Monday, December 27, 2010

I'm Here

I made it to Enders Island.  Thus far it's going well.  I have not yet been able to log in on my computer but I'm borrowing a friend's laptop to keep the blogs going for at least one more day.

The drive down wasn't too bad.  I only lost control of my car once and it was more or less clear sailing once I crossed the Connecticut state line.

It's great to see everybody.  My biggest concern now is that I forgot to pack my alarm clock, but I'll find a way to manage.

Tomorrow we start workshops.  Should be a good time.  Hopefully my computer will be up and running by tomorrow night.

Here We Go

We got a lot of snow, but it's not as catastrophic as it was predicted to be.  The measurable snow will stop around 10 a.m., says Dylan Dreyer of 7News.

I'm gonna give it a go later this morning.  Wish me luck.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Dual Dilemmas: Ham and Nor'easter

I have lots of leftover ham from Christmas dinner, courtesy of my mom.  (It was inspirational to see her so soon after major surgery.)  I will be living on an exclusive diet of ham until I leave for residency.

Also, Murphy's Law has struck again, as a nor'easter is schedule to hit eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut beginning Sunday evening and continuing through Monday afternoon.  Monday, of course, is when I leave for residency.  Channel 5's Harvey Leonard is calling for as much as 20 inches.

This is going to be a fun 36 hours.

It's Christmas Miracle

My mom is out of the hospital, and all my other family members are recovering from their bumps and bruises. I'll be heading over to my mom's.  Beats Chinese food for Christmas.

Merry Xmas everyone.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Things To Do Before Residency, Addendum

Yesterday I came up with a list of things to do before residency.  The good news is I can scratch two of the five items off the list.  I now have pants.  And I've decided to bring the laptop.  (Whether it'll work or not on an isolated island with chance of much precipitation is another story, but...)

On the down side, I realized I have two other things to do. 

* I have to identify a five-minute passage from my novel for a public reading I'll be giving.

* I have to introduce my mentor, which means I have to write a 90-second introduction.

So two more items that'll take an estimated 6 1/2 minutes, added to three minutes of emptying out my binder and maybe a half-hour of packing.  39 1/2 minutes prep time total.  I'm all stressed out about it. 

Oh crap! I also forgot about revising my novel.  Cancel Christmas.  There goes the rest of the next three days.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Things To Do Before Residency

I get stressed out for no real reason.  Exhibit A: I have some things I need to do before the Fairfield U. MFA winter residency.

My past experience is that if I write it down in list form, it's not as intimidating.  So, here goes.  I have to:

* Take my binder, empty out my workshop samples from last summer and put in the samples for the coming residency.  This is a perfect example of what I'm talking about.  It should take roughly three minutes, yet it's really bugging me.

* Go to Wal-Mart and buy a pair of sweat pants, a couple of pairs of jeans, socks and a bottle of olive leaf extract.

* Finish up my revisions from being workshopped in last summer's residency.  (Third-semester critical essays have a way of delaying this 'til semester's end, particularly when they're nearly 50 pages long.)  It's not like I HAVE to do this,  but I am writing a novel and there's no reason to put it off, especially since the novel is my thesis and will be due next Dec. 1.  Plus, whoever my mentor is this semester will probably want to see at least part of what I've written this far.

* Pack.  When it comes to packing, I'm a notorious minimalist.  There's nothing I can't get at CVS if I forgot it.

* Make a final decision on whether to bring my laptop.

So there it is.  I have a few days left, it should be easy to knock each item off the list.  Unless I stress about it. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Participatory Democracy

As I mentioned in a recent blog, the Worcester city council has been talking about reclassifying apartment buildings as commercial property.  So, last night I went to a Worcester City Council meeting.

It seems that unlike many municipalities, Worcester has different property tax rates for residential and  commercial property.  The commercial rate is much higher (probably because commercial property owners tend to have larger properties, and many don't live or vote in town).  My landlord was understandably upset about this proposal.  He said his tax bill would double if it passed.  So he encouraged everyone in my building to attend the meeting and speak out at the public hearing portion of the agenda.

I served an 8-year sentence of attending town meetings -- it was called being a newspaper reporter.  I wasn't too excited about attending one last night.  Plus, a lot of older people live in my complex and they love to go to city council meetings.  Then I thought, if it passes, my landlord will pass the tax increase onto me in the form of rent.  Not good.  Besides, there wasn't much on TV last night -- Skating With the Stars, and Louisville and Southern Miss playing in the Chunks 'o Beef Salmonella Bowl. 

It dawned on me that it might be in my best interest to attend.  So I trudged out to Worcester City Hall. 

I was the only person in my complex to attend.

Now the pressure was on.  I got on the list to speak publicly.  My big mistake was not writing down what I wanted to say beforehand.  Still, I thought I sounded relatively articulate.  A couple of city councilors came up to me afterward and introduced themselves to me.  My landlord, who also attended, loved me.  A couple of other landlords who attended also thanked me for showing up.

It turns out the proposal was not up for a vote (some of the councilors do seem to support it, but apparently the city needs some sort of approval for the state in order to make this change).  So I didn't even need to attend.

But I'm glad I did.  Too often we shirk our responsibility of being a citizen because we'd rather watch TV or surf the 'Net.  And that sort of apathy is what allows selectmen and city councilors to think they can get away with raising taxes or misusing their position for their own gain. (I say this as a generalization of politicians everywhere, not as an accusation of any of the Worcester city officials, who seemed pretty accountable and happy for the public input.)  I spent 2 1/2 hours at City Hall, but I killed the time by reading 40 pages of Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey while I was waiting for my turn to speak.

And let's face it, going to a town meeting to speak your mind is the essence of being a New Englander.


I'm not the most patient person in the world, but I try.  I don't snap at people unless they really get on my nerves.  I try to tolerate the constitutional right of idiots to vote.  And if I'm in a bad mood, I don't pick up the phone.

But this morning, my patience was really tested as I was cut off three times on my way home from the gym -- twice in the same parking lot.  It's particularly frustrating on the morning after our first measurable snowfall, when everybody either drives as slow as a snail or as if nothing happened, both of which leads to unnecessary aggravation on my part.

I'm home now and safe, at least safe from bad drivers.  Then again, if anyone can find a way to plow their car through a third-story window, they'd do so through my living room.

The one silver lining -- I really didn't know what to write about today and slept on it.  At least in that sense, my patience was rewarded.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

18 Is the New 16

There's been a lot of talk recently about extending the NFL season from 16 to 18 games.  It looks as though the owners have made this a non-negotiable item as owners and players try to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement.

Players have been less than enthusiastic.  From Hines Ward to Ray Lewis to Tom Brady, players seem pretty pissed about the idea.  They claim they will sustain more injuries.

Normally I live by Tom Brady's teachings, but this is crap.  Under the current schedule, each team plays 4 preseason and 16 regular season games, with one bye week.  Under the new proposal, each team would play 2 preseason and 18 regular season games, with most likely two bye weeks.  The total number of games either way is 20.  Dirty little secret: players get hurt in preseason games, too.  There will most likely be the same number of injuries.  Plus, an extra week off gives players extra time to heal. 

