Friday, March 23, 2012


A few months ago, Angie and I decided to spend an afternoon checking out the Iowa Hall of Pride.  We had both heard of it and walked past it several times but didn't know too much about it.  It was not quite what I was expecting.  I was expecting a celebration of all the great things about Iowa, a combination museum and visitors center...

I was expecting some of these:

  • Famous and important people from Iowa
  • Made even Iowa portrayed in fiction and the movies (because seriously nearly every "going to the big city character" comes from Iowa)
  • Fun Iowa facts
  • Iowa history
  • Iowa's and Iowan's contribution to the world
  • Info on how Iowa compares to other states (and countries) and where we excel
  • Interesting sites and places around the state
  • Things to do and things to see
  • How Iowa has changed
  • A "Made in Iowa" gift shop

What I got:

  • Iowa high school sports
  • Other famous Iowans
Here is the layout from what I remember: over 3/4 quarters of the space dedicated to high school sports and activities and a small section for everyone else from Iowa.

Might not be 100% accurate...because it was months ago, and I didn't think I  would have to remember.
The essence, however, is accurate.

I found this very disappointing and a little depressing.  It made it seem like everyone in Iowa peeked in high school.  Surprisingly (to no one), I didn't really participate in high school activities or I really didn't relate to any of these displays except for "Yep, we had football at our school."

Besides me disagreeing with the focus of the entire place, I still had many issues with the Hall of Pride.  I was a nice area, the overall design of the hall and the few art pieces were really nice.  However, the exhibit and "High Tech" portion with the interactive displays left much to be desired.  It was a good idea...but the implementation was poor:  
Exhibits looked cool and interesting from afar...but were boring
and all the monitors had burn-in images.
  • All the screens had burnt in images of the main menu...really?  You are supposed to be high tech and didn't build in a screen saver?  It was annoying and really made the place have a kind of dumpy feel, like an old arcade where everything is run down and beat up.
  • The menu systems were terrible and it didn't really explain what anything was...just had a bunch of things that you could push and some would be obvious like sound bytes or videos but then you would have weird labels and I never had any idea what it was until I touched them.  I can't think of a specific one right off hand, but they would take you to trivia games or sport rules or state winners, etc...but that is not how they were listed on most screens.
  • The menus made it too interactive...but not in a fun way.  If you wanted to hear a Shawn Johnson speech, you would think that you could pick "Speeches" then chose one of the various speeches.  Which is what you did, but once you chose a speech it was then broken down into twenty 30 second sound bytes...and there was no option to "Play all" would chose a sound byte like "Inspiration", wait for it to load, watch for 30 seconds, wait for the menu to load and then choose another sound byte...repeat.  And of course, you had to remember what you just watched in the list (and the titles didn't always match up great with the section of the speech) because it did not tell you which one you just watched or which was next.  There were just columns of various titles....and which order did they go in - did you go across the row and then down to the next row, or did you go down one column before starting the next?  These sound bytes were supposed to be independent but I also think there was something missing by not being able to watch the entire speech in the correct order.
  • There was no good way to navigate the museum and hit everything.  It is nice to be able to bounce around from one exhibit to the next without following a mapped out route (especially if it is busy), but it is also nice to be able to follow a route and hit everything...there was just not a clear cut route.  We were always jumping from one wall to a middle exhibit, to around the exhibit, back to the wall.  It felt very easy to miss things.
  • The displays were equally disorganized and boring.  Things like "hear the roar of the crowd" or "learn about the difference wrestling positions"...stuff that I think could be a nice add-on to a good exhibit, but not a major feature of an exhibit.  The main part of most exhibits was after page of info.  Not really that interactive. Unless you were really interested in the minute details of a sport it was just boring.  I just wanted to see highlights or exciting moments (and told why they were exciting...because I didn't always get the ones that they did have).
  • Physical displays were often not labeled.  Was this uniform worn by someone famous?  An All-State champ or is it just an example of what a uniform looks like?  And if it is an example, what school is it from?  Random jerseys, cleats, and helmets abounded...with no label as to what it was.  I kind of felt like I was in a sporting goods store.
  • The "fun" interactive displays didn't always at one of the fitness kiosks "Run for 2 minutes and then check your heart health" - I ran but then the machine did nothing as far as feedback.  There was some vaguely interesting ideas to have video cameras scan you and put you in a game (like trying to get a basketball tip off) but the tech seemed really old and wonky compared to the Kinect in my living room.
  • Some of the interactive games/exhibits cost money.  You would get $2 worth of tokens for each paid entrance...but I guess I didn't see the point of making some of the games free and some cost a token or two.
It wasn't all bad, there were a few things that I liked...the problem was that most of what I liked didn't really fit with what I was expecting:
  • Some interactive exhibits were kind of the baseball umpire game, where you would look through a device and would get an umpire's view of a pitcher.  You would then have to tell if it was a strike or ball.  Kind of fun once or twice.
Sliding Electronic Screen - good idea poor execution.
  • The sliding electronic screen in the heroes hall.  This screen road along rails in the wall and would sense which Iowa hero it was over.  The screen would then bring up more information on that particular person.  A neat idea..  The problem was that all the info that it brought up was 90% text with (maybe) a couple photos.  This screen could have been put to much better use with video, talking presentations, diagrams, etc...
  • The arcade...of course I would like the arcade, but it seemed odd to me.  Yes, they were all sports based games (so it fit in with the High School Sports theme kind of).  This is the only part of the entire hall that seemed really fun.  It was nothing special - just several basketball toss games, a football toss game and the like.  The outstanding highlight was the Silver Strike Bowling.  This particular game you stood on a piece of bowling lane that ran under the game cabinet and then curved 90 degrees and ran up to the ceiling.  This affected the game play in no way, but it was a very cool presentation.  So Angie and I had $4 worth of tokens and we were pretty much bored with the games after $2 worth.  They just were not anything special (to me)...they might be to young kids though.
  • The introduction theater - where you watch a 5 minute movie before entering the hall was really nice.  It should be put to better use.

