Month: December 2004 (Page 1 of 2)

2004 Reading List

I’m not a big New Year’s Resolution guy, but I do normally write down a few goals for the coming year. One of my entries this time last year was to read 24-30 books in 2004. I passed the lower end of that threshold in May and was sitting at 36 books the day M. was born. Not a bad year, although it sure helped to travel to the West Coast on a regular basis for six months and to live with a woman who works 2-3 overnight shifts a week. I think my goal will be a little less ambitious this year, as I’ve discovered it’s pretty much impossible to knock off three books a week when you’ve got a little one. A couple observations:

This number is actually a little low from what I read in total, as I didn’t include the numerous baby and computer books I’ve read in a manner other than cover-to-cover. There are at least five baby books I read 90% of, as well as four other Mac books I’ve knocked 75-80% out of the way as I’ve taught myself how to use my new computing platform. However, since none were finished, I don’t count them.

Interesting that my year began and ended with the same book. I got Wolves of the Calla last Christmas and read it as soon as I completed the book I started in late ’03. With the release of the last two books in the Dark Tower series this year, I decided to start from book one before I knocked them off. I just closed the back cover of Wolves for the second time this morning.

Without a doubt my book of the year is Fortress of Solitude. Every year there are a few buzz novels that everyone seems to be reading. Fortress didn’t sell at the same level as The DiVinci Code, but it certainly garnered a lot of attention at its release. It’s one of my all-time favorite books. A fantastic tale. Language that is so beautiful to read it almost hurts. Absolute perfect spirit of the times translated to fiction. I spoke to a couple readers on my trip to Kansas City who are either reading it now, or had just finished it. I was glad to hear they agreed that it was a phenomenal work. My highest of high recommendations.

Next to Fortress, the book that moved me most was Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey. Reasonable people can argue about any foreign policy action of the United States. There is no justification for not taking steps to end what is probably the purest example of genocide the modern world has seen. Stalin and Hitler were evil men who took great pains to kill efficiently. The evil doers in Rwanda were far worse, in my opinion, because they didn’t use gas, electricity, or other methods to kill large numbers of people with minimal effort. In Rwanda, young men were handed crude machetes made from scrap metals then paraded through villages hacking people’s heads open until no one was left living. It was medieval killing in modern times, and everyone in the West should be ashamed we allowed almost a million people to die in less than three months.

I’ve still got quite a list of books I’d like to read, and I add to it constantly. I’ve got roughly 1000 pages left in the Dark Tower saga, then I hope to add some more variety to the list in ’05. Hopefully you can find something here that interests you. If you need a synopsis or recommendations, let me know.

1 Wolves of the Calla – Stephen King
2 Milk It! – Jim DeRogatis
3 Imagining Argentina – Lawrence Thornton
4 Drinking, Smoking, & Screwing: Good Writers on Good Times
5 Out of Sight – Elmore Leonard
6 Joe College – Tom Perrotta
7 Sellevision – Augusten Burroughs
8 The Expectant Father – Armin Brott
9 Glamorama – Bret Easton Ellis
10 Rum Punch – Elmore Leonard
11 Shutter Island – Dennis Lehane
12 Plainclothes Naked – Jerry Stahl
13 In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz – Michela Wrong
14 Breakfast on Pluto – Patrick McCabe
15 Gun, With Occasional Music – Jonathan Letham
16 Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded – Simon Winchester
17 Little Green Men – Christopher Buckley
18 Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey – Fergal Keane
19 Black Hawk Down – Mark Bowden
20 Nine Innings – Daniel Okrent
21 Moneyball – Michael Lewis
22 Foul Ball – Jim Bouton
23 Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs – John Lydon
24 Thieves in High Places – Jim Hightower
25 The Boys of Summer – Roger Kahn
26 Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
27 The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
28 Lies & The Lying Liars Who Tell Them – Al Franken
29 The Fortress of Solitude – Jonathan Letham
30 What’s the Matter With Kansas? – Thomas Frank
31 McCarthy’s Bar – Pete McCarthy
32 The Sweet Forever – George Pelecanos
33 The Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
34 Mac OS X for Windows Users – David Coursey
35 I Was Right On Time – Buck O’Neil
36 The White House Mess – Christopher Buckley
37 Sex, Drugs, & Cocoa Puffs – Chuck Klosterman
38 Wilco: Learning How to Die – Greg Kott
39 The Partly Cloudy Patriot – Sarah Vowell
40 The Gunslinger – Stephen King
41 The Drawing of the Three – Stephen King
42 The Wastelands – Stephen King
43 Wizard and Glass – Stephen King
44 Wolves of the Calla – Stephen King

