The (entire name) is silent

March 31, 2009 at 8:07 am | Posted in Music, School, Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Not Rio

We arrived at our next destination, Salvador, and were, admittedly, a bit let down after the splendor and the beauty of Rio De Janeiro. There were no towering mountains, no majestic beaches. There were, though, malfunctioning air conditioners, little buggies in the beds, and the Brazilian equivalent of The Fast and The Furious taking place right outside our hotel window that night.

Such was our disappointment in this new venue, that for one full day we refused to speak its name, referring to it instead only as Not-rio. Take heart, though, and note the full usage of the name above, and here again – Salvador. For we ultimately came around, were wooed, won over and convinced that this was a fine city indeed. The initial impression, and our lodgings in particular, just left us a bit…down.

Ooba Gooba

Our business visit in Salvador was with the Brazilian construction giant turned conglomerate, Odebrecht Group. It’s name – odebrecht5b15dnative to Brazil, appearing German, pronounced…well, full disclosure, I’m still not quite sure. As a group, we mis-pronounced, misspoke, and mismanaged this proud company’s name in so many new and different ways that it was a wee bit embarrassing.

Nevertheless, I found them to be an impressive company indeed, possessing, in their history, a story that would make any American MBA student salivate upon hearing. Founded in 1944 by Norberto Oderbrecht, one of these titans of the mid-century that fabricated entire industries out of whole cloth with nothing but their bare hands and a good idea, the pride of the employees telling the tale was practically seeping from their very pores. As it should.

Existing primarily as a construction company for forty years before transforming into a holding company and embarking on a domestic spending spree, it is easy to admire the patience and planning of a company that was content with doing one thing, and one thing only, very well for almost half a century before making the leap into aggressive expansion.

dsc04762The presentation advanced and the slide moved on to an overall chronology of the company, and I found myself speechless. For this slide was not a mere time line of a company, but rather a portrait of a man’s will, spread across seven decades, dozens of countries, and millions of affected lives. To have done this thing, to have created this multi-billion dollar empire on your back– the satisfaction this man, Norberto Oderbrecht, must have, the ease with which his head must hit the pillow, and the excitement that must come when each day starts. Remarkable. Breathtaking.

Responsible now for the building of power plants, bridges, subways and stadiums, this is a company that is producing, on a daily basis, the cornerstones of the world. $18.3 Billion in 2009, from nothing in 1944, and still privately held. Epic.

The business-speak soon gave way to the requisite social-speak that was so prevalent among each of the companies that we visited. Talks of re-forestation, green processes and a walking tour through an actual nature sanctuary behind the company offices followed, with an almost unstoppable determination to prove to us that, yes, they cared about the environment.dsc04769

We found this type of thing at each company; I’m not sure if it’s a Brazilian cultural thing or a reaction to a bunch of MBA students thing, but there was a much more significant, and consistent, focus on cultural projects than I’ve ever seen at American companies (or Chinese ones, for that matter). It was a bit odd. Maybe because they’re on top of a rain forest and surrounded by poverty, two of the three holy trinity issues for American social wack-a-doos, they’ve developed an almost Pavlovian response to the arrival of pale skin. Yes we care about the earth and the poor! Let us show you.

One final observation, from the Q&A session when asked about the declining global economy. The high comedy of companies, both in person and every day at home in the WSJ, saying that they were “growing too fast” and that they’re “happy for the slowdown,” is getting to be a bit much. I mean, really? Really?

Overall, though, one of the best business visits that we’ve had. Inspiring.

Squawk!

A stop at the hotel, a quick drink, and back into the brink once more. A cab, cabs, actually, were summoned, a recommendation was obtained, and we were off. A snippet from the actual conversation with the Salvadorian (?) cab driver:

Cab Driver: I will drop you there. But if you go left down that hill, be careful, you will lose your pen-is. (said just like that, like pen is.)

Us: Uhhhhh. (silence)

Cab Driver: And you need your pen-is if you are going to stay in Salvador.

Us: Uhhhhh.

dsc04794

The restaurant. Goodness. Pronounced universally to be the best meal that we all had in Brazil, it was at this point that we finally cast off the shame of Not-rio and fully embraced the name of our new, temporary, home. It was here that I ate, for the first time in my life, an ostrich steak. Delicious, more like red meat than a poultry, and a fine complement to a Brazilian Jameson, which, by the by, bears a striking similarity to American Jameson. Thank heavens for small consistencies.

Dinner finished, the evening mayhaps over, we left the restaurant, turned the corner and found, to our astonishment, a reggae band. In an alley. With chairs and table sat up haphazardly around them and available for the resting of the feet, the soul, and the heart.

The crown jewel of Brazil, this fine evening. A letting loose. Good friends, great music, moderately acceptable beer. The cobblestones, the churches, the people. All of it right, none of it planned, reproducible or available, I think, once more. A unique lifetime experience, one of those rare moments that you recognize, while still in the actual moment, will never happen again.

dsc04825

Perfect.

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Softball

February 25, 2009 at 10:29 pm | Posted in Music, New Orleans, News, Politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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This one’s a bit unfair because it’s just so easy. Don’t watch either of them to the end, because they’re long; you’ll get the point about thirty seconds into each. It’s a bit uncanny.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This guy is the front runner for the GOP Presidential nomination? Really?