Change Tab to IHSAA and this is how
the Hall of Pride feels...but not smiling.
I don't know who their audience is, but by focusing so much on high school sports...I think it is really limited.  I mean, would travelers from out of state want to visit the Hall?  I can't imagine they would.  It seems specifically built for school field trips...but really doesn't add much to learning about Iowa besides sports.  I think the Iowa High School Athletic Association was the biggest donor and supporter of the Hall of Pride and it shows...too much.  It was like "Hey its Iowa - we have High School Sports! You like High School Sports, right?  Because we got them...the High School Sports.  Did you hear about High School Sports in Iowa?  Oh yeah, did I mention High School Sports?  You know, we have lots of things to be proud of in High School Sports!" It really didn't fill me with pride for the state.  I wanted to be awed and amazed and learn cool things about Iowa, instead I was bored by sports (and high school sports at that).  Iowa Hall of Pride, I wish I had more hands to give you more thumbs down.  I learned more and felt more proud of my state after viewing the "Iowa Nice" video. Be proud and watch Iowa Nice below:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Diabolical Deeds

On Saturday, one of Des Moines' newest rock bands, No Good Deed,  made their live debut.

This show was a little special for brother, Kelly, just happens to be one of the guitarists in No Good Deed (and I had previously met several other members over the years).  Kelly has been messing around on guitar for over 20 years now.  I say messing around because I don't think he really had much drive to be in a band, he just liked playing guitar.  And despite having to listen the intro of Sweet Child O' Mine being mangled time after time in 1990-1991, you could tell that he had a good ear and picked up the guitar relatively quickly (we are not talking prodigy here, but given the same amount of practice he would be better than the average person).  It was a hobby that came and went.  He would play a lot for a couple years and then the guitar would virtually disappear for a couple...but it never went completely away.  Kelly's talent increased over the years and although told by many, many people he never joined a band.  I always imagined this response:

 I understand.  I am lazy too and doubt my talents for all things.  Its good, if you are happy you can do what you want, but I always felt that it was a shame.  Not necessarily that he wasn't in a band, but more because guitar was mainly a solitary activity for him...I don't know a lot about music (I have no talent myself) but I have seen the joy that group of people playing together and creating something larger than themselves can bring.  I was glad when he started playing with a couple of the guys from NGD a few years ago.  I really didn't think anything would come of it, but I was hoping he was getting that feeling of melding musically.  The band was off and on again a few times over the past couple years (depending on how hectic everyone's lives were).

About a month ago, Kelly sent me a message to save the date...March 3rd, the band was playing their first show.  I had heard talk of "the band" many times over the years, but had never actually heard them play.  I wasn't even sure what type of music they would play...Kelly and I both enjoy a pretty wide gambit of musical tastes.  Of course, I was going.  Kelly and I have gone to hundreds of shows together, the least I could do would be to show up for his gig.  Plus, the concert poster they made was awesome.  Even if I had never heard of the bands, I would have gone to this show based on the poster alone.  Good advertising pays off.

Love this poster

The location wasn't the best for live music - The Fremont.  I didn't know The Fremont had live music, they actually do have a smaller side room where bands and other performances take place.  I had no idea...and once I got there I knew why.  It was small.  But still good for a beginning band.  I guess the sound system wasn't great either and No Good Deed ended up setting up their own PA.  There were many obstacles to overcome to play a decent set...but the die was cast and a show there would be.

Fellow local band Hath No Fury opened and played a short but decent set.  Finally, No Good Deed took the (very small) stage.  Unfortunately, I know that several people didn't realize this and missed the show because they were in the bar's main room.  Its too bad, because for a debut show No Good Deed did a pretty good job.  They were a little loud for the size of room they were in and I felt a little bad for all the people that didn't have ear plugs (I always have mine).  You could somewhat tell that they were new to performing - lots of sweat, and sometimes looking a little scared to move too much.  They encountered and overcame small technical glitches and kept the show going at a good pace.  Communication between band members needs to be worked on and they need to get a little more comfortable on stage.  But for a first was good.

Kelly, Rob, and Doug - rocking
No Good Deed sounded decent and tight (for the most part) and played a wide variety of music - half original, half covers.  How to categorize?  Well the best category is just general Rock.  Their original songs reminded me of a little heavier Jimmy Eats World...that isn't quite right, but it was the first thing that popped into my mind. Being a relatively new band (only 5 practices with the bass player before Saturday's show), NGD don't quite have their own cohesive sound developed...but they do have talent and I was impressed by their original songs.  I am really looking forward to seeing them progress as they perform more.  I don't think they are going to huge rockstars or anything like that (since so few do) but I think they can have a pretty good past-time/side career playing local gigs.  This is the type of band that I would enjoy going to see often (even if I wasn't related).  Check out original song "Feeling Better" below...and check out more on their Reverb Nation page.  I think you will enjoy.

 You can next check out No Good Deed:

March 17th - The Gas Lamp (all day St Patty's fest).

April 7th - The Vaudville Mews.

I am not sure about the March 17th show, but I am sure I will be at Vaudville Mews in April.  Hope to see you there.