Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hit It and Quit It

Word. Checking in on a wild and crazy Saturday night. Deb's out at a 40th birthday bash for a friend of ours, while I'm home with the kids baking brownies. Actually, they're asleep, but I really did bake brownies. Now why on earth would I be cranking up the oven when it's 90 degrees out? We're bringing a dessert item to the annual Webnoize summer bash being held tomorrow at the Shrewsbury abode of Dr. Doobs, and since Deb was going out tonight, it fell upon me to come up with said dessert item. Fortunately, I am able to read and follow instructions, so the box of Duncan Hines fudge chunk brownies was not a major challenge. Haven't tried them yet, but they sure smell good.

Earlier in the day, we went up to visit my mom, who moved back to New Hampshire from Toronto a few weekends ago while we were on our way to New Jersey for our vacation. She's got a pretty sweet condo in Hampton, not far from I-95. Unfortunately, we timed our visit poorly because I forgot how traffic backs up at the Hampton tolls on a Saturday morning; we were crawling for about four miles before we got to our exit. Whatever the case, the kids were excited to see their grandmother and we hung for a few hours. When we left, there was still a crapload of traffic at the tolls going north, but fortunately it was smooth sailing in the other direction.

The kids are alright:
  • I went to the Bloc Party/Secret Machines/Mew concert last night at the Bank of America Pavilion, a tent-covered venue on the water in South Boston. The ticket was courtesy of my good buddy OJ, who scored a free pair. Again with the good timing, I arrived at the pavilion with a serious thunderstorm literally following me down the street. We got inside and I managed to buy a couple of slices of pizza and a beer before the torrential downpour, thunder and lightning began. It ended after half an hour and the Copenhagen-based Mew, who sounded like a combination of Coldplay and Rush, only 10 times wussier than Coldplay. They played for about a half hour and only played four or five songs; some seemed to run into others and it was all very similar sounding to me. It didn't take OJ and I long to start mock chanting "Mewwwwwwww!!!!" every couple of minutes or so; in fact, it continued throughout the night. I don't know, we thought it was funny. Secret Machines were markedly better, although they too seemed to embrace the jam. The singer had a voice reminiscent of Bauhaus' Peter Murphy, which is certainly not a bad thing. But Bloc Party ruled the night, and we had the good fortune of moving up into the sixth row or so for their set. I already had their excellent first album Silent Alarm, which came out a few years ago, but this was the first time I'd seen them live. They're only playing a few U.S. dates because their second album isn't out yet, so most of the stuff they played last night was familiar. The band was pretty tight and singer Kele Okereke is a confident frontman who had the crowd eating out of his hands. The new songs sounded pretty good and the 75-minute set was lean, mean and well-received.
  • So I was flipping channels tonight and found that VH1 Classic was reairing MTV's first hour in honor of the latter's 25th anniversary, which is Tuesday. Turns out VH1 Classic will actually recreate the entire first day starting Tuesday at midnight, but this was a preview. How telling is it that frickin' MTV won't even air this stuff (and yes, I know that VH1 Classic is run by MTV)? MTV totally sucks ass these days, but I dug watching the first hour because I didn't live in a town that got MTV until 1985. Actually, when the channel launched in August 1981, I was still living in Toronto (we moved to the U.S. a few months later). But I was no stranger to watching videos because there was a cool show on CityTV called The New Music that featured them; one of the hosts was a guy named J.D. Roberts who these days makes his living as John Roberts, the chief national correspondent at CNN and former White House correspondent for CBS. I watched that show all the time, so when MTV launched, I knew it would be cool. At any rate, here's a rundown of the videos that aired in that fateful first hour hosted by Mark Goodman. Everybody knows the first one, but I was interested to see what the rest were:

>>Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles: Fairly cheesy video first released in 1979. The band was made up of Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn, who both joined Yes after Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman left in 1980. They were on the Yes album Drama, which I actually owned at one time. Downes went on to be one of the original members of the godawful Asia (which is actually touring again with all four charter members) while Horn became a prominent producer in the 1980s.

>>You Better Run by Pat Benatar: The hard rockin' pop pixie made a ton of videos for her early albums, mostly performance stuff like this one.

>>She Won't Dance by Rod Stewart: Another performer who had a lot of videos on in the early days of MTV simply because he made a lot of them and they need stuff to fill the airtime, because back they literally just showed videos 24 hours a day (what a concept). A fairly generic rocker from Stewart, which must have come between his disco phase and his pop piffle phase, but well before his schlocky standards singing phase.

