Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Calling All Men

It was once said that knowledge is the best weapon in any battle. I don’t know who said it or when it was said or what it was referring to or even if it was ever actually uttered at any point in history. If not, I’m calling dibs!

In any case, this philosophy has led me to browse through some women’s magazines from time to time. I’m not ashamed. I know most other guys do the same thing. Don’t lie. It’s okay to admit it.

The way I figure it is by reading women’s literature I might be able to glean some deeper understanding of the fairer sex. Maybe there is some clue as to why females are so prone to unpredictable outbursts and irrational behavior that may benefit all of mankind. If nothing else, I may gain knowledge useful in the never ending battle of the sexes.

I’m still looking.

Most of these rags are simplistic, trite and have 142 different low fat recipes designed to help you ‘Drop 10 pounds in 10 days!’. In other words it’s all bullshit. There are makeup tips, fashion tips, and thousands of different articles on how to ‘Spice Up Your Sex Life’ (which are often hilarious). Every now and then they’ll throw in a celebrity house pictorial and all have sections devoted to gossip. Who’s dating who (whom?), what this one said about that one, why Brittany is such a bad mother and whore, or how Angelina’s twins are doing.

If an alien race based their findings of women on one of these magazines, they would report back that all women care about is their looks, their weight, the latest fashion, which female celebrity is fucking which male celebrity and who ‘just shouldn’t be wearing that color’.

Wait….

Never mind.

For the record, I don’t spend a hell of a lot of time on these things. Wifey has a few she reads and one of them is Oprah’s mag called….um…Oprah. I think. Maybe it’s just ‘O’, but I thought that refers to orgasms. As in ‘The Big O’. Although, ‘The Big O’ really makes me think of Oprah, anyway. Hold on, let me look this up….

…..

Ok, it’s called ‘O, The Oprah Magazine’. Christ Almighty. Just name it ‘Obey Me!’ and be done with it. If you go to Oprah’s site, you’ll notice that there are 8 parts of a woman’s life: Spirit (most likely evil), Health, Style, Relationships, Home, Food, Money, and World. Please note the order of importance.

I know, cheap shot. Mens mags usually address Sex, Booze, Sports, Sex, Oral Sex, Hot Chicks, Cigars, and How to Get Laid Without Paying for It. Complicated we ain’t.

Which brings me to the entire point of this rant. Every now and then a women’s magazine will attempt to dig into the deeper meaning of being a man. Usually they have a male writer trying to explain (with a straight face, no less) what ‘Men Really Want’ to the women readers.

Case in point. This overly complicated article takes a stab at telling women ‘What Men Aren’t Telling Us’. Considering the general topic, this is rather short. Men don’t tell women a lot! Like how hot we think the boss’ new assistant or the heavy flirting we did with a group of girls we met while out with the boys or that you still look really sexy to us even after all this time. What? We don’t want you getting all full of yourself and conceited.

This particular article goes off the track nearly right away. In the second paragraph, the author writes ‘we wish you knew just how much we have had to suppress about our desires, pains, fears, and vulnerability over the years to conform to the script of masculinity that we are given’.

What the fuck?! If you ever needed an idea of what a man writing for a women’s magazine reads like, there you go. Speaking as a red blooded, American male the only thing I’ve suppressed lately is my urge to kill coworkers with my bare hands and the urge to make a pass at another, much younger, woman.

As far as I can tell we don’t follow any script, either. Christ, we don’t even follow instructions when we’re putting 3,152 different pieces together. I didn’t even know there was a script. Who wrote it? Was it put together by multiple generations of men? Is this a high concept story idea that falls apart in the last 20 minutes? I’m guessing yes.

Here’s another part: ‘We are very insecure about how we look and what you really think about us and we are excited when you do small, nice things for us like make coffee or come with us to the barber shop or just buy us a good book’.

First things first. Don’t ever – EVER – come with me to my barber shop. I don’t care how hot you are or how in love with you I am, the barber shop is my sanctuary from the everyday shit I deal with. Sorry, but you fall into that camp. Nothing personal. Second, don’t ever buy us a book unless you know for a fact it’s something we would like. If it has Oprah’s sticker on it, don’t even think about it. Get a Barnes and Noble gift card if you insist on making us read. Game Stop would be better, but whatever.

Coffee is always welcome.

The author does come tantalizingly close to truth when he writes ‘Men do communicate, often very directly, but women sometimes cannot accept how simple what we have to say is. We seldom play games – we aren’t that sophisticated’.

Nice work. Lump playing stupid mind games in with sophistication. The reason men don’t play games is because it’s a complete waste of time. Playing games in a relationship is petty and accomplishes nothing but making each member unhappy and confused. Besides, we can’t play games to which we can never learn the rules. Women change them as it suits their needs and there is no winning. If men want to play games, we’ll pop in ‘Madden ’08’.

The only thing this guy gets straight is how simple men are and how women just can’t accept that fact. There is no mystery to us. If we say we want a burger for lunch it’s because we want a burger. It’s not because the burger you made us last night wasn’t very good and now we have the chance to get a real one. If we’re tired, we’re fucking tired, OK? We’re not trying to avoid discussing you mother’s visit 3 months from now.

Here, I can distill the essence of 95% of all men in a few seconds.

- Love us for who we are. Don’t try to change us. We may change, but it’s because we want to in order to please you. Don’t force it or we’ll resent you forever.

- Any sex is good sex, but great sex means you loved it, too.

- We like making you laugh, even if it’s at our expense.

- We like video games and sports and we will spend countless hours playing, watching, talking about them and hanging out with other guys who do the same.

- There are times we really aren’t thinking anything or have anything to say. No, really.

- We like sex and sports. Did I mention that already?

- We hate being nagged. We know what needs to be done and you reminding us every 10 minutes just makes us put it off longer out of spite. Remind us once, then leave us alone.

- Just because we choose to spend one night of the week with the guys doesn’t mean we still don’t love you. Just like you need to go shopping, we need to be with other guys.

- Beer isn’t a drink; it’s a lifestyle.

- We quote Homer Simpson because we know he’s an idiot, not because we relate to him. It’s just funny.

- Seduce us every now and then. It’s nice to feel wanted and we get tired trying to get you naked all the time.

- Lastly: We aren’t complicated animals. Don’t treat us like shit, do something unexpected and nice for us once a week, and put out on a semi regular basis and we’ll attempt to give you the world.

P.S. Don’t take us or yourself too seriously. That’s a drag.


Today’s distraction: It’s the world’s strangest looking animals. I must admit the Star Nosed Mole freaks me out. Check out the last picture of the three dudes. That middle guy thinks he’s the shit.

Monday, July 28, 2008

To Whom It May Concern

Dear All Other General Managers of Major League Baseball,

Like all Boston fans, you are acutely aware that this is, for all intent and purposes, Manny Ramirez’ last season in a Red Sox uniform. The club holds $20 million options for the next two years and nobody from management or ownership has hinted at signing off on those options. They are worth $40 million, after all, and a team can do a lot with that kind of money. Especially a team as well run as the Red Sox are right now.

Manny, understandably, wants to know which way the team is going. Will they pick up his option or let him ‘pursue other career opportunities’? If they are not going to pick up the option for 2009, then why don’t they just trade him?

As Manny himself said, ‘If they can get a trade, I'd approve it. If they can't trade me, then they will simply have to inform me by the end of the season that they won't use the options and we'll go separate ways’.

I know what you’re thinking. ‘Get the Red Sox on the phone, STAT!’ Hold on. First of all Manny goes through this every year. Literally every year. Unsurprisingly, it always seems to fall around the All Star break. So before you get all hot and bothered, allow me to dispense a few thoughts about what you get when you have Manny on your team.

- You’ll have one of the greatest hitters our generation has seen. This is no exaggeration. He is one of the few power hitters that can carry your team for weeks at a time. With all the steroid revelations lately, what Manny has accomplished during the so called ‘Steroid Era’ is even more impressive.

- One of the few legitimate goof balls left in the game and someone who, at least on the surface, enjoys playing the game. Leads the league in smiles and laughter during the season.

- A likable teammate who, at times, tests the limits of loyalty. Everyone in the Red Sox dugout seems to enjoy having him around, but you have to wonder if his annual ‘trade me’ tirades and mental vacations have become tiresome.

- A guy that doesn’t always say what he means nor means what he says. Sure, he says he’ll approve any trade, but if the Sox were to tell Manny they are going to trade him to Kansas City or San Diego, you can bet there would be major noise from him and the trade would never happen.

