Saturday, April 29, 2006

A year later, a world away.

On this day a year ago, my wife and I were on our way down under for a trip like no other. We started our trip in Sydney before going north to Cairns and ended up in Melbourne a few weeks later. As the weather was just getting nice here in the US it was starting to get colder in Victoria and New South Whales and we were also some what thrown off by the change in time at least for the first few days. We were both so impressed with the energy that was apparent in everyone we met in Sydney. It is a city that is truly alive with excitement and rich with amazing things to see and do. We took the time to do much of the normal tourist things like climb the Harbour Bridge and take in the Opera House, but we also wanted to get off the beaten path. We took a ferry ride to Manly Beach and spent a pleasant day taking in the autumn sun. Rather then eat in only big restaurants we found a great little pizza place near the Harbour and took a few bottles of soda and a pie down to the water side and ate on a bench. With Sydney being our first stop I was torn when it came time to leave because there was so much more ahead of us, but I felt like we could have spent another month in Sydney.

Our next stop was Cairns where we based our side trips to the Great barrier Reef and the rain forest in Kuranda. In this part of North Queensland the weather was still nice and warm, staying in the 80's every day we were there. The trip to the reef was one of the most amazing days I have ever had. The boat ride out was just as relaxing as the time on the reef was exhilarating. We walked on the beach of the sand cay where we spent the day, and then made our way back to the boat via scuba dive. The next day we took the train up the mountain, through the rain forest to the little town of Kuranda, where we spent a day shopping and holding a koala. After a few 15 hour days of seeing all we could see we spent one night watching some Footy, which is why I am up at 5:30 am on a Saturday morning right now, listening to footy on line.

Our last stop was Melbourne, where we visited the AFL Hall of Fame, the great ocean road and a ton of great restaurants, bars, and markets. I loved the Queen Victoria Market, in addition to some of the cool little record shops we found. This was the only stop where we got a car, so I had the pleasure of driving along the southern coast of the country on the Great Ocean Road which is a must do if you are ever there. I'm going to do my best to not pout the next few weeks, but it is hard to go about my normal life knowing that at this time a year ago I was in Oz. I will try and keep in touch with the culture I have come to love, however, like I am now by rooting for the Cats or taking in Aussie events when they make it to my area of the country. Next month i'm going to go down to Baltimore to see a USFooty game, and then in June I am going to NYC to see Missy Higgins and her band play. I guess I'll have to take what I can, that is till we get to go back.


Friday, April 28, 2006

Liz Phair, Rock Goddess.

In a world where you can climb on stage and lip sync the words to an awful song while dancing amidst smoke, water and flame and be considered a star, I offer an alternative. Even though she has been around for almost 14 years now, I think a lot of people need to be introduced to Liz Phair.

Liz is the child of intelligentsia types and studied Art History at Oberlin College before launching headlong into the world of music following a post graduation stint living in California. When she set out to make her music she went low tech all the way, recording in her home and dubbing the songs on to a tape, which she called Girly sound. The tape made it's way around the Chicago music scene and became the stuff of indie biz myth and legend. Anyone who was cool or hip enough to be anyone had a copy of the tape, and soon the record label, Matador, did as well.

Phair's genius wasn't lost on the folks in Hollywood and they rushed to re-record many of the songs from the Girly sound tapes and issue the record under the name "Exile In Guyville" in 1993. There is a lot of conjecture over whether or not the record is a track for track response to the Rolling Stones "exile on Main Street" as has been proposed over the years. What is clear about the record is how different it was from anything else on the radio at the time. Just like Grunge made it's push to the fore in the wake of the sickening glam fest that was male lead rock in the 80's, Phair seamed be more real and honest than the popular female before her.

One thing that both backers and detractors pointed out as most different about LP was her up front use of sex and sexuality in her song writing. Her lyrics on Guyville ranged from the playful "they make rude remarks about me, they wonder just how wild I would be" on the track "Help Me Mary." To the more overt such as "every time I see your face I get all wet between my legs." on the song Flower, which as since been used for the intro to the show "L Word". Flower continues "I want to fuck you like a dog, I'll take you home and make you like it."

That was just not what many of us were used to hearing from a female artist in the early 90's. We were fed a steady diet of Madonna, who when you look back on her, was really quite tame when it came to her music. She seamed more overt in movies, and her Sex book, but her songs lacked an edge that LP had to spare. Guyville had other strong gender reversing lyrics like "I take full advantage of every man I meet" on Girls, Girls, Girls or "Johnny my love, get out of the business, it make me want to ruff you up so badly. Makes me want to roll you up in plastic, and toss you up and pump you full of lead. in the track Dance of the Seven Veils.

Phair continued to push the limits of both her song writing and her singing style on her next full length record Whip-smart which came out in 1994. The lead track on the record was "Chopsticks" yet another track from the original Girly sound tape. The second track on the album was the one that most people remember from it, however. "Supernova" was a song that had all of the features we have come to expect from a Liz Phair song. There are the driving guitar riffs, the funky melodies and sexually overt lyrics like "your kisses are as wicked as and M-16, and you fuck like a volcano and you're everything to me."