>>You Better You Bet by The Who: This was the big hit from the 1981 Face Dances album, which I owned. It didn't rock like Who classics of old, and indeed sounded a lot like Pete Townshend's solo stuff that came later in the '80s. A decent pop song, but a far cry from Live at Leeds and Quadrophenia.

>>Little Susie's on the Up by PhD: When I saw this, I was wondering who the hell they were, but sure enough, I remembering hearing the song on the radio back in the day.

>>We Don't Talk Anymore by Cliff Richard: Richard has a zillion hits in England but is pretty much unknown stateside, but this song was a hit in Toronto circa 1980. The video is classic early '80s, all crappy video effects and such.

>>Brass in Pocket by The Pretenders: Classic song by the classic lineup of this band. This video is one of the few that moves away from performance to tell a story. Chrissie Hynde is a waitress in a diner and when the rest of the band comes in, she tries to get their attention.

>>Time Heals by Todd Rundgren: Wasn't familiar with this song, but it sounds like Rundgren and Utopia back in those days. Catchy pop with good guitar.

>>Take It On the Run by REO Speedwagon: One of the big hits from REO's ridiculously immense Hi Infidelity album of '81, performed live by Kevin Cronin and the band. Nothing says 1981 like REO Speedwagon. Not sure if that's a good thing.

>>Rockin' the Paradise by Styx: One of the harder rocking songs off 1980's Paradise Theater album, which was one of the first records I ever bought. Dennis DeYoung is rocking the red nut-huggers and cheesy 'stache while Tommy Shaw and James Young are respendent in their jumpsuits. This was three years before the awesome awesomeness of Mr. Roboto.

>>When Things Go Wrong by Robin Lane and the Chartbusters: I had never seen the video, but I had heard the song before. Robin Lane was from the Boston area and was supposed to be the Next Big female singer back in the early '80s, but it never happened. Too bad, because she was pretty talented.

>>History Never Repeats by Split Enz: I wasn't familar with this song, but knew the band from its huge hit I Got You in 1980, which hit number one in Canada, but was a minor hit here. Singer Neil Finn went on to form the much more successful Crowded House a few years later.

>>Hold On Loosely by.38 Special: This was another big AOR rock hit in the early '80s. Very catchy pop chorus combined with lots of guitar (hell, the band had three guitarists), but the video provided clear evidence that some bands were better heard and not seen.

So that was the first hour. Apparently, the second hour wasn't bad, including April Wine's Just Between You and Me (a personal cheese favorite, as Briggy will attest) and Iron Maiden's eponymous classic. Awright, enough already!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Who Taught You to Live Like That

We are in the midst of some serious face-melting heat, mang. It's the kind of weather that makes you verrrrrry sleeeeeepy. Yep.

So I was excited to stumble upon the fact that one of my favorite bands, the mighty Sloan, has released a new single. They're streaming Who Taught You to Live Like That on their Myspace yert; you can also find an MP3 of it at the fine Culture Bully blog. The band plans to release its new album, Never Hear the End of It, on September 19; hopefully, it'll be released in the U.S. at the same it is in Canada. Often their records come out elsewhere before they do here. The single itself is a classic Jay Ferguson composition, but a little more anthemic than we're used to hearing from him. Good stuff.

But I don't want any SPAM:
  • I was disappointed to read today that Tour de France champ Floyd Landis flunked a drug test taken after stage 17 of the race, but it didn't really come as a shock. Let's face it, cycling is as dirty a sport there is when it comes to blood doping. Of course, he may still be exonerated if the "B" sample contradicts the original results; if found guilty, he'll be stripped of his Tour title. Here's hoping it was a false positive and he was clean, after all.
  • I'm a big fan of Chris Cornell and his work in Soundgarden, not so much his recent stuff with Audioslave. The first album was okay and I only heard the second one once and wasn't bowled over. But I have to admit I'm curious to hear what he does with the theme song to the next James Bond movie. Still, I'll take Badmotorfinger any day of the week over anything he's done in the last 10 years.
  • Metallica, another band whose early work was frickin' amazing, has finally relented and agreed to make its catalog available on iTunes. They added two live tracks to each of the first four albums. Funny, I just picked up a used copy of Kill 'Em All for $8 a few weeks ago at the Strawberries (yeah, they're still in business) here in town. Other big-name bands who still haven't allowed their music to be sold on iTunes include Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, and Radiohead (you can only buy their music digitally to benefit the War Child charity).
  • I'd be happier if it was actually picked up by another network to continue airing new episodes, but the hi-larious Arrested Development will live on in syndication on and cable channels HDNet and G4, all of which will air the show through 2009. Cool news, but I'll pick up the shows on DVD.
  • It makes you feel good about the people making big decisions for us when you hear Senator Ted Stevens talk about how the Internet is made up of a bunch of tubes. Yeah, I know this is a few weeks old, but I'd be remiss if I didn't make fun of this geezer. I mean, you've gotta watch Jon Stewart skewering the old coot:

Monday, July 24, 2006

Jams Run Free

Back to work today and it was not easy. Just the whole "first day back from vacation" drag. It was hard just getting out of bed this morning. Whatevah.

So as I was writing in this space on Saturday about going out for a long run, it started raining pretty hard out, so I bagged the run and went to the gym instead. Yesterday, I headed out at noon despite the possibility of rain and managed to finish 15 miles with nary a drop. It was about 75 out and cloudy with a slight breeze the whole time; you won't find much better running conditions this time of year in New England.

Speaking of running, the River to Sea Relay is coming up quick...a week from Saturday. As I've mentioned before, this is a 14-stage, 92-mile relay for seven-person teams that starts in Milford, NJ, and ends in seaside Manasquan, NJ. Each of us will run two of the legs, which vary in distance and difficulty. Each team has two support vehicles. There are 100 teams entered in the event this year. I just got a pile of information on the route and the rules of the race, so I need to boil all that stuff down and get everyone on the team on the same page before we head down there. Should be insane in the membrane, but in a good way.

Step aside, sir:

  • While I was down in Jersey last week, I caught some of the World Series of Darts on the TV in the hotel gym. ESPN carried the event, which was held at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. The "athletes" walked in with models on their arms and the announcers got overly excited like they would at any pseudo-sporting event. It was hilarious. ESPN won't air NHL games, but they're all over this? WTF?
  • Poor Dick Hatch. He won the first Survivor for being a master tactician, but he has proven himself a serial dumbass for just about everything he's done since. A judge just sentenced him to a year in jail for not paying taxes on his $1 million winnings. Did he think nobody would notice?
  • PBS Kids last year rebranded itself as PBS Kids Sprout, airing clips of its kids' shows such as "Clifford the Big Red Dog" and "Dragon Tales" and introducing perky hosts such as Melanie Martinez. Well, it turns out Melanie was a little too perky before she came to PBS Kids, appearing in a series of sex spoof videos, and now she's been fired by PBS. Here's the official statement from the network. The videos were done several years ago for a radio station, spoofing public service announcements urging teens to preserve their virginity; you can watch one here (no nudity, but not safe for work; pretty funny, though). Apparently she found out that it had been posted online and alerted the network, which promptly canned her. PBS officials say Melanie's videos "undermine her character's credibility with our audience," but really, are two-year-olds out there searching Google Video? And as some online have noted, PBS doesn't seem to have a problem with George Carlin and Alec Baldwin narrating episodes of "Thomas the Tank Engine," and they've been in, gosh, R-rated movies! What a bunch of reactionary pinheads.
  • Sad to hear Tina Fey is leaving Saturday Night Live, but I have high hopes for her new NBC primetime show, 30 Rock. She'll be writing, producing, and starring in the show, which takes a behind-the-scenes look at a late-night comedy show. Wonder where she'll get her ideas from?
  • Found out about some messed-up shiznitt going on at the Santa Barbara (CA) News-Press from a friend of mine who works there. Apparently, several editors have resigned in recent weeks, claiming the paper's owner pushed for favorable coverage for friends and refused to publish certain articles, among other offenses. It has caused quite the controversy in the community. My friend has been looking for a new job for a while, and now I understand why. I worked for some crappy editors in my days in community journalism (as well as some pretty great ones), but I can honestly say I never experienced this level of craptitude. Newspapers have enough working against them these days without resorting to this BS.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Natural Tan

What up? We're back from our vacation none the worse for wear. A little sunburned, but not much. Sorry for the lack of posts. I had expected to check in once or twice from the Shore because I had access to my bro-in-law's laptop, but turns out it's a work machine and I didn't want to veer too far off the beaten path with my InterWeb ramblings.