- An under rated, if wildly unpredictable, outfielder. There are times even the simplest plays are an adventure and others he makes look easy. He has a knack for knowing which way the ball is going to bounce off the wall and can quickly get the ball back in to hold doubles to singles or throw out runners who under estimate his fielding. Sure, the bloopers and misplays get all the attention, but he’s a much better defender than the media portray him.

- Someone who’s charm and goofiness will endear him to fans. Despite his occasional tantrums, there is a reason Boston loves Manny. He’s funny, relishes interacting with the fans during and after the games and seems to thoroughly enjoy himself when he’s playing in Fenway. Even after he makes an atrocious play in the field, he’ll laugh as the fans ride him in good nature. He can give and take with the best of them and appreciates that he is simply playing a game.

- A player who could be borderline autistic. He tends to lose focus over the course of the season and, in some cases, a single game. He disappears into the Green Monster during pitching changes, cuts off throws meant for the shortstop, tosses caught balls into the stands when there are only two outs in the inning. One infamous (to me hilarious) incident occurred a few years ago when Manny was wearing sunglasses in the outfield that was later discovered to have had a built in MP3 player. Sources say that he wasn’t listening to music while he was playing, but not everyone believed it. If anyone would listen to his own music while playing outfield wouldn’t it have to be Manny.

- At the very least an idiot savant. He is very much a man child who needs constant validation for his worth and will become sullen and pouty if he doesn’t feel appreciated. At the same time, he is a genius at hitting; putting more work into his craft then even his teammates are aware. Stories are surfacing about his early morning routines of yoga, followed by hitting in a cage, followed by breakfast, followed by video work, ending with more hitting in a cage. And this is on a game day.

- An instant attraction of kids 10 and younger to your team. It’s no coincidence that my boys love Manny. They relate to him on a level adults just can’t fathom. He plays the game the way they play it. With laughter and fun and unintentional errors combined with fearsome home runs that never land. He personifies what every little boy imagines playing baseball for a living should be like. I used to dread telling my boys Manny has been traded or won’t play for the Red Sox any longer, but the more I think of it, they won’t care too much. As long as they can see him playing SOMEWHERE, they’ll be happy. Like the rest of Boston, we’d prefer it to be with the Sox, but we’ll still root for him wherever he lands. (NOTE: As always, the Yankees are the exception).

- Also, be aware that when Manny comes to your team, you get the entire package. Don’t think you can change him. He’s set in his ways and will always be late for spring training and absent at mandatory media events. 'Manny being Manny' is a slogan that has come naturally. There is no explaining him or reasoning with him. He is who he is. Know this going in.

One more consideration. Note that the Red Sox aren’t dummies. They know replacing Manny will be nearly impossible. The combo of Papi and Manny has been the most fearsome duo in baseball for the past 5 years. It will take a LOT of top prospects and/or young players to get Manny pried from this Sox team. And to top that off, you’ll have to pay Manny the remainder of his 2008 contract and probably pick up the last two options for him to agree to any trade.

Therefore, you would have a 36 year old Manny for $40 million over the next two and half seasons. And while his skills may be on the downward slide, his insanity certainly isn’t. In fact, between his fights with Youkilis and the team grandfather/traveling secretary, one could argue his lunacy is rapidly increasing as he nears the end of his career.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a good chance Manny could stick around to hit 600 home runs. His bat speed certainly doesn’t seem to have slowed much. There is also little doubt Manny will help any team win more games.

But those wins come with a mountain of headaches as well as much comedy.

Trade for Manny if you want. Sign him during the off season if you think that’s best. But like every other major purchase, make sure you have all the information you need before signing that check.


Today’s distraction: One of my long standing questions has finally been answered. I have always wondered why bars play music so loudly as to hamper the social aspect of going there in the first place. Some places are so loud, you can’t carry on a conversation without knowing sign language. Wonder no more. Turns out loud music increases alcohol intake. Duh. Don’t know why I never thought of that before. It’s all about money. Again.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Doused

Starting last weekend, the Boston area has been stuck in a weather pattern that can only be described as bizarre (or ‘bizzahhh’ if you want it in Bostonian). Our forecast has been ‘70s, Thunderstorms, Flood Watch’ since Sunday.

And what was Sunday?

Why Sunday was the BeachBum Second Annual Lobster Fest. We invited friends and neighbors over for lobsters, steamers, cigars (for two of us), a fantastic strawberry filled cake, and many, many beers. Over all a very good time and a great way to wind up vacation week.

However – and with me there always seems to be a ‘however’ – the weather wasn’t just uncooperative; it was downright mean spirited.

Being the great guy I am, I ordered and picked up the lobsters from a place here in Boston. They’ll cook and crack them for you, thus cutting down on the mess when you get them to your own house. 10 lobsters, 2 pounds of steamers and $150 later we were ready to roll.

As we cleaned up the yard (we were eating outside), organized the tables and chairs and generally did the prep work for the 4 pm start, clouds started moving in. I was picking up the lobsters at 3:30 and, sure enough, it started raining at 3:15 when I got in my truck to take the ride into the city.

Wait.

The term rain makes it seem like standard precipitation. This ‘rain’ started with a distant rumble of thunder, a very bright flash of lightning, a few minor moments of very large, scattered rain drops. What followed was a deluge. It was one of those downpours that make it feel like your car roof is going to cave in. Heading into Boston on 93 I couldn’t see 5 feet in front of me. Traffic was crawling along at 30 miles per hour.

Fear not. These storms usually last about 15-20 minutes before the sun reappears. I entered the new 14.6 billion dollar tunnel and in a few minutes I’m sitting outside Yankee Lobster waiting for a letup.

Quick side note: Say what you want about the Big Dig and it’s price tag, but getting in and out of Boston has never been easier. You can now get to any part of the downtown area simply and without hassle. Before the new configuration, getting to the Seaport District would have taken me a solid 30 minutes; taking the highway, navigating several side streets (most of which you used to take just to reverse directions), fighting for rare parking spaces. Even with the storm, I was parked in front of the lobster place in less than 15.

Where was I?

Oh, waiting outside the lobster place. Well, the rain let up a bit. Very tiny bit, but I didn’t want to hang out very long where I was. Let’s just say I was parked in a questionable spot. Technically, it was a meter spot, but it had a red hood over it that read ‘No Parking At Any Time’.

Fortunately, I was in Boston and it was Sunday and it was pouring out. The chances of an actual Boston cop stopping to ticket me was down to nothing. I jumped out of the truck and immediately went ankle deep into rushing water. Guess I underestimated things. I leapt out of the street gutter onto the sidewalk only to discover there was nearly as much water up there, too. What the fuck?

Still, no worries. The storm was letting up and my sneakers were old. I ran to the place (about 50 feet away) and entered the store in fairly good shape. I picked up my order and as I was paying there was a loud crackling sound and everyone froze in place.

For those of you who have never experienced a truly intense thunderstorm, there is a distinct difference in sound between thunder and the crack of lightning hitting something close by. Thunder comes rolling along, often building momentum before it hits it’s maximum volume. Every so often it will surprise you by cracking loud seemingly directly over your head, then roll off into the distance.

Lightning crackles. Even when hit hits something with a loud bang, you hear the static charge in it. This one hit so close the hair on my arms stood on end for a second. I was in the middle of handing the signed credit card receipt to the guy behind the counter when it hit and we both paused, looked at the ceiling and waited for it to either cave in or something close to explode.

When nothing happened, everyone resumed living. There was some nervous laughter from the other people in the store and then the sky opened up. I thought it was raining hard before, but that was a mist compared to what came down now. This wasn’t rain, it was a waterfall. It took less than 20 seconds for the street outside to turn into a river. It was flowing. No, that’s wrong. It was RAGING.

I was standing by the double glass doors and watched as the rushing water flowed over the curb, flowed across the sidewalk and began seeping under the door and into the store. Another woman and I had to step back to keep our feet out of it. A third and apparently very impatient woman decided that she had waited long enough even though she had only been standing there for approximately 45 seconds and barged out into the storm providing the funniest moment of the day.

As she stepped out the door there was an brilliant flash of lightning immediately followed by earth shaking thunder clap. The woman, who at this point was in a full sprint to her car, flinched, staggered and nearly fell flat on her ass. The only thing that saved her was the order of fish she had just picked up. As she went down, she used the bag of fish to keep herself off the ground; so she was in a three point football stance in 2 inches of rushing water. Me and another woman behind me laughed out loud, while the woman outside regained her balance and climbed into her SUV.

The woman behind me says ‘That couldn’t have been timed better’ to her boyfriend as the SUV boated off.