 

The Year In Music

Another pretty good year is about to go into the books. This time last year, we were hiding the fact that S. was pregnant until we had sonogram #1 and were sure all was well. We spent our New Year’s trip to a cabin in southern Indiana swapping my empty beer bottles for hers under the table so our friends wouldn’t notice. M. arrived, and life changed forever, in July. We watched over a dozen friends welcome children to the world as well. I kissed the corporate world good-bye for the time being in September. We just about finished furnishing our home. I moved to a Mac and got an iPod. I spent time in Arizona, California, and sucked my company into sending me to Portland twice in six weeks. I also made four trips to Kansas City, with the obligatory visits to my favorite barbecue haunts. Not much to complain about, and a lot to be thankful for.

2005 is shaping up to be another year of changes, as I begin grad school in two weeks and search for a place in the non-profit world to supplement my academic pursuits. S. faces some major changes in her job in the coming year. M. will continue to grow like a weed (or a tick, more appropriately), and demonstrate new tricks every day. We’ve got a trip to Puerto Rico booked, hopefully a trip to Portland, and of course, a couple trips back to KC.

Along with reading, music is my biggest time filler. 2004 was an interesting year for several reasons. Alternative rock made a big comeback, although it’s not nearly as prevalent as during the 90s heyday. MP3 blogs sprang up left and right, opening a new world of music to those of us who lack a local station that plays quality music. In the months AM (After M.), my discovery of new music slowed way down, so my top ten songs of the year list is heavily weighted towards the first half of the month. Unlike recent years, though, I had no trouble coming up with a list.

10 – Neighborhood #3 – The Arcade Fire: Some songs you just don’t get at first, second, or even third listen. This was one of those songs, and it took awhile to get. But eventually it did made sense. The darlings of the indie music press, The Arcade Fire is a band I’ll be exploring in more detail in 2005.

9 – Vertigo – U2: Every time I look at my iPod, I think of this song. Mission accomplished, Bono.

8 – Won’t Give In – The Finn Brothers: A simply gorgeous song full of maturity and emotional strength.

7 – American Idiot – Green Day: I just got the single, rather than the whole album, so I can’t comment on the strength of the larger work. The single was a tremendous statement, though, full of power and fury that would have made the punk gods proud.

6 – Can’t Stand Me Now – The Libertines: The sound that sums up what it must feel like to be a drug-scene hipster in the UK.

5 – Portland, Oregon – Loretta Lynn: Stunning. Brilliant.

4 – Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand: Ass shakin’ music for the new millennium.

3 – Jesus Walks – Kanye West: Taking hip-hop to a whole new level and direction. This was a song I totally got the first time I heard it.

2 – Spitting Games – Snow Patrol: Songs of unrequited, teenage love are always relevant. When they sound as good as this, they’ll last forever.

1 – Float On – Modest Mouse: One of the least likely hits in recent memory, this song would have been #1 on my list regardless of the personal angle. A song so ugly it’s pretty, the fits, starts, and shrieks combine to create a universal anthem to better times always being just around the corner. Even the song structure upholds that idea, with the bridge before the final reprise creating a false end before those four little guitar notes at the 2:34 mark lead back into the sing-along close. Every time I hear this, I’ll think of listening to it in my office on July 24, and hearing S. yell down that it was time to go to the hospital and have a baby.

Honorable Mention:
Handshake Drugs – Wilco
Irish Blood, English Heart – Morrissey
Death Cab for Cutie: They didn’t have any ’04 releases, but I found a couple of their CDs at the library and have become a big fan. (ED: Heck, I just used one of my iTunes gift certificates to grab another of their albums.)