Our car woes continued as we drove down to the Shore last Saturday when we heard a whining noise from the front wheels. We stopped at a garage and it turns out the front brakes needed to be replaced; of course, we had just had the rear brakes done a few days earlier. Why the guy never bothered to check on the front brakes, I'll never know. We drove down and had the work done on Wednesday and the drive back was uneventful, aside from hitting every torrential thunderstorm on the East Coast. The week was fun and tiring, what with eight kids running rampant the whole time (our two girls, Matt and Tricia's two boys, and Tricia's sister's four kids). Other than the regular crying jags from the three 2-year-olds, the kids were actually really well behaved for the most part. We went to Brigantine Beach a few times and spent a lot of time out by the pool at the golf resort we stayed at. It was scorchingly hot the whole week, hitting 100 once or twice. It was a pretty mellow week for the most part, which is fine by me.

Matt and I got three runs in, including some speedwork at the local high school. I wasn't able to get a long run in last weekend (it was supposed to be 15 miles), so I'm just shooting to do that total today; I've been kind of dragging and lazy all day, so I'm hoping to head out in an hour or two. It's cloudy and a little cooler today, so it shouldn't be too awful.

Is that Freedom Rock? Well, turn it up, man:
  • Crazy shite going on with the Blue Jays, what with Shea Hillenbrand getting himself traded out of town after stirring up his patented brand of team dissension. He came into the season unhappy because the Jays picked up third baseman Troy Glaus and first baseman Lyle Overbay, which meant Hillenbrand would primarily be a DH. Never shy to voice his opinion, the Shea Hey Kid allegedly wrote "This is a sinking ship" on a board in the clubhouse, which led manager John Gibbons to challenge him to a fight before throwing him off the team. This is nothing new, since he did the same thing when he was with the Red Sox in 2003. Ultimately, he made the wise choice of calling Sox GM Theo Epstein a "faggot" during a radio interview and was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks; he was replaced at third base by Bill Mueller and his trade also created a full-time spot for David Ortiz. We all know how that deal turned out: Mueller won the AL batting title, Ortiz became one of the most dominant power hitters in baseball and the Sox won the World Series the next year. As for the Jays, they've managed to ignore the turmoil and take the first two games of their huge four-game set with the Yankees, keeping them in the AL East and Wild Card hunt. Hopefully, they can keep their eyes on the prize and keep on winning.
  • Although I've been out of touch in this venue, I've been keeping up on my sports news and the latest craziness out of Long Island is unbelievable. The Islanders, who in early June had named former Rangers GM Neil Smith as their new general manager, last week abruptly fired Smith and named backup goalie Garth Snow as his replacement. This once-proud franchise had dominated the NHL in the early '80s but had fallen on hard times lately, as former GM Mike Milbury made some of the dumbest trades imaginable and fired coach after coach. Team owner Charles Wang cleaned house and installed Smith as GM and Ted Nolan as the team's new coach, along with former Isles greats Pat Lafontaine and Bryan Trottier as part of the braintrust. Apparently, Wang and Smith didn't see eye to eye and Wang fired him, which I suppose is understandable, but to then make a guy who has zero managerial experience in any capacity (and who was preparing to start the new season as a goalie) the head of your team just makes no sense whatsoever. Wow.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Enthusiast

Word up. Just got down to NJ; we're more than halfway to our vacation spot on the Joisey Shore. Tonight, we're staying at my bro-in-law Matt's place and then tomorrow we drive down to Absecon to spend the next week sunning and splashing and whatnot. We had some not-so-fun times on the way down when our car (not my Olds Pimpbot 3000, but our '01 Maxima) starting making some weird noises not long after we got on the road. This is after we plunked down nearly $800 yesterday to have the brakes repaired and the car tuned up in general. At first, we thought it was stuff bumping around in the trunk, but then realized it was coming from the rear wheels. We found a service station in Connecticut and the guy figured out that the left rear wheel was loose; apparently our mechanic yesterday forgot to properly tighten the lug nuts. Nice. After that, the drive was much less stressful, but we will make sure to rip the mechanic a new one.

