Monday, November 29, 2010

Xena Delivers! Read This Only If You Think Puppies Are Very Cute

As those who have read Coming to Utah In Search of the Perfect Stud know, Xena has spent the last day having her puppies.  Made in Utah.  That's right, Xena came up for a roll in the grass with Ed, and the results are shown below.
 Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I won't write much tonight.  These adorable little dudes (and one lass) speak for themselves.  Seven puppies, six males and one female, will keep my cousin Bob and his wife Susan and their family busy for the next six weeks or so.  Two puppies were born dead, sadly, but the other seven will be taking over the house soon.  Xena is an attentive and busy mama.  Oh such fun!

If by chance you're in the market for a Fox Red Lab puppy, you might want to check out Xena's ad.  Regardless, enjoy the pictures of these cute little ones.  I'm pretty sure that Xena is lying there on a Superbowl towel. I'll have to get the details on that later.

I'll be back to our regularly scheduled music information program in a few days.  Meanwhile be sure to catch up on the Free Christmas Music Downloads including a newly added one from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  Your ipod is saying "feed me, feed me!"

Photos courtesy of Susan Hale

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Coming to Utah In Search of the Perfect Stud: UPDATE 7!

October 11, 2010.  Yes, females actually come to Utah in search of love. Or at least a little roll in the grass. No meetup, no seedy bar, no online dating website.

Meet Xena. This Princess of Power made way to northern Utah with her owners, incidentally my cousin Bob and his wife Susan, in search of a lock up with Ed.
Xena (left) and Ed (right) getting acquainted in the soft, cool grass.
Xena and Ed each come from a distinguished line of Fox Red labradors of the finest pedigree. Ed is an experienced stud with 119 pups to date. A busy guy, I wonder how he finds time for hunting. Xena is a quiet, shy princess who took her time in getting to know Ed. The vet said she was “ready” when she arrived, but it was a waiting game. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap … The text messages that went back and forth amongst the family during regarding Xena and Ed were a bit spicy (wink).  I tried my best to distract Bob and Susan with a hike and picnic at Silver Lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon.  And it worked, for a while.

Ed makes his move for a smooch.
At first, Xena showed Ed interest by flirting with him and flagging her tail, but it didn't go further than that. She's a female … she wanted to take things slow, make sure the mood was right and the stars were aligned. The two were together for several days before Xena really let Ed into her world.

My cousin Bob holding two of Ed's other pups.

Now the waiting really begins. A lock up or two for dogs yields puppies just two months later. November 30th +/- a couple days is the expected arrival date.

November 24, 2010.  Xena shows off her maternal "glow" in the photos below, provided by Susan. The family and close friends were invited to guess date, time, and number of puppies.  I guessed December 2, 11:47 pm, 4 males and 2 females.

November 28, 2010, 4:51 pm.  I should've used my crystal ball. Puppies are on the way! Two are born so far.

November 28, 2010, 7:30 pm.  Susan emailed to say that the excitement started this afternoon about 2:40 pm with the birth of the first puppy (male - 8.1 oz). My cousin's family was eating lunch at the time and apparently Xena was spotted carrying the puppy about the house til she was sent back to her birthing quarters. About 45-50 minutes later, puppy #2 arrived (male – 11.1 oz).   Puppy #3 came 50 minutes after puppy #2 (4:45 pm) … but was dead on arrival.  Princess of Power, Xena, has been for a potty break and has had a drink of water. Now she is cuddling with her two puppies.  She tried her best with puppy #3 -- she took to cleaning it immediately --- but he was lifeless from the start. Stay tuned ...

November 28, 2010, 8:57 pm.  No more news.  But aren't they adorable??
November 29, 2010. 6:19 am.  Go Xena go.  Two puppies were born at 12:20 am (one died) and one was born at 12:41 am.   The first female was born at 1:35am OUTSIDE when Xena went out to pee!  Two more males were born at 2:19 am and 2:35 am.  So far, nine puppies total, seven living.  Six males and one female.

November 29, 2010. 12:39 pm.  Maybe more?  Bob and Susan don't know for sure. Pictures will be updated tonight.

