Monday, August 30, 2004

Strange days indeed

So there I am, watching the men's marathon in the Olympics and marveling at how great Brazilian Vanderlei Lima was doing, as he was leading the race by a decent margin with about three miles to go. Then all of a sudden, this wacko comes running out of the crowd and tackles the poor guy. Bystanders pull the nutjob off Lima, who's obviously stunned but keeps going. Alas, he soon was passed by Italian Stefano Baldini and American (by way of Eritrea) Meb Keflezighi, but he managed to at least hold on to win the bronze. There's no guarantee Lima would have won the gold because Baldini was coming on strong, but what a crappy way to lose it. Turns out the mad tackler was a former Irish priest who did something similar at a European Grand Prix race last year, running out into the middle of the track during a race, forcing racers going 200 mph to swerve around him. His cause is to proclaim the end of the world. What a strange way to end the Olympics, but at least it was free of any terrorism.

The Republican National Convention is underway in NYC, with thousands of protesters converging on the city to voice their opposition to Dubya. Meanwhile, the Republicans are getting their groove on, as evidenced by this fine fellow.

The audience at the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday booed both Kerry's daughters and Bush's daughters as they made a plea for the yutes of America to get out and vote. Apparently, the crowd wanted the show to get back to its main focus: the lip-syncing of crappy songs.

A week away from my big race, and now my right Achilles tendon is acting up. Fortunately, I was already cutting back on the miles, so it's rest, ice and Advil for the next few days. Hopefully, I'll be able to get through the race without any problems.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Summer's Up

It's not quite over, but summer's winding down, that's for sure. Deb's back to work next week and the kids are off to daycare. It's disappointing, but I enjoy the fall, too. It's a great time of year to run outside. And my birthday is next month, although that's not much of a big deal anymore.

Okay, I admit it. In the week or so since I wrote that I didn't care about the Olympics this year, I've found myself watching it a little more. Part of the reason is Deb's totally into it, so it's on our TV regularly. But also, I appreciate the athleticism and hard work that goes into the events. I've taken more of an interest in the track and field events this time around. And even though I've been a U.S. citizen for 15 years, I still root for Canadian athletes to do well. It was a bummer today to hear that hurdler Perdita Felicien, who was the heavy favorite to win the gold in the women's 100M hurdles, tripped on the first hurdle and blew her chance at a medal. She's also from Pickering, Ontario, where I lived from age 7 to 14 before we moved to the U.S. She's only 23, so hopefully she'll be able to win it in 2008.

So what's the deal with Gail Devers' nails? If she gets an eyelash in her eye and absently pokes at her eye, she could rip her cornea out.

Hey, Van Halen's suing somebody, and it isn't David Lee Roth. They're going after the Baltimore Orioles for allegedly reneging on a deal to have VH play at Camden Yards. Apparently, the O's discovered they could get DLR to perform AND sell hot dogs at the same time.

I'm psyched for next Monday, when the World Cup of Hockey kicks off. It's a preseason exhibition tournament featuring teams from the major hockey powers in the world: Canada, the U.S., Russia, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Germany (guess they needed a round number). The teams are made up of the best NHL players, although many won't be playing because of injury or contract situations. The last World Cup (formerly known as the Canada Cup) was in 1996, when the U.S. beat Canada in the final. This time, Canada is the heavy favorite, with GM Wayne Gretzky hoping to pull off similar success to the gold medal his Canuckian team won at the 2002 Olympics. Mario Lemieux is playing along with many other stars, but the U.S. beat them last night in an exhibition game. The sad thing is, this may be the only hockey we see all season because of the ongoing labor problems in the NHL. The current collective bargaining agreement expires on September 15, right after the World Cup ends. Unfortunately, the already weak NHL will lose even more fans and money if there's an extended work stoppage. My guess is they'll work something out by January and play half a season, like they did 10 years ago. Dumbasses. The Leafs may not even get the chance to disappoint me this year. I'm sure my wife is really bummed about that.

The pro sports league that has it right is the NFL. They've got a salary cap, nonguaranteed contracts, and a short schedule that ensures that every game is an event. I'm spoiled because I live in New England and root for the Patriots, but it wasn't always like this. Before Parcells got here in '94, the Pats were godawful. But it wasn't until Bob Kraft hired Bill Belichick that the Pats really turned into a powerhouse. Two Super Bowls in three years is nothing to sneeze at. Even though they were pummelled by the Bengals the other night in an exhibition game, the Pats will be tough to beat this year.