I think the people who were so enamored with the amazing raw qualities Guyville possessed were surprisingly let down by Phair's lack of big time polish on her sophomore effort. This is where people first started saying things like "she can't even sing" and "she's no (insert 80's female star here). Even though Whip-smart is my least favorite of her 4 first records, I still think it is an amazing piece of work for it's time, and I know it had an impact on artists who followed it.

I found 1998's whitechocolatespaceegg to be my favorite all around record of Liz Phair's. Right off the bat the title track has more fantastic guitar, and there is a more mature feel to her vocals. Now a mother, LP penned some of the coolest and most finely crafted songs of her career. On the track "Perfect" Phair sings along to a quite acoustic guitar and backing strings with the words many use to describe how she wishes to be seen. "I want to be cool, tall, vulnerable and luscious. I would have it all if I'd only had this much no need for Lucifer to fall, if he'd only keep his mouth shut."

The album is full of great images, and a full serving of Phair's deep sultry singing, all of which add up to a record you can listen to straight through. My favorite tracks are Polyester Bride, Baby Got Going, and What Makes You Happy all of which are fun easy to listen to songs with playful, smart and relevant lyrics almost any listener can identify with. On the latter track she sings quoting her mother "Listen hear young lady, all that matters is what makes you happy, but you leave this knowing my opinion won't make you love me if you don't care to." What child can't relate to that?

The second to last track on the record is called "Shitloads of Money" and is a re-recording of the track "Money" from Girly sound (as is "Bride") in which she opines on the issue of selling out that faced most Indie artists of her time. "It's nice to be liked, but it's better by far to get paid" she begins and then adds "I know most of friends that I have don't really see it that way. But, if you could give 'em each one wish. How much do you want to bet, they'd wish success for themselves and their friends and that would include lots of money." It's funny that the track at the tail end of the third record, which was written 8 or 9 years before, was a foreshaddowing of her Fourth record.

"Liz Phair" her self titled fourth record was met with anticipation, uneasiness and finally both a smattering of success and a silent head shake from her former indie fans. I never understood how it was that although they all had also grown up, and changed no doubt, they wanted LP to be the same raw twenty something she was when she gave us Guyville.

I really liked the fourth album in general and absolutely loved a few tracks in particular. It kicks off with "Extraordinary" complete with the great Phair guitar sound and very telling line "I am extraordinary... if you'd ever get to know me." I don't know if Liz is ever upset that she has never received the acclaim she deserves, but this song seamed to point out what most people were missing about her. She gives us a contradictory, yet apt tag line for her in this song, just as she did in "Perfect" when she says she is "just your ordinary, average, everyday, sane/psyco super-goddess." Most people will remember this track, or the big single "Why Can't I" where Liz reminds us that she is still Liz with the line "we haven't fucked yet, but my head's spinning."

If an old fan of her's was listening to the CD in order they may have though she went soft despite the previous line when they reached "Little Digger" a song about her son asking questions about the new guy in mom's life. However, any fears were appeased when we reached track 11 innocuously titled H.W.C. where while backed up by simple bass and guitar she sings "all you do if fuck me every day and night" and "give me your hot white come." Same old Liz. The song "Rock me" is also a stand out, and here Liz begins to champion her new message. Just because she is pushing 40, that don't mean she isn't sexy to younger guys. "Oh baby you're young but that's ok. What's give or take 9 years anyway?"

This past year Liz put out her fifth record, "Somebody's Miracle" which has already given me two new favorites. The tracks "Why I Lie" and "Everything (between us)" are Liz Phair singing and songwriting of the highest order. The single off this record was "Everything to Me" which again is more pop than most of her old fans will like, but if they would give the record a chance they would see that it is just a damn good record. It's most notable absence is any profanity of any kind, but it is not a glaring omission in any respect. She may not be saying fuck, but the attitude is all there on "Why I Lie" and the song also sports my favorite guitar line of her's ever. This song just has tremendous balls, and her vocals are even more raw then some of the tracks on "Liz Phair". You can really hear it when she sings "And if you ask me why I hurt you. I don't understand it. I can't help myself. It's a special combination of predatory instinct and simple ill will."

On the slow, sultry track "Everything (between us)" she commands "let your body move real slow. tell your body we left yesterday. Let your body hold me close. Let your body move you." I have worn these tracks out on my DJ, and they made me remember why I like Liz Phair in the first place. She is cool, and while not tall, she looms large in my world of music. She opens up to her listener with her sometimes vulnerable lyrics and she is by every possible account so luscious.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

I'm Thinkin' it's good work out of Arby's.

As I have said a few times before I work on the third shift. From midnight to 8:30 am, and that can really mess a person up. On of the main areas I have struggled with is eating. In fact, prior to starting this schedule I had lost a good amount of weight, and although I have only put about 10 of those pounds back on over the last two years, I think I was unable to keep loosing it due to the odd way I eat. I get up at 5:30 pm when my wife gets home from work, and we have dinner together shortly there after. After spending the evening together I head into work and have my lunch at 4:00 am. That meal normally is like another dinner, all be it, made up of the kind of shit you can buy at 4 in the morning. I know I should take a lunch, but I have never been able to keep up with it. When I get home I normally have a breakfast type meal, but it is not uncommon for me to go and get some fast food when I am to lazy to cook.

