Friday, July 30, 2004

Conventional wisdom

The DNC has packed up its circus tents and moved on, and it appears that Boston is still standing. I only know what I saw on the TV, because I stayed the hell away, as did a lot of people, apparently. The expected traffic nightmare never materialized because so many people were scared off by the hype. I didn't watch a whole lot of the coverage, but I did see Kerry's speech last night, which was surprisingly good. Also good was Bill Clinton's address earlier in the week, which was just a reminder of what a charismatic figure he is, especially compared to Kerry. At any rate, things will be getting back to normal around here.

If you haven't seen this yet, you definitely should. I interviewed one of the guys from JibJab.com a few years back when I was working for the Webnoize. Now they're the toast of the nation for this short, which is hi-larious.

A mere eight years after it first came out, "South Park" is going into syndication in the fall of '05. Why anyone will want to watch it in a heavily edited form (because you know it's going to be hacked to bits) is beyond me. I'll probably check it out just to see how lame it is, kind of like when "Pulp Fiction" was edited for TV several years back. Some things you just need to see in their original form. I don't watch any edited movies on the major networks. What's the point? As for "South Park," I was a rabid fan of the show for the first three or four seasons and then the movie came out, and it was awesome. And for some reason, I've never watched it again. I can't explain it. It's like I just felt there was no way they could top the movie, which was so over-the-top profane and hilarious. I could always rent the DVDs or something.

In Ronnie James Dio news, and I know you were waiting for some, the wizened wizard of metal used his broadsword to force California indie band Dios to change its name because he felt it was too close to the name of his band, Dio (duh). Dios is now known as Dios Malos, although they're not thrilled by it. In Rolling Stone (yeah, I know, RS sucks), bassist J.P. Caballero said, "It's pretty retarded...When we named our band we were thinking of God. [Dios] is 'God' in Spanish. That's what it means to hundreds of millions of people all over the world. It didn't really seem like there was going to be any point of confusion. We're up against rainbows and magic."

Apple just released the new 4G iPod. It's a little thinner, a little better, and the 20GB version is $299. I'm still rocking my 2G 10-gig iPod, which is working great for me. I run with it occasionally, but mainly I plug it into my speakers at work and enjoy the shuffle feature.

In addition to the Around the Cape 25K (15 miles for you non-metric folks) I'm running in September, I just signed up for the Applefest Half-Marathon in Hollis, NH, on October 2. I was thinking of doing the Maine Half-Marathon, but this is less of a drive. Plus my buddy Rick Johnson's running it, although he's way faster than I am.

Not a great week for dentists, both in and out of the office. Although in the first case, it was a lot worse for the patients. Yecch.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Vacation, all I ever wanted
 
I'm baaaaack. We got back yesterday from our trip to the Joisey shore, tired and sick and in my case, severely sunburned. Despite all that, it was a great vacation. We stayed at the Fairway Villas, a Marriott golf resort in Galloway, NJ, about 20 minutes from Atlantic City. Deb's brother Matt has a time share condo there that is big enough to hold both our families; his inlaws own the condo across the hall and they were there all week, too. We got there Saturday afternoon after a horrendously long drive down that included a flat tire in Connecticut, bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Garden State Parkway, and various crying fits from the girls. We hit Brigantine Beach a few times, which was a blast  but was also where I got scorched. I don't usually lie on the beach much because I'm prone to a skin rash from prolonged exposure, but I was running around with Hannah and then by myself in the ocean, where the waves were humongous. It was fun, but the last few days have been pretty uncomfortable. I also played a round of golf at one of the two courses at the villa. It was the first time I've touched the clubs in a year and I have to say I wasn't totally horrendous. We hit Atlantic City a few times; I didn't gamble at all, but Deb lost a few bucks on a slot machine. All in all, a lot of fun. The drive home yesterday had us dealing with torrential downpours through NJ and New York, in-car diaper changes (at a rest stop), and rush-hour traffic on Route 128. But we made it safe, sound and exhausted.
 
Starting tomorrow, I'm getting serious about getting back into primo running shape. I've put on about 10 pounds in the last year and I haven't been running as much since Lily came into the picture. I've decided to do the Around the Cape race on Labor Day in Gloucester, a 15-mile beast of an event that I've wussed out of doing the last few years. It should be a good challenge and it'll get me back to where I was; then I hope to do a half-marathon later in the fall. I've already started drinking more water and cutting back on unnecessary calories, so now that vacation is over I should start seeing  some results. I don't believe in fad diets, just food in moderation and plenty of exercise.
 
