Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Back for More

Warning: I'm just talking hockey today.

Well, having been burned a few times already by seemingly certain reports that the NHL lockout was over, I'm taking a cautious approach to the news that a deal between the league and the players' union to end this stupid thing is imminent.

Sure, you take it with a big bag of rock salt when the news comes from Larry Brooks (registration required) or the comically optimistic Eklund. But columnists Damien Cox in the Toronto Star and Mike Ulmer of the Toronto Sun both wrote Tuesday of the light at the end of the Zamboni tunnel. Bob McKenzie of TSN warned Monday of factions within the player ranks that could still scuttle the deal. But all are saying a deal could come within a matter of weeks or even days. Although I do find it interesting that the reporters for the Canadian publications chose not to write anything about these latest "developments." Maybe they figure it's not news until something actually happens.

So should a deal be struck in June, what will the NHL be returning to? For one, the fans that care the most about hockey are probably the ones that are the most bitter about the lockout. Forget about the casual fans who have migrated to the NBA, poker, or the Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee. The real fans are the ones who have taken it on the chin here. And though they may talk tough now, I bet the majority of them will return to the game when it finally does return. Supposedly the league plans to roll out a bunch of rule changes and gimmicks designed to improve the game and win the fans back. I'd like to see more offense, but not at the expense of the integrity of the game. The bottom line is, both sides need to get back on the ice and out of the boardroom. Because the longer the NHL is gone, the less it's missed.

One sign that hockey may be back soon: Buccigross wrote a new column. Surprise, surprise, he's lobbying for Cam Neely to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Of course, I wholeheartedly agree with him. Neely combined finesse and ferocity in a package that was awesome to behold.

The Toronto Star has a nice feature on one of hockey's great mysteries: the death of Bill Barilko. If you're Canadian and over 30, you probably know the tale by heart. Barilko scored the Cup-winning OT goal for the Leafs in 1951 to defeat Montreal, immortalized in a classic photo that shows Barilko falling to the ice as his shot sails over goalie Gerry McNeil's outstretched blocker. In the offseason, Barilko went on a fishing trip and was never seen again. He and his pilot remained missing until 1962, when searchers found the wreckage of his plane. Canuck rockers The Tragically Hip wrote a song about the crash 30 years later, stoking the interest of a new generation of fans. The new story tells of a group that was the first to revisit the crash site in 43 years. The reason for the crash remains unknown, although many rumors abounded for years, including one involving smuggling gold from a nearby mine. Some things are just destined to go unanswered.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Run to the Hills

As another long weekend quickly comes to an end, I wanted to send out some major congrats to my brother-in-law Matt, who finished his first marathon yesterday. He ran the Vermont City Marathon in beautiful Burlington in a respectable 4:33, a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that he only really started running seriously about a year ago. Damn, it took me about four years until I dared try a marathon. But it didn't come easy to him, like all those stories about people who just decide to run on a whim and finish in three hours. Matt has worked hard to lose about 80 pounds in the last couple of years, in addition to working full-time and being a dad to two young sons. Very impressive. The marathon wound around downtown Burlington and we (me, Deb and the girls, and Matt's wife Tricia and their two boys) spent the whole time in Battery Park and nearby Waterfront Park, where we were able to spot Matt four times while also entertaining the kids. It helped that it was a nice day, temps in the 60s with occasional sun. Matt looked good at the 15-mile mark and was on a 4:00 pace, but as it turned out, he started having knee problems around mile 16 and struggled the rest of the way. But in the end, he did it, and that's all that matters.

My buddy Rick Johnson also ran the VCM and came in at 3:30, so mad props to him as well. I have to admit I got a little wistful out there watching all the runners, since I was supposed to be running this race, too, until injuries kept me from having enough time to train. The woman to whom I sold my number, Heidi Patel, was running her first marathon and finished in 3:56. I was glad to see the number didn't go to waste.

Next up, hopefully Matt and I will get accepted to run the New York City Marathon in November. We find out in two weeks if we get in.

