Saturday, December 31, 2005

Fond Farewell

Just a few more hours until they rock the bells to welcome in 2006. After a few days of relatively warm and wet weather (40s and 50s), it's pretty damn chilly out there today. We're taking the girls to the downtown Beverly First Night festivities for kids, which include face painting and music. Then we'll come home, put them to bed and enjoy some steak tips and vino.

Can't end the year without listing my top 10 albums (yes, I still listen to albums) of 2005:

1. Queens of the Stone Age--Lullabyes to Paralyze

2. Spoon--Gimme Fiction

3. The New Pornographers--Twin Cinema

4. Green Day--American Idiot

5. Beck--Guero

6. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists--Shake the Sheets

7. Greg Dulli--Amber Headlights

8. The White Stripes--Get Behind Me, Satan

9. Bloc Party--Silent Alarm

10. Death from Above 1979--You're a Woman, I'm a Machine

Honorable mention: Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation--Mighty Rearranger; Bob Mould--Body and Song; The Mars Volta--Frances the Mute; Early Man-Closing In; Elliott Smith--From a Basement on the Hill

Good stuff I haven't had enough time to listen to: Drive By Truckers--The Dirty South; My Morning Jacket--Z; Rogue Wave--Descended Like Vultures; Danger Doom--The Mouse and the Mask

Rock on, rockers. Catch you on the flip side.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Wordless Chorus

Man, another year is winding down. Can you believe we're already halfway through this freakin' decade? Damn.

Hope you had a good Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or whatevah. The girls had a blast. Their cousins were here for a few days and they received plenty of toys, including a Dora the Explorer house and related accessories, a shopping cart, and the Cinderella and Toy Story DVDs. I hooked Deb up with a 1GB iPod Shuffle, some new sunglasses, and a bunch of running-related gear. As for me, I also received running gear, an iTunes gift card (that I used to buy My Morning Jacket's Z and Rogue Wave's Descended Like Vultures), a book (Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation), some sweaters, shirts, and other cool shiznitt.

Yo ho ho:
  • No surprise here, but it seems like every other week there's a story warning about the dangers that prolonged use of iPods has on hearing. The damage is exacerbated by the use of those white earbuds because they're that much closer to your eardrums than the old-school headphones. I stopped using the earbuds early on because they didn't fit properly in my ears; instead, at the gym or when I'm running I use Sony h.ear headphones; they stay in my ears and the earbuds aren't completely in your ear, so you can hear oncoming traffic and don't totally blast your ears out. When I'm on a plane, I use the Creative "ear-muff" headphones I got with my old Nomad Jukebox MP3 player; they just sound better. Most of the time I use my iPod (in the car, at work), I'm listening through speakers, so hopefully that will minimize the hearing damage. And at work, I listen to my music at a low level.
  • As a big fan of the old Beavis and Butt-head series, I was excited a few months back when MTV released the first volume of the "Mike Judge Collection" DVD sets. I was hoping the DVDs would include the segments where B&B watch and critique videos, as I found those parts of the show much funnier than the so-called action segments. Alas, it turns out that only about a dozen videos were included in the first set because of the high cost of securing the music rights; since every episode included at least three or four videos, that's a lot of the show getting cut. Courtesy of the Wikipedia, here's an incomplete list of videos that appeared on the show. You often got to see parts of videos there that you would never see on any other show on MTV, and of course, the boys had some hilarious commentary about them. Looks like there will never be a complete version of the show on DVD, at least not without the damn thing costing $500. It makes me glad that Dr. Doobs and I bought a collection of old B&Bs on the VHS a few years back. The issue over music rights isn't unique to Beavis and Butt-head. As this article from Wired notes, a great music-centric show like WKRP in Cincinnati used so many songs that a DVD release would cost a fortune to release. In fact, when it was rerun on Nick at Night a few years ago, the original songs were replaced with cheaper originals. Les Nessman dancing around to a song that wasn't Foreigner's "Hot Blooded"? Sacrilege! I was glad when the Freaks and Geeks DVD set came out last year and they were able to include all the great music used on the show, including classic Van Halen, Ted Nugent, Rush, Styx, the Who, etc. The list price was a little higher ($69.99), but it was worth it.
  • Speaking of classic DVDs, the 25th anniversary "Don't Call Me Shirley" version of Airplane is out and apparently, it's time for the Jive Dudes from the movie to step back into the spotlight. Solid.
  • It has been a good week for my favorite sports teams. The Jays keep having a kick-ass offseason by finalizing the trade for slugger Troy Glaus, and the Leafs won their fourth in a row tonight by knocking off the red-hot Buffalo Sabres (when's the last time anyone said that?) in an exciting tilt that was decided by a shootout. Sweeeeet.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)

It's Christmas Eve, y'all, so best wishes for a happy whatever you do/don't celebrate. The title of this post refers to a great Ramones holiday classic, which you can find along with plenty of other Christmas songs (including my personal favorite, "Father Christmas" by the Kinks) at the great music blog Pimps of Gore.