Unfortunately for me, crunch time was approaching. It was past 3:45 and people were arriving at 4. It was decision time. I either wait things out or make a mad dash for the truck. I waited another 2 minutes and, when it was obvious things weren’t improving, made my move. I got my keys out, stepped half out of the door, then sprinted. I was in the open for maybe 15 seconds and was drenched from head to foot. Dripping.

There are times, despite the gas prices and eroding ozone layers, that I love having a truck. The monsoon I drove through was one of those times. It was raining so hard I couldn't see the lines in the street. I just picked the middle and drove. Manholes and sewers were geysers, the water running through the gutters must have been a foot deep. I had the wipers on full speed and I still couldn't see.

At the end of the street is the entrance to the tunnel. I enter and drove approximately one mile. It might be more than one mile, but not much more. Maybe a mile and a quarter. I can tell you I was in the tunnel for 2-3 minutes. When I emerge barely north of the city (Charlestown and the Bunker Hill Monument are on one side and the Garden – home of the 2008 World Champion Boston Celtics is on the other. Barely past the North End of the city) it hasn’t just stopped raining – the sun is out! I look in my rearview mirror and see nothing but dark clouds over the city. Lightning is still flashing like strobe lights over the harbor.

There is a saying in New England that most people have heard many times. If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes. It’s an exaggeration in most cases, but not this week.

This week the weather pattern is schizophrenic. Rainy and cool followed by hot and steamy followed by intense storms followed by more cool air.

One final note: I passed along the storm story to a friend at work who lives in Quincy, just south of the city by 5 or 6 miles. Her response was ‘Huh, we heard thunder, but didn’t get any rain!’

Ok, final FINAL note: I woke this morning to more torrential downpours and another flood warning. It was cool and in the 60s when I woke. By the time I got showered and dressed it was nearing 80 and humid as hell.

Just make up your mind already.

Today’s distraction: What to do during a thunderstorm. I link to this because 10 people in the Boston area were struck by the same bolt of lightning over the weekend. Know why? Because they disobeyed the rule about making yourself a small target. Instead of getting in a car or squatting down they all huddled under a big tree. The tree was then struck and sent lightning into all the people at it’s base. Ouch.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

BOME!

Back when my son was going to be our one and only, wifey thought it would be a fantastic idea to get a dog. ‘Since we’re not having another kid, we should get a dog’ was her reasoning. Man, if I only had a time machine.

Since I don't, I went along with it without too much argument. I considered myself a dog person and looked forward to having a source of entertainment around the house. My only concern was how it would react to my son. He was only three at the time and if this dog even looked at him funny it was going to the shelter.

Plus, my eldest is asthmatic. So we had to research those new hypoallergenic dogs. The ones that don’t shed or have dander so his asthma and allergies wouldn’t be affected. I went online and looked at our options.

We had the Portuguese Water Dog which was at least $1500. We called a breeder who mailed us a 15 page application form. For a dog. We didn’t have to fill out any paperwork for our son. What the holy hell?

There weren’t a ton of options for us back then. There were the poodles, of course, but I had friends that owned poodles and neither of them were what I would call friendly. A coworker then told me about his dog. It was great with kids, mellow and it didn’t get too big.

It was a cross between a poodle and cocker spaniel. A cockapoo! Yeah, I know. Just shoot me where I stand.

Off we went to some place in Stoughton that wifey had heard good things about. All three of us looking for the perfect family dog. We poked around the store, saw some good looking pugs, which were much cuter than I expected. We actually leaned towards getting one of them, but weren’t sure if they were hypoallergenic.

Instead, we stuck with the plan and picked out the friendliest cockapoo puppy we could find. On the way home, with the dog whining the ENTIRE FREAKIN’ RIDE (first warning sign), my son dubbed him Diesel. He was fascinated with trains and trucks at the time. I actually thought it was a cool name, if not exactly befitting a cute, white, furball.

I should have known what was in store for me over the four years since. No sooner had we set him up in his crate, he shat all over himself. Since he was white, that shit got all over him and I had to pick him up to clean everything off him. He struggled and whined the entire time.

Whatever. He’s a puppy. He’ll get better.

Right?

Not exactly. Diesel now has three nicknames: ‘PITA’ (for Pain In The Ass), ‘Please, just shut the fuck up!’ and ‘BOME’ (Bane of My Existence). Of all of them, the last is most appropriate.

Of all the trivial things that make up my pathetic life, none of them cause me much stress. The dog is the exception. As I’ve said to my wife on more than one occasion, ‘If it weren’t for the dog, I would have no stress in my life at all’. She disagrees and has combated my attempts to give the dog away to friends, family, shelters and roaming packs of coyotes. Why? Got me. The fucking thing seems to aggravate her just as much as me.

If anything, he’s even more insane around her. At least I’ve gotten him to the point that he’ll come when I call, sit, stay (temporarily, at least) and lay down when I’ve had enough of him. With her he runs in circles, jumps up and when he sprints away doesn’t even slow when she attempts to call him back.

To top it all off, it may be the stupidest dog to ever step foot on earth. He will constantly pull at his leash in order to get to something. Only he keeps pulling and pulling and pulling and never gets any closer to what he’s trying to get to. Doesn’t matter. He’ll keep pulling at the leash more. And pull and pull and pull. Fuck, he would do it all day if we didn’t stop him. I know. I watched him from my pool try to get to a beach ball and instead of getting closer to it, he tore up the lawn; leaving two muddy ruts where he kept at it. He tried for 20 minutes straight before I told him to stop and moved the ball out of his sight.

When my job takes me on the occasional road trip, there are times I welcome it. Not because I don’t miss my wife and kids, but because I don’t have to deal with the dog for a few days.

During vacation last week I didn’t even think of the beast until my wife said ‘What time do we have to pick up the dog?’. I completely forgot we had one and it was great! Before I get to the story that completed my full fledged hatred of this mutt, here is a list of things the dog has destroyed during his life time (or as I refer to it ‘The Dark Ages’):

- Wifey’s boots

- Eight year old’s Red Sox hat

- Three binkies belonging to three year old. Quick note, youngest was just about two at the time and he was not happy. On one occasion, we didn’t even know the dog had destroyed one until it came out the other end in pieces. Stupid fucking dog.

- Five mittens. No, they didn’t match

- Two screen doors. He has a tendency to jump against the doors and has put himself through two separate ones.

- Our back hall. No, really. The entire fucking back hall is ruined because of this dog. Since he is so hyper and destructive, we can’t let him in the main house for long periods of time without someone being there. So we gate him in the back hall. He has chewed the woodwork, scratched the shit out of the connecting laundry room doors, ruined the door frames with his constant jumping and scratching and made the entire area one big, disgusting pit.

You know what. I would be fine with all of that. Dogs will be dogs, after all. What puts me over the edge with this dog is his personality. He whines ALL THE TIME! If he wants something he whines. If he wants to go out he whines. If the sun is out he whines. If it’s dark he whines. If he senses any movement in the house he whines. If it’s 3 am and the whines don’t get our attention, he yips. ‘Yip! Yelp! Wip!’ It’s a high pitched and intensely irritating. I would rather he simply bark. (He does bark, too, but it's usually when he hears a car door outside or footsteps or the wind. Yeah, he barks at everything. Except that time someone broke into wifey's van parked right outside the door. He didn't bark then).

But here’s the catch. If he’s whining and you let him out, he turns right around and starting yelping to come back in the house. He hasn’t even peed or pooped or anything. I watched from the window and once he’s on the leash he walks down the stairs, turns around, comes back up and starts yelping to come back in the house. What the fuck is with that?

If we ignore the yelping he jumps up and down at the gate to the back hall. Constantly. My buddy thought I was exaggerating when I told him about our dog. He was one that grew up with dogs – often multiple dogs – in his family, so he just thought the dog needed training or something. He came to visit one day and the dog was jumping at the gate for a solid 20 minutes. In mid conversation he stops dead, points at the dog and angrily says ‘Does he fucking do this all the time?!’

Yes. Yes, he does.

So now that you have the history of this dog, I will give you the whipped cream and cherry for the topping. Come to think of it, this will include the chocolate fudge, too. Not the good kind.

This occurred the day after we got back from vacation. We had picked the dog up the previous afternoon and the night was uneventful. He tends to be tired after staying at the kennel and sleeps a lot. For the record, he’s stayed at this kennel many times before and there has never been a problem of any type.