Other stuff as I ponder the link between blogging and my kids crying way past their bedtimes:

  • I know it's shocking, but apparently Dennis Rodman will do anything for attention.
  • The top single in the U.K. is a frickin' ringtone, beating out Coldplay for the top spot. Back when we were at Webnoize, my good pal OJ wrote an article about how the sale of downloadable ringtones were going to be big business. At the time, they were only popular in Europe, but they've caught on somewhat here. Obviously, they're still more popular across the pond if people will pay to hear an animated frog doing a cover of Harold Faltermeyer's Axel F (you know, the instrumental from "Beverly Hills Cop") . Ringtones reportedly are a $5 billion business worldwide. As for Coldplay, they just don't do it for me.
  • A little hockey talk because, well, somebody's got to do it. Sad to hear that John D'Amico, longtime NHL linesman, died Sunday night. I'll always remember a photo of him covered in blood, breaking up a fight between Boston's Stan Jonathan and Montreal's Pierre Bouchard in a 1970s playoff game. In other news, a New Jersey legislator seeks to get the New Jersey Devils to change the team's nickname because of its devilish nature. Stoopid. And in more great news for the NHL, ESPN declined its option to carry NHL games next season. Looks like a ploy to get a reduced rate, which will probably work.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Here Comes the Flood

It's almost June and it's 40 freakin' degrees out. We've got some serious global colding going on. Here in New England, we've been in the throes of a Nor'easter the last few days: temps in the 40s, 50 mph winds, sheets of rain. Pretty lousy.

Deb just got back from a few days in Jacksonville for the funeral of her uncle, who died over the weekend. She noted that it was the first time I've been home alone overnight with the kids, which didn't seem possible and yet was true. The toughest part was getting them both ready for preschool/daycare in the morning; usually Deb and I tag team them and it still isn't easy. Then I had to truck them over to Malden to drop them off at Deb's school and then drive to Marblehead to work. Fortunately, a friend and co-worker of Deb's helped out by bringing them home for us; otherwise, I would have had to leave work at 2 to go pick them up. At any rate, it's good to have Deb back in the hizzy.

What is up:

  • Getting psyched for the Memorial Day long weekend. We're heading up to Vermont to watch Deb's brother Matt run his first marathon, the Vermont City Marathon. The very same race I had signed up to do before my Achilles problems put me on the shelf for most of the winter. Hopefully, it won't be raining up there. Five straight weekends of rain in enough already.
  • The Crue is in a litigious mood after NBC banned them from appearing on the network again after Vince Neil dropped an f-bomb live on the air on New Year's Eve. I don't really get the point of the whole thing. It's not like they're showing up on TV that much, anyway. When was the last time they were on network TV, 1989?
  • Phil Spector's trial has begun and he's pulling out all the stops. Dude looks like he was separated at birth with this classic TV character.
  • I was glad to hear that the only season of the great unsung series Undeclared will be out on DVD in August. Created by the same dudes who came up with Freaks and Geeks a few years earlier, Undeclared was not nearly as poignant but pretty damn funny in its own right.
  • I haven't gotten into the whole bit torrent scene, but it looks like the feds are cracking down on movie downloading through bit torrent sites. Just another case of the Man trying to keep us down.
  • A band I want to check out in more depth is System of a Down, who just topped the Billboard charts with their latest album. I caught them on SNL a few weeks back and they sounded pretty good. I had always lumped them into the nu metal camp with Korn and Limp Triscuit, but they definitely have more substance to them than those other mooks.
  • The podcasting phenomenon is growing, and it got a big boost this week from Steve Jobs, who announced that the next version of iTunes will support podcasts. Essentially, what this means is you'll be able to locate and download podcasts using iTunes. Right now, I use software called iPodder to do that, and then load the podcasts into iTunes, from which I transfer them onto my iPod. I subscribe to seven podcasts, which means I usually have something new to listen to every day. Since my radio doesn't work in the 98, I use my cassette adapter to listen to podcasts to and from work.
  • The yapping continues between the NHL and players' union. Just let me know if you come to an agreement, gents. Rumor has it the league has set a mid-June deadline for cancelling next season because a lot of its big sponsors say they'll take their business elsewhere if there isn't a deal in place by then. So hopefully, the two sides will get their shizz together. All I know is, a year ago today, the Calgary Flames beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 in game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. What a difference a year makes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

This Note's for You

First off, a happy birthday to my beautiful wife, Deb. She takes solace in the fact that she'll always be younger than me. Dammit. But seriously, folks, she rules and I hope she knows that.