Here about 30 minutes north of Boston, one would expect to find today a classic Christmas tableau. One would be dead wrong. There is snow on the ground, but it's melting as the temps hit 50 today. It's pretty quiet around here; Deb's off doing some last-minute shopping and the girls are upstairs taking their naps. Deb's brother Matt and his family will arrive late tomorrow night, so the kids will have two Christmases: the regular one and the one in which they exchange gifts. Should be fun.

Jingle bells:
  • The Blue Jays keep making noise. Word is they've all but completed a trade to bring slugger Troy Glaus to Toronto from Arizona for Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson and deposed closer Miguel Batista. While I hate to see Hudson go, the Jays sorely needed another big bat, so this is a good trade. They'll need to make a few more moves because they've got a ton of corner infielders, but this should help them stay competitive with the Yankees and Red Sox next year.

Aiight, catch you later.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Billy Jack Attack

Hey. Checking in midweek with a quick post. No last-minute Christmas panic here. Everything's under control. Except for the whole cleaning-the-house-before-company-arrives deal, but we've got a few days to get everything done, so I'm not worried.

Got a couple of runs in this week with temps in the 20s and not much room on the roads. The icy patches are a little tricky, even in broad daylight.

  • Sports fans here in the Boston area are all agog because free agent center fielder Johnny Damon, a key member of the Red Sox the last few years, signed with another club. But it wasn't just any club, it was the hated Yankees. Other former Sox have gone to the Bronx Bombers before (Roger Clemens), but few have gone directly from one to the other (Wade Boggs comes to mind). Damon might as well have been hiding Osama Bin Laden in his basement; what he's done is considered downright traitorous to Red Sox Nation. And, of course, by going to the Yankees, he'll have to shave his beard and cut his hair to meet George Steinbrenner's club rules; he'll go back to the clean-cut look he had when he first joined the Sox. As a Jays fan, it's nice to see the Sox get weaker, especially considering the potential replacements available are nowhere near as good a leadoff man as Damon. Gotta love baseball's Hot Stove League. Keeps things interesting.
  • The Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, are fast approaching (they kick off Feb. 10) and defending gold medal hockey winner Team Canada unveiled its roster today. GM Wayne Gretzky and co. stuck with many of the stalwarts from the 2002 team and the 2004 World Cup champs, keeping young talent like Sidney Crosby, Eric Staal, and Jason Spezza on the outside. I figured one or two of that trio would make the team, especially since Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman had both said they wouldn't be playing because of injury and/or diminished performance. Staal, Spezza and Maple Leafs defenseman Bryan McCabe (who leads all NHL d-men in scoring) are on the reserve squad, to fill in if someone gets hurt. The U.S. roster was announced earlier in the week, with longtime regulars Jeremy Roenick and Brian Leetch (who are both having subpar seasons) left off the team. Ever the self-promoter, Roenick complained that he was "blackballed" by USA Hockey and that he should have been named to the team based on his past accomplishments, not his current stats. He then broke his finger in his next game and will be out for four to six weeks, so it's a moot point.
  • This has already been well blogumented, but just wanted to point you to a hi-larious video that ran on Saturday Night Live last weekend featuring Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg rapping about the joys of going to see the Chronicles of Narnia. Without a doubt, this is one of the funniest things I've seen on SNL in many moons. Check it out here.
  • Looks like this fish is a distant relative of the three-eyed goldfish on the The Simpsons.
  • Finally, this video clip from mid-80s Chicago is unbelievable. Two words: Ditka rapping. Wow.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bada Bing

Man, we're hurtling toward Christmas at warp speed. I just spent part of the afternoon sitting in traffic picking up a last few gifts. Not my favorite activity.

Deb has kicked off her marathon fundraising activities and is doing impressively well. I emailed a bunch of my friends and co-workers and they have already kicked in some decent amounts, so thanks to everyone who has pledged and who is thinking of pledging toward Deb's charity, the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange. You can pledge via the InterWeb by clicking here.

