The Number of the Feast.

Well. This was bound to happen sooner or later, I suppose.

Here in Phoenix metro this week, someone found “666” swirled with frosting onto her child’s dinosaur birthday cake. Not just any birthday cake, either. The demonic cake was a COSTCO cake. See? I was right… Costco is evil. My Costco-induced panic attacks are NOT due to Costco being a chaotic warehouse of a special kind of too much of a good thing is a bad thing hell in which you’re supposed to be able to find what you’re looking for, frothing over with the ricocheting energy of hundreds of human-shaped mice let loose in a gigantic maze with rows and rows of towering boxes and crates and a million little pieces of cheese laying around everywhere, throwing the mice into confusion as they can’t decide which one to grab first so the pattern within the movement of the masses is schizophrenic as some of the mice wander aimlessly in a retail overload induced state of zombification while others dart hither and thither with varying degrees of harrowing spontaneity as they’re driven by impulse triggered by the things their eyeballs hone in on and ultimately their shopping carts collide like bumper cars and things get knocked over, and since it’s a warehouse, all the sounds in the entire place are amplified and bounce off of each other. Oh, no… the cause of my panic attacks in Costco is clearly written on this ominous cake expelled from the bowels of their bakery last weekend.


This is the Costco dino cake design selected by the child's grandmother.

This is the Costco dino cake design selected by the child’s grandmother.


The devil is in the details.

The devil is in the details.


Might I add that the Costco in question is the Superstition Springs one, which is near the Superstition Mountains, and we all know that the Superstitions are haunted. I mean, of course the demonic cake came from that location. Maybe an evil spirit flew down from the Superstitions to embed itself into this cake. And maybe if you play the music in that Costco backwards, you’d hear demonic whisperings commanding you to buy everything in sight.

Needless to say, the child’s mother was aghast at the 666 “hidden message” (what a clever visual pun of Satan’s, hiding the sign of the beast in a cartoonish beast’s cake-frosting legs) and took action just as quickly as the person who discovered the Virgin Mary emblazoned on a grilled cheese sandwich. This cake incident is actually unsurprising… if you believe in God, then you believe in the devil, and from this logic it follows that if the Virgin Mary is going to appear on a grilled cheese sandwich, then sooner or later, Satan is going to appear on a birthday cake.

Anyway, the news source carrying the article seems to be a Christian outfit out of the Midwest (judging by the listing of news items in the sidebar, and by the announcer’s accent… broadcast journalists at national stations use non-regional diction); I couldn’t find a hint of this demonic dinosaur cake item in the Arizona Republic/ or the East Valley Tribune or any other Arizona publication. I’m not sure why Yahoo News decided to pluck this article from the Examiner and insert it into its news feed that day, but they did, and that is how it came to my attention.

On that note, I’m off to get ready for work. Happy Friday, All!

Well Worth the Wait – I Finally Saw Iron Maiden!

I’m no longer a Maiden virgin.

Last night, English heavy metal band Iron Maiden ROCKED AUSTIN when they came through on their “Maiden England 2013” tour, and I’m here to tell you that the show they put on was nothing short of SPECTACULAR. My first time with this band could not have been better. The concert was every bit the legendary Iron Maiden theatrical feast for the eyes and ears I’ve glimpsed in videos, but never thought I’d get to experience live.

Iron Maiden was extraordinary!

They performed at the Austin360 Amphitheater at Circuit of the Americas, which is the home of the new Formula 1 racing track, so it’s Out There, compared to where we live. We rented a car for the occasion, facilitated by the fact that there’s an Avis conveniently located within easy walking distance from our apartment. As you might expect at a world-class racing track, the outdoor amphitheater was enormous… but it wasn’t big enough! We found ourselves in cozy company with hundreds of other screaming fans. The Austin360 amphitheater is the largest permanent stage in Central Texas with a total capacity of 14,000, and it was sold out for Iron Maiden.

