Friday, December 07, 2007

The True Spirit of...

(Reprinted with permission from Hot Psychology, December, 2005)

As I sit in the waiting room of my local auto mechanic’s, I watch the activities across the street on the lawn of the Intermediate school. Town workers are stringing up holiday lights on one of the huge evergreen trees, and I realize that this task is probably being performed in many other town squares as well. It’s only mid November, but the day is mild, perfect for this kind of chore and besides; Christmas is coming soon.

And now it starts. First panic, then a sad kind of guilt. What a shame for such a wonderful celebration to induce such distress. In these feelings, I know I’m not alone, but I’m not sure how comforting that really is.

Those who celebrate Christmas are commemorating the birth of Jesus the Christ. We give gifts, because it's a birthday, and because it’s symbolic of the gifts of the Magi - the three wise and royal visitors that came to see the New Lord. The sad thing is, when we shop for these gifts, we are sometimes forced into purchasing way past our limits. We don't want to disappoint a child, a spouse, or favorite aunt. Little by little, the spirit behind the giving is eroding; the meaning is diminished. It's not just in the endless shopping and spending, we suddenly feel obligated to over extend ourselves with our time and talents. Children's school activities, church activities, work parties, family traditions, baking, wrapping... wait, what was this day about? Hey, a little over extending is fine at times. I think Jesus more than did his share – but what we are sometimes reduced to, becomes soulless.

Here is a chance to discover what about Christmas, and other ‘winter holidays’ that really strikes a chord within us. What makes them special that we can take with us the whole year, no matter what our religion or culture? What is the True Spirit behind these festivities?

Most of the other celebrations around this time of year don’t seem to invoke these anxious feelings, at least not to the same extent. Hanukkah has not been a major holiday on the Jewish calendar, but as the 20th century progressed, Christmas was becoming more and more recognized in the Western world. In turn, Hanukkah was seen as a both a celebration of the reinstatement of Jewish dominion in Israel, and also because it was a December family oriented and gift-giving celebration, some thought it would make a good substitution for Christmas.

Today some Jews do feel the pressure of giving more or bigger gifts, in an unspoken competition with Christmas commercialism. Others have said they feel other pressures in decorating or entertaining, or as one put it, “keeping up with the Cohens”. Most though, keep things more simple, and take pleasure in the tradition of the Menorah, the prayers, and the feasting. They venerate the second century struggle against Hellenistic occupation in Israel, the restoration of the Temple of Jerusalem, and the consecrated oil that was only enough to burn for one day, but amazingly lasted for eight more.

Another holiday, Kwanzaa, is only 40 years young. Though this celebration is cultural, rather than religious, it is still lumped in with Christmas and Hanukkah, only by virtue of it being celebrated in December. Kwanzaa is derived from the Swahili “matunda ya kwanza”, which means “first fruits”. Though it was founded in order to give African Americans an alternative to an over commercialized Christmas, Kwanzaa celebrates seven ideals, or principles that we can all strive towards: Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith.

When we feel that winter gloom descend, it helps to contemplate on what these days are meant to be about. We should celebrate the miracle of light when we can turn on electricity in our house with out a second thought. We should honor the Self-Determination, Collective Work and Faith of those early Jews, and nurture it in our selves and in our children - every day. In remembering the birth of the Savior, we delight in the thought of the miraculous.
When my husband was younger, someone on his Dad’s side of the family started a unique gift giving tradition. They always gathered at one family member’s house or another, usually a week or so after Christmas. At some point during the day, a mysterious package would show up labeled for one person in the family, with no return address. The package would sometimes be delivered by a taxi, be stuffed in a mailbox, left on a doorstep or appear in the garage.

Inside would be all kinds of goodies, a little smorgasbord of presents specially picked out for that one person. Each year of course, the gifts – and recipient – would change, but there was always the same card tucked among the treasures – a small white card with red writing that year after year, bore the same message:

“Have a Merry Christmas in Your Heart --
From The True Spirit of Christmas”.

How fantastic is that? Sincere wishes for real honest-to-goodness happiness. What the Giver – the True Spirit -- had to do through out the year while preparing this package of joy, was to really consider what would be special for the recipient. This is the celebration of another person at it’s best.

No matter what the holiday, there is always the potential for wonder, the possibility of miracles. Even if the miracle is a bit contrived, like Santa Claus, doesn’t your breath catch, when you watch a young child’s eyes light up at the sight of an unexplained filled stocking? How about the reaction of a desperate parent on hearing that monies raised from a benefit party will more than pay for their child’s medical bills? Miraculous. Even when we think we want an explanation, most of us, because of our faith, are content with the unknown. And what of our own family mystery gift?

Of course everyone guessed at the identity of our True Spirit. Some more enterprising family members put much energy into the conundrum, comparing notes and deconstructing each gift-giving event. Most of us though, preferred to just enjoy the whole mystery and accept it. At some point the quiet speculation led them to guess it was the family patriarch, Raymond. When he died, the family expected that the custom had died as well. Or had it?

The following Christmas – the package arrived again.

Have a Merry Christmas in your heart.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

DVD Review - 24 Season Six

Warning – Spoilers

Whether you loved or hated Season Six, you have to admit there were still plenty of amazing moments: Jack Bauer neatly snipping off the finger of Russian Diplomat Markov with a cigar cutter, Abu Fayed drilling Morris to get him to arm his nuclear devices, Reed Pollock kidnapping Tom Lennox and planning a Presidential assassination in a White House boiler room. Gredenko with his arm. Gredenko without his arm. Kindly James Cromwell (Babe anyone?) suffocating his lovable son Graem in order to keep him mum on family and corporate secrets, and so damn many more. The seven disc set captures those moments with the full 24 episodes, plus special features that include commentaries by the stars, writers, producers and even the Emmy winning composer, Sean Callery.

The basic, if implausible, story takes place about 20 months after Day Five. Jack had successfully brought down the corrupt President Logan, but was then straightaway imprisoned by the Chinese in retaliation for his supposed misdeeds at the Chinese Consulate during Day Four. Now, nearly two years later, the U.S. is deteriorating from terrorist attacks. Finally, one Abu Fayed has alerted the American authorities that he will help them end the attacks by giving them the location of Hamri Al-Assad, the supposed mastermind of the recent terrorism.

The catch is that President Wayne Palmer (deceased ex-President David Palmer’s brother) must give up Jack Bauer to Fayed. After much effort, a visibly tattered and tortured Jack is released from China and brought to Los Angeles, only to be prepped for sacrifice to Fayed. While under custody, Fayed informs Jack that Assad is not the true mastermind, but is trying to stop the terrorism that he, Fayed, is really responsible for.

The ensuing 20-odd episodes follow Jack’s efforts at finding suitcase nukes in L.A., and President Palmer’s failing health at the White House, along with side plots involving Chloe and Morris’s relationship, Vice President Daniel’s unwise dalliance with his aide, and Jack’s father, brother, sister-in-law, and nephew reappearing in his life in an unpleasant way. There is also a brief but strange resurgence of former President Logan and First Lady Martha Logan.

While it’s great to watch the whole season from 6:00 AM on, watching on a DVD format can be overwhelming, as most viewers will watch several episodes at one sitting. Although the continuity is a good thing, the unremitting tension is tough on the nerves. Now’s the time to turn on the special features, because a relentlessly serious show like 24 needs a break, even a little levity. While there is no blooper reel, there are some very funny moments beginning with a never-seen “cameo” that features Ricky Gervais (creator and star of the original BBC’s The Office and star of HBO’s Extras). Gervais plays a Presidential advisor waiting not so patiently on the sidelines during an Oval Office meeting. How Jayne Atkinson, D.B. Woodside and Peter MacNicol kept from busting out into laughter is a credit to their acting skills.

But we do get to hear many of the actors cracking wise while they watch the show. Each disc has at least one or two episodes that have running commentaries by pairs of cast members, producers, or writers. Some of the funniest were the observations of Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe) and Joel Surnow (Co-creator and exec-producer) as they watched 12:00 AM to 1:00 AM. They poked fun at Powers Booth’s character (Vice President Noah Daniels) calling him Barry White, and made kissy noises while Booth was lip-locked with Kari Matchett (Lisa Miller).

Jean Smart and Gregory Itzin were hilarious while they were covering hour 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM. Of course, this hour included their big scene at the “spa”. Remember? Martha found a place to store her paring knife? In seeing this scene again after so many months, I was struck (no pun intended) with the absurdity of the whole thing. Of course, Martha was supposed to have been somewhat unbalanced, and Logan’s visit would be just the thing to rile her, but still, it was silly. Smart and Itzin seemed to think so too, but they still had fun reliving the scene. And they both agreed that coming back to do the show for a limited run was like just “eating one potato chip.”

All those involved were genuinely appreciative of each other’s talents. They gave especially high marks to Powers Boothe, Peter MacNicol, Kari Matchett and composer Sean Callery. Nearly everyone spoke of what a fantastic job he does of creating the right moods with his scoring. Callery himself was able to add his thoughts to the 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM hour, partnered with Adoni Maropis (Fayed).

