Archive for the ‘Leisure’ Category

Two new recordings (and a competition)

One of my favorite Broadway composers of the last decade is Jason Robert Brown. I’ve long had dreams of performing in one of his shows, professionally (yeah, right) or even in a local theatre group. In fact, last year I wrote about auditioning for a show (and later about not getting the part). That show was one of his.


Last week, he posted an entry to his blog stating that he had found a few rehearsal recordings he’d made for a production of one of his shows (Songs For A New World, a song from which I sang on my senior recital), and thought that it would be fun to host a little Jason Robert Brown karaoke contest. He posted the recordings of him playing the piano and asked people to record themselves singing the songs.

I decided that this would be a lot of fun.

So here are the two entries that I posted. And here’s the deal: If you listen to these and you like them, then I ask you to send an email (before August 10th, mind you) to, and in the Subject line, put “I Vote For Andrew Coutermarsh”. I don’t hold any delusions that I would win the competition, but it would be nice to be a finalist. It’s hard to tell, with some of the fan clubs that people have online.

The songs:

(If you can’t use the flash player, the title of the song is also a link to the MP3. The flash player is for ease of use.)

She Cries

King of the World

More Fireworks Photos

I attended the fireworks tonight at Sail Fest in New London, this time properly armed with my camera’s tripod and a newly-purchased cable release (well, technically it isn’t a cable release, since it’s a digital camera; I think it would probably be more apropos to call it a wired remote). The problem with having a tripod is that it doesn’t really give you the freedom to move about, nor does it offer you much opportunity to change focus or zoom very readily. I tried, but a lot of these photos came out looking the same, given that they were all framed the same and they were all taken from exactly the same position. Still, I guess that it’s the content that provides the “changes” needed, and some of these really came out well.

Photos taken on a Canon Digital Rebel XT with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens.

Independence Day Explosions

I was celebrating Independence Day with some friends in New Hampshire and we went down to the docks at Lake Winnipesaukee to watch the fireworks. I got several photos and decided to post them.

Photos taken on a Canon Digital Rebel XT with an 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 zoom lens.

Best. Birthday Week. Ever.

First, I want to thank everybody for the birthday wishes (it was Thursday, if you didn’t know); it meant a lot.

I took Thursday and Friday off last week and went down to visit a friend in Philadelphia. Having never been to Philly, it was a very interesting trip. I’d never driven down the Jersey Turnpike before, so it was… educational, to say the least. It was actually much more fun than I thought it would be—the traffic on the Turnpike itself wasn’t bad at all. Hell, the traffic up to the George Washington Bridge was far worse than what came after it.

The mini-vacation was pretty laid-back, which was nice. My friend Mike and his girlfriend Meg were consummate hosts and they made me feel completely at home. Even their pets did a great job at that: their cat, Charlie, spent the night with me the whole time I was there, and both dogs (Ralphie, a beagle/something mix, and Stella, a full-blooded beagle) spent a good amount of time on the bed with me as well. We went out to dinner on Thursday night, then Meg had to go to bed because she had to work on Friday. Mike and I stayed up and I showed him the wonders of Guitar Hero, which he’d never seen.

Friday was somewhat of a lazy day; while Meg was at work, Mike and I went out to lunch, then came back and put on the Porcupine Tree DVD, at which point I fell asleep on the couch (with the cat lying on top of me). Waking refreshed, we took the train out to Mike’s friend’s apartment; said friend was holding a “Bro-BQ” (i.e. no girls allowed). Several hours of food and beer later found Mike and I waiting for the last bus on the route to take us back, and an extremely grumpy but very nice bus driver allowed me to ride even after I, idiot that I was, hadn’t realized that I would need exact change for the bus fare and only had a $10 bill.