Fame and fortune is a stupid game:
  • Last night, after I spent the day wrapping up stuff at the office, I headed into Boston to check out the always awesome Mission of Burma at the Paradise. A bunch of co-workers and my good buddy OJ of Clicky Clicky fame were also in attendance. I caught the end of Neptune's opening set, which was weird and cool, what with the homemade instruments and the nizzoize. Then I managed to worm my way right up to the stage, right in front of Burma guitarist-singer Roger Miller. Holeeee crap, was that loud. He just had one ratty old Marshall hooked up, but it was immediately in front of me to the left and it was farkin' blasting. As a result, I couldn't hear the vocals too clearly, although OJ told me afterwards that the mix wasn't great from his vantage point in the balcony, either. That said, it was a great show. This was one of several small dates the band was playing since its new album The Obliterati came out, and they were in fine form. They played two 45-minute sets with most of the new album, five cuts from their 2004 album OnOffOn, and several of their classics. Miller eschewed his trademark industrial headphones (the band originally broke up in '83 because of his struggles with tinnitis) for some newfangled earplugs. Bassist-singer Clint Conley was having a ball watching Miller wail away, and drummer-singer Peter Prescott made many wisecracks between songs, including "We're the Arctic Clap Your Hands Arcade Monkeys." The show sold out earlier in the evening, a mix of aging rock nerds from the band's first incarnation, younger hipsters, and the rest of us dorks. Good times.

All right, I'll check in later in the week.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Highway to Lowdown

Quick post because it's been a few days. Alas, it's another Tuesday night when I should be playing hockey, but I stayed home to get some work done. I need to get my latest newsletter done for work before we head to Joisey on Friday, so it helped that I made some progress tonight. Plus I won't be exhausted tomorrow, when I really need to kick some butt.

Did my first day of speedwork this morning at the nearby high school track and felt pretty good. I had a softball doubleheader last night and I was worried that I would be stuck catching the whole night, but fortunately I played the outfield for much of the night. Not very's a tough transition going from behind the plate to judging fly balls. At any rate, my legs weren't overly sore, which helped with the sprinting this morning.

We had a crazy-ass thunderstorm move in this afternoon and drop a bunch of rain and some not-quite golf-ball-sized hail on us in Marblehead. I could hear the hail pounding on the roof of the building and looked outside and saw the biggest hail I had ever seen in person; turns out they had even worse hail up in New Hampshire. We got so much rain it flooded our whole lower parking lot. I had to wade out in water nearly up to my knees to get to my car; a few inches higher and the water would have poured into my car when I opened the door.

Have you seen Junior's grades?:
  • Scary story from the Big Dig, where 12 tons of concrete fell on a car going through a tunnel last night, killing a passenger. It's bad enough that there are plenty of old bridges and tunnels falling apart in New England from age and weather damage, but now we have to worry about the newer ones as well. This tunnel was built in 1999, but the Big Dig is such a joke that it's not really a surprise that shoddy workmanship went into it. And now the political maneuvering and fingerpointing begins.
  • Sad to hear of the death of Syd Barrett, who co-founded Pink Floyd in the late '60s but soon became a recluse after suffering from mental illness exacerbated by mucho acid. Makes you wonder what he could have done if he hadn't lost it so early.
  • Speaking of psychedelics, this study reached a stunning conclusion: Mushrooms produce mystical experiences. Wow. I had no idea.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Subcutaneous Phat

Another marathon season, another marathon training program. My experiment with the Pfitzinger 18 week/55 miles per week program didn't work out so well for me this spring because I ended up overtraining and suffering an Achilles' injury. I managed to recover and finish the Vermont City Marathon in May, but I didn't feel as prepared as I could have been because I had to take a few weeks off in the middle of my training. So this time around, I'm going in the other direction and trying the FIRST marathon training program from Furman University, which calls for three runs per week and cross-training on the other days. The idea is that you make the most of your runs, emphasizing speedwork and pacing. Runner's World featured it last summer and I figured I'd give it a shot, starting today with a 13-mile long run. I've been doing 10-milers the last several weekends, so it won't be too much of a jump. I was doing speedwork during my Vermont training, so I know what to expect there. The main difference is I'll have to run my long runs a little faster than before. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Droppin' some knowledge:
  • Nice to see that the legislators in New Jersey finally got their act together and ended a weeklong government shutdown, especially since we're heading down there for vacation starting next Friday. Not that we're going to take in a lot of casino action, but we'll be in or near Atlantic City most of the time, so it'll be nice to have things open. Now we just have to hope for good weather.
  • As we head into the All-Star break, the Blue Jays are playing some bad baseball, getting spanked the last two nights by the lowly Kansas City Royals. Not good, because the Red Sox and Yankees keep winning. It may be another third-place season for Toronto after all, unless they can wake the hell up.
  • No shocker, but U.S. album sales are down while sales of downloaded music are up. Most of the downloads are of singles or individual tracks, further illustrating our short-attention span culture. But let's face it, a lot of the artists populating the top 40 these days aren't focused on making good albums, but good singles. It's like the '60s all over again, when a band would have two or three singles and then a bunch of filler on the rest of the album.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Most People Are DJs

Hey hey, my my. I'm enjoying the suffocating stench of a wandering skunk, which has surrounded my house with his or her particular scent. I'm glad I can share with you. We're all about sharing and caring here at the Blizznog.

