Monday, January 25, 2010

The band of the fighting treadmills

After revealing my intentions and a strong start to the blogging new year, I kind of fell off a bit there after the seventh. Well, sort of: I'm going strong on my baseball blog. That's just where I'm feelin' it right now.

But I suspect I'll eventually balance out soon enough -- a few posts a week here, a few (more) there, a photo post once or twice a week, though that one might have an increase in activity as I go through my film negatives and scan them in. I'm nearly done with 1994, which is when I got my first SLR (in August). I'll probably continue to scan in batches -- a month at a time or in segments that seem to offer natural starting/ending points -- and then tweak as necessary and upload to Flickr in one great push. After that, I'll gradually point some out on my various blogs. Or something like that.

What brings me back today was this story I read in Notre Dame Magazine this afternoon. It describes the process of filming the video to OK Go's new single, "This Too Shall Pass," and how they came to shoot it in a field in Indiana with the Notre Dame marching band. I'd embed the video here, except the band's record label, EMI, has disabled that function (as noted in this short segment on the video).

After reading the article and watching the video, I went ahead and bought the album. If nothing else, it'll be good to run to, as was Oh No and its Nike+ iTunes workout, which I bought when I first purchased my Nano in January 2007 to get back into an exercise routine. I spent a few mornings on the treadmill in the fitness center at our apartment complex before we moved out a few months later, and because of that workout, I continue to find that OK Go's songs get my blood pumping.

The album should come in handy as I try to accomplish another goal this year, which is to run at least once more each month and one mile further each month than I did in the corresponding month in 2009. So far, so good, but it's been easy -- I only ran once in January and February 2009, so this month's three workouts (I'll get at least one more in, perhaps tomorrow after the deluge ceases) have covered it.

And I do get to embed one video to end this post, since this older one isn't ruled by EMI:

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Josh Charles squared

I always thought that Sports Night was an underrated and too short-lived sitcom. Plus, it foreshadowed my co-anchor-for-life with the Dan and Casey pairing. I hadn't thought about it in a while until reading that there are two Josh Charles ... -es. I hadn't heard about the musician one before.

Anyway, that story brought me back to several years ago when I saw the Sports Night Josh Charles at a New York restaurant. It was one of my first celebrity sightings, and probably my first celebrity encounter, because I don't usually go out of my way to interact with them. But I felt strongly about my love for the show, so I wanted to thank him. He and a friend had been seated at a table next to us, so as we got up to leave the Corner Shop Cafe (same name and location, but previous owners; in fact, I think we were there during the soft opening), I excused myself (he wasn't eating yet) and told him that I really enjoyed Sports Night, thanked him for it and wished him luck. He might've been in a play at the time, but I don't remember. He smiled and thanked me and that was that.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Harry's television debut

My first reaction when Casey said she'd gotten tickets to Martha Stewart's cat show was, "I'm sure my mom would love to go with you and Harry."

But then the more I thought about it, I decided I didn't want to miss this. I don't watch the show, so seeing the production in person wasn't a lure. I've been to TV tapings before, so the nuts-and-bolts of it wasn't a mystery to me. I don't follow Martha much, either (Casey does), but I think it'd be neat to bump into her during a vacation in Bar Harbor and discuss our shared New Jersey roots.

As I thought about it, though, it dawned on me that seeing an audience increased about 50 percent by cats (each person was allowed to bring one cat, but most of the attendees were couples with one feline, plus several without their furry friends) would be as entertaining as the show itself. Plus, as I thought more about it and Casey and I traded comments, I realized that this experience would be similar to a father witnessing a milestone in his child's development, only mine was on a smaller, four-legged scale.

To make it even more fun, interesting and memorable, I chronicled the day in real time in the way we do these days: on Twitter. Yep, Harry -- and his brother, Lenny -- have their own Twitter pages. I set them up before giving myself one, because I'm still not buckled into the Twitter bandwagon and I saw it as some sort of statement that I found it more useful for a cat to have a feed than it was for me.

Harry travels well. We had one false start in getting him into the new soft carrier we bought this week (Lenny's about outgrown the smaller of the two hard carriers we have anyway), but other than that, he just went along with it all with nary a peep -- other than the growling and a couple of hisses when he first came out in the studio.

As best I could tell, all the cats were well-behaved -- except for one who was a guest with Martha and the vet -- with most of them sitting in their companions' laps throughout the show. There was some hissing and growling as they discovered their neighbors, but none lurched or swatted at those around them, that I saw. Harry checked things out from our laps, then stepped off mine to the step on my right, since I was seated on the aisle. He ventured out toward the women across from me and then went up the step and settled at the feet of the woman behind me. (I'm certain there were more male cats in the audience than male humans.)