Thanks to the magic of TiVo, I've been able to watch shows I've been meaning to watch for years now. Like The Daily Show  with Jon Stewart. I've always been a fan of Stewart, who's a funny bastid I've been watching since he had his own talk show on MTV 10 years ago, and the show itself, which  I was watching when Craig Kilborn was the host. But I lost touch with it and finally remembered to start recording it last week. And goldangit if it ain't just one of the smartest, funniest things I've seen in a long time. There's definitely a political bent, so if you're looking for wacky headlines, stick to Leno. Stewart skewers both Bush and Kerry, but mainly Bush because there's just so damn much to make fun of. I highly recommend it as an alternative to both the network newscasts and political partisanship in general.
 
Speaking of politics, the Democratic National Convention kicks off this week in Boston, grinding all business and traffic to a halt while providing enough hot air to power all the casinos in Atlantic City. I'm so glad I don't work in Cambridge anymore, but going to work anywhere near Boston will be a nightmare for anyone for the next week.
 
Thanks to my mother-in-law, Deb and I were able to sneak out this afternoon for a rare movie and dinner date.  We decided to see "The Door in the Floor" because we had both read the book it was based on, John Irving's A Widow for One Year. The movie actually follows the first third of Irving's novel, which is an excellent book but as with most of his books, nearly impossible to condense into a two-hour movie. There's just too much going on. The film captures the off-kilter and complex feel of the book, and the cast led by Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger and Jon Foster is superb. Very rewarding experience. We saw it at a local second-run film house called Hollywood Hits, which charges less than the Loews googolplex across town and therefore attracts large numbers of old people and little kids. They also show a fair number of art-house flicks that are out of the mainstream, and it never fails when we see a movie there that some confused old couple stumbles out of the theater halfway through the movie because it wasn't what they expected. "Not enough doors, way too many floors!"
 
Mucho congrats to Paul Molitor, who along with Dennis Eckersley is being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday. I had always thought he was a great player, but when he signed with the Jays in '93, I really saw how great he was. An excellent hitter and consummate professional.
 
Speaking of great Jays, Pat Hentgen called it quits today. He was in the midst of an awful season and just decided he didn't have it anymore. He'll always be remembered as the first Jay to win a Cy Young award (in '96, followed by Roger Clemens the next two years and Roy Halladay last year) and was a member of the '93 World Series champion team along with Molitor.
 
Okay, that's enough for now.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Less Talk, More Blog

After my monstrosity of a post the other day, I figured I'd go back to my traditional format. Which, of course, is no format at all.

Michael "Thanksdad" Powell is back...with his very own blog. It's not really a blog, per se. Powell writes a column defending his stupid decisions and then a bunch of Always On members post responses, to which he posts responses. Not exactly riveting, but it is interesting to see the counterbalance of ass-kissers and Stern fans bashing the FCC chief. As a wise man once said, "His whole head sucks."

VH1 has begun airing its latest nostalgia fest, I Love the 90s. Ah yes, there's nothing like C-level celebs like Mo Rocca sharing their memories of pop culture. Who am I kidding, that stuff is like crack. Once you start watching it, it's hard to stop. Coming soon from VH1: I Love the Early 00s. Remember that crazy song, "Who Let the Dogs Out?" That was wack.

The baseball all-star game was tonight, and Fox annoyed me right from the start. Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie was slated to sing the Canadian national anthem before the game, but Fox figured we needed to see more Taco Bell commercials, so they didn't show it. They just cut back from commercial to the American anthem and the first pitch by Muhammad Ali. Puds. By the way, the new Hip album "In Between Evolution" is muy excellente. A lot rawer than their last several CDs, harking back to their first few albums. Looking forward to seeing them come back to the area.

Back to the all-star game, I had to laugh that after all the Clemens hype that Fox aired during the pre-game show (including a stupid intro based on "The Blues Brothers"), Roger came out and promptly got lit up for six runs in the first. That sound you heard was casual fans all over the country clicking back to whatever stupid reality TV show is on tonight.

It's the midway point of the baseball season and my Blue Jays are playing even crappier than expected, 10 games under .500 and fighting Baltimore for last place in the AL East. Sure, it hasn't helped that the bullpen sucks and they had significant injuries to their top four hitters--Delgado, Wells, Catalanotto and Greg Myers--but even when everyone was in the lineup in April, they were awful.