Some of the other extras were more basic overviews of how extras (or ‘background talent’) are directed, or how props are categorized and stored. Take it or leave it type stuff. But there is a nice feature demonstrating all the set up for the opening hour’s Metro bus explosion and a “Look Inside the Writer’s Room” (pre-WGA strike, of course). And for more giggles, the DVD-ROM has the hidden feature of 24 Minutes: Jack Bauer on The Simpsons.

For those who typically don’t bother with commentary options on a DVD, give these a chance. It’s a real treat to get to know the person behind the character, music and story.

They were all clearly were having a lot of fun watching the show, and it was more than refreshing listening to them do what I have done every week during while 24 is running. Enjoying the hard work, and getting caught up in the drama and suspense, but giving it the irreverent once-over.

Friday, November 16, 2007

54 Questions I stole off The Duke, who Stole off Sinead

1. Where is your sister right now?
Sadly, she’s in Chestnut Hill Cemetery

2. Last place you kissed someone?
Last night, at his bedside. (Ok it was my son)

3. Name five things you did today?
Probably cursed. Made my coffee. Ate a muffin baked by my husband, a pumpkin/cream cheese/raisin affair. (not bad). Took a Shower. Went down the street to look for a job. (no, not really, but it seemed to flow)

4. Last person you text messaged?
I barely know how. I think it was my friend Marc. (no, not Sir Saleski)

8. What are you listening to?The wind blowing stuff around outside. And bits of Babyshambles Shotters Nation in my head, and at this very, very moment, The New York Dolls

10. Eye Color?
(But I will also leave in The Duke’s response, because it’s so funny “No colour worth ever writin a song about, that's for sure.”)

11. Has anyone told you they're in love with you?

Of course!
12. What color are your bedroom walls?
Boring white.

13. Do you have a chair in your room?
Yes, a largish green recliner and a small, daintier antique-ish rocking chair that’s a bit broken.

14. What are you doing tomorrow?
Probably disappointing someone.

15. What should you be doing right now?
Dinner is made, maybe I should clean off the table so we can eat.

18. Do you get along with your parents?
Since they too are at the aforementioned cemetery – I get along with them great. No… I got along with them fine when they were alive too. : )

19. Any pets?
Not at present. Our beloved cat Seeger died of very old age (nearly 19?) a couple years ago.
But just the other day Tom started to vigorously campaign for a ‘cat for Christmas’. Saints preserve us! Update: Two-Bit joined us in the summer of 2009. A great, great cat.

20. Favorite band?
That’s what my MySpace page is for.

21. Are you married/engaged?
20 years worth so far. : )

22. When was the last time you talked to one of your siblings?
A couple nights ago when I called and told him about Mike’s play

24. Do you play an instrument?
The same sibling, my brother Pat tried to teach me guitar. It didn’t go well, but I came away enriched with the opening chords of “Dueling Banjos” Y’all just know it as ‘that song from Deliverance’ and some little bit of CSN&Y. I do sing a little.

26. Are you allergic to anything?
I used to wear neoprene knee braces for karate, but I developed an allergy to the neoprene. Then I got fitted for fancy hinged things, that I rarely wore. And Percocet makes me itch.

32. Do you miss someone?
miss my mom now and then. She had a good sense of humor. I also miss our friend Kelly from karate. He took off for the Great White North over a year ago, and has nary been heard from since. he was a great guy – and he gave us free sparring lessons. RIP Kelly Stenstrum - long sad story. (Sept 2008)

33. Do you think they miss you too?
Could be.

34. How many credit cards do you have?
A few.

35. Have you ever wanted to be a teacher?Yes, somewhat. I did teach Sunday School for 3 years. I had the same kids from 3rd – 5th grade, and now they are high school juniors. They’ve turned out pretty good too. I also have taught karate to squirmy 1st – 4th graders. Oy!

(And again, I’ll also enclose the Duke’s response. Too precious not to share. “As a fall-back, yes. Like, if all else falls to shite, i can at least teach other folks , thereby passing on my mistakes and feeling secure in the knowledge that, with my help, at least THEY'LL all fuck up too.”)

36. What is one thing you've learned about life?
That we need to follow Ferris Bueller’s advice – stop and look around once in a while

37. Whats your favorite color?
Not one fav, tho I find myself attracted to certain shades of green, and certain shades of pink. And sometimes I could swoon over the perfect brown sweater – and other times only black will do.

38. Is anyone jealous of you?
I doubt that!

39. Ever been stuck in an elevator?
The elevators in my dorm were a little weird. They sometimes got stuck between floors.

(and here is Dukes’ answer “not yet, but im lookin forward to it, since if aersosmith are to be believed, im gon' be in for the right ol' huff n' grind.”)

40. What does your dad call you?
by my name.

42. What does you hair look like right now?
Right this very moment? It’s auburny with some foils (blond highlights). It also currently sits with gel in it, and it has a mild faux dred-lock look to it

45. What did you last eat?
Some of the corn chowder I made today. Not bad. : )(and another one from Aaron, The Duke “a lemon dipped in a tartar sauce. don't EVER ever give in to that temptation. no good awaits far side o' it, i assure you”).

46. Is your hair naturally curly or straight?
wavy, sometimes curly

. Who was the last person you drove with?
What is the point of this question? Like on a cross country road trip? Or like taking my youngest to the orthodontist?

49. What are you looking forward to?Cautiously looking forward to Christmas, if everything gets done. Especially looking forward to hearing words from the docs that Tom’s liver will be fine for the rest of his life. That’s a ways off tho. So far, so good - with the new liver from 5/2/10. Things are not easy though.

50. What's your biggest pet peeve?
Smug parents. People that talk at you, and not with you. People who DO NOT LISTEN.

51. Do you have any tattoos?
yes. Small red and black yin-yang, because it reminds me to always seek balance. Right next to it is some Japanese kanji that says Sho Dan. This was done specially to celebrate my rank of black belt (shodan). It sits about an inch or so below my right ear.

52. Any piercings?Yes, two ear lobe piercings as a teen. Then one extra lobe piercing in my right ear in college. Then ear cartilage piercing when I turned 41.

53. What do you want to be when you grow up?
Not a lot different from what I am now, just God-willing smarter, and with a whole lot more patience. And a firmer ass would be swell.

54. Obsessions?

Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar, certain songs and Grosse Point Blank.

Editor's Note:

And hey, what a coincidence, the editor is also the author, right, let's get on with it --- The above 54 questions are in reality quite a few less than 54. Don't know why. Never realized it till now.

Perhaps we'll call this 54 Brain Cells.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Although tonight’s Heroes did rip off from Mikael Hafstrom's 1408, it was pretty cool to see Matt and Nathan fighting their imaginary demons, when in reality they were beating the snot out of each other.

Wish I could pop on Bruce Lee and absorb the way Monica does.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

October Roundup

I really want to like Private Practice. I like the actors, and some of the story lines are interesting, but it’s trying way too hard to be the new hot show. As a spin-off of Grey’s Anatomy, the very successful ABC medical drama, Practice would appear to be poised to re-create some, if not all of that success. But it just ain’t happening. Is the soundtrack too calculated? Are the men too buff? Or maybe ABC’s marketing campaign is just entirely too much.

The organic flow of dialogue, plot and acting in Grey’s is not apparent in Private Practice. Not yet anyway. Prognosis: Guarded.


I do like Chuck and Journeyman (NBC). The former is fun and sweet, with one or two moments of believability. (It needs more, especially with the Chuck and Sarah thing) Journeyman is all right, but a little too depressing without anything all that redeeming. Trying to get my mind back around Heroes. I watched it quite faithfully at its inception last season – but must have put it aside when 24 began in January.

Speaking of Fox, only caught one or two eps of House so far. Still going strong.

This month, as Blender Magazine celebrates some of the worst, “40 Worst Lyricists Ever”(November, 2007) , and “Run for Your Life! It’s the Worst 50 Songs Ever!” (, they also give the nod to Babyshambles’ “Delivery”, from U.S. almost-here-release of Shotter’s Nation. (EMI/Astralwerks – October 23, 2007). Ranked in the Top 20 “Download This” section, Delivery, the untitled title track, is indeed fun poppy tune. Look for my full Shotter’s Nation review next week Blogcritics Magazine.

I don’t think I’ve been to the cinema at all this month. I’m trying to remember the last movie I saw on the big screen. It’ll come to me.

Saw a good part of Hot Fuzz over the long weekend. This flick has a lot going for it. I’d love to get on a good long jag over this, just don’t have the time. Watched A Scanner Darkly again. This too, deserves a special riff by Moi Such an interesting movie. But El Bicho shares his well-written take on it here.

Nikki Sixx’s bizarre, depressing and downright fascinating hard look at a year addicted to smack in Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star. (With Ian Gittins – Pocket Books, September 18, 2007). To balance the down and dirty screed on sex, drugs and Rock and Roll, I’m also reading Shopaholic & Baby, Sophie Kinsella’s fifth outing for Becky Bloomwood. Cool movie and book news is that Confessions of a Shopaholic is in pre-production. Himself, Jerry Bruckheimer will be producing the comedy, and Becky will be portrayed by Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers).


