The big show that I’d been waiting for throughout the year has finally come & gone. I got to see U2 for the first time at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

I’d never been interested in seeing a show in a football stadium before. Even hockey arena concerts are usually too big & impersonal for me. I figured any show in a football stadium would be taking that to an extreme, and I figured the sound would be horrible on top of it. For the first time ever, I made an exception and back in April got tickets to see U2. Turns out, the sound was really good, and the seats were closer to the stage than many shows I’ve seen in hockey arenas.

I’ve never seen U2 before, so I was pretty excited by the time the concert rolled around. Muse was the opening act and I couldn’t have been happier since they were also at the top of my list of bands to see. The show drew the biggest crowd ever to attend an event at the stadium, even eclipsing the attendance for the two super bowls that have been held there.

U2 in Tampa

The stage setup was superlative. The superstructure that towered above the stage could be seen from outside the stadium, and the stage basically stretched from one end-zone to about where the 50-yard line would have been. Even a good chunk of that space had people in it, as the stage had space for people inside an outer ring.

Muse came out & played a solid show. They got a really strong reaction from the crowd, which was pretty good for just being the opening band. I walked in already a Muse fan, and their set made me into an even bigger fan.

U2 is probably one of the only bands that has the stature and sound to fill a football stadium, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t pull it off. Where many bands would be lost in a stadium that size, U2 almost made it seem cozy. The musicians were dwarfed by the stage, which was (barely) dwarfed by the stadium, but when 72,000 fans are singing along to “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” you end up feeling like you’re really not that far from the band.

“Still Haven’t Found…” segued into “Stand By Me” and brought tears to my eyes, as did “With or Without You.” “City of Blinding Lights” and “Beautiful Day” wowed me. “Where The Streets Have No Name” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” gave me goosebumps. This was one of the top 10 concerts I’ve ever seen.

Usually after getting myself up for a show, I don’t listen to the band again for a week or two because I’ve played them so much. I left the U2 concert an even bigger fan of both Muse and U2, and still can’t get enough of either of them. That’s saying something.

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I don’t remember many laugh-out-loud moments during Zombieland, but I did have a smile plastered on my face pretty much throughout the movie. Definitely worth the price of admission.

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What can brown do for you?

Not deliver a package apparently.

It took me two weeks to get a next-day package out of UPS. The first attempt made it to my house on the next day, as promised, but it went through countless sets of UPS hands before my delivery man marked the shipment down as damaged/missing contents. Even though it was a next day package that they apparently destroyed, they took three days getting it back to the vendor.

The next delivery attempt happened when nobody was home. Fair enough. The slip on my door said the next delivery attempt would be the following day between 10am and 5pm. Jessie was home all day, and we were late getting to dinner at my Dad’s house because we waited until 6:45pm for the UPS guy to show up. I looked for the UPS truck as we drove out of the subdivision. No dice. We came home to a slip saying he was there 6 minutes after we left, just before 7pm. 10-5 my ass.

This slip said that the next attempt would be the following day after 5pm. Jessie had to go run some errands, and sure enough the delivery attempt was made when Jessie was out at 2:30 in the afternoon, well before what they said. Jessie calls the number on the slip and they tell her i can pick up the package after 5pm that day.

I go to the UPS facility @ 6:30pm and they tell me they won’t have the package until the following day, but I need to call this number in a hurry so that they don’t return the package to the sender. I call the number I’m given, and I can’t use the tracking number, I need the info number from the slip that’s sitting at home. I finally get a hold of someone at UPS and they act as if Jessie never called earlier in the day.

Why give me a tracking number if I cannot use it to manage delivery of my package? Why put delivery times on the door slips if they don’t mean anything? Two weeks later, two trips to the UPS facility, two days of Jessie waiting for the delivery and several phone calls later, I finally have my package. Odd when you consider that UPS was the one that got paid to get it into MY hands.

What can brown do for me? Go jump in a lake.

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There are dead people in my address book

There are dead people in my address book.

I just can’t bring myself to delete them. For friends and family that are no longer here, it’s like a digital tombstone sitting on my disk drive. Here’s their last phone number; their last address; their birthday. It’s never been easy for me to let go, and this is a shining example. I can’t ever forget them, but I can’t bring myself to delete their names either.

I somehow have it in my head that the last memory of me won’t be anything that I said or did, but it will be some stale entry in a telemarketers phone list or a spammers email list.