An 18-game schedule will be a win for the fans, who have to buy the two meaningless preseason games as part of the season ticket packages.  That's like forcing someone to buy a TV that gets crappy reception on CBS.  It's bad business.

And, memo to Hines Ward: nobody's forcing you to play.  You've had a good career.  You can always walk away from the game.  But if you play pro football, the potential exists for injuries and post-career complications.  You know full well that's what you signed up for when you started playing football.  If it bothers you that much, retire.

(Tom Brady, if you happen to read this, please don't retire.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ask, Tell

A few days ago I wrote about the defeat of a bill to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gays openly serving in the military.

Our legislators rarely get anything right, but Saturday they did when they reversed themselves and repealed DADT.  I congratulate them for coming to their senses.

I particularly applaud three Republican senators from New England -- Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine -- for crossing the aisle and playing key roles in allowing this legislation to avoid a filibuster and allowing this to come to pass.


This sucks.  Apparently the Worcester City Council is considering a measure that would treat apartment buildings as commercial, not residential, property.

My landlord may raise my rent $100 a month is this goes through.  I don't live in a business.  I live in an apartment complex.

It's going to be on the agenda Tuesday. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 17, 2010

For One Day, I Was Not a Prick

Yesterday I saw somebody post something that I know is incorrect.  I could've e-mailed them to point it out.

But what would it have gained me?  As incorrect information goes, it was pretty benign.  It wasn't going to cause someone to get cancer, make a bad financial decision or enter into an unhealthy relationship.  And I would've just looked like a know-it-all prick.  So I decided it wasn't worth it.

Today, all bets are off.  I could end up acting highly obnoxious today.  But I can say this for the record.  For one day, I was not a prick.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Live Free or Die, Man

In a recent "Daily Beast" survey, the University of New Hampshire comes out on top as the "druggiest college in America."  But it doesn't stop there.  The top four schools on the list are all in New England.   Northeastern, Bryant College and Maine round out the Fried Four.  Williams, Vermont, UMass and Hampshire College also cracked the top 50.

I have mixed feelings about this.  I was an occasional (once or twice a month) pot smoker in and shortly after college. But I stopped because after awhile, I realized it didn't do anything for me.  (At least alcohol gave me a nice buzz.)  I never did crack, heroin or any other hard drugs because for me, the potential for dying on the first attempt overrode any theoretical benefits.

That said, while I don't do drugs anymore, I also feel the decision to partake in drugs is one's personal choice and think it's silly to legislate these sorts of things.  Prohibition was a big disaster, which is why it was repealed after only 14 years -- by constitutional amendment, no less; you know it's bad public policy when three-fourths of the state legislatures, which usually can't come to agreement on the state bird, are motivated to repeal it -- and to me the War on Drugs is just prohibition with a more militaristic name.  In that sense, it's kind of cool that the top four, and 8 of the top 50, "druggie schools" are in New England.  New Englanders have never been keen on having the government infringe upon their civil liberties.

I also find it delicious that a school from New Hampshire tops the list.  New Hampshire has one of the most right-wing conservative papers in America (The Union Leader of Manchester; I wonder how this news went over in the Union Leader's editorial board meeting).  Yet there's also a sizeable libertarian contingent in the state.  They may not want their tax dollars used to promote drug use, but they also don't want the government dragging them to jail if they do use drugs.

So I think this deserves a special celebration.  I say we all toke up in tribute to UNH and the other seven schools on the list.  Live Free of Die, Man.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Form Letter

I'm not the most organized person in the world.  An example: when I sent out my most recent short story in an attempt to get it published, I submitted it to 10 different fiction journals.  But I forgot to keep track of which ones.

It wasn't that big a deal.  After four of the journals rejected it, a fifth, the rather interestingly named "Hobo Pancakes," was pleased to let me know that they really liked it and wanted to include it in their latest edition.  Great news.  Except that there were five other journals I applied to and by now (a month or so had passed) I couldn't remember the names of the remaining five.  In fiction circles, if you've mutiply-submitted a short story and one of the places wants to publish it, it's considered proper etiquette to inform the other places of its pending publication so they can remove it from consideration for their publication.  So forgetting the other places constitutes a real jerk move on my part.     

Thankfully, one of the remaining five did some of the heavy lifting for me, sending me an e-mail last night.  I've redacted the name of this publication, since I figure that's between me and it.  But other than that, the text of the e-mail is reprinted here verbatim: 

Dear Phil,

We regret to inform you that we will be unable to accept your submission, "BMW Supermodel," at this time. DO NOT let this discourage you from writing creatively.  Continue writing, and continue submitting your work.  If you choose to revise this piece, please feel free to resubmit it to us, and we will be more than happy to reread it.
Thanks again for your submission.


XXX Review

This is by far the nicest rejection letter I've ever received.  For anything -- job interview, fiction submission, college application, etc.  I actually felt good after reading it.  Maybe this particular journal likes to make people feel good about themselves.  But it sure doesn't feel like a form letter.

Now if only I could remember the other four places I sent my short story to....

Monday, December 13, 2010

Surgery Update

My mom is okay.  She's resting comfortably after a six-hour surgery.  Things seemed to go well.  She will have to have another surgery in March, but I'll knock on wood that everything goes smoothly from now until then.

I hope to return to more Phil-like topics beginning tomorrow. I just want to thank all the well-wishers and appreciate their support. 


As I write, my mom is in for surgery. It's kind of a big one.  And you never know what'll happen.

Thus, I'm trying to do some things to take my mind off of it -- lunch with friends, laundry, etc.  But overall, I'm just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fast Lane, The Sequel

So I just got home.  The writer's group was a blast; the Yankee swap was a great idea.

The big deal, however, was on the way to and from the meeting.  I tested my new Fast Lane transponder.  I was frightened going into the lane; you don't get a ticket.  I was on the Mass Pike for the scariest 20 minutes of my life, hoping and praying that the transponder would work. 

I tentatively drove into the lane at the 128 exit....slowed down and waited.

The green light went on.  "Thank you," said a sign inside the green light, which is slightly creepy.

Whew!  Off the hook.  On the way back, same story.  I can only pray that the transponder did indeed work, or else the police won't be kicking my door in while I sleep. 

Fast Lane

First of all, my apologies -- I think this is the latest in the day I've ever blogged.  However, I'm pretty stressed out.

I finally got one of those Fast Lane transponders so I can go through the automated lanes of the Mass Pike.  It's something I've been meaning to do for years, and I finally realized I could sign up for it online.  Two days later, it showed up in the mail.

Perfect, right? Wrong.  Now I have to mount it on my windshield.  I'm not a dinosaur when it comes to tech, I can generally get by.  But this is the perfect situation for something to go wrong and prevent the ETC lanes from reading it properly.

Tonight I will be on the Pike.  This will be the acid test.  I hope the next time I'm blogging it's not from jail. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Take a Stand

Yesterday a bill to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gays in the military died in the Senate. 

