Tuesday, June 27, 2006

New glasses

I ordered new glasses today, mostly because my prescription is completely out of date and I need new ones, but also because I'm wanting a change. Changing your glasses is like changing your hairstyle, only worse, because if you don't like how you get your haircut, you can always wait for it to grow back. Glasses are a significant investment, and basically an extension of your personality. It's times like these I wish I could wear contacts (I have way too much of an astigmatism to make contacts even remotely feasible) but it's also fun in a weird way. It's almost like picking a whole new you. These are the glasses I picked out.


They're a remarkable departure from what I have -- they're kind of 1960s NASA scientist, but I love them. They're also very David Tennant in Doctor Who "Tooth & Claw" which means my wife won't be able to keep her hands off me. (if only I looked like David Tennant!) I'm not even going to think about how much the who whole affair cost. (I also got a second pair more like what I have now because they have a sunglass attachment, and for days when I'm feeling more like my old self, I guess) Instead, I'll think about how sharp and sexy I'll be in them.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Level Best

For some reason I can't quite remember, I was thinking about Level 42 last night. It was kind of weird because it's not like they're a band that cross my mind very frequently. But it might have had something to do with the fact that I stumbled across this site that details the 100 best music videos ever made and, while Level 42 didn't make the list, watching all those early to mid-80s videos made me think of them.

In any event, I went to iTunes to buy a couple of their songs, when, lo and behold, their greatest hits collection, Level Best, was on sale for $6.99. Well, as Lynette would say, that was priced "buy me" so I did. (It helped that I'm not even half way through $50 worth of iTunes gift cards that I got for my birthday.) I used to have that CD -- I bought it in 1994 when I was in college -- and liked it enough, but I think it must have been the victim of the great CD purge before we moved to Ames. I'm sure that I ripped the CD before giving it to the library in Washington, but it must have gotten lost or wiped out or something because I no longer have it.

Thankfully, that was remedied last night. What a fun bunch of music.

And here's "Something About You" just for fun.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Annelid trauma

Anna got to bring home an earthworm today from preschool -- well, everyone in the class did, actually, on the condition that they set it free when they got home. Anna's always been a little fascinated with earthworms, which, frankly, surprises me given her whole bugphobia thing. Maybe it's because earthworms don't have the gift of flight and move so damn slow they're a lot less threatening than a boxelder bug or a dust mite.

Anyway, she found a spot in the yard for it and set it free -- we watched it burrow in the dirt a little bit before coming back inside. She went off to play a computer game and Heidi and sat around the dining room table talking about the secrets to the life and the known universe (as usual.) Suddenly, here comes Anna around the corner with tears rolling down her cheeks. Thinking that she'd hurt herself or something like that, I ask her what's wrong, only to have her tell me, "I miss wormy" at which point she melts into my chest and sobs.

Only my daughter.

Kinder and softer

I bought the I'm Going To Tell You A Secret CD/DVD yesterday at Best Buy despite the fact that I wasn't sure I really wanted it. I mean, I have several bootlegs of the entire Re-Invention Tour (audio) and while it would be nice to get high-quality recordings of the Re-Invention Tour, it wasn't essential to my existence. Plus, I wasn't sure that the documentary would appeal to me very much as most of the reviews I've read describe Madonna as being pretty insufferable with her Kabballah beliefs and "look-at-me, I'm-so-serious" attitude. So I wasn't sure that I wanted to spend the money on that, and, quite honestly, Re-Invention is so 2 years ago and I'm all about the Confessions Tour now, so there.

But I bought it anyway because it was on sale for 18 bucks + I had $10 worth of Best Buy coupons to use so I got it for around 8 dollars. And honestly, I'm glad I bought it. The CD has recordings of "selections from the Re-Invention Tour" which sound great and beat the shit out of the best bootleg I have of the tour (Atlanta, for those that are curious.) Some of the songs they selected were fantastic (i.e. "Vogue," "Like A Prayer," "Into The Groove") but some left me scratching my head (i.e. "The Beast Within" (lip synched and Madonna's not even on the stage), "Hollywood" (again, Madonna's not even on stage on this one either.)) It made me wish they'd have released the whole tour on CD, because the songs they left out were some of the best ones and the tour just seems truncated and you don't get a good idea of what the tour was actually like from the songs they did release.

