Follow by Email

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Joy most certainly Formidable

details to follow...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Guilty Pleasures Super Size Edition

As I have successfully avoided any and all Royal Wedding coverage today, I find it is time to give thanks.  Thanks for the rains stopping so I can coach softball game 2 tonight.  Thanks for Joy Formidable at Webster Hall following the game.  Thanks I am able to take time on a Friday morning to write.  And to those who are reading... thanks much.

Music:
Might as well start with the band I am seeing tonight.  As with many of the acts I have seen live recently I am going in fairly blind.  Save for a few tracks I have heard on the radio and the videos below, all I know is they have a female lead singer (Ritzy Bryan), hail from Wales, and rock pretty hard.  Borrowing a line from some post I read: "think Arcade Fire meets Karen O(from Yeah Yeah Yeahs.)"  I have not been to Webster Hall in forever and am rather looking forward to it.   Take the introduction along with me and get to know this upstart from across the pond.  I mean, it's a little hot to see a woman singing and playing guitar, no?  OK, unless it's Amy Grant...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W66yhfMb4d0 .  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W66yhfMb4d0

Since I gave Karen O a shout out, think it is high time she/they get some love.  Formed over 10 years in and around NYC, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs might be what Joy Formidable wants to be when they grow up: another power trio with a strong female leader.  Keyboardist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase comprise the other members.  Three albums in, and some solo projects along the way (namely Karen O's work on the morbid "Where the Wild Things Are" soundtrack) this band continues to rock on.  "Heads Will Roll," from their 2009 album "It's Blitz." is one of my favorite songs, and videos, of the past 5 years.  Take a look and judge for yourself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auzfTPp4moA

The Canadian band, The New Pornographers, have paid their dues and had some critical and commercial successes since they formed in the late 90s.  Amazingly, I like them for their music and not band name.  Besides, I tend to like old pornography.  Since I am trying to jump off the Arcade Fire bandwagon...  (although it is difficult because "The Suburbs" is a terrific album) let us now heap praise on other Canadian acts (Neil Young and Barenaked Ladies please wait your turn.)   Another large piece band with great hooks and harmonies, New Pornographers are very much worthy of your attention.  A brief sampling:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpvqU2cmK8I
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MxOJPBQKW0&feature=related

White Lies, cut from the same cloth as Interpol and Editors, has a catchy little tune, "Bigger than Us" making the alt charts these days.  Another English import with a brooding baritone lead singer (Harry McVeigh) the song and sound will be familiar.  And that is not a bad thing.  These guys are a relativelty young band paying their dues.  Judging by the live version I have linked here, they can play.  My hope is they will keep it up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc62Qn5P9Kw

Film:

Nothing.

There are a few benefits to having an only child.  Specifically, it is very good having one that is independent and nearing 4th grade.  Tomorrow night she has a sleepover party for one of her friends.  5:30 pm to 10:30am on Sunday.  Translation:  free babysitter.  The evening is set up for dinner and a movie.  Not quite.

Our local theatre has 4 screens.  3 of them are showing kids films (all awful!!!)  The adult fare is "Water for Elephants."  Without reading reviews, which I have, this film NEVER interested me.  The title itself turns me away, not to mention Twilight guy and mis-cast Reese Witherspoon.  And isn't it about time for Witherspoon to do the whole dark, mentally unstable leading lady??  She needs to refer to Angelina Jolie ("Girl Interuppted), Halle Barre ("Monster's Ball) and Hilary Swank ("Boys Don't Cry") for career advice.  It has been a long time since "Legally Blond."  Oscar likes damaged women, not sappy romantic dramas.  Unless she is channeling her inner Valerie Bertinelli/Lisa Hartman Black and looking to seque into Lifetime dramas.

My search for films out of town was no better.  "Fast Five?"  Seriously???  There are now (5) five films devoted to Vin Diesel, cars, and what the hell else???  I think I would rather watch George Clooney talk about Darfur. 

"Scream 4?"  C'mon now???  If you film David Arquette and Courtney Cox in therapy I could buy in.  Their real life seems far more scarier than whatever Wes Craven can imagine these days.  And I like Wes Craven. 

Even the art theatre has let me down...  "Jane Eyre???!!!"  How many times has this story been re-imagined?  I hated it when I pretended to read it in English Lit years ago. 

Is there an original thought in Hollywood these days??  I understand this is typically slow time for film leading to the big (read: overblown and overhyped) summer movie season.  This Spring however, seems especially dull.

Guess I will catch up on the latest dvd releases.  Least I will save $50.

Sports:

New York Mets losses:

Even after their 6 game winning streak, started at my Astros' expense, I still cannot get enough Mets misery.  Filled with a team of lazy, inept underachievers and a payroll big enough to compete, their descent into baseball futilty brings a huge grin to my face.  It is no secret I have hated them since Ray Knight, Doc Gooden, and Lenny Dykstra broke my heart in 1986.  It is also true I would prefer watching them lose than watch my team win.  Now, with the fallout from owner Fred Wilpon's ties to Bernie Madoff putting them in financial chaos, the Earth seems to be back on its axis. 

I can ignore the killer tornadoes, fruitless wars, economic uncertainties, President's birth records, and Fairy Tale Weddings as long as the Mets fall further into the abyss.  And after a 4-3 loss to the lowly Nationals last night I can release a little grin.  Friday tastes a bit better.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Winter Sports

When you grow up immersed in New Jersey Parochial basketball, no other sport really matters.  I followed football and always had strong ties with baseball.  But I never excelled at either of those sports.  Hell, I was barely competent at basketball.  I loved the game though and made up for my lack of skill with heart and hustle.  With that I probably got more out of my game than I should have.

As I grew up I could not get enough of the game.  I played during all my spare time.  I watched any action I could.  High school, grade school, college, pros...  you name it I was mesmerized.  Growing up watching the greats, like Jack Sikma and Xavier McDaniel, made it a little easier.  I suppose Magic, Bird and that bald guy with the tongue in Chicago were not bad either.  

Now, many years later, I have tuned out the pro game altogether.  In fact, up until last night, I had not watched a minute of the NBA playoffs.  And the minute I did watch, an overtime game between Memphis and San Antonio, exemplified why.  1 on 1 dribbling and isolation plays.  Timeout after timeout.  I tuned in with 2 minutes left and must have been watching for 15 minutes.  I gave up before the final buzzer sounded.  San Antonio, at home, was fighting off elimination from upstart Memphis.  I sensed some crowd excitement, but barely any from the players.  Tim Duncan might be a robot anyway so maybe not the best example.

I mentioned to a friend how I found the NBA unwatchable and he showed concern.  An avid Celtics fan he sited Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as team players with an overall great scheme.  I am still not buying it.  Garnett opens his mouth too much.  Paul Pierce was in a nightclub stabbing.  Rondo, well he is good, but I am still not caring.  And that is when my buddy told me I sound like a crotchety old man.  Dare he say, racist??

Not true.  I watched most of March Madness with a keen eye.  There is true excitement at the college level, even at the big schools, because the young athletes have not yet been jaded by instant riches, Bentley's and arena groupies.  Of course some of the top kids at major universities have a taste of that, but not at Butler.  Seeing the Bulldogs reach the Final Four two consecutive years speaks to the overall health of the game.  Get 5 to 7 kids working together for 4 years and good things can happen.  Once the select few reach the pro game talent super-cedes teamwork.  Where hath Gordon Heyward and JJ Redick gone???  Shane Battier and Mateen Cleaves???  Great college players with Final Four clout who went on to become adequate role players at best.

Today we have Kobe Bryant, Garnett, Kevin Durant etc...  Guys who went straight from high school or maybe one year of college right to the pros.  And the game needs maturity.  Truth be told I am older now and I want to root for good kids.  I don't want to see tattoos everywhere.  I don't want to see players rip into refs for every call.  And more to the point I don't want to see 2 minutes of game take a half hour of my life.  NBA:  Not Buying At All.

And as I tune the lifeless NBA out, I have gravitated more and more to hockey.  For someone who has followed playoffs in all sports for as long as I remember, nothing captivates more than the NHL.  The chase for the Stanley Cup IS the best playoff.  Growing up in West Jersey during the 80s there was not an ice hockey rink anywhere near me.  I still have yet to skate.  At age 38 I think that ship has sailed.  It is the one sport where I never followed a team.  Loosely I liked the Islanders when Mike Bossy was winning cups, but I would never admit to that these days.  As with every sport I hate all teams NY and Philly.  All that is irrelevant in April, May and June.

The game keeps getting faster.  The players bigger and stronger.  The excitement palpable.  The breaks in action???  Almost non-existent.  Add to that Doc Emrick's voice and play by play ability, or the chance of bloodshed, or penalty shots, or power plays, short handed goals, game 7 overtimes...

