacation at Wintergreen Resort.

Our young tour guide was excellent and he told us that no animals can survive in the cave. He also showed us the Stalacpipe Organ, which was set up over 3.5 acres of the cave and pings rocks throughout to get just the right sounds as part of the "world's largest instrument," according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

There's also the pretty sweet Luray Car and Carriage Caravan Museum on site that is free with the cavern ticket. Some of the highlights include a 1913 Stanley Steamer, an 1892 Benz, and Rudolph Valentino's 1925 Rolls Royce.

Rudolph Valentino's car

Vacationing at Wintergreen Ski Resort Without Snow

Emmet, Jackson, and Frances check out a snake on one of Wintergreen's trails.
I've been skiing a bunch of times out west, but only once in the east. That running total held with a trip to Wintergreen Resort in western Virginia that Rachel, Jackson, Tony, Terry, Emmet, Frances, and I won at last year's Takoma Children's School silent auction.

There was no snow and not many other tourists, which made the weekend a little odd but pretty relaxing. Or as relaxing as a weekend with three 5-ish-year-olds can be.

We took two decent-length hikes through the leafy, mountainous trails and mostly just explored the resort. There was also a kids' area that was pretty run-down and a miniature golf course that was probably the junkiest I've ever seen.

That said, it was a great place to take kids for a getaway from the Washington DC rat race.

Rachel wonders why the ball refuses to bounce off any of the walls at the Wintergreen miniature golf course.
Now I'm ready for a real ski trip, probably out west.

Jackson at the playground.

Emmet and Jackson get philosophical with each other at the playground.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Laughing in New York City With John Oliver

I forgot to write about my spring trip to New York City with my buddy Peter, so I just wrote about New York the last time I went up there instead. 

But it's not that that time many months ago wasn't worth writing about. I was reminded of it recently when Peter sent me this screen capture of us on Comedy Central (that's me second from right and Peter third from right). The John Oliver comedy special aired many months after we saw it filmed as well. 

It was a little odd. One, Oliver is one of my least-favorite parts of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. Two, they made us sit for about five hours without food, drink, or bathroom breaks while they filmed two loooong episodes in a row. Three, it took us away from carousing the streets of Manhattan, which is one of my favorite things to do in this life.

I preferred the other comedy show we saw that long-ago weekend, the one that happened at 1:30 a.m. in the Comedy Cellar with Al Madrigal of The Daily Show. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Roy Lichtenstein's Exhibit at National Gallery Well Worth a Visit

Rachel and I are both good artists, so hopefully Jackson will be a powerhouse. We were thinking he would really love to see the new Roy Lichtenstein exhibit at the National Gallery, and sure enough he loved the cartoon-heavy show.            

Along with having the best cafeteria of all the museums on the DC Mall, the National Gallery is a fun place to wander through. For example, check out my photo of Jackson in front of the moving-walkway area that feels like a trip through a galaxy.

Jackson liked that, and also he liked Lichtenstein's pop-culture art. Famed for the dots on his paintings that he made with stencils, the exhibit displayed many of his best romance works (which remind me a lot of Archie, Betty, and Veronica) and his war pieces of flying aces in battle planes.

Lichtenstein's work stands up well to that of the master's, Andy Warhol. Now that the weather has taken a sudden shift for the cold, I highly recommend some time in this show. And Jackson got a book on how to draw people at the gift shop. He spent the rest of the afternoon drawing some Lichtenstein-like characters.

The Origins of Breakfast Cereal

I've been a connoisseur of breakfast cereal since an early age. So it made me very happy when Rachel recently gave me The Great American Cereal Book for my birthday.

The book is shaped like a cereal box and has glossy color photos of many of the innumerable cereals released over the years.

The first story in this pop-culture landmine discusses the advent of cereals. The unhealthy diet of the Civil War era inspired Granula, the first cereal, which was hard as a rock and required being soaked in milk overnight before it could be eaten. Disgusting sounding, yes, but it went a long way in building a healthier diet for Americans.

Nabisco Shredded Wheat followed in 1892, Kellogg's Granose Flakes in 1896, and Post Grape-Nuts in 1897.