As far as the documentary goes, I'm only about half way through it, but I'm so glad I bought it -- if for no other reason than the concert footage. Even though the songs are edited (bad! bad!) it just made me want a professional DVD of the Re-Invention Tour that much more. Sadly, it may never see the light of day, so I'll have to make due with my bootleg DVD that I picked up while I was in Chicago last April.

However, the behind the scenes stuff was just as interesting as the concert footage. What we have here, for lack of a better term, is a kinder and gentler Madonna. Not that she can't still swear like a sailor or bitch people out like diva she is, but she seems so much more centered. And it was almost shocking to see her children on the screen. I found myself thinking "Oh my God, Madonna's a mother!" as if we didn't already know that. But there's something about her interacting with the kids and Guy that make it all real -- as real as it can be on a documentary like that. She does go on a lot about her spirituality, but it's not offensive to me, actually, it made me wish I was as spiritual as her. As an organized religion alumnus (for now) I have a hard time with religious beliefs in general, mostly because the extreme right wing in this country has co-opted belief in God and has perverted Jesus into something that doesn't even exist in the Bible. But she's found comfort in what she has, which is good. I sometimes wish I had that comfort.

Perhaps the funniest moment in the whole doc (so far) is opening night in L.A. when Madonna announces to the camera "I can't stop shitting! I have a nervous stomach!" And when she goes on about the businessmen playing with their Blackberrys at the Vegas show.

All in all, after what I've seen, I'd spend an evening with the Kaballah Madonna over the Truth or Dare Madonna in a second. She's matured so much (as one would expect) and while there are parts of Truth or Dare that are painful to watch, even as a Madonna fan, I haven't come across one in this one yet.

Mid-week

I'm totally screwed up because I have two days off in the middle of the week rather than on the weekend, so I can't help but feel like today is Sunday. Whatever, I know it's not, but I can't seem to shake the funk that I'm in. I'm sleeping like crazy -- I mean, really hard and waking me up is nigh onto impossible. Plus while I'm sleeping, I dream and dream and dream. I'm thinking perhaps I need to lay off the wine before bed, but it's not like I'm drinking a whole bottle or anything -- at most, I'll have a half a glass or something just for fun. I also wish I could get rid of caffeine, but I'm so hopelessly addicted to it I don't see much hope of that happening.

Of course, it doesn't help that I'm abusing my body by staying up late watching TV or being on the computer, something that I did a few years back much to the detriment of my state of mind. So perhaps I should listen to my body and to my years of experience and just do what it tells me.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day

It wouldn't be Father's Day if I didn't make some reference to Nathan Grantham.



And just in case you want to know how it all turns out...



Happy Father's Day to all my fellow fathers out there, but most especially to my own dad (who sometimes reads this blog.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Capitol City Pride

Sunday was Capitol City Pride in Des Moines, and Heidi, Anna and I all trekked down for the event. Heidi and Anna had gone last year -- I was working -- and had a blast. I was so jealous that I missed it we made sure to figure out when it was this year so that we didn't miss it. Miraculously, I didn't have to work and there was nothing else scheduled for that days so we were able to go.

Des Moines Pride probably has nothing on Pride celebrations in say Chicago, New York or L.A. (hell, it's probably not even as good as the one in Iowa City, although having never been to that one, I can't really say) but it's still pretty good. The weather was kind of crappy -- not rainy, but COLD! For June 11th, you would certainly not expect it to top out at 62 degrees. But it did, plus the sun never came out and it was windy. But as we kept saying, at least it didn't rain.

Anna was dressed to the nines in her rainbow sun dress, rainbow tights and ruby red slippers. She even bought face stickers at Target and a new pony tail holder. Originally, she was wearing her tye-dyed rainbow socks, but as it proved to be too cold to go without something on her legs, she opted for her rainbow tights, which techincally clashed with her dress. But it didn't matter to her. She kept on bugging me about when the parade was going to start (we got there about an hour early) and kept on seeing balloons and various floats that were in the parade as they got the parade set up. She met up with a couple little girls there and played with them, giving them each a rainbow lei.