The president is the commander-in-chief, right?  Obviously presidents have a method to their madness (not the least of which is, whether it's politically expedient to pass a certain public policy at a particular moment).  But if Obama really wants to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," as commander-in-chief he could just say, "Look, folks, this is how it's gonna be going forward.  If you don't like it, come home."

I've never served in the military.  I'm humbled by those who do.  That said, I can't understand the logic behind banning gays in the military. 

And I would argue that, if you're more concerned about whether the guy next to you in the foxhole is thinking about what you look like naked, and less concerned about an enemy who wants to destroy the American way of life, a way of life in which the protection of civil liberties is cherished, then maybe you shouldn't be serving.  Someone like that doesn't give me confidence that they'll have their priorities straight in the heat of battle.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dec. 8, 1980

I feel stupid.  Here is my memory of 30 years ago yesterday, the night John Lennon was murdered:

I was 8.  The Patriots played the Dolphins in Miami that night on Monday Night Football.  It was a big game with playoff implications.  This was back when the Orange Bowl jinx -- the Patriots went 19 years without winning a game in Miami -- was still on.  My parents allowed me to stay up to watch the first quarter.  I was in bed when Lennon was shot and killed and my parents actually got me out of bed (oftentimes I had trouble sleeping as a kid; come to think if it I still do), after Howard Cosell announced, with seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Patriots lining up for a potential game-winning field goal, that Lennon had been shot and killed.

As an 8-year-old, I barely knew who the president was.  My first thought was: "Wow, John Lennon.  I've actually heard of him."  My second thought was: "What's the score?"

Patriots kicker John Smith missed the field goal.  My parents let me stay up a little while.  The Patriots lost 16-13 in overtime; the loss eliminated them from playoff contention.

The next morning, my third-grade teacher said there was a big news story last night and could anyone explain what it was.  I raised my hand and grumbled, "Yeah, the Patriots had a chance to make the playoffs last night and they blew it."  I could tell pretty quickly that wasn't the news story she was thinking of.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Cable Company That Almost Stole "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

Monday evening around 7 my cable went out.  Bad timing (90 minutes before the biggest Patriots game of the year, but not insurmountable.  I called up my friend Mark, who generously allowed me to watch the Patriots game over at his house.  However, when I got home Tuesday morning at 1 it was still out.  I called Charter and the automated response said there was a high-wind-related outage in my area and the cable company would call me when the problem was fixed.

I woke up a few hours later and the cable was still out.  I call Charter again -- five times.  And promptly get disconnected each time.  Encouraging.  I've said it before but it bears repeating -- Charter is the bastard child of cable companies.  When I had Comcast I had lousy customer service and questionable bills, but at least I knew I'd have cable service 24/7.

This cable outage is a serious problem.  Because Tuesday night at 8 is the holiday event of the year -- A Charlie Brown Christmas -- and I can't not watch it.  (After Mark allowed me to come over Monday for the Pats game, I think asking to come over again Tuesday to watch Charlie Brown might've been pushing it a little).  By now I'm panicking something fierce, the way Charlie Brown was when he was trying to direct the Christmas play.   Charter is about to ruin Christmas!  I'm thinking about calling the Massachusetts Attorney General's office, but Martha Coakley ran such a lousy campaign for Senate earlier this year I can't imagine she'll be very proactive about this.   

I try calling Charter back at noon.  I finally get through to a live person.  I explain the situation.  She says the outage from Monday night should be fixed, and I should try to unplug the cable box, wait 30 second and replug it.  I do so.  It's still not working.  She tells me they can't figure out the problem and will have to have a live person come to my place to fix the problem -- Wednesday.  After A Charlie Brown Christmas.   

This is no good.  I give the lady a Linus-esque lecture  about the true meaning of Christmas.  I mean, everyone knows the true meaning of Christmas is being able to watch Linus lecture everybody about the true meaning of Christmas.  As I'm lecturing her, voila, the cable magically comes back on.

Christmas is saved!  I'm glad I didn't let all this commercialism get me down. I guess now we truly know what Christmas is all about.  Now I need to go find myself a Charlie Brown tree.  (Yes, they still make wooden Christmas tees.)    

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Haters Are Out And About

There's nothing like a 45-3 beatdown of the Jets to bring all the New England Patriots haters out in full force.  Now that the Pats seem to be a legitimate Super Bowl threat, over the past few hours I've seen blogs and posts accusing Tom Brady of being a "pre-madonna" (whatever that means, I think they meant prima donna but I don't expect Patriots haters to know how to spell) and accusing Bob Kraft of screwing Hartford over back in 1999 by going back on a plan to move the Pats to Connecticut.  Maybe, but methinks the venom should be directed more towards then-Gov. John Rowland, who crafted a multi-million-dollar agreement with public money, that was also filled with loopholes to allow Kraft an out to stay in Massachusetts. Rowland later spent time in jail for tax fraud, granted it was for an unrelated matter, but it certainly speaks to his character.

Anyway, I'm just gonna sit here and enjoy the moment.  I don't know if the Patriots will win the Super Bowl.  They still have some holes but they're certainly improving.  We'll just have to wait and see.   

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Upset Special

NFL pre-game shows don't offer much.  There's the occasional funny moment.  There's an occasional funny moment at a funeral, too, but that doesn't mean it's a good time.  Ostensibly, the former NFL coaches and players hired are supposed to have some insight that everyone else does now.  Today, however, I officially determined they know nothing more than me.

On CBS's The NFL Today, the panelists were asked to give their "Upset Specials," picks of underdogs they expect to win on Sunday.  Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason picked Jacksonville over Tennessee; Shannon Sharpe picked the Jets over New England.

Those are upsets?  Going into Sunday's game, Jacksonville (6-5) had a BETTER RECORD than Tennessee (5-6).  The Jets and Patriots are tied at 9-2, and currently the Jets hold the tiebreaker.  Why not pick 8-3 Chicago over 2-9 Detroit as your upset special?  I mean, the game WAS in Detroit.  To me, it hardly counts as an upset when the Jaguars post a 17-6 win over a Tennessee team that has The Version of Randy Moss That Doesn't Care and a quarterback who hasn't started regularly in two years (Kerry Collins).

Too many people in America settle for mediocrity.  It's too bad the NFL's pre-game studio hosts have settled as well.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Worcester Phillies

Everyone who knows me knows that I'm a repository of useless facts, a function of my addiction to Wikipedia and other sites where you can find obscure information.  Recently, I was doing some mindless surfing of 1880s Major League Baseball, and found that, from 1880 to 1882, Worcester, Mass., the town I currently call home, was home to a National League franchise.

This franchise is fascinating to me for several reasons.  One, this franchise pitched the first perfect game in major league history, on June 12, 1880.  Because it hailed from Worcester, it gave Bay Staters a choice for their baseball rooting interests.  You didn't have to root for the Boston Braves (the Red Sox were still two decades away from inception).  I mean, come on, if you're from Pittsfield or Springfield and you want to go to a major league game, would you rather drive to Worcester or Boston?  It's a no-brainer.