And players who care!!!  Already during the first round I have found myself watching Vancouver/Chicago, Tampa Bay/Pittsburgh, Boston/Montreal and Philadelphia/Buffalo play game 7s.  All this with no rooting interests.  I am learning about players from all these teams and seeing the determination in their eyes (and playoff beards.)  Passion pouring from goalies sweat filled masks.  Coaches rotund faces juggling lines looking for the right mix.  Emotions boiling after heated battles, night after night.  Crowds exploding with joy as lamps are lit.

Finally, the game 7 handshakes.  Combatants for weeks lining up like my 3rd/4th grade softball team will tonight. "Good game.  Good game.  Good game."  The goalies, drenched and exhausted, finally meet at the end of the line.  They embrace as gladiators and acknowledge, like all sportsman should, there are no losers tonight.  A better team did prevail and will move on.  But the game lives on.  A true battle of will waged for several more weeks.  Hockey, not like any of the other sports, embraces the true meaning of sport.

There is nothing more physical.   I dare you to find me a sport with more raw emotion.  Yet when the battle ends...  after all the spit, blood and vitriol...  an embrace, an acknowledgment that you got me this time, but I will be back.  Best of luck moving on, but remember you had to get by us...  and we did not give up.


Picture for a moment the Celtics and Lakers lining up after game 7 sometime in June...  and when you are done laughing put the Versus network on and watch Nashville hockey this evening.

Sounds crazy I know.  But I fear you might get hooked.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Disclaimer and Royal Wedding

Got some feedback from yesterday's post and much of it centered on me being a "sell out."  My attempt to make lemonade out of lemons must have come across as a pathetic attempt to mend fences.


Let me say this, there was sincerity in my sentiment.  Is it ideal driving hilly roads to backwoods locations watching folks who should know better swill beers, put kids in danger and not train immense dogs?  Of course not.  But did my family engage in any of those actions?  Hells no.  We had, and will always have, control over the situation.


Dog runs around the leash and pulls niece under it's pull.  We can rescue niece and get her to safety.  We can say no to the endless amounts of alcohol present and take our sober bodies home when it gets out of hand.  And if we want to avoid the drama altogether, we can.


I liken it to Lars Von Trier's movie "The Idiots."  That 1998 film (http://www.videodetective.com/movies/trailers/the-idiots-trailer/42338, )the first of the so-called "Dogma 95" movement, tells the story of a seemingly "anti-bourgeois" group of adults spending their time seeking their "inner idiot" to release their inhibitions. They do so by behaving in public as if they were developmentally disabled.  Quite simply, without the drooling this is the role I play on my trips North.  I stop short of the drooling and add a modicum of verbal communication, of course.  But again, it all comes back to expectations.  Have very little and rarely, if ever, will you be disappointed.


I sympathize with my wife and daughter as they are more immersed and ripe for letdown.  But can you really get angry over something that is out of your control??  Adults well into their 50s have patterns of behavior that we cannot influence, for better or worse.   


OK, back to other nonsense from the past few days.


First, wondering if I am the only one that uses way more shampoo than normal when I stay at other folks houses?  I know I am stingy at best with home shampoo usage.  But man do I pile it on when elsewhere. My hands barely contain the copious amounts lathered, rinsed and repeated.  Could you get more low rent?


Finally, does anyone really care about the Royal Wedding in this country?  I saw an ad the other day for the Today's show coverage for Friday and it nearly made me throw up.  Will people really get up at 4am, dress as if they are going, and watch this mindless spectacle?  The writing is on the wall for this union's demise as it is.  We should all buy in to this elaborate hoax for what?  The illusion of happiness?  Of glamour?  Of fairy tales???


No thanks.


As soon as the King can start/end wars, solve economic hardships, fix his country's teeth, then I will pay attention.  Otherwise, this is an antiquated attempt to distract us from harsh realities.  And I am not buying in.  


Since when do we care about England anyway???  I keep hearing about how amazing the Princess Di/Charles wedding was.  Such revisionist craziness.  Sure, we had a great story for a year or so.  Then they hated each other, divorced, and lived unhappily ever after until death soon followed (for the one who could not take the damn throne!!!)


Will this tale follow the story book ending we so needed from William's dad?  Why on Earth would I believe that?  Does Middle America want to believe it?   If you are up at 4am to watch this I have a better idea.


Hit the gym.  Take a jog.  Read a book.  Anything will be more enlightening and beneficial to your overall physical and mental well being.


  

Holiday Weekend

The Suburban Man's priorities very often deal with managing time, and more importantly expectations.  Weekends and Holidays provide the greatest challenges.  Add to that already volatile mix...  the dreaded road trip.  You best be ready for any and all situations.  Plan ahead and accordingly.

15 years in or so I think I have it all pretty clear.

1)  Prepare to spend extra money.  You can never expect rising gas prices and every day items.  Figure, you were gonna fill your tank staying local so that isn't much a difference.  It's those things unexpected that you MUST expect.  You go to your in-laws, and there is divorce, and more than one grandmother, and everyone celebrates Easter...  there will be several trips to the Flower Tent.  End of story.  And after several years over-paying at the chic local Floral Workplace (or whatever quaint name they call it in your area) I finally won the battle and received authorization to purchase at the tent.  Let's be honest, the Easter flowers are nothing more than a gesture.    4 times we presented them to family members this weekend.  And 4 times I am fairly certain flowers were sent to their graves.  And I am ok with that; for $10 a shot.  Lunches for family members are cool too.  You do not see them that often so spread the joy and have fun.  Plus, you live near and work in New York City...  if you don't pick up the check you run the risk of starting the not making it/failures rumor.  Although that might be true you have still have a pretend reputation to protect.  Chicken sandwiches and mozzarella sticks will not kill you.  The money spent pouring beers, pizza and hot wings down your sad sack face each evening will make you forget about lunch anyway.  

2)  Like your car.  And I may be struggling with this one.  If even for these few weekends a year I should know better to have a smaller car than my previous one.  The VW had to go, for a myriad of reasons.  But the Mazda I find myself zoom zooming in is a bit smaller than it should be.  Saturday I found myself back and forth picking up kids, visiting 3 households, going 10 miles out of my way for Starbucks...  all through the hills of Northeastern Pennsylvania.  When I left NJ my trunk was empty.  Last night it was full and spilled over to the backseats.  That brings me to:

3)   Expect relatives that rarely see their niece, granddaughter, cousin, friend,  to over indulge in every  way imaginable.  Easter egg hunts lead to car loads of candy and cash.  There are meals that would feed some metropolitan soup kitchens.   Smothering attention creates a false and unhealthy view of love.  Not a biggie.  As parents we fall guilty of that from time to time.  Only normal for extended family members to throw "things" at loved ones.  Far easier to gain acceptance that way.   Do not begrudge it.    The intent is not harmful.  Love manifests itself in many ways.  Say thank you.  Accept it.  Move on.  Memories are built on the shared experience.  My hope is the endless search for eggs on a muddy Saturday afternoon will far surpass the 5 tons of candy I will be taking to work Tuesday.

We kid a bunch about families and their dysfunction.  The weekend trip to the in-laws does not hit me like my wife expects it to.  If anything it makes me more proud of her.  More astounded.  OK, your folks had you young.  They got divorced, re-married, etc...

Sounds like the norm to me.  Each stop we made was full of both love and doubt.  Sounds very much like Madison, NJ.  Or San Antonio, Texas.  Homes in Libya, Syria, Israel, wherever...  Men and women working things out, trying to understand their loved ones, their role at home, on Earth.

You process the information, maybe have a few laughs along the way, and try to find somewhere, anywhere, that you belong.

If people are willing to have you and bring some joy in return maybe you have found your Holiday.  And maybe the calendar does not have to remind you to celebrate it.


Post-script
And at the end of a long weekend please do NOT watch Yogi Bear.  This tedious, un-realistic, unfunny borefest had me questioning all that is good in the world.  His voice sounded nothing like the cartoon.  Tom Cavanaugh and Anna Faris were an embarrassing leading couple.  Three(3) writers provided the most juvenile, disgusting, and thoroughly un-inspired story ever written.  I mean (3) writers???  Really???

The animation was a joke.  Who thinks love action and animation works well together?  And why did I see an ad for another Scooby Do movie prior to this feature???  Now, since the Easter Bunny brought a popcorn machine (of course he did) we have agreed to a movie night once a week.  That is fine with me as I love film.  But I will be damned if I am going recline once a week and watch this horse%$#@.  At 8 it is high time Mr John Hughes is introduced.  And maybe some R rated flicks.  I was watching Faces of Death when I was 8 and look how well adjusted I turned out.