The parade started around 12pm and it was shorter than I expected. But man, could those guys throw candy for the kids. The only reason Pufferbilly Days in Boone (the reigning champion in volume of candy thrown from floats) has more candy is because it's longer -- if the Pride parade had even been 3/4ths as long as Pufferbilly Days, Pufferbilly Days would have been left in the dust.

Here's probably my favorite picture I snapped of the parade (and my current desktop):

After that, it was down to the Simon Estes Amphitheater for entertainment, booths, etc. Amazingly, only one food vendor was there to serve the thousands of people that turned out. We watched as various drag queens lip synched to the usual suspects (Cher, Madonna, Weather Girls) and Anna loved dancing around on the hillside. At one point, one of the drag queens (that Anna refers to as "princesses") was standing chatting with a group of people sitting nearby. Anna (to our amazement) wanted to go say hi to the "princess" and have her picture taken.

In the final analysis, she looks a little freaked out, but she kept on wanting to go up and talk to her. A little bit later, she educated me by saying rather matter-of-factly "Daddy, those princesses are really boys."

It was a fun day, but what I loved the most were the number of straight, young families there as well as the thousands of GLBTs as well. I spotted a straight couple across the street from us with a baby that couldn't have been any older than a few months. What a great way to start life! The atmosphere was so welcoming and accepting and you can pretty much guarantee that anyone there didn't vote for Bush (although Heidi said you might be surprised.) I can't wait for next year.

And here's a YouTube video from the day as well.



Update: I almost forgot to post the link to my Flickr.com photo album of the event. Here it is.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The truth is out there

Today's my birthday! Yay me! I love my 30s so much. I love my graying hair, but what I think I love most about my 30s is I'm not in my 20s anymore. Living in a college town gives me plenty of reminders of why being in my 20s was not the best time in my life. I wouldn't change a thing about my 20s, but as Dolly Parton says in "In The Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)" -- "no amount of money could buy from me/The memories that I have of then/No amount of money could pay me/To go back and live through it again."

Last night, Heidi and Anna gave me my birthday presents, even though I implored Heidi to not buy me anything, satisfied that my trip to Vegas to see Madonna was plenty of birthday present. She (of course) didn't listen to me and bought me a few little things. I got a new shirt from Younkers, a clock for my clockless office wall, and, to my great surprise, action figures of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully from The X-Files!!!

(And yes, that is the Queen Alien bearing down on Mulder and Scully. I really love the Alien movies!)

I didn't even know that I wanted these! I have been so into The X-Files recently. I never watched it while it was on TV -- and now, I'm not sure why because it's right up my alley. Plus Gillian Anderson is gorgeous. I'm only just finished with the second season right now, and I hear that Anderson glams out a bit, dropping weight in a bid to be more "sexy" but she's perfect as she is (although she could be just a bit taller.) I've been Netflixing the seasons but borrowed the last season from my neighbor and can't wait to get season 3.

And although Mulder and Scully are super cool, the card I got from Anna was perhaps the most precious.

What I love the most is the backwards "I love you" which she does not because she's dyslexic but because she's left-handed.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Silent Hill

Last night I went to the late (as in 10:10 PM late) show at the budget theater here in Ames. I wanted to see the movie Silent Hill, even though it had been absolutely eviscerated by the critics. I figured it's hard for a horror film to disappoint me because I always go in with low expectations and besides, a lot of horror flicks I've really enjoyed were mauled by critics. But I think that Roger Ebert's critique said it best.

"Not only can I not describe the plot of this movie, but I have a feeling the last scene reverses half of what I thought I knew (or didn't know)."

It was very disappointing on so many levels, but what mostly bothered me was how much it seemed to revel in its own obtuseness. It seemed to love being deliberately confusing -- always putting the viewer in the position that they have to guess what's going on (with pretty much no context to be guessing from) only to get the Info-Dump about 2/3rds of the way through. And even with the Info-Dump, it still didn't make sense.

Add to this that the characters were just plain annoying. The main female lead spent the first 30 minutes of the movie running around in the fog/ash of Silent Hill yelling "Sharon! Sharon!" until you just wanted the kid to answer simply to shut her up. And how Sean Bean ended up in this mess I'm not sure.