Photos courtesy of Susan Hale

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Thanksgiving Rap

Once I spent Thanksgiving Day in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  The band: a band of locals dressed in traditional pilgrim attire.  The music: monotonic drum beats oh every eight seconds, nothing you could do a hand jive to.  From what I've read, back in the pilgrim heydey, not so much as a whistle or hum was allowed, even in church.

I'm so thankful that since those times, our world has become a melting pot of music.  Blues, jazz, classical, reggae, bluegrass, country, rock, folk, heavy metal, funk, punk, hip hop, acoustic, alternative, new age, soul, liturgical, opera, disco, Latin, and so on.  And yes, I will admit to occasional fondness for rap.  The rap selection "Gobble You Up" transports you back to the 1620s and journeys to the joie de vivre that Thanksgiving Day has become.  Hope your day is very happy!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Heard 'Em in the Wendover Boondocks: Little Big Town

What to do on a Friday night?   Last Friday, three of us opted for the Fun Bus, what with the seafood buffet, $5 spending money, and all the other couponed trappings ... what's not to like?  I know plenty who sneer and despise Wendover, but for an opportunity to hear Little Big Town at Peppermill Concert Hall, one of the best concert halls within miles of Salt Lake City, it wasn't a hard decision for me.
At ten minutes to eight, we stood in the front of the hall with our extra ticket for sale.  How we started with four tickets and ended up with six is still somewhat a mystery.  If we'd only known.  Next time, I'm going ticketless, just for the adventure.

One of us had a closer seat and she scooted on her way.  In any event, the cheap seats we came with, plus the ones we were handed outside the concert hall, were fine.  There's not a bad seat in the house.  Everyone was practically onstage with the band, so close to the front and without some of the typical obstructions like lights and sound booths.

As it turned out, the extra two tickets the gentleman gave us were next to our three purchased seats.  Shortly after we found our "section," my friend headed for the bathroom.  And he was gone a long time, so I was worried the usher wouldn't allow him back in without one of our five tickets - all in my purse.
"The bathroom is fantastic!" he raved when he came back to one of our five seats.  I didn't think men cared about restroom refinement the way I do.  "It was so great, I could hear everything in there!  The acoustics are unebelievable!"  TMI? You decide.

My friend wasn't particularly a country fan, whereas I'd have to admit, I am.  And he was pleasantly surprised.  "This is 'feel good' music," he noted.  "Yes, it is," I had to agree.  Little Big Town's ambitious lineup of songs was appealing, with catchy tunes and heartwarming lyrics.  The band's website explains: "A lot of time gets spent pouring over lyrics and how to deliver a song." And deliver, they did.

The concert itself couldn't have been more perfect.  Little Big Town - Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook, and Phillip Sweet - united onstage for just over 100 minutes of four-part country rock harmonies.  The house was nearly packed (except our "section"), the band played without much filler conversation in between songs, and when they did stop, it was to interact with the audience. A woman in a pink shirt in the front who danced (by herself) to every single song got special recognition, and the band pointed out a couple who married at the Country Throwdown at USANA Amphitheater earlier this year.

Songs such as "Why Oh Why" and "Bones" opened the set, but then the band mellowed the audience with "You Can't Have Everything," and "Wounded."  LBT performed in front of their trademark living room stage backdrop, complete with black and white paisley print curtains.  The band displayed infectious enthusiasm, and showcased the harmonizing their fans have come to expect.  Towards the end of the program, LBT cranked up the energy in the hall with their acclaimed "Runaway Train" and "Little White Church," and "Boondocks."  The poignant final number, "Lean Into It," explained the art of getting through tough times:

There’s a strong wind blowing
I push on it pushes back
It’s a hard time
But I know I’ll get through it
Just gotta lean into it
Just gotta lean into it

After the concert, the three of us found a couple of nickel slot machines near the stage at the Rainbow Casino. The bus hostess hinted we'd find an excellent cover band, and voila, they began to play country and rock favorites as we sat down.  Such timing.  A sizable crowd danced and we would have too, if I had been able to get my machine to cash out. Maybe next time.