Zonks! Yes, you read right. I’m actually broaching the subject, albeit for the briefest of moments. Today is the special election for our representative from the Fifth Congressional District. I voted for Independent Patrick Murphy. There were strong emotional reasons to favor either Niki Tsongas or Jim Ogonowski but other than that – I couldn’t bring myself to go those routes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Meanest of Times: A Review

Dropkick Murphys – CD Review, The Meanest of Times
Born & Bred Records
Release Date – September 18, 2007

A couple years after the 2005 release of The Warrior Code, the Dropkick Murphys have left the comfort of their label Hellcat Records and have started their own imprint, Born & Bred Records. The Meanest of Times is the first project on Born & Bred, and it’s a helluva success.

One might wonder at the wisdom of leaving something that was obviously working well; two tracks from Warrior Code found their way into the hearts and soundtracks of some mighty big directors and their films. The Farrelly Brothers used “Tessie” in Fever Pitch and Martin Scorsese saw fit to add “Shipping up to Boston” to The Departed soundtrack.

And here’s an open plea to Darren Aronofsky, director of The Fighter, the boxing flick about “Irish” Micky Ward that is currently in production. Keep the lovely synchronicities going here – the title track Warrior Code was written about Ward. And you’ve got the cool combo of Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg who were last together in The Departed. And the movie is based, not in Boston, but just about 30 minutes north, in Lowell. Come on man, do I have to spell it out for you?

But on to The Meanest of Times.

There is something about Dropkick Murphys’ brand of Celtic craziness that gives us the best kind of punk paradox. The in-your-face attitude and relentless tempo – sometimes peppy, sometimes frantic – coupled with lyrics that not only speak of anger, mischief, whiskey and death, but of heartbreak and God, home and hearth, and family, with all its inherent love and pain.

Of course, many of these Times offerings speak to the Irish diaspora, especially the Murphys’ childhood Boston years. DKM front man Al Barr says, “…it’s about redemption. It’s about coming up in the world and the way it shapes you. It’s about not taking your family and friends for granted and living in the moment.” Bassist Ken Casey adds, “Growing up, I saw my share of hard times...I think a lot of us did. But looking back on it, I wouldn’t trade them for anything, because those hard times made us all who we are today.”

Several tracks are anthemic, the sort of sound that will surely produce foot stomping, fist pounding and the rowdy sing-along. “State of Massachusetts” begins with a pretty banjo riff by Tim Brennan, but shortly launches into an unapologetic look at the realities of life: “…the poison stole your babies/the judges took your rights/you can have your children/or the night.”

“Vices and Virtues”, another hard driving tune, would sound fun, if it were played on a karaoke machine sans lyrics. But you start to hear the story of “four brothers in the ground” – the effect is jarring: “ …He froze in a South End alley/Behind a gin mill left to die/and another died by the bullet/at the hand’s of a sniper’s gun/in the valley of Nha-Trang for a/war we never won…”

Other tracks on Times are the Murphys’ re-worked versions of traditional Irish tunes. “(F)Lannigan’s Ball” is a special one, particularly because this recording was graced with Spider Spacey from The Pogues and Ronnie Drew from The Dubliners. “Fairmount Hill”, a typical Boston barroom ballad, is an adaptation of Michael Considine’s “Spancil Hill”, but with an updated arrangement and lyrics.

But what gives this album its deepest flavor are the original works like “Rude Awakenings.” The melody line is grim and deliberate and the tempo is quite slow on the first few verses of this song about ‘the morning after’. But when the beat speeds up, it makes the words even more profound: “I pulled on my clothes still half in a dream/as I struggled with my conscience & a multi-directional stream/…I buried my loneliness with her for the night/then left with new symptoms no anti-depressant could cure.”

My only complaint of this CD would be that there are not enough of Scruffy Wallace’s pipes. A girl with the maiden name of O’Dougherty does have a hankering for those sorts of Celtic trappings, luckily for me the tin whistle, accordion and mandolin do find their way throughout the album, along with the earthy vocals. And overall the songwriting is exceptional, the lyric examples given here so far are just a glimpse at the genius of The Meanest of Times.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My Boys will Return for Season Two

Previously Posted on

On September 10th, TBS broadcast the hour-long season finale for the superb comedy My Boys, and on the 11th Variety reported that the show will return for a Season Two. Excellent news, this. We didn’t realize that Season One had been divided into two parts; the pilot and subsequent 13 episodes aired in November and December of 2006, and the remaining nine episodes aired in from July to September 2007.

The Boys’ appeal comes’ from the best places – the writing, directing and acting all combine to produce a witty, yet unassuming show. The finale was a perfect example; while listening to P.J. and Stephanie discuss last minute Italy trip details, Andy suggested that they all spend a special day right at home in Chicago seeing the sights, “like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

With that mentality in mind, the day included a stop at the Art Institute of Chicago. Interestingly, instead of stopping to ponder Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the gang checks out a different impressionist’s work, Paris Street, Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte. It was a nice reference to the John Hughes film without trying too hard. Of course, when Andy later manages to commandeer a tour bus in order to sing Danke Schoen to Brendan – there’s not a lot of subtlety there – but it’s still great comedy.

Also, in a genius bit of un-credited casting, the episode “D-Bag in the City” had the fantastic Ryan Reynolds (Amityville Horror, Van Wilder, Blade: Trinity) playing the part of “Hams”, Brendan’s new friend that brings out all his nasty “douchey-ness”. The “D-Bag” episode also went for an obvious gag; a subplot parody of Sex and the City. P.J.’s old college friend arrived from New York with a mini entourage of women folk who all seemed like Quantum Leap-alternative dimension versions of Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte and Carrie. (Read – quite scary)

The only problem fans now have is the “who shot J.R.?” type conundrum as Season One ended with the “who did P.J. bring to Italy?” cliffhanger. Fan forums and message boards are filling up with guesses and conjecture. I’m picking Thorn, he probably had the money for the first class upgrade, and he and P.J. have the strongest emotional history, with the exception of Brendan – but ‘Brando’ lacks the funds and the emotional wherewithal to handle it. So, I and many, many fans will be awaiting the answer come Season Two. See you at Crowley’s!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Power Play by Joe Finder
St. Martin's Press
New York, NY
Release Date: August 21, 2007

What happens when a group of executives set for a weekend off-site meeting are suddenly trapped in a remote hunting lodge in the wilds of British Columbia? No cell phones, laptops or Blackberrys to be had. Guns have been fired and blood has spilled and this is just barely after dinner on the first night. The fleeting promise of team-building exercises is laughable in the face of this new danger.

Hammond Aerospace, a powerhouse of an aircraft company, holds an annual off-site retreat for its highest level executives. This year, a few changes are already in place, the new CEO is not only someone from outside the corporation, it’s a woman. This doesn’t sit well with the mostly misogynistic executive team. And on the day of departure, there’s a last minute substitution. Jake Landry, the chief assistant to one of Hammond’s executive VPs, is asked to go place of his boss. Jake is not thrilled to be on the trip, and things take an even stranger turn when he finds that his ex-girlfriend Ali now reports directly to Cheryl Tobin, the CEO, and that Ali has come along on the trip.

Debuting on the New York Times Bestseller list at number seven, Power Play is probably the fastest moving and darkest of Finder’s novels to date. Although his other well received corporate-set stories employ the use of a ‘bad guy’; Power Play’s antagonists are as nasty as they come. And the hero, Jake Landry, has past that isn’t exactly neat and tidy. As a matter of fact, when Finder gives us glimpses of Jake’s time spent a juvenile detention facility, the effect is disturbing:

He showed me his bloodstained undershorts, told me that Glover, the chief guard on D Unit, was coming into his room at night. He’d switch off the surveillance camera and do things to him that he couldn’t talk about.

The use of these flashbacks gives an eerie but effective balance to the narrative. And overall, I was left with the feeling that this story will translate extremely well to film. Was it written expressly with that conclusion in mind? Finder has said that he knows some of his books would make terrific movies, but that’s not why he writes them. He feels that if someone writes a novel expressly for film, it’s already lacking something from the start. And the film-making industry is fickle – they may pass on a fantastic project or they purchase rights, but end up not making the movie.

But Finder has had his work hit the big screen; High Crimes (James Caviezel, Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd) was released by 20th Century Fox in 2002. In 2004, Paranoia was sold to producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura as a project for Paramount studios. But as things sometimes go in Hollywood, it was shelved due to changes in studio hierarchy.

In the vein of Firewall and Inside Man, the tensely paced Power Play is truly a story that you’ll be compelled to finish in one sitting.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Sky Blues

Break Up Music -

“In My Dreams” – The Sky Blues (now known as Bird Mancini)

This hidden gem is smack in the middle of a great blues CD, Blues from the Hub (Boston Blues Society, 2001). It’s a blatantly sexy song, and if you let it, it’ll evoke the dark smoky jazz club with the sultry and sage torch singer performing for one bartender and one lone patron. Yeah, that one bar-fly who keeps putting bills in the smudged glass bowl sitting at the edge of the stage. That one sad man, who has dulled the ice cold stabs of a broken heart with the heat of bourbon and the voice of Ruby Bird.

