Sunday, April 30, 2006
Plus, my other plan was to go to this outdoor arts/food festival near me, but it's starting to rain.
All is not lost: the forces of good (represented by the Edmonton Oilers) defeated the forces of awful (I've probably mentioned who represents that enough) yesterday, to go up 3-2. Team Shitbag is, of course, resilient and talented enough to come back from that deficit, but I've got my fingers crossed. The Ales Pisa jersey has been given pride of place on the wall, as a good luck charm. Go Oilers, at least until you face a team I like better!
Friday, April 28, 2006
Yesterday, I meant to post about a dream I had the other night, in which my old friend Kynan and I had decided to go into business bootlegging Die Kreuzen CDs. Curiously, we were only doing the "October File" album, best known to me because Touch and Go inexplicably sequenced it in front of the amazing first album when they were joined up on a CD.
There's probably an easier way to make your first million than bootlegging Die Kreuzen CDs, so kids, don't do it.
Along with a recent dream that incorporated the Crucifucks, former Syracuse Crunch star L'ubomir Vaic, Dick Cheney, and an Arizona motel, it appears my subconscious has shifted from the morbid to the silly.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
It's a bizarre state of mind that seems unique to hockey fans. If a baseball fan decides players from Latin America just don't care as much about the World Series as Americans, he's rightly seen as a fringe loony. Basketball -- with much less of a European player history than the NHL -- still seems far more progressive about it. But in hockey, it's still considered quite acceptable to Euro-bash.
It's not just a playoff issue -- witness the debate over the two star rookies. When it's finally grudgingly admitted that Ovechkin had a better year than Crosby, it comes with the caveat that he's two years older. Like he cheated. Canadian fans act like they'll undergo a nationwide penis-shrinkage if it's acknowledged that Ovechkin might actually be in Sid's class.
But it's the postseason where the weirdo hockey nationalists really come out to play. The Rangers won't win because they have too many Europeans! They'd rather be at the World Championships! No, the Rangers won't win because they don't have enough depth and their defense is pretty thin.
There've been enough excellent European playoff performances by now -- off the top of my head, Bure in '94, Kamensky in '96, Zubov, Kovalev, Hejduk, all those Red Wings douchebags -- that it's not really any sort of valid question any more, but there's still an undercurrent of "Euros disappear in April." It's a sad, silly argument, and the underlying causes aren't easy to counter -- is it best to send Patrik Eliáš and Martin Havlát around to explain their first round stats? Perhaps kneecap Don Cherry? Hell, I dunno. It's late and I've had a bit much to drink.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
So, five minutes ago, I flipped over to Covered in Oil and, uh, the Oilers won. The Wings' goal didn't count. Good DID triumph. I feel a bit stupid and befuddled, and full of bile that suddenly has no actual reason or outlet.
It's been one hell of a weird playoff season, and we're what, five days in? The mantra in years past has always been "there's no fighting in the playoffs," but both the Sabres-Flyers and Senators-Lightning series look likely to end with someone getting shanked in the prison yard. Last night's Senators-Lightning game was one for the ages: 12 goals, umpteen fights, Zdeno Chara destroying Vincent Lecavalier -- and looking, for just a moment, ready to permanently put out the lights. I wonder if the image of Big Z straddling him, cocking a fist the size of a smokehouse ham, deciding whether or not to land the killing blow, is gonna end up making VL a bit nervous the rest of the series. Really now -- Vinny's a big lad, but what on earth made him decide to throw the first punch at Zdeno, who for once didn't look just giant, but also crazed? (pic here)
I went into the postseason with a number of certainties -- halfway through the first round, only two are left: New Jersey's really good, and the Predators are screwed without Vokoun. Oh, and the Red Wings are douchebags, but that's one of those universal truths.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
I'd avoided reading Julian Rubinstein's "Ballad of the Whiskey Robber" for quite a while -- I just feared disappointment. It combined two of my obsessions (Eastern Europe and hockey) with one of my hobbies (drinking). It became a best-seller. It got damn good reviews. With all that going for it, how could I hope to like it?
But read it I did, finally, and it's brilliant. Actually exceeded anything I could have reasonably expected. Briefly: it's the tale of an ethnic-Hungarian resident of Transylvania, Attila Ambrus, who fled to Hungary and became a (lousy) hockey goalie and doer of awful jobs. With his dreams not coming to fruition, he eventually turns to crime to make a liveable income, and subsequently leads the police on a merry chase.