That said, the visuals were pretty good, although not what I would call particularly scary. Mostly, they were just freakish and creepy, but I don't think I was scared even once during the movie -- and that isn't just because I'm a jaded horror movie fan. It simply wasn't that scary. And ultimately, it's because the story wasn't that good. You can have all the great visuals in the world but if the story isn't there, there's nothing to hang those cool visuals on (case in point, the Star Wars prequels.)

And every review that begs us to give it a break because it was based on a video game, not Shakespeare, I say, whatever! You still need to write a story that's decent.

Overall, it wasn't so bad that I want my 2 hours and $1.50 back, but people did boo the movie at the end, and that was a first for me.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Time (not) well spent

I've officially decided to bail on On The Road. I decided that life is too short to spend it reading a book you don't like. Apparently I also thought when I decided not to read The Grapes of Wrath in 10th grade -- the first book I never finished for a class. I'm now reading Anderson Cooper's memoir Dispatches From The Edge which makes me feel a little bit cheap, but it's a good book!

I also spent today weeding the driveway (yep, you heard that right, the driveway.) Our driveway is old and cracked and has a lot of weeds growing up through the cracks in the pavement. Well, it'd gotten so bad and overgrown that it was bothering me even to look out the back window, so I spent a good hour this afternoon sitting on the driveway manually pulling up these weeds and chucking them into the wheelbarrow. The task is basically Sisyphean, because they'll all grow back within a couple of weeks until such point that I decide to spray pesticide on them. That, of course, will never happen as I just don't think it's a good idea to spray poison in an area where Anna plays.

While I was doing this, the neighbor boy came over and jokingly gave me a bad time about how bad the grass behind our house looks. And I mean, he's right, I haven't mowed it yet this year. That's mostly because is just pisses me off because it's a large hill that goes down to a railroad track. It's not even my property -- it's owned by the railroad -- but I'm expected to keep it up. Actually, the only expectations are those that I choose to internalize from the fact that everyone on the block keeps theirs mowed, but I still think it's a pain in the ass. Well, no sooner was I done weeding the driveway than I was out back mowing. And it sucked, let me tell you. I'd have been better off buying a sheep or two.

The grass clippings look pretty bad, but now it's done and it won't have to be done for a while.

That's my exciting life. Weeding the driveway and mowing knee high grass.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Hey Jack Kerouac

So I'm reading On The Road right now, and I'm about 60 or so pages into it. So far, I'm not seeing what the big deal is about this book. Maybe it speaks to a completely different generation. All I can say is that I'm doing some major skimmage -- it's mostly just a motley collection of his rather uninspired adventures out West with some friends of his. And all these friends are so non-descript that they all blend into each other so there's really very little characterization going on.

It's got this distinct feel of a book that I'm supposed to like, but for some reason or another, just really don't. It's got about another 50 pages and if I'm not really into it, I may just have to bail. I hate bailing on books -- it's really the ultimate offense you can pay to an author (ok, maybe a really bad movie adaptation is the ultimate offense, but I'm never gonna be in a position for that to happen.) And I especially hate bailing on books that I was expecting to like.

I have to admit, one of the biggest reasons I decided to pick the book up this summer is because I'm totally into that 10,000 Maniacs song "Hey Jack Kerouac" which is all about the Beat Generation (although you'd never know it without knowing something about the Beat Generation because I think the lyrics are on the obtuse side.) I do love that Maniacs album -- In My Tribe. It's probably the only one of theirs that I really like. I remember having a copy of 10,000 Maniacs Unplugged when I was in college, and Rick loved the CD so much that he totally overplayed it. I basically never need to hear that CD ever again -- and I'm not kidding when I say that. I'm just to the point now where I can tolerate the song "Because The Night." Plus, I never really got into Natalie Merchant's solo stuff. It just didn't have the same punch that 10,000 Maniacs had which is kind of weird because she was pretty much the voice of the Maniacs, but who knows. I have Blind Man's Zoo on my iTunes, but it gets listened to a whole lot less than In My Tribe does.

So I have this feeling that I will go to my grave not having finished On The Road. Oh well, I guess worse things in life have happened.

Why can't you give me the RESPECT that I'm entitled to!?!?