Or maybe it’s a couple – finding relief and release with each other, their inhibitions sent packing by this powerhouse of a song.

Either way, it’s fantastic.

Smoke 'em if You Got 'em (But Seriously, You Should Quit)

In the news a while back was a story how Massachusetts might join other states in legislating a ban against smoking in private vehicles – specifically vehicles that have car seat age children riding in them. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Those little lungs need cleaner air, and I’m all for that.

So, why did this information give me a strange creepy feeling?

I’m not a smoker. I did smoke when I was in my late teens and early twenties, luckily I stopped. I don’t like being around smoke, it gives me more than a strange creepy feeling, it makes me sick. And I know children fare much worse when exposed to second hand smoke.

But this idea of government coming that much closer to controlling our actions – is extremely unsettling to me. Strange, I didn’t mind the seatbelt law, it made sense. And obviously cutting down kids’ exposure to nasty smoke makes lots and lots of sense – yet I wonder if we’re that much closer to the fictional world inhabited by the likes of Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, and Sylvester Stallone, (1993’s Demolition Man) where we’ll start getting demerits for cursing.

I’m not a Libertarian, I’m not much of anything – I tend to vote candidate rather than party. But I feel queasy at the idea of closer and closer surveillance into what we think is our personal lives
Go ahead and laugh right now, for here comes my naiveté – Why can’t cigarettes themselves be outlawed?

I am serious.

They serve no good purpose, none. Other vices have either some merit, or are less harmful. Alcohol, gambling, pot, even prostitution could be argued to allowable or legalized in certain circumstances. Firearms too, well – they can be used for target practice – right?

But why are smokes still legal? Why does our federal legislature continue to cave to the unholy tobacco lobbyists?

Anyway, questions to ponder, yes?


My computer taunts me. You think I’m paranoid? Come watch while I play Spider Solitaire. I realize I’m not winning and am ready to bag it all and start fresh. Computer though, has another idea. “Are you sure you want to start a new game?” it queries. “Hell yeah”, I answer. Yes, I’m aggravated at the computer. Admittedly, perhaps I’m just a wee bit defensive, I’m thinking the computer is calling me a lazy wimp. Anyway, I’m sure I’m not alone in my paranoia.

Somewhere along the way, we let our machines get too big a piece of the pie. Now we find ourselves paying homage to the Hard Drive, bowing to the Bandwidth, and placating our PDA’s. We sweat (no pun intended) over climate control for our CPU’s. We insure our mobiles are charged up religiously. Our refrigerators are so smart; they are one step away from making the perfect martini. And television can pause live programming? Crikey!

Ah, television. I do so love my nice large screen High Definition set, but it is really still a reminder of our dependence on advanced technology. I think it was the five remotes that sent me over the edge. Five remote controls all lined up at the ready, like soldiers in a high tech war. Now, my husband will argue that we really need just one. As soon as he programs the Onkyo remote to control all the other soldiers, ah - I mean remotes, and then it will be a beautiful thing. Will that make Onkyo like George Patton?

I will not, absolutely not, deny the pleasure that technology has wrought for me, and the world. I am kind of jazzed that my cell phone has a GPS function, and my new dishwasher is ever so quiet. Online shopping, remote vehicle starting, optic fiber and the Segway are innovations that are bringing more good than bad into our lives.

What about the Bad? The stuff of which movies are made and jail terms served? Ever see Enemy of the State? Talk about paranoia! How about I Robot? Yes - I know - Will Smith was in both. You know what they say though, truth is stranger than fiction. There are some very real things going on in the world of science and technology that are both fascinating and chilling. I plan on making my way into the Brave New World, but will I VeriChip? More importantly, will I have a choice?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Just Because We Can, Does that Mean We Should?

Many of us are writers. Some of us have our work formally edited, and at the very least we edit ourselves. How many times have we realized or been told that a word, a phrase, or a whole paragraph just has to be cut out? It hurts, doesn’t it? Sometimes we feel like greedy children (who seem to live by the opposite of the credo, “less is more”). No, we want – we need that pretty word, that perfect analogy. But luckily common sense or editorial vision tells us that things are better without the side bar story – you know, the one with grandma’s wart removal technique.

But whether its warts or excess verbiage, some things do need to be cut out. I’ve been training in Kenpo karate for nine or ten years now. What I’ve learned could be easily fit in a tea cup, and what I’ve forgotten, or not quite grasped, could fill a freight car. But a few things have stuck, and one little nugget is why do more than you need to? I remember one time a few years back I was working some technique that involved a kick to the opponent’s body. Now that in itself is not too difficult, although I was in my 40s, and had bad knees and a questionable spine. But this particular class I was feeling good and spunky, and was attempting kicks at my opponents head. My sensei took one look and promptly questioned me, “Why are you kicking so high?” And since I was feeling like I was Bruce Lee or Cynthia Rothrock, I replied, “Because I can!”

Uh – no. That’s not what he said, but that was the meaning. His first concern was that I’d injure myself, he knew my limitations. But mainly he saw cockiness and excess, neither of which have a place in the dojo. The martial arts are all about humility, a lesson that doesn’t always sink in with enthusiastic students. Also, the arts, generally speaking, work with economy of motion. Kenpo in particular, is a fairly hard (as in impact, not necessarily difficulty), direct, spare style. There are not as many flourishes as in certain Kung Fu systems, or high kicks as in Tae Kwon Do. My fancy kicks were an unnecessary flourish.

But if arrogance in karate training were the only problem I – or the world – ever faced, no big deal. Unfortunately, there’s much more overindulgence and overkill in life, and I just don’t get why.

Hummers – for a fine example of glut – I am trying real hard to find the redeeming quality in a Hummer purchase. I did read somewhere that there’s a Red Cross program that certifies Hummer drivers to respond to disaster situations, as the vehicle is well suited for nasty off road driving. Which is pretty cool, truly. But the amount of Hummer owners that are actually certified through the HOPE program, is quite a small percentage compared to the rest of the owners. And really they do look silly circumnavigating a mall parking lot.

So, along with these superfluous behemoths on wheels, there are other things that come under this category:

Breast implants. Unless perhaps the person needs reconstruction as a result of disease or injury, why bother?

Price gouging at the gas pumps. Sure, kick the little guy while he’s down and out. (Even the Hummer owners). This is all about greed.

RFID implants on humans. There’s a lot of controversy here, and I can see the rationale behind the advancement of this technology – but still, do we really, really need this?

All I can do is close with the caveat last mentioned in Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Social Conscience

For some time now, a word has been floating in and out of my awareness. A word like Alzheimer's, Hiroshima, sarcoma, or September 11th. A word grown heavier over time with the weight of tragedy or just plain bad news.

It's Darfur.

Ah, there's she's said it. Add another one to the heaving bandwagon of concerned citizens who have just unwrapped their brand spankin' new social conscience. There's gotta be a wristband for this, right? A magnetic ribbon?

No, it's not really like that. I'm not trying to be a do-gooder poseur. But enough about my intentions, that's not going to help anyone in need right now. This was all just build up to an thoughtful piece by Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly. And with a mighty flourish I was all set to include a live link to his May 14th article. But no. I cannot produce one, so I can do this instead.

This is a link to Rabbi Brant Rosen's blog, Shalom Rev. There he links to the Reilly article.

They say it better than I ever could.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Unexplained Absences

Meaning my own. So, here's the explanation. Not that you need any explanation - as a matter of fact - it's none of your damn business!

Ah, you think I could or would just leave it at that? No, I'm a little too neurotic.

So, here's the thing. My son graduated High School!


So, that involved all kinds of this and that - not to mention Prom the week before, picking up tux, dropping off tux, parties, cakes, and on and on.

And my sixth grader has his own "Moving On" ceremony next week, as he leaves a terrific school, The Englesby Intermediate - and prepares for Jr. High next fall.

So, life has been piling stuff on, a bit relentlessly for my liking, but I'm trying to persevere. I was lucky to have a great breakfast with my good friend Judy this morning at Brew'd Awakenings Coffeehaus.

In other news, I've been working on a review of the Matrix Ultimate Collection in HD.

It's quite a lovely set, but there's so much to go through, it's easy to be overwhelmed. Here is an excerpt of the forthcoming article:

When Morpheus tells Neo that the Matrix is “the world pulled over our eyes”, he could very well be describing the movie itself. The entity that the Matrix Trilogy has evolved into is not a fraudulent cover up however. It is a world that an eager audience has willingly drawn down and around them, the mantle of questions, of enlightenment, the shroud of a thought experiment of vast scale.

So, speaking of all things Matrix, I must be off and working again.

Later ----

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Simpsons to Spoof 24

Sunday night, May 20th, The Simpsons will air their 400th and season finale episode. Called “24 Minutes”, this event will be done in 24 style complete with multi frames and nerve-wracking ticking. Guest stars Kiefer Sutherland and Mary Lynn Rajskub will play their Monday night alter egos, Jack Bauer and Chloe O’Brian.