Saturday saw the three of us all sleeping late—I was up the earliest at 9:30, at which point I showered and then headed downstairs so as not to disturb the others, started reading (On Writing, by Stephen King, which is an awesome book), and after about twenty minutes promptly fell asleep on the couch (with—you guessed it—the cat lying on top). Once the others got up I joined them and they made us a big home-cooked breakfast (did I mention what awesome hosts these people were?). The idea was brought up to me after lunch of going to an amusement park—a water park-slash-amusement park, to be more precise, and given that it was going to be around 90 degrees that day, it sounded like a wonderful idea. A trip to Target later for a swimsuit and we were off. We got to Dorney Park around 4:30 and waited 15 minutes before entering the park, because we got in at half price and lots of people were leaving, which was nice. What wasn’t nice, however, was my not thinking about what was on my feet. I had worn my shoes to the park, because I knew that we’d be riding roller coasters and stuff later on, and I had just assumed that I would walk barefoot around the water park, but what I hadn’t planned was that the cement would be textured like the rough side of Mount Everest. It wasn’t but ten minutes before my feet had holes in them so large you’d have thought I had the stigmata. I went on one water ride and couldn’t deal with it anymore, so I went to the first aid station to get bandaged up—they gave me bandages and waterproof tape and asked me why I hadn’t bothered to get “aqua socks”, which had been on sale at the front of the park. I stated simply that if I’d known they sold them I would have bought them but I hadn’t seen any signs (and sure enough, the only signs for them that I could see were visible only when looking toward the exit of the park). Long story short, I’m wearing giant band-aids on the soles of my feet and they hurt. :( But it was made up for with many, many rides on some really, really awesome roller coasters (there were something like seven of them in the park).

Sunday was another sleep-in day for us. Mike and I had made plans to play a round of golf in the morning, but that was squashed the night before, given the situation with my feet and the fact that the roller coasters had pretty much made us all extremely sore. It was essentially a morning to recover and prepare for what turned out to be the most surprising and pleasing part of my trip:

On Thursday, while I was driving down, I had stopped to get gas and my phone rang. It was my friend Melissa, calling to wish me a happy birthday. Melissa moved with her fiance to Tampa a few years ago and I hadn’t seen her since the going-away party, and over the last while we haven’t talked as much as we would like, so it was a real treat to hear from her. She asked if I was at work, so I told her what my plans for the weekend were, and when she heard that I was going to be in Philly, she excitedly told me, “I’ll be there too! I’m coming up on Sunday for a conference. We should have lunch when I get in!” So I agreed to meet her at the airport and we would go to lunch. So when I got to the airport, I had no idea where we could go—she suggested that we just start heading north on the highway, since that was the direction she was headed toward her hotel, too. I had no clue as to where we would eat, so we kind of kept an eye on the sides of the highway for a decent place to eat, and then Melissa spotted a sign pointing to an area of town that she thought her hotel was in, so I pulled off that exit. We found a pizza place to eat, caught up for an hour or so, and then I took her to her hotel, which luckily only happened to be about a mile and a half from where we were (thank you, Melissa’s quick eyes and Google Maps on my phone!), said our goodbyes and I headed back to the highway.

A long, long drive later, including about an hour and a half waiting for the GW bridge and I-95 past it again, and I finally got home last night at around 8:30. I was exhausted and not altogether ready to come back to work today, but after all that it was good to be home, even though there are no pets coming to keep me company this evening.

Thanks again to Mike & Meg, and to those of you who remembered my birthday. :)

Ahh, the holidays.

Spent the last several days up in Vermont with my family and am now home after enjoying the spoils of yet another successful holiday feast. Much cajoling was had, and I believe that after all was said and done, several gallons of wines of differing types were consumed.

Now that’s my kind of holiday.

Most of my time after getting home was spent tinkering on my computers (new extra large hard drive means that I have to clone some drives and move one to another machine for more space there too) and setting up the new surround speaker set I bought on the way home with some Christmas money (thanks, Dad!), spent, of course, in the not so glorious solitude to which I have become accustomed.

I just came to the realization, though, that as much as I liked getting home to my own place, I really enjoyed being with my family. I made the remark to my sister this past Saturday, after leaving my grandmother’s farm, that too many people dread spending time with their families at the holidays. I’m glad that I don’t. Every time I see my family—extra large, of course, thanks to our proper Catholic upbringing—I have a fantastic time. Every time. I love spending time with my family, holidays or otherwise, and only spending time with my closest friends can even come near that.

I guess that’s a pretty rare thing. Most times, I don’t really think about it, but the holidays always bring out the sentimentalist in me.