The other day I went to Arby's for the first time in what seamed like 10 years. I know I have been there since, but they must have made some real changes in that time. Forgetting the french fries, the meal didn't make me want to hang myself right after eating it. A burger from one of the big places always seams to sit heavy in my stomach, but the sandwitch I got at Arby's didn't have that effect. If I could avoid the fries, it may be the type of place that helps me eat something fast, but that doesn't make me feel so lethargic. That's some good work out of you Arby, who ever you are. I like your place.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ahead To The Past.

Right now in Hollywood prequels are all the rage, as is getting a person who is hot to work on your project. In early 2008 the two will yet again collide. JJ Abrams who has a huge hit on his hands with the TV show "Lost" spent last year working on a sequel to a movie that was based on a TV show. That movie was M:I:3, and now he has been tapped to make a prequel to 10 movies that were about 6 TV shows. Abrams will assume the helm of the Star Trek world when he brings us the 11th movie about the United Federation of Planets through out the years. His challenge will be one faced by many a prequel maker: how to make a movie who's goings on predate the original TV series, and movies and not have the technology look a million times better. This was where I felt the newest Star Wars movies failed, at least in appearance, if not story line.

Abrams will have the pleasure to pen the tail of how Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock met, while at Starfleet academy, and what their first mission was like. He has done some very interesting things through the first two seasons of Lost, and has tackled outer space in Armageddon, but in those story's he didn't have to deal with millions upon millions of fans who care a great deal about the previous work. Anyone who really wants to know how devoted Trek fans are, just check out the documentary "Trekkies" and you will see what Abrams may be up against.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Pen (or Pencil) and Teller.

I was in a bank today, not the one I work at, but an actual person to person bank. The kind where transactions take place over the counter. My employer has these, now, that is to say the company who purchased my bank had them and now so do we. In our previous life we were bankers who worked over the phone almost completely, but lets face it all banks are bound to be taken over by a competing company these days.

Last night while telling us that the new company may be giving us less money and less vacation time to do the same job, my boss's boss's boss made reference to the tellers at the company. He called them "front line" people as compared to us, who are "back line" people, and he went on to compare and contrast our respective duties and he caught me off guard when he told us the main job of a bank teller, as the company sees it is sales.

My wife also works for a bank and her company thinks sales are the most important part of the teller job as well, and I just couldn't disagree more. What happened to the days when people existed to help you with something you already bought. I'm not naive, I know the world view in a capitalist society is the gathering of wealth, and as someone who used to make my living by selling stuff I have been to all the sales courses where they say profound shit like "noting can happen till someone sells something" but isn't anyone else getting sick of it?

At Best Buy the other day the lady at the counter asked me if I wanted to get a subscription to Sports Illustrated. Am I the only one who doesn't see the tie in? Just try calling a tech support line with out getting "up sold" or worse than anything call your credit card company and count how many things they try to sell you. Unlike most people I don't want to shoot the underpaid messenger.

When someone calls my house to sell me something I don't treat them like shit, because there but for the grace of the yankee dollar go I. I try and give people the opportunity to do the job some thousand dollar suit clad vice president told the 10 people below him, and above said worker, to do. We are all just trying to make our lives a bit better, and maybe along the way have a few toys to play with. The real enemy isn't the operator who asks you if you want credit guard, a new long distance plan or faster downloads its the already rich enough people who treat life as one giant cash grab.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Chelsea Handler Show

It's funny how we find things in this big ole world. I was on a plane 51 weeks ago yesterday and I heard a young Australian singer named Missy Higgins. One quick look through my blog and you will see that I think she is great, and so when we got back from down under I started to keep my eyes out for her. We went and saw her play in Atlantic City and I recorded a few TV performances she made while here in the states. One of those came on Carson Daly's show in mid July of '05, and also on the show that night was a stand up comedian named Chelsea Handler who was on the show to promote her new book: "My Horizontal Life" which is a memoir of all her one night stands (or ONS thanks Dane). She struck me as very funny with lines like "It's important to have sex soon after meeting someone in order to find out if you have sexual chemistry together. Otherwise, you could wait two to three months after you start dating only to discover that your new boyfriend is bad in bed, or even worse, into anal beads and duct tape."

Then yesterday, while waiting for my wife to come home from work so we could start our weekend, I saw her again. I was playing playstation while watching "The Soup" on E! and when it was over the remote was not within my reach, so I did what any man would do. I just sat there and watched the next show, rather than get up and surf for another one. When her show started I laughed so much that I paused my game, which says a lot to begin with. Then she did a skit where she is having lunch with Bono, Tom Cruise, Madonna, and Tiger Woods (all very good impersonators) and I damn near fell out of my chair. As the show wore on she did a spoof of a few popular shows like Laguna Beach, and Blind Date by showing off her sharp wit with Long Beach, and Finding a Gay best friend.

Some may find Handler's jokes too far over the edge, being as she walks the PC line and pushes into territory some find touchy. She makes jokes about race, religion and sexuality with the vim and vigor normally only used by minority or gay comics. She does have the ability to fall back on her religious upbringing, however. Google Handler and you will find that every article about her starts by saying she is 33, from Livingston NJ, and half Jewish and half Mormon. I hope you take the time to watch this show, and I think you will find that it is indeed good work out of Chelsea Handler.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Got Ya.