Seems like Springfield Elementary has set up a CTU of its own. Yes the educational Mecca of Springfield for lo these last 18 seasons now runs a Counter Truancy Unit, manned by CTU agents Bart and Lisa Simpson. Set up by Principal Skinner, the CTU faces uncertain times as rumors of a stink bomb to be detonated during a school bake sale has everyone on edge. Or, as “on-edge” as a cartoon character could be.

Now, Jack and Chloe will just play themselves; but naturally, one might guess which CTU staffer, White House worker, or Terrorist du jour would be portrayed by the rest of the happy Springfield town folk. Though I doubt they’ll go that route, it’s a fun idea to play with – so here are some of my offerings:

Jack Bauer --- Bart Simpson
Chloe O’Brian --- Lisa Simpson
Vice President Daniels --- Chief Wiggum
Tom Lennox --- Waylon Smithers
President Wayne --- PalmerCarl Carlson
Bill Buchanan --- Principal Seymour Skinner
Karen Hayes --- Edna Krabappel
Terri Bauer --- Maude Flanders
Kim Bauer --- Christian Charity
Phillip Bauer --- Montgomery Burns
Graem Bauer --- Krusty the Clown
Josh Bauer --- Milhouse Van Houten
Mike Doyle --- Groundskeeper Willy
Milo Pressman --- Apu Nahasapeemapetilon
Morris O’Brian --- Dr. Julius Hibbert
Edgar Stiles --- Comic Book Guy
Cheng Zhi --- The Great Humungous
Any Fox News Reporter --- Kent Brockman
Nina Meyers --- Patty Bouvier
TAC Team --- Rod and Tod Flanders
Audrey Raines --- Marge Simpson
Erin Driscoll --- Judge Constance Harm
Ex President Logan --- Sideshow Bob
Former Sec-Def Heller --- Mayor Quimby
Assorted Goons & Hostiles --- Kang and Kodos

These pairings could be rearranged all sorts of ways, what would your ideal portrayals be? And while you are mentally re-writing the scripts for both 24 and The Simpsons, don’t forget to tune in to Fox on the 20th to see how it all goes down.

Friday, May 04, 2007

XKCD Comics

There's this quite clever gent named Randall Munroe that does these wonderful and bizarre comics. This one makes me laugh, it has a bit of the same sort of zen sensibility as the AT&T / Steve Colbert video.

And actually, they all make me laugh.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Little Jack?

Fellow BC-er and 24 fan, Vic Lana just sent this to me.

Thanks Vic, a good laugh!

A Simpsons Sky

Yesterday, and the day before – the sky has looked EXACTLY like the blue colored, puffy clouded rendering in The Simpsons opening credits. It’s so strange to look out and see the thick cotton sky-shapes and not hear the happy theme song that has brightened many a Sunday night.

Which reminds me:

Woo Hoo!!

AT&T History

This is timely, given the recent frustrations with my tax filings. Plus, gotta love that Terminator synchronicity

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Though I’m struck with the beauty of the younger Arnold and Robert Patrick, how tight and fresh they look; something else needs to be addressed. Why would the future John Connor send back a cybernetic organism to Southern California – with an Austrian accent? Why not Chicano?

OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s just have fun with random T-2 observations
Love the T 1000 masquerading as a housewife with that mimetic polyalloy arm. Never drink from the carton again! Brilliant too is when T 1000 just comes out of that floor at the Pescadero State Hospital, that checkerboard linoleum suddenly rippling and forming into something unholy. A beautiful bit of filming -lovely!

How about when Sarah clobbers the face-licking orderly with a broken mop handle turned huge shank/tonfa. Nice! Then she exchanges it for a the orderly’s real tonfa and she’s set to go. Yeah, about Sarah, she’s a different girl this time out. She’s buff and paranoid. Don’t much care for that too long fringe of bangs over her eyes, but yet it fits. She can’t really looked too coiffed in the nuthouse!

You forget how good something is like the scene when Sarah confronts her nemesis The Terminator. When the elevator doors open, her terror evident in her skidding on the floor all nice and slo-mo.
And of course, Robert Patrick as T 1000 – his movements; spare and single-minded, usually in pursuit of Sarah and young John. Good, good stuff.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Music Delivery

Another Hot Topic for discussion at The Mondo Project - involves our chosen method of music delivery. Below was my unabridged contribution:

Ah, I don’t have any one special preference of my music listening experience. Vinyl is out, for no more reason than our turntable just stopped working, and with the advent of the CD, there seemed no reason to resurrect the process of listening to a vinyl recording.

Now, the CD is all purpose, it’s fairly transportable and the quality is fine – that is until it gets scratched. Then you have to endure the disdain of anyone else in your listening area. Typically what happens to me is that I’m driving along, windows down, and whatever CD in question moves to a beloved track, for example “Run Like Hell” from Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Of course, I raise the volume and hit the accelerator simultaneously.

Then either one of two things happen; I have to screech to a sudden halt at a traffic light, and the CD decides to stat skipping. Heads swivel in my direction, and I pretend to find something important in the backseat. OR – as I’m driving along merrily, red and blue lights flash behind me, I am pulled over, and as the officer approaches à la Robert Patrick’s motorcycle cop in Terminator 2, the bloody CD skips all over the place. At that point, I wish I were terminated.

But I am also delighting in the absolute special kind of internalized joy and musical fidelity that is provided by wearing headphones. I was just commenting to Sir Saleski recently that music, especially when delivered by headphones is so friggin motivating! This works by either plugging headphones right into the computer, or by carrying the music with me. Now of course, wandering around the house carrying my laptop and cleaning is just a mite unwieldy, so that’s where the mp3 player comes into the picture.

And how can someone NOT want to scrub their toilets just a bit brighter when hearing Mahalia Jackson’s “Didn’t it Rain” or for that matter, Lily Allen pondering the sights and sounds of London as only she can in her Pop/Ska offering “LDN”. I mean, seriously! And I swear to God that I wouldn’t have trained so hard for my black belt if it weren’t for Greenday’s “Brain Stew”, or Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “The Impression that I Get” queued up on my little Rio Nitrus.

But one of my favorite ways to hear music is at an outdoor concert, on a perfect sunny 78 degree day. The sound system may not reproduce the music as well as those methods I just spoke of, but there’s something about this setting that raises the endorphins sky high.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Lost Words

It’s a shame when I as an artist start to resent all and everything around me. It sucks when I am blessed with the nub of an idea, but the opportunity to expand on that idea is wiped away. It’s more then frustration – for me, its grief.

I had so loved that idea that developed in the shower, while driving to the grocery store or helping with homework. I could see it develop in my mind’s eye, like a time-lapse film that shows the transformation from seedling to flower blossom. And I get excited and hurry through the rest of the task, itching to sit down and work through whatever beauty of a concept or anecdote that I had just conceived.

But something stops me. It doesn’t matter what that thing is; it could be a child’s request or a phone call. No, it doesn’t matter what blocked my path to creative Nirvana, something else grows inside me: resentment. I am losing an idea, again. I feel like an emergency room doctor in the most disease ridden, or war-savaged location on earth. A doctor who has seen too much loss, who feels like “time of death” is part of her vocabulary way more then something like, “and now you can have ice cream, and go home tomorrow.”

And just like our doctor’s frustration with lack of resources, political climate or corrupt governments, I am discouraged by lack of time, respect and privacy. Discouraged and saddened because those oh so pretty words that formed in my head hours ago are missing. Oh sure, if I got that one good idea, chances are I’ll come up with another one. And I do! But I still hold a little empty place in my heart for that sweet turn of phrase that spent only the briefest of moments alive in my right brain.

Time of Birth: 11:46 AM
Time of Death: 11: 52 AM

Monday, April 16, 2007

Some musings from my friends and I over at The Mondo Project on the state of the Sitcom.

Winds Over Boston

We’re in the middle of a Nor’easter here in New England. It also happens to coincide with the annual running of the Boston Marathon. In the past, the race would start at 12:00 noon, from Hopkinton, MA and continue on the 26 miles into downtown Boston.
Pictured is the Women's Wheelchair winner, Wakako Tsuchida of Japan.

Right now there are reported 50 mph winds blowing around the Copley Square finish line area. I’m not sure how strong the winds are around here, but over night a neighbor’s very large (35 – 40 feet) evergreen was brought down. Luckily it fell in the direction of no houses or power lines.

I know all the talk of flood warnings makes everyone around here shiver, and not from the high winds. Last year we had the horrible Mother’s Day floods and personally I’ve never seen anything like that. Not even hurricanes Gloria and Bob seemed to bring that much destruction. I’ll never forget driving by someone’s flooded house, and even at night, you could see the water in their basement was at least 3/4 of the way up the foundation. The mighty Merrimack River welled up and over its banks, and flooded the boulevards on either side.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Jack Bauer and Ari Gold

Can you dig this? In some version of reality (and reality is used loosely), I see a beautiful pairing of these two kick-ass kinda dudes. Now, their educations and skill sets are quite different. Jack has extensive training in weapons and hostage negotiations; he went to SWAT school for crying out loud! He does have a Masters in Criminology and Law, but his book learning is more than supplemented by time spent in the Army Special Forces.

