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July 2002
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September 2002

webstats gives me stats related to my website. Lots of them are unintelligible to me, most of them are heavily tainted even when I do understand them. But occasionally I see something that makes sense and is at least somewhat trustworthy. In particular, there's a list of search strings that brought people to my website. I can't tell for sure if this is for August or for a longer period of time (or even a shorter period of time) ... I think it's for August. Anyway, it's fascinating, to me at least, to see what brings strangers to my website. Here's the top nine search strings:

9: "cadallaca photos" ... ok, I can see that, once a week or so someone searches for Cadallaca photos and finds the ones on my page that Jillian took.

8: "snake attack" ... that's interesting, it works because of some pictures I have of Katie and John when they lived in Guam and they found a snake in their house, or something.

4-7 (tie): "vonn wilson," "london dungeon," "gregg's shorthand," "explaining mulholland drive" ... the first name is an ex-student of mine whose name appears on one of my class websites ... the shorthand deal is from when Sue talked about it on the blog ... the Mulholland Drive one cracks me up, since all I did was complain about the damn thing. Anyway, now it gets better:

3: "milton berle's penis" ... yes, apparently there are lots of people out there searching for info on Uncle Miltie's schlong, and every 4 or 5 days, one of them ends up here.

2: "steven rubio" ... self-explanatory. And the number one search string that brings people to my website is ... go ahead, guess ... I guarantee you won't be able to get it:

1: "dey young"

breaking the waves (lars von trier, 1996)

OK, I watched Breaking the Waves. The only other Lars von Trier movie I've seen is Dancer in the Dark, so maybe I've seen the wrong ones. What does this guy have with women? In Dancer, Bjork plays a woman upon whom every possible tragedy unfolds; Bjork hated working with von Trier so much she's said she never wants to act again, even though she won a Best Actress award at Cannes. In Breaking the Waves, Emily Watson makes her film debut and earns an Oscar nomination. Her role is that of a simpleton woman who goes through a series of degradations in order to restore her husband to health. For these acts, the film wants us to see her as a true Christian.

I don't know ... there's some impressive stuff in those two movies, Emily Watson is something to behold (not always in a good way), but there's also something weird about these female characters that I can't put my finger on.


Well, our 24th Bruce concert is history.

Wonderful show, but what did you expect I was gonna say. I'll try to be more verbose (yeah, that's a real problem for me).

The concert plays better than the setlist. That is, on paper, there looks to be too many dead spots and a too-narrow selection of older tunes, but when you're there, it all makes sense and works very well. As Doug, one of two Bruce Virgins in our party, put it, Bruce knows how to make a show ... not sure why anyone doubts that at this point.

We rented a van (see pix below) and drove down to San Jose: Robin and I, Neal and Sonia (another Bruce Virgin), Jillian and Doug. We stopped at the This Train party at the pizza parlor, but we were kinda late and all the people with General Admission tix had already left to get their spots, so I only had a chance to talk to a couple of folks. Then the walk to the arena, where we met up with our seatmates Geoff and Nikki, and waved across the arena at Chris and Karen, while Neal/Sonia/Jillian/Doug took their seats in the upper deck just above us.

The show didn't depart from the standard setlist in any particularly unusual way ... "Thunder Road" was moved back to the encores without dumping anything, making room for the return of "American Skin," so we got an extra song, but that was about it. First, here's an ongoing narrative kind of review thingie:

"The Rising" was an appropriate opener, and Bruce's guitar work on "Prove It All Night" was if anything even more demented than in the past ... I admit I'm surprised that it still holds that much power after all these years. Bruce mostly got the quiet he asked for during "Empty Sky" (beautiful Bruce-and-Patti arrangement) and "You're Missing." "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" is still a very minor song, but my goodness, it certainly does the job in concert, and I like to think San Jose did good singing our part. The Steve-and-Bruce guitar zonkout at the end of "Worlds Apart" was wonderfully loud and psychedelic; not sure how it relates to the song, but it was great anyway. Whatever my misgivings about "Mary's Place," it worked just fine in concert ... I never once thought "gee, I wish this was 'Thundercrack'," everyone got into the "TURN IT UP" mood. For the encores, Bruce came out like an in-his-prime Joe Strummer ... his punkrock energy was pretty astonishing for an old guy like Bruce :-). He finally stole "Dancing in the Dark" back from Courtney Cox (good riddance, Courtney). "Ramrod" may be Karen's least-favorite Bruce song of all time, and having seen him play it nine times and counting myself, I'm a wee bit tired of it, too, but damned if this wasn't one of the best versions ever, complete with goofy mugging and a zillion false endings that probably pissed Karen off but which worked very well at keeping the crowd on our toes, waiting for the immortal ONETWO that kicks off the BruceNation Anthem, "Born to Run." Speaking of retaking a song from less-fortunate roots, Bruce seems to think all those bluesy acoustic versions of "Born in the U.S.A." erased all the stupid jingoism that accompanied it in the past, and so here it reappears in full-band mode, angrier than ever and much welcomed, although as Robin said at the time, all that anger would have made it a terrible set closer. He wasn't done, of course: "Land of Hope and Dreams" came along to remind us that dreams will not be thwarted, that faith will be rewarded, and THEN he was done.

