Monday, January 31, 2005

The forecast calls for pain

Actually, the weather has normalized from its Buffalo-like tendencies of the last few weeks. Usually, we coastal communities get much less snow than our counterparts to the north and west, but this year it has been the opposite. Come to think of it, the weather has been cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs all over the world. Tsunamis, mudslides, avalanches, snow in Texas...there's some seriously wack shiznitt going on.

Some disturbing news from the world of beer: Anheuser-Busch, maker of the so-called King of Beers, has unveiled something they call "B to the E." This concoction is targeted at those oh-so-lucrative twentysomethings, who apparently are dying to get their hands on a beer that contains caffeine, fruit flavoring, and ginseng. Of course, the microbrew craze of the early '90s brought us many fine beers that have fruit accents, like Sam Adams' Cherry Wheat and Summer Ale. But this just sounds nasty. And the whole "extreme beer" marketing of it smacks of the stupid crap they were coming out with when I was a twentysomething a decade ago. Remember OK Soda? Coke developed this in 1994 to appeal to the "slackers" they figured were everywhere because they saw that crapulent movie Reality Bites. Unfortunately for Coke, not enough Ethan Hawke wannabes could muster the energy to get off the couch and buy their soda, so they killed it.

I've always found generational demographics interesting, if only for how misguided they can sometimes be. How do you sum up an entire generation in a single phrase? Baby boomers, Generation X, tweeners, whatever. The latest one that Time magazine recently attempted to coin was Twixters (preview: registration required), who are the twentysomethings that don't want to grow up, according to Time writer Lev Grossman. These crazy kids, they like to party. Puh-leeze.

Of course, when you see the results of a recent survey that found that more than a third of high school students think the First Amendment goes too far, you start to worry about the future. Stupidity or ignorance? Probably a dangerous combination of both. Maybe the kids were all hungover after a night of ripping it up with some B to the E.

Caught some AHL action Saturday night when I joined my bro-in-law Steve at the Lowell Lock Monsters-Worcester Ice Cats game in Lowell. It was fun, although it took all my power to keep from throttling the nitwit sitting next to me; the guy insisted on keeping a running commentary going during the game even though he had no clue what was going on. Nonetheless, a good time.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Hazy Shade of Winter

The meteorologists actually got one right: We got downright walloped by the storm that hit last night. Well over 2 feet of snow dropped on our neighborhood, compounded by powerful winds that left some ridiculously large snow drifts. I spent a good chunk of the day shoveling. Deb already has tomorrow off as most school districts cancelled school this morning. I haven't heard whether our office is closed; I guess the governor wants businesses to shut down to give the plow drivers more of a chance to clear the roads. We'll see.

The Patriots stomped the Steelers tonight, 41-27, exacting revenge for their loss to Pittsburgh on Halloween and advancing to the Super Bowl to play the Philadelphia Eagles. The Pats are shooting for their third Super Bowl win in four years and I'd be shocked if they didn't get it.

Sad news today: Late night legend Johnny Carson died at the age of 79 of emphysema. I got into the Tonight Show as a young kid, watching along with my dad on Friday nights. Carson's dry, self-deprecating wit was always just right, it seemed. Although I later became a huge fan of the sarcastic likes of Letterman and Conan O'Brien, Johnny was always a class act in my book.

I don't know how folks in the Christian Right expect themselves to be taken seriously when they keep doing stupid stuff like this.

Hannah and Lily sit on top of a monster snow bank after a blizzard dropped more than 2 feet of snow on us. Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Cold Shot

'Sup. The blizzard of '05 is underway. We're supposed to get about two feet of snow from this thing. Great, can't wait to start shoveling. The storm comes after several days of bone-chilling temps. It was routinely in the single digits and occasionally dropped below zero, and that's not counting the wind chill.

PT update: I've been going to physical therapy for a month now and making good progress on my Achilles' problems in my feet. Lots of stretching, icing, etc. But I still haven't been able to start running, so I came to the sad realization this week that it just wouldn't be a good idea to run the Vermont City Marathon in late May. I had signed up in November figuring I would be running again by now. I think realistically I'll be running again in mid- to late February. I can train for a marathon in three months, but not if I haven't run at all the previous four to five months. I don't want to risk re-injuring myself. So I've decided to shoot for a fall marathon instead. Meanwhile, I found out I can't get an injury waiver and run Vermont next year, so I'll need to sell the bib number. Although there's a good chance a fellow runner who lives in this house might just try to do the marathon, which is very cool.

