Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hotel 91

During our trip up to New York City, we stayed in a little place called Hotel 91 on the main drag in Chinatown. Our aim, mind you, was not to be in Chinatown per se. It's just that we wanted to be in lower Manhattan, not far from Irving Plaza. And, by the way, we didn't want to break the bank. Not an easy needle to thread, to say the least (have you looked at Manhattan hotel prices lately?). But Hotel 91 certainly did the trick, providing a nice, comfy room (and no bed bugs!).

And, truth be told, we weren't all that upset to be eating Hong Kong-style breakfast foods, slurping noodles after midnight, and sipping our favorite iced teas imported directly from the Middle Kingdom.

~Steve

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Great Keyboard Fiasco

Marillion's second show at Irving Plaza lived up to its billing, with a completely different set list than the previous night.

The highlight of a great evening came during the second encore, when the band broke into "Kayleigh," their most famous hit (which isn't played all that much these days).

H goes over to sit on the edge of his keyboard while singing the first verse. "Not a good idea," was the thought running through our heads. The keyboard just didn't look that stable, at least not for swaying and singing.

Sure enough, a few seconds into the experiment...BAM!!!

Down goes the keyboard. Down goes H. (It's all recorded right here, close to two minutes in...) But the singing doesn't stop, with H still on the keyboard, only sitting essentially on the ground now.

On the ground, that is, until he decides to get up, and jump on top of the keyboard, where he proceeds to perform the rest of the song. (See the attached photo, with, by the way, Z at the very left of the audience. He's the tall guy...)

At that point I'm thinking, "I hope H isn't playing piano in the next song."

Sure enough Mark Kelly comes down from his equipment, and says, "If you want to play 'Three Minute Boy' you can do it at my keyboard." And so launches a hysterical finale, featuring Mark holding the microphone for his band mate, and all other kinds of loose shenanigans. You can check out the whole scene here on YouTube...

Splintering Heart
Cover My Eyes (Pain and Heaven)
Slainte Mhath
Out of This World
Estonia
Somewhere Else
Afraid of Sunlight
The Great Escape
Cannibal Surf Babe
Lucky Man
Between You and Me
Neverland

This Strange Engine

Kayleigh
Three Minute Boy


~Steve

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Marillion At Their Best

On their current North American tour, Marillion are playing a series of paired gigs in select cities. These are back-to-back concerts in the same venue, with completely different set lists.

The four of us made the trek up to New York City to catch Marillion's two shows at Irving Plaza, a venue where we caught Living Colour back in 2001. (The opening line to "Open Letter to a Landlord" took on new meaning in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks..."Now you can tear a building down, but you can't erase a memory...")

After several hours of queuing, we ended up on the rail in front of Pete Trewavas, where we took in one of the most brilliant Marillion show we have ever witnessed. As H has said, the night "will remain an unforgettable high."

Asylum Satellite #1 (A great, atmospheric opener.)
Beautiful
You're Gone
Easter
(You know you're in for a great one when "Easter," an all-time Marillion classic, is the fourth song of the night.)
King
Fantastic Place
A Voice from the Past
Ocean Cloud
(Are you kidding me!? A spectacular rendition of this beautiful, haunting 20-minute epic.)
Power (Starting to learn this new song after a second time through.)
This Town
The Rakes Progress
100 Nights
Happiness is the Road
(With the main set ending, the crowd kept up the "happiness is the road" chant until the band came back out.)

Invisible Man

Sugar Mice
Man of a Thousand Faces


As Steve Rothery has posted..."I've never known the band to be playing this well at the beginning of a tour. It can only get better :-)"

~Steve

PS: Check out the concert, which is available for download.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Information Technology, Political Participation, and the Evolution of Chinese Policymaking

My latest research article is now out in print, an initial result of the work that I started during our year of living in China. (It is amazing how slow the academic clock moves...)

The article can be accessed here, and what follows below is the abstract...

Although information technology is playing a fundamental role in China's political development, relatively little is known about the contours of online participation in government policymaking. This article presents the results of a survey of individuals who, in 2008, used the Internet to submit comments on the central government's plan to reform the nation's health system. The responses demonstrate that participants were, in the aggregate, well-educated professionals who live in urban areas and were especially likely to work in the medical and health industry. Substantial numbers of participants commented as a means of expressing concerns about the overall direction of reform, as well as on specific elements of the proposal itself. Participants generally anticipated no more than a modest degree of government responsiveness, although high expectations were held for comments from government officials and individuals who worked in the medical and health industry. Overall, these attributes and attitudes are illustrative of the evolution, as opposed to transformation, of the political system that is occurring in online contexts where neither democratization nor the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party is of immediate salience to government officials and societal stakeholders.

~Steve