The Dave Matthews Band

Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a band. Specifically, the Dave Matthews Band.

I got my first DMB CD (Under the Table and Dreaming) when I was in high school, sight unseen (unheard?) based on the recommendation of my best friend. Who knew that it would spark a love affair that would last for more than a decade?

Everybody was a DMB fan back then, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that I lived, breathed, ate, and slept in their music. Most of the time, literally. Certainly there are super-fans who had more “cred” to their name, but I did alright. I have something like 20 DMB CDs. I had shirts, hats and stickers. I saw them in concert more times than I can count, including one magical tour when I saw them three consecutive nights in a row. I listened to CDs in the car, in my room, and on my discman in between classes (that’s right you youngsters, a discman). I learned how to play the guitar because of Dave Matthews. It seems ridiculous now, but I used to wear a hemp necklace. A hemp necklace people!

Considering all of this, I felt like I must have tons and tons of old blog entries about the Dave Matthews Band, but surprisingly I didn’t. However, I did find a pretty good excerpt from a blog post as recent as February 2008 that sums things up quickly:

One final note, Live at Radio City Music Hall by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds is really good!  Dave and I used to have a pretty good relationship.  We hit a rocky patch during the whole Lillywhite Sessions debacle, but Busted Stuff and Some Devil were better than a dozen roses.  Still, the endless live compilations began to wear on me (see Live Trax vols 1 – 10).  How many CDs can I own with the same songs on them?  Finally, Stand Up did our relationship in.  But here comes Live at Radio City to make me remember all those romantic weekends at Deer Creek.  Of course it is good!  Did we forget that Live at Luther College inspired me to learn how to play the guitar?  And that Tim Reynolds still can play the hell out of a guitar.  Dave’s voice is a little more raspy, the song selection is decidedly spiritual and I’ve never heard acoustic guitar sound so…sinister.  They really work that low E!  But it certainly brings back memories and I’ve spent more than a few trips in the car singing my lungs out.

Although I rarely listen to DMB these days, there’s no denying that a large portion of my life is inexorably tied to that music. It was the unceasing soundtrack of my life for a large, important chuck of time, spanning from high school, throughout college, throughout my time in Philadelphia, and into my life in Chicago.

Which is probably why, when I pulled out some old DMB CDs for a road trip a couple of weeks ago, I startled Sara by weeping openly several times.

It would be impossible to hear a DMB song that didn’t have some associated memory with it. I know them all by heart, but it’s like they know *me* by heart as well. I can’t hear Under the Table without thinking about driving around Fort Wayne in Chris’ red S10. I can’t hear Crash or Recently without thinking about playing Magic the Gathering in Casey’s basement. Live at Luther College reminds me of the guys that lived in my hallway at the dorm my freshman year. Before These Crowded Streets reminds me of playing guitar in Hillenbrand with Casey and Jeremy. Rody and I listed to Live at Red Rocks in the car on the way Deer Creek for concerts (ha, I just remembered, Rody won DMB tickets once by calling in to a radio show and singing Ants Marching!). Reid and Casey performed #41 at an open mike in the basement of the Union. I think about ex-girlfriends, friends half way around the world, and now I think about the DMB songs I sang to my kids when they were babies and wouldn’t go to sleep (and still occasionally now).

Everybody has a particular band or particular style of music that really defines them, or reminds them of their childhood. For me, that is and always will be the Dave Matthews Band.

I miss Mr. Rogers

If you haven’t seen this popping up everywhere already (including my own Facebook and G+ streams), you will soon.

Somehow, in addition to making an awesome song, these quick clips totally captured the essence of Fred Rogers. It only takes about five seconds of video to see his absolute love of children, his absolute love of his job. He wasn’t delivering lines, he was saying something he absolutely believed in, all the way down to his toes (which were no doubt stuffed in some comfortable yet tasteful indoor shoes).

A friend on Facebook said, “Wow, maybe it’s because I’m a child of the early 80’s, but I really loved this. It makes me feel like I can be an astronaut, or the queen, or the president, or a ballerina!”