There's also an amazing amount of mystery shrouding this team.  For starters, there seems to be a heated debate on such basic matters as the team nickname., a pretty reliable source, says the team was called the Worcester Ruby Legs, which is either a 19th-century or an incredibly wussy way of calling them the Worcester Purple Sox.  Other sources call them the Worcester Brown Stockings.  Yet Wikipedia says the team had no nickname.  Now, Wikipedia is hardly the final arbiter -- I mean, there's nothing stopping me from vandalizing the Wikipedia article on the team and renaming the team the Worcester Porn Stars.  But there's some credence to the Wikipedia article, which I will get to shortly.

The other mysterious thing about the team is what happened to it.  Seems the Worcester franchise was, perfect game notwithstanding, pretty fucking bad.  The team posted a 90-159 record in three seasons, including a wretched 18-66 in 1882; many sources maintain the team folded after that year.  But another theory is that the Worcester franchise is alive and thriving today, under the alias of...the Philadelphia Phillies.

If you look at the 1882 and 1883 National League seasons, you'll notice there's only one change of venue between the eight teams -- Worcester leaves, and is replaced by the Philadelphia Phillies (though they were originally called the Quakers, the Phillies became the de facto nickname and eventually it became the official team name).  Yet that's where the mystery begins.  While it seems logical that the Worcester team moved to Philly, Wikipedia claims this did not happen, that the Worcester team folded and the National League simply awarded another, unrelated franchise to Philadelphia.  And here's where Wikipedia has some credibility: Wiki cites none other than itself, which notes that none of the players on the 1882 Worcester team played for Philadelphia in 1883.

However, it gets better.  The Phillies themselves claim the Worcester team was purchased by a new owner, who then moved the team to Philadelphia.  As for the Wikipedia question of why nobody from the Worcester franchise played for the Phillies, well, I can see how an owner inheriting an 18-66 team might be inclined to fire the whole team.  I mean, that's a .214 winning percentage; even the worst team in the majors rarely has a winning percentage of less than .400.

So, while I can't say for sure, it seems there's a legitimate case can be made that the Phillies were originally the Worcester Whatevers.

It doesn't affect my loyalties.  I've been a Red Sox fan my whole life and will continue to be until the day I die and beyond.  Boston is the cultural capital of New England and its pro sports franchises are essentially New England's teams (except for those traitors in southwestern Connecticut who root for New York, and those traitors in northern Vermont who root for the Montreal Canadiens).  I mean, Worcester's great, for the time being it's a good place for me to live.  But I don't expect to live in Worcester forever.         

And, as I was saying earlier, I spend way too much time enthralled by useless facts. 

Going Against the Grain

Yesterday was the earliest sunset of the year. Some people get depressed when the sun sets so early.  Not me.  To me, a 4 p.m. sunset means that NFL football games that start at 4 are a big deal, with playoff implications.  It doesn't get much better than that.  I love early sunsets.  I say bring 'em on.  I wish the sun would set at 3 p.m.

This may make me weird, or a vampire, or something.  But I've gone against the grain my whole life. 
Yesterday was the earliest sunset of the year. Some people get depressed when the sun sets so early.  Not me.  To me, a 4 p.m. sunset means that NFL football games that start at 4 are a big deal, with playoff implications.  It doesn't get much better than that.  I love early sunsets.  I say bring 'em on.  I wish the sun would set at 3 p.m.

This may make me weird, or a vampire, or something.  But I've gone against the grain my whole life. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Bachelor, Part 2

According to ABC's recent commercials, Brad Womack, the guy who famously picked neither of the final two contestants in the 2007 season of The Bachelor, is back at it this season.  Once again, he'll be picking from 25 eligible bachelorettes in the hopes of finding true love. 

Now that's a much better gig than sitting at home, playing The Bachelor video game.

But what's his motivation?  If you're Womack, why not just diss all the girls again and lobby to keep coming back for more season after season?  You get to hang with 25 beautiful women over and over again.  There's no downside -- some of the girls are gonna be mad at you no matter what.

Seriously, how do I sign up for that?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Bachelor, Part 1: The Video Game

I was doing a little research for a blog (see tomorrow) when I came across this:

The Bachelor: The Videogame

·         Chris Harrison is your host in the game and will take you through the single player mode that is structured like the TV show
·         Compete against your "frenemies" in multiplayer mode
·         Sabotage your opponent's dates to prevent them from receiving a rose?or they may sabotage yours!
·         Features real-life The Bachelor and The Bachelorette contestants
·         Take personality tests and view your dating profile and compatibility results

The quest for love doesn't have to end after the show's final rose. Now, you can experience the excitement of the TV show in your very own adventure and compete for the affections of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette! It's up to you to make an impression that will leave your suitor with only one offer you the final rose!

The Bachelor is my guilty pleasure reality TV show, so I get a kick out of it.  Not sure I understand the concept of a Bachelor videogame, though.  Clearly they don't have me in mind, since you can only play the role of the female suitors and not the role of the bachelor/-ette.  The only role I would play is that of the one who's handing out the roses.  But I'm not sure why women would play this game either; it seems silly to be vying for a fictitious version of a guy who was on The Bachelor three seasons ago and already picked someone who 1) wasn't them and 2) unceremoniously broke up with the woman he picked two months later.

I guess I'm onto something, as I went onto Amazon and found this review, from a jilted woman who gave The Bachelor video game only one star:

I love the show, hate the game. After seeing the trailer I thought it looked really cool, I went to buy it the next day. After playing for about half an hour I got bored. The only thing your doing is playing mini games, thats it. The only way you can "sabotage the other dates" like it says on the back of the wii box is by beating them in a mini game. I really really want to return this game.

Good stuff.  ABC needs to get this woman as a contestant next season.

I Knew I Was Forgetting Something

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep I kept thinking I was forgetting something.

As I woke up from a dream in which I was told by Meredith Vieira that I failed everyone, it occurred to me.  I forgot to blog.

I've posted some wicked long blogs lately, and maybe I just ran out of gas last night.  Anyway, if I left anyone hanging I apologize.

I think the world will survive, though.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Banning Four Loko Won't Work

You’ve probably heard of Four Loko, an alcoholic energy drink named after its four main beverages – alcohol, caffeine, taurine and guarana.  It also contains carbonated water, sugar, natural and artificial flavoring.  Four Loko is a big hit these days on college campuses, where, you may be surprised to learn, alcohol consumption among students is popular.

Recently several states have banned the sale of Four Loko, saying that combining energy drinks with alcohol represents a public health concern.  There’s been a recent trend of college kids binging on Four Loko and subsequently blacking out.  Once something like this happens three times, the news media loves to pounce on it with an series of “hard-hitting enterprise stories.”  Panic in the streets ensues.  Now there’s more hubbub associated with Cream, an alcoholic whipped cream, which is already generating controversy of its own.