I'm sure most everyone has already seen this, or will soon but the picture to the right is not Air Force One. However, it looks real enough that if fooled the Air Force who walked out to the hanger to take a look at the left wing of the craft.

This is like sitting in your living room and seeing live video of the cops in front of a house that looks just like yours (cause lets face it, almost all houses look alike these days) and going to the window to see if they are there for you. The plane is a rented 747 that pop clothing designer Marc Ecko painted to look like AF1. He then set up a video shoot where hoods in hoods hop the fence and elude the guards in order to tag W's ride with the words 'still free' all in the name of pop art. I think it if fuckin' genius, but with the way things are in this county today Ecko may get arrested for doing it, or at least get an over aggressive audit by the IRS next year. At the very least his phones will be tapped.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A great Idea.

I have been amazed at how much better the world of sports seams to run down under. Sure they have problems with sports stars over stepping their bounds here, or getting the odd occasional DUI there but by in large they have an amazing system. The idea of taking a young boy or girl and helping them to mature into a seasoned pro athlete is so much more honest and above board than what we have in the US.

Here a kid plays on traveling teams, and AAU teams and is pushed and pulled to chose this school or that one, but all the while they have to masquerade as students. When they pick a college (or a high school as is the case in modern grade school to high school recruiting) the are asked to put up the facade of being students first. The TV networks show their major next to their stats, if you can call some of them majors. Sure, 99% of those who are involved with the NCAA, or even big time high school sports will never be pros. And I know that the vast majority of those student athletes get an education opportunity they may never have received if they weren't great at throwing, catching, diving, running or shooting. But lets face facts, the NCAA and big time high school sports programs cater to the 1% and do harm to the others in doing so.

How would you change things Greazy? I'm glad you asked. Take the case of David Wirrpunda (WEER-a-POUN-da) who last year was named to the All Australia team as a defensive player in his 10th season in the AFL. The ripe old veteran was 25 years old at the time of his honor. That is because for the rest of the world sports in high school and College is used as an extracurricular activity, not big business.

While there was afooty team at Wirrpunda's high school it was not the prime focus of his or any one's life. There were no high pressure visits from the larger than life coach of the University of New South Wales to try and talk David and his folks to commit to UNSW rather than take the chance of being happy at home at the University of Melbourne. The minutia and posturing of the American system is eliminated for a novel concept: Honesty.

In David Wirrpunda's world no bones are made about sports being big business, and to that end the stand outs are incorporated into the machine at a much younger age. He was 16 when he was drafted by the West Coast Eagles footy club in 1996, and the same age when he made his debut as a pro 5 rounds into the fixture. Over the years Wirrpunda has moved from the more visible position of Forward to the back line of defense, but he has become a integral part of his sport, and later today he will play in his 150th game with the Eagles.

Here is one instance where the big business part of the sports world can merge with what is good and right about sport. With this milestone Wirrpunda becomes a life time member of the Football Club, thus linking him, and potentially his family, with the club. Even if he would play for another club in the next few years before rapping up his wonderful career somewhere around the ripe old age of 32 or 33 the club can choose to continue the tradition of having a Wirrpunda in their jumper.

If any of his sons choose to play AFL Footy the Eagles can acquire their rights under the league's Father - Son Rule which allows a Club to take the son's of any of their life members prior to the start of the amateur draft. The son has the choice to continue the family tradition or opt to enter the general draft and go elsewhere.

Think of the Orioles being able to take Ryan Ripken before the draft ever starts because his old man was a life time Oriole. This way generations of players are united with clubs, city's and states. One of the greatest footy players of all time, Gary Ablett, played in the close knit South Victoria town of Geelong for the Cats to throngs of adoring fans. Now his sons, Gary Jr and Nathan are cats players and are loved not only for their play, but also for their tie to there team and town.

I have to say this all sounds like some good work out of the AFL, and I wish we could discard the pretense from the way we operate here in the US and just call a business a business and amateur sports amateur sports and keep the two separate.


Swing and a Miss.

I hate to be adding to the general discourse concerning celebrity baby names but this one is great. Tom and Katie picked an obscure name for their bundle of joy drawing on the ancient Hebrew word for Princess. The problem is that only people in the world who would recognize the connection are the Jewish people of Eastern Europe who pronounce the word for Sarah, the wife of Abraham, as Suri. That is not how they spell the word mind you, the word that is connected to the baby's name is Sur which is a derivative of Sarah, and in modern Hebrew it is akin to calling someone a political official. Woops. I guess they should have gone with L. Ronna, you know, following a religion they (or at least he) seem to know all about. In the end I think that both Tom and Katie really liked the musical Oklahoma and the number "Sury with a fringe on top" a whole lot, and then went looking for a reason to call their kid that. It wouldn't be the first time, and it won't be the last.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

You can take the boy out of Jersey but you can't take the jersey off the boy.

