Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Police Reunion Tour - Shoreline Amphitheater Concert

Starting on the 28th of May 2007, "The Police" embarked on a year and a half reunion tour (this wikipedia link has a listing of all the shows and the set lists) to mark the 30th anniversary of their beginning. The tour ended with a concert in New York's Madison Square Garden on August 7th, 2008.

This is the nostalgia-inducing music of our younger days so for our 12th wedding anniversary, my wife bought tickets for us to go see the show on July 14th of this year. The concert we attended was at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California about 15 minutes from where we live. It is a nice outdoor venue surrounded by the San Francisco Bay on one side and the sprawling Google campus on the other. The theater has seats in the front close to the stage but most ticket holders find space on the grassy hill behind the seats where they find room for their own chairs and blankets and picnic in the nice California evening for a few hours before the performance.

Elvis Costello and the Imposters opened for the band and were heartily cheered by the 12,000 strong crowd but the venue erupted when Sting (in a beard), Stewart Copeland (drummer) and Andy Summers (guitarist) strolled on to the stage. I suspect that in Sting's older bearded visage many in that audience saw a reflection of their own aging. The performance was excellent and Sting's voice was strong and energetic. The reviews I saw later in the regional press compared this show very favorably to the earlier concert on this tour they had played in East Bay.

I also found a nice YouTube clip that has spliced together the sights and sounds from that July 14th concert in Mountain View:

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Tragedy on K-2

At least nine climbers seem to have perished in a tragedy still unfolding on the majestic but treacherous K-2 mountain in Northern Pakistan near the border with China. New York Times has the unfolding story here and here. In the group trying to reach the summit were Norwegian, Dutch, French, Italian, Serbian, Korean, Pakistani and Nepalese climbers. The accident seems to have occured after an avalanche struck on a steep gully at 27,000 feet near the most dangerous part of the mountain known as the "bottleneck".

Update I: 11 climbers are feared dead now but 3 men were rescued including 2 frostbitten Dutchmen who were plucked by Pakistani military helicopters. One of the Dutch survivors, Wilco Van Rooijen who is now in a military hospital in Skardu describes here the conditions and mistakes in preparation that contributed to the disaster.
Before his death, 61-year-old Frenchman Hugues d'Aubarede gave an account of the climb -with freezing temperatures, bad weather and beautiful vistas - via a blog. On the eve of his death, his last message from the foot of The Bottleneck was: "I would love it if everyone could contemplate this ocean of mountains and glaciers. They put me through the wringer, but it's so beautiful. The night will be long but beautiful."
Update II: Today on August 6th, New York Times has a story titled "Tragic Toll After Chaos on Mountain" summing up what is now known about how the tragedy unfolded.

K2 is known as the world’s hardest and most dangerous mountain for climbers, more challenging even than Everest. Farther north and 1,500 miles from Everest, it collects heavy snow and storms, and climbers have only a few days each year when they can try for the peak, usually in early August. “For a professional, seasoned mountaineer it’s more of the holy grail than Everest,” said the veteran American climber Ed Viesturs. “There is no easy way to climb K2.”

In a message sent back to friends, three South Koreans from the Flying Jump K2 Expedition expressed their awe about “the mountain of the mountains” and “the mountain that invites death.”

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Yeh Hum NaheeN

The Wait for the Beijing Olympics

I cannot remember any recent Summer Olympic games for which I have been waiting with as much anticipation as this year's edition in Beijing which will kickoff with the opening ceremony on 8/8/08 at 8:08pm Beijing time. The combination of Beijing as the venue with its political overtones of a rising, still partly closed and environmentally vulnerable China mixed with the compelling narrative around some exceptional athletes in the traditional Olympic powerhouse events of swimming and track and field is adding to the excitement.

In Track & Field, there are three matchups that I am particularly looking forward to watching. The 100m competition between the American Tyson Gay and the two phenomenal Jamaicans Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt, will be a race to watch; perhaps one of the strongest 100m line ups ever to race at the Olympics. The 200m women's race should also be a great rematch between the American Allyson Felix who won the silver in Athens and Veronica Campbell Brown, the Jamaican who won the gold.

And then there is the 110m hurdles! 110m hurdles this year will likely be the most anticipated event pitting the Chinese phenomenon and Athens gold medal winner Liu Xiang against the awesome Cuban, Dayron Robles, who recently broke Liu's 110m hurdle world record. Robles has the potential to single-handedly to dash the hopes of 1.3 billion people who will be cheering for Liu with all their hearts. The Liu Xiang phenomenon in China is indeed amazing and he stands at the center of China's hopes for this Olympics. The New York Times has a special "Play Magazine" out this Sunday which has some very interesting stories on Olympic athletes. There is a piece on Liu titled "The State Requests That Citizen Liu Win Gold" that provides a window into the special place of Liu Xiang in China's government built sports machine.

In swimming, the eyes of the world will be focused on Michael Phelps. Will he manage to get the eight Olympic golds this year and pass Mark Spitz who since 1972 has held that record when he won seven golds in Munich? The same issue of Play Magazine mentioned above has a story called "Out There" which deconstructs Phelps swimming technique in trying to explain his magic. Our family is certainly rooting for Phelps, particularly my four year old who only a few weeks ago matter of factly informed his swim camp director that he is going to be Michael Phelps.

Happy Watching!!!