It’s true. Seeing this video not only brought back my memories of the show, but it specifically brought back my memories of how the show made me feel. Not like I was being entertained, but like anything was possible. Like the world was right outside my door, waiting for me to come out and claim it. Like Mr. Rogers believed in me. Like imagination and a love of learning were all anyone needed.

“Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind? You can grow ideas.” – Mr. Rogers.

Jem and the Holograms

Back in the ’80s, there was a fantastic cartoon by the name of Jem.

Jerrica was a mild mannered band manager by day, but a mysterious pop superstar known as Jem by night. She achieved this with the help of a computer known as Synergy, which was able to project holograms out of Jerrica’s earrings. Therefore, in addition to other illusions, Synergy could project the Jem image over the top of Jerrica, keeping her identity a secret. Sort of Hanna Montana with crime-fighting superpowers.

Jem was supposed to be for girls, so why did I like it? Was it because Jem was outrageous? Truly, truly, truly outrageous? Wikipedia tells me “the same team responsible for G.I. Joe and Transformers”, so I guess those guys just had my number. The thing is, I don’t feel like Jem is remembered with the same fondness as G.I. Joe and Transformers. Is this some kind of gender issue? Or is it because the bad guys on those show were cold blooded killers, and the bad guys on Jem were only evil because their “songs are bitter”.

The best part is that I now use a program at work called Synergy. Is it a coincidence, or do you think the creators of that software were Jem fans? It neither speaks, nor creates holographic projections, but that doesn’t mean I can’t say things like, “Synergy, download the latest model for me!” I don’t think it listens to me.

Maybe I have the wrong earrings.

Digital Underground

In the early ’90s I became obsessed with a little band known as Digital Underground. You may have heard their biggest hit before, a little song known as the Humpty Dance.

However, Digital Underground was so much more than that. Most of their best songs are songs you’ve never heard (though I admit, that bass line in Humpty Dance is still impossible to resist).

You may not realize that Digital Underground helped launch the career of one of the early members of the group, Tupac (who of course went on to be one of the most successful and well known rappers of all time). Despite that, they were never gangsta rappers. You might say they were a little silly.

But underneath that silliness was a lot of seriousness about social issues. They sampled a lot of George Clinton and talked a lot about funk and the musical influences behind rap. And pretty soon they had this white kid from the suburbs checking out old Parliament and Funkadelic albums. Humpty Hump introduced me to a whole new world and everything that went along with it (particularly the roots of the frustration and rage felt by a lot of black people from urban environments that would go on to fuel later, darker rap movements). They didn’t just influence me either; I think you can point to a lot of elements of that entire West Coast rap scene that they had pioneered.

Sons of the P was one of the few (if not the only) CDs that I went back and re-purchased after my worn out tape was no longer very useful anymore, and I still listen to it occasionally. Digital Underground is embodiment of that early rap that just doesn’t exist anymore: awesome grooves, socially conscious lyrics, and plain silliness. I know I’m not the only one gets nostalgic for it.

Warwick Davis

What do all these movies have in common: Harry Potter, Star Wars, Ray, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Chronicles of Narnia : Prince Caspian, and Willow?

Besides the fact that they are awesome, they all star one amazing actor by the name of Warwick Davis.

It would be almost impossible to have not seen Mr. Davis in some movie. Aside from the fact that he works almost continuously (1992 was the last year he didn’t have something come out, and the only year since Star Wars Episode VI in 1983 that he didn’t have anything), but he’s also been in some of the biggest movies of all time.

Warwick Davis as Wicket the Ewok

Of course, his big role was arguably the most famous little person movie of all time, Willow,

Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood

but for my money, his finest performances were in some movies near and dear to my heart, Leprechaun 1 – 6.

Warwick Davis as The Leprechaun

This is, of course, not to mention some rolls in movies you probably saw but didn’t recognize him in, such as a member of the goblin corps in Labyrinth, or Marvin the Robot in the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy.