We had lawn tickets, but we scored some high metal barstools where they were lined up on elevated concrete slabs behind a rail at the edge of the lawn. Positioned directly in front of the stage on the bottom-most slab, we enjoyed a fantastic view. It had rained earlier, so the night air was balmy and pleasant… the weather was beautiful for an outdoor concert at night. The ambience was amazing.

Going in, my expectations weren’t set too terribly high since the guys are older now… I wanted to give them that, to be fair. I was not expecting to be completely stunned by a powerful, high-octane performance that could only be described as phenomenal. This was the ultimate metal concert. The stage sets, the props (which included robotics and pyrotechnics), the sound and the musical performance, itself – the show’s theme seemed to be centered on Maiden’s 1988 Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album – combined to result in first-rate entertainment. It was all put together to staggering visual and auditory effect.

Iron Maiden gave us a show that was 110% heart and what had to be every ounce of their physical endurance. Throughout the hour and forty-five minute performance, they sprinted around and took flying leaps across the stage, constantly rearranging themselves from one end to the other. Bruce Dickinson appeared everywhere with swift agility, singing from both levels of the set and frequently wielding his mic like a harpoon. No way would I ever have guessed that these guys are in their mid-to-upper 50’s! Dickinson’s voice was spot-on impeccable, strong and clear, and his singing was as close to perfect as it gets. He might be aging, but his voice and lungs are clearly not.

Want to know what we paid for these tickets? A mere $40.00 each. That was all. (Black Sabbath was much more expensive.)

I took over a hundred photos, 16 of which I’m posting here. I regret to say that these are not good pictures. I’m not a photographer, and my camera has limited capabilities, so it was impossible to capture the dynamic stage presence, stamina, charisma and athleticism of these guys… but here they are, anyway – my attempt to give you an idea of what our four eyeballs raked in.

The entrance to the brand new and larger-than-life Circuit Of The Americas, which hosts Formula 1 races (a Renault F1 car sits there to attest of it) to X Games. It also vibrates to the tune of various concerts in the 360 Theater at its center.

The entrance to the brand new Circuit Of The Americas, which hosts everything from Formula 1 races (a Renault F1 car sits there in front) to X Games to concerts.


The stage from afar... the opening set

The stage from afar… the opening set


"The Prisoner"

“The Prisoner”


In constant motion!

In constant motion!


"The Clairvoyant," I think.

“The Clairvoyant,” I think.


Shadows and light


A long, vibrant and inspired "Phantom Of The Opera" took us on a lengthy musical journey.

A long, vibrant and inspired “Phantom Of The Opera” took us on a lengthy musical journey.


Bruce and his infamous flag, singing "The Trooper"

Bruce and his infamous flag, singing “The Trooper”


“The Trooper”

“Run to the Hills”


The crowd didn't have room to run up and down the grass of Circuit of the Americas, but some thrashing went on while the 10-foot General Custer roamed the stage, threatening to cut Adrian Smith's throat with his 4-foot sword.

The crowd didn’t have room to run up and down the grass of Circuit of the Americas, but some thrashing went on while the 10-foot General Custer roamed the stage, threatening to cut Adrian Smith’s throat with his 4-foot sword.

Run to the Hills!


Two-story Eddie, representing "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son."

Two-story Eddie, representing “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.”


The "Can I Play With Madness" set.

The “Can I Play With Madness” set.


An animatronic "Eddie" oversees "Can I Play With Madness."

An animatronic “Eddie” oversees “Can I Play With Madness.”


Our favorite visual: "Aces High."

Our favorite visual: “Aces High.”



(Many thanks to Callaghan for re-sizing the images for me while I wrote this text!)

The band’s energy was infectious, too. Afterward, we were so keyed up, we were famished. We ended up at the drive-through of the nearest Taco Bell at half-past midnight, where I ordered a black bean burrito with no cheese, and Callaghan ordered a 7-layer burrito.

And now, we still have this rental car on our hands, so we’re going to take advantage of it and go get heavy things in bulk, such as kitty litter. Also, we’re heading out to Round Rock tonight to meet up with some people Callaghan knows for cheap drinks. (Can’t argue with $3.00 beers for him and free club soda for me!)