Whew

My “official” GRE scores arrived today. I got the highest score possible on my essays, which I thought I totally fucked up the day of the test. A huge relief, as that makes me feel better about my verbal score. I ended up in the 93rd percentile for verbal, 64th for math, and 97th for writing. Of course, since I thought I had done so poorly on the essays I refused the chance to send my scores for free to IUPUI and have to drop some money to do it now. Oh well, such is life.

Post-Christmas

I hope all of you had a fine holiday. It was a good Christmas in the home of ye olde blogger. From the wife, I received a sweater and zip sweatshirt from J Crew, an iTunes gift card (sadly the only thing I got from the Apple Store), and book six of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. From my secret Santa, which this year was my brother-in-law who’s in school in Boston, I got book seven of the Dark Tower and a Red Sox World Series hat that he personally purchased at Fenway Park. A wise man once told me that shirts, hats, etc. that are bought at a sports stadium are somehow better than those you pick up at the mall. For the wife, I purchased a Nike watch, some new running shoes (shockingly not Nike, but she picked them out), a couple CDs, and a diamond and silver bracelet. Santa visited M. a few weeks back, but she did get some new binkies from us then some new clothes and toys from the family. I was getting quite worried, as Mr. Hankey had not visited as of 9:00 last night. Fortunately, he arrived with a vengeance that seemed to please M. greatly. How could she believe in him if he didn’t show up for her first Christmas?

I did kind of suck on the Christmas movies this year. We watched Elf the night after Thanksgiving, then I didn’t get around to watching any others until early last week. I knocked off Christmas Vacation, but with split attentions since our speakers were acting funky that night. We watched It’s A Wonderful Life Thursday night, then I snuck in A Christmas Story Friday morning. A Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street sit unwatched on our DVR.

As for music this season, my elaborate playlists produced these songs most often on the Mac and iPod:

Do They Know It’s Christmas Band Aid 9 Times
I’ll Be Home For Christmas Frank Sinatra 9
Merry Fucking Christmas Mr. Garrison 9
My Little Drum Vince Guaraldi 9
Christmas is Coming Vince Guaraldi 9
Silver Bells Dean Martin 8
Winter Wonderland Dean Martin 8
Jimmy Fallon’s Christmas Parodies 8
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus John Cougar Mellencamp 8
Hallelujah Chorus The Mormon Tabernacle Choir 8
Have A Merry Little Christmas Mr. Hankey 8
Maybe This Christmas Ron Sexsmith 8
Christmas Time Is Here Vince Guaraldi 8
Theme From Christmas Vacation 8
Let It Snow! Dean Martin 7
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) Death Cab for Cutie 7

Classic Christmas Gifts

My golden age of Christmas gifts ran from roughly age 8 to 13. After that, I really didn’t ask for any big ticket items anymore, since I knew my parents weren’t buying me a car, and my list was dominated by clothes, books, and such. Those pre- and early teen years, though, were filled with items I dreamt about for months before they finally arrived. Here are a few of my all-time favorites:

1979: Mattel handheld, electronic football. Star Wars Millennium Falcon. The football game was a surprise gift from my uncle in New York and my first entry into the digital world. Also my first experience with carpal tunnel syndrome! The Falcon was a pipe-dream thrown on the list to see how guilty my parents felt. They had just ended separation #1 and would be divorced by the following Christmas. I was a Star Wars freak, like most eight year olds at the time were, and figured, “Why not?” I remember my dad taking me to Sears and making me sit in the car in the rain for an hour while he was getting my mom “some towels”. The “towels” turned out to be the Holy Grail of late 70s gifts.

1980: My parents divorce became official two weeks before Christmas. I knew I was going to strike the mother-load as everyone in the family tried to ease my pain. (Like I cared whether my parents were together or not.) This year was bittersweet too, though, since I also knew that our already meager financial status was going to get worse as one income disappeared from the household GDP. I was taking whatever I got, because who knows when I’d next clean up. I did end up getting a lot of sweet stuff that year, but what I remember most is what I didn’t get: an Imperial AT-AT from The Empire Strikes Back. An aunt and uncle went to get one for me, but all the stores they went to were sold out. They gave me a card saying my AT-AT would arrive sometime in January. January came and went, I cried when the 49ers beat the Cowboys, but I never got that AT-AT. Shortly after, I wrote off all things Star-Wars.