I think because we had deprived him of several important hours of sleeping time, Harry tried to catch up during taping. He sprawled out on the step beside me, drawing the attention of the audience members around us and some of the production assistants who walked by. Harry tends to make a favorable first impression on those who meet him.

Toward the end of taping, Harry got more restless. All he really wanted to was to sleep, but if we tried to nudge him closer or coax him one way or another, he swatted our hands and attempted to chomp down on us, once or twice with a growl. He'll often clamp his snakejaw on our hands (or feet) when we pet or play or adjust ourselves in bed. When the show ended, we quickly forced him into his carrier and zipped him up for the trip home, which Casey endured on her own. I stayed in the city to go to work, but I'm sure he enjoyed the chicken treat she gave him and caught up on his sleep.

The show airs Monday, Jan. 11, and will be available after that on the website.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Friendly skies in Newark

I have frequent flyer accounts with at least four airlines, but it's been so long since I've used three of them that I'd have to check their rules to see if any miles I once acquired are still valid. The one with the most miles banked, by far, is in no danger of expiration, because it's the one I still use for most of my travel: Continental. The reason for that is simple: I fly out of Newark, which is one of Continental's main hubs, and their flight options are plentiful for where I need to go and when I need to travel. (The last time I flew, however, has escaped me.)

So I do have some allegiance and preference for Continental born out of my frequency of travel and the dearth of delays or incidents I've had with the airline. (Contrast that with Northwest, which I flew maybe twice, but not since I was headed to South Bend in 2001 for my sister's college graduation and ended up renting a car and driving from Detroit, because I'd missed my connection. I arrived ahead of my luggage, which did take the next available flight.)

But I do know that people can quickly become frustrated or enraged when several minor tasks, incidents or delays mount up when flying. For me, I think the biggest irritant is the people around me getting louder and more demonstrative in their anger, which then causes me to become more agitated, though I tend to stew more silently. It may not be good for my blood pressure, but I like to think I hide it well from others.

When I read about the security breach at Terminal C at Newark yesterday that required the evacuation of the terminal and re-screening of all the passengers who had already been through the checkpoint, I wondered just how rowdy the scene was. Perhaps it was suppressed a bit by the fact that Continental allowed passengers to reschedule their flights without paying the rebooking penalty. (Another point for the airline, though had they tried to stick to their rules, they might've had a riot on their hands.) But I have to say I wasn't too surprised to see this video of one group of travelers breaking into song while waiting. in the endless lines to be screened again:

You can have your Jersey Shore; I'll take the real thing

My parents refused to get cable television until March 1994, which happened to be six months before I went off to college. Thanks, Mom and Dad. As a result, I missed out on a lot for a kid growing up in the '80s and into the early '90s. There are still a lot of shows, music videos and cultural references that I know of but don't completely understand as a result. For one, I pretty much missed the entire "music" period of MTV's existence.

I tried Real World back in its infancy; I remember an episode when they went from their loft in New York City to a Nets game in New Jersey so one of the cast members could meet Larry Johnson, who was playing for the Charlotte Hornets. But I couldn't stick with it and I've rarely gone back since. I couldn't even tell you where MTV is on our FIOS channel lineup. And so I haven't seen a minute of Jersey Shore.

I have seen The Punch, of course. Even before the episode aired, there was a GIF online that showed a few seconds of the footage on a loop, so that you saw Snooki's head go back and to the left over and over. But I have no interest in watching what I know is a contrived scenario of people of a certain background (and I don't mean what ethnic heritage they have) that happens to take place in Seaside Heights, N.J., because that's where MTV rented the house. They easily could've imported this same cast to the Outer Banks, South Padre or Las Vegas and had the same show. The Jersey Shore in Jersey Shore is mostly just the backdrop, the setting. While these particular cast members are representative of some of the people you'll meet in Seaside and other Shore hotspots, they aren't an indication of everyone you'd encounter -- especially in the offseason.

Obviously, the Shore is what it is because of the summertime, and Staten Islanders' money is just as good as the locals', the New Yorkers', the North Jerseyans', the Philadelphians'. But to really know the Shore, you need to go to the quieter, smaller towns. Or you need to go on a quieter weeknight in the summer, not a crowded weekend. Or you need to visit in the offseason, a windy winter afternoon, and stop into a local cafe and give them a little love to get through the down time. The revenue from summer visitors can only last so long.

There are a few redeeming qualities about Jersey Shore, according to Neil Genzlinger, and without having seen the show, I still feel like I can agree with his list. (Particularly the one about the Kardashians. If there's one thing I loathed about my previous employment at a celebrity magazine, it was covering "celebrities" who were famous for no discernible reason. Exhibits 1 and 1A might be the Kardashians and the Hilton sisters.) However, I'm going to continue to separate MTV's vision of the Jersey Shore from my own and do my best to educate others. I'll hold onto the memories I have of my grandfather's summer house in Seaside Heights, which he sold in the early '80s, just before the town began its transition into the scene it is now. And I'll take the quieter beach towns over the loud, neon-tinged circus of places like Seaside that draw the crowds and the gawkers down the Parkway from points north.