The plan: going again, sans concert tickets. Worst case scenario: dinner, $5 back, and grooving to the band at the Rainbow.  Bonus: the chance to buy deeply discounted tickets and get to see the show.  And somehow going to Wendover makes one glad to get back to Dodge.  Not a bad thing, to say the least.

Disclosure: Admission price for this event was $24. I received NO compensation for this review.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Def Leppard Meets Beethoven for Christmas Caroling

Did anybody see the Trib's assessment of last Thursday's Trans-Siberian Orchestra's concert in Salt Lake City?  David Burger opined that the almost three-hour TSO show was exhaustingly long and with questionable content at times, most notably with the addition of the Beatles tune "Help."  Burger appeared surprised that a band with the longevity, talent, and reputation of the TSO wouldn't get their show right.  While I share a few of his sentiments, the TSO concert was far from a train wreck.

As a first-time TSO concert-goer, I was wowed by the chromatic laser lights - which were at times as bright as going for an eye exam - synchronized with the thunderous music that vibrated through every seat in the ESA.  And yet, the musicians didn't play second fiddle to the stage effects.  One of my first notes was that everyone should see this concert.  The energy of millions of lights and talented TSO electric guitarists and violinistas made this fall's Aussie Pink Floyd concert seem comparatively lifeless.  After hearing "Beethoven's Ninth Symphony," near the opening, my friend and I listened for and heard trademark rock-i-fied Christmas carols early in the program ... "O Come All Ye Faithful," "A Mad Russian Christmas," and "Christmas in Sarajevo."

TSO is really two performing companies, TSO East and TSO West.  Like every major band I have seen this year, TSO's program is choreographed ("rock-by-the-numbers" as Burger said) because of the light show designed to maximize the impact of the musical lineup.  And in reality, even country cowboy singers Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley have stage productions choreographed to accommodate video, a strategy which downplays the crowd interaction and spontaneity.
Besides the lights-music-video combination, consider that stage pyrotechnics just might mandate a little choreography. Just ask Metallica's James Hetfield, who got second and third degree burns on his hand, arm, and face, when he and his guitar collided with fireworks on the stage during a concert. Ouch.

TSO West's musicians, including the Salt Lake Strings, were superb.  Beethoven could have scarcely dreamed of an electric guitar playing beside his beloved violin.  The racing keyboardists kept every tempo and volume alive during the show.  And the vocalists, for the most part, had Broadway-quality voices.  (Yes, I have been to Broadway, in fact as recently as this year, fyi.)
Besides the fireworks, lasers, flames, fog, and simulated snow, the show featured two cat walks suspended over the VIP seats.  Violinists and electric guitar players dashed to the edge of the walks and played to the mid-section crowds.  The heat of the flames on stage permeated the arena.  For once, I was glad not to be amongst those under the suspension action or near the made-for-stage blow torches, and yet I was equally pleased that I hadn't opted for the cheap seats.
The endurance drill in the middle of the program sapped those next to us and a legion of others who hiked up the stairs to the exits about two hours into the show.   As Burger mentioned, the Christmas-angel-in-the-bar diatribes from the narrator and the songs that didn't fit to the theme of the program were, in a word, annoying. "Can you believe how many people are leaving?" my friend commented.  We were determined to stay in our lower bowl seats to the bitter end, even though she was very ill with a cold. 
I'd printed out the set list before the concert and knew that in staying we'd be rewarded by hearing "Christmas Canon Rock," "Siberian Sleigh Ride," and "The Nutcracker."  And rewarded we were, for the music and winter scenes were exceptional.  We walked out of the ESA well after 11 pm, over-tired but glad for the experience, sort of like Christmas itself.
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is no small operation.  We saw six buses and 11 semi trucks parked outside.  After the concert, I found myself wondering what their dry ice bill was and what they're going to do if Christmas ever goes out of style.
And a little footnote to the ESA: when I entered the arena and took my seat, I thought perhaps my eyes were going bad.  In reality, it was smoky haze left from the 4 pm show.  Maybe a little look-see and re-work on the ventilation is in order???

Disclosure: Admission price for this event was $60. I received NO compensation for this review.