Okay, so I've been saying for the last few months that I only wanted to run one marathon next year, the Chicago Marathon in October. But now I'm thinking I might take a crack at the Vermont City Marathon again in late May, since I was registered to run it this year but couldn't because of injury. Having gone up there to cheer my bro-in-law Matt and my buddy Rick on, I saw firsthand what a great race the VCM is. And it's five to six weeks after Deb's marathon, so our training schedules won't overlap too much. It's not final yet, but I can wait because I can sign up at any time.

Screaming yellow zonkers:
  • The music industry isn't satisfied with suing folks who share music files online; now it's going after sites that host lyrics, too. The Music Publishers Association announced its plans to sue a handful of companies that distribute lyrics to copyrighted songs, and Warner Chappell Music even threatened to sue a software developer who create an app that lets iTunes users search for lyrics. After receiving a ton of bad press, the publishing company relented and apologized for its tactics. But the MPA still will forge on with its campaign to alienate music fans everywhere, even threatening jail time for some especially egregious offenders. These guys just don't get it.
  • Gee, this war on terror thing is going great. Turns out the Iraqis had caught the infamous Abu Musab al-Zarqawi last year and then let him go because they didn't realize who he was. Nice.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

As Serious As Your Life

Say hey. It finally looks like winter around these parts. We got a nasty storm Friday, featuring whiteout conditions at times, gale-force winds, and even some thunder and lightning. Here on the coast, we only got about six inches or so because for part of the day it rained, but go a couple of miles inland to a town like Danvers and they had about 16 inches of the white stuff. I went for a run in the morning when it had just started and I had a tough time seeing because the stuff was blowing right in my eyes; plus I almost fell on my butt a few times on icy patches. As per usual, it was the first storm of the year so everyone drove like total idiots. I saw a lot of accidents and cars stuck in the snow. Fortunately, Deb and the girls were home all day because school was cancelled. The weekend was much nicer, still chilly but not bad at all. I took the girls in the backyard today to play in the snow; Lily thought it tasted pretty good.

Hey man, nice shot:
  • I was saddened at the news yesterday that legendary comedian Richard Pryor had died of a heart attack at the age of 65. Not shocked, since the guy's been pretty sick for quite a while now after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the '80s. My first memories of Pryor were from seeing him in movies like Stir Crazy and Silver Streak, which offered funny but sanitized versions of his wild comic persona. It was only later when I saw some of his concert movies on HBO that I really got a taste of what he was really like, and holy crap, was he a funny bastard. Moreso in the '70s, he was one of the first (if not THE first) comedian to really get in America's face about racism. He had an edge and anger to his comedy that was both funny and shocking. About '83 or so, my dad brought home a borrowed videotape (we had just purchased our first VCR) of stuff taped off HBO, including Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip and we watched it together. It was pretty uncomfortable for me, because even though I thought the movie was hilarious, I felt weird watching it with my dad. Especially since I had never sworn in front of my parents, even though I had been dropping f-bombs on the playground since I was in second grade (my little brother busted me a few times, but he never told my parents, even though he certainly threatened to on many occasions). I had just bought Eddie Murphy's Comedian cassette, but only listened to it on headphones because it was ridiculously profane (and side-splittingly funny--I knew most of the routines before I ever heard the tape because my buddies at school would recite them daily). So I was no stranger to blue comedy, but I learned that Eddie Murphy was only following in Pryor's footsteps. Richard Pryor's work is best judged by his standup routines, which bear out the fact that he was a genius.
  • Here's something you don't see every day: Man who plays dumbass crook on The Sopranos gets shot after playing dumbass crook in real life.
  • As cool as the Wikipedia is, I've always wondered what could keep bogus information from getting in. Apparently, judging from incidents like this, the answer is nothing.
  • I was heartened to see the Blue Jays making waves this offseason by signing the top free agent closer (Baltimore's B.J. Ryan) and starter (Florida's A.J. Burnett) and trading for some more offense in Milwaukee's Lyle Overbay. GM J.P. Ricciardi was finally given some money to spend by ownership and apparently, he's going for it. Some are saying they overpaid, but I for one am glad to see them finally getting some big names. Will they pass the Yankees and Red Sox? Who knows, but it's nice to see them trying.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Viva Las Vegas

It's good to be back in New England, although I could have done without the whole temperature in the teens bit. And now the forecast is for our first real snowstorm of the year to hit tomorrow. Great.