And I'll take the Shore in winter, too, when I may have to bundle up a little more, but there are no lines and the gorgeous views aren't as cluttered with swarms of people and bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Cleaning up and battoning down

We're back from New Year's Extravaganza '09-10 and the wind, she's a-blowin'. We got out of Boston before the storm really set in, had brunch at Bryan's parents' on the water in Hull and made it home in the usual 4 1/2 hours. We'd driven out of the snow by Rhode Island and found dry roads by Connecticut. But upon our arrival home, we found wind gusts up to 30 mph, which are now gusting to 50 today.

To keep warm and to keep organized, we took down the Christmas decorations inside -- including the tree -- and tidied up the house. I'll leave the outside lights for later in the week, when nature's not so forceful. No harm waiting until the 12th day of Christmas, either.

So it's a day of cleanup and football, and I've got the Steelers flag flying outside hoping to bring them luck. They need to win in Miami and hope for a combination of losses by Houston and the Jets or by Houston and Baltimore or by the Jets, Baltimore and Denver.
Go Stillers!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Trying the resolution thing again

After such a successful resolution in 2009, I'm taking the same approach with my promise to myself for 2010. I want this year to be the year I get back into blogging -- with words, that is. I've tried several times to be more active in this space and on my baseball blog (I like to keep certain interests separate so as not to bog just one site down with such specific posts), but I've failed to keep up with my aspirations.

This time, however, I'm not going to set such rigid parameters (such as a post a day), which may prove to be both a wise move and a mistake. Without a schedule, I could abandon it yet again. But without the pressure, I could find myself more eager and willing to stay with it. I'll say this, loosely: If I can update both this blog and the baseball one at least once a week, I'll be in good shape, but I don't want to say Monday will be baseball day and Friday will be devoted to here.

I think another key will be to remember that I first started a blog 10 years ago this fall (!) not to please and impress those who may read it, but to satisfy my urge to write. I choose to keep it public so that my friends can have a little insight to my goings-on and stay in touch with me as they wish, but I don't want to let myself hold back because I don't feel a thought, a recap of a day, or a post is worthy of publishing because I don't think it would read well to others. Even if what I write turns out to be glorified mental notes or a retelling of an inside joke/had-to-be-there moment, I shouldn't care if others skim past it. This is my space (though not MySpace), for me, and that's what I want to get back to this year.

So far, so good, though I'd really like to come up with a design here that I like and can stick with, maybe one with an easily adjusted header so I can switch it up at will (new photo, maybe new color scheme throughout) without having to choose a new Blogger template. Baby steps, though.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A new era in the new year

Are we getting old?

That was the question this morning when we awoke from our New Year's Eve festivities at Bryan's in Boston and were merely tired and hungry, maybe a little sluggish, but not hungover. We -- Bryan, LM, Casey and me -- even put on clothes, coats, hats and boots to go out for brunch, a big change from our previous history of barely moving from a darkened living room, where whatever tolerable New Year's Day marathon on TV tended to get us through the day.

The party involved our usual traditions of recent years: shots every hour, beginning at 3 p.m., to celebrate the new year in some country to the east of us; a feast fitting the yearly theme, a country of Bryan's choosing in previous years, but chef's choice -- Casey's -- this year; a steady parade of people coming early (usually with children) and late (arriving in the final hour of the old year); and a bedtime closer to midnight on the West Coast than the East.

One theory was that the food was so good this year -- Italian being a staple of Casey's -- that everyone kept eating and sustaining themselves for the long haul of imbibing. A more likely cause was the fact that we paced ourselves much better. The traditional 8 p.m. shot of water, which serves as a check on our intake and a nod to Greenland's melting glaciers (it's a hard time zone in which to find land to ring in the new year), was not needed as a means to curb our drinking in the way it has in years past. I believe I had only one beer between shots before reaching 8 p.m. And finally, after ringing in 2010 (that's TwentyTen; trying to get into the habit of saying it that way), we sipped our glasses of champagne and then put them down for good. No refills, no last glasses of wine, no last beer for the night. The guests began clearing out and were all gone by 1 o'clock (in previous years, we've still been kicking them out near 3), and by the time the kitchen was cleaned up, water ingested and teeth brushed, our heads hit the pillows just as Los Angeles was breaking into "Auld Lang Syne."

Bryan's younger brother and his wife, who have always lived nearby, even went home to their own bed for the first time rather than crashing in the living room, where they'd stay through New Year's Day as we all recovered. More than just a new year dawned today; we entered a new era as well.