It's funny as hell but it's not a slapstick comedy. There's a lot of care and intelligence here. The characters are well-rendered -- it would've been easier, I imagine, to just let the police be bumbling fools (they do a good job of backing up that impression), but they're more than that. Attila's girlfriends and acquaintances come through well. No cardboard cut-outs here.
Most impressive to me, though, is Rubinstein's portrayal of post-Communist Hungary. Too many books, mostly expat-penned, have touted '90s Eastern Europe as a fairy tale of wild dreams, pretty girls, and cheap beer. But the in-depth examination of what happened when the glow wore off, how society disintegrated, is illuminating. It becomes quite clear why many of the people over there grew to prefer the lost stability of stagnation to the free-market chaos.
I wanted a fast, fun read after "Europe Central." I got that, and actually learned something too. Really good stuff here.
There's still a good chance of Singapore and Cambodia happening at some point too. All very exciting.
There's a bunch of other things that I've been meaning to write, so this place should be updated frequently in the coming days. It's the PPA Update Week!
Monday, April 24, 2006
ZAGREB, April 24 (Reuters) - If you have ever wondered what to do with the painful reminders of a broken love affair the answer is here now: Donate them to a museum in Croatia. Zagreb's new Museum of Broken Relationships already houses love letters, engagement rings, massage oils, a scooter, even the empty liquor bottles left behind after romance fails and it wants you to send it more of love's detritus.Mostly the empty liquor bottles for me, I think. The museum's web site is here -- all in Croatian, but if you get inside and fiddle with the weird Flash jigsaw puzzle a bit, you can see some of the exhibits (and some English diary entries). The full Reuters story is here.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
For example: one of the three times I've been seriously ill in my life came during junior high, when I came down with some hellacious illness right at the end of the school year. I woke up ill the morning after I'd read one of the old "Beeline Books" series of literary porno ("The Eager Sexhibitionist," if you must know) -- and for a long time afterwards, I associated porn with sickness. Andrea Dworkin would have approved.
Some others: getting my wisdom teeth out is forever tied to the Hawkman superhero -- the old Joe Kubert comics were about all I could handle reading while I was doped up. (It's also tied to the unwise decision to drive to Tucson's PDQ Records after taking a few Tylenol With Codeine -- I have a vague memory of driving about 10 miles an hour along one of Tucson's busiest roads, more efficient drivers blowing past me in a blur of loud horns and middle fingers, me rewarding them with a beatific and mindless smile)
Much of it is music. When driving up to Phoenix once during college, in failed pursuit of a cute girl, I listened to Ministry's "Psalm 69" album over and over and over and over and over. No wonder my effort was doomed. Government Issue's "Crash" album is the eternal soundtrack to a longer college road trip, grumpy and alone across much of the American Midwest. In my memory, my last bout of living in Boulder consisted of nothing but Uncle Tupelo's first two albums, the Old 97s' first three, and the occasional 5 a.m. play of Steve Earle's "I Feel Alright" or a Townes Van Zandt collection. A road trip to Chicago and Ohio is set to Social Distortion and Terry Allen. My first year in Tucson: Hüsker Dü's "Candy Apple Grey" (I had an unfailing ability to hear a band's worst album first). An angst-ridden period of being 15: opposite ends of the spectrum, a strange blend of Black Flag's "The First Four Years" combined with Edie Brickell's "What I Am" and Martika's "Toy Soldiers." If I made a mix tape to capture the essence of that self-pitying 1988, no one would ever speak to me again.
The most vivid, though, is another of the serious bouts of illness, during my senior year of high school. I came down with something called "Valley Fever," apparently unique to the American Southwest, and apparently only striking people who wear Turning Point t-shirts incessantly. I was out of school for much of a month, often in a haze, losing 30 pounds ... and the whole thing, to this day, is tied in to Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" and the Embrace album. (I'd just read "C&P" and I'd just been introduced to Embrace) Rather unexpectedly, that's not a really bad association for me. Yeah, I was horribly ill (and it had long-term consequences -- enough scars on my lungs that new doctors are shocked when they see my x-ray), but I think of reading "Crime and Punishment" and listening to Embrace and it all seems innocent and pleasant to me. I recently dug out the Embrace album for the first time in years, and was shocked at how well it holds up -- as overwrought as it is, it still seems pretty brilliant to me. Though maybe that's just because I listened to it over and over as a high school senior. The mind works in funny ways.