Maybe it is because I am a big fan, but I always recognize him instantly, even in makeup. I’ve learned that, for some reason, no one else seems to recognize him. For example, I don’t know how anybody could have watched the Harry Potter series without recognizing the same actor played Flitwick and Griphook:

Warwick Davis as Prof. Flitwick and Griphook the Goblin

Because he is a little person, he is not known as a hugely successful actor, but his resume matches any but the absolute biggest movie stars (I mean biggest figuratively, not literally). I was so happy to see him get some big on-screen moments as Griphook, and I thought he was fantastic. Hopefully casting directors will (continue to) take note.

Isn’t it about time for a Willow sequel?

Board Game: Ticket to Ride

When you don’t have the time for Axis and Allies, and you don’t feel like exerting the mental stamina it takes to play Acquire, but you still want to play a great game, how about Ticket to Ride?

I should start by saying that the game I actually have is Ticket to Ride: Europe. So when I say Ticket to Ride, I really mean Ticket to Ride: Europe. However, I believe the two games are the same, but just with different maps. So everything I say probably applies to both.

Ticket to Ride is about building trains. You get secret destination cards, and the goal is to try to complete your destinations by connecting the two cities listed with a train line. The farther apart the cities are, the harder it is to connect them, the more points the destination card is worth (higher risk = higher reward). Of course there are wrinkles along the way, like tunnels and ferries across bodies of water.

This game is a *little* complicated, but not too bad. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a breeze. Also, you don’t really compete much against each other. Sure, someone might steal your route now and again, but usually you just build a train station to lease their line and move on. It’s certainly less player-to-player competitive than most games of this caliber. You’re more playing against the clock: seeing if you can complete all of your destinations before the game ends.

It’s hard to explain why this is fun exactly, but everybody we’ve introduce it to has enjoyed it. There’s a little bit of stress and worry over completing your destinations, there’s a little bit of strategy over choosing your routes, and there’s a little bit of friendly competition (especially when you get to flip up the cards on someone who’s trying to build a tunnel!). But there’s not *too much* of those things, so it keeps it fun.

So come on over and give it a try! You’ll definitely have a good time. Games take about an hour and a half.

The Greatest Movie of All Time: Hook

Once upon a time (in 1991), a fantastic movie by the name of Hook was released, and changed the world of film forever.

Okay, not really, but I liked it nonetheless.

The story line was fairly unique, as far as I know: after Wendy left Neverland, Peter followed her as well, grew up, and became a dad, and a lawyer. Years later, Hook finds him and steals his kids, forcing Peter back to Neverland, and back to the life he left behind and forgot about. Finally, he reconciles his two identities: Peter as the never-growing-up-carefree-leader of the Lost Boys, and Peter as a responsible adult in the real world.

Robin Williams was alright in the main role, but for me the star of the show was Dustin Hoffman (I guess you could argue that Dustin Hoffman had the main role, since the name of the movie is “Hook” not “Pan”). Bob Hoskins and Julia Roberts are no slouches themselves. And I can guarantee you, nobody has ever seen Dante Basco in *anything* without shouting, “Bangarang Rufio!”

The whole world of the Lost Boys captured my young imagination. An awesome tree house, an adventure every day, whatever they could ever want to eat, they could fly for christsake, and a cool nickname to boot (well, most of them were cool at least). Plus, they continually out-thought and out-fought the adult pirates. Kid power all the way!

The characters were multi-dimensional too. Coming to terms with growing up. Jealousy issues. Parental issues. And Hook is just a flat out mess. It’s one thing to be a kid forever, but what about being trapped as an old man forever? And an old man who has to suffer defeat at the hands of a bunch of kids over and over for all eternity no less! Heaven for the Lost Boys, but hell for Hook. I was kind of glad that he stole Pan’s kids and tried to turn them pirate: at least the evil old bastard finally had a plan that was relatively successful! (Excuse me for being on the side of the pirates here)

I watched this movie about a million times when it came out. I haven’t seen it recently, but word on the street is, it holds up. I’m sure I would enjoy it through sheer nostalgia factor alone.

Any specific Hook memories?