Went to my first hockey game of the season last night, Northeastern at Boston College. I was supposed to go to the BU-BC game last week, but it fell through. I've also scored tickets to a couple more college games in February and March, including seeing my UNH Wildcats in BU's shiny new rink.

This is even better than the Bill Gates mug shot. Although much, much more disturbing.

Wired takes an interesting look at journalists who blog, and the blogs who blog them. Or something like that. Just read it.

Now you can get NFL broadcasts available for download to your iPod. Great, but who the hell wants to take up a shiteload of space with an old game? I'd rather watch it on TV and TiVo if I really wanted to see it again.

So who knew Bush was a Dio fan? Here's the diminutive dark lord himself.

Trevor Linden's impromptu meetings with NHL reps this week got some faint hopes up that something might be done to save the rapidly vanishing NHL season, with talk of a 30-game season or some variation followed by playoffs. But the talks didn't go so well Friday, and it appears the two sides are as far apart as they've ever been. To which I say: Go Pats!

While I'm definitely down on the NHL, I've got nothing but mad props for the late Archie Bennitz, who gave Messrs. Bettman and Goodenough the finger from the grave.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I Feel Better Than James Brown

Well, not really, because I'm struggling with yet another cold, but I heard that old Was (Not Was) song for the first time in umpteen years today as I was driving home. But not on the radio, where there is literally no chance you could find that song anywhere on any station. Rather, I heard it using some newfangled technology: the cassette deck. Reason being, the power antenna in my car is no longer functioning, so all I can get is fuzzy reception of WBCN, the so-called rock of Boston. I actually don't mind 'BCN these days, but I hate radio static and so I often just pop one of my 8,294 cassettes in the deck. I was a big fan of the mix tape back in tha day, and I've still got all the tapes I made over the years; even the ones I made in 1981 with my combination alarm clock/tape recorder. Most of my mixes were made in the late '80s and early '90s, so it's always fun to go back and hear what I was into back then. Sometimes the selections are out-and-out embarrassing (e.g., the Spin Doctors, Dweezil Zappa, or the absolutely horrendous Live), but for the most part, they're not bad at all. I never bought many prerecorded cassettes, preferring to pick up vinyl and later CDs, which I then taped for use in the car or my Walkman (remember those?). My home tape deck finally crapped out about five years ago and I've never replaced it. I finally got a CD burner a couple years back, so I make the occasional mix CD, but my iPod has definitely revolutionized my listening habits. Still, it's nice to be able to listen to those old tapes, hark back to my single days, and wonder, "Why the hell did I put that piece of crap on this tape?"

Speaking of the iPod, Apple's finally come out with a truly affordable model for the masses: the iPod Shuffle. It's amazing to see how many people got iPods for Christmas this year; just at the gym alone, they're everywhere. Now, with a 512MB version available for $99 and a 1GB version for $149, you're going to see 8-year-olds walking around listening to their iPods while talking on their cell phones. Hell, they're probably doing that already. Damn kids these days.

While the Yankees were signing Randy Johnson and the Mets landed Carlos Beltran, the Jays stayed busy, trading for Shea Hillenbrand and signing the likes of Corey Koskie, Billy Koch and Scott Schoeneweis. I'm not printing the Wild Card banners yet, but what do you expect on a $50 million payroll?

Well, at least one NHL owner says the season is done. I'm tempted to agree at this point. But check out this interesting concept floated by ESPN.com, the ESPNHL. Using flash animation, they envision a reinvented NHL with fewer teams, a shorter season, revamped rules, a tiered luxury-tax system, and other innovations. Sounds good to me. Drop the puck!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Ch-Ch-Check It Out

Just checking in for the first time in '05. Tomorrow night is my company's holiday party. The last few years, we've held it after the holidays because everyone's schedules were so busy in December. Should be a good time, seeing everybody all dressed up because normally we all dress casually in the office. My biggest wardrobe challenge every day is picking a T-shirt to go with my jeans: Do I go with the 1992 Mudhoney shirt (which I did today), the race shirt, or the free dot-bomb shirt from my Webnoize days? Ah, decisions, decisions.