An aside: that same illness prompted one of the most terrifying fever dreams I've ever had, one that still sticks with me -- in it, I was lying in bed, late afternoon Tucson sun bathing the room in sepia, and my brother appearing in the shadows at the doorway. The shadows split a bit -- enough for me to realize he didn't have a face, right as he started running, with a loping gait, toward me. I woke up screaming.
But anyway: anyone else have similar odd associations? C'mon, I've copped to reading Beeline Books and listening to Ministry in younger days -- nothing else can be as embarrassing.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Really, it's amazing how much hatred that team can arouse in me. I can't remember the last time I saw them play, but God, they're the epitome of all that's wrong with life today.
So, conversely, for this week at least, the Edmonton Oilers are the standard-bearers for all that's good and true. Go, Pronger and Dvorak and Hemsky and that other guy and that other other guy! I've been slutty enough with my team loyalties over the years -- I can accept one other into my heart for the duration of this series. I've got my game-worn Ales Pisa jersey and I'm ready to go. Viva Edmonton!
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
A couple of places have already weighed in, though. CNNSI's Allan Muir looks at the future fortunes of the non-playoff teams, and is positively glowing about what's in store for the Thrashers. The AJC's Mark Bradley (not linked due to the AJC's pain-in-the-ass registration system) puts most of the blame on the defense, which seems accurate enough (though Lehtonen's injury woes are dismissed in a paragraph). Neither writer mentions how good the Thrashers might have been if they hadn't sent Tomáš Klouček down after one game.
Only tangentially related but of interest: Sidearm Delivery has a bit on Russian coach Vladimir Krikunov's reasons for leaving Ilya Kovalchuk off the World Championships team. The coach says that Kovy's a bit of a drunk. Hey, Ilya, call me -- we'll party!
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Well so much for that. The season ended (effectively -- they still have a game against the Panthers, but aside from the possibility of lots of fights, there's nothing of interest there) on a fitting note: giving up six goals to one of the league's worst teams, Mike Dunham reverting to career backup mode at the worst possible time, and me in a bar that normally shows the games but last night chose to show no sports at all, apparently, reducing me to emotional highs and lows as I got updates on my cell phone.
Don Waddell and I are in the same boat: his team didn't deliver on his playoff guarantee, I didn't deliver on my implied guarantee to be the best Thrashers blogger on Earth. Thankfully my gig isn't paying so I don't have to worry about getting fired.
That leaves me cheering for the Avalanche, though they look to be out of the playoffs tout suite, frankly -- beyond that, I guess, it'll be the Senators or the Hurricanes. This likely marks the end of my hockey blogging for the summer, which will make a few of my friends happy -- maybe I'll do an end-of-season wrap-up on the Thrashers, if I can motivate myself, and of course I'll be giving constant updates on Tomas Kloucek's (too hungover for diacritics) career path, as they come in.
So, yeah, that's it. The Thrashers' hopes end on a goal by Brian Freakin' Willsie. It's an ugly world we live in.
Monday, April 17, 2006
(insert line about how confusing computers are!)
It's off now. If you tried to leave comments before, and failed, have at it. If you haven't, well, why not??
Saturday, April 15, 2006
If you get a power play in the overtime period, please score. Thanks.
(if my math is correct -- I'm too bitter to check -- the Lightning now lead the Thrashers by three points. Tampa Bay has one game to go, the Thrashers two.)
Thursday, April 13, 2006
In any case, they're now two points back of Tampa Bay, each team with three games to go. Toronto, meanwhile, has closed in to just one behind the Thrashers -- surprising me, at least, since I thought the Leafs were eliminated back in January.
Meanwhile, happy news as noted jerk Sean Avery appears to be out of a job. The joy is curbed somewhat by Red and Black Hockey's speculation that he'll wind up as a Thrasher. I cheered for Claude Lemieux for years, sure, but Avery's in a league all his own -- loud and stupid.
11. "New York Underground" by Julia Solis
12. "Europe Central" by William T. Vollmann
The latter is the finest book I've read in quite some time. To quote from an e-mail I sent a friend while immersed --
it's really hot shit. I've never read him because of a nagging feeling that he's too smart for me, but this one (supposedly his most accessible book) is just ... really good.Getting through the last half didn't change that opinion any. It's not something to enter into lightly, and I'm well aware that I perhaps wasn't even aware of half the stuff he had going on. It's extraordinarily ambitious, and accordingly, sometimes overreaches (in particular, the character of Elena in its various incarnations is so laden with symbolism that it tends to eat up every scene she's in), but I'd rather read something that shoots for the stars over something that remains on safe ground.