Next up: Where am I spending New Year’s? Come on, people, I need invitations to megaparties! I’ll drive anywhere as long as I’m given a place to crash at the end of the night—although, I suppose, I could always stay up all night and drive back without any sleep. But most of all, I need a set of female lips to kiss at midnight. Are the requirements clear? Good then. Chop chop!

I got a halo ’round me

My friend Nick sent me an IM on Thursday, asking me if I wanted to go up to Boston that night to see Porcupine Tree. He had an extra ticket, fourteenth row at the Berklee Performing Arts Center, for face value at forty bucks. I knew I probably shouldn’t be spending that kind of money (plus God knows how much else on food and parking in the city), so even though I’d never seen them and desperately wanted to, I politely declined. He responded that he would see if he could find anybody else to take the ticket and would get back to me later in the day if they hadn’t.

A few hours later, he sent me another message saying that he’d had no takers on the ticket, and it was now selling for the LOW! LOW! PRICE! of just twenty bucks. I reconsidered the idea of going to a concert in Boston on a Thursday night. The travel wasn’t TOO big a deal, although it would be pushing it for me to get out at five and make it all the way to Boston with enough time to get food and hit the theatre by eight, but Nick didn’t have any desire to go see the opener, so that left me with a little bit more time. Staying out late wouldn’t be an issue, because this was my first week of working Sunday through Thursday, so my week was over come Thursday evening and I could sleep in on Friday. In the end, I decided that the price was unbeatable, and fourteenth-row seats to one of your favorite bands in a great-sounding hall was too much to pass up, so I decided to make the trip.

Naturally, though, I didn’t actually get out of the parking lot at work until about 5:30, and I knew I’d be hitting some traffic on the way into the city (and sho ’nuff I did), and then, because Boston is one of the most hellish cities to drive in, I got kind of lost on my way to the venue. I then proceeded to drive for a good half hour looking for a parking space on the street (partway through this, I picked Nick up so that he could help me find a space and so that we wouldn’t be talking it over on the phone), during which time no less than five open spaces were taken by the car directly in front of me. It was becoming positively comedic. Finally, I decided to head to a parking garage near where Nick used to live (I’d stayed there once so I was somewhat familiar with the area) and happened to be just down the street from the venue. It would be $19 for the evening (making me glad that I only had to pay twenty for the ticket) to park, but I suppose in the long run it was better anyway, given that I had my laptop and golf clubs in the trunk.

I grabbed a bite to eat (and answered a long-awaited call from Nature) at a nearby Wendy’s and then we headed to the venue, where they told me I couldn’t bring in the drink I had purchased at aforementioned Wendy’s (I was practically done with it anyway as I’d gotten a good, y’know, two or three sips out of it). It’s a good thing they didn’t allow drinks, too, because we certainly didn’t need liquid refreshment in the ninety-degree heat of the performance space. I think Berklee forgot to pay their air conditioning fixit man.

As for the show itself, I certainly cannot complain. Having never seen this band live before, I didn’t know what to expect, and what I got was far more than I could have imagined. For the first hour, they played entirely new material. None of it had even been recorded yet. I don’t remember much of it except that it was amazing. The rest of the show consisted almost completely of my favorite songs from their two latest albums. The only disappointment was that they couldn’t play their last song because the singer’s voice had started to go out on him and I guess they were running just long enough that they didn’t have quite enough time to do it.

The acoustics were fantastic. The band was just barely too loud, but if I had been smart and brought/bought earplugs, it would have been perfect. The drums were the best-sounding drums I’ve ever heard live of any band ever, and the mix was pretty great except when the vocals would get slightly buried. But my favorite part of the show was that it was a seated venue, so I didn’t have to worry about my problematic feet causing, er, problems. (I’m not sure if this is just me getting too old for rock shows or if I get a pass because of my ankle issues.)

So when they get back to England after this tour, they’re going to hit the recording studio, and then they’ll be back here in the spring, touring again to support the new album. I can definitely say that after seeing this show (and hearing this new material), I’m definitely going to catch them again on the next tour.

And now it’s entirely too late and I need to get to bed because I have to work tomorrow.

(For those curious: The subject title of this post is a lyric from one of Porcupine Tree’s songs off of their newest album, Deadwing.)

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