Ok, maybe not the best example.  But for the love of Zemeckis does anyone make good family films anymore.  And I am not talking kids films...  I mean family films.  Pixar crafts their product rather than pump up garbage once a year.  Disney can only do so many singing princesses.  I have no problem going to the vault and opening up a young girl to all the classics.  Just wish there were some instant classics at my multi-plex once in a while.

And apologies to all critics of Yogi Bear...  I read your reviews and knew it was gonna suck...  just had to take one for the team.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

The short 2 hour ride West finds me in Northeastern Pennsylvania this Easter weekend. Home of my alma mater, camouflauge clothing and my wife 's family. So, as they prepare tomorrow's feast, I look back at the week that was and offer this week's installment of Guilty Pleasures. And since I have entered a bit of a time warp I will enter the vault.


Music:

Gerry Rafferty. The late 70s were a magical time for music, and in particular soft rock. Rafferty perhaps best exemplified the decades' feeling of want, need for acceptance and heartache. We all love and remember the torture scene from "Reservoir Dogs."  "Stuck in the Middle With You" could not have been more fitting song choice. Quentin Tarantino has always had flair with music editing. With his first feature, and this scene specifically, he announced his presence to the film World. Raferty's soft voice and steel pedal riffs bring an airy California feel to the proceedings. Never mind he was a depressed, Scottish drunk. Make a quick google search should time permits to see how sadly his end days were spent.  His other smash hits, "Baker Street" and "Right Down the Line" are 70s staples. I debate which one stands out and end up throwing my hands up. They both rock. They both bring back fond memories. They both are linked below (along with the torture scene from Reservoir Dogs.). After all, it is Good Friday.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPFJupeaCuA&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sedPivIxfM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkS169P_Eeo


1984

The last time I took this drive I heard a top 40 from Orwells favorite year. A quick plug for 80s on 8. More to the point... big props to Alan Hunter, Martha Quinn, Nina Blackwood and Mark Goodman. I love that Sirius XM employs these staples of my youth. And let's be honest... radio is their best medium these days. You are always a bit concerned what a dj might look like. Since we all know what these guys looked like 20 years ago... nuff said. I am however a little tempted to see how high Adam Curry's hair is. Or if he has any left? 1984 had a little bit of everything. The Boss was loving the USA. Prince's epic, amazing "Purple Rain" dominated charts. Rock still existed and Van Halen had the album to prove it. The "Footloose Soundtrack" Hall and Oates, Men at Work and Huey Lewis all had several hits. Variety, androgyny, synths, guitars, girls who dress like boys, boys who dress like girls... A 2011 precursor if there ever was one. Today's Limousines and Foster the People trace their roots to Duran Duran and Thompson Twins. Katy Perry and Lady Gaga will never escape their Madonna/Cyndi Lauper pedigree, try as they might. The Bravery and Killers best thank their lucky Human League every night. The beauty of music reminds you of your past. And as I listen to today's youth, and their music, I am reminded we have not gotten too far away from it. I will stop at cuffing my Cavarreccis, throwing on my Members Only jacket and playing Space Invaders. Some things need not return.   And ok, I guess I would play Space Invaders if given the chance.  Some of what I heard/loved on my drive:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jwxX4BtRv8  Christine McVie
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=te1CVVlaJzA  Thompson Twins
www.youtube.com/watch?v=s22ufU-67iM  Hall and Oates
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=te1CVVlaJzA  Steve Perry
http://eightiesclub.tripod.com/id223.htm

Twitter:

I am a new supporter/member of this inventive, fast moving social media. Follow me at Suburbandad23 if you too have joined the revolution. Mostly I use this tool on my phone to check up on celebrities and their oddities. Steve Martin is sardonic and brilliant, duh. Robin Quivers drives me crazy with her non-meat eating do good-ing. Retail sites make the grade as well. Sometimes you can get info on deals, or events, or whatever. Goes without saying band sites are helpful and entertaining.   I am on top of artists recording, or touring, or playing wiffle ball outside venues. Utter and complete minutia. My favorite. Probably explains why I am most interested in Alyssa Milano and Adrienne Curry. Milano tweets about her pregnancy and undying love of the Dodgers.  And not a day goesd by when Curry isn't discussing her obsession with gaming, working out or sending pics of her half naked body. Who's the Boss? Me and my smart phone, that's who.

 Off to color more eggs and self medicate. Happy Easter everyone.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Odds and Ends

Pets:

I am beyond curious what to do about an aged, sickly cat keeping me awake every night.  I really wish I could explain the deafening sounds of terror she wails at least thrice nightly.  Last night was an exceptional display.  We hosted a sleepover so a neighbor could get out of town with her son on college visits.   Never mind the school night sleepover presented its own series of problems (read:11pm we finally heard silence.)   It seems when the balance is shifted in the household our cat freaks out a bit.  Sleepovers our guest room usage typically means bedroom doors remain closed.  She may not want to go in that room, but I think if you prevent her from doing so she gets pissed.

I locked her in the basement around midnight but this old house can't contain her ungodly shrieks.  Fill the food bowl.  No help.  Water with some fresh ice.  Good, but does not stop her.  1am cries.  3am cries.  And 6am (half hour prior to alarm) loud and long cries.  Now, on a glorious Spring day, it is me that cries.  Can I please get 8 consecutive hours sleep this calendar year???  And I understand the vet is not going to shed any light.  We have a 17 year old cat.  If I take her to the vet she will not come back.  That I cannot live with.  Anyone who knows me understands I am more conditioned to hear/see about human cruelty than animal cruelty.

Been some talk about OCD lately and how it might present in some people in my life.  Would only make sense my cat suffers too.  After all, she did lick her stomach bald a few years back.


Gray Hair:

A friend of mine pulled behind me while driving a few weeks back.  When he had the chance he honked and berated me for fixing my hair in the mirror.  "You look pretty enough???  Need a comb?"  I deserved it as I now find myself obsessing over the abundance of gray hairs.  Stop lights are the worst.  What looks like narcissistic grooming is actually an attempt to pluck, one by one, the gray right out of my head.  I am losing.  And it is funny because I never really cared about going gray.  Maybe the truth hurts more than a little.

And since my hair is long I now fear if I do cut it, as my daughter constantly urges me, it will all come in gray.  Ugh.  I think if the Barista asking:  "Can I help you ma'am?" did not prompt the haircut nothing will.  And the little one does not realize the more she asks me to do something the less inclined I am to do it.  So I guess I will embrace my long, gray hair (grudgingly.)  Picture Jane Goodall with a goatee.

TV:


Showtime's incredible rip off Fight Camp 360 caught my attention.  The 4 part series, here for the upcoming Manny Pacquiao v Shane Mosley fight, wants to be the far better HBO 24/7 series.  One problem.  They do not use narration.  HBO's polished and better looking show has a writer, and more importantly a voice.  Actor Liev Shreiber does narration for all HBO sports documentaries/documentary series.  His voice is incredible and a natural fit for the clean, entertaining dialogue that he performs.  Hell, if HBO and Liev can make Floyd Mayweather Jr a sympathetic character need I say more?  I will watch because Pacquaio is arguably the top athlete working today, in all sports.  His trainer, Freddie Roach, is nearly as fascinating.  But I am not prepared to hand over the World of Boxing to Showtime yet.  To me it still rests in the lap of HBO, and Larry Merchant, and Jim Lampley, and of course, Michael Buffer.  I am not sure they have the legs and money to stay with it, but I am pulling for it.  The fact this fight, maybe the biggest of the year should Mayweather Jr continue to duck Pacquaio, is not an HBO pay-per-view event speaks to it losing its grip.  I am hoping it is a mere blip.

But watch me pay the $60 May 7th regardless...







Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why I drive... an ode to New Jersey Transit

When I think about the commute in and out of New York City inevitably I get anxious and somewhat angry.  After a few good weeks commuting, helped in large part to child illness and brief vacation, I was back at it the past few days.  Monday was met with deep, deep troubles.  After dealing with a daughter who was clearly not in a mood to go to school, or get out of bed for that matter, we still managed to all get out of the house before 7:40am.  Showers, lunches made, hostilities put aside and still all good to, YAY, catch the 8am train.  Nevermind our daughter is now at school a half an hour prior to opening bell.  She had 2 of the last 3 weeks off...  go get an education!!!

We make the loop and double back to the municipal parking lot.  I make a concerted effort to avoid hitting pedestrians.  So far, so good.  7:51am when we park.  I speed walk ahead of my wife and make my way to the ticket stand.  $99.00 for 9 one way tickets.  That is not going to be enough to get is back and forth all week.  But don't wanna drop the $150 right now and the Monthly pass is dicey during vacation months.  3 bills is something that has to be well thought out.  Not in the cards for April.