Personally, I don’t do drugs.  I don’t advocate drug use.  I don’t even drink much anymore.  This past weekend I got through a 10-hour high school reunion on the strength of one beer and one screwdriver and, after being dry for the final eight hours of the night, was more than sober enough to drive home without incident.  I can’t envision myself ever being a regular Four Loko drinker.

But I’m also of the mindset that legislating morality and stupidity begins a slippery slope that ends in a police state.  Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol in the 1920s, unless you define “working” as the onset of organized crime.  Prohibition also isn’t working for the War on Drugs, unless you define “working” as the onset of gang warfare.  

Do politicians really think college kids will stop binging simply by banning Four Loko, or are they just taking a stand to make them look good the next time they're up for re-election?  College kids have been abusing alcohol for centuries.  Here’s a sample conversation of what’ll happen in the post-Four Loko world:

College Student #1: “Yo, dude, what are we gonna do tonight?”

College Student #2: “I dunno, man, we can’t buy Four Loko anymore.  It’s banned.”

College Student #1: “I know, dude! Let’s buy some regular energy drinks and mix them with vodka! That'll have the same effect as Four Loko!  Seven or eight of those and we’ll get totally hammered!”

College Student #2: “Great idea, dude!  You fly, I’ll buy.”

College Student #1: “Then we’ll go to that bar where all the smoking’ babes hang out, and drink Jack & Cokes all night long.  It'll have the same effect as Four Loko.  Man, after we down eight or nine alcoholic beverages mixed with caffeinated beverages, those babes are gonna be all over us!”

College Student #2: “Fuck yeah, dude!  We’ll get so hammered.  Those girls will totally wanna fuck us!” 

College Student #1: “I can’t wait to get loaded!  This is gonna be the best night ever!  Rock and roll, man! (Primal scream.)”

The best way to stop binge drinking (are you listening, parents?) is to educate kids – or if you are the kids, educate yourselves – on the dangers and consequences of alcohol abuse. 

It’s sad that some students have to learn the hard way.  But there comes a point in life where Social Darwinism takes over.  You can’t save people from their own stupidity.  Passing laws banning certain alcoholic beverages doesn’t stop kids from abusive those beverages.  It only creates more useless laws for kids to break.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Worst and Best Of the Holiday Songs You'll Hear For The Next Month

Now that Thanksgiving weekend is over, I feel like it's officially the Christmas season, which means one thing – holiday songs everywhere on the dial.  I have mixed emotions about this; some of these songs make me feel festive and spirited, others make me cringe and turn the radio dial.

At the risk of being a Grinch, I’ve presented my list of the 10 songs I could do without, but before you call me blasphemous, I’ve followed it with the 10 I could listen to all year long.  So here goes.

The Bottom 10....

10) Bruce Springsteen – "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" I know this’ll piss off hard-core Springsteen fans, but I'm not afraid to make unpopular decisions.  This time of year I can’t be in the car for two minutes without hearing this song.  I concede that maybe that’s the radio stations’ fault, but it's not even December and I’m already sick of this song.

9) Bob Geldof et al, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" With a roster that includes Spandau Ballet, The Boomtown Rats, Wham! and Big Country, this was hardly a group of all-stars.  If you’re gonna pick an era to grab a bunch of British rock stars for a collaboration, the early ‘80s was probably the worst.
8) Paul McCartney – "Wonderful Christmastime" See Springsteen, above.

7) Bryan Adams – "Christmas Time"  When I was in middle school, Bryan Adams could rock with the best of them.  Then he released this song.  Next thing you know, Bryan Adams was the successor to Christopher Cross and Robbie Dupree as the dominant force of the yacht rock genre.  Any song that single-handedly emasculates an artist gets on this list by default. 

6) Elvis Presley – "Blue Christmas"  There’s a reason I don’t listen to a lot of Oldies or country, and this is it.  I don’t know who sings the awful background vocals in this, but whoever it is deserve coal in their stockings.  

5) Elton John – "Step Into Christmas" Again, see Springsteen.

4) Adam Sandler – "The Chanukkah Song"  (Parts I, II, and III) Admittedly, it’s important to have Jewish representation during the holiday season.  But Sandler really runs out of gas in parts II and III, throwing in a few folks – such as "Flashdance" star Jennifer Beals – who aren’t even Jewish.   And let’s face it, Sandler’s singing voice is worse than fingernails on a chalk board.

3) Burl Ives – "A Holly Jolly Christmas" As much as I enjoy watching the old Rankin-Bass “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” special every year, I have to either change the channel or throw the mute button on when they play this song. The lyrics don’t even make sense – “I don’t know if there’ll be snow / But have a cup of cheer.”  Huh?  What the hell is a cup of cheer?  You can't do any better than that?  An aside: it’s interesting that this was written by a guy (Johnny Marks) who’s Jewish.  Maybe Adam Sandler should’ve substituted Marks for Jennifer Beals.  

2) Frank Loesser & Lynn Garland – "Baby, It's Cold Outside"  Turns out Loesser wrote this song just for kicks and he and his wife Garland sang it during holiday gatherings with their friends, calling it “their song.”  Then, Loesser sold the song to MGM, which infuriated Garland.  A few years later, they divorced.  Any song that leads to a couple’s divorce should be automatically barred from Christmas radio rotation.   

And the No. 1 worst holiday song..... 

1) George Michael/Wham! – "Last Christmas"  Pretty self-explanatory.  I don’t expect holiday songs to rock, but this song makes “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” sound like AC/DC.

So now that you think I'm the Grinch, here are my 10 favorite holiday songs of all time.... 

10) Vince Guaraldi Trio – "Linus & Lucy"  Technically this isn’t a holiday song, which is why I don’t have it higher up.  But radio stations play it a lot this time of year, and it does factor pretty big in the Peanuts Gang's Christmas play.  Plus, as this list will show, my life has been heavily influenced by Charles M. Schulz.

9) Thurl Ravenscroft – "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"  Any song sung by the voice of Tony the Tiger deserves to be on a Top 10 list for something.  Plus, thanks to this song I discovered how much fun seasick crocodiles can be.

8) Bare Naked Ladies, featuring Sarah McLaughlin – "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" The antithesis of the Bryan Adams song above, this collaboration is funky and cool, by far Canada’s greatest contribution to Christmas.

7) Vince Guaraldi Trio – "O Tannenbaum" Only Vince Guaraldi can take a stodgy old Christimas carol and turn it into the kind of tune that you could hear at a hoppin' jazz club on a Saturday night.  Plus, it’s a great TV moment when it’s the background music for Charlie Brown killing his dinky tree with the lone ornament.

6) Bob Rivers – "I Am Santa Claus" Here’s the best part of this parody of Black Sabbath’s “Ironman” – as a kid, when I was beginning to figure out that (spoiler alert!) there’s no Santa Claus, I asked the very same question as Rivers – “If he’s getting toys for everyone, Santa Claus has to be a billionaire.  Wait a sec…”

5) The Waitresses – "Christmas Wrapping" Who would’ve thought that the brains behind songs like “I Know What Boys Like” could kick it for Christmas, too.  Not only a good holiday song, but an early influence in the rap genre.  Plus, I always thought lead singer Patty Donahue had a nice voice (though she must’ve been doing a little too much smoking; she’s been dead for quite awhile now).