While perusing Entertainment Weekly a couple weeks back over breakfast, I saw an ad for the new "Hollywood Royalty" Special Edition DVD of Mommie Dearest. Heidi and I about fell over -- finally, after being released as a bare bones DVD (trailer + photo gallery being the only special features on the original) it was getting the Special Edition treatment it deserves. Heidi and I love this movie for many of the same reasons many others do -- it's so bad it's good! It's probably the only reason to really watch that movie.

I can still remember the first time Heidi and I watched it. We were either very recently married or about to be married and we rented it one night on a whim because I remember it being on HBO as a kid and, of course, the scene that stuck with me was the infamous wire hangers scene, in which a mud-masked Joan Crawford beats Christina silly with wire hangers that she found in the closet. After the movie was over, Heidi made the comment that it was one of the most bathetic (no, not pathetic, although some might argue that as well) movie she had probably ever seen.

All that said, the movie itself is a complete and utter riot. Faye Dunaway completely overacts her way to a Razzie in this movie, and we love it completely. One evening we made the decision to watch "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane" based on how much we loved Faye's characterization of Joan, only to be utterly disappointed by the real Joan, who (at least in that movie) didn't even come close to Faye's overdone portrayal. (Although the combination of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis did allow for some unintentionally hilarious scenes nevertheless -- "Hello, is this Johnson's? I'd like to order some liquor this is Jane Hudson.")

This DVD has a full length commentary and three featurettes which follow the film's journey from book to movie and its ultimate veneration as a cult classic. Conspicuously absent from any new interviews or the commentary track is Faye Dunaway, who pretty much doesn't want to discuss the movie in any way or form. This is truly a shame because it would be nothing less than fantastic to have her take on the movie and how it's gone from a movie that the studio thought would be a major Oscar contender the year it was released to unintentional comedy.

Although personally, I wouldn't have called this DVD the "Hollywood Royalty Edition." Everyone in their right mind knows this should have been the "Box Office Poison Edition."

Here's a couple of YouTube videos featuring Joan/Faye. The first one uses a great remix of Yaz's "State Farm" over the top clips of the real Joan Crawford in various movies and TV shows. The original version had clips of Mommie Dearest, but for some reason it was recut and uses only clips of the real Joan.



This one is a video mash-up of sorts. Mommie Dearest meets "Mamma Mia." Not much more needs to be said.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Music meme answers

I know...I know, they're long delayed, but here's the answers to the music lyrics meme from about 10 days ago.

1. "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" by Wang Chung
2. "Reverse" by Casey Stratton
3. "Bluer Than Blue" by Michael Johnson
4. "The Climb" by No Doubt
5. "Naked" by Spice Girls
6. "Silent All These Years" by Tori Amos
7. "Baby You're Mine" by Basia
8. "I'll Be Around" by Michael W. Smith
9. "Everlasting Love" by Howard Jones
10. "Key Largo" by Bertie Higgins
11. "Get Together" by Madonna
12. "This Is Me Leaving You" by Mary Chapin Carpenter
13. "Secret" by Heart
14. "For A While" by Trisha Yearwood
15. "Fine Time" by New Order
16. "I'm Gonna Love You Too" by Blondie
17. "Windy" by Astrud Gilberto
18. "Has To Be" by Madonna
19. "I Found Someone" by Cher (I really can't believe no one got this one!!)
20. "Lead The Way" by Mariah Carey

Thanks to everyone who played! It was a lot of fun.

My Confessions Tour loot

Here's a shot of all the stuff I bought at the Confessions Tour. (click the image for a bigger version)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Confessions Tour: MGM Grand 5/27/2006


Madonna's Confessions Tour stopped at the MGM Grand Garden Arena over Memorial Day weekend -- and I can hardly believe I was there. Way back when the dates for the tour were announced, I was going to be all noble and say "Oh, I don't need to go because I went to the last two tours and going again is just excessive." Well, as Heidi says, what a cold consolation my nobility would be if I had missed the tour. I was already pretty excited because I was really impressed with the set list and the Jean Paul Gaultier costumes for the tour, I thought, were top notch.