1982: Dungeons & Dragons. My mom had read the novel about kids playing D&D, freaking out, and going on killing sprees or something, so as I discovered Tolkien and D&D in the fall of ’82, she kept insisting that I shouldn’t even bother putting the game on my Christmas list. I listed it anyway, and the same aunt and uncle who failed to deliver the AT-AT produced the basic D&D box on Christmas morning, much to my mom’s chagrin. What was fun about this gift was we had all been out at Crown Center in KC shopping together (back when it was a whole mall rather than just a few shops) and I saw the D&D box in one of my aunt’s bags. I pretty much knew I was getting it for a month, which made the anticipation even more pronounced, but I also wondered if it might not actually be for someone else. Sadly, I never lost my mind and wandered in the sewers answering only to the name Frodo during my brief D&D career.

1983: Banner year. I received a Pioneer boombox; ten cassettes (Not albums, not CD, but cassettes) including Journey, Foreigner, Men at Work, and Pat Benatar; and the early 80s Holy Grail, an Atari 2600. I was a year, if not two, behind pretty much all of my friends in getting my Atari, but then that’s what you get for living with a single mom, I guess. I remember that Christmas being bitterly cold, so rather than enjoying the vacation playing football and basketball with my neighborhood chums, I sat in my beanbag playing Pitfall, Pole Position, and Q*Bert while working through my new tape collection for hours on end.

1984: I asked for, and received, an electric typewriter. If there was any doubt I should have gone to J-school as an undergrad, here was the earliest sign. Also, I think this explains why girls pretty much didn’t talk to me until I was a junior in high school. It’s tough to overcome being tall, skinny, wearing thick glasses, and admitting that you wanted a typewriter for your big Christmas gift.

In my wife’s family, we pick names so you don’t have to buy gifts for nine other people. I’m not sure if it’s a function of our age (everyone over 21 now) or just the times we live in, but no one requests cool things. Gloves, candles, maybe a scarf. Oh, cologne of course. It seems that if we want something fun, like an iPod, a PS2, or whatever, we go buy it for ourselves when the mood strikes rather than wait for Christmas. I certainly could have waited to get my iPod, and it would have been super cool to find one under the tree Saturday morning. I suppose that’s yet another reason why I’m excited to be a dad. In a couple more years, M. will drive my insane for two months telling me everything she wants from Santa. But then the payoff will come when she opens her gifts Christmas morning and I see the excitement, wonder, and pure joy I haven’t had since I was a kid.

All I Want For Christmas Is A…

…snow-blower. The great Christmas storm of aught-four has yet to reach our neighborhood. Unless you have to be out driving in it, it’s frustrating to be sitting on the couch, watching inches of snow pile up just a few miles south of your house on TV while nary a flake falls at your home. We’re supposed to get ours this afternoon and evening, but will be fortunate to get 4-6″. About an hour south, they’re looking at 12-18″. Lucky bastards. You see, the more it snows, the more likely the neighbors with snow-blowers send one of their kids over to clean off our drive. If we just get a couple inches, I’m going to have to take my ass out in the cold to shovel tonight/tomorrow.

More later today regarding Christmas lists past. Be thinking about some of your favorite gifts over the years.

Pisser

So much for burning candles for Wayne Simien’s hand. 4-6 weeks on the shelf. Not crippling to post-season hopes, nor Big 12 title dreams. Realistically, if he comes back for the Texas-Missouri weekend, KU should be 4-1 in the Big 12 which isn’t a bad place to be. What does blow is at best we will break even in the Georgia Tech & Kentucky games, and have a decent shot of losing both. Getting the Oklahoma City region seemed to be a lock. Go 0-2 in those games and blow another game without Wayne, and the easy geographic road to the Final Four is suddenly out of the question (In my opinion, the top two Big 12 teams will play in OKC the first weekend of the tournament). Then again, maybe they get shipped to Indy, which wouldn’t suck. Based on Raef LaFrentz’s injury in 1998, Wayne is still a good bet to be an All-American at the end of the season. National Player of the Year hopes are dashed, though.