I posted a few days ago about my most recent birthday present, and the newest addition to my huge athletic jersey collection. It got me to thinking about why I have them all. In the beginning my quest was fed by those 70's and 80's tee shirts that would be some horrible combination of earth tones with the last two digits of the year as the number. There are countless pictures of me as a young lad in a puke green shirt with the number 82 on it in brown, or some other such mock football jersey.

I must have been about 12 or 13 when my family was visiting one of my mother's cousins and he showed me a Redskin practice jersey he got first hand from one of the Washington players. At that moment I was hooked, I wanted a jersey more than anything. It was about two or three years later when I saved up enough of the money I made at the pizzeria to buy my first jersey and my first fitted hat. We were in Baltimore for my first game at Camden Yards and I dropped $12 on the 7 1/8 size had and $90 on the white home jersey with no numbers or letters for the last name on it.

I wore that combo for years and years, even as my collection grew. The only thing that stopped me from wearing them was when I grew both into a 7 3/8 hat and out of a 48 jersey. By that point I had picked up my first few Redskin's jerseys, which I have the most of by far now a days. I have enough Skin's jerseys to field a whole offense, even though I have a lot of low numbers with all the quarterbacks shirts I have picked up over the years.

By the time I was in college the collection was pretty big. I had more money from my summer job, and the jersey industry was now beginning to expand. There was a time when you couldn't find more than a few of them even in the big sporting goods stores, but now they are all over the place. By the time college was ending I had branched out to all sports picking up Hockey and Basketball jerseys.

Since then I have added minor league baseball, Rugby and even a few 'personal throwback' jerseys into the mix. I have jerseys from my high school and my college with my name on them, in fact almost all my jerseys have my name on them. Exceptions are made for big time idols of mine like my Cal Ripken #5 Rochester Red Wings jersey. Cal wore 5 in the minors, but couldn't with the O's because it was retired for Brooks Robinson, who's Cooperstown Collection Flannel XL got me last year. I also have A jersey with Eddie Murrary's name and the number 33 on it with the team name Cooperstown on the front to mark his entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame a few years back.

Each year my collection gets a bit bigger, and as I branch out I have begun to run out of obvious ideas, but new and cool ideas spring up all the time. This year I have asked my wife for an Australia world baseball classic jersey with my name, but the number 7 rather than my traditional 5 on it due to the seven points on the Aussie commonwealth star. I have always wanted a Milwaukee Braves or Brewers 1960's throwback with Bob Ueker's name and number, or a late 80's Indians Jersey with Taylor and 7 or Cerano and 13 on it. If you know why that is cool/funny then you are the same type of person that I am.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Risk We Take.

Where I work we can sometimes have a very slow night. I mean incredibly slow. Take last night for example when we were done with our work after less than an hour and a half, leaving us to make a decision. We can either take some of our vacation time and just go home or we can stick around and try and look busy.

Once we found there was no busy work to do, we opted instead to go to one of my coworkers houses and get the board game Risk, which we sat around and played for more than 3 hours. This was a great way to spend an evening of work, and I think all of us had a really good time. I don't know how many people play risk these days, but I have always loved this game. I know some people think about the episode of Seinfeld when Kramer and Newman play on the subway ("The Ukraine is week") but I remember playing as a kid.

I also spent a good amount of time playing in college, but the new game set doesn't live up to the one I remember from either of those eras so I took matters into my own hands. A few months ago I purchased a vintage 60's risk set which was only missing the directions. Now I am prepared to host some friends at my house to play the game or world domination on my poker table, and lucky for me I was able to get in some practice on the clock at work.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Vault: The New Crack.

As I have mentioned once or twice before, I work over night. Third Shift, Graveyard Shift, call it what you will it's very hard on a person. My first experience with over night work came when I was 21, and I spent the summer working in a can factory from 6 pm to 6 am.

We worked four straight days, and then got four days off, which you needed to recover from the 120 degree heat for 12 hours a day. I often went as long as 40 hours without sleep back then, mostly because I was dating my wife and she was 100 miles away, so I had to take every opportunity to see her and sleep came second. I didn't need anything to help me stay awake back then, I was so young that sleep didn't matter to me, and when I had to stay up for work I just did.

That just isn't the case for me these days. I am 43 days from my 30th birthday and I have spent the last year and a half working Midnight to 8:30 AM. There are some nights were my head jerks up and I look around realizing that I have been out cold for a few seconds or a couple of minutes depending on the amount of drool on my chin. If my job didn't pay me so much to do so little there is no way I would have ever stayed this long. These days I still go 30 to 35 hours without sleep, but I can't recover the way I did nine years ago.

Lucky for me there is a soda called Vault. For those of you who haven't heard of this stuff let me clue you in. They took a "Citrus" soda and gave it all the kick of a 4 pack of Red Bull. Not only does this stuff give you wings, it gives you the shakes. One night I made the mistake of drinking a bottle on an empty stomach and I felt like I was going to shake my skin right off my bones. In addition to the 78g of sugar this 20oz packs, Vault's website brags that the soda has 47mg of Caffeine content per each 8oz. That is well over 100mg per bottle!

No wonder I dream about it when I have gone a day or so with out one. My coworkers all agree the stuff is addictive. I heard there are Vault clinics being erected all around the country to help people kick the new habit. First they have you sip a Vault Zero, then they have you chug two Mountain Dews shotgun style. Eventually you step down to Coke and before long you are just sucking on a used coffee filter for your fix.

