Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Life Finds A Way

One of the coolest things about our neighborhood are the beautiful trees lining our street. (These pics were taken in the fall, but now that its spring we're getting outside and getting to know our hood a little bit more, and the trees have suddenly burst into green. I'll try to post newer pictures too.)

These trees all have enormous root structures that have pushed their way up through the brick and concrete. I'm guessing they have such a weird low-lying shape because they expanded laterally under the concrete for decades until they could be contained no longer and finally burst forth. They always remind me of risen loaves of bread...

From this angle, the root seems to drip over the edge of the curb, like a pot of wood that has boiled over and then hardened. Or a lava flow.

This tree has long since captured a street signpost and twisted it like a plastic straw. Life finds a way.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hillary for Veep?

Kevin Drum provides a little solace for those of us worried that this interminable Democratic primary is harming the party's chances in the fall (see also: Chait Cohn and Douthat). Apparently the Clinton - Obama bickering isn't really helping McCain at all in the polls.

Elections are non-reproducible experiments, and all the myriad commentators are simply generals re-fighting the last war, so really ... who knows what the fall will bring. Still, I keep wondering if a "party unity" Obama-Clinton ticket will emerge out of the fray? As a strong Obama supporter, I know this isn't a likely or popular position to take. I still think the winds are blowing in a Democratic direction this year and either Obama or Clinton can realistically beat McCain, but it seems to me a unity ticket might still be the best option for doing so.

Barring any shenanigans it looks like Obama has the nomination within his grasp and it's possible that the party elders will pressure him to offer the veep job to Hillary to stave off a total convention meltdown. And actually she might be a good fit. A good VP brings balance to the ticket and serves as an attack dog, allowing the candidate to stay above the fray. Hillary could easily fill both roles. She might also quiet criticism about Obama's lack of experience -- playing Johnson to his Kennedy, Bush to his Reagan.

Plus, in a weird way, taking the VP job might be Hillary's best path to the Oval Office. But, like I said, who really knows?

Thursday, April 24, 2008


This video is freakin awesome/amazing... (it starts slow, but watch to the end...)

(h/t happening-here).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Pope Totally Drove Past Our House Today

On his way from the White House to the Basilica. Not that we saw him go by, but I did encounter the residual police presence on my ride home. And hey, how often does that happen?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What gives this mess some grace unless it's fiction?

We saw Okkervil River and The New Pornographers play the 9:30 Club last night.

First up was Okkervil, a band that Jackie helped get me into and who has quickly become a fave. They gave a really engaging performance, shifting from sweet to anguished to angry and back. Some highlights included the raucous "Unless Its Kicks", the murderous "Westfall" and a gorgeous performance of "A Stone":

Sadly, they didn't play "John Allyn Smith Sails" -- a modest little folk tune about John Berryman's suicidal jump into the Mississippi that segues into a midnite-pub-rock version of Sloop John B. Somehow, whenever I hear this song I imagine the coffin setting sail into the darkness a la Jack Sparrow. Anyway, it rocks.

(Apropos of nothing, what's up with all the John Berryman references these days? There's another terrific song by the Hold Steady: "the devil and John Berryman, they took a walk together, they ended up on Washington Street talking to the river..." Makes me want to drag out my old Norton anthology of poetry.)

Okkervil played a very satisfying set, but the same couldn't quite be said of the New Pornographers, if only because Neko Case didn't sing last night (neither did Dan Bejar, which is a shame too). Now, Neko was actually on the tour and scheduled to perform, but she was taken ill that evening! Tragedy! Kathryn Calder more than ably filled in her vocal parts (and really, in any other band, she would be the star), but Neko is Neko and her shoes are hard to fill. See? Here's she is singing the hell out of an old gospel tune, John Saw That Number, at one of her solo concerts:

So fighting down bitter disappointment, we soldiered on together. The NPs actually played a great set. They started off with some of their denser songs that badly needed Neko's vocal grace notes to cut through the double-synth, triple-guitar assault, but they closed with some of their stronger, airier stuff. For those who aren't familiar with them: at their best the NPs play perfect Beatles-pop, but louder and faster and more abstracted (and with lyrics that don't often make much sense).

Happily, they played "Sing Me Spanish Techno" - a song about listening to catchy songs, that is itself, insanely catchy. Kathryn absolutely tore up "Mass Romantic" and they got the crowd to sing along on the "ooh oohs" and the "hey la" chorus to "The Bleeding Heart Show". The best song off their latest album (All The Old Showstoppers) is actually a sly, intertextual poke at Neko's gospel and country fixation:
When John he saw the numbers he lied
Made up the whole thing, failed when he tried
To cash in on his cautious new fame
Always the numbers but never the name

By the end, the sugar rush had even erased the initial disappointment. Great show!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Big Week

We just got back from a week in Arizona. Laura Jean had a ministry retreat and I went along to make sure the baby was properly tickled and all that good stuff. We spent the weekend in Tucson, (re)visiting Kitt Peak and other former stomping grounds. (More pictures will be coming soon.) Most of the week, however, was spent at a very nice Catholic retreat center in Phoenix surrounded by cacti-covered hills, basking in the low-80s temperatures.

At any rate, it was a big week for Quinn! The girl is not yet 5 months old but has already traveled to six states. And as Laura Jean recently posted, Quinn succeeded at getting her foot into her mouth by herself, and we also started down the road toward "solid" food. Very exciting!!

While in AZ, we also took Quinn for her first swim in the hotel's swimming pool. After some initial hesitation, she quite enjoyed herself. This might even be more fun than bathtime...

More photos below the fold...