On this day I get up early and head to the gym to work off some of my vacation desert intake (have another two weeks to burn them totally off). The dog was looking good. We had him shampooed and groomed while at the kennel. I pass him on the way out and he barely lifts his head. I give him a pat because I’m now undertaking the process of only showing him affection when he’s doing nothing. If he’s sitting or laying down I’ll give him a treat or pet him a bit.

It’s not working. Just gets him riled up.

When I get home from the gym, I smell poop even before I open the inner door. I enter to utter poop carnage! Shit is literally everywhere. I had to tiptoe through the back hall (yeah that same back hall) so as not to step on it. I put the dog outside and leave all the doors open so I don’t suffocate on the stink and clean things up as best I can. When I’m done I still smell poop.

I look around and realize he had crapped on the other side of the hall, too! And there is even more there then what I had just cleaned up! I would have had less cleanup to do if the dog had simply exploded.

So, I get the rest cleaned up and wipe the floor down with disinfectant and go to bring the dog back in. Only I realize I can’t bring him in because he has poop all over his legs and butt. I did mention paying to have him cleaned, right? Good.

Now I have to get towels and wipe down the dog. Only this dog doesn’t like anyone touching his paws (we have to drug him when he gets his nails clipped) so he’s nipping at me while I’m trying to get the shit off his legs and butt. I don’t need to tell you I did not succeed.

After using the hose to get him to an acceptable level, I bring him back inside.

It was 7:10 AM.

One more thing: my older sister – against my vehement protests – went out and got her own cockapoo. Guess what? That thing is crazy, too. Like ours they can’t keep it in the main house without it going on a rampage. These dogs are small and cute and utterly insane. They don’t bite people (yet) or attack, but they are little destruction machines. I think the breeding has gone awry.

I kept telling her she could have had ours, but she needed to have her own.

Sucker.


Today’s distraction: If you’re considering getting a dog, here’s my advice. Thank me later.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Work Relaxation

I am struggling through today. Not only am I back from vacation, but I was greeted with a major problem before I even walked in the door. I’m actually rectifying the situation as I write this.

Multitasking is my middle name.

The real problem isn’t work. It isn’t adjusting back from vacation. My real problem is my wrist, which is – for lack of a better word – fucked. Not sure how or what I did (it’s my left hand and I’m right handed, so you can forego the excessive masturbation jokes, thank you very much) but it’s been excruciatingly painful for the last 4 days and seems to be getting worse.

I will admit feeling a twinge when I took my kayak out on Wednesday, but the few days after that were fine. A bit stiff, but it wasn’t painful by any means. I must have aggravated it or made things worse somehow (probably opening my 15th beer of the night Friday).

At this point there is swelling that is just above my wrist and it’s hard as a rock right where my wrist and forearm meet. Anything involving a tight grip or twisting is nearly impossible. I’ve been icing it down and popping Alleve like they’re candy, but I haven’t seen much improvement.

Fear not (or fear a lot) as I will push on. I am no pansy boy, that's for sure.

You know, now that I think about it, I did do some moving on Friday afternoon that may have contributed to this wrist injury.

Hmmmmm…….

Whatever. Nothing to do about it now.

My vacation was good, thanks for asking. Although wifey and I have discovered that vacationing with kids – especially two borderline hyperactive boys – is quite a different world.

Pre-kids our vacation schedule looked something like this.

9 AM – wake, realize it’s only 9 and roll over and go back to sleep.

9:45 AM – wake, realize we need to cash in on the free breakfast by 11 and scramble to the dining room for our fill of coffee, bacon, eggs and pastries. Mmmmm, good.

10:30 AM – wonder why the bar doesn’t open until 11 while we sit on the beach.

11 AM – first drinks of the day

11:15 AM – second drinks of the day followed by first swim.

Noon – afternoon sex followed by a leisurely nap.

1:30 PM – drinks!! Maybe some lunch if free breakfast still isn’t sitting like a rock.

1:45 PM – back to the beach for sun, swim, more booze. I love vacations!!!

4 PM – shower, shave, maybe another quickie before heading out on the town or to the local bar for some night life.

7 PM – still partying it up. Most likely we’ve met up with some people we got along with the night before or struck up a conversation with.

9 PM – back to the beach for sunset.

9:15 PM – back to the bar. Late night appetizers are most likely eaten.

Anywhere between 11 PM – 2 AM – To the room for sleep.

End result: Relaxed, recharged and ready to get back to the real world.


Last week our schedule looked like this:

7 AM (Yes, 7 AM!!) – boys are at the balcony doors looking out and asking ‘Dad, when can we go to the beach?’ I tell them we need to eat first and turn on 'SpongeBob Squarepants' so I can get an extra 20 minutes of sleep.

7:10 AM – no use. The boys are now tackling each other and laughing hysterically. I get up and get tripped up when three year old cuts in front of me because he wants to be the first one to use the toilet.

7:15 AM – I finally get to piss.

7:45 AM – we’re all ready and head to the dining area for our breakfast.

7:51 AM – three year old spills his milk all over the table.

7:55 AM – eight year old gets upset because there are no scrambled eggs at the buffet. He pouts in his chair, angrily chomping on bacon until the new tray of eggs is brought out.

8:15 AM – all fed and caffeinated (me and wifey, that is. The boys don’t need it), we head back to the room to get our bathing suits on.

8:25 AM – head to the beach with the boys excitedly running to the water. Three year old runs in up to his chest before remembering he can’t swim and frantically fights his way back to waist deep water.

8:35 AM – hunt for crabs, shells and cool rocks has begun.

10 AM – after fruitlessly trying to catch minnows with their bare hands, the boys decide it’s time to dig a big hole in the sand.

10:25 AM – hole digging has run it’s course in entertainment. ‘Can we go to the pool now?’

10:30 AM – we arrive at the outdoor pool where 8 year old immediately grabs his goggles and jumps in to the deep end. Three year old heads to the kiddie pool where he can swim by himself and play in the sprinklers.

10:50 AM - after swimming by himself eldest now wants me to play catch with him. I throw a football so he can jump into the water while he catches it. He then does the same for me. This is quite fun and exhausting.

11:15 AM – my turn to watch three year old who decides he’s now old enough to jump into the deep end of the big pool. He has a life vest on, so it’s not a huge deal, but I would prefer him to at least wait until I’m in the pool before he leaps in. Call me crazy.

11:45 AM – all of us are starving. Lunch time. Youngest is so tired he’s barely keeping his head up and eldest is acting like he is in a hot dog eating competition so he can get right back in the pool.

12:15 PM – I take youngest back to the room hoping he’ll take a nap, thus letting me take a nap.

12:30 PM – apparently the food has given three year old a second wind because he’s all over the place; jumping up and down on the bed, throwing himself on the floor while pretending a shark is chasing him. Nap is not going to happen for either of us. Son of a…..

1:30 PM – after hounding me for 20 + minutes I finally take eight year old down to the beach so we can throw the Frisbee around. Note that I use the term ‘throw’ loosely in this instance as his tosses usually involve the disk slamming into the ground three feet from his feet and rolling on it’s side as far away from me as is physically possible. He does manage a handful of perfect throws which just gives him confidence and the urge to continue playing more.

2 PM – hey, guess where we’re going? Right. Back to the beach. I can’t wait to get back to work where I can relax for 10 minutes.

3 PM – OK, beach is done. Now it’s time to go back to the pool. The outdoor one. I need to be specific for reasons that will become clear.

3:30 PM – wifey has discovered a waitress comes around and takes drink orders. She ordered me a beer and herself a pina colada. I love her so much sometimes.

4 PM – my beer has turned piss warm since my eight year old won’t give me 10 minutes to enjoy it. The kid is like a fish.

4:30 PM – while they protest, we drag them back to our room so we can shower and get ready for dinner.

5:30 PM – everyone is finally ready to go. The youngest is on the verge of a meltdown because he’s exhausted and hungry. The eldest wisely brought his Nintendo DS and has been absorbed in his Hulk game. Wifey’s fuse is becoming dangerously short and I want to consume enough beer to capsize a freighter.

8 PM – back at the room after dinner and a stop at the local candy store.

8:15 PM – boys now want to swim in the indoor pool. That’s right, they are not one, not two, but three fucking pools in this place. Since the indoor pool is open until 10pm, we head down. I figure let them swim for a half hour so they sleep through the night.

8:45 PM – back from the indoor pool. Boys get changed, jump into bed and immediately start pretend fighting.

9 PM - After settling down, we put on SpongeBob (is this show on all the time?) hoping they’ll fall asleep watching it.

9:15 PM – boys still awake….

9:30 PM – Boys still awake, but Dad sound asleep….

Following day: Repeat.

End result: Exhausted, looking forward to work where I can actually catch my breath, possibly needing three days to recover.

