Thursday, March 30, 2006

"She kinda reminds me of Kristin Hersh..."

"...You know...from Throwing Muses?"

So declared the 20-something music nerd standing next to me at the Martha Wainwright / Neko Case show at First Ave. last night to his musically ignorant friends. His comparison piqued my interest -- mainly because I've never made the connection myself and they're two of my favorite artists. Sure, they both know their way around the ol' guitar strings, have simultaneously sultry and snarling voices, and are, well, goddam hot women. But to me the comparison ends there. Their songwriting styles are pretty dissimilar, as are their vibes on stage. Oh well, it was an interesting comment to kick off a semi-interesting musical night.

Poor Martha. Starting off her career playing second fiddle to her family, and now playing second fiddle to Neko Case. Martha even admitted as much: "These are not my fans; these are Neko's fans. These are who I want my fans to be." While I can confirm that the audience last night was mostly comprised of Nekophiles, I did notice a few other Martha diehards (and many instant converts). Of course, opening with "Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole" is an easy way to win over a crowd, but they did stick with her through the entire set of searing vocals, stridant dance moves, and witty asides. (Apparently she pulled her cousin Sylvain out of college to pawn her merch. Her aunt is not happy.)

Yes, I'm a fan. But seeing her for the second time in a larger venue further convinced me of her brilliance. I had to bite my bottom lip repeatedly to keep my smile from leaping off my face. She has talent and charisma and thank god I could expend my post-set energy buying a t-shirt and EP and talking to her cousin.

Oh yeah. And then Neko played. She was good. Her cover of "Buckets of Rain" was fantastic. Hearing "I Wish I Was the Moon" and "Deep Red Bells" live was worth a good portion of the ticket price. The rest of the set I could have enjoyed as happily simply hearing the notes come out of my stereo speakers. Martha Wainwright she ain't.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Splish Splash, I Was Designing A Structure

Thanks to Ivars Peterson's The Mathematical Tourist, I have another mad scientist to lift up to one of my architectural pedestals: Frei Otto. The man uses the properties of soap bubbles to help him design mathematically beautiful structures, including the roofs of several Olympic buildings in Munich and the new train station in Stuttgart (soap model above). Almost as cool is soap film's simple solution to Steiner's four-cities problem.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

No Whammy, No Whammy

Just last night I was remembering my childhood obsession with cheesey game shows and their hosts: Chuck Woolery on Scrabble and Love Connection, Wink Martindale on Bumper Stumpers and Tic Tac Dough, and the recently departed Peter Tomarken on Press Your Luck. Tomarken was never my favorite host -- I think Woolery's smarmy good looks and fashionable dress won me over at an impressionable age -- but he was certainly adequate and definitely better than that sad-sack Ray Combs. Plus, Tomarken and his wife died doing charitable work for Angel Flight, a non-profit that provides air transportation to needy medical patients. Not quite on par with Roberto Clemente, but Tomarken'll be remembered fondly.

As my exploration of the game show tragedy chain continued, I also ran across Michael Larson, the most successful Press Your Luck contestant of all time. Larson studied the patterns of lights on the PYL board and ended up winning over $100,000. While Larson managed to stay Whammy-free for an incredibly long time, his luck ended on that soundstage. In the years following his appearance, he lost $50,000 to an unknown thief, got a divorce, and died of throat cancer while running from the S.E.C.

Now I'm just biding my time until Ken Jennings gets busted for soliciting a prostitute and then dies in jail from dehydration.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I was born too late in the game to have seen this show at Club Babyhead in Providence in 1992. Babyhead closed in 1997, and to this day it remains a mystical venue that was always just out of my reach. Now pretty girls and boys grind on each other in the same space -- aptly called Club Hell -- where the likes of Throwing Muses, Husker Du, Lush, and The Breeders once graced the stage. What hath Cianci wrought?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Thursday, March 02, 2006

My New Home

Hey! Check me out at New Patriot, where I've finally joined the ranks of Minnesotans who worship black and white pictures of women from the 19th century. I even consummated the relationship by submitting my first post.