Once that final entry is deleted, who will even remember that I was here?

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Midnight Ride

I drove across the state on a lark back in June, trying to catch a launch of the space shuttle. It didn’t go. Since I’d gotten my hopes up, I kept trying every time NASA had a launch scheduled when I could make it to the east coast.

I spent an entire weekend waiting through two scrubbed launch attempts. I watched dolphins and manatees play in the river. I got sunburned, rained on, and once spent 4 hours coming back from the east coast in what is usually a 2-hour drive.

I tried again Monday night, and I went into work tired after getting home at 2am following another scrubbed launch attempt. Friday night I bolted across state for the fifth attempt since June. I was still smiling about it (mostly) and the topic of scrubbed shuttle launches had become something of a joke.

By my estimate, I had spent $150 in gas in all of the cross-state trips. I spent about 24 hours total driving there and back, and another 24 hours sitting by the river waiting for a launch that never seemed to come.

Until Friday night. All of that effort was worth it to see this:
STS-128 Lifts Off
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

No Comments Posted in Florida Life, travel
District 9

This movie takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa. Hovering above the city is a huge alien spaceship. The image reminds me of the cover art for Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. This film reminds me of that story, and others of it’s era. Many films use a science fiction setting as an excuse to use the latest whiz-bang special effects. This film uses plenty of special effects, but it’s roots go back to stories like Childhood’s End where the science fiction setting was used to tell a deeper story about our own humanity, or lack of humanity.

While District 9 has a more compelling story than most action flicks, the story isn’t perfect. There are some serious holes in the plot, but if you can suspend your disbelief for a little while you’ll find a nice bit of summer escapism.

Unfortunately, the ending is effectively just a setup for a possible sequel (District 10?) and not very satisfying. Despite the weak ending, District 9 kept me entertained and is definitely worth the price of admission.

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This is how spoiled I am:

While at work, I sit in front of a huge 8th floor office window (basically the entire wall is a window) that looks out over the Saint Petersburg yacht basin, Straub Park, and Tampa Bay.

Eight floors above me, the building has my bank’s name on it, and if I need to go to the bank during the week it’s just an elevator ride away.

Outside of my office there is a shopping center, movie theater, outdoor concert venue, and theatrical playhouse.  All of that is within ONE BLOCK of my office.

If I go out to two or three blocks from the office, there are a couple of museums, over a dozen restaurants, a few wine/beer bars, and several parks, including a couple right next to the water.

It won’t last. Nothing ever does, but I’ll sure as hell enjoy it while I can.

Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg

No Comments Posted in Florida Life
Have You Ever…

The Offspring are a band that’s 25 years old now.  Most bands that have been around that long are just coasting on their past success, but the Offspring’s latest album, Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace is as good as anything they’ve done before.

Maybe that’s part of the reason why last Thursday’s Offspring concert at Orlando’s Hard Rock was so good.  They were able to promote the new album without dragging the show down.  The setlist was perfect. There wasn’t a single song I wanted to hear that wasn’t played, and there wasn’t a single song they played that didn’t fit right in with the show.

I’m beginning to recognize a few things that I’m drawn to musically, regardless of who’s playing.  One of the things that really catches my interest is a strong driving rhythm like The Offspring uses in most of their songs. Any time an Offspring song comes on the radio I feel a smile come over my face and my foot gets a little heavier on the gas pedal.  Crazy to think that I’d never seen them in concert until last week.

It was worth the week-night drive to Orlando and back. Watching them on stage, I was reminded of two other concerts that are tops in my list: The Ramones, and Dream Theater’s Scenes From a Memory tour.

Sum 41 opened for The Offspring, and while the music was ok, they had a habit of breaking the momentum to yammer on about trivial self-congratulatory crap.  I kept thinking to myself, “just STFU and play the music!”

The Offspring has much more reason to pat themselves on the back, but they didn’t fall into that trap.  They took the stage and didn’t let up until the lights went on.  They even kept the breaks interesting by playing “Intermission” and tossing beach balls out into the crowd. They almost approached the level of the Ramones in their ability to keep the show going.  That’s a huge compliment because *nobody* could keep things going like the Ramones.  One song just flowed into another and they never took their foot off the gas.