Today’s distraction: As a tribute to one of my favorite people, here is a post from long ago. This may be one of my favorite posts only because she liked it so much at the time. Be safe!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Break Time!

A few quick notes to carry you through next week. I’m on vacation, so try not to miss me too much. Really, try to keep yourselves out of trouble and under control. It gets embarrassing at times. Yeah, French, I’m talking to you.

If you’re wondering, I’m heading down to Cape Cod with the family. We got a good deal (which is nearly impossible on the Cape in July) on a place in South Yarmouth. We’re RIGHT on the beach, so I will truly be living the life of a beach bum. Well, except for the wife and kids that won’t leave me alone for three seconds. Other than that, things are looking good.

Or, were looking good. We happen to be hitting the Cape just as this story surfaces (pun intended). Turns out a shark has been spotted off South Beach on Martha’s Vineyard. According to the linked story the sighting was unconfirmed, but according to the news last night, it was confirmed by an airplane pilot prompting beaches to be closed.

So, how does this effect us? Well, we’re right on Nantucket Sound which is basically the same shared waterway the Vineyard uses for all it’s boating traffic. I’m guessing a shark would have no problem swimming a few miles to our neck of the woods. Considering all a shark does is ‘eat, swim and make little sharks’. If you don’t know what movie that line is from….well….I don’t think we can be friends any longer.

Sadly, this shark doesn’t realize that I will fuck it up if it even attempts to interrupt my beach time. If you read about a Boston man killing a shark with his bare hands and teeth, that will be me. I only have so many days a year of pure, unadulterated, quality beach time.

Oh, and I’ll be bringing my kayak down, too. It has yet to touch water this year, so this is a perfect opportunity to get my strokes in (get your minds out of the gutter).

Since I’m always looking out of your mental well being, I’ve timed my vacation to coincide with the All Star Game, the Home Run Derby and the possible early implosion of Yankee Stadium (I can dream).

Plus, here are some links, thoughts, and projects to keep you occupied for the next week. Don’t say I’ve never done anything for you. I haven’t, just don’t say it.

- I’m reading a book called ‘Scared Hunger’ by Barry Unsworth that incorporates the British slave trade back in the 18th century. While reading about the inhuman conditions the slaves endured, I couldn’t help contemplate how far we’ve come.

And then I come across this story. A black neighborhood in Ohio had been denied public access to water until 2003. That’s right. Five years ago they finally got running water in their neighborhood. Granted, this is a rural Appalachian area, but 2003!!!!??? Consider it this way, it was possible for these people to get satellite television 10 years before they could get running water. What. The. Fuck?

- Remember all those geeks that slept in line for days so they could be the first to own an iPhone? Well, those geeks already own an outdated piece of technology. Losers! Just so you know people haven’t learned anything as there are suckers sleeping in line for this new iPhone, as well.

- This guy in New York found a novel and sure fire way to kill himself. He convinced a sky diving crew to allow him on the plane to observe and take pictures. When the videographer, the sky diver and their student jumped out he followed. Only he didn’t have any sky diving gear on. The story linked mentions that he wound up hitting a house that split his body in two. And I complain about cleaning my gutters.

- In yet another sign we have gone WAAYYY overboard with political correctness, the city of Atlanta has agreed to remove all ‘Men At Work’ and ‘Men Working Ahead’ signs because they are discriminatory. I shit you not. Instead they’ll use ‘Workers Ahead’ or something of that type. I would argue that the new signs are also discriminatory against actual workers, since a majority of time there is little actual work going on. How about ‘State Employees Ahead’? Or ‘Half Assed Work Ahead’? Or, let’s just get down to basics and use ‘Traffic Is Fucked For Next ___ Miles’.

By the way, expect to see these changes in your own home town as women’s magazine editor Cynthia Good – the lovely, over sensitive women in charge of spurring this long over due social change – wants the entire country to follow Atlanta’s lead.

- For those of you wondering why I stay married, wonder no more.

- All you Led Zeppelin fans out there (yes, I went through my own stage in high school) here is some food for thought. After listening to these, it sure seems like Zeppelin ripped off (or as they call it now – ‘borrowed’) quite a few artists.

- In what is welcome news to my own ears, researchers at the University of Arkansas have found a more effective way to treat tinnitus. After spending a majority of my formative years attending as many loud concerts as possible, I started experiencing tinnitus (constant ringing in my ears). My last full blown concert was AC/DC and my ears rang for three solid days. I’ve stayed away from most indoor concerts since, but I still like going to any free outdoor ones I can. I’ve seen Green Day when they were first becoming big play the Esplanade in Boston. This was the same concert a riot broke out at and wifey and I were nearly crushed in a stampede of people. This may be a story for another time. I’ve also seen Guster at city hall, and Dropkick Murphy’s at the State House and Cake down by the Charles River. What I’m trying to say is, I can’t see any cool concerts anymore due to my ear ringing issues. Maybe this can change that.

- I’ve discovered a show on (I think) the Food Network that’s about this custom cake maker in Baltimore. It’s a behind the scenes, reality show about how the business is run and the creative process behind them. ‘Ace of Cakes’ it’s called. Here is the link to the actual business. Check out the awesome cakes these guys make. Truly works of art.

- Some quick music notes for you all. Almost immediately after I wrote about how I couldn’t find any good music the following CDs were released:

Alkaline Trio – Agony and Irony: Being their first major label release and having heard the first song on the radio, I was very afraid that this was a complete sell out. Fear not AT fans. The sound is more polished and has more pop elements to it, but this is still the darkly comic, disturbed, hard rocking band we all know and love. With lyrics comparing relationships to the Summer of Sam and songs like ‘Love, Love, Kiss, Kiss’ (a hilarious ode to non romantics everywhere), as well as their head bobbing beats this is some of AT’s best stuff.

The Futureheads – This Is Not The World: Their last release was a bit of a disappointment for me. The promise of the debut was diluted in an attempt to grab a larger audience. Well, fuck that! With this one they put the pedal to the metal for the get go and barely let up for a breath. Surprisingly the most rocking CD I’ve heard this year. Not a slow or bad song on it.

The Fratellis – Here We Stand: Like the Kooks latest, this one just can’t maintain the fun or originality of their debut. It’s not bad by any means (much better then the Kooks’ ‘Konk’ for sure). They tap even deeper into their Beatle roots and more than half the songs are terrific. It just feels a bit slapped together. Like they were trying to get this out just in time for the new iPhone release. Let’s see if they use any of these songs for the ads. By the way, the music for those new Amstel Light ads (Dam Good Beer) is from the Fratellis debut CD. If you dig that song, you’ll enjoy this one.

- Lastly, I've always under taken a project for my vacations. Last summer it was not brushing my hair all week. Last winter it was growing facial hair. I have no thoughts on what to do this year, so offer some suggestions in the comment section. I don't leave until Monday morning, so I'll check in and tell you what - if any - I've taken up.

Ok, that’s all I’ve got. I was hoping to have more time to provide you semi-quality entertainment, but it’s been busy today. Stupid work!


Today’s distraction: Test out your sweet tooth. I got 15 out of 20 correct and I don’t even eat many candy bars.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Father - Son Day


There is a reason baseball is the national pastime. Nothing brings fathers and sons together more consistently than rooting for their home teams and cheering an absolute drubbing fueled by the son’s favorite players.

Above is the view from our front row balcony seats. The view was great and even though it was mid 90s and humid, the breeze and my son’s newly purchased, official Red Sox fan/spray bottle kept things tolerable.

The flag on the Green Monster was in tribute to America’s armed forces. Yesterday was ‘Seats for Soldiers’ day when season ticket holders donated their tickets for members of our military. Just an added bonus for a kid that loves playing soldiers and pretending to shoot anything that moves. He’s not troubled, he’s a boy.

I’ve also learned that the 7-8 year old range is a perfect time to start bringing your kids to ball games. Up until this year he would start asking when we were leaving around the fourth inning. Yesterday the Sox were up 12-5 in the seventh inning and I asked if he wanted to get going. ‘No way! I want to stay until the end!’

Good enough. At the end of the seventh a lot of people in the lower sections were leaving. I point down and say ‘Want to get close to the field?’ Did he ever! We left our seats and got right next to the field for the final outs of the game. Then hung out a bit while everyone filed out.

All in all he enjoyed his birthday gift tremendously.

A few notes from the day.

- I’ve said it before and will say it again, it’s well past time for a new ballpark in Boston. I really don’t care where it’s built at this point (although the water front would be great). The seats at Fenway are awkward and uncomfortable and nearly all face away from home plate. Either renovate the existing park with 21st century seating or build something new. Enough is enough.