It's long, and about war, and a big chunk takes place in the USSR, so reviewers call it "the new 'War and Peace'" blah blah blah. Whatever, it's great, and I honestly feel in reading it that I'm witnessing genius. I'll refrain from describing it as it doesn't lend itself to easy description, but yeah, great stuff.
To repeat myself a bit -- I felt like I was in the presence of genius reading this, and that's not something I toss around too much.
NYT review here. Registration required and all that.
Things I never knew before, Thursday version: Vancouver Canucks coach Marc Crawford and not-really-definable celebrity Henry Rollins were born on the same day.
This signifies something, though I'm not sure what. Perhaps it just signifies that the heat is getting to me.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
I can't tell you anything that happened in the game for certain, other than the Thrashers scoring more goals than the other team, and Mike Dunham letting fewer pucks past him than Sean Burke. So feel free to imagine any scenario: perhaps an enraged, half-sane, PCP-crazed Marian Hossa started disemboweling Lightning defensemen, letting new scoring sensation Andy Sutton fire pucks at will past the goalie. I couldn't tell you any different -- I was at a tony wine bar, batting my well-groomed eyelashes at a cute girl. I'm the world's shittiest hockey fan.
It isn't on maps, any more, but another chunk of the Dixie Highway was long known locally as Stewart Avenue. It apparently earned a fairly notorious reputation in recent decades, culminating in the early 1990s when a group of suburban guys went down there for a bachelor party. After heading to a strip club, they ... well, accounts vary:
a) they picked up some hookers, went to a motel, found out the hookers were transvestites, and refused to pay;
b) they went to the motel in full knowledge that some of the hookers were transvestites, but there was still a dispute about payment, or;
c) the pimp tried to rob them.
Either way, when all was said and done, the groom and best man were dead, and a predictable uproar followed (though finding details on it is tough now: there's a surprising dearth of material on such a sordid story, though admittedly it's not the type of thing Atlanta would put in a tourism brochure). The city vowed to clean up the drugs/prostitution/murder smorgasbord that was Stewart Avenue, and in true Atlanta fashion, step one was renaming the street. It's now Metropolitan Parkway.
This all happened years before I even thought of moving down here. Articles now praise the transformation of Metropolitan Parkway, and all I can say is that if it's an improvement now, good God, it must have been really bad back in the early '90s.
To be fair, I've been down there about once a year over the past few years to shoot some photos, and there are signs of improvement -- and I've never felt threatened. There are some new and more upscale businesses down there, the ever-present Atlanta townhomes going in, and I guess many of the strip joints are gone, though the Gold Rush -- the one the ill-fated bachelor party went to before the motel -- is still there. (Drop by and say hi!) The Alamo Plaza Motor Court, the site of the shootings, is now an apartment complex so boring that I couldn't be bothered to take a picture.
But in general, it ain't pretty. There's a lot of boarded-up businesses, including the arson-hit FJ's Tavern building, the site of a triple murder about five years back.
There's a lot of signs for businesses that are not just gone, but otherwise completely eradicated; there's no trace of the buildings that once held the Greenwood Motel or the West Texas Music Club.
Undoubtedly, though, things will continue to improve -- Hapeville, nearby, seems to be quiet and suburban now, which I gather wasn't always the case. The townhomes will take over, at the expense of the current residents, most likely. But for now it's a chance to get past the gloss that Atlanta tries to put on things. It's not always pretty, but it's just as much a part of the city's history and personality as Buckhead or Five Points or Virginia-Highland.
Went to my first Braves game of the last several years last night (or at least most of it -- Atlanta's amazing traffic turned a journey of a few miles into an hour-plus) and really, without "Chipper" Jones in the lineup, it's difficult to work up much vitriol toward the team -- I've become so disconnected from baseball, aside from the Cardinals, that I don't know who many of these guys are. I was vaguely cheered up to see that Brian Jordan's still playing at age 52, and I know who Francoeur is because some things are unavoidable even when you ignore local news, but beyond that -- where's Len Barker? Where's Chris Chambliss? Where's Bob Horner?