Bring the noize:

  • I know I'm late to the party on this one, but I've been getting into The Hold Steady recently. I'd read of them in various indie rock publications, but it wasn't until a post in the fine Clicky Clicky blog that I paid heed to my good friend OJ's praise of THS' 2005 album Separation Sunday. I downloaded that through eMusic and really have been enjoying it and the band's first album ...Almost Killed Me. Frontman Craig Finn doesn't so much sing as rant over the band's rockisms, telling stories about Midwestern losers and users and abusers while dropping in a myriad of pop culture references and subreferences. Think early Bruce Springsteen crossed with the snarky esoterica of Dennis Miller. It's definitely an acquired taste, but I'm down. Finn was the voice of another unsung act from the '90s called Lifter Puller, which played more of an art-punk sound behind his stories. The band was formed at Boston College, where Finn was a student and then continued in his hometown of Minneapolis. I'm eager to check out LP's catalog as well. As for The Hold Steady, they're currently at work on a new album, which I look forward to hearing and seeing them perform live.
  • All right, what the hell's going on with North Korea? Apparently, Kim Jong-Ill is playing a game of chicken with the rest of the world. I've seen reports that say the missiles they've been firing are pretty primitive and won't do much damage, but they're just begging to be invaded. I don't get it.
  • It's all fun and games until part of your skull falls off.
  • Damn, Hassle the Hoff is doing his best to stay in the news. Crying on American Idol, starring on a crappy Idol knockoff, having chandelier accidents, acting in Sandler movies, and now this. I'm still waiting for his rap album with Ice T to come out.
  • I guess what with the popularity of the InterWeb, the push for simpler spelling is coming to the forefront. No shock, given the fact that the most writing done by kids these days is in emails or instant messages. Abbreviations are the norm. Still, as an editor by trade, I find all that "LOL! OMG! LMFAO!" stuff pretty annoying.

Getting back to The Hold Steady, here's their video for "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" off Separation Sunday:

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Water Me Down

Just checking in while I try not to sweat onto the keyboard. We're definitely getting some summer weather and that's a good thing. We've been enjoying a visit from Deb's brother Matt and his family this weekend. We went on a whale watch out of Gloucester yesterday that was pretty impressive; I had never been on one before and we saw about a dozen whales out at Stellwagen Bank. We saw a bunch of humpbacks, finbacks, and minkes. It was amazing how close they got to the boat. They were definitely playful, going under the boat and coming up to chow down on eels. Very cool.

I went for a 10-mile run today around 3 p.m. and hoo boy, was it hot and humid. About 85 and sticky. I was extremely happy to get that one over with.

Hotter than July:
  • The NHL free agent season got off to a rollicking start yesterday. The Bruins made a big splash by signing monstrous d-man Zdeno Chara and center Marc Savard; the Leafs added a couple of defensemen in Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill (ugh); Ed Jovanoski went to Phoenix, Jason Arnott to Nashville, Rob Blake to LA, and many, many more. And there are still a ton of decent players still available. Teams are spending money like in pre-salary cap days. The difference is that it's not just a handful of rich teams doing the spending.
  • Congrats to the Blue Jays, who are sending five players to the All-Star Game next week, although only three will be playing because of injuries to Vernon Wells and Alex Rios. Roy Halladay, B.J. Ryan and Troy Glaus are also going to Pittsburgh next Tuesday.
  • Mentos and Diet Coke: two great tastes that explode together. These two dudes from Maine somehow discovered that when you drop a couple of the Freshmaker mints into a Diet Coke, the thing erupts like an Aspartame Vesuvius. They created a Web video that has taken the InterPants by storm and appeared on Letterman the other night to do their thing on the streets of NYC.
  • So apparently Ann Coulter's a Deadhead. Who knew? Regardless of her political views, she's still freaky looking.
  • I was truly bummed to hear that Sleater-Kinney has broken up. They definitely kicked arse. Here's hoping they end the hiatus a few years down the road before they get too old to bring the noise.