Come, Heavy Sting

When I read a note on a French Sting fansite that the man formerly known as Gordon Sumner would be releasing an album of classical lute music, I stopped, goggled, then giggled. Then I got depressed. Sting has been going down in my estimation since Ten Summoner’s Tales—a decent album, but with the seeds of his spiral into adult alternative toothlessness sown within. More ominously for Tuesday’s release of Songs from the Labyrinth, an inside page of the booklet featured Sting posing with a lute and looking faintly ridiculous.

Why am I so down on this concept? Let’s just say it’s not new to me. In 2000 when Lisa and I visited London over a long weekend, we took a tour of the reconstructed Globe Theatre, which was hosting a benefit concert later that night. As we emerged into the actual theatre, our guide paused, went ahead, then came back and told us that we were being permitted to sit in on the rehearsal for the event. On stage: Vinnie Jones (of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and X-Men: The Last Stand), James Taylor, and Sting, among others. The theme of the day was Elizabethan entertainment, so we got to see Jones play Mercutio in a Romeo & Juliet pastiche; Taylor sang an original but period-influenced tune; and Sting played and sang a Dowland tune. Badly. In his defense, he was clearly not feeling well (it was a little chilly, but he had an orange scarf tightly around his neck and was not doing a lot of moving around), and he gave himself a self-deprecating kick in the ass as he left the stage. The whole experience boded ill.

So now comes the actual album. My Dowland touchstone is probably his “Come, Come Again,” which the Virginia Glee Club regularly performed. The curious should download track 16 of Songs from the Labyrinth, which basically sums up the whole album: odd arrangement, featuring the lute totally dropping out behind Sting’s voice, and deadly vocal performance full of apparently-intended-to-be-emotive diphthongs and toothless fricatives. Seriously, there are vocal lines that sound as though they’re sung through dentures. Worse, there’s no variation to the vocal lines: the performances are note-note-note with little or no vocal inflection and no phrasing. And then there’s the overdubbing: awkward as the solo lines are, they sound like sheer genius compared to the same voice in two part harmony.

Still, the whole thing isn’t bad: there are some interesting solo lute numbers.

Will there be karaoke?

One of the fun things about working in the software industry is that occasionally you run across some really creative marketing approaches. One company in our space is Pink Elephant, an IT consultancy based in Canada that has really helped to educate the IT market in North America about the importance of process-driven IT management and about the ITIL standard in particular. Their name is great: memorable, with a faintly boozy overtone… just like their conferences.

Which is why I was amused to get a flier for their annual IT Service Management Conference and Exhibition, occurring next February in Las Vegas. The theme? (Leadership, Optimization, Validation, and Excitement). As if that weren’t enough, all the tracks have Beatles song titles in the name (e.g. “You Never Give Me Your Money: ROI and the Financial Realities of ITIL”).

Which brings up two questions:

  1. How long before Apple Corps (or the current Lennon/McCartney song catalog owner) sues Pink for unauthorized use of their copyrighted materials?
  2. Will there be karaoke? Cause I sing a mean “Got to Get You Into My Life.”

Just curious…

When did the scandal about Mark Foley taking advantage of Congressional pages turn from a scandal about pandering and corruption of minors and become a scandal about his sexuality?

Probably about the same time he became a Democrat (thanks, Bill O’Reilly).

Free clue: the issue should be his handling of a public trust and his hypocrisy, not his sexuality. In this country, in our legal system, and even in our morality, I say we punish the act and not the person.

RSS for plasma?

I’m looking forward to seeing Dave Winer’s next trick. The clues (the space above his couch, an RSS feed with medium to high resolution images) suggest that he’s preparing a new application that reformats the image content of RSS for widescreen displays—with the original application being news images. Am I close, Dave?

I’d happily get on board this train if I’m right and if it’s easy to get working—and doesn’t require a Windows Media PC.

The neverending kitchen cabinets

I have come to realize over the past weeks that a kitchen is something that is never truly finished. You just keep working at it until you stop.

This weekend I did the last major structural work on the kitchen prior to the arrival of the countertop and subsequent completion of the plumbing work (sink, dishwasher): I fastened all the assembled base cabinets to the back wall. I took a deep breath and looked at what I had done, and then thought, Argh. Filler panels and molding. So next steps are to scribe the filler panels on the right end of the cabinet run, where we ended up with about two inches of space between the last cabinet and the wall, and screw them into place; figure out how the molding strips are attached and get them installed; then probably (if I’m lucky) install the countertop.

Of course, our stuff hasn’t been waiting for kitchen completion to start sneaking its way back in. I cooked Julia’s French “hamburgers” last night and now there are a few extra pans in one of the cupboards. And this morning I placed a couple of salvaged pieces of the old counter on the cabinets by the stove so that we could cook safely and keep the cooking spatters out of the new cabinets. Now all we have to do is get the oven working…

Friday Random 10: sigh-ning off

After the travel this week, I feel like catching a breath, so I’m going to let the music speak for me. See you on Monday

  1. Smithsonian Chamber Players (Marin Marais, composer), “Suite d-moll – Menuet” (Pièces à deux violes)
  2. Shu-De, “Shyngyr-Shyngyr” (Voices from the Distant Steppe)
  3. The Velvet Underground, “Train Round the Bend” (Peel Slowly and See)
  4. M. Ward, “Let’s Dance” (Transfiguration of Vincent)
  5. Lou Reed and John Cale, “Forever Changed” (Songs for Drella)
  6. Clemencic Consort, “Regina celi letare” (Dunstable: Cathedral Sounds)
  7. Joe Henderson, “Teo” (So Near, So Far)
  8. U2, “Bullet the Blue Sky” (Rattle and Hum)
  9. Soul Coughing, “Maybe I’ll Come Down” (El Oso)
  10. Neko Case and Her Boyfriends, “Duchess” (The Virginian)

Sushi in and around Calgary

aquarium, sushi

I’m back home. Amazingly enough, there were no further travel incidents—unless you count the flight out of Calgary taking off 90 minutes late for no apparent reason, causing me to take a later connection out of Chicago.