I’m wondering what Wayne did to earn all this bad karma. Over the last six years he has: hurt his right shoulder three times, requiring multiple surgeries; had heart surgery; hurt his knee; sprained an ankle so bad as a freshman that he was rendered largely ineffective; pulled a groin against Michigan State last year that kept him from playing at 100% or practicing in February and March; and now this. Oh, and his truck was stolen last summer. By all accounts, he’s a good guy off the court. He’s on schedule to graduate in May. He talks to kids about sticking to the right path in life. He’s gone public with his recent religious awakening. Seems like he deserves better health. Maybe he should have knocked up his girlfriend or robbed a bank over the summer in order to change his luck. I’m kidding, of course. I think.

Winter Storm Watch in Indy! One of those storms that could either completely miss us or drop a foot of snow is scheduled to hit tomorrow. The low Christmas morning is forecast as -1. It seems winter has arrived. Fortunately, I finished my shopping this morning, so I really don’t have to leave the house again until we head to Mass Friday night. I’m down with snow until January 1. Then we need spring as quickly as possible.

While I was at the mall this morning, I saw a couple interesting people. First, I saw a guy walking briskly through the mall with a small, plastic cooler in his hand. Was he, I wondered, transporting an organ for transplant but had to run into the mall quickly to grab a blouse, truffle, or gift certificate for his sweetie? Or does he just entertain himself by camping out on a bench in the mall with a six pack so he can watch the holiday mayhem in style? Almost worth going back to see if he’s still there.

I also popped into the Apple Store for a bit to play with the iMacs and PowerBooks. I overheard a woman in her 50s talking to one of the store employees about the functions of the iBooks. She was asking about the ability to play/record DVDs on them. Her comment that interested me most was, “When my husband gets old and dies, I figure I’ll need something to do so I’ll spend my time transferring our old movies to DVDs.” If you’re the person helping her, what do you say to that??? Why on earth do you share information like that with some poor guy at a store? Why isn’t it enough just to say you want to transfer VHS tapes to DVD and leave it at that? It was also amusing to hear teenagers try to maintain some level of patience with their parents as they explained the different iPods to them. You could hear the muted sighs and know they wanted to talk down to their moms and dads, but also knew that doing so would jeopardize any chance of getting an iPod, so they tried to keep an even tone.

I just wrapped all my gifts and solidified my status as the world’s worst wrapper. Honestly, I don’t know why I even try. I should just buy a bunch of festive bags and give up. I can’t even wrap a CD without tearing the corners, leaving a bubble on one side, or leaving some of the white side of the paper showing.

 

Two New Pet Peeves

1) People who don’t pull forward at red lights. I got stuck in traffic one night last week when I had to go out during the evening rush hour. A trip that normally takes five minutes took over 20 thanks to the normal traffic and added traffic from a nearby mall. At one stop light, I was three cars back and didn’t move during an entire green cycle because the traffic perpendicular to us didn’t move. What annoyed me most, though, were the people in front of me who would leave an entire car length between them and the car in front of them. When I got to my left turn lane, the 2-3 cars in front of me were doing all they could to squeeze together so those of us wanting to get left could slide into that lane. Once I got by them, though, I counted four different cars who left a minimum of six feet between their front bumper and the back bumper of the car preceding them. I’m not saying you have to rear-end people, but at least utilize all the free space so people behind you can get around. Idiots.

2) All the people at the Colts game last night who brought signs counting down the number of TD passes Peyton Manning had thrown so far this season. There were roughly 55,000 people at the Dome last night. I think pretty much 100% of them knew how close Manning was to catching Dan Marino on the all-time list, and even though this is Indiana, I think most people could keep track of how many TD passes he threw over the course of the game. Did all these people who brought countdown signs to the game really think they were providing some kind of community service to help people around them who might have lost track? Maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe this was how people tried to make themselves more a part of the event. As if being there wasn’t enough, they’ll now how a sign the rest of their life that allows them to take some measure of ownership of Manning’s record. Regardless, I don’t get it. In general I don’t think you should hold up signs at professional sporting events if you’re over the age of 12. You’re generally not as clever as you think you are, you’re ripping off someone else’s idea (like all the people with the D and fence signs), or you’re just trying to draw attention to yourself. Then again, perhaps I should just be happy my fellow Hoosier state residents weren’t tossing beers at Ray Lewis all night.