From the wild and wacky world of the criminal courts, here's another shocking ruling. They overturned the murder conviction of a woman who drowned her five kids because a psychiatrist for the prosecution erroneously testified that she got the idea from a "Law & Order" episode; turns out there was no such episode. Does that change the fact that she killed her kids?

Well, at least you can always count on some moron filing an idiotic lawsuit. This clown wants to be paid because watching a "Fear Factor" stunt made him sick to his stomach. Hey dumbass, it's "Fear Factor." It's supposed to be disgusting.

I used the holidays to catch up on my DVD viewing before I started watching the new ones I got for Christmas. I had a blast with the SCTV Vol. 1 box set, which featured the first season that SCTV expanded to 90 minutes on NBC way back in the spring and summer of 1981. I had already been watching the show, which I consider the best sketch comedy show ever (I give it a slight edge over Monty Python, mainly it was Canadian and I have a sentimental attachment), for a few years on syndication in Canada. It was a half-hour show then and was already hilarious, but when they moved to NBC they started coming up with even better stuff. Each cast member was great in his or her own way: Eugene Levy, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas, Catherine O'Hara, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Martin Short (who joined during the NBC era), and Harold Ramis (who was only on the show for one season in the early days). It was amazing to me that some of the shows I was watching last week I hadn't since they originally aired. SCTV stayed on NBC for two years and then moved to Cinemax (which we didn't have because by that time, we'd moved to Kingston, NH, where cable TV wasn't introduced until 1985, for Pete's sake) through 1984. All of the cast members have notably gone on to bigger (but not necessarily better) things: Candy had a somewhat successful movie career until he died 10 years ago,;Short has made many movies and had a few talk shows; Flaherty was in another short-lived classic show, "Freaks and Geeks"; Martin has appeared in movies and on Broadway; O'Hara has been in several movies, including the "Home Alone" series as Macauley Culkin's mom; Moranis made a lot of movies, including the "Ghostbuster" series and "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"; Thomas was on "Grace Under Fire"; Levy is probably the most notable one right now with superb turns in Christopher Guest's "Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show," and "A Mighty Wind," as well as the "American Pie" films; and Ramis has starred in one of the greatest comedies of all time, "Stripes," and the "Ghostbuster" series. Even though it was totally overshadowed by Saturday Night Live, and it seemed like I was one of a cult who watched it when it was on, SCTV has had a major influence on the comedy writers who came after it. I highly recommend it for those of you who haven't seen it, and I can't wait to get Volume 2.

Now I'm working my way through the Freaks and Geeks box set, but I'll pontificate on that some other time.

The new Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' CD, Shake the Sheets, is simply amazing. Although his voice may be an acquired taste for some (his voice has been compared to that dude from Dexy's Midnight Runners), Leo writes anthemic rock songs that are a mixture of the Clash and Thin Lizzy. This is his third great album in a row, following 2003's Hearts of Oak and 2001's The Tyranny of Distance. Did I mention he's a kickass guitarist as well? I still can't believe I haven't seen him live yet, but I will one of these days, dammit.

Nice gold medal for Canada in the World Junior Hockey tournament. They won in convincing fashion Tuesday with a 6-1 thumping over the Russians, who just a few nights earlier took out the USA squad amid much taunting and preening. I managed to catch the last two USA games on ESPN2 last weekend, and was I hoping for a Canada-USA final so it would be aired on American TV, but no such luck. Last year, the tournament was on the Center Ice package, but nothing's happening with that this year given the lockout. Speaking of which, the NHL cancelled its January 14 board of governors meeting, where many had speculated the league was going to call the season. The NHL claims the meeting was called off because there had been no talks; meanwhile, members of the players' union are telling the press that no counteroffer is in the works. And Wayne Gretzky is worried that both this season and next will be lost. The clock is ticking. Me, I'm getting ready to catch some college hockey. Next Friday, I'm going to see Boston University play Boston College. And with the NFL playoffs this weekend and the baseball season not too far off, I'll be just fine.