All I know is that third shifters the world over are saying to the Coke a Cola company: That's Good work out of you for giving us Vault.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Christmas at Easter.

When we were in college the end of school came and went before my birthday. So we would move the date of our celebration up a month or so to coincide with my best friend XL's. Since we have left college and have a bit more cash on hand we have taken to celebrating less with cheap beer and more by giving one another gifts. Or perhaps we may go on a trip together to see a new baseball Stadium or play golf. One thing we both love is baseball, and in turn, we love Baseball Jerseys, of which if have more than I care to admit. Over the last few years I have given XL jerseys with his name, Eddie Murrary's name and even had baseball and football jerseys made for he and I sporting the name of our alma Mater. Last year he gave me a Brooks Robinson Cooperstown Collection flannel jersey for my 29th, but this year he hit a homerun. But first: a bit more background.

After seeing the movie "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" for the first time I laughed so hard I cried. Once the movie came out on DVD I watched it over and over again like I was studding to be an understudy. So too did a big group of people around me, like my wife, XL and our little group of friends from college and the little pack of troublemakers I work with. No matter where I was I was quoting that movie, and a lot of the lines from that film are in my lingua franca these days. When I taste something I like I may say "that's good fondu." Or when I am pressed to do something I don't want to do I will say "No! I will not eat cat poop."

These days we get so excited about the gifts we've gotten for one another that we don't even wait for XL's birthday at the end of April to swap them. Earlier this week XL showed up in central PA and he could have easily arrived on a sleigh. The gift he got for me was a San Diego Padre's jersey with the number 4, and the name R. Burgundy on it's back. If you have not seen the movie, first, shame on you and second, Papa Burgundy and his pals are from San Diego, which is the greatest city in the history of the world. "Founded by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which means, a whale's vagina." So once again I say to you XL: That's good work out of you.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

The price we pay.

There was a time in the distant past when some crumudgonly old pundit preached about the evils of the modern world surrounding humanity at large. I'm sure the old know it all told people they would go blind if they kept reading those written words painted on animal hides. They warned of the devil or some evil spirits being in the sounds that were produced when the blew their breath through a hollowed out stick. It's funny what is considered modern in our world and what is old fashion. Reading has become very passe, and most people would be lucky to have two or three real works of literature in their home. Music too has long since devolved from its previous place in our lives. Where it was once used to tell stories and inspire now most people would be hard pressed to tell you what the meaning is behind most modern pop songs.

For the last three weeks I have been forced to reembrace the old while I was confounded by the new. My computer has been attacked in a wave of modern net terrisom. What the purpose of virus and spyware attacks are to those who do them I will never know. But, they sure drove me crazy. They rendered my computer unusable and when I was let down at every turn by those I foolishly went to for help I went back to the past. I read hundreds of pages of my stack of books that I never seam to get around to. I listened to my music, with out doing any web surfing, so that the music was the main event. I was really very happy with how I was spending my time, but every time I ascended my stairs I came face to face with my office, and the tiny useless monolith under my desk. "Nevermore, bitch" it cried in my direction, in a voice that resembled HAL 9000. It taunted me that I couldn't write on my blog, or listen to by beloved Geelong Cats games late on the last two Friday nights. The Cats won both of those games, and sit atop the AFL ladder albeit two games into the fixture. I was beginning to wonder if I could face a life with out a computer.

Then my best friend came for a visit, in part because he can, and in part for our annual gift exchange for our birthdays. He got me quite possibly the best gift he ever has (more to come on that in a later post) and I was happy with what I got for him, and he seamed to enjoy it as well. He saw our dismay at both the computer problems and our subsequent treatment at the hands of geeks both foreign and domestic, and he rose to the occasion. He offered to take the CPU to his brother in law to see what he could do, and low and behold the problem appears to be fixed. I will be going to pick up the CPU with my wife this weekend but for now we are happy to be here at the library easing back into the online world while pick up a few real books as well.

Thats good work out of you: XL, and Rick. I owe you both.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Not Good Work 2.

My computer is more infected than Paris Hilton after a weekend rave. It has hit me harder than it should ever effect a person, but alas that is who I am. I don't know who to turn to to fix it, because all of the tech support people I have talked to suck. Hard, I mean they really fucking suck. One more attempt to fix the spyware/virus problem and then I take my Louisville Slugger to the CPU. I hope to be back with full posts soon.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Pit Stains.

As I said yesterday, my wife and I went down to DC to see Dinosaur Jr at the 9:30 club. It was a really great show, and unlike the Jenny Lewis gig in Towson a few weeks ago we were far from standing out as the oldest people in the crowd. Dinosaur Jr have been rocking since I was in grade school, and it shows. J. Mascis' hair is still long, but now it is gray. Murph's hair is all gone, which could have been by choice, but may be due to age. Lou still sports a full head of dark hair, but it was curly in an almost Sideshow Bob way.