 

Holiday Weekend Kickoff

I would imagine some of my regular readers will begin disappearing in the next few days for shopping and traveling in preparation for the holidays. Other more occasional visitors may stop in more often thanks to the free time the holidays provide. Happy holidays to all.

The big news in Indy today is the new stadium/convention plan which was officially announced this morning. If approved, a retractable roofed stadium will be built just south of the RCA Dome in time for the 2008 NFL season. The deal will satisfy the NCAA and keep the Final Four coming back every five years, will allegedly get at least one Super Bowl visit (I say one only, if any, as cold weather cities aren’t loved by the NFL), and keep the Colts in town for 30 years. I watched part of the mayor’s news conference today and was most impressed by the fact the agreement with the team has no outs in break the lease. Any sports fan knows teams can easily break leases anytime they want, but it does provide some measure of comfort and security to a city that is tenuously holding onto its franchise. In recent years I’ve become more and more wary of stadium deals that are primarily funded by the public. Several cities have built new stadiums entirely with private dollars, so I get frustrated when people automatically say it can’t be done. It most certainly can be done. The Irsay family is kicking in $100 million of the $500 M estimated cost, but also get back $48M for naming rights and lease elements at the RCA Dome they’ll be giving up. If they keep resigning players to ridiculous contracts, I suppose it will even out. Keeping the Colts here is a good thing, I think, and with the first generation of life-long Colts fans coming into adulthood with the ability to buy season tickets, hopefully a fancy new stadium with 20-25K more seats will be full on a more consistent basis than the current stadium has been in some years.

What’s this I hear about Johnson County making noises about building a new football stadium and luring the Chiefs across the state line? I think that’s delicious, just because it would set off a whole new round of cross-border nonsense. People ask me why Indianapolis has been able to do so many things in the last 15-20 years to improve downtown where KC has failed. The answer is simple: no state line dividing the population (and to a lesser extent, no river diving a municipality’s tax base either).

Like most fans of the mighty University of Kansas Jayhawks basketball team, I’ve begun my annual vigil for Wayne Simien’s health. He needs to be healthy in March, so I’ll gladly exchange a few games now to ensure he heals if that means he’s not dinged up in two months.

I discovered Saturday that M. really can’t relax when she’s trying to sleep on me during a game. Apparently I get pretty tense, which she senses. Shocking, I know. That was a downright pathetic performance by KU though, so I think it was understandable that I would be worked up. Did they all go out drinking before the game or something?

South Carolina in many ways is a poor man’s Oklahoma State, which caused me much worry. Thankfully the Pokes don’t come to Lawrence for awhile so there’s time to improve.

It is still difficult in some ways getting over the Roy Williams era and coming to terms with the Bill Self era at KU. Under Roy, if we fell behind by ten points, you always knew exactly what the team would do to try to respond, and see quickly whether they were going to be successful in coming back. Since Self does different things each game, I never have any idea if we’re going to be able to right the ship before it’s too late. It’s an unnerving feeling after 15 years of comfort. At the same time, I trust Bill a lot more to examine what’s going on in the course of a game and react with ways of attacking the other team rather than just running the same 12 plays over and over.

Speaking of horrible games, the first 25-30 minutes of the Indiana-Missouri game yesterday should be erased from all tapes and never viewed again. I’m not sure how many top 50 recruits were on the court, but I think the argument can be made that never has so much talent played so poorly. My Mizzou friends will appreciate the fact I kept my wife from calling any of you when IU got a 17 point lead. Her occasional interest in sporting events gets the best of her when her alma mater actually plays well. I reminded her of IU’s 18 point lead against MU a year ago and how that game ended up. Good old IU didn’t disappoint, did they? I was disappointed that Mike Davis showed some restraint and didn’t charge after the officials following the no-call on Bracey Wright’s last drive to the hoop. He did give the refs the Mike Davis Face, though.