- I decided to take the subway in to the game for two reasons: First, if we drove we would be driving home not only through game traffic, but rush hour traffic, as well. Thanks anyway. Second, I was planning on imbibing some barley and hops but was quickly put off on this plan of action when I asked how much a beer would cost. ‘$7.50,’ was the answer.

Me: ‘7.50??!! As in seven dollars?’

Vendor: ‘Yes, sir.’

Me: ‘How much for a bottled water?’

Vendor: ‘Three fifty’

Me: ‘I’ll take three’

Seven dollars and fifty cents for a watered down, draft beer that probably wasn’t even that cold. Un-fucking-believable! As a huge fan of beer, I find this a crime against humanity.

- One thing I forgot about taking the subway. There is some strange phenomenon involved with the tunnels underground that make them the hottest places on earth. During the summer months most underground places are cooler. Not so with the subway tunnels which tend to be 20-30 degrees warmer. No idea why this is. Maybe there really is a Hell and it releases heat through subway stations.

This became horrifically apparent when we headed down into the depths of Kenmore Station only to encounter an obscenely long line and felt the heat blasting out of the hole. I looked at my son and said ‘C’mon, we’ll walk to the next station’. I guess I should expect such things when I leave one of the nation’s oldest ballpark and attempt to ride the nation’s oldest public transit system.

Fortunately, the walk was leisurely and beautiful and he even remembered ‘Dad, doesn’t one of your work friends live around here?’ when we got close to the Hynes stop. Kid has a mind like a steel trap. Nothing like me, at all.

- We had no less than six foul balls hit in our direction. The Twins have an inordinate number of left handed batters which made our seats along the third base line a good spot for snagging souvenirs. At one point three balls were hit towards us in a 10 minute span (including one that came within 5 feet of us before falling to the crowd below) prompting my son to put on his glove and proclaim ‘I’m getting ready for the next one!’

- Best laugh of the day: The PA announces ‘Now batting for the Minnesota Twins…Joe Mauer’. My son: ‘Joe MAMA? There’s actually a guy named Joe Mama?’

- Second best laugh of the day: Around the fifth inning my son asks ‘Dad, how come Don and Jerry haven’t said anything?’ I then explain that only people watching on TV hear them, to which he responded, ‘Well that stinks’. Yes. Yes it does.

- The game itself was certainly entertaining. Besides the Sox putting up 18 runs – so many I wasn’t sure the game was ever going to end – we were treated to the following:

1: Two flubbed fly balls to right field when the sun was high. On both plays it was obvious neither player could see the ball with the sun where it was. Blinding is the only appropriate word.

2: Not one, but two controversial plays. The first being a near home run by Manny that should have been ruled a ground rule double because some imbecile fan reached over and touched the ball. If it had been ruled a ground rule, then Youkilis would not have scored. The umps consulted and decided it was a standard double.

The second being a diving catch by the Twins center fielder that was initially ruled a catch. After another consultation it was decided it was a trap. What’s interesting about this is if it was ruled a catch, it would have turned into a triple play since the Red Sox players all kept running on the play. Instead two runs scored and it was first and third with nobody out.

3: Both my son and I waving good bye to the Twins manager after he lost it on the reversed catch call during the play above. My son particularly thought this was great. Watching the tirade he said ‘I’ll bet he’s saying some bad words right now’.

4: Manny being Manny during a pitching change. When Beckett came out in the sixth, Manny disappeared into the Green Monster. When Javier Lopez was ready, he walked around the mound, looked out to left and noticed Manny wasn’t there. He stood, staring until Manny popped out and ran to his spot. The crowd cheered Manny’s reappearance like he had just hit a home run.

5: We got to see Manny throw someone out at third base, too. On a single the Twins runner on first decided he could make third. Even as Manny picked the ball up I said to my son, ‘He’s got him’. Indeed, perfect throw and the tag was waiting for the sliding runner.

6: Getting to witness not one, but two home runs clear the Green Monster. You can’t truly appreciate how far those balls travel until you see it in person.

- As my son noted when we first sat down in our seats, what the hell happened to the Coke bottles that were attached to the Green Monster light poles? Did they fall off? Were they removed for some obscure reason?

- Getting to watch a guy named Boof pitch in person. ‘Boof? His name is Boof?’ eight year old asked.

- To top everything off, my son wore his new Jacoby Ellsbury shirt and Ellsbury gets a career high four hits and came within 5 feet of a home run. He feels personally responsible.

As he should.

Today’s distraction: As a tribute to the 23 hits raining down on the Minnesota Twins, it’s the House of Falling Furniture in San Francisco.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

All Star Awards

With the baseball season half over it’s time for the BeachBum All Star Awards. As you can imagine they aren’t all good and I make them up as I go along. Just like my life. Also, unlike the Men Hall of Fame, there will be no trophy or plaque.

Sorry, money is tight these days.

I have the added motivation of getting myself geared up for tomorrow’s Red Sox – Twins game. I’m taking the day off from work (and here) to take my eldest to the afternoon game. Looks like it’s going to be 90 degrees and brutally humid, but I’m still looking forward to it.

My son wants to bring a sign, so keep an eye out for anything that gets a dig in on Minnesota. Maybe ‘Boston: Where Minnesota athletes come to win’ or something like that. We’ll be first row balcony, so it’s a good spot for a sign. Keep an eye out for us!

Most Pleasant Surprise (Team): Up until yesterday this would have been the Rays, but Milwaukee snagging CC Sabathia from the Indians just shot to the top. Did anyone see that one coming? Now the Brewers (yes the BREWERS!) are the second half favorites to emerge for a cluttered National League. With a healthy (fingers crossed, he stays that way) Ben Sheets and a more effective Sabathia, the Brewers are a force to be reckoned with. No, really. The Milwaukee Brewers!

As it stands now, is there a more giddily excited fan base than Milwaukee? Not only did you snag an ace for a bunch of players you probably never heard of before, but Sabathia decides he’s not going to miss a start because of the trade. ‘This way I can get two starts in before the break and get better acclimated to the team’. Tell me you wouldn’t want a guy like that coming to your team. Don’t even get them started on the Richard Jefferson trade.

Honorable Mentions: Tampa Bay Rays; Minnesota Twins; Texas Rangers

Biggest Disappointment (Team): New York Mets. No, they’re not out of it, but they are inconsistent, seemingly unhappy, petulant and expensive. Santana has been mediocre when everyone expected him to take it up a notch with the move to the NL, Pedro’s ERA is over 7 and looks to be toast, Reyes is getting into shouting matches with Keith Hernandez, they’re barely above .500 at home and even their own fans don’t know what to make of them. I should mention they have the second highest payroll in the majors.

Dishonorable Mentions: Arizona Diamondbacks; Cleveland Indians; Seattle Mariners

Most Pleasant Surprise (Hitting): Josh Hamilton. At .308/19 HR/85 RBI, Hamilton isn’t just a legitimate triple crown threat, he’s an MVP candidate for the surprisingly potent Texas Rangers.

Honorable Mentions: JD Drew; Lance Berkman; Xavier Nady

Biggest Disappointment (Hitting): Andruw Jones. Downright horrible even before he was injured. Currently hitting below .200 and giving even more credence to the theory that his 2006 career year may have been somewhat….how shall I put this…artificially enhanced.

Dishonorable Mentions: Big Papi; Freddy Sanchez; Gary Matthews Jr

Most Pleasant Surprise (Pitching): Edinson Volquez, not only the lone bright spot for another crappy Reds team, but the feel good story of MLB, so far. 11-3, 2.36 ERA, Volquez would win the Cy Young if there wasn’t an entire second half to play. Stupid second halves.

Honorable Mentions: Cliff Lee; Bartolo Colon; Joe Saunders; Justin Duchscherer

Biggest Disappointment (Pitching): Since this award might soon be named after him, it has to go to Barry Zito. He’s not only having another shitty year but could turn into the worst free agent signing in baseball history.

Dishonorable Mentions: Kevin Millwood; Paul Byrd; AJ Burnett

Best Addition: Troy Percival. Sure he’s past his prime and looks like he’s been on an all ice cream diet, but he’s brought toughness and leadership to a young team that desperately needed it.

Honorable Mentions: Eric Hinske; Carlos Gomez; David Murphy

Worst Addition: Frankly this was a toss up, but I’m going to have to award this to Andruw Jones making him our first multiple award winner. My other option was Dontrelle Willis, but he was more of a toss in salary dump to get Cabrera, anyway. Hey, now would be a good time to point out that Jones is making more than $14 million a year.