The crowd too was older. More of us were making our way to the upstairs portion of the 9:30, in search of a seat, at least to get through the opening band. There were aging former hip kids, old 80's and 90's new-school hippies and a fair amount of people dragged to the show by them who had no idea who they were seeing. They didn't know that back in '87 Lou, Murph and J. signed on to indie label SST and started to put out new sounding music that lead to the public acceptance of the bands they call the most influential of their youth, like Nirvana.

There was another group on hand at the show, and they too probably didn't know much about Dinosaur Jr's roll in music history, but they knew all about old school Rock 'n Roll histrionics. They were even younger than I was in '87 when DJ came together, shit, I was 11, they may have been one or two. None the less, there they were. Front and center, bouncing off one another like the Lucha Libre of the rock world. These young bucks are the pit dwellers, and they were in rare form last night.

I'll admit it: I have never moshed. Maybe that means I am a poser as a child of the late 80's and early 90's. I never saw the point to it. When music moves me I rock my head and shoulders to the beet, or stomp my foot along. I'm not into putting my shoulder into someone's head, or stomping my foot into the chest of a fallen rocker. I don't think this makes me a pussy, or any less of a music fan, but you may disagree. Even if I had ever moshed, I can tell you that with 54 days till my 30th birthday those days would long have been over.

There they were last night, about 15 abreast across the middle of the stage, and about 10 rows deep. Some were veterans, but most of them were 18 or 20 and just wanted to hit someone while distorted guitar noise split their ears at mind numbing decibel levels. They jumped shoulder to shoulder into one another, and when they wandered out of their circled square they were thrust back in by the 'boarder guards' of the pit. These are the folks who want to be close to the stage, and while they themselves don't want to mosh, they are not above shoving or punching a fellow reveler in the back to keep them at bey. Again, I am not judging, because I wish everyone all the fun and happiness they can find in this world, but I have always wanted someone to give me a really good answer as to what moshing does for them. Maybe it's a fight club thing, but then again I thought that movie sucked it hard. I'm old, what do I know?


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Shell Yeah!

This is one of my favorite times of the year. Baseball is starting up, and College Basketball is winding down. I went to a small DIII school but on the DI stage, I am a Maryland boy. I was born in Silver Spring, and my father did his undergraduate work at UMD. I thought about going there, but it we too big to suit my tastes. A few years ago I had a great day with my best friend as we went to Orioles opening day, and then watched as the Maryland Men's team won the national title. Now I have to say to the Women's team, that's good work out of you.

In just her fourth year at the helm, Coach Brenda Frese has joined Billy Donovan as young National championship Coaches. Like Donovan and Florida, Frese has almost all young players on her squad, and should be able to take the Terrapin' s program to the top of the sport in the coming years.

I was very impressed with the poise and patience the Terps showed in the second half, after being badly out played for the first 20 minutes. In the second half it was all Maryland as they closed the gap and sent the game into overtime on a Kristi Toliver three pointer with less than 6 seconds left. In the OT the young Terps were perfect from the free throw line, and put Duke away for the first Woman's title in school history. Duke is now 0-2. Toliver, Shay Doron and Laura Harper each had 16 points to pace the Terps, but the box score belies a more important fact. Namely that this young group never stopped fighting. They were the only team to win against North Carolina this year, and with this win became the only team to take down Duke more than once. All four of the wins against UNC and Duke came late in the season as Maryland's Freshman and Sophomores came into their own.

For all of you people who say that Women's Basketball isn't as good or interesting as the Men's game you needed to watch this game. These players have tons of skill and just as much if not more heart than the guys. Today is the WNBA draft, and while there is good living to be made in that league, so many more young girls and women play for the love of the game, and that passion shows on the court. With so many of the young men you get a sense of entitlement that is apparent in how they carry themselves, and that is absent in the women's game. Once again I tip my hat to the Terps, and although you won't hear any of their names called at this year's draft, just wait. They are coming.


Keep yours, or die trying.

Let's face it, pimpin ain't easy, but it's necessary. So to is filing bankruptcy if you have cheated someone out of fifty million bucks or so. After being told by a judge that he had to pay Lydia Harris, half of what Death Row Records is worth, Suge "I didn't Kill Tupac" Knight is looking to protect all of his bling, with a bankruptcy filing.

I don't know where to come down here, from what I have read Mrs. Harris has a claim to half of the company in so much as she was there at the start and was shut out by Knight. Maybe she shouldn't complain, if you cross Suge bad things can happen. I don't know how much work she did to make the label the success it ultimately became, but this is America where anyone (at least anyone with a good lawyer) is entitled to their piece.

I've had more computer issues this week, so this was just a quick hit on my way back to my normal posts. Tonight the wife and I head down to DC to see dinosaur Jr with their original line up.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Oh the games we play, and make up.

One of the great things about being young is, that although you are bombarded with rules from everyone around you, you have a tendency to try and make your own. When a child is uncomfortable with the paradigm, they have a tendency to step outside the lines and create a set of rules to suit their circumstances. As a freshman at St. Joesph’s Prep Seminary in Princeton NJ I had many an opportunity to do just that.