With about a minute to spare we make the train.  No coffee, but I do have a paper.  Somewhere around Summit the train starts to sputter a bit.  It's moving sure, but at a greatly reduced speed.  When it makes it to the station I notice we are lingering a bit.  Ok, 20 minutes and 2 stops.  Not ideal, but we only have 2 stops left.  We can make it up and still arrive @ 9, like the schedule reads. 

Hmm, why are we now stopping in Short Hills.  That is new.  And now Milburn?  Maplewood?  And why no information on the PA.  Would it kill NJ Transit to announce the obvious???  "Ladies and Gentlemen, you have clearly noticed we are no longer an express train.  Sorry once again for killing your expectations and making your morning a little more miserable."  I understand the conductors are mere pawns for their administrative bosses and Amtrak.  But I just dropped $11 a piece to take an 8am train that EXPRESSES to South Orange and gets me to Penn Station at 8:57am.  That is not happening now.  And when we arrive at South Orange you best believe it is standing room only.  The Newark stop doesn't help matters.  Oh wait, at 8:47 I get an email alert telling me the train I am on is expected to be delayed 20 minutes or so.

Thanks.  Let me get back to the car and try another way.  Oh, that's right, I have been captive for 50 minutes and not given an opportunity to edit my morning.  One PA announcement?  One "I am sorry?"  That might have helped ease the pain.  Because we all understand the system is imperfect.  We get it's Monday and s$%@ happens.  But when you willingly treat your customers with such disdain??  How can I accept it?

Especially when we did the same thing this morning but opted to drive (I know, Passover helps with car commute.)   As I exited the Holland Tunnel at 8:44, then parked in the West Village, took the 6 subway to Park Ave and 30th St, then walked into my office at 9:31, I thought to myself "I was still on the train yesterday at this time."  And we could go into the cost differentials; but what about my time and well being?  What are they worth? 

Quick Breakdown:

NJT: $22.00 roundtrip per person.  $44.00 for wife and I yesterday
Car: $15 to park, $8 Subway roundtrip.  97 Altima gas/wear and tear figure $15.00  Tolls: $7.00  $45.00 and I am probably going over the top on Altima $.  Car is great on gas when it is not $4.00 a gallon.

I am not factoring in the $400 yearly parking pass for town either.  I also have Satellite radio which is more useful/effective in the car than train.  When I look at the numbers it appears real close.

And the tie-breaker is always my time and well being.  And at the risk of sounding like a tool, I have a high self value.  And I am not the biggest people person.

Damn straight the car is better.  And now I have Al Gore on my case.  I keep trying Al I promise, but NJT is determined to keep me on NJ highways.  Cast your blame their way please.  I gotta refill my tank.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Digression... or How I lived through Monday and learned to defuse the grenade.

It started, like most morning skimishes, over cereal.  Naturally it was Cookie Crisp.  It was purchased during the middle of last week.  My daughter had one bowl the day after purchase.  When she awoke, rather nicely to start Monday after Spring Break, she asked for a bowl of cereal.  Soon I had to tell her the cereal we purchased was no longer in the house.  I had pretty much devoured the entire box after the concert the other night.  Wonder why so hungry?

Well, this sent my darling girl into an uproar.  Back upstairs to scowl at the Mrs.  Door closed and pouting for a bit.  We managed to talk her off the cliff long enough to enjoy, ick, Frosted Flakes.  But it speaks to a much larger issue.  As I sit down to write this we have just spent an hour with her, again imploring her to relax.  She wanted one of us to lay with her in bed for a bit.  That could have been arranged earlier in the evening.  But she was determined to complete a report of her spring break (which is not assigned btw.)  I would help her download pictures and there were some editing issues.  All of this took us to bedtime.  And once again we are the wardens billy clubbing Andy Dufresne back into Shawshank.

The Mrs gets grief for wanting to watch the Flyers on her couch after a long day.  I get yelled at from rooms away:  "Dad I am not going to sleep with that typing sound."  Everybody's a critic.  Weird though how energetic, happy and engaging she was from school pick up to 9pm.  In fact, she was downright jumpy.  I played hoops with her.  Prepared a nice dinner.  We all went out for ice cream.  Good day I thought.  She even proposed a kitty that she could build on if she behaved well.  This is an intelligent girl who feels real guilt and understands she says hurtful things to us.  Manic maybe?  And it is a real concern.  She lashes out one moment and hugs and kissed you the next.  "Sorry, dad.  I love you.  I don't know why I get angry."  Immense highs followed by brutally low lows.  I am convinced a majority of teenagers are less emotional.

And you look back at your actions.  Your parenting tactics come into question.  Then, therapy gets discussed again.  Just as you think you are out...

But something has to give.  This is an 8 year old girl here.  One who should always be happy.  One who should not know the word therapy.  She should not be telling me I do not want medication to be happy.  "Who does that?"  she asks.  Good question.  Try everybody.  Maybe the gym is your vice?  Booze?  Online shopping?  It's all out there.  Cleaning?  Running?  Smoking?  Caffeine?  All of the above???  Geez, do they have 12 step programs for "everything disease?"  Do they have them for men wearing capris?  skinny jeans?  mustaches?  I digress.

Legitimate questions remain.  Clarity becomes more distant as this young girl matures.  Pretty evident I am not adept at handling adults of this gender.  Goes without saying the younger kind presents a litany of issues out of my scope.  Guess I will keep working on it.  What other choice do I have?

That is tomorrow though...  for now I have got to explain the numbers on my cell phone to my wife.  Want her to know who to ask for when she calls them.

Hmm, could this cathartic rambling be my vice?  And if a word is typed loudly on a computer and no one reads, has it really be written?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Luck of the Draw

Lost in the bedlam that has dominated my life for months, was a constant reminder of a some truly good fortune.  Namely, my next doors neighbors and overall neighborhood is filled with very, very good people.  The folks directly to the south of us have been in their house for 40 years or so.  They have seen countless families move in and out.  Their own family, I think 4 kids but am unsure, have grown up in town, started families of their own, and moved away.  They provide a nice stability that every neighborhood should have.  The house is quiet, well maintained and full of every experience a household should have.  Our relationship with its owners is cordial and should I ever have a big problem I am certain I could ask them for help.  The age difference makes it tough.  They are retired and I really can't see talking about the Caveman @ Bowery Ballroom with them.  Long story short we are thankful they are next door.

Same goes with our neighbors to the north.  They have the same make up as our family: husband my age, wife and toddler daughter.  They moved in about a year after us and we have been friends ever since.  As our schedules are very different we rarely socialize with them, especially in the winter.  But it's days like this I remember how lucky we are.  Never mind they routinely watch our daughter if we need help in a pinch.  They watch our aged, ill cat when we get away for a weekend.  Let's not forget taking out the trash should we be away, too.  Amazing.  And since I am tool/project/mechanically inept, I am staring at an assembled basketball hoop in our driveway.  That is a good neighbor.  And as any home project there were issues.  Package was shorted parts so we had to go back to the box store to get the missing pieces.  All and all every bit of two hours out of his Sunday.  And there was never any hesitation in his voice when I asked for help.  Oh, and don't get me started on how we totally spaced on his birthday yesterday.  Thankfully my wife made a wonderful dinner he was able to enjoy.  But if we are still keeping score...  I am probably down dozens of favors.  I will effort to get em back though.

Reminds me that although things have changed from generations ago, they have indeed stayed the same.   There is rampant hypocrisy in the suburbs.  But that is only the partial story.  I liken it to how we are trying to raise our daughter.  We understand she is wound tight a bit and socially more mature than her age.  So, if she gets impatient or is unsure of how to channel her anger, we just hope that around others she can remain poised and confident.  Moreover, be polite.  Please, no thank you...  Move on.

For the most part she is all of that and more.  Her rage and hostility presents primarily around us.  That is ok.  We handle it, try to move on, and grow.

Meaning?  There might be horrific and hurtful things, physically, emotionally, who knows?, happening next door.  But we all have the potential to be civil and friendly to one another.  And maybe by doing so all of the other evils and horrors become easier to handle.  Hell, there is enough craziness out here to keep or minds occupied.  I paid $60 to fill a Japanese 4 cylinder today!!!  We owe it to ourselves to be better.   We cannot be expected to count all of our neighbors as friends (clearly.)  It is worth looking into though.

Glad I did.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Keeping Score

I had a great conversation with friends last night regarding youth athletics.  Finding I may not know half as much as I should about how the games are played moving forward.  It stems from our 3rd grade school basketball "travel" team having 23 girls on it.  In fact, the teams through 6th grade have 20 or so kids for the most part.  Now, if you are unsure of basketball let me tell you only 5 kids are on the floor at one time.  And since we are not making cuts or having tryouts, the hardest part of coaching is working in EVERY kid equally.