Dishonorable Mention: Dontrelle Willis; Mark Redman (I know, I liked this move at the time); Eric Gagne (NOTE: he would have won this award last year, too, if I had any)

Most Entertaining Sub Plot: A-Rod’s personal life falling apart thus giving all the New York tabloids fodder for the next 6 months, me jokes for a solid year, and Madonna being mentioned in the same breath as the All Star Game. Please tell me she’s singing the National Anthem!

Least Surprising Sub Plot: Not one team kicking the tires of Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa. After the Mitchell Report, teams are trying to put as much distance between themselves and steroids as possible. The exception being Milwaukee who has the All Steroid Team in it’s bullpen. Minus the steroids. Supposedly. Still, you’d figure a team struggling to score runs like Toronto or San Diego would at least consider one of them.

Most Surprising Sub Plot: In a total upset the most surprising sub plot goes to not one person missing George Steinbrenner. Hank has so thoroughly and unexpectedly taken the crazy reigns over from his father that it’s almost like George is still there. Only he’s drunk and popping prescription pills on an hourly basis.

Most Anti-Climatic Sub Plot: This year’s trade deadline. Sabathia was the biggest name out there and he’s already been traded. Just don’t expect much. By the way, a spectacular, unforeseen trade is entirely possible with the Yankees hovering around .500 and a crazy Steinbrenner back in charge.

Strangest Sub Plot: Manny going off the deep end and becoming ‘Holy Shit He May Actually Kill Someone This Season’ Manny. Fighting with Youkilis (who, admittedly, seems like a dick) then pushing the team’s AARP member and traveling secretary because he didn’t get Manny enough tickets to a game.

Quick side note here: Is it possible the Sox would trade Manny before the deadline? What about Youkilis? Manny’s contract is up at the end of the season and the way the rest of the Sox defended Manny after those two fought indicates not many on the team are that fond of Youk. Could the Sox send one away for the sake of team unity?

Best Game of the Year (So Far): The Rockies coming back from a 13-4 deficit to beat the Marlins 18-17. If you can find the highlights of this you really need to see this to believe it.

Strangest Play of the Year: Youkilis’ wall hovering triple last weekend. No, ‘So Far’ on this award as I can’t see how this gets beat the rest of the season.

Eye Opening Stat: The Chicago Cubs having outscored their opponents by a whopping 102 runs. If they make this stat an even 100 heading into the playoffs, then larger forces are at work.

Players Key To Their Team’s Second Half:
Johan Santana
David Ortiz
Randy Johnson
CC Sabathia
Ryan Howard
Andy Pettitte/Jason’s Giambi’s porn stache
Torii Hunter
James Shields/Scott Kazmir

Teams Poised to Make Runs:
Arizona Diamondbacks
Oakland A’s
Boston Red Sox
Detroit Tigers
Milwaukee Brewers
New York Mets

Team of the Year: Tampa Bay Rays. Who knew the Devil was holding them back.

Player of the Year: Chase Utley

Pitcher of the Year: Francisco Rodriguez

On that note, I’m out. Enjoy HumpDay and I’ll check in on Thursday.


Today’s distraction: Red Sox Fan Makes Leap onto Tampa Bandwagon. Classic!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Weekend Fireworks

Hey, how was your weekend? What did you do for the Fourth?

Sick of hearing that, yet? Me, too. In reality, does anyone at work really give two shits about what you did over the long weekend? Considering everything anyone did can be classified into three categories, there really isn’t that much to talk about. Chances are you spent the weekend doing one of these:

1: Watching some kick ass fireworks after a family/friend cookout. This can possibly include launching your own fireworks display and losing some fingers and/or eyebrows.

2: Heading up to your friend’s/family’s cabin or some other vacation spot to spend time at the lake/ocean/pool. Fireworks display will be included at some point, also.

3: Staying close to home and enjoying the peace and quiet while everyone else heads out of town. Cookout and fireworks are included here, too.

For the record, I chose number 3. I love the Boston area when everyone heads elsewhere. The neighborhood was quiet (too quiet, as you’ll soon learn) so the boys, wifey and I enjoyed our own cookout and pool party.

Unfortunately, the weather around here was questionable. It didn’t rain, it wasn’t cold, but it hovered between that line of over cast crappiness and nearly beautiful. The sun would make attempts to show itself only to disappear quickly and be gone for extended periods of time. It was frustrating as hell.

It was all good, though (for the most part). Some highlights for those who like things organized for easy reading. I include myself in that group.

- Since the weather was semi-crappy and indecisive, we decided to take the boys to the movies. This was three year old’s first theater going experience and he handled it like a pro. We saw ‘Kung Fu Panda’ (highly recommended if you have kids) and we had no incidents until the climatic fight scene when youngest looks over at me and says, in a really loud voice ‘Dad, I have a big HUGE poop coming out of my butt!’

There were two mothers in front of us who had their daughters with them. They looked back with a ‘GASP’ look on their faces as if my three year old son had groped one of them. As I took him to the men’s room, they shot a dirty look towards me and I said ‘A glimpse into the world of boys’. I was glad that the good looking mother at least laughed at that.

- When did mothers become so goddamn good looking? Growing up I can remember less than a handful of good looking mothers. And the only reason I remember them is because all mothers resided in the drab, beaten down section of life. Now I see hot mothers walking their kids all over the city. What’s changed? Well, besides plastic surgery, personal trainers and eating disorders.

- Wifey and I let our 8 year old stay up for the Boston fireworks for the first time this year. If I may rant for a bit, what the fuck is going on with this city’s schedule? Growing up, the fireworks were at 9pm SHARP. Every year. It was one tradition we looked forward to. The Boston Pops would start playing the ‘1812 Overture’ and the fireworks would start at the end of that song and keep going for 30 minutes.

About 4-5 years ago, the Pops celebration and fireworks went national. The concert and subsequent fireworks were televised for the first time. Was a nice touch and everyone that didn’t want to venture into Boston could see the fireworks on television.

But something strange started happening. The Pops and Boston’s celebration became popular. Two years ago the fireworks didn’t start until 10. This year? 10:30! What the holy hell? I was half asleep by the time the things started going off. There were shots of kids in the crowd and they looked like zombies; just staring off into space while their parents sang along to 'Yankee Doodle Dandy'.

To make matters even worse, they ‘1812 Overture’ doesn’t lead into the fireworks any longer. They played the song right at 9:50 and I was saying to my boy ‘When this song gets to the end, the fireworks will start’. Sure enough, the fireworks started going off…..

…then ended. It was a very brief display and my son asks ‘Was that it?’ and I had no answer for him. At 10 pm, Craig Ferguson, of all people, comes out to introduce Rascal Flatts who will be performing with the Pops now. Take a minute and read that last sentence again and consider how very wrong that all sounds being announced live and in Boston on the Fourth of July. Ferguson was actually fine, but Rascal Flatts was horrid beyond any expectations and the lead singer looked like he ate one of the tubas from the orchestra.

Now, if you have kids you know what happens when you say ‘You can stay up to see ’. It means you have to let them stay up even if it means they wait 24 hours. So, he stayed up until after 11. The good part is we can watch the fireworks from our back yard. We didn’t have to stray far and he was in bed as soon as things were over. If you want a feel for his reaction and who he takes after this was his response: ‘That was it? They didn’t last very long.’

I now understand the term ‘chip off the old block’. He is the chip - I am the old block. Emphasis on OLD.

- Please tell me you saw the most bizarre triple in major league history over the weekend. It was (of course) Red Sox – Yankees. Kevin Youkilis hits a pitch that looks like it’s going out of the park. Johnny Damon goes back to the fence, leaps up to make the catch, hits the wall, falls to the ground and comes up….empty. He looks around and the ball is nowhere to be seen. Finally, it drops onto the field, he picks it up and throws it in.

So what happened? Turns out the ball was in his glove and when he hit the fence, the ball popped out and sat on top of the outfield fence. And sat there. And sat there. Finally, the shaking from Damon slamming into the wall made it fall back on to the outfield warning track. To put this in perspective, the head umpire was asked about the hit after the game and even they didn’t know what the ruling would have been if the ball had stayed perched on top of the wall. Not only was the hit truly unique, but it’s probably going to add a rule to baseball.

- While we’re here, I need to point out that Julio Lugo is making history that not many people are aware of. He is currently on pace to break the record for most times hitting a ball off the dirt in front of home plate for a ground out. He’ll be breaking his own record set last season.