4) The Royal Guardsmen – "Snoopy's Christmas"  When last we left the Red Baron, he was chasing Snoopy into a the Halloween party from “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," which led to Lucy kissing Snoopy while bobbing for apples. It's good to see everything turned out OK for all involved. 

3) Straight No Chaser – "The 12 Days of Christmas"  A mashup that has everything – in addition to the 12 Days, you’ve got Rudolph, The Dreidel Song, and even Toto’s Africa.  The only minor negative is, no Vince Guaraldi.

2) Trans-Siberian Orchestra – "Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24" I first heard this song at a Patriots game back in the late ‘90s and, true to form, this is one of the few Christmas songs that really rocks.  I wanna tackle someone whenever I hear this.

And, in my humble opinion, the No. 1 holiday song of all time....

1) Vince Guaraldi Trio – "Christmas Time Is Here"  Come on, is there any other choice for No. 1?  Snoopy is dragging Linus across the pond by his blanket as I write this.  An aside: it’s a travesty that nobody has put together a Wikipedia article on this song yet.

So those are my lists and I'm sticking to them.  You're free to disagree, or create your own list.  Here's hoping I hear more of my top 10 this holiday season.

Triassic Attack

There’s a consequence to staying at your high school class reunion until 5 in the morning and not getting home until 5:45 a.m.  It really fucks with your sleep schedule the next day.  I was a zombie all day Saturday, napping here and there and trying to catch up on sleep, but at 1 a.m. I was wide awake. 

Fortunately, it was SciFi Channel to the rescue, in the form of Triassic Attack, a SciFi original movie, which is an automatic stamp of quality. Dinosaur skeletons, locked in a university museum in a small town, come to life after a Native American guy does a rain dance.

All the formulaic plot developments are here.  The sheriff of this small town has some Native American blood in him, and the locals encourage him to get back in touch with his cultural roots to stop the dinosaurs from running amok.  He has a wild-child daughter who dates the local ne'er-do-well.  The townspeople do stupid things -- when someone's trailer gets knocked over and he hears roaring noises outside, he goes outside to investigate.  There's that scene that's nothing but 5 minutes of exposition about the tribe and how only they know how to kill these living skeletons.  And of course, they kill the skeletons at about 2:55 a.m., only to realize at 2:57 a.m. that they didn't quite kill all of them. 

The only upset in the movie was that the obnoxious, arrogant university president with the British accent survives the carnage.  I consider this a real missed opportunity.  But other than that, a good cure for insomnia.  On cheese value alone, I give this movie a 4.          

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The High-School Class Reunion

Last night was my high school class reunion.  I was supposed to go with a friend, who had to back out at the last minute because of a family emergency.  As a result, I almost didn't go.  The idea of going solo nearly spooked me into staying home.

While high school was fun, we always remember (or at least I do) the not-so-fun part, the insecurity, the belief that everybody hated you, and that nobody would ever like you.  Even though it was mostly in my head, sometimes I found myself dwelling on the negative.  There's strength in numbers and when your friend can't go you feel a little more susceptible to those negative thoughts, especially when someone inevitably doesn't remember you and is staring at you blankly, or remembers that they did indeed dislike you.

But I'm glad I mustered up the intestinal fortitude to head on over anyway.  It was a good time.  Every reunion I've gone to, I always find myself hitting it off with someone I never talked to in high school, which is always fascinating to me.  And then hitting it off with the people I was friends with.  I wouldn't say I'm super close to a lot of people I went to high school with, but as a class it impresses me how we all got along, at least on a superficial level, and managed to avoid much of the cliquiness that sometimes seems to be what high school is all about.

And there are those who made me feel glad I went, those who said stuff like, "Phil, you get it," and "You carried me in chemistry class as my lab partner" (even though if anything it was the other way around) and "The cool thing about you, Phil, is that you're always smiling" (even though I'm not always smiling).  It's great to catch up with everybody, but sometimes it's the little comments that make you feel good about yourself, like you're definitely glad you pulled yourself off the couch and forced yourself to go.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers

OK, lessee, what do we got here:

* Turkey
* Green beans
* Mashed potatoes
* Stuffing
* 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola
* Two aluminum foil sheets of brownies
* One gallon of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup ice cream

Awesome.  This should last me through the weekend.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Not the Poe Toaster

Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.  Not much going on, though I'm excited because I've been placed on a 5 favorite authors list, along with Roald Dahl, Thomas Boswell, Edgar Allan Poe and Clive Barker. 

Clearly it was tongue-in-cheek. 

I will also say this -- I'm not the Poe Toaster.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dear Larry

Dear Larry Fitzgerald:

It's come to my attention that after your Arizona Cardinals lost the other day to Kansas City, you did a little bit of grumbling about playing for the Cardinals.  I can imagine how frustrating it can be playing out in the desert now that Kurt Warner is a professional dancer for ABC's Dancing With The Stars.  But I have just the solution for you.

You're still under contract with the House of Cards, and the treading deadline has come and gone, so it's a little too late to do anything about it this year.  But what about 2011 (or, if there is no season because of a strike, 2012)?  Have you considered a career in New England?  Arizona's practically a different country, so you may have missed the news -- we traded Randy Moss earlier this year because he was rapidly turning into the old, whiny, no-effort Randy Moss again.  Good for team morale -- the Pats are 5-1 since the trade.  Bad for the deep ball -- New England has only one completion of longer than 30 yards since the Moss trade. 

We could use someone to stretch the field.  Plus, unlike Moss, you're not afraid to actually go across the middle.  The best part about it is, New England has an extra first-round pick next year because of the 2009 Richard Seymour trade.  I know there will be other suitors -- Kansas City's head coach is your old offensive coordinator.  But think about it, New England is as close to a Super Bowl as anyone.  This is your chance.

Seize the day, Larry Fitzgerald.  Plant a bug in Cardinal management's ear.  You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Preparing Myself To Hear the Word "No" a Lot.

I did something crazy (for me) today.  I applied for two adjunct college professor jobs.

It's something I've been trying to convince myself to do for weeks, and couldn't.  Being that I'm still a year away from my MFA (and not even begun to speculate on whether to try for a Ph.D), I'm hopelessly underqualified for both jobs.  I could see the powers that be at both places laughing at my applications, CVs and cover letters as they come in, and that kept the voices in my head from letting me go ahead and throw my hat in the ring.

But it's something I have to do.  I'm still unemployed, so you never know, using the blind-squirrel theory, something good might come of it.  Besides, colleges are thinking about who to hire for the 2011-12 school year, and by that time I'll all but have my MFA in hand.  I should probably apply for one university job a day for the next year, and maybe one private secondary school job a day as well.  Can't hurt.  Something will pop eventually.