Vegas was fun, despite the fact that various delays led to me arriving almost six hours late Sunday. The conference went well, and me and my co-worker Matt even played some slot machines; I think I lost about $15 on the nickel and quarter slots. What can I say, I'm a wildman. We were staying at Treasure Island, a pretty nice hotel and casino, but we also checked out the new Wynn casino, as well as the Bally. One strange phenomenon the first was the prevalence of people every few feet trying to give away cards; the cards advertised local escort services. The weird thing is, the next night, all of the "sales reps" were gone. It was almost as if they all quit or something. That night, we decided to explore the older, seedier side of the Strip and ended up going into the Stardust, which is an old-school casino. And when I say old-school, I mean straight outta 1963 old, right down to the waitresses, who were all in their 50s and wearing short shorts and control top hose. Scary. We didn't stick around there too long.

I flew out yesterday on a direct flight to Boston and almost didn't realize I had a celebrity neighbor. When I got on the plane, there was a guy in the window seat who was already asleep, which was strange since boarding only began about five to 10 minutes earlier. I had the aisle seat and nobody sat between us, so I just started reading Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes; I had met him along with my bro-in-law Matt at the NYC Marathon and the book was a quick read. (I love reading on plane rides. It seems to be the only time I get much reading done. On the extended trip down, I finished the painfully hilarious Superstud: Or How I Became a 24-Year-Old Virgin by Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig.)

Anyhoo, the guy snoozed for the first two hours or so of the 4.5-hour flight. When he woke up, he ordered and downed four Heinekens in a row; I was deep in my book and was listening to my iPod, so I didn't talk to the guy or anything. One of the stewardesses said something to him like, "The girls are going crazy back there. They're having a flashback," which struck me as curious, but I didn't get it at first. Later, it kind of hit me that the guy looked like Jordan Knight, a member of the late '80s/early '90s boy band New Kids on the Block; I was never a fan or anything, but they certainly got plenty of press around here since they were from Boston. I wondered why he was traveling in coach, but it's not like he's riding the top of the charts anymore. Sure enough, at the baggage claim, a girl had her photograph taken with him and he seemed to have a little entourage. I did a little research and it turns out he was in Vegas appearing Tuesday night at the Billboard Music Awards. So there you have it.

More blogtography tomorrow.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Get It Together

Hola. Getting ready to fly to Vegas this weekend for a work conference. I'm not much of a gambler; the extent of my gambling includes football pools (for entertainment purposes only, of course) and the odd Megamillions ticket. But there is something to be said for the magnificent artificiality of it all.

Weebles wobble but they don't fall down:
  • I'm still in shock over the Bruins trading captain and franchise player Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau. I just don't get it. I'm a Leafs fan, so I'm glad to see Boston get rid of Thornton, but I don't understand their reasoning. Sure, they needed to shake things up because they've been horrible, but to trade your best player and captain doesn't make sense. And even worse, they certainly didn't get fair value in return. Stuart's a good, not great, defenseman and Sturm is a decent forward, while Primeau is yet another defensive role player. It figures; the only time the Bruins are the main topic of discussion on Boston sports talk radio is when they do something stupid like this. The whole thing smacks of a salary dump to me, which of course makes me think Jeremy Jacobs told Mike O'Connell to cut bait for the season; both O'Connell and Jacobs were on the radio today talking about how this makes the team better. Right. Why not trade Thornton to a team with another underachieving star, like Bertuzzi? Bruins fans will not be happy with this one, but Sharks fans should be psyched. This is like a bad fantasy league trade that gets overturned by the commissioner. And of course, as everyone predicted the team would be even worse, the Bruins went out tonight and shut out the awesome Senators, 3-0. And Sturm scored the game winner. Go figure.
  • The craziness in Canada continues. A political party in Quebec has threatened to secede from the rest of the country for years, but now they're pushing for the province to have its own hockey and soccer teams playing in international tournaments. A comparison would be Scotland or Wales having their own teams in the World Cup, while still remaining part of Great Britain. The proposal is one of the Bloc Quebecois party's campaign promises, and its highly unlikely that stars like Mario Lemieux and Martin Brodeur would opt to play for Quebec rather than Canada. Still, sounds tres stupide (thanks to Off Wing Opinion for the tip).
  • So, supposedly Scott Stapp (former lead yowler/Vedder wannabe of Creed) and members of crap rockers 311 got into a bar brawl last week. Makes one yearn for the good ol' days of MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch.
  • And here's a couple of guys in Washington state who took a love of horses a little too far. Yikes.