We flew out of Des Moines around 7:20AM on Saturday and (via Chicago) arrived in Las Vegas shortly after noon. The plane ride from Chicago to Vegas was exceptionally long -- three + hours -- but it was generally clear and it was so cool to watch the terrain change from 37,000 feet. We started out over the farmland of the Midwest, then got to the Rocky Mountains (which were so cool from an airplane! I was afraid they'd look flat but you could really see the contours of the mountains.) And then you got the western desert. They say that Iowa is desolate, but let me tell you, it's got nothing on western Colorado and Utah. You couldn't see any sign of human life for miles and miles. The descent into Las Vegas was a bit on the rocky side, as the winds were gusting upwards of 40 mph.

Because of the windy conditions, we didn't get to ride the Stratosphere. In all honesty, it's probably better that we didn't as it was one hell of a long way from the MGM Grand and, while we did go about half way up the strip to the Wynn Las Vegas, it felt like we traveled quite a long way and going the rest of the way up the strip really wasn't in the cards.

We got to the MGM Grand and I checked my carry on luggage so I didn't have to lug it all over Vegas. After that we got on the Las Vegas monorail (with the "Monorail!" song from "The Simpsons" stuck in my head!) and ate at the Wynn Buffet which one of Jeff's friends had recommended. It was pretty pricey -- about 37 dollars a piece -- but the food was very good and there was just about anything in the world that you could possibly want to eat on the buffet. They had prime rib that was exceptionally rare in the middle (Christina Crawford would definitely reject it!) but it was yummy as were the carrots and mashed potatoes. Fortunately, Jeff insisted on paying for my lunch as he knew it would be expensive and that he was pretty much dictating where we went. It was good and we both felt like we should have been taken out on Jabba's sail barge after lunch.

With lunch out of the way, we started exploring various casinos in Vegas as we still had a good 5 hours to kill before the show. While we were at the Wynn, I came across the slot machine that would eventually steal 4 bucks from me (I know, high roller that I am!) It was the Alien slot machine. You could play it as either a 1 cent, 2 cent or 5 cent slot, and I, of course played it as a penny slot. The aliens were wild, and every time they came up they snarled at you and their secondary jaws came out. Jeff has a picture of me actually playing the machine, but I haven't seen his pictures yet. Needless to say, I had to get a picture of this machine before I left. It was only appropriate that this be the machine that took me for my 4 dollars in Vegas. I was up by a couple dollars at one point, and I should have quit while I was ahead, but that's just not the type of mindset that Vegas propagates.

We also stopped by New York, New York and The Venetian (which Heidi says looks nothing like Venice) -- pictures of which are below.



The thing about Vegas casinos is that while they all look different on the outside, and they're all decorated differently on the inside, they are basically the same damn thing all the way up and down the Vegas strip. After a while, frankly, it gets a little bit boring. Mostly, Vegas is just a den of iniquity, not that that's all bad because if you're looking to be bad, Vegas is the city to do it in. Jeff and I both decided that you could do some pretty bad things in Vegas and people mostly just wouldn't notice.

Anyhow, after getting some Starbucks and sitting in the lobby of New York, New York for a while, we made our way over to the MGM Grand to get set up to go to the show. I checked my camera figuring there was no way in hell that I'd be able to bring it into the concert and we headed for our seats. After passing through the metal detectors (was glad I didn't have my camera at that point) we made our way through a sea of people and I got in line to buy some of the tour souvenirs. I only spent 60 bucks on souvenirs, which isn't too bad because I really thought they had some good merchandise this time around. I ended up buying the tour book (which is an obligatory buy as I have the books from both Drowned World Tour and Re-Invention) I also ended up buying the Confessions Tour coffee mug, which was appropriate because I buy a coffee mug everywhere I go and I bought a 5 dollar key chain as well as a 10 dollar poster. I couldn't believe they only had one poster for sale! Usually they have 5 or 6, but I guess they'd rather sell those online.