My opinion is if we are playing competitive games, which travel leagues are, there have to either be cuts, or tryouts.  My daughter had tryout for the town travel soccer program, prior to 3rd grade.  And tryouts for travel basketball seem like a no brainer too.  Other schools and their teams want to come to our gym and beat us.  Do we need kids on the team who have no interest in being there?  Not only does that take away from the dozen or so kids that can excel and grow, it can be dangerous.  Basketballs careening off iron rims from errant shots rain down on helpless, pig-tailed girls like you cannot imagine.  I have seen girls breakdown because they have to remove their earrings prior to tip-off.  Wait til they get their first jammed finger.  Not pretty.

The counter argument, as argued with a couple with far more experience and knowledge, was the longer you keep kids in the game, the more positive impact it will have on their overall life.  They gave an example of a boy scoring a basket during a 5th grade game earlier this year.  He is a boy with some marginal talents that is clearly out there building confidence and having fun with his friends.  As he came back to the bench during the mass substituiton he cried.  Here was an earth shattering moment in this young man's life.  And it will be one he probably remember the rest of his life.  Had their been cuts in 5th grade as I argued this moment would not exist. 

And my contention that we should at least break the teams into 2 was also met with resistance.  "Than, the talent is deluded." I was told.  That is where I think we are speaking out of both sides of our mouths.  If we are concerned about talent and how best to utilize it, cuts are imperative.  If, we want to include everyone interested, 2 teams seems the only way to go.  So we have 5 or so quaility girls on each squad.  If our jobs at this level is to cultivate talent and increase skill levels each team WILL improve as the season goes along.  Should they both improve and have what it takes to make a playoff run so what?  I grew up playing kids from my school as well as kids I knew from Public schools.  Those games were the absolute best.  You could have bragging rights in the schoolyard or neighborhood.

In an area that is already fairly soft and shielded, with kids maturing and growing ever so rapidly, we need to look at Social Darwinism more closely.  Less and less this country produces.  We wait for innovations and consume them with vigor.  We passively watch other countries revolt and ignite social change.  We eat ourselves heavy and cancel gym memberships.  All the while a naive and Stepford like smile adorns our chubby little faces.

And as we continue to award participation and not stress the importance of competition, these things only become more prevalent.  I want to protect my girl as much as I can.  Her feelings and growth are the most important thing in my life.  I understand she is 8, and very much a child.  But I am not going to come down on her when she asks what the score is Wednesday night during her first softball game.  And if they win or lose there are lessons that can be taught, and certainly learned.

Scoreboard is important.  Can't we agree with His Tiger Blooded-ness and start "Winning."

Overexposure

I railed a bit yesterday about how difficult it is to make it in the music business.   I feel compelled to discuss the danger of spreading yourself too thin once you have been firmly established.  To wit, I bring you the Foo Fighters.  I cannot go anywhere or see anything without Dave Grohl invading my private space.  SNL, Howard Stern and now this weekend he has taken over Sirius radio's Alt Nation.  Are Foo Fighters even alternative???  And don't get me wrong, I like the Foo Fighters.  The fact that Grohl both sat behind the drums of the legendary (and overrated) Nirvana and has led Foo Fighters into stratospheric success is not lost on me.  But as they push their 7th studio album down the throats of America I kindly ask them to turn down an invitation.  If you are a fan of music even peripherally, you have heard "Rope" a few dozen times.

While I am at it, a word about SiriusXM radio.  I have said in the past I do not know what I did before I purchased satellite radio.  And had Mr. Stern not signed for 5 more years I would have kept the subscription for a couple key reasons.  First, I am in the car a fair amount and commercials are the worst.  Second, there are a few stations that provide outlets for new and up and coming bands.  The big problem the channels have lies at the feet of their Program Directors.  They tend to lost track of which format they are playing.  Why should Mumford and Sons, or Arcade Fire appear on 3, sometimes 4 channels?  And Spectrum, the soft adult alternative network, will routinely throw a Beatles or Neil Young song in to their mix which infuriates me.  There are several classic rock stations those artists could, and should appear.  Again, this is not an indictment on classic rock.  If I am paying for a service I get to gripe, right?  Same reason I complain about the Manager at my local Starbucks.  I am here every day lady, buying the same drink once, sometimes twice a day.  Would it kill you to smile?  Say thanks?  Appreciate my business???

Sorry.  Probably should not be this angry so early.  After all the neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt is only an hour away.    I understand my wife has a reputation as kind of a hard ass.  Truth is she arranged this event so all the little kids and their parents can get together and enjoy some Spring festivities.  Her heart is big and generosity endless.    She even has reached across the religious aisle and included some Jewish friends.  If you can get Jews to search for eggs with hedonistic Gentiles, World Peace is not far behind.  We will ignore for a moment that it is cold and rainy(again.)

My detail will be picking up the large take-out coffee.  I can see the contempt in the manager's eyes when I order it.  Oh, I'm sorry, do you to work a little harder?  Join the club.  We all work a little too hard with little, if any reward.  But if we can see children's faces light up when they find an egg filled with non-peanut treats inside we ALL win.

Enjoy the weekend folks.  And please give these NON- Foo Fighters songs a shot as Spring kicks into high gear.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPtSKimbjOU    "Sail" Awolnation
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L64c5vT3NBw   "Home" Cover of Edward Sharpe song as sung by

Jorge & Alexa Narvaez.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6M8MLRf9Bsw  "Every Night is Friday Night (without you)"  live Old 97's



Friday, April 15, 2011

A Night at the Bowery, Caveman Band edition...

It may be the most difficult thing in the world to become rock stars.  And as we all know the music can many times be secondary in finding mainstream success.  Program directors at antiquated radio stations wield unearthly powers.  A&R execs are more concerned with overall looks and styling to be as objective as needed.  And for the most part the American public eats it up with a spoon.  In doing so, bands such as the ones I saw last night, do not get the attention they need.

But first, a word or two about the Bowery.  It had been years between visits before White Rabbits a few weeks back.  I had forgotten the charm and magic inside its walls.  It is very dark, very small and all very charming.  Add to that a strong, clean sound system and you know why I am scouring their calendar to see who is coming next.  I have been to many venues in and out of NYC and this place ranks as one of, if not my favorite.  Get your drink on before you get inside because drinks are crazy expensive.  But take a look at the upcoming shows and try to see some good, NEW, live music.  With tickets usually $20 and under you could do a lot worse.  You spend more than that on pizza and a 6 pack in Jersey these days.  http://www.boweryballroom.com/

The first band last night, Callers,  is a trio from Brooklyn (duh, who isn't??)  Led by singer Sara Lucas, and her soft yet soaring voice, there is indeed something here.  But maybe it was how soft and jazz like they are given who was coming on next that I was not captivated.  Guitarist Ryan Seaton and drummer Don Godwin have plenty of chops and ability.  And Lucas has a PJ Harvey meets Julee Cruise thing going for her that provides great flashes.  In the end they did a nice job starting the evening, but I am wondering about long term successes.  It goes back to my first point about how to make it in the music business.  And at the risk of sounding sexist (as I was told last night) they might be hindered by their style more than substance.  Sad, yes.  But this business will eat you up.

The main reason I was there last night was for band # 2, Caveman.  They are another New York band comprised of (singer/guitarist) Matthew Iwanusa, (guitarist)Jimmy Carbonetti, (drummer)Stefan Marolachakis, (guitarist)Sam Hopkins and (bassist)Jeff Berrall.  Mixing afro beats, with some free form jazz and straight out rock, these guys are someone who should be on every music fan's radar.  You can visit their website, http://www.myspace.com/thiscaveman, to get a sampling of their skills.  Some songs from last night's set appear for download/listening.  Namely, "Decide" and "December 28th."  However, the sheer energy and exhuberance displayed with these gentlemen on stage is something you need to see/hear to believe.  For the 2nd time in a month they sent that joyful feeling over me you only get from live music.  They are, quite simply, a  symphonic mix of guitars, percussion and an overwhelming/commanding bass line.  And good to see them work in some new songs to their set.  A recent trip to the South x Southwest festival has given them more polish and charm.  Here is hoping I see them again real soon as the last band of the evening.