Ari on the other hand benefits from the special kind of combat training that is unique to Hollywood; feeding the hungry press, dancing with impatient studios, and cultivating actors. Interestingly though, along with his MBA from the University of Michigan, according to, he picked up a nice little JD. Somehow this makes sense.

They are both direct, brutally so. They say what needs to be said, although Jack delivers much less BS than Ari. And since Entourage airs on HBO, Ari and the rest of the boys can fling the f*cks, sh*ts…well mostly it’s the f*cks…and get away with it. In style, I might add especially in Ari’s case. To borrow from A Christmas Story, he can work “in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay.”

A sampling courtesy of IMDb:

“Is that the way they drive in Tiananmen Square, bitch?”

“The next one after "Queens Boulevard" is a studio picture: I'm talking franchise, baby. We'll get you the lunchbox. And an action figure with a monster cock.”

“You can have it if you want to live in Agora fucking hills, and go to group therapy, but if you want a Beverly Hills mansion, a country club membership, and nine weeks a year in a Tuscan villa, then I'm gonna need to take a call when it comes in at noon on a motherfucking Wednesday.”

Although Jack Bauer is constrained by the sensibilities of network programming, he therefore must resort to more violence than swearing. He may only be able to say “damn”, but he’s quite gifted with sticks, stones, and breakin’ bones. Though Ari may talk about cutting off someone’s Matzoh balls, you’re pretty sure that Jack would actually do it.

They don’t dress the alike, although Jack cuts a fine figure in a proper suit, he tends to do his best work in Levis and a hoodie. Mr. Gold dresses beautifully; surely he’ll keep Mr. Blackwell at bay. But they accessorize the same; they both favor the Treo 650 mobile.

Mostly what they have in common; is a lot of brains, never enough time, and the ability to make snap decisions without a lot of fuss. Probably what’s the most crucial shared trait is a sheer force of nature that can tame terrorists, Washington and Hollywood bureaucrats, and all the office assistants in Southern California.

This is the Power Couple of the new Millennium.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The other day I was searching through TicketMaster, hoping to find some interesting shows coming up. I ended up on some national pages, so I was viewing venues across the country, and their offerings. It took a minute, but I eventually noticed that the theaters, arenas, and other centers all looked way too…too, oh what’s the word – stupid.

U.S. Airways Center? American Airlines? Continental? Are these bloody airports or entertainment venues? How about the Allstate and Nationwide Arenas? Sure, it’s a sign of the times, commerce, capitalism; all those things that make the world go ‘round, I Get That. But surely there has to be a line drawn somewhere?

Seeing these names, Verizon, Xcel, RBC, 1st Mariner, and Dunkin Donuts? – I am left feeling as I just consumed too many donuts and washed them down with sugary Pepsi (yet another center in Denver). I feel ill and a victim of over consumption. Just who the consumer is – is unclear.

Here in New England, two of our major sports centers were totally rebuilt, and renamed. It took a long time to get used to changing the name of The Boston Garden to the Fleet Center. But Bostonians got used to it eventually; having a large center named after a bank wasn’t that bad. And we got used to Gillette Stadium replacing Foxboro, (even though the stadium was still in Foxboro). But although Fenway Park could use some refurbishing, I can’t imagine the uproar in on Lansdowne Street if that piece of history was renamed.

As I continued my perusal of TicketMaster’s offerings, it was refreshing to see familiar names such as Dodger, Giants and Dolphins Stadiums still surviving. But McAfee Coliseum? Is this for real? Oh sure, they still call it “The Coliseum”, and ignore the McAfee, (or previously Network Associates Coliseum – which they just called “the Net”), but what was wrong with the original Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum for a name, besides being a little unwieldy, it made sense, for crying out loud.

A few years back, I wrote this piece on professional sports and renaming rights as part of a larger chapter on sports in the U.S.

“In the “old days” athletes might indeed stay on a team for the length of their career, much like in any employment situation of the same era - you stayed with your company until retirement. Things changed though. A new reality surfaced and many fans wondered if the ‘bottom line’ was becoming more important than the goal line. The last few decades in sports have seen players signing contracts worth millions of dollars, huge ticket increases, labor strikes, and corporate marketing that seemed to jeopardize what sports used to mean.

Gone were the days of The Boston Garden, Candlestick Park and Jack Murphy Stadium. Those revered old institutions were replaced with The Fleet Center, 3Com Park, and Qualcomm Stadium. True, these older ballparks or arenas were aging and not as structurally sound as they used to be. But what these and many other cities gained in new shiny new stadiums, they also gained in corporate labeling.

Re-naming rights were a bitter pill for fans to swallow. They sometimes fought back however, like the citizens of Denver, CO., to stop the renaming of their much-loved “Mile High Stadium” to “Invesco Field at Mile High”. Though the name was eventually changed to Invesco, even the Denver Post newspaper had stated reluctance to use it in their sports reporting.

In more recent years though, those cash-rich companies started to fade, as the expenditures of owning sports stadiums wreaked havoc on balance sheets. The Walt Disney Co. who - in their search for the elusive business synergy - had purchased both the Angels baseball team, and established the NHL’s Mighty Ducks. Hoping for tie-ins from merchandising and film projects, Disney’s plan lasted about five years. Since revenues did not meet expectations, they have now since sold the Angels to an Arizona businessman for the bargain price of $183.5 million and would like to sell the Ducks as well.

The sale of the Angels illustrates a change in the business of professional sports. As corporations not only had to answer to fans, players and coaches, they also had to answer to shareholders. Recently both business and sports analysts have reported on the trend of teams returning to family ownership. This makes American fans happier, enforcing what they love so much about sports.”

I fear most times I am the simpleton, not fully aware of the ways of the world, not savvy about sustainable competitive advantages, aware of aggressive advertising strategies or a brainiac about branding. But I’ve learned a thing or two about greed and avarice.

Corporate renaming of all these big beautiful venues smacks of both.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Goodbye D.J.: Former Celtics Guard Dead at 52

I heard the news last night, one of those moments that bring instant nostalgia mixed with sadness.

Dennis “D.J.”, Johnson, dead at the so very young age of 52.

Now, many are more qualified to write about his stats as player and coach, but I know as a Boston Celtics fan from the ruling days of the mid 1980s, I am just as qualified to write about what #3 meant to me and the rest of the NBA. You see there was this extraordinary group of players, way back then, who worked parquet chemistry that has rarely been replicated since.

I never followed professional sports much before or after those glory days, but to me the band of brothers known as Ainge, D.J., The Chief, McHale, Bird; these men absolutely defined ‘Dream Team’, even before the ’92 Olympics. And now the dream has been diminished as if there was a funky rift in a sports version of the space-time continuum.

Of course, Dennis Johnson was not a cancer researcher or on his way to be canonized for selfless work in the name of humanity, he was just an average guy from Compton, but he developed into an outstanding ball player, an outstanding team player. One of the best moments of Celtics lore (and memorably called by the iconic Johnny Most) was during game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals. Larry Bird stole a pass from the Detroit Pistons’ Isiah Thomas and whipped it to DJ, who laid the ball in the net for a one point lead in the final seconds of the game.

“…Oh MY, this place is going crazy…”

I remember that moment so vividly – but now the overall image of those days has just had a significant piece ripped away.

Dennis Johnson leaves his wife Donna; and three children Dwayne, Daniel and Denise.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Cancellation of The OC: Ryan, I hardly Knew Ye

Yeah, there was this show, not sure what network – but it sure generated some buzz among generation – what is now, Y? Z? OK, anyway, the kids liked it. Being the sort of person who at least pretends to be up on all things current, I had an inkling, a whisper, a gauzy bit of cognizance that this was some new show, starring some young hot things, and that sort of handsome guy with the eyebrows, Peter Gallagher. Mischa Barton was another name that floating in and out of my awareness, either for her achievements in being thinner than an 8 ½ by 11 sheet of copy paper or for the fetching purse she carried to some happening Hollywood fête. Other than that, I paid little attention to the show.

Now I hear it’s being canceled, and strangely the news gives me a little pang.

Why? I won’t exactly miss it. Now, please don’t get up in arms about this statement. I barely watched it – so I can really not miss something I didn’t see. And, it should be made clear at this juncture that I had no pretensions or snobbish intent. I wasn’t above watching it – I just didn’t feel I should make time for too many extra shows. I already have a few favorites that I feel I have already ‘committed to’ and it’d just be a bit too much to add one more show to my schedule.

But here’s the thing, one night a week or two ago, I watched nearly a whole episode. It was especially freaky, because two of the characters were yakking about alternative universes, or something equally nutty. I kept checking the ‘info’ button on my remote control. Yes, this was The O.C. No, this wasn’t Charmed. Nor was this an old episode of Sliders, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Quantum Leap where those kinds of popping in and out of ‘multiverse’ situations are common occurrences. And it certainly wasn’t The One with the wonderful Jet Li and the delicious Jason Stratham.