One such circumstance was when a few of my closest friends and I gathered to play basketball. Of all of us, Rob was the best player. He was tallest and could dribble, shoot and defend and no one wanted to play him one on one. We also had Joe and Doc who could shoot, but couldn’t handle the ball well, and so they never wanted to play a game. Most often it was one or two of the above along with Jeff and myself. Freshman year I was six feet tall, and Jeff was just shy of 5 feet. Since then Jeff has grown about a foot and I grew about an inch, those are rules you can’t do anything about. So we never had an even group to play two on two, and Jeff and I never liked to play one on one, so we made our one rules.

Oh Shit! That is the name of the game that Jeff and I invented in the gym on the campus of St. Joe’s. Sure we could have just played H.O.R.S.E but why follow the existing rules? Our game was set up in such a way that almost everyone could play and as few as two or as many as five could compete. After determining the ‘shooting order’ the first player steps to the free throw line.

At the start of each turn the player must state the score. EG: 0 to 0. Or 12 to 4 to 7. Failure to say the score results in loss of that turn, but only if one of the other players calls it.

* Each players first turn starst at the free throw line, this is the qualifying free throw, or qualifier. If the player sinks the shot he gets one point and his turn continues. After the qualifier is made the player now has the option of choosing a free throw for one point or a 3 point shot from anywhere beyond the arch for three points for all following shots in the game, even the first shot in subsequent turns.

* If the shooter misses his qualifier, his turn is over and the next player steps to the line and announces the score and tries his shot. The player that missed the qualifier must try and get it on his next turn before being able to choose a three point shot, or be eligible for continuation.

* If the qualifier is made the shooter now continues to shoot only from the 3 point arch or the foul line until a shot is missed. (If at any point the shooter makes five shots in a row, he has the option to take a layup worth two points. The player must start from outside the three point arch, and traveling can be called.) Once any type of shot is missed the players turn goes into continuation.

* When the shot is missed the player has a chance to add to his point total before handing the ball over to the next player. To do this they must get the rebound prior to the ball bouncing twice, or going out of bounds. If the player gets the ball before it bounces he is allowed to take one dribble to the basket before shooting. If the ball is collected after one bounce the player must set up to shoot from that spot, and must not travel. Pivoting is allowed so the player can face the basket to shoot. The player gets two points for a shot inside the arch and three for one outside it in continuation. When the players turn is over he must announce his total points.

* The object of the game is to end on 21 points exactly. If a player exceeds 21, or goes over, then his score is reset to 17 and his turn is ended immediately, no continuation can be awarded when a player goes over. Example: if a player has 18 points and makes a three, then that player wins. If they miss the three and get the rebound and makes his continuation shot he now has 20. His turn is over and must make a free throw to win on his next turn, if another player hasn’t already won in the mean time. The player can not rebound the missed free throw and shoot for a score of 22 to win.

* If, on any shot, a player misses the rim and back board they get an airball penalty. After an airball the player loses one point and his turn is over with no continuation. An airball can take a player into negative points. If a player wants to miss a shot on purpose they can use a self pass. This is when a player throws the ball against the backboard to set up an easy rebound for a two point shot in continuation.

Example: If a player is on 20 and misses his free throw, but gets the rebound before the second bounce the player can miss the backboard and rim on purpose to cut their score back to 19. On their next turn that player can self pass to set up an easy lay up or short range shot for two points and the win. This move is called check mate.
*If the same players play a second game the shooting order is determined by the finishing order of the first game in descending score order. EG: 21-19-7.

We played this game over and over and I feel it is a good game to play with kids who want to learn the game. It teaches kids to follow their shot and be ready for a rebound. A lot of strategy is involved when deciding what type of shot to take, because it is harder to rebound a three point shot before the second bounce, and you have more of a chance to airball. When sitting on 20 points and getting ready to shoot that free throw, or sitting on 18 and lining up for a three, you would be amazed how much pressure you can feel. Especially if your friends are the types to make fun of you when you miss... which we were.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Say It Aint So Dane.

Let's face it, sometimes work just sucks. For myself and a few of my coworkers one way we get over the monotony of our job is to listen to music and comedy on our MP3 players. The biggest hit among all of us has been Dane Cook. Dane has been around for ever, but labored in relative obscurity until the last few years. Anyone who saw him on a slew of Comedy Central specials over the last 7 or 8 years knows just how funny Dane is. At work we have taken to quoting Cook in a manner we have dubbed "Daneish." Like I said, you have to do what you can at work to make it easier.

If reports in US Weekly are to be believed (which they probably shouldn't be) than we are being told that Dane Cook has been seen cozying up to one Jessica Simpson. If you haven't read my blog before you probably don't know about my absolute distaste for talentless, dumb, Hollywood types who get by on the good looks they have from the neck down. I think Jessica has an amazing body, but come on. Look at her face people! Any how, the rag of a gossip mag, US Weekly tells us that on the set of their up coming movie "Employee of the Month" Cook and Simpson have been getting touchy - feely.

I just don't know what to make of all of this. On one hand, I respect Dane for all of his hard work, and wish him all of the spoils of fame. But on the other hand, if he wants to be a part of the whole 'guess who is fucking who' game couldn't he pick a better fuckie? For all you have done to get where you are, I say to Dane Cook 'that's good work out of you.' However, if the stories are true and you have decided to hook up with this vapid bitch, or in Daneish this mental bucket of yuck, I say to you Dane: Say it aint so.