Friday, September 28, 2007

Ticket Master

In keeping with the concert theme, here's the setup I used the other day to score tickets to one of the Boss's upcoming shows here in DC. The computer and Internet connection, of course, were the key items, but there was also:

Seating chart to get a quick read on how good or bad things are (you only have a minute or two to decide whether to buy the tickets that come up or throw them back into the mix and try again).

Advertisement from the paper, which has the Ticketmaster phone numbers (which by ticket time, of course, are programmed into the cell phone.

American Express card. The card number is already entered into the Ticketmaster system, but just in case something goes wrong, the numbers are right there by my side. (You get like a minute or two at that screen as well.)

All of this is in place well before ticket time. A few minutes before the sale starts, I begin dialing the numbers and clicking on the website. It is a system that has worked well over the years. We've been leaning against the stage, in the very front row, on more than one occasion (including last year at one of the best Bruce shows we've ever seen) . Truth be told, we've also been in the very last row. This was at Giants Stadium a few years back. It lead to a really neat experience for me, actually. When Bruce and the band kicked into Empty Sky, I was able to look over the Meadowlands, out to the New York skyline where the towers had once stood. Pretty surreal.

So what happened this time? I get into the Ticketmaster website at 10:04. (Never was able to get through by phone.) The tickets are gone! What's the fallback? Well, looking at the tour schedule, there is clearly an opening to add a second DC show, so that's now my focus. And sure enough, at 10:15, another show turns up on Ticketmaster. I'm in on that one by 10:16 and come out a minute or two later with 100 level seats. Not the best score ever, but all in all not bad.

Bring it on Bruce!


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Of Progressive Rock and Synth Pop Ballads

The other night we went to a concert that no critic is ever going to give a good review. Yet it was a concert that we enjoyed thoroughly, for a lot of reasons.

For one thing, the band performing was Genesis, a group that hasn't played together in something like 15 years. So the chance to see a truly legendary act once more was neat. It was especially great for the kids, as they had (of course) never witnessed the spectacle that is a Genesis concert.

The spectacle itself was another reason the concert was so much fun. You see, Genesis has always been known for its stunning light shows and multimedia effects. With all of the advances that have taken place in digital technology over the past decade or so, we were looking forward to seeing just how Genesis would put these new toys to use. And they didn't disappoint. There was a huge screen of sorts that was draped across the entire back of the stage setup. This screen was filled with all sorts of images throughout the night:

Firth of Fifth. Daryl Stuermer's guitar solo could be seen "up close" and much, much larger than life.

I Know What I Like. Images of the band from their early years moved by on the screen as the band worked its way through this all-time classic. There was even Peter Gabriel dressed up as a flower.

Domino. As armageddon arrives, Phil Collins leaves the stage and sings the "blood on the windows" section from somewhere out of sight. The image of his face is beamed in a very ethereal way onto the screen.

Throwing It All Away. The band performs one of its most popular numbers with video of audience members dancing and singing along thrown up on the screen. It was mostly good, clean fun...

In all, a great mix of fifteen-minute progressive rock jams with some hit songs worked in. The Carpet Crawlers as the show's finale was particularly memorable, and Desi, Julie, and Z discovered just what a beautiful song Ripples truly is. Given how well the band played, I say make another album and turn it on again and again...


Monday, September 24, 2007

I Know Enough to be Dangerous!

So there we were in DC's Chinatown, browsing in the one store that still hawks Chinese goods. (Chinatown has essentially been gobbled up by the downtown gentrification of the past decade. Although this has spelled the end of a "real" Chinatown, the change isn't all that bad. The riots of the 60s caused most of the area's Chinese population to move out to the suburbs, to places like Rockville, Maryland. That's why we have so much Chinese food and culture right on our neck of the woods. Anyways, all of that is a story for another day...)

As I wander toward one of the front counters, a woman who works in the store comes up to me and asks in broken English if I can help out this other man. This "other man" speaks no English whatsoever and has apparently come into the store needing help with directions. He and the woman in the store have called the person he is supposed to meet out in Virginia. (See, I told you all the Zhongguo ren have moved out of the city!) But neither of them can write down in English the name of the place where he is to take a taxi to meet this person.

Well, they didn't know it, but they picked the "right" one to ask for help! A chance to use my broken Chinese in a real-time situation! I get the information from the person on the phone and start using my little Chinese phrases to convey the meaning of what I have written down on the piece of paper the store woman handed me. This leads to additional questions and more baby Chinese answers from me. I'm just trying not to get run over by the "Mandarin train"!

Then, just as quickly as it began, it was over. Desi, the kids, and I wander back out onto the street and there is the guy I just helped, trying in vain to hail a cab. So back into action I spring, egged on by Desi, of course! A moment later, I've got a cab pulling up, I'm telling the guy to jump in the back seat, and I'm instructing the cab driver as to where his passenger needs to go. The driver then calls his dispatcher and they have a conversation in yet another language. (What was that language, Des? I was having enough trouble jumping back and forth between English and Mandarin!)

In the end, I was able to tell the guy how much his cab ride would cost (san shi kuai) and how long it would take (si shi fen zhong). Not bad for a high-level newbie (that's how ChinesePod classifies me)! Now, I just need about a thousand more of those kind of interactions and I might actually begin to really speak this language! For now, though, Desi and the kids tell me that the guy rode off with an ear-to-ear smile on his face. Hopefully, I made his day with that little bit of assistance...or maybe he was just amused at my efforts!