Rob Bradford was up in Toronto over the weekend doing a book signing for "Chasing Steinbrenner" with a group of Jays fans. He surprised them by bringing along a special guest: Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, who is featured in the book along with Sox GM Theo Epstein. I talked to Rob after he got back; he said people couldn't have been nicer up there, except for the print media, who don't like Ricciardi and therefore have snubbed Bradford and his book. They're just mad because the Leafs haven't done squat this offseason except remain old by signing all their geezer free agents. But that's another bitch session for another day.

I think the Brits are onto something here. Or is that on something?

This guy is not loving life. I just don't understand the attraction of it all.

Hold onto your hats: It's finally here. Or it's about to be. I saw a commercial for it the other night.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

One-way ticket to Geezerville

I'm not one to get maudlin about getting older. Yeah, I'm 36, but I don't feel that old. Other than the increasing amounts of gray hair, I don't look that old. I'm definitely in better shape than I was 10 years ago, and I was in pretty good shape then. But this week, I saw a few more telltale signs and reminders than usual of the passing of time.

For example, I got an email from a former classmate from my year-and-a-half in high school out in Richland, Wash., notifying me of our impending 20th high school reunion next summer. I didn't graduate from that school because we moved to New Hampshire after sophomore year, but my name is on the class list on Classmates.com because I was interested in catching up with some of my old friends there. Of course, Classmates.com now makes you pony up the dough in order to contact people, so it's pretty pointless if you don't pay the $30 a year; I have to rely on others doing so and wanting to contact me. If you don't pay, all you can do is see who else is signed up.

I had the distinct pleasure of attending four high schools, three of them my freshman year; all of this was because of my dad's nomadic job moves. I started at Pickering High School in Ontario, moved after three months, spent a month at a junior high in Richland, and then moved to Hanford High School after we rented a house across town. I was just starting to enjoy myself at Hanford when we moved again to Kingston, NH, where I finished school. I stayed in touch with a couple of friends from Richland until I got to college, when suddenly I just stopped writing back. What a dink. The surprising thing was, I'm usually not like that. I don't know why I just felt it appropriate to cut ties, but second semester freshman year at UNH, I guess I felt I was too busy with classes and partying to bother returning letters. It's too bad, because now I really wish I had. So wherever you are, Dan Schwartz and Andy Monko, I apologize. I was a tool. It would have been easier if we had email back then instead of snail mail; it's so much easier to stay connected to people nowadays. But the real problem was laziness.

I actually just got the scoop on Dan from the woman who emailed me about the reunion; guess he's been married twice and is a firefighter just north of Seattle. I already knew through Google searches that Andy is the publisher of Resonance magazine, a pretty cool-looking music and arts mag out of Seattle. I tried to email him a few years ago but never heard back. It's not totally surprising that he's followed this career choice, because he started a skatepunk zine called Bowling for Humans after I moved away and sent me a few copies. Very cool stuff. The funniest part of it is when I first met him, he was totally into dorky AOR crap like REO Speedwagon. Dude loved his REO; me, I was listening to Rush and Ozzy and Iron Maiden, and eventually I got him into heavier stuff. But within a few years, he turned into a punk rocker and was able to witness the burgeoning indie rock scene in Washington state that gave rise to bands like Nirvana and Mudhoney. I wish I was there to see it all with him. But he seems to have done pretty well for himself, so that's cool.

Another weird moment this week was finding out that the niece of my first girlfriend now works for my company. Michelle Nadeau was my date to the junior prom back in '84. We weren't dating for very long, about a month or so, and then she dumped my sorry ass about 10 days before said prom. Needless to say, it wasn't a fun evening. And since she was my first girlfriend, I was pretty bummed about the whole thing. Of course, time heals all wounds and I had other girlfriends. I used to hang out with Michelle a little when she went to UNH the year after I got there, although I never saw her after her freshman year and never really thought about her. We lost touch until a few years ago, when I saw her name on Classmates.com and tracked her down. We exchange the odd email every six months or so; she's married with two kids now and still feels bad about dumping me 20 years ago, which I found surprising. Hell, I was surprised she even remembered me. Anyhoo, she emails me and tells me her niece just graduated from college and got a job at my company. Still haven't met her, but when I do, it'll be a little strange.

The aging theme continued Saturday when we hosted a couple of my old roommates from UNH for a little BBQ action. I'm not talking about the computer nerd I roomed with freshman year; last thing I heard about that dork was that he dropped out of school. I lived off-campus the last two years of college with three football players, Rob, Danny and Will. We've all tried to stay in touch over the years (15 have passed since graduation--yikes), but in recent years, we've all settled down and had kids and that makes it tougher to get together. Rob was the first to get married, in '93 to Sara, who lived across the hall from us. They've got two beautiful girls, Alison and Caroline, aged 10 and 7. Will got married a few years later and has three kids now, but he's since moved to Colorado. And Danny got married in '98 and has two girls, Emma and Maggie. I was the last to tie the knot--four years ago on the 14th--and to have kids.