The other show I mentioned was Dream Theater’s Scenes From a Memory concert.  That’s my all-time favorite concert, where DT played the entire album (which is one continuous story) from beginning to end.  One of the things that made it so special was that everybody at the show knew the album intimately, and practically everyone in the crowd was singing along to every song.

This Offspring show was like that; Every person in the crowd was singing along, joining in with every “whoooaaooooo” and the audience participation and enthusiasm made it much more than just a typical concert.

If you like them at all, be sure to catch them on tour some day.

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No-Go For Launch

I’ve set a personal record of a sort.  I’ve gone through an entire year without visiting the east coast of Florida before, but now I’ve managed to drive over there 4 times in the space of a single month.  I’ve never made so many cross-state trips in such a short timeframe.

One trip was to visit a few of the places where I used to live.  The other three trips were all attempts to see the space shuttle Endeavour lift off.  All three of those trips were in vain, since the Endeavour is still sitting on the pad hoping for a break in the weather today.

One trip to Titusville was made in June when we found out that the launch had been scrubbed just as I was arriving on the east coast.  The two other trips were both made this last weekend.  I was camped out at a riverfront park for five hours on Saturday morning before that days attempt was cancelled, and then drove back on Sunday morning and spent twelve hours out in the sun on a gorgeous day just to see storm clouds roll in at the last minute and force another cancellation.

Counting previous attempts over the years I’ve made a total of six trips over to see the shuttle lift off and I’ve only actually seen it go up once.  It’s an experience I’ll never forget.  Still, after three failed attempts to see the shuttle go off in the space of one month, you’d think I’d be over it, but I’m not.

My weekend consisted of a combined 10 hours of twice driving across the state & back, along with a total of about 17 hours sitting under the sun, which can be pretty brutal in July in Florida.  Instead of being disappointed that things didn’t pan out, I come away from the weekend feeling that I’m really spoiled in a way.

Practically everyone I met at the viewing area came from out-of-state.  There were a lot of people from Georgia and the Carolinas.  I met people from Ohio who flew in just to watch the shuttle.  There were people from Japan and Europe there.  All of these people came a long way, at considerable expense, in the hopes of seeing the shuttle lift off.  For me it’s just a two-hour drive from my house, and on a clear day I can see it from my house anyway.

Being a Floridian, I pretty much knew how to stay cool during the day and take precautions against the sun, so it wasn’t that bad.  I got to spend a day and a half sitting by the water watching the dolphins and manatees play just a few feet away.  The tourists went ga-ga over them, and it was fun to see people take such delight in things that I get to see all the time.  The shuttle didn’t go off this weekend, and who knows when I’ll get another chance to see a launch, but I can think of worse ways to spend a summer day.

I really am spoiled.

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Public Enemies

Creative Loafing had a headline stating Public Enemies was the “Best Movie of the Year (so far).”  I thought that was an endorsement of the film, but it turns out that it was a condemnation of the rest of the years’ films to date.

It’s not that Public Enemies is a bad film, it’s not.  It’s just not a very good one either.  At 2 hours and 20 minutes long I would expect to get some sort of story.  Instead, almost all of the characters come off as paper-thin, and it becomes very obvious that the film is based around a handful of gunfights, prison escapes, and a whole lot of filler.

We don’t see John Dillinger’s rise to infamy.  The film starts with him as Public Enemy #1 and never bothers to explain how he became something of a folk hero.  There are a couple of lines in the film referring to his popularity (“people love you”) but how he got there is never addressed.  To the audience I imagine his popularity is meant to stem from the fact that the popular Johnny Depp plays the role.

The film does that a lot, glossing over the actual story of John Dillinger to fill the spaces where there’s no action, hinting at a story without actually telling it.  For example, Marion Cottillard is completely wasted in this film as Dillinger’s girlfriend.  Dillinger sees her in a crowded room, tells her she’s his girl, and she acquiesces.  That’s pretty much the entire relationship in a nutshell.  I’m convinced that the only reason she was included in the film is because the Hollywood Formula For a Summer Movie dictates that there must be a love interest involved.

There’s nothing wrong with making an action movie that’s thin on plot.  It’s just that when you stretch it out to almost 2-1/2 hours long without fleshing out the characters or story, you end up with an action movie that’s thin on action.  By the end of the movie when Dillinger meets his fate, all I could think was “finally.”

Like I said, it’s not a bad movie, but I wouldn’t say it’s worth the price of admission either.

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