The sound was much improved over the reunion tour. Soozie Tyrell is a great idea; her violin parts were evocative, and the added female vocal gave that aspect of the music welcome added power. Somewhere recently I read a review that explained something in a way I hadn't thought of before, that even though every singer on stage has their own microphone, they still are always moving across the stage to share a mic with someone else, just because they want to be there together. That's a beautiful read, and pretty accurate, I'd say: these folks like their jobs. Clarence seems to have gotten back to a more respectable level with his sax playing. But, more than the reunion tour, this show was about Bruce. He's in fine voice, his guitar playing was often ferocious, and while it's fine to reminisce about the stories he told back in the day or the revivalist fervor he brought to the reunion tour, his relative solemnity was proper for this show. Having said that, the crowd was happy to explode during that first encore set of Dancin/Ramrod/Born to Run; it reminded me of the Joad tour when we caught it early on, where "Does This Bus Stop at 42nd Street?" was a magnificent release after the mostly-downbeat main set.

There's no sense in trying to rank this show amongst all the other times we've seen him ... that's something that is best left for the future, because memories are a huge part of how we see these shows in retrospect, and we haven't had enough time yet to make memories. Suffice to say my opinion of Bruce hasn't changed after this show. It was great to welcome Sonia and Doug into Bruce World; they both seemed to like the show a lot. Neal doesn't go online much, but just in case, Neal, here's the list of songs your dad can remember crying to: "Waitin' on a Sunny Day," "Badlands," "Mary's Place," "Into the Fire," "Born to Run," and "Land of Hope and Dreams."

For the setlist junkies: It was the first time we saw him do "Dancing in the Dark" since 1988, and the first full-band version we'd seen of "Born in the U.S.A." since 1992. "Born to Run" remains the song we've seen him sing the most over 24 shows; he didn't sing it at either Bridge benefit, either Joad show, or when we saw him with Gary U.S Bonds, but that still means we've seen Bruce sing it 19 times over the years, just nudging out "Thunder Road" at 18. Obviously, this was the first time we'd heard the Rising songs; it was also our first time hearing "American Skin." (A list of songs we've heard only one time would be pretty funny and bring back some memories for Robin and I ... it would include such classics as "Haunted House," "I Don't Want Anymore of This Army Life," "On Top of Old Smokey," "Outer Limits," and sadly, much of Tunnel of Love.)

To have a house party, you've gotta have a band, and Bruce has the best house band in all the land. Following along with that sentiment, to have a Bruce party, you've gotta have a band of fellow travelers, so imagine you're hearing the Mighty Max and the rest of the E Street Band vamping to "Mary's Place" in the background while I introduce our band:

Sara, the patron saint of I Need Help Now, who came to the rescue when we needed help picking up the van even though she wasn't going to the show.

AAA, the patron saint of I Left My Lights On, for helping us jumpstart that van after the show.

Chris, the minister of New Country, who if you looked at her record collection you'd never guess she's now seen Bruce several times, who made the decision to buy a coupla tix, thereby allowing for the appearance of:

Karen, the minister of all that is not Ramrod, who only saw Bruce one other time, during the Amnesty tour, which I suspect Karen thinks of as "that Tracy Chapman concert where some dude named Bruce showed up," and who loves The Rising more than anyone I know.

Geoff, the minister of beer, who back in '80 didn't go see Bruce in Portland but who's made up for it since, and who made his nephew Neal proud by leaving his seat several times for booty-shaking with:

Nikki, the minister of whatever that thing was she was drinking, who inspires Geoff in his booty-shaking and does a pretty mean shake herself.