Last night's headliner however, was a Baltimore duo called Wye Oak (www.wyeoakmusic.com/), which as I found out, is the state tree of Maryland.  My friends and I were certain before they came on stage that there was a Fred Wye and Nancy Oak.  Nope.  Turns out they are Jenn Wasner (vocals/guitar) and Andy Stack (drums/keyboards/vocals.)  Like Callers, this band has talent and ability for sure.  But unlike the trio that started the evening, there was some mechanical assistance with their set that had my friends and I scratching our heads.  From the opening song we heard a fairly loud bass line without seeing a bass.  Hmm.  Stack plays drums with one hand and has a keyboard with some sort of mix he plays with the other.  So, even though the thought of drumming and mixing confounds me, I still think of it as a kind of cheating.  Mainly I want to know if he is sampling their own studio stuff or other studio musician's stuff?  And Wasner, who has a powerful voice and has a great stage presence, plays guitar but is either mic'd down or not on at all.  I was confused as to what sounds she was making with the instrument.  I have been to shows where artists incorporate mixes and sampling, namely Gomez for some horn parts, and I can give it a pass.  But whereas Gomez called attention to it and goofed on themeselves, Wye Oak does not even acknowledge it.    Don't get me wrong, I liked what I heard from them.  There is some genuine rock and roll here.  Their cover of Danzig's "Mother" was inspired for instance.  But when I see a live show I expect to know the score.  And since Caveman made it impossible to ignore the sounds they were creating...  I did not want to be asking where are these sounds coming from after their brilliant set.

I could go on about the nonsense discussed with friends during the course of the night...  like should married people EVER use condoms, thoughts on Jack White sleeping with Loretta Lynn and if I/anyone would do the same just because she isfamous, debates about loyalty and friendships, bromances, yada, yada, yada...  Main thing is concert nights are great.  Sharing them with friends and family is great.  And if you haven't done it in a while treat yourself.  And no, whoever is playing tonight at your local bar does not count.  How many times can you hear bad covers of "Brown Eyed Girl" anyway?" 


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Got Nothing...

At long last a Spring Day!!  Got to get outside a bit and will finally have our first outdoor softball practice in an hour.  First game is less than a week away so I am concerned, to say the least.

The whirlwind continues as my mother picks up my daughter immediately after and off to NYC for Wye Oak/Caveman at the Bowery.

Needless to say writing time is limited at best.

Look for a super sized Guilty Pleasure column tomorrow and review of the show.  Please enjoy the weather everyone and for the love of God tell people to read my blog.

Can you at least comment/become a follower so I know this is not all for naught???

I know, I know...  sound like a baby much???

All who know me realize how dramatic I can be.  Had I been born with a different head perhaps I would have taken off to find the footlights, instead of taking tips and getting stoned.

Apologies Mr. Chapin. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Break?

The Gods have certainly gotten back at me today and tomorrow ain't looking that great either.  Still stinging from a a raucous and emotional few days of DC, NYC, work, entertaining and a tear filled therapy session...  I got to spend a rainy day home with a vacationing 8 year old today.  And she was not in the mood for television, or reading, or anything for that matter.   Turns out playing Nerf basketball in the office is most fun.  When that gets boring she tried to put Yankee jerseys on our 16 year old cat.  And now, finally, she is making stop/action movies with her Flip Camera.  I have hidden upstairs and can only assume the cat is not being abused.  But since I have gotten the past few sentences off without hearing anguished meows I think we are good.

And when I talk about the Gods getting back at me it has everything to do with my Catholic School education.  I remember all my Public school friends hating me for all the days we had off.  Now, here I am.  Taking business calls with the sound of Cee Lo Green in the distant.  Reaching for pens to take messages and soon realzing I am holding a shock pen bought yesterday in a NYC novelty store.  My thumb still stings.  Should have known when I tripped over my wife's boots as I got up from bed this morning that I should phone this one in.  I make Jack Tripper look like Borishnakov.  Who makes these school schedules anyway??  How is America supposed to get back to the forefront when I am staring at 10 days off in 3 weeks.  And the Public schools have this week off too.  My issue is the 4 days off for Easter!!!  4 days on the tail end of a week off???  It's ok I guess.  What's income when you are living in one of the most affluent areas in America???  I am sorry if we are a 2 income family.  Had I known the score when we moved here I would have stayed in Wilkes-Barre and drank myself to death.  Ok, that's a bit dramatic, but you get my drift.

I was able to spend a quality hour with the little one watching "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" last night.  She was more than compelled.  A few things.  1) Why do we have to be subjected to English chefs coming over here and telling us how to run our kitchens and cities???  If it's not Gordon Ramsey or Curtis Stone...  Can Bobby Flay stop mugging for the camera to take on a more meaningful role please?  I would ask Mario Batali but I think he should hit the treadmill first before spreading himself too thin.  Pun intended.

Don't get me wrong, Oliver's mission is genuine and I can get behind it.  We do, as a Nation, eat like uneducated Neandrathals.  His idea of entering the LA Public School system and changing their overall philosophy is beyond admirable.  But 2.) Does Ryan Seacrest have to be involved?   Ok, that is a non-sequitor, but I do find him grating.  The gratuitous radio show segment on last night's episode was nauseating and unnecessary.  Oliver has his points though.  Do schools really need to serve flavored milk?  They do not do that in Europe, as he pointed out with an over the top demonstration.  Somehow Europe seems to be doing ok.  The obesity issue is one that will not be gone anytime soon.  And as my daughter said, astutely, "why would the Board not want him in their kitchens?  Cause of Money?"  I grinned and agreed.  Glad she realizes it so soon.  Someone is always on the take.  And change, as President Obama can tell you, does not happen without resistance.

And I promise when I watch next week I will not eat a giant plate of nachos.   It is a worthwhile premise and worth watching with young ones as a cautionary tale.  Scared Straight Fatso edition.

Odds and Ends:
Can we please stop airing ALL State Farm ads and Dominos Tate's Chicken ads???  What exactly are we selling here?  If I get in an accident on the Pulaski and say "Like a good neighbor..."  NOTHING WILL HAPPEN!!!  My thoughts are I would enter a calling cue and, after several minutes on hold, would be given a day/window several days from the event that an adjuster would come by and assess the damage.  Hot chicks from other apartments, sandwiches and Bob Barker would never be in the scenario.  Please go back to telling me rates, and how many people you insure.  Fantasies like the ones you are showing make me long for lizards with accents.

And Domino's with their Rate Tate's Chicken boxes...  ugh.  It is bad enough that there pizza is character-less crap (Where are you Jamie Oliver???)...  now they have to enter the chicken market.  And I have to see some punk chef break open one of his quality nuggets and provide me with a close-up.  Um, thanks but I am not having it.  If I could only get my hands on all the boxes sans chicken.  I would rate it PLEASE STOP!!!  He actually says "It's all white meat, not bits and stuff."  If you say bits, I am thinking bits.  Stick to the bad pizza and unfullfilled get there in a half hour promises.

While I am ranting I have to admit to schadenfreude to the 100th power.  Yes, Rory McElroy you made my Sunday.  Brash and overconfident he strode to the 64th hole of the Masters poised for a historic victory.  But, as I keep telling my daughter, no one remembers how you start...  they always remember how you finish.  So trees came in play and an ego was drowned in Ray's Creek, like so many before.  Now, perhaps some hubris in this young lad's future.  Maybe now he will realize sometimes you are playing opponent's as much as the course.  And they tend to want it just as much as you do.  He is a kid and certain to win some nice hardware in his future.  But leave it to a straight laced, unheralded South African to teach him talent is not the only thing that captures trophies.  Well done, Charl.  But we will have to do something about that name.

Enough negativity for one entry??  I can bring more.  But, alas, gotta run to Morristown in an attempt to find just the right math tutor.  I would rant about money and this and that, but truth be told I would do anything to ensure my daughter's success.  Getting to school this week would be tops on my list. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Random DC thoughts...

Is it politically correct to be looking for Jake Gyllenhaal on this train home? Maybe a bit too morbid thinking of "Source Code" at a time like this. But I have to admit I get a little skittish on planes and trains when I notice certain folk. And truth be told I get a little skittish when I see Gyllenhaal movies so let's not paint me out to be a raving, racist profiler. I hate and/or am scared of just about everyone. I look both ways in the Mall at Short Hills. I will say this though... Union Station in our Capital is FAR superior in every way to the dump that is Penn Station. The tragedy is NYC let Robert Moses tear down the original transit hub. Thankfully we have Grand Central Station. That marvel of architecture serves mostly Long Islanders and starched shirts from Connecticut. Once again us Jersey folk get short changed. The people watching is very similar though. And seems wherever you go that ain't pretty.