This is the kind of the thing that makes the Onion so freakin' great. Along with all the other things.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Sunday afternoon in the blog

It's a gorgeous day here in Beverly. Crisp, sunny in the 70s, a complete reversal of the mugginess we've had for the last little while. So what am I doing here on the computer? Good question. Well, I ran 13 miles on the Around the Cape course with Matt and two speedier runners, Rick and John. Of course, they were off in the distance but we still ran over a minute faster per mile, which is probably way faster than we'd run the race. But we felt okay--except for some choice moments on some of the particularly tough hills. My big worry is that race day (Labor Day--two weeks away, dammit!) will be hot and sticky. Both times we ran the course, the temps were cool. Whatever, we'll be fine.

I also mowed the grass in the backyard today after what seems like an eternity of letting it go. It was pretty thick, especially with some of the big thunderstorms we've had lately. And I've got a couple of softball games tonight. So I'm not a total slug.

VH1 continues its descent into suckiosity (except for the excellent VH1 Classic channel) with its latest reality TV show: They're searching for losers who look like the Partridge Family. Do we really need another version of that crappy Brady Bunch ripoff? Not to mention the fact that most of the people vying to get on the thing probably have never even seen it.

Ever feel like all those heist movies are totally implausible? Two dudes in Oslo went into a museum armed with handguns in broad daylight and walked out with Edvard Munch's classic painting, "The Scream."They must have some really tight security over there. A painting worth millions and that's all it took to get it. Amazin'.

More later.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Let the Games begin

The Athens Olympics kinda snuck up on me, and I have to admit, I'm not as into the games as I once was. A lot of it has to do with the network overkill: Bob Costas yammering on endlessly about Michael Phelps' favorite toothbrush, the heavily edited coverage airing hours after I already read the results on the Internet, and the jingoistic fervor that pervades every commercial. Not to mention the fact that I prefer the Winter Olympics, anyway. But a few days in, I find myself watching it from time to time, not constantly, but checking in. I'm rooting for the Canadian baseball team to win a medal, and I'll check out some of the track and field events, soccer, and other stuff. It definitely seems as though the Games have lost their luster, though. When I was a kid, you watched whatever event was happening, even if you couldn't stand it. Gymnastics? Sure. Synchronized swimming? You bet. But now? Forget it.

It seems like an idiot has to do this at every major sporting event. Has anybody actually gone to that web site?

Hurricane Charley may have kicked the crap out of Florida, but by the time he got up here, he was more like Uncle Charley from "My Three Sons," a cranky old buzzard: "Dammit, Ernie, can't you kids see I'm busy baking a cake?" We got a lot of rain Sunday morning, and me and my buddy Matt ran 12 miles in it on the hilly course of the Around the Cape race (15.5 miles) in Gloucester and Rockport. We were encouraged that despite the punishing nature of the course, we felt pretty good afterwards. Of course, it was a comfortable 65 Sunday; let's see how when the temps are in the 80s or 90s. The race is only a few weeks away. Deb has been doing well in her training for the B.A.A. Half Marathon; she ran eight miles this morning.

Near brush with near greatness: A good friend of mine dated the uberhot Blanchard Ryan when we were all attending UNH in the late '80s; she was a model then and went by her real name, Sue. Now she's starring in the "'Jaws' meets 'Blair Witch'" indie flick "Open Water." I only met her a few times, and to be honest, I hardly remember her (dude, it was a looooong time ago). I do remember that we were all amazed that my friend landed such a babe; I think they dated for a few years. She was on Conan O'Brien last Friday and still looks great. She hasn't had a lot of roles, but she might start getting some with all the attention she's getting for this movie. Meanwhile, my buddy is married and has a kid and is way too gentlemanly to ever discuss it, but he's the envy of those of us who know that he dated someone who is now semi-famous. Of course, we envied him back then, too.

Brush with greatness: Also when I was back at UNH, working as news editor of The New Hampshire, I had an encounter with another individual who went on to fame and fortune. There I was, just minding my own business at the news desk, when in walks some dorky looking dude with long hair, glasses and a beard. He had a flyer for his band's upcoming concert in the area and asked me if I could get it in the paper. I said sure and took it from him, but I guess I wasn't enthusiastic enough because he kept pestering me about it. Finally, I told him to get lost because he was getting on my nerves. I figured he was just another loser in a band going nowhere. That, my friends, was Trey Anastasio, lead singer and guitarist of Phish, which played its farewell show on Sunday in Vermont. Hey, what did I know?