So, there were those two young-uns, typical privileged California types carrying on as if they were stuck in one of the above-mentioned Sci-Fi classics. Not that I minded either way, just trying to get my bearings. Thankfully, because of a much needed scene change, I realized that these two kids were actually lying in hospital beds, each in some state of coma type non-awareness.


Hey, this was neat, if not a little – or a lot – contrived. I knew that because of the extra monkey wrench of the whole parallel world deal that I may not actually figure out who was who, or why they cared or hated one another. But in that short 40 minutes or so, I found that I actually had begun to care about those bright shiny kids and their parents and assorted other peeps, alternative or not.

So, though I’m not greatly saddened by the cancellation, I’m hoping that some version of The O.C. will live on in television’s answer to the multiverse – the re-run.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Half Time Show:


Or should I say, Austin Powers. Though I thought it was a pretty good show, and "Purple Rain" was pretty cool with actual rain - the whole phallic symbol guitar playing behind the scrim sheet thing - was preettty damn phallic. Who knows if it was intentional, and suggestiveness aside it was an interesting effect.

The glow-stick marching band was a nice touch too.

Coke is having some kick-ass commercials. Career Builder dot com's new campaign is good as well. Very funny.

First thoughts.

Didn't like the pre-game show. Not sure why. Had definite strong points. Colorful (though the color combination grated on me.) Cirque du Soleil - looks good on paper. But I was not impressed. What was wrong? I'll have to work on this.

Commercials though, looking good. Even that Ford pick up one. Especially that one. Visually tight and intiguing.

Friday, February 02, 2007

File this under: Didn’t See That Coming.

This hasn’t been the best week. At all. I feel as if I’ve had a few of these lately, but this week had some totally new challenges. Yes, I guess we can call them that. No need to elaborate on everything now, but let’s say that self confidence has been sizably compromised of late.

Now, what I want to relay next is something I debated about posting. I really am not fond of confrontation and fights and I don’t see the need to make a big who-ha out of this. Seriously. Yet something about this whole thing makes me angervated. (This being a ‘sniglet’ I came up with on my own. A mutation of ‘anger’ and ‘aggravated’. When you’re not full on angry, but you’re more than aggravated.) I guess throw in a mix of frustration, embarrassment, and a healthy pinch of sadness.

Anyway, one day this week I had to pick up a sick child at school. This pick up was coincidently at the regular dismissal time. My son was feeling nauseous, and didn’t want to take the bus home for fear of the big public upchuck. Never a cool thing at any age. As was discussed with the school nurse, I would drive to a particular section of the parking lot, and meet my child there. OK that’s fine. I drive to school, and as I’m pulling into the parking lot, I see parents outside their vehicles, waiting for their children to be dismissed.

Now, the thing is, this ‘parent pick up’ is all new to me. I’ve either picked up my kids before the end of school, or more commonly, after the regular hours, due to this activity or that.

So, I’m having a running conversation in my head.

“Hey, do I get out and go get him?”

“Hmm, maybe I do, I see other parents there.”

“OK then, I better find a parking spot.”

Now, granted this dialogue happened a lot faster in my head, no matter – the point was moot – my son was in sight, walking over to my truck.

“OK wow, here he is.”

I slow down, and wait for him.

Now, here’s where it gets weird. All of a sudden there’s a police car behind me, lights flashing. I don’t remember if the siren was going, but I think it was.

“Oh man, what’s going on? Hope there’s not a bomb threat or something; I better get out of the way”

Then I am confused, why didn’t she go around me? There was room. I wait for a second, and I figure that I better drive a little further down, to ensure a wide berth. And I should add that driving away from my son, even just a few feet away, weirded me out. Sure, he’s not a little tiny kid, he’s nearly 12. He can figure out that I’m not far. I don’t even consider myself especially over-protective. But still, the mom in me hated that I had to do that.

The officer does not go around; she follows me until I am further away from the other cars. Then she goes around and is rolling down her window, and I roll down mine.

“You cannot double park back there, you must park your car and go and get your child”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I never do this Parent Pick-up and wasn’t sure”

“Well you were given a notice at the beginning of the school year”

“But he saw me and was coming over!”

By now, my son is getting in the truck. “My stomach hurts” He looked pale. I turned back to the officer.

“I’ve never done this before”, I repeated. “My son is actually sick, that’s why I’m driving him home.”

“You were doubled parked” “You can’t put the children’s lives in danger” (I’m paraphrasing that last part)

Well heck, she had a good point. And I know ignorance of the law is no excuse. (OK, I think it should be an excuse sometimes) But my point was, not about right or wrong, just a little understanding. But she was so stern – so…well, I can’t actually think of the right term (strange for me!). I guess this was unsettling because there was a sense of – ‘dear God, this got totally one-sided, I’m not being heard, I am not being understood.’ And this, dear friends, is like a knife in my gut.

To be in the middle of something of import, to be deep into an emotionally charged situation – whether that situation lasts for 5 minutes or several years – and to be not understood, is the worst kind of frustration. It’s distressing, to say the least. Even in this mini-event with the police officer, that feeling was there.

But to her last statement, I knew that it wasn’t worth getting into a whole big deal with, she was right.

“You’re right, I am sorry.”

“Damn right.”

Well, honestly, I’m not sure that’s what she said, but, it sure sounded like it. And I was incredulous. I actually stared at her for a second or two. And so help me God, I nearly called her on it. So bad I wanted to say, “Did you just say damn right to me?” Damn Right. Wow. I was beginning to feel a little pissy, right then and there.

Now, of course there’s a chance she didn’t say that. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. Why would she want to get snarky with me? But if she had said it, that was totally uncalled for, and there wasn’t any reason for me to be treated like that.

Now, I suppose I’ll never know IF she said that. Whatever those last words of hers were, it wasn’t coming from a place of “OK, M’am, just don’t do it again” or even a “Thank you”. Whatever she finished up our tête-à-tête with, felt just as bad, just as embarrassing; as the vibe of the whole episode.

Actually, this frustration of not being understood, not given a chance to explain just a hair of what was going on, reminded me of that odd, nearly one-sided, but hilarious conversation between John Candy’s Buck Russell and Amy Madigan’s Chanice Kobolowski in the 80’s classic, Uncle Buck:

Just let--

No, but-- You don't--

Would you just--

Give me--

Let me get--

You're not-- Give me a--


The exception being that that bit from the movie was funny. What was happening in the school parking lot wasn’t funny at all.

Cops aren’t perfect. The Shield aside, we just know this because we know that no one is perfect, it’s part of the human condition. But I try like hell to not give grief to anyone (except tele-marketers), and I want my kids to remember that the Police truly are our friends, even when they are writing up a speeding ticket. They’re trying to save lives by this sort of thing; it’s not always just to fill a quota

To close, this was yet another challenging parenting moment. How do you talk to you child about your frustrating interaction with a person in authority, retain honesty, yet not corrode their sense of respect for the law? Nobody likes being disciplined. Nobody. However, if there’s any modicum of maturity, we’ll maybe grumble a little, but accept, pray learn from it, and move on.

And hopefully, treat each other a little nicer.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

As I was sitting around eating bon bons, I started reflecting on the show 24. Now, as many of you know, I've been covering the show for Blogcritics Magazine, waxing ever so eloquent on the comings and goings of Jack and the rest of his Scooby Gang.

I thought about the show, and the dialogue, and what fun I and my fellow columnists have with it. Now, 24 is fairly jargon heavy, and we have had many a giggle at the expense of the poor "perimeters", the harried "hostiles", and the woebegone "work-arounds".

I don't know why we do this, I've never dreamed (or McDreamed) of making fun of my favorite medical shows, and their "lactated ringers", "gastric lavage", "Chem-7", or "IV push". Or cop shows - I mean, really "Book 'em" is like every day talk, isn't it?. Or the legal shows too, seem fairly ordinary, just about everyone I know can utter AND understand "writ of habeas corpus" sure as they were ordering a hot dog from a friendly street vendor.

I suppose it could be that doctor, cop, and lawyer shows been around for as long as we have - and we're used to them. Also, we have a personal connection. Everyone and their brother has either been to a doctor's office and/or a hospital. Many of us have spoken with a lawyer and served on a jury. And plenty of us have had some sort of interaction with the boys in blue.

But who all hangs out in a counter-terrorisim joint?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Colts 38
Patriots 34

After the late touchdown, with a minute or so to go in the game, we still could have done it - but Marlin Jackson intercepted Brady's last pass of the 2006 -2007 season.

Oh well. I guess there's next year.
Back with the action. My Adam - OK, he's not my Adam anymore, but he just evened things up with his own damn FG.


OK, a few sips of beer later (Yes, a Corona with Lime. Shut up Sir Mark.) and a few Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuits later - Gostkowski kicked a close field goal now we're 34 to their 31.