Look what I figured out…

January 17, 2009 at 10:34 pm | Posted in Music | Leave a comment
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Vodpod videos no longer available.
Actual music for my music posts. Things just got interesting…

No sleep ’til

January 9, 2009 at 9:10 am | Posted in Movies, Music, Television, Video Games | 2 Comments
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I write this blog while drinking my second coffee of the morning, meant to stave off the exhaustion brought on by a continuing, and increasing, amount of sleep deprivation. I’m getting 4-5 hours a night right now. This is by choice, but when saying that, understand that it is in fact choice brought on by necessity.

I fear that I am suffering from content overload. There is simply too much media available to me these days and I cannot find time to consume it all. Well, I can, but other things (sleep, sanity) are suffering in its wake. I realize that this, on its face, sounds a bit whiny and absurd. I recognize that there are people in the world that can work all day, come home, eat dinner, go to bed and begin the process anew the following day (well rested, even).

I am not these people. I suffer from an overwhelming desire to spend some amount of my time each day doing something, anything, that I find interesting and that makes me happy. I’ve seen studies that suggest that this is some kind of generational thing; Baby Boomers tend to identify themselves primarily based on their jobs, while we Gen X’ers identify ourselves more via what we do with our personal time. That being the underlying assumption of our collective psyche, it’s not hard to make the leap of logic that allows you to understand the following:

If I arrive at my sense of self based almost entirely upon what I do with my free time, I cannot in good conscience spend the majority of that time sleeping.

So I don’t. I work for a solid portion of the day, attend school on some evenings, and then I  consume. Video games (of which there are always new, ever longer experiences available), blogs (upwards of two dozen now), traditional news (NYT, WSJ), podcasts (this deserves a post all of its own), books (both prose and comic), movies, and television (my TiVo has 20 hours of content on it right now – and that’s the lowest level its had for the past four months).

Where you get upside down is when someone introduces some new piece of media to you that you’ve somehow missed. Because now you are behind.

I don’t know that there is a solution here. I may simply be doomed for life. I remember, years and years ago, reading Jack Welch’s autobiography, where he reveals that he only slept about five hours a night and read up to three newspapers a day. At the time I found that concept to be quite intimidating.

Now it seems a bit quaint.

Up for Air

January 7, 2009 at 11:01 pm | Posted in Music, Video Games | 2 Comments
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It has, I realize, been quite some time since you’ve seen me here. I could blame vacation. I could blame year-end business activity. I could blame the holidays, the dog, or my very, very social neighbors.

Those would all be lies.

256px-fallout_3_cover_artThe truth of the matter is that I have lost a few weeks of my life to a magnificent piece of media called Fallout 3. The little shiny disc encased in this package represents not the norm, the typical. This is no mere game. This is, rather, a commitment. I will shamefully admit that the little timer in the menu of the game informs me this evening that I have thus far logged 53 hours of playtime since December 26th. Lest you think there is some type of mad video game conversion going on, allow me to clarify. Fifty-three earth hours.

I am at this point only 60% through the game. Yikes.

I have in the mental blog gestation phase a post regarding the best new bands that I discovered in 2008; having not yet developed enough accompanying metaphors, allusions, and snark, I will continue to percolate that particular topic. I offer you instead, in penance for my absence,  what I believe to be  my first good musical find of 2009.

They are entitled Faded Paper Figures and are, in my opinion, neither faded nor mere figures (though they may be paper, I haven’t actually met them).

I discovered Faded Paper Figures (and their album, Dynamo) through one of my favorite podcasts: The KEXP Song of the Day. Before discussing the band, a word on the KEXP podcast. If you are not currently subscribed to this podcast, you may in fact be a crazy person. You would have to be, as it is delightful and surprising and free. Maybe you have some kind of ethical issue with free. Perhaps free stole your milk money in the second grade or licked a cookie that you were about to pick up one time. Maybe free borrowed your car and returned it with the gas tank on E, or didn’t show up to help you move after they had already commited. Irregardless, for this podcast, you must forgive free. ‘Tis that good…but I digress.

Digest.

The topic at hand.

fadedpaperfiguresThere is an obvious comparison to be drawn in regards to the music on Faded Paper Flowers’ first album. Often being a fan of the coy and subtle (and also the soy and cuttle), I will instead say that their music has echoes of both The Notwist and Cloud Cult. It has an electronic base to it with some light vocals from both a male and female lead.

Realizing that recommending an album by comparing it to a German Indie band first and a local Minneapolis band second is pretentious at best and downright douchey at worst, I will now present you with the obvious comparison. 

They sound like The Postal Service mixed with Belle & Sebastian.

Sigh.

I do not like this world we live in. This world wherein all new music produced with a synthesizer and electronic sounds is immediately likened to The Postal Service (my man-crush on Ben Gibbard notwithstanding). I resent that based solely on the presence of two different sets of naughty bits within a band these days we must  force a comparison to the lovely Belle & Sebastian. But these are the cultural touchstones we are surrounded by, so I will use them. Begrudgingly.

Curmodgenly.

Tracks one and six (North by North / Metropolis) are my favorites so far, but the entire album is rapidly growing on me. Check them out, if only as a thanks to them for rescuing me from my XBox based exodus long enough to offer this missive to the world.

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