 The same cannot be said for Washington. And staying in Georgetown is most certainly the way to go. I will say it is a bit of a drag the Metro does not connect Georgetown to downtown/National Mall area. You can catch a 10 to 15 dollars cab and be fine. Leave the car behind and you still save money. Able to view the Lincoln, Washington, WW2, and Vietnam Memorials on day 1. Our President visited the Lincoln mere moments after we were there. It was decided our plan was to tell everyone we saw him and shook his hand. I am working on getting a cardboard cutout and staging some photos. Sounds like a good project for my daughter since she is off from school this week. And isn't DC a bastion of lies and corruption?

 We took in 2 attractions with mixed results Saturday. First, the National Aquarium, which, GASP, charged admission. I failed to do research and will not look it up further. 1 very poor floor of tiny fish and amphibians. Thankfully they were feeding their sharks when we arrived so that made it mildly interesting. But, when your daughter asks if those are the real sharks, you know you have problems. Great Whites they were not. In fact, they might have been Catfish. Whatever. Live and learn. But please do not go there. I have seen more diverse fish in Manhattan office reception areas. Big redemption when we walked in to The National Museum of Natural History. Fossils, Mammals, Ocean Life, etc... All good and every bit worth an hour or more. With that we called it a day and headed back to Georgetown. M Street, one block away from our quaint, although somewhat flawed hotel, is a great collection of shops, bars and boutiques. Every spot we dined in was good, to very good. We opted against fine dining with 8 year old in tow. The Starbucks had a Clover machine so we were all set.

 There were several long walks, including an impromptu one yesterday that took us through Georgetown's surprisingly large and very impressive campus. We managed to hit the bookstore and all of the sudden we have a future Hoya in our house. She has the oversized basketball shorts to prove it. Funny how you take a kid to ANY college and that is where they want to go. Helped the geeky kids on campus had a DC outreach program going on and she was able to jump in a bouncy and get her face painted. Oh, and they have turf fields, which is supercool. We destroyed the National Zoo yesterday morning. I cannot recommend this place more. Your tax dollars are clearly at work here. With is sprawling and clean collection of amazing animals I dare you to not enjoy it. The Pandas and Lion cubs alone make it a worthwhile trip. And since the grounds open at 6am get an early start. We arrived at 9am and saw just about everything before 11am. The inside exhibits open @ 10am. No worries really because you can save them for your departure walk. Watch in joy as you are leaving the grounds past droves of tourists. The mrs and I snuck back downtown to hit both National Gallery of Arts and the Sculpture Garden. The West Wing house the modern and contemporary world, and does it well. The Gaughin exhibit was well done and flowed nicely. We also enjoyed the Small French Paintings rooms. Ok, we also liked there were few people there. Same can be said of the East Wing. You will be floored by this expansive and amazing building (the atrium and floral fountain may be the most impressive item there).

As the day had gotten the best of us we did not spend nearly as much time there as we would have liked. Next time we say. And next time for the Air and Space, and Spy Museum, and this and that. So very much to do and incentive to come back. Glad I was able to share it with my family and in particular my mother. As this was her first time there it makes it a little more special. Now, if only I could work in some time to see what NYC has to offer. I will start tomorrow!!! Taking N and a friend into work and if I get done in time maybe I can work in some culture for them. Always a long week when the school is closed. Who am I kidding? Each week is long.

 Especially if you are on Source Code train... Boom!!!!

 Another 8 minutes starts..... NOW

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Travel Day

Alas, the Feds did the right thing and settled their petty differences so we can enjoy DC properly. We all know my weekend trip was first and foremost on the politicians minds last night. I find it difficult to accept that Planned Parenthood was a major sticking point. Would the conservatives prehave young women to not have access to contraception and urgent health care? What then of unwanted pregnancies and the children that come from them? Does the Tea Party movement have an answer for that? And when will these social issues become less important in our country's day to day governing? Maybe as I visit our Capital I will picket the White House and demand an end to the 2 party system. Too bad I have such a small window to get all the stuff done an 8 and 70 year old want... not to mention me and the Mrs. Otherwise I would, I mean it!! For now I buy overpriced black water from the train and read about Charlie Sheen losing at Radio City. I think of the wonder and joy that will fill my daughter's eyes when we visit Memorials and the National Zoo. I think this Country is still the greatest on Earth. I try to stay optimisitic in an ever pessimistic time. 3 wars, economic uncertainty and philosophical differences... and that is just in my house. Sounds like the perfect weekend to get away and remember how this Country was created. My revisionist mind will ignore the Colonial Imperialism. The Founding Fathers could not have had this in mind, could they? And I get they had their share of issues and hypocrisies. Who doesn't? But rangling and posturing for linguists and special interests? This is not the way to run things? And as much as Bill Maher bugs me he had a good point last night. Why do we have 10s of thousands of troops in Japan, Korea and Germany? Why does defense spending never get discussed? And don't get me started on NASA. Nothing would make me happier than to close those doors forever. Funny that agency goes untouched but the Right goes after the EPA. Ugh! Sorry, rambling and trying to kill time while headed South. More cohesive and thought out writing as the weekend progresses. Assuming of course I lay off the drink... A very big assumption.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

As I ponder what exactly will happen with our inept government, and my plans for DC this weekend it is more clear to me I need guilty pleasures.  The thought of being stuck with an 8 year old in a foreign city yelling at me for the shutdown (because naturally I would be to blame) has me scared to death.  Have Ipad will travel.  And when the time grinds to a halt you can be darn sure I will be looking for escape.  And I may look to these outlets...

Music:
Alberta Cross is a New York based band which has its roots somewhere between folk and rock.   Ah, who am I kidding...  I know one song.  But it is a good one.  "Old Man Chicago" is that guitar driven, melodic song.  And judging by the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XX87iAul1w0) these guys have the look of a band that could either stand the test the time or crash and burn a la Duane Allman.

Mute Math is a band that has been on my radar for some time.  Problem is I have largely ignored them.  Even though I am several years late to the party, I urge you to give "Typical" a listen/look should you have not heard/seen it prior (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XX87iAul1w0.)   The song has a gritty and raucous vibe and vocalist Paul Meany's voice is powerful and effective.  OK, I understand they were Grammy nominated 4 years ago and appeared on "Twilight" soundtracks...  but better to have acknowledged than continued to ignore, right???

Finally, I am beyond intrigued with The Decemberists new album "The King is Dead."  Having seen them a few years back I have been awaiting this release for some time.  I went to the Montclair show knowing very little about them.  Without question I was floored with lead singer/writer Colin Meloy.  I had not expected these Portland, OR hippies to have any personality.  Boy was I wrong.  Meloy commands the stage and sings/plays with heart and conviction.  That is not to slight the rest of the band.  They are a tight, fun and extremely talented group.  I hate that they all play several different instruments (read: jealous.)

I have some friends who hate them and call me a tool for buying into it.  That is fine.  They can give me all the grief they like.   Maybe I have a soft spot for former English majors who can crowbar dirigible into a pop song.  And these are the same friends who try to convince me Thom Yorke and Radiohead are more important than The Beatles.  Can't we all just get along?  See them live and then decide.  Ok, I have said my peace.    Now listen/watch this...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpnAb2KJ8n0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fczvWSANXdo&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tK3Ce9md96g
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5H8DwJI0uA&feature=related

TV:
Mildred Pierce, HBO.   Maybe it is because I have always liked Kate Winslet.  Maybe because I think the production design and care to detail is flawless.  Maybe because I am a sucker for good, old fashioned drama.  Whatever the case may be this mini-series is working for me.  Dark and gloomy mixed with depression and angst...  how can you go wrong??  And Winslet looks more and more like a man after each viewing.  No matter.  I am hooked.  And I was beyond ready to hate it.  Tood Haynes, the auteur, had never done anything before that I liked.  "Far from Heaven," his most notable film to date, was a snore fest.  His other works are a hodgepodge of near successes and out and out flops.  Here however, he seems very much at ease.  His amazing cast certainly helps.  Guy Pearce, Melissa Leo and even Mare Winningham, seemingly back from the dead, are all superb.  Be prepared for huge downers though.  They are everywhere you look.  Dead children:  check.  Dead relationships: check.  And we are barely half way in.  There will be no comparisons to the Joan Crawford original film either.  This is a totally new experience.  And with all the scripted garbage being shown on the networks, (um, Grey's Anatomy singing episode???) this is a welcome piece of thoughtful, complex entertainment.

The Masters, CBS.
Subtract the mentions of azaleas and soft piano music if you can.  When all removed what you have is golf's premier event.  And, hopefully, high drama on Sunday.  As it stands right now I am pulling for Rory McElroy v Tiger Woods in 2 nights.  And I get all the Tiger haters.  He is and has been an abrasive, unrepentant manchild for several years.  Know what?  He is still the game's most amazing talent, and draw.  To see those two men battle around Amen Corner would be the Spring's best sporting event by far.  It is entirely to soon to care about Yankees/Red Sox.  No one with a cerebellum cares about the Daytona 500.  We all saw what happened with Butler Monday night.  Golf needs Tiger in the mix to make it more relevant.  It has added fuel now that soooo many people hate him.  It is the same reason we watched the 80's Pistons...  or 70's Raiders...  or Mike Tyson...  Villains make great television.   You can bet when I am shut out of museums on Sunday evening in DC I will scramble to get to a TV set.  Because no matter what the temperature reads, when Jim Nantz is waxing poetic about green jackets and Butler Cabins, Spring has arrived.

