Thursday, November 08, 2007

Change Of Plans

Well, as of a few days ago, I thought that my next posting would be a mildly excited consideration of the fireworks in London and the merits of English breakfast.

But no, the rest of the tour is off, and since I have a sublettor in my apartment until the end of November, why not tear around Europe for a while?? So during the last few hours, I've booked myself a flight to Lisbon (easy enough), and hopefully obtained a room in a guest house (slightly more difficult) for an excellently low price right downtown.

I'm terribly excited. The perks of traveling around while on tour are undeniable — nice hotels, itineraries taken care of, etc. — but I'm really looking forward to a few days of seat-of-the-pants travel, no one but me responsible for my transportation, lodging, and schedule at large. Plus, it'll be in the 70s in Lisbon instead of freezing and pissing down. Though the lappy probably won't be coming with me, you'll likely hear about it soon...

Incidentally, I just figured out that if you type "barmaid" into a cell phone, it comes up also as "carnage." How fitting. Cheers!

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Again, I find myself blessed with free internet, and this time in a pub. The last few lines of the previous post have, after a minimal amount of digging, inspired me to devote an entire post to the topic of solar noon altitudes. Is it really that fascinating? I think so. I've never been in a place where the angle of such altitude was so minimal, and the lack of full-on daylight is a little strange. So if the altitude at solar noon today was 21.2°, it leads me to wonder what the lowest maximum daily altitudes have been that I've experienced before. For this, we look to the sun's altitude on the winter solstice, which falls this year on December 22nd. It's 24.2° in Detroit, 24.7° in Chicago, and a generous 25.9° in New York City. doesn't list my hometown of Traverse City, MI, but does have data for Minneapolis, MN, with a comparable latitude; solstice altitude is 21.6°. Even given the astronomical figures for today in Manchester, I've now experienced the LOWEST SOLAR NOON ALTITUDE EVER. Dramatic music please.

And the best thing is that it doesn't get any better. So, to make it even more fun, I thought I'd take a look at the max altitudes for some of the next cities on the tour. Following is a quick list of cities and dates and angles...
  • Nov. 6th, London, UK, 22.6°
  • Nov. 11th, Cardiff, UK, 21.2°
  • Nov. 13th, Horsens, Denmark, 16.3°
  • Nov. 15th, Bergen, Norway, 11.2°
  • Nov. 17th, Stockholm, Sweden, 11.7°
  • Nov. 20th, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 18.5°
  • Nov. 22nd, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 15.3°
11.2° in Bergen!? That's going to be a hell of a trip. Can't wait! Plus, there will be fjords. Real, live fjords. If someone would have told me 10 years ago that I would be seeing fjords at the beginning of my 28th year on this planet, I would've laughed it off as absolute hogwash. But there it is. Fjords. Maybe that big rock in the middle of Australia will be next.

Mancunian Meanderings

Since I appear to have been lucky enough to find an open network at this here Manchester Starbucks, I figured it would be as good a time as any for a ramble through the blog-o-sphere, especially on an unexpected day off. Seems that Starbucks all over the UK have deemed autumn the season for Charles Mingus, Joni Mitchell, and Miles Davis. Of the latter, I've heard quite a bit off of Kind Of Blue so far. Every time I hear even the slightest portion of one of the songs therein, I remember why it's the most popular jazz album of all time. It's just that good. Thus if one can get over the "I'm in a foreign country and I'm wasting time in a Starbucks!?" train of thought, it can been a pleasant place to pass an hour or two here and there, with the added bonus that I can use my phone credit to pay for internet access at the "low" rate of 75p/10min. Not as good as the free of now, but far preferable to the £15/24hrs at whatever hotel we find ourselves at on any given day.

While in Manchester this past May, I was either sick or insomniac for the entire time so never really had much of a chance to explore or enjoy the fabled nightlife. Last night attempted to make up for that; I joined some local folk for an outing that began at a divey, student-packed karaoke bar and ended at "the Copacabana" with a pathetic, intoxicated attempt at salsa dancing. Back at the hotel, I found some fellow bandmates at the bar, and so the night turned into one of those by which we earn our keep in that timeless brotherhood of touring musicians. My head is moving like porridge today, another reason why I'm quite at peace with camping at Starbucks, staring out the window, and occasionally typing something...

A Saturday night out is a Saturday night out pretty much anywhere, booze, bustlines, 'bauchery and whatnot, but each place has its subtle distinctions. At the karaoke bar last night, I noticed that a surprisingly large number of people were singing along with Michael Jackson's "Blame It On The Boogie" and the Marvin/Tammi version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." More so, even, than those who chimed in to help out some poor chump with the chorus of "Livin' On A Prayer." It seemed perfectly normal to those I was with, but I can't imagine that ever happening in the States. How many people even know "Boogie," or can sing along to more than the chorus of "Mountain?" Evidently the effects of the British soul obsession have endured over time, and still run deep. I had a similar thought when I went out for a friend's birthday in London several months ago. We spent the evening at a club in Soho on a Saturday, which had two DJs trading sets for the duration. One played mostly 50s R&B and some 60s soul, and the dance floor was absolutely packed. I was shocked, in the most pleasant of ways. Perhaps such a thing would be possible in the States...

On the other hand, I found a few people who had no idea who Johnny Cash is. I didn't think that was possible these days. No charming rendition of "Boy Named Sue" from yours truly this time around.

I just discovered that Starbucks UK employees are not allowed to give partial refills for a few pieces of shrapnel. As the guy told me, "Uhh, I don't think I can do that. I'd have to charge you for a new drink." Another £1.60 for a half cup of brew? What crap.

Never have I been in more dire need of a laundromat than I am right now. On previous tour legs, it always seemed to happen right before I'd truly run out of everything. My last couple attempts to do laundry have been thoroughly foiled, including a half-baked effort earlier today. I've resorted to washing necessities in the sink (very thankful for that brief moment of clarity during which I put a Gatorade bottle full of detergent in my suitcase) and already bought seven new pairs of socks in Glasgow. They were 25% off and I thought I was getting a deal at £13 until I thought of it as nearly $30. Best not to convert. As long as I can dry my current sink load with the iron, I should be able to make it 'til London, though I unfortunately know exactly what I'll be doing with my first hours in Kensington. No lazy stroll through Hyde Park; I need underwear.

It never seems to get light here at this time of the year. The sun carves a low arc through the sky, making for about six hours of evening bracketed by a couple hours of twilight. I doubt the angle from horizon at high noon is any greater than 20°. * Things are a little different up here on the 53rd parallel. At 4:30, it's getting dark already. And as my battery seems to be waning as quickly as the daylight, now is a good time to sign off. With a six hour bus ride in store for tomorrow, I just may post some more words in the near future. Until then...

* 21.2° to be exact, according to this site, which makes me pine for the 33.9° of New York City. Ain't getting any better anytime soon.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Continuing the previously established trend of net recycling:

Are there more, you ask? Naturally! A whole series, in fact, all done by
YouTuber StSanders. Nothing else has inspired such a degree of collective laughter within our band. Also particularly enjoyable: Eddie Van Halen, and especially his treatment of Jake E. Lee. Attention to Ozzy is pretty great.

Apparently someone did one with Chick Corea, but I can't seem to find it... Somehow, I don't think it would be nearly as fun.