While we were in Calgary, I had two sushi experiences. One was a meal at Zen 8, just down the block from Belgo in Penny Lane, where we asked for omikase and got a really nice assortment of stuff—nothing spectacularly weird from the fish perspective but good quality and very reasonable.

The other was a place we saw on Highway 1 on the way in. I looked to my right at a stoplight and noted a sushi restaurant—right next to an aquarium store. “At least it’s fresh,” my co-worker noted. I got a picture of this place and will try to post it tomorrow.

Update (13 Oct 2006): Finally got around to posting the picture on Flickr (and above).

Happy anniversary

Since I’m still on the road, I would like to take a moment to say a quick word to my wife on our 9th wedding anniversary: it feels like it was just yesterday, and it feels like it has been since the beginning of time. Happy anniversary, dear, and I’ll call later.

Calgary dining: Buchanan’s

During a conference call yesterday morning in Edmonton, we had a prospect from Calgary join us via videophone. At the end we mentioned we would be in Calgary in the evening and asked him for a restaurant recommendation. He said, without hesitation, “Buchanan’s.”

We got into town, settled into the hotel, and eventually made our way out to find Buchanan’s. After some initial confusion (downtown Calgary has a grid of numbered streets and avenues, leading us down to the corner of 7th Ave and 3 St when we really should have been at 7 St and 3rd Ave; sorry, Dan), we found Buchanan’s, and were thrilled.

It wasn’t so much the food, although it’s really hard to go wrong with thick cuts of Alberta beef; or the wine, although the 2001 superTuscan that we tasted was pretty spectacular; nor even the wall of over 200 different types of single malt Scotch behind the bar. What made it a great evening was the ambience and the staff. We ate in the lounge, which had the Yankees/Detroit game on (alas for all of us who were rooting to see the Yankees fall last night), and which had a wonderfully relaxed vibe, aided by the friendly presence of the owners. It felt a little like sitting in a quiet neighborhood bar.

Smite, Smoot, smite

It’s always good to see another MIT scientist winning the Nobel Prize. And this one, fittingly enough, is a Smoot (though not the Smoot). George F. Smoot’s work on the cosmic background radiation has significantly affected our understanding of the universe, and the findings are suitably dramatic as his official biography indicates.

On a related note, it’s interesting watching the media catch up, including Wikipedia. When I looked up smoot in Wikipedia late last night, the disambiguation page referenced only a stub article for George F. Smoot. This morning, his full article was there, and it continues to be expanded. Pretty cool.

Eating in Edmonton

We’ve had two pretty good meals here in the capital of Alberta. Today’s lunch was at the Café Select. I had their tomato soup and a spicy salad with fried squid, which was a lot tastier than it sounds.

Last night, though, was exceptional. We visited the Hardware Grill (on a recommendation from eGullet) and I had some spectacular lamb: lamb rib-eye wrapped with a combination of beef short ribs and foie gras in a Zinfandel reduction sauce. The wine list was all that you would expect in a Wine Spectator award winner.

As one of the commentators at the eGullet forum wrote, “Dining in Edmonton is a bit like stumbling around a catholic schoolgirl dorm — lots of boring, hardworking, plaid clad folk, but the odd mindblowing experience to be had if you knock on the right door.” I really can’t top that capsule review, so perhaps we’ll just leave it at that.

Logan in the morning

Since I’m going to be here a few more minutes, some notes about the experience flying out of Logan, which I’ve complained about bitterly at times: it’s not that bad, provided you are flying out at the beginning of the week and that you leave enough time before your flight is scheduled to depart.

Heresy, I know. But unlike an airport like O’Hare, which is never quiet and about as far from relaxed as you can get, it’s a small enough airport that you can catch your breath, even find a power outlet, without much trouble. It’s also big enough to have the basics: Starbucks, Dunkin, a really good shoe shine stand, and wifi—and while Massport’s monopoly in this area is somewhat controversial, I feel a lot better about it now that my money is going directly to Boingo (I finally gave in and bought a monthly subscription, and boy am I using it). It’s also better wifi than in O’Hare, where I almost always have trouble connecting for one reason or another.

The most quietly pleasant thing about the airport, I think, is sitting at a seat near a lot of windows, say near gate C-18, from around 6 am to 6:30 and watching the skies start to brighten as the airplanes glide by on the tarmac past the gates.

Another day, another flight

Today’s destination: Edmonton, then Calgary.

I’m not going to be in Edmonton very long, probably just long enough to recharge my laptop before a business meeting tomorrow. So I’m saving my energy for Calgary. Though we will just have missed the Calgary Film Festival, there should be enough going on in town that I should be able to find some entertainment somewhere. At least judging from the hotel bookings—I had a hard time finding a room anywhere in town. Note: it appears that most of the entertainment in Calgary involves cowboy regalia.

I’m also looking forward to getting some good steaks. I’m not sure anyone will be able to persuade me to try Rocky Mountain oysters, though.