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Monday, August 09, 2004

Auto blotto

Hola. Sorry for the gap between posts but it was a busy week. First and foremost, my car officially bit the big one. Things weren't looking good over the winter when the coolant kept leaking, but our mechanic was able to get it working again. Unfortunately, the same problem started happening again and it turns out the head gasket is cracked, which would require mucho bucks to fix it. Quite frankly, we decided it was too much. The car's a '94 Civic with 123,000 miles on it. I was hoping to get a couple more years out of it before we had to shell out for a minivan because we're still paying off the Maxima. I was only using it to go to Marblehead and back (round trip: 15 miles) every day, although there's a lot of idling involved because of the glacial crawl of traffic to and from M-head. We're not in the position to get a new car right now, especially with two kids going to daycare in the fall, which means we must get creative. I was thinking I could get a bike, but that won't work in the winter. Sooooooo....anybody got a car they don't want?

We've been through this before. Back when I was working at Webnoize, I was just using my '92 Hyundai to get to the train station and back. One blustery night in June 2000, just six weeks before we got married, a Nor'easter dropped an 800-pound tree branch on top of my car while it was parked in our driveway. Totaled the damn thing. The only thing that survived was my UNH alumni sticker, which Deb preserved in a frame with a couple of photos of the carnage. Since I was taking the train anyway, I went for a year and a half without a car to save money. It worked out okay because I was working in Cambridge and we had no kids, but once I came back to HCPro, I needed a car. And dammit, I still do.

The awful season for the Blue Jays continued yesterday as they fired manager Carlos Tosca after losing their third straight shellacking to the Yankees. Just about everything that could go wrong this year went wrong. It wasn't totally Tosca's fault, but it's always the manager who takes the fall when the team sucks. That said, he also made a lot of questionable moves with the bullpen, among other things. Well, at least I have the hockey season to look forward to--oh, crap. Go Pats!

ESPN.com compiled a list of some of the songs playing when baseball players step up to the plate? Pretty interesting, but what's up with Jays outfielder Reed Johnson requesting William Hung's version of "She Bangs"? Dude, the whole season is your fault.

I ran the Yankee Homecoming 10-miler last week and finished in 1:22 (an 8:15 per mile pace), which I was pretty happy with. Especially considering it was in the low 80s and humid as hell out, even with the rain we got at the start of the race. I started with my buddy Matt, who has clearly surpassed me in running ability during my hiatus from serious running. Man, I was sucking wind after two miles trying to keep up with him, so I just decided to let him go on and run by myself. Eventually, I got into a good rhythm and felt a lot better and finished pretty strong, only three minutes behind Matt. Two nights later, Deb ran the Beverly Homecoming 5K
and Hannah ran her first race, a 50-yard dash for kids 2 and under. She started off going to the right before straightening out and finishing strong, staying on her feet the whole time. And she wore her race number the rest of the night. Fun stuff.

Funkateer Rick James departed this mortal coil last week. Autopsy was inconclusive on the cause of death; he died in his sleep Friday. But let's face it, the dude lived an insane life. Crack, whores, crack whores; you name it, he did it. His "Behind the Music" was epic. But he did write some good songs: "Super Freak" and "Give It To Me Baby"chief among them. Unfortunately, he was also responsible for Eddie Murphy's music career; remember "Party All the Time"? In 1990, "Super Freak" was hijacked by MC Hammer for "U Can't Touch This," and James couldn't take advantage because he was rockin' the crack pipe. He cleaned up his act in the late '90s and tried to make a comeback before having a stroke. One of the most interesting factoids is James' shortlived band with Neil Young, the Mynah Birds, which was formed in Toronto while James was AWOL from the Navy. The band broke up before recording an album because U.S. authorities came to retrieve James, leaving Young and bassist Bruce Palmer to head to L.A. to form Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills. Very cool stuff, well documented in the fascinating Neil Young bio "Shakey,"which I read last summer.

By the way, if you're into music, you've got to check out the revamped AllMusic Guide. They've really spiffed that thing up. Looks great.

Speaking of books, I'm onto "The Culture of Fear" by Barry Glassner. It was featured in "Bowling for Columbine" and looks at how the mass media overhypes various "threats" to society that people commonly fear such as road rage, violence in schools, Internet addiction. Being a former member of the media (albeit the local media), I usually bristle at the "blame the media" mentality that uninformed people often have, but in a lot of cases, I can understand it. Just look at the Boston Herald these days. I've been reading it for 15 years and it's always had a refreshing trashiness to it, but it's turning into the Weekly World News. During the DNC, it trumpeted a lead front-page story about how Kerry's daughters were throwing themselves at Ben Affleck. Based on a gossip column item. Was that really the biggest story that day? I have some good friends that are fine reporters there, but they're getting overshadowed by the circus act.

Don't you just love it when scientists try to scare the crap out of you?