Now that I've actually done it, I feel good about myself, even though this is the beginning of a flood of no's.

Still, for someone like me, who doesn't handle rejection well, it's no more comforting.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I Have a Decision to Make

The question dawned on me today, as I hung out at the semesterly Fairfield MFA party in lovely Shelton, CT -- do I bring my laptop to the coming residency?

In the past I haven't.  Our schedules at residency are pretty jam-packed, and there's not a lot of time to write, surf the Internet, or do anything else that'd require a computer.  Plus, as some of my fellow students have learned, Internet access on a small island off the coast of Connecticut is sketchy at best.

But I seem to be on a roll with this blog thing, and people bang on my door when I'm late with my blog (okay, not literally, but via e-mail).  And it is kind of a pain in the ass to come back home to 279 e-mails.

Another tough question.  My mind wanders lately.

To Outsource Or Not To Outsource

I got a haircut the other day.  As you can probably tell, it's not a lengthy process for me; I have little hair to cut and keep it close cropped.  I also know when the place isn't busy, so I time it right.  I'm usually in and out in 10 minutes.

But I'm starting to wonder, is this something I need to outsource?  It seems I could probably take a razor and do the job myself.  It'd save me $18 every two to three weeks. I would have to spend more on razors, and get a small mirror to make sure I get the back of my head.  That could be a source of embarrassment if I screw that up.  Plus I could, theoretically, slice up my head.

Tough question.  I don't know the answer.    

Friday, November 19, 2010

Substance Over Sports

I just got back from my writer's group meeting, where someone (who shall remain nameless) said my blog is "about sports."

According to my records, this is my 69th blog.  Of the previous 68, only 15 had a sports theme to them.  That means 53 blogs had nothing to do with sports.  Using standard rounding, that's 77.94% that were sports-free.  If this were a presidential election, 77.94% would be a historic landslide.

I've blogged about pop culture,  politics, stuff that nobody else would know about memy love of Vault soda,  the quirks of being a New Englander and the writer's life, among other things. 

I am a sports fan, and I do not apologize for that.  But I have depth and substance, too.  I'm not just some testosterone-snorting, brainless sports fanatic.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Best Fight Scene Of All Time

I'm amazed that, when I hear people talk about the best fight scene of all time, nobody mention this one.  ( in case the link gets disabled somehow.)

I mean, great action, both of them are beating the bag out of each other.  This is even better than Jurassic Fight Club.

For my money, there's never been a better fistfight in recorded history. 

Dream Interpretation

What does this dream say about me?  I'm in a strange room, one that I've never been in before, with a grizzly bear that seems a little too curious about me.  So I punch it in the nose.  Hard.  The bear recoils in pain, but then reorients itself and growls at me.  I grab a baseball bat that just happens to have materialized next to me, and.....

I wake up.

I didn't even have a big dinner last night. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Don't Give a Damn About the Royal Family

Though his talk show lasted a relatively short period of time, Arsenio Hall left an imprint back in my college days, from "The People Who..." gag to "Things That Make You Go Hmmmm..."  to the Bill Clinton saxophone appearance.  Another gem was whenever news would break about the royal family, he would make a quick mention of it and then say, "I don't give a damn about the royal family." 

I couldn't agree with him more.  The news was all abuzz today that Prince William is engaged to his longtime girlfriend (or is it Prince Harry, I can never keep track of those two).

While I'm certainly happy for two people in love who have decided they want to spent the rest of their lives together, I have more important things to worry about.  I wish them the best.  But I don't give a damn about the royal family.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A True New Englander

I was watching Chronicle on WCVB earlier and they had a special "Mystery Main Streets & Back Roads" segment, in which they didn't reveal the name of the town until the end of the show.  So I played along.

I'm proud to report that I was able to correctly guess the town at 7:43, 13 minutes into the broadcast.  It's pretty amazing considering I've never set foot in this town in my life.  I won't kill the suspense; you can check out the answer here.  But I can say there were a few helpful hints in the broadcast that unlocked the mystery for me.   

And we New Englanders like to boast about our native intelligence, so I guess I can call myself a true New Englander now.

Bonus mini-blog: Tonight dumbest quotes from Jon Gruden on Monday Night Football -- 1) "If DeSean Jackson isn't the fastest player in the league, then he's one of the fastest player in the league." 2) "If you're looking for a Christmas present for DeSean Jackson, get him a highlight reel package."  Gruden's a moron.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Problem With Your Team Winning on Sunday Night Football

It's fun when your team wins, (heh, heh, Patriots 39, Steelers 26. I could type that all night.)  And therein lies the problem.  I'm tempted to watch the post-game, 7SporttsXtra, waiting to see the disappointed look on Ron Borges' face.  I could go on all night, going over the play-by-play, stats, box score.

I really need to go to bed now.  Channel 7 is running reruns of Extra now, so it's as good a time as any.  Even though I'm pretty wired, I have to at least try, otherwise I'll be up all night.  So, good night.

Christmas Time Is Here

It's official -- the holiday season has begun.  I know this because I heard "Christmas Time is Here" on the radio on my way home from my writer's group meeting last night (actually this morning, the writers got a little out of control and rowdy last night).

Granted, I heard it on 93.3 FM, that Providence radio station that starts playing Christmas music around Labor Day.  But I say this counts.  It's actually been pretty quiet on the holiday front.  I didn't see any holiday commercials until Nov. 3.

I remember when I was a kid, Christmas ads wouldn't start until Thanksgiving morning, and I bet those who have been around longer than me probably would say at some point they didn't start until mid-December.  In recent years it seemed Christmas ads would begin by Columbus Day, so maybe this is a step in the right direction.

In any event, kicking off the holidays with the best opening jingle from the best Christmas special of all time.  (we'll see how long this link stays up) isn't a bad thing at all.  I now feel like it's that time of year.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Battery Dead, Brain Dead

I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to cars, I'm not an expert on mechanics.  Apparently, people who are paid to be mechanics don't know much about cars either.

My car battery died yesterday morning.  It's been coming for awhile; every once in awhile I could feel the car have a tough time turning, but yesterday it was done.  I called AAA.  The AAA guy comes and can't start the battery.  So he says, "It's not the battery, it's the starter."  The he says, "Actually, it might be the alternator."

So I sit in the car, watch him do his thing.  He checks the alternator and it's apparently fine. He "fixes" the starter.  Then he "jumps" the battery.  I turn the ignition and the car turns, but barely.  There's a Monro shop right around the corner from where I live.  I get the car there.

I walk in and tell the guy what's happened to date. "It's the alternator," he says.  I drop off the car, walk home and wait for a call.  Monro guy calls back and says, "We checked out the alternator and the starter.  The only thing that's wrong with the car is you need a new battery."

A new battery has been installed.  I can't wait to start my car tomorrow and listen to it stall.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The NFL Is Still Better On TV

One of the big drawbacks to living in an area where you have Charter, the bastard child of cable companies, is that you can't watch Thursday Night Football.  Charter doesn't carry The NFL Network.