Neal, the minister of recruitment, who was dragged to his first Bruce show when he was 12 years old, and who this time around recruited a Bruce Virgin to her first show:

Sonia, Bruce Virgin Princess, and the biggest Silvio Dante fan around.

Jillian, the vice-minister of recruitment, who was dragged to HER first Bruce show just three years ago, and who this time around recruited a Bruce Virgin to his first show:

Doug, Bruce Virgin Prince, who if he was in the E Street Band would be Danny Federici, laying down the beautiful organ and accordian and just simply being there.

Robin, my own first lady of love. Someday, girl, I don't know when, we're gonna get to that place where we really wanna go, and we'll walk in the sun, but 'til then, tramps like us, baby we were born to run.

Blog readers, I've been harping about Bruce for almost a month in these pages. And now I'm done. Honest. Of course, Sleater-Kinney is next month, so I can bore you again later. But for now, just remember:

It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive.

the rising

Tonight's the night!

We've had some time to listen to The Rising ... OK, we've listened to it several dozen times by now, along with tour bootlegs. All that's left is to see those songs for ourselves. But I have to say something about the album now, there's nothing left to blog.

General consensus seems to be that it's his best since Tunnel of Love. It's certainly his most important, culturally, since then, perhaps since BitUSA. As an album, I'd say it's as good as Lucky Town, which coming from me isn't quite the diss it might sound like. The album is touted as his return to rock, but to my ears, most of the best songs are also the quieter ones: "Empty Sky," "The Fuse" (lots of people disagree with me about that one), "You're Missing." "The Rising" and "My City of Ruins" rise to the level of their aspirations, but even those are mid-tempo. Based on bootleg evidence, "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" is gonna be a blast in San Jose, but it really needs the concert ambience, because it's pretty slight on record. Similarly, "Mary's Place" may prove that Bruce can still write a concert raver, and I find myself shouting "Turn it up!" every time I hear it, and I can't wait to shout it with the crowd tonight, but absent the concert setting, "Mary's Place" is not only a lesser "Rosalita," it's a lesser "Thundercrack." "Further On (Up the Road)" may typify the problem: there's nothing wrong with it, on Human Touch it would have been a highlight, but it's as generic as its title. The much-touted sound changes, ascribed to producer Brendan O'Brien, are evident in some songs (most notably "Worlds Apart"), but many songs sound just like mid/late-80s Bruce, especially the waves of soft and moody Danny Federici organ.

It's going to be a terrific night in San Jose, but my guess is that five years from now, Bruce is only playing a couple of these songs in his concerts. (Three of them are already absent, and so a tip of the cap to those songs, since the songs that don't make it to the concert tend to be forgotten: "Nothing Man," "Further On," and the coulda-been-a-minor-hit-for-the-Rascals-in-the-60s "Let's Be Friends." Honorable mention here to "Paradise," this album's official Morons Who Can't Think Take the Song and Misinterpret It award winner for inspiring some fans to think Bruce is pro-terrorist; "Paradise" hasn't been played since the rehearsal shows.)

A month ago, my friend Charlie asked me what I thought of The Rising. I said then it was his best since Tunnel and ranked it just above Lucky Town in the Bruce Pantheon. I'd change that only because lately I've been feeling kindly towards Lucky Town. It's not one of the things you'd push onto someone getting into Bruce for the first time (that would be Born to Run, the live DVD, Tunnel of Love, and Nebraska), but it makes a fine addition to the second level of Bruceness.

the last wave (peter weir, 1977)

The Last Wave isn't any better today than I remember it being when it came out back in the 70s, but I watched it again, anyway. Wouldn't even mention it here, except Pauline Kael got off a coupla good ones in her review. Like calling the movie "hokum without the fun of hokum." And this, about Richard Chamberlain: "He keeps us conscious that he's acting all the time. His toes act in his shoes."

live in new york city


For some, it's just a minor postscript. For others, it shouldn't even count because it's not an album. For me, it has quickly become second only to Born to Run as the single best Bruce item of them all. I'm certainly not talking about the Live in New York City CD (which is an album); instead I'm referring to the Live in New York City DVD, from the HBO special that featured material from the last shows of the reunion tour.