- On a related note, Jed Lowrie is having a fantastic season in Pawtucket.

- While everyone in our neighborhood was away, it seems someone broke into my wife’s car and rifled through the entire thing. We know because the douchebag left the driver’s door and some inside storage compartments open. What’s particularly ballsy about this is our driveway is right next to a big picture window. If anyone was to walk through the living room we would be two feet from him (or her). I actually think he (or she) was scared off and that’s why the everything was kind of left scattered.

Fortunately, nothing was stolen since we don’t usually keep anything of value in the cars. And yes, it does have an alarm on it, but wifey somehow didn’t set it that night. This, of course, gets me to wondering how many times this same guy tried our doors and found them locked. Might be time to set up one of those motion detection cameras. I’ve always wanted to bag some dickhead this way.

- Speaking of dickheads, on the way to the movies there was this foreign driver who decided he was going to cut off a bunch of drivers in an attempt to get from the far right lane to the far left. He apparently thought it was his god given right to just push his way over. He tried to cut me off, but I pushed past him. He wound up cutting off the guy behind me who thought it would be productive to roll down the window and yell ‘Nice move, DICKHEAD!’

Eight year old says ‘Kick Head? Why is he calling him a kick head? That doesn’t make any sense. Is that like saying he wants to kick his head?’ These questions went on for a few minutes and verged on becoming a Seinfeld routine until we told him it wasn’t nice to call someone a ‘Kick Head’ and he let it drop.

- The best part of the entire dickhead comment was the driver obviously didn’t understand English very well and was completely blank faced as he tried to interpret what the other guy was yelling at him. Between the look on his face and my son’s kick head rant, wifey and I were quite amused.

That’s enough. I’m exhausted because my youngest was seeing ‘ghosts’ last night and had to sleep in our bed for comfort. This is one thing the ‘Sixth Sense’ doesn’t address: how the parents are effected by sleepless children haunted by ghosts. Do they finally just start slipping them sleeping pills in their chocolate milk?

Today’s distraction: As a tribute to the complete selling out of the Boston Fireworks display, here are some cool advertisements from around the world. At this rate, I’ll be happy if they fireworks go off before midnight next year.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Movie Reviews

You all get a bonus today as I'm actually reviewing a movie still in the theaters. Un-figgin'-believable!

Off we go.

The Incredible Hulk: This is more like it. For the record, I really liked the first Hulk movie. I thought Ang Lee did a great job getting the comic book feel into the movie. Using multiple angles of the same scene on screen at the same time made even simple glances between characters exciting. It did fall apart during it’s last 20 minutes when Nick Nolte turned into…something…I still haven’t figured out what he was supposed to be or how he did it.

Regardless, this movie is much better. For one thing, it really has nothing to do with the first ‘Hulk’. This is the traditional, ‘whoops, I just irradiated myself and hurt the woman I love’ Hulk. It’s more a nod to the kids who grew up with the television show which, in turn, was more loyal to the original comic. There are delightful hints that the film makers grew up watching the same show: Banner stumbling across Bill Bixby in a rerun of ‘The Courtship of Eddie’s father’, Lou Ferrigno playing a security guard (I know he was in the first one, too), Jack McGee is introduced as an aspiring reporter who manages to get phone video footage of the Hulk in action, and there is even the classic shot of Banner’s eyes going green in that strip of light – just like every episode of the series. But to top all of that off, they use that wandering music!! You know at the end of every show where he was hitchhiking or walking down the road to his next stop? That sad, piano music? That’s here, too!

Unfortunately, the fans of that show won’t be the predominant fans of this movie. That would be the new generation and they won’t be disappointed here, either. After 20 minutes of laying the ground work, this movie takes off like a freight train and barely stops to take a breath. The Hulk effects are much more impressive (as they should be) and Ed Norton is a good choice for Banner although, let’s face it, it doesn’t take a great actor to play a nerdy scientist on the run. It would have been great if Brad Pitt in his ‘Fight Club’ persona made an appearance and was scared off by the Hulk or something. William Hurt is manically funny as the General (although Sam Elliot did a good job in the first one, too). Surprisingly, the scariest thing in this movie isn’t the Hulk or the Abomination, but the human decisions that are made behind the scenes by more than a few people to harness the power of the Hulk.

It does setup a sequel, if you’re wondering and I – for one – can’t wait.

I Am Legend: Man alive, what a colossal waste of an opportunity. First of all, I read the story this was based on and the title of this comes from a very specific ending. That ending is nowhere on display in this movie. There are encouraging hints that it’s headed in that direction, but things never materialize and this degenerates into a stupid monster movie during the last 20 minutes. What is it with the last 20 minutes of movies lately? ‘No Country of Old Men’, this one, the original ‘Hulk’. They all fall apart. I’m thinking it’s because they have great ideas, then nobody can figure out how to end things gracefully so they tack on some stupid, standard ending.

Despite a good performance by Will Smith and some cool moments, I have several problems with this movie I just couldn’t get past.

Warning! Some spoilers coming up!

1: What are the odds that one of the 1% of the human population that survived this virus JUST HAPPENS to be the guy the world’s leading virologist and could cure it? A billion to one? A trillion to one? Yet, that is exactly what Smith’s character is. The one guy that can save humanity and he just happens to survive. Go figure.

2: Smith’s character completely underestimates the ‘monsters’ and even says ‘de-evolution of the human species is complete’ during one of his video reports. Later the ‘monsters’ setup an elaborate trap the Smith falls for and nearly kill him and his dog.

3: On the same theme, there appears to be a leader of the pack with the monsters, but Smith either doesn’t pick up on it or it was edited out of the final movie. Several scenes tantalizingly hint at some organization and emotion within the monster colony, but this has either been ignored or discarded.

4: The ending. What the fuck? Look away if you don’t want to find out how this ends. I need to compare the book’s ending to the film’s so you know why I’m frustrated.

Ready?

In the original ending the title ‘I Am Legend’ refers to Neville’s (Smith’s character) realization that he – not the monsters (in the book vampires) – is the one being feared. He has been going around randomly killing the monsters while they sleep in their own houses. After being caught by a new variety of vampires that can live in daylight, he is given the option of taking a pill and killing himself or being thrown to the mob outside. As he takes the pill while watching the crowd of vampires outside, the realization that he is the mutant and that a new form of humanity is taking form takes hold. He is the last of the original human species and is feared more than he feared the vampires. I am legend.

In the movie, it almost seems like they’re going in the same direction but cop out at the last minute and make it about the ‘cure’ he’s discovered. The cure is his legend and he saves a woman and a boy by blowing himself and a whole bunch of monsters up with a grenade he just happens to have in a drawer in his lab. You know, like all scientists have in their labs. ‘This is his legend’, the woman narrates as they reach some mystical safe house colony with, like, really big walls. It’s in Vermont, what do you want?

Can’t say I’d recommend this one, which is too bad. It seems like they had a good movie until studio head got their hands on it and cut it up so it was barely recognizable.


The Game Plan: I know, it’s the Rock, but I have to admit he’s pretty damn funny in this movie. It’s a typical Disney ‘both parent and child learn how to be better people from each other’ movie, but it’s well done and there are several laugh out loud moments (all involving The Rock and his obnoxiously funny quarterback). Cute, harmless and won’t hurt anyone’s career despite being completely unoriginal. As a bonus, it was filmed in Boston so it’s fun to see all the sites that are right in my daily area. Oh, if you watch this, check out Marv Albert’s play by play call at the very end of the movie. One of the least excited calls on a play to decide a championship game. I know it’s a movie, but that’s really the most enthusiasm he could muster?

Lives of Others: A German movie about a hard line government agent who spends time eavesdropping on a couple and….oh, fuck it. This thing was well done, but deathly boring. I turned it off after 45 minutes and it still had another 90 to go. Thanks anyway.

And one television note

Wipeout: Hopefully someone else has seen this and can back me up. I was skeptical going in to this game show that basically tries to get people to take the most spectacular spills possible, but I honestly have not laughed this hard at a show in a long time. Sure it’s stupid and inane, but to hell with that. I like watching people get punched in the face with automatic boxing gloves and go flying into a vat of mud. John Anderson (from ESPN) and John Henson (who I thought was hysterical when he hosted ‘Talk Soup’) host and add their own laughs. What’s great is I can watch it with the boys, who were both laughing at the people wiping out. Good times. Check it out if you haven’t already.


Today’s distraction: Errors from ‘The Incredible Hulk’. I didn’t notice the brown hair/dark hair thing at all. I must admit, some of these are extremely nit picky. How can anyone who catches these details ever enjoy any movie?