Okay, enough with the sappy stuff. On with the blogination:

  • It's May 18. The weather still feels like November most of the time, chilly and crappy and depressing. We finally got our first softball games of the year in last Sunday after having practices and games rained out the previous three weekends. And we still ended up freezing our butts off on Sunday.
  • The latest radio format foisted on the world by nitwit programmers is called "Mike." Or "Jack." Essentially, it's radio's response to the popularity of the iPod Shuffle; the concept is "we play everything," just like your iPod. In Boston, disco station Star 93.7 was replaced by MIKE-FM, which according to its web site does the following: "Mike is everything you would download if you had time to download. Mike plays EVERYTHING...from Donna Summer to the Doobies, Abba to Aerosmith, Journey to Janet, Beatles to Bananarama." Sounds like they've combined the station' s past two formats, disco and classic rock. I'll stick with my iPod, thanks.
  • The rock reunions roll on. Gang of Four just played Boston Monday night and I was thinking of going but ultimately decided not to. But judging from OJ's review, I definitely missed out. Looks like it's still a no-go for a Husker Du reunion, according to Grant Hart, who was a key cog in that classic trio but who apparently still doesn't get along with Bob Mould, who's readying a solo album. The two played a few songs together last fall at a benefit, getting everyone's hopes up, but it ends there. For now. But another classic band from the late '70s/early '80s that's touring this year is Devo. They've actually been playing together occasionally over the years, including a handful of shows last year, but they've announced more tour dates this summer, although none in Boston as of yet. Break out your flower pot hat and your yellow jumpsuit!
  • Speaking of great bands, the MP3 of the week (the way I've been posting lately, maybe it should be the MP3 of Every Other Week. Sheesh!) is from a great Australian band, the Hoodoo Gurus. Formed in 1981, the Hoodoos combined elements of rock, pop and surf into an appealing sound that propelled albums like Mars Needs Guitars, Blow Your Cool, Magnum Cum Louder and Kinky. They had a number of minor radio hits stateside, including 1989's Come Anytime off Magnum Cum Louder. The band kept plugging away until 1998, when they split up, but reunited last year to record a new album, Mach Schau, and start touring again. I guess it's all about getting the band back together these days.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Lines You Amend

Word to your moms, I came to drop bombs. Man, I don't know how those daily bloggers do it. I actually tried to write this post Tuesday night but couldn't access Blogger, which as I found out later, was shut down for maintenance. Whatevah.

So we've gone three straight weekends with nothing but rain. My softball team has had two practices and our first doubleheader washed out. Our next games are scheduled for Sunday and wouldn't you know it, the forecast calls for pain. I mean, rain. But with the rain would also come pain.

Pain.

Anyhoo, I'm finally healthy after a couple of weeks of feeling absolutely miserable, what with the coughing and the stuffiness and the pinkeye and the GLAAAAAYVEN. I played hockey again last night after a few weeks off, so I'm pretty wiped today. I continued running all along, although I didn't push it by trying to do a long run of 7 or 8 miles. Maybe this weekend, although the rain could put the proverbial kibosh on that.