Enjoy the weekend all.  I know I will, regardless.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Second Thoughts...

There are times I pay close attention to the news.  This morning was one of those times.  At 6:30 the alarm went off and NBC 4 started the heartache.  First, there was a train derailment which had crippled NJ Transit.  With meetings scheduled in the City I had to go in.  If I decided to drive, like the other day, I was sure to hit traffic.  8am school drop off guarantees I hit the Holland at 9am or so.  A dangerous proposition to say the least.  Long story short, I made the 8am train, after a dead sprint from the parking lot.  Of course the conductors made the announcement half way in that ALL trains were diverted to Hoboken.  At 9:30am I made it above ground on 33rd and 6th Ave.  Brutal to say the least.

The more disturbing piece of news was the loomin government shutdown.  I had been following, passively, the stalled talks and grand-standing that has played out over the 2-party budget talks the past month or so.  Never did I think we were far along enough to be discussing total shutdowns.  And I am not going to get altruistic and flag waving patriotic either.  Nope, mine is a selfish reason.  For this is the weekend we have planned to visit our Nation's capital.  My daughter requested we go back after she had such a great time a few years back.  She has been speaking of heading back to the National Zoo for weeks.  The added bonus is we are taking my mother, who has never been to DC.  Wouldn't it figure that we are going to end up in Georgetown with nary a thing to do.

And for what???  We can pretend there are legitimate issues that need to be resolved before a budget is passed.  But we would be kidding ourselves.  Somewhere John Boehner and Harry Reid are battling for lobbyists and greasing big government pockets.   And more and more the two party system destroys our Country.  In a Nation filled with different races, ethnicities, genders and transgenders, baseball fans and WWE fans, we have 2 inept parties to speak for it all.  Good then that abortion talk gets thrown into National budget talks???  Good that ANY social issues are discussed at all???  Certainly not good that the Nationals are not even in town once we arrive Saturday afternoon.  And terrific that my 8 year old is busy watching Nightly News and Googling "Shutdown" as her spring break approaches.

I will ignore the nonsense and take the train and family south regardless.  I remain optimistic that through all the politics and debate, common sense MUST prevail.  We are in wars that will seemingly never end. Homeowners are selling their siding to advertisers to avoid foreclosure.  Japan is under relentless attack from Mother Nature.  Surely we can be the civilized superpower and beacon of hope??  I mean there are good signs out there...  I am talking to you 0-6 Red Sox fan.

Housekeeping Note:
I would like to welcome and thank the Madison Eagle for picking up my blog.  Please refer/bookmark this site for easier access to the blog and any and all news Madison, NJ.  http://newjerseyhills.com/madison_eagle/


Should new readers head back to earlier entries please note there is indeed questionable language, behavior and content.  Such is life I guess.  I intend to work clean(er) and appreciate your understanding.  Those new to the blog should have full disclosure.  I was born and raised in the Garden State but I hate all teams NY.  Try not to hold it against me.  Every Friday I write a Guilty Pleasures column which, I hope, provides insight on what is hot/cool in pop culture.  Seems like I might have lots of down time in DC this weekend so maybe there will be several volumes.

Any and all feedback is welcome.  You can add your email address to receive updates on new posts.  Become a follower and thanks.  But note, in your real life you should probably be a leader.

And before I forget I would urge you to support a friends blog.  She recently moved from Madison to Hong Kong.  Big adjustment as you might expect.  Take a look and thanks again:  http://sharoninhk.blogspot.com/

And I am listening if someone has non-government things to do in DC...  anyone, anyone???


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Purging

Had an hour or so to try and prep for Spring.  And as I plowed through the endless collection of forgotten toys I had several thoughts.

First, how good is it to have thousands of dollars worth of American Girl and Barbie toys lying unnoticed and collecting dust?  And I think if I should dare enter the world of Ebay or gasp, Craigslist?  Why is it every time I think of using Craiglist I feel like I would end up buried off the Belt Parkway?

I suppose I could have a yard sale and do ALL the work that goes with it.  Making change for children.  Haggling with my strangers, and worse, neighbors.  But something has to give, right?  All indications are there will be no children.  Dare I keep all this stuff waiting for the next generation?  I almost feel like making a pro/con list to see which is better.  If I could only debate and ponder all life's decisions like I have this one.

The other prevailing thought is the need for money.  This winter's snow destroyed our back steps.  Masonry work is required.  Our fence also too an enormous hit.  Several posts have fallen off and the best thing to do what would be tearing it out/starting anew.  And there is the basketball hoop that has yet to be purchased.  Buy that and you better repair and pave the driveway.

So, anyone want the Pottery Barn Kids Red Deco Kids Kitchen (4 pieces) for $10,000???  Can I interest you in the Bitty Baby Twins Stroller.  Yours for $4,995.00.  And if you act now I will throw in both the twins and a container full of clothes.  We are talking mint condition here.  I think I handled them more taking them up and down steps than the child they were intended for.

The fourth caller can get the 1st generation Itouch, with Hurley Case, for just $15.

How about a Skeletor torso from my childhood collection?  Toss Across?  Wii games?  Wii?  Ugh.

At least things are a bit cleaner.  And there will be 2 full garbage cans on my curb tomorrow morning.

And isn't that really what spring is about?  Out with the old...  as long as that doesn't include me.

Enjoy these hand picked gems from one of last year's favorites...  Silversun Pickups.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPzU1Uz8ujw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcwX2TnsTPE&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-mxBDuRaZ8&feature=related

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In defense of Snooki

I may be late to the dance on this one...  but can we please get off Rutgers and Snooki??  I understand the irony and utter lunacy of the Snookster getting 2 grand more to appear at our State University than poet (and ok Nobel Prize winner) Toni Morrison.  It is a clear and damaging sign of what is valued at our institutions of higher learning.  More telling, it is what is more valued as a culture.

We have become a culture obsessed with fame, however fleeting.  I know more about what underwear (or lack thereof) Britney Spears is wearing than what poet Morrison has written.  And I am someone who graduated with an English major!!!  Problem is we do not see poetry as a way to achieve the American Dream.  It is a nice exercise and worthwhile art form for the select few who, is extremely lucky, will get published and/or teach.  10th grader sees that path and wonders, ok, is that good for 6 figures or not???

Now Snooki's path is far more attractive.  Let me get this straight, 10th grader ponders, I get to spend a summer at the Jersey Shore, get loaded and laid, and you are going to pay me???  Where do I sign?

Never mind the world will think of you as a punch line.  Never mind this brief moment in time will pass faster than you can say gonorrhea.   The spotlight and need for fame, attention, is so compelling in our culture we cannot look away.  So, I know Kirstie Alley fell on her fat ass last night.  I have not seen the show or tape.  I know someone from Teen Mom fought and sold the tape.  No idea who she is or what that means.  I know the Real World is in a new season.  Celebrities are apprenticing.  Chef are vying for trophies.  Families are fighting to lose weight.  Sober houses are looking for clients.

Reality is not reality unless its televised.  And that brings us to Snooki.  What are her overall skill sets?  Acting like a drunken fool and smushing?  Ok, so why can't she judge some sort of talent show at Rutgers?  They wanted her there.  And I am certain thousands of students know and adore her show.

Tell me how many have read "Beloved"?  And no, I am not counting those who WATCHED the Oprah produced movie.  But I am sure if you combined the figures it would still be less than those who enjoy Jersey Shore.  In fact, I am willing to throw the administrative folk and professors to the mix.  Like they don't watch???  And now we act so outraged that 20 somethings want to pay to see someone entertain them, like she does every week.  And let's be honest, how many students at our fine State University are going to be the next Toni Morrison?  Even if Ms. Morrison taught there for several years, maybe even personally tutoring the most gifted undergraduate poet on campus, there is no guarantee another Toni Morrison would be born.

Now, if MTV/Viacom happened to turn their cameras on an RU tailgating event...  chances are they might find another reality star.  Drunken, stupid and classless behavior sells these days.  Why else do I know Lindsay Lohan?

So let us not pretend and get on our high horse about this disparity of pay.  We need Snooki on that stage.  We want Snooki on that stage.  Cause if we didn't, we wouldn't know who the hell she was.