Apparently I missed a good game that just ended minutes ago. The Ravens scored with a minute left to take a 21-20 lead, only to have the Falcons march 80 yards in about 35 seconds to score a touchdown and win 26-21.

Not that it wasn't for a lack of effort on my part.  I tried watching on the Internet, where tried to suck me in with an offer to watch the game live.  I was skeptical, and yeah, it was bullshit. When I clicked onto the link, it sent me to a pencil-necked geek telling me that neither Atlanta nor Baltimore was doing much for his fantasy team.  There was no actual game coverage.  (Actually, I'm sure there was, but it would involve giving out my credit card number.)

Then I just settled for following the game online, with play-by-play updated every 30 seconds or so.  This would've been fine, except that it caused my computer to freeze.  Granted, my laptop still has Windows XP, which is two releases and five years ago, but I've never had many serious problems with my laptop.

When my computer finally settled down, though, I did notice this from the play-by-play of the game's final final drive:

1-10-BAL 9 (:16) (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco pass deep middle to 86-T.Heap to BLT 27 for 18 yards (50-C.Lofton). BLT-86-T.Heap was injured during the play. His return is Questionable.

His return is questionable?  Seriously? THERE WERE 16 SECONDS LEFT! THIS WAS THE NEXT-TO-LAST PLAY OF THE GAME! I'm pretty sure Todd Heap wasn't coming back.

Anyway, I look forward to moving somewhere that has NFL Network again.  The NFL is still better on TV.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The National Debt -- It's a Big Shit Sandwich, and We're All Gonna Have to Take a Bite

The United States of America has a $13.8 trillion deficit.  If you can't figure out that this is unsustainable, you need a brain transplant.  We all worry about the looming threat of terrorism -- and we should.  But the biggest threat to the future of this nation is not al-Qaeda but the crushing national debt.  Someday, the bill collectors will come calling, and they won't accept a payment plan.

ABC News ran a story a few hours ago about the bipartisan Debt Commission, which has made recommendations on cutting $4 trillion from the national debt by 2015.  There's something bitter for virtually every resident in America to swallow.  Say goodbye to the popular mortgage and most other tax deductions.  The U.S. Government would cut its work force by 10 percent, and those who stay would have their salaries frozen.  One-third of military bases overseas would be closed, and military spending would be cut drastically.  More low-income people would have to pay taxes, and high-income people would have their Social Security benefits reduced.

When I was still a reporter, I once covered a proposal to build a Target in a small town in Connecticut.  The next day I was shooting the breeze with a member of the Board of Selectman, who told me his phone rang off the hook that day, with both pro-Target people who said my story was biased against Target, and anti-Target people claiming my story had a pro-Target bias.  He told me that's how he knew it was a fair and balanced story, because both sides felt I was against them.  I'm sure there are things that could be tweaked here and there with this deficit reduction plan.  But to me, the fact that it will ding everybody somehow means it's probably good public policy.

Of course, the politicians are already lining up to oppose the plan.  Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said it's "simply unacceptable." Rep. Jan Schakowski, D-Ill., said "I agree that the debt and the deficits are unsustainable, but this is not the way to do it."

Then what's your plan, Congresswomen Pelosi and Schakowski?  Are you gonna write a check for $13.8 trillion out of your personal fortunes to erase the deficit?  Or are you gonna vote yourself a pay raise in the next session like you always do?

And, in a way, this is our fault.  Last week I blogged that we get the government we deserve, and I'm gonna keep blogging it until people wake up and realize we need to start electing a different breed of politicians into office.  

Regis Is Getting Bad Financial Advice

There's a TD Bank commercial out these days where Regis & Kelly are window-shopping and happen upon an atrocious suit.  Kelly says, "You should buy that."  Then Regis says, "I don't know.  I think my bank balance is a little low."

Seriously?  After a decades-long career as one of the iconic figures of television, Regis has to check his bank balance to see if he can afford a bad suit?

What the hell is Regis spending his money on?

Monday, November 8, 2010

In Memoriam: Wade Phillips

One of the entertaining aspects of the 2010 NFL season has been the train-wreck that is the Dallas Cowboys.  To be honest, I don't hate the Cowboys, or even have any reason to hate them (okay, maybe the whole We're-Gonna-Play-The-Super-Bowl-On-Our-Home-Field-This-Year talk this offseason got a little tiresome).  But the circus atmosphere surrounding this season for the Cowboys has been fascinating.

Alas, the Cowboys 1-7 start and 45-7 shellacking at the hands of Green Bay last night was too much for  Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to bear, and he fired Wade Phillips on Monday.  This is a great loss -- not for NFL coaching, but for people like myself, who enjoy watching coaches and their silly mannerisms on the sidelines. Whether he's scratching his chincursing after getting beat on a field goal on the final play of the game or or just running the gamut of his series of clueless looks, nobody made watching a coach patrol the sidelines more entertaining than Wade Phillips.

This is the third time Phillips has been fired as a head coach -- he also got the axe with the Denver Broncos in 1995 and the Buffalo Bills in 2001 -- so his head coaching career is probably done.  You only get so many chances in the NFL.  Phillips will be missed, if only for his goofball persona.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Conan's Back in Town

Conan O'Brien returns tonight at 11.  I wish him well.  This whole debacle was NBC's fault.  Why would you pick the Tonight Show successor five years in advance?  That's like the Patriots announcing that they've locked Brian Hoyer in as their starting quarterback in 2015.  Jay gets pushed out, his ratings sag, Conan ends up being a disaster at 11:35, NBC realizes the mistake and fires Conan, brings back Jay, Conan and Jay start to hate each other, etc. etc.  What a mess.

Personally, I think Conan is more 12:35 funny than 11:35 funny.  He's got that offbeat humor that plays better when you're about to go to bed, and you can make the decision about whether to stay up the extra five minutes for In The Year 3000 or Celebrity Survey, or go to bed a little earlier because Conan's dumber skits (The Masturbating Bear, The Interruptor) are on.

I hope NBC learns from this debacle, though I doubt it, based on their interminable Sunday night pre-game show. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This Daylight/Standard Time Thing Is Trippy

So I'm doing some writing and watching the end of USC-Arizona State college football.  It's 1:57 and I'm thinking maybe I should go to bed soon.

Then I look at my computer clock again, and it's 1:01. Holy shit!  I just realized, today was the day we turn back the clocks.

Man, this is groovy.  It's almost like being on drugs, without the negative side effects.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Writer's Block

I've been blocked all week.  And it's maddening.  It's not that I can't think of anything to write about, it's that I have too much to write about.  I've been working on my novel, trying to get another 25 pages written for my mentor, and ideas for other novels keep popping into my head.  I usually have some pretty good tricks to stop writer's block in its tracks, but this is the first time I've had to deal with so many ideas rolling through my head.  I think my head might explode.

I wish I could tell myself to go one at a time.

Anyway, now that I've gotten this off my chest, the current novel is starting to come into sharper focus again, so I'm gonna make this a short blog.  See ya tomorrow.