Words, words:
  • Bill Gates says the iPod's popularity won't last. Wishful thinking, perhaps? One theory is that Apple may be planning to stop manufacturing the iPod and just license that out, to focus on the massive success of iTunes. Makes sense when you think about it. Meanwhile, mobile phone makers like Ericsson and Nokia are introducing cell phones with increased hard drive storage to hold many more songs. Who knows, maybe they're on to something. The kids love the cell phones, and if it plays as many songs as an iPod Mini, why not go with one device?
  • Think Comedy Central regrets signing Dave Chappelle to a $50 million contract last year? Dude just checked into a mental hospital in South Africa, according to Entertainment Weekly. Dayamn. I hope he gets his shizz together and gets back on the air, but you've gotta figure something is very wrong with him right now.
  • This story is amazing. Vikings running back Onterrio Smith is busted at the airport with a white powdery substance that turns out to be...dried urine. Which came as part of a kit called The Whizzinator that supposedly helps one pass drug tests. But that's not all: the kit comes with a fake penis that the user brandishes while filling a cup with bogus tinkle. Wow.
  • The World Hockey Championships have moved into the semifinals. Today in the quarters, Canada edged Slovakia, 5-4, on a Joe Thornton goal late in the third; the Czech Republic knocked off the U.S. in a shootout, Sweden nipped Switzerland and Russia beat Finland in the other games. This sets up Canada-Russia and Sweden-Czech on Saturday. Of course, we hockey fans in the U.S. (all 12 of us) can't watch a second of it on TV because ESPN's more concerned with poker. Of course, the way the NHL's powers-that-be are bitching up the game, who can blame ESPN for looking for viable alternatives to hockey? Still sucks, though.

Aiight, I'm beat. I'll be back in a day or two to rock some MP3s for you.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Lay it down, clown

What is up, mein freunds? Just checking in after a week of this, that, and the other thing. I ended up catching a nasty head/chest cold in addition to the pinkeye, so I'm feeling extry fine these days. Hannah had a good third birthday and capped it off by finally getting the hang of the potty training thing. It's great that she's into it, but we go into Defcon 5 alert when she tells us she has to go to the potty...to avoid any messy accidents elsewhere in the house.

Still waiting for the warm weather to arrive. We've had a couple of crappy, rainy weekends in a row, and the warmest we're getting during the week is the low-to-mid 60s. Maybe May will be better...

A veritable smorgasbord of stuff to talk about:

  • This podcasting thing is starting to take off. Sirius just signed a deal with Adam Curry's Podshow.com to devote one of its satellite radio channels to a podcast-themed show. Curry is looking to bring advertisers into the fray to help serious podcasters make some cash while giving novice poddites free tools with which to get their shows off the ground. Some, however, resent Curry's attempt to monetize the podcast community, which initially at least was formed out of the desire to communicate, not make money. I, for one, think it's a good idea, because the big advertisers will be looking to do this, anyway. Podcasters might as well try to get a little sumfin' sumfin'.
  • The World hockey championships have begun over in Switzerland. An annual event, it usually pales in comparison to the NHL playoffs and it uses players from NHL teams that either didn't make the playoffs or lost early. But this year the Worlds have a lot more cache because there are no NHL playoffs, meaning the various teams are stacked with talent. Some big names like Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin have opted to stay on the sidelines, but there's still plenty of good young stars out there. Canada and the U.S. will face off on Thursday in what promises to be a good first-round battle. Alas, hockey fans in the U.S. are unable to watch the games on TV. But there is an alternative available via a European-based site that is webcasting the games for a fee. Check it out if you want to get a fix of quality hockey, possibly the last we'll see for many moons.
  • I updated the blogroll to feature Get Levitation, a great MP3 blog that this week features a fascinating item about Led Zep guitar god Jimmy Page and his allegedly dubious history of reworking other people's songs and innovations and turning them into his own. That said, I've always been a huge Zep fan and always will be, but some of this stuff does make you wonder. Thanks to OJ for the tip.
  • Speaking of MP3s, this week I'm featuring one of them so-called supergroups. Although this is one that most music fans probably haven't heard of. The Monkeywrench is an erstwhile side project of Mudhoney's Mark Arm and Steve Turner, who joined forces with Tim Kerr of Big Boys fame, Tom Price (the U-Men, Gas Huffer), and Martin Bland. The group only has two full-lengths out, 1992's Clean as a Broke-Dick Dog, and 2000's Electric Children. Basically, they only record in between their main gigs, and apparently they haven't been up to much the last few years. But their punkimafied blues rock is mighty tasty, indeed. Check out Call My Body Home and The Story As I Was Told from their first album. Enjoy some of the American good-rock.