Was Spencer Laurie in the game just to injure someone? That was a nasty elbow he threw at Bracey’s nose.

I think the announcer on the IU network had someone from MU/the Laurie family sitting next to him peeling off $50 bills each time he mentioned “beautiful new Mizzou Arena”. He literally called it beautiful each time he mentioned where it was being played. I don’t doubt it’s a good looking facility, but did he have to say that every time? Get a thesaurus and throw some other adjectives at us!

I worked on a number of posts over the weekend. If I survive the mall later today, I’ll try to get some more posted.

 

Observations From The TV

Things seen on TV last night.

1 – A Charlie Brown Christmas. M. cried, keeping up a tradition her dad started many years ago. I was a sensitive little lad, and the overwhelming negativity of Peanuts animated specials were always too much for me to take. Whether it was the ridicule of Linus while he waited for the Great Pumpkin, or the persecution of Charlie Brown in pretty much every show, I always got upset while watching the Peanuts gang. Things came to a head when I was 5 or 6 and watched Snoopy Come Home. My mom warned me that she wasn’t going to let me watch Peanuts specials anymore if I continued to get so worked up over them. Well, Snoopy Come Home is pretty much the saddest animated show for kids ever, so within 15 minutes I was hiding between the sofa, a large fern, and the crate my parents kept their stereo on quietly sobbing away. My mom peeked into the room, didn’t see me, and searched until she saw me curled into my small hiding space. I had been crying silently up to that point, but when she saw me, I lost it. I don’t think she even let me see that Snoopy did indeed come home, she just sent me to my room, where I wept the good weep of a small boy until I fell asleep. Thankfully, after reading Amazon’s reviews, it seems like a lot of kids in the 70s bawled while watching Snoopy Come Home. I might as well keep M. away from Charlie, Lucy, and Linus from here on because she definitely got the gene.

2 – Fred Hickman hosting Sportscenter. Not sure where he’s been hiding, but the former CNN sports host has surfaced after many years out of the national eye. Young readers may not recall this, but once upon a time Sportscenter actually had competition from CNN. Fred was ok back in the day, I remember stealing a few of his lines for stories in my high school paper, so I’ll hope he keeps his schtick to a minimum and doesn’t try to compete with the other hacks in Bristol.

3 – Speaking of no competition for ESPN, I guess that’s why they can run their Dale Earnhardt movie 3 on ESPN, then immediately after, again on ESPN2 while they’re simultaneously trying to sell a DVD of said movie. Makes perfect sense. I’m sure they promoted their next movie during each commercial break on both networks as well.
The network did show one of the reasons why they have no competition by providing excellent, in-depth coverage of all the action in baseball’s hot stove league during Sportscenter. Then again, they’re showing some high school kid’s press conference in which he’s going to announce what college he’ll be playing football at on ESPNews. This isn’t LeBron James or Greg Oden. Just some really good player most sports fans have never heard of. I think any high ground the network tries to claim when discussing the overexposure of athletes has been lost. Overall, C-/D+ for ESPN last night.

4 – Entertainment Weekly’s Top 15 Biggest Little Things of 2004 on Bravo. Any list that includes coverage of the extended DVD of Showgirls is worth watching. Actually, it was a very good run down of the biggest issues in entertainment this year. A little snarky, but not the surfeit of snark that VH1 will no doubt provide in their year-end shows.

5 – Thanks to the DVR, a couple classic episodes of Cheers. For fans of the early days, TVLand rolled the tapes over last week and are still in season one if you’d like to go back and watch the brilliance of Coach or the early days of Sam and Diane’s relationship. One episode I had recorded was Tortelli’s Tort, in which Carla attacks a Yankees fan who comes to the bar and harasses the Red Sox fans after another bad loss to the Bronx Bombers. Somewhere, Carla Tortelli, Sam Malone, and Ernie Pantuso are smiling now that the Sox have finally won a series.

 

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