I am having hot flashes. Of course, it could be due to this lap top cooking away here, and the nice fire going in the fireplace.

Oh man - this is nerve wracking.
In case anyone wonders why lil Frodo's pic is here on this blog, I took a liquid generation test and found that as far as movie heros go, I'm Frodo. And for villians, I'm Jack Nicholson's alter ego in The Shining, Jack Torrance. Sweet, eh?
So, I'm watching the Pats VS Colts, and the Colts just scored again. 21 to 19 - not good. Oh, and now they just got the 2 pt. conversion. Double Drat.

But at least Ellis Hobbs just ran a ton of yards. Nice!

And now Gaffney just caught a nice touchdown, and got pushed out. But Tony Dungy didn't like the looks of the play, so he threw the challenge flag. But thankfully, they ruled to keep the touchdown. Whew!

Sheesh, I toggle away for a few minutes and Indy scored again.12 minutes left in 4th quarter and we are 28 - 28.

I think I'll have a beer.

Great, while I'm gone - Caldwell dropped the ball in the end zone. Again.

Gostkowski kicked us a 3 pt. field goal, but Indy just got first down. Grrr!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Be Kind to Yourself

A friend, Eowyn, has asked me to post this piece I wrote, reprinted from Hot Psychology's November issue. It's titled "Be Kind to Yourself", though I don't think I'm really thrilled with that title. However, I am OK with the actual article - anyway, here you go Dear Readers.

I don’t remember the year exactly; it was in the mid 1980s. I think I remember what I was wearing though, at least the pants, gray linen-type slacks. I remember that because after it was all over, the pants were bloodstained.

What I do remember first – was the shrieking. The sound of a man being zapped by over 200 volts of electricity was definitely out of the ordinary. The next thing I remember was the quiet. A roomful of 10 or so women was stunned and silent. It seemed as if they too, were rendered immobile by electric shock. But it wasn’t something physical keeping my co-workers motionless – it was fear.

We had been sitting at our desks toiling away at paperwork or data entry. A maintenance worker – and I don’t remember his name, but I’ll just call him Bob – was on a stepladder doing some routine repair work to an emergency light fixture. He was at the front of the room, but his presence wasn’t all that disruptive, that is, until his tools made contact with a wire connected to a live circuit. Then he started howling.

His legs were thrashing, knocking over the stepladder. He was attached to the fixture by virtue of the electricity that was charging through him. And the rest of us were attached to our spots. The scene seemed to go on forever, Bob being hit with this current, and no one doing a thing. I looked around at everyone, disbelieving that not a soul was reacting. Finally, I got up and ran to the front of the room. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew that it wasn’t the time for inaction.

First I knew that Bob had to be released from the source of the electricity. I also knew that I couldn’t just grab him, or I’d get zapped too. I looked around, trying to find something non conductive. The closest thing was a roll of paper towels. Not very strong, probably wouldn’t be all that effective – but I was panicked, and didn’t have many options. As I picked up the roll Bob fell to the floor, the charge had released him. I gradually became aware that there was movement in the room, and others were beginning to give assistance.

A woman was next to me as I knelt by the non-responsive Bob. We saw he was bleeding; his arm I think. I directed her to take some paper towels and press them on his wound. I was trying to remember everything I could from a college First Aid course. The ABC’s. Airway. Breathing. Circulation. Bob seemed to be breathing, no obstructions. The blood we were dealing with.

But he was unconscious. I called his name, and loosened the belt at his waist. This is when I started to feel helpless. I just didn’t’ know what else do to! Thankfully, others had been taking action outside of my immediate awareness. While I was rushing to assist Bob, others had started calling for help – on the phone, and into the warehouse below. So by now, Greg* from Shipping & Receiving had joined us.

I remember him calmly asking me if I was a “certified First Responder”. I was thrown by the question, and all I could answer was, “I took a First Aid course once”. Turns out that Greg knew what he was doing – he was also an EMT. He noted that I had done pretty well, but he thought that Bob might have been going into shock. I wonder if I too, went into shock, because I don’t remember a lot of what happened after that. Greg pretty much took over until the firefighters arrived.

Bob survived fine, and was released from the hospital, and actually came back to the warehouse that same day. We found out later that circuits had been mislabeled and he was supposed to have been working on a disconnected device. I’m assuming the company we worked for had since made the appropriate safety corrections in the electrical system – but who knows. It dismays me to admit it, but the whole affair left me with a sour feeling towards my employer – and not just for their negligence.

Within a few weeks, the owners of the company made a big deal about recognizing the warehouse worker, Greg, who had given first aid to Bob. Which is great. Greg did a wonderful job; he was calm and thorough. But yet, I couldn’t help but wonder, what about me? I know, my ‘reward’ was really that Bob had been OK. But yet, I couldn’t help but feel very disappointed by the higher-ups – especially since the owner of the company actually saw me at Bob’s side, doing what I could. Anyone could have told him what had happened, that I had been the first to reach him and actually had started first-aid procedures. I tend to believe that the boss, Mr. J., was a chauvinist. Or maybe that the fact that Greg was the better trained aid giver impressed him more than a young woman who tried to take action, when everyone else around her was in panic.

What then, was I going to do with that feeling, that realization that I would have liked a little recognition? Did that mean I was grubbing for ceremonies and certificates of merit? To that part, I honestly can answer, “no”. But yet, what bothered me so much? I remember that Greg had approached me later on. He told me that he tried to explain my part in the whole episode. I do appreciate that. He too, felt that something wasn’t quite fair in all of this.

We are all taught the values of altruism as children. As I was brought up in a Christian family, I learned the Biblical lesson of the Good Samaritan. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, basically the Good Samaritan was a man traveling from A to B, and came across a fellow traveler in trouble. This other man had been beaten and robbed. Now, unknowing to the Samaritan, other travelers had previously seen the poor fellow at roadside, yet ignored him and continued on their respective journeys.

The Samaritan, being a good sort of man, immediately stopped and gave aid to the traveler. He brought him to an inn, cleaned him up, fed him and left money for his care with the innkeeper. The thing of it was, in those days, the Samaritans had a long history of not getting along with the Jews and were thought to not have pure lineage. To put it in a more modern context, a Samaritan today represents a social group that is feared or misunderstood – say, someone from a biker culture, or Islamic sect.

Thinking back now, that story seemed, if not scary, at least a little exotic. It certainly wasn’t the only story in either Testament that involved doing good, ‘for goodness sake’. Yet, it’s the one that sticks in my mind the most. And for me, it creates a most interesting parallel. The novelty of the story wasn’t all in the fact that someone gave of himself without expecting compensation – what surprised the people of the day, was that someone of an supposedly objectionable group was capable of doing this. Of course the Samaritans were capable of good. We know that now. We also know that today the odd Hells Angel, ex-convict, or homeless drug addict could show kindness and compassion.

What is also unexpected is what goes on inside the “Samaritan’s” head. In my case, I felt slighted. And I hated that feeling. But, human that I am, I understand that we are not built to be pure good, nor pure bad, and I’d do the whole thing over again, if I had to. Even knowing I might get slighted again. Helping someone who desperately needs it overrides any pride I might have to deal with. But still, there are consequences.

A distressing phenomenon tracked over the last few decades, is the occurrence of rescuers and first responders suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other troubles such as depression or alcoholism. Those who are involved in rescues or other heroic gestures can have trouble coping with either all the attention, or the “Hero” brand. In 1987, Richard O’Donnell pulled 18-month-old Jessica McClure out of the 20-foot well she had fallen into. The paramedic’s patient efforts at pulling and nudging Jessica out of the well gave him much more than 15 minutes of fame. Problems with migraines and depression eventually tore up his marriage and ultimately he sought relief with a shotgun in 1995.

The Quecreek, PA mine disaster of 2002 left the survivors grateful, yet still having problems adjusting to life after the Disney movie, and all around media flurry. Robert Long, the man who was most visibly instrumental in the rescue, killed himself 11 months later. Similar stories in the aftermath of other events such as the Oklahoma City bombing and the attacks on September 11th are just as heartbreaking.

Undercurrent themes of these and other disasters are fear and panic. Also at play are the triggers of PTSD, factors such as fatigue, hunger, and sleep deprivation. But there is an emotional component that cannot always be measured, that affects our long-term outlook, either as victim or rescuer. Whatever human frailties or problems we have before such an event, will carry through and influence our reactions. The hero brand may be too difficult to wear if we can’t reconcile our self-views with the world’s views.

It can’t hurt to strive towards doing good, while not expecting a reward. If we truly embrace altruism, we don’t expect compensation or even a thank-you. To borrow from the Bible again, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6: 3-4) But as true as that is, it is still important to remember and acknowledge that we do need to be appreciated. And when we are not valued the way we’d hope; as humans, we’re going to feel the hurt.

Life is random. We don’t know when a car will crash, or a bomb will drop. We cannot live in constant fear of the world, nor of our own reactions. So, as we give aid to others, we need to remember to be kind to ourselves.

*Not his real name

Hot Psychology, November 5, 2006.
Page 26, Volume 2, Issue 11