Saturday, August 15, 2009

This morning we went to see the King Tut exhibit at the de Young Museum.

When we got there, I wondered about how successful the exhibit was - there was no line outside and none I could see inside. But they do a good job of controlling the lines, and there was one down stairs, and once we got inside it was quite crowded.

The exhibit is very good. The signage is excellent, making the audio tour almost, but not quite, superfluous. And the quality of the exhibits and the amount of important artifacts was very good.

One warning - even though it is a "Tut" exhibit, don't expect room after room of Tut artifacts. There are basically two Tut specific rooms, the rest of the exhibit covers the period leading up to Tut and give a nice background. Of the two Tut rooms, the first is more interesting, with many objects from the tomb. The second is supposed to represent the burial chamber and is anti-climactic. There are only a few artifacts there, and none of the sarcophagi or masks. Those no longer leave Egypt.

Overall, an excellent exhibit and definitely worth the price of admission.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I just finished Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher.

This was a disappointment. It's a great topic for a book, and there is some interesting material here, but it is put together in a sloppy, un-focused format and the good stuff is mixed in with a lot of drivel, sometimes leading to conflicting ideas.

For example, parts of the book espouse the idea that being able to direct your focus towards the future, particularly the anticipation of events, can be beneficial, while other parts of the book take a strong stance in favour of the new age "be in the now" kind of thinking.

The sourcing is also all over the map. At times the author seems to have spoken to direct sources for scientific data, other times she repeats stories taken from a newspaper or TV show, with seemingly no effort made to distinguish between the different reliability levels of these sources.

Hopefully there will be another book on the same subject. There appears to be enough interesting research to support that.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More Heaven Than Hell

Last night we got to see Heaven and Hell, i.e the Dio version of Black Sabbath, at the Warfield in SF.

I pretty much lucked into finding out about this show. Guitar Center had a sale over the weekend and I had one guitar cable I've been whining about for years. So I decided to take advantage of the sale to replace it. On the way out, I always look at the flyers near the door and the one for Heaven and Hell caught my eye. Given that I haven't played my electric in over a year before this weekend, and I hadn't been to a Guitar Center in longer than that, it was very fortuitous.

The show was the next day, so I rushed home, expecting it to be sold out. Luckily for me, Heaven and Hell doesn't sell as well as Black Sabbath. This meant that not only were they playing a smaller venue, but that they still had good seats available.

The show itself was amazing, from the opening strains of E5150/Mob Rules to the ending of Neon Knights. For me the high points were Falling of the Edge of the World and Die Young, near the end of the set, but even the songs off their new album, The Devil You Know, and the slightly older songs from the under appreciated Dehumanizer were really good. They also had the obligatory solo sections for drum and guitar and some jamming and a sing along on Heaven and Hell.

It was the Mob Rules era lineup - Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice - and none of them have lost any of their chops. This is particularly amazing since Dio is 67, just 2 years younger than my mum. He was looking a little old running around, but he still has the pipes. Geezer was also looking, well, like a geezer but Tony Iommi is amazing - he doesn't look like he has changed in 20+ years.

Overall, I'm still amazed and thrilled that I got to see this band in a smaller venue. I don't do arena shows any more, so this might be the only chance I get to see them, and this is probably the closest I will every get to any of Black Sabbath. I will have to keep my eye on the Warfield to see who else comes through there.

The opening act was Coheed and Cambria. I'd heard their name somewhere before, but never heard any of their music. They did a good set, without a lot of stage banter. I assume this was because they were trying to fit as much as possible in their shorter set. Live rock shows aren't the best place to judge new music, due to the usually terrible sound mix and loudness, but they seemed to have some possibly interesting songs. The high point of their show for me was a nice cover of Iron Maiden's The Trooper. The only down side of their set was their lighting - they had a set of floor spotlights that were nicely set to point directly at the balcony, making it impossible to actually look at the band for a good portion of their set.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I just finished Pleading Guilty by Scott Turow.

Pleading Guilty isn't a legal thriller like you might expect from Turow. It's actually a modern noirish mystery with a partner in a law firm substituting for the typical private investigator protagonist.

The protagonist is an ex-drunk, former cop who is been underperforming at his firm and is on his way down, if not out. He's asked to look for a missing partner who might have also stolen a lot of money.

This is a departure for Turow, and feels very different from his other novels. It still has the complex and flawed characters he is known for. It starts out slow but picks up momentum in the second half. Once you twig that it is noir, everything -- twists, turns and betrayals -- falls into place and the end is about what you would expect.