Rob and his family (who live near Nashua, NH) and Danny without his family were over at the homestead yesterday. I think it was the first time we've gotten together and no beer was consumed. Rob stopped drinking when Sara was pregnant with Alison, and Dan had a three-hour drive to Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn. I didn't want to be the only one drinking, so I stuck to soda. It was great to see the guys; don't think I'd seen Dan since my wedding and I believe the last time I saw Rob was meeting him for golf several years ago. But as we sat there and reminisced and saw our kids play together, it just struck me as amazing that so much time had gone by and so much had changed. It also made me realize we need to get together more often, which means we need to work harder at it.

On a much sadder note, we found out Friday evening that Deb's grandmother Ruth had died at the age of 89. She had been battling stomach cancer for a while and had kept her spirits up all the while. Ruthie was a tough lady, and a real sweetheart. We knew she was nearing the end because she was under 24-hour care for the last little while and was just transferred to hospice care, which meant she had less than 30 days. The funeral was today in Warwick, RI, so we headed down and saw much of Deb's family on her father's side (her maternal grandmother, Sadie, died in '98). It was nice to see all the people whose lives she had touched and to share in the ceremony, even though I was in a side room with Lily along with sis-in-law Tricia, who was her baby, Tim. We heard Deb's Uncle Jim give a truly moving eulogy (the audio was piped into the room) that really captured Ruth's spirit. She definitely made the most of her time here, something I hope to do as well.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Of mice and men

So it was back to work today after the long weekend, things were crazy, and I was looking forward to kicking back and relaxing tonight. I go to make myself a gourmet dinner--Campbell's chicken rice soup--and I notice a small black grain on top of the can. Could it be? Nah. I wash off the lid and make my dinner, but the thought nags at me. I go back and look in the pantry and sure enough, there were plenty more of those little black mouse turds throughout. The evening turned into me and Deb cleaning out the pantry, throwing out all opened food, and putting a mouse trap (the kind with the bait that lures them into a plastic box, not the gross, old-fashioned spring-loaded sucker). Fun stuff.

We were psyched to attend the Red Sox-Oakland game this Thursday. I had purchased the tickets from OJ's buddy Rob "Guitar" Matthews, who has season tickets, as Deb's birthday present. We hit a snag, however: no babysitter. Deb's mom has to work, the neighbor's daughter who used to babysit Hannah moved out a while back, and nobody else can do it. So I'm going to have to unload the tickets, which is too bad.

Way to go, NY Post. You guys really scored with your "Kerry Picks Gephardt" scoop. Nobody else had that one. I was glad Kerry picked Edwards, who seems to have actual charisma. Maybe some of it will rub off on wooden Kerry.

The Fourth of July long weekend was fun. Spent the day Saturday up at bro-in-law Steve's father-in-law's place (say that 10 times fast) on Lake Winnepesaukee. It was a good time. I rode a jet ski for the first time (Steve drove, I held on for dear life). Matt, Tricia and the boys were up for the weekend, so the house was loud and crazy as Hannah and Danny ripped it up. Sunday, we went to the horribles parade in Beverly Farms, where my old roommates Mike and Roger were on a float. Then just grilled all afternoon. Good stuff.

I finished a good book last night, "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole. Simply hi-larious. The book has an interesting back story, as Toole wrote it in '66 and then never saw it published because he committed suicide three years later. His mother eventually got it published in 1980 after showing the manuscript to another novelist. I had been wanting to read this since I first heard of it in 1981, when drummer extraordinaire Neil Peart of Rush namechecked it in a first-person article he wrote for the Toronto Star about life on the road. Well worth the wait.

Now I'm starting on my buddy Rob Bradford's "Chasing Steinbrenner," which I've mentioned here before. It's gotten good reviews and Rob's been doing lots of press, including ESPN2's "Cold Pizza" show this morning. It's also available from his publisher, Brassey's.

DLR Update: Good ol' David Lee Roth has been popping up in the strangest places lately. He sang with the Boston Pops on the Esplanade for the 4th of July festivities. He had his band with him and did "Jump" on the national broadcast and "California Girls" on the local one. It was weird to see him with short hair and a suit--definitely had a lounge-act look to him, which probably makes sense. It was fun to watch, but strange at the same time. Just like Dave.