Anyway, Madonna was fashionably late (which of course made Jeff and me make jokes about how she had to quick run to Target to get some Lee press-ons.) but when the lights went out and the beginning of "Future Lovers" started playing, the crowd just went wild. I have to say, it was gutsy opening with a relatively unknown album track, but for some reason it really worked. Perhaps it was because Madonna's appearance out of a giant disco ball ranks as one of her best entrances ever. I think that the beginning act of the show, which featured "Future Lovers/I Feel Love," "Get Together," "Like A Virgin," and "Jump" is probably the strongest live set she has ever done. Rarely has Madonna been in better voice than she was during this set. The dancers were spot on and Madonna just seemed to be having a blast which is a far cry from when I saw her on the Drowned World Tour and she looked like she was just going through the motions. Granted, we saw her toward the end of the tour that time, and this was just the beginning of the tour this time around, so I suppose some of that is inevitable. I truly love the version of "Like A Virgin" that she did -- and the crowd loved it too. It was the first time in 13 years she's performed this song, and it was amazing to hear 15,000 Madonna fans all singing the "Woh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh" part along with her.

After a quick change of clothes, she made her now infamous entrance for the second act on the discofied cross to sing "Live To Tell." That sounded pretty good, too. Her performances of ballads like that have always been a little bit hit and miss. It was a powerful performance and I didn't really feel like the use of the cross was out of place. This set was Confessions on a Dance Floor heavy, featuring the songs "Forbidden Love," "Isaac," "Sorry," and "Like It Or Not." "Like It Or Not" is a song Jeff doesn't really care for, and I really love it and Madonna danced with a chair during the performance -- something I haven't seen her do since probably "Bye Bye Baby" on the Girlie Show.

The next set was probably the weakest, as Madonna's guitar playing really does nothing for me. I'd much rather have her dancing as opposed to having her feet planted playing the guitar. But she kicked it off with "I Love New York" which I initially hated but have come to love for the glorious cheese that it is. She changed the lyric (as she did at Coachella) from "Just go to Texas/Isn't that where they golf." to " Just go to Texas/and suck George Bush's dick!" which seemed a little over the top but the crowd (predictably) ate it up. The highlight of this set for me was "Let It Will Be," and album track from Confessions, but Madonna looked absolutely fantastic and her tripping all over the stage was the kind of organic dancing we haven't seen from her on tour in a while. Too bad her vocals were God-awful. That one really needs some work in the vocal department. She was off-key and messing up words, but really, who the hell cares, right? Anyone who goes to a Madonna concert expecting a pitch-perfect vocal performance is really going for all the wrong reasons. Following that, she slowed it down with "Drowned World" and "Paradise (Not For Me)" which really caused the show to drag. She sounded pretty good on both, except the vocoder on "Paradise" really has to go because it just sounds dumb.

After that, we were ready for her crank it back up again, and man, did she ever! When the disco beats of "Disco Inferno" started playing, followed quickly by the tell tale "Boogie woogie/Do you like to?" the crowd went nuts. Not long after, Madonna and her two dancers came out in John Travolta white suits and she performed a great mash-up of "Music" with "Disco Inferno." After this was "Erotica" mixed in with its original demo "You Thrill Me" which was damn difficult to understand because of the acoustics of the arena. I have to say I was a little bit disappointed by it because I was expecting more. However, I've heard a "studio version" of it and I'll admit, it's growing on me. The she sang what must be one of her favorites "La Isla Bonita" which morphed into "Lucky Star." That segued almost seamlessly into "Hung Up" which brought out a huge audience reaction. It was also the audience participation part of the show. Madonna egged us all on to repeat "Time goes by so slowly" and we were all screaming it (especially the girl sitting next to me!) But it was never good enough, and before she launched into the end of the song, she berated us, saying "You guys suck!!" Balloons fell from the ceiling and an electronic "Have you confessed?" scrawled across the screen and it was over. At $4.15 a minute, I got more than my money's worth. I'd say it's probably my favorite tour, even more so than Re-Invention, which was a lot more hit filled. This one just had a great energy from the get go and Madonna just seemed like she was having a great time, even in Vegas which traditionally has tough crowds as most of the good seats go to high rollers.

There's a whole other story about us getting back to Iowa, but that's going to have to wait till later as I'm pooped out and, as a reward for anyone who read this far, here's an mp3 file of "Like A Virgin" from the Confessions Tour.

Madonna - Like A Virgin (Confessions Tour)

(all pictures of the concert courtesy of MadonnaTribe.com)