Like every other official Bruce live release, there's all sorts of unnecessary damage done to the original material. The original HBO special had to fit into a particular time slot, so the resulting program ditched much of the second half of the concerts. OK, understandable. They also moved "American Skin (41 Shots)" to the end of the show, for who knows what reason (it came early in the actual concert setlist). One hoped the DVD would just stick everything on the two discs, fix the running order, and make it perfect. Of course, they didn't. One disc is just the HBO special replicated, with a truly awful layer change. The extra disc throws in a dozen songs not included on HBO, approximating an actual concert, except that everything is even further out of order because the missing songs are on a separate disc.

And ultimately, it doesn't matter. If you want to know what a Bruce Springsteen concert is like, and you haven't been able to see one in person, this is the place to find out. If you've seen Bruce live and you want to return to that experience, this is the place to go. If you want to see and hear the best possible versions of "Youngstown," "Out in the Street," "Land of Hope and Dreams," "Lost in the Flood," and "If I Should Fall Behind," there they are. (And the video and sound are exquisite.) This is it, folks, this is what you need. If you have a DVD player and you don't own this one, go buy it. If you don't have a DVD player, go buy one and then go buy this disc. If you have a player and own the disc, go listen to it right now.


A new school year begins today, and this one promises to be different for me. I'm teaching full time this year, my first full time job of any kind in 18 years. (How long ago was 18 years? Neal and Sara were 9 and 6 years old. I'd only been online less than a year. In the fall, I took the first college course in my attempt to figure out what to do with my life, which resulted in a doctorate 13 years down the road. The course was Introductory Statistics, BTW.)

It will be an interesting and probably anxiety-inducing year. I'm teaching Mass Communications, which would be nice except I'm only now becoming "expert" in the field. This semester I'm teaching a course in International Media, which is not exactly my specialty. My performance is being watched closely, as there is a slight possibility this could turn into more work down the road. I'll even be doing some advising, which is another thing I've never done before.

So, given the above, it's only right that the first week of class, I get to go on strike.

the reunion

We caught him three times in Oakland (yes, it was October) in '99. Right now those shows are fresh in my mind as I anticipate Tuesday's show in San Jose. The current tour is much different from the reunion tour, a fact made clear by the setlists as well as by the bootlegs that are already showing up. The reunion tour had a few setpieces within the setlist, most notably the Youngstown/Murder Incorporated/Badlands/Out in the Street/Tenth Ave Freeze-out five-pack in the middle of the show, but it also featured a wide variety of songs surrounding those bulwarks. In three nights in Oakland, he opened with three different songs; overall he played 41 different songs in Oakland, including the only "Sinaloa Cowboys" of the entire tour. But it was apparent throughout the tour that Bruce was aware of "repeaters" like Robin and I, who were seeing multiple shows in one venue (or in many venues for the more hardcore amongst us), and he mixed up the setlists accordingly. For the current tour, he is playing one night only in each area, and for that reason among others the setlist is relatively set in stone; there will likely be no surprises in San Jose. (Which won't prevent me from hoping for "Back in Your Arms," despite the fact he's more likely to trot out "Rosie.")

We had a great time meeting up with local fans in the parking lot prior to each show; afterwards, we formed the This Train mailing list behind Billy Bradford, who hosted a one-year reunion party at his house in 2000. We hope to see them in San Jose this week. And it was interesting seeing the various shows through the different eyes of the different people we were with. Night One, Robin and I sat alone but also there that night were Geoff and Nikki (Nikki thought he should have closed with a hot rocker instead of the to-my-mind more appropriate "Land of Hope and Dreams") and Tom and Mary (Mary, feeling a little old at the time, was v.happy to renew herself along with the equally-aging Bruce). Night Two was Jillian's first Bruce show ... I think she loved it. And Night Three was just Robin and I, and it was kind of the Show for the OldTimers ... it was then he played "Sinaloa Cowboys," and "Independence Day," and "Backstreets" (which broke my heart from the first piano notes, as always), and there was Southside Johnny singing along with "Hungry Heart", and finally, when the show was over and "Land of Hope and Dreams" had been played for the final time, out he came for a ridiculous but welcomed version of the first cut from his first album, "Blinded By the Light" (to which he asked us to sing along, as if we could read the Teleprompter over his shoulder or even if we could remember the famously verbose lyrics after all these years).

And that was it until next Tuesday.