The stadium was packed -- probably one of three times it will be all season -- and with accidental sobriety in effect (they don't take credit cards at the beer stands and there were about two ATMs in the whole place), I was a bit irritable. But beyond the lack of amenities, and the crowds of frat guys around, Turner Field was really nice -- I had lousy seats the last time I was there, but last night's upper deck seats had perfect sight lines. Lotsa cute girls, too.
I was a diehard baseball fan back around junior high or so, the kind of guy who could tell you who played second base for the Padres in 1976 (whether or not you asked), who would spend his lunch hour reading Bill James. I didn't date much, obviously. That's long since passed -- music, hockey, girls all took precedence -- and ever since the World Series got wiped out, my interest has flagged considerably. It was good to get out there last night, but I'll probably wait to do it again for a good lazy afternoon game, when Turner draws a minor league-sized crowd, and I can sprawl out in a field of empty plastic Miller Lite bottles.
In news from the sport that I spend every waking hour thinking about (but also never really watch), the Canadiens obviously don't read this blog, and failed to lose last night. That just about guarantees that the Lightning are the Thrashers' only hope. It'd be good to see Tampa Bay properly mark the 10th anniversary of the Devils' 1995-96 season, when that club failed to make the playoffs at all in defense of their Stanley Cup run. I'm confident Pavel Kubina and Evgeny Artyukhin have enough sense of history to make that happen.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Of course, all of this (the Thrashers getting to the playoffs, not rooting against Atlanta's baseball team) has to happen without Kari Lehtonen. Why is nothing ever easy?
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
That desire has fallen by the wayside and been trumped by more exotic locations, but as I was up early this morning and had nothing pressing to do, I headed out on one small segment near me -- intending to traverse the route from Acworth (northwest of Atlanta) down to Hapeville (just south), through Atlanta itself.
I'll spare the details but it didn't go as planned -- a lack of adequate research on my part and Atlanta's ever-changing road names sent me on a few wild goose chases, but it was an interesting little jaunt nonetheless.
I would presume (perhaps wrongly) that once upon a time, the bit I took was pretty crucial -- it connected Atlanta to Marietta, before the latter became more of a bedroom community. Now, with I-75 just to the east, it's just another road (albeit one that gets much less traffic than it could handle. In chronically-gridlocked Atlanta, that was a pleasant surprise).
I'd hoped to shoot a bunch of photos, but most of the interesting stuff came on my wrong turns. On the Atlanta-Marietta route itself, it was a mix of foul-smelling industrial plants, dollar stores, and unpleasant-looking restaurants (including an Italian place that seemed to specialize in gyros -- go figure). Further north, into the Vinings/Smyrna/Marietta area, it was much more cleaned up -- all new townhomes and stuff. I realize now, I'll have to get into the rural areas to see remnants of the older community.
Or, again, take a wrong turn. The first of these led me into a neighborhood just a bit west of my target. On old maps, it looks rather more important: traversed by railway lines, just off the Marietta road, near the city center. Now? It's in rough shape. I've lived here six and a half years and never had cause to go -- most of the businesses are no longer extant, and it had a generally hopeless air. It doesn't have the reputation of Atlanta's seamier spots, it doesn't have any sort of artistic community or new projects going on. It's just forgotten. Someday, I'd like to find out more about how Atlanta's neighborhoods have evolved; I've heard that my yuppified little home was a bit less polished about 20 years ago, and the hip Little Five Points to the south was a complete wreck. I've never found a good solid Atlanta history, but if anyone who stumbles upon this site knows of one -- one that goes beyond the "Atlanta: It's a Peach of a City!" crap -- feel free to drop me a line.
(One of the interesting bits seen out there: a large billboard for the mayoral re-election campaign of ... Ray Nagin. The mayor of New Orleans, which, you'll note, is not Atlanta. I was befuddled, but eventually concluded that given the number of N.O. transplants who were forced here, it's actually a canny move.)
After the multiple wrong turns, I scrapped the southern portion of the planned route for today (too bad -- I actually know my way around that one) and just shot the usual old buildings/ghost signs over on Marietta Street. Among them, the shell of a building shown to the left -- amidst all the townhouses and lofts going up was this wreck. What it once was, I don't know, and given the activity in the region, it won't be there for long, so I'm glad I found it while I could.
While on this subject, this is as good a time as any to plug the excellent
Atlanta Time Machine website. The fellow who runs it finds old photos of Atlanta sites -- then goes to the location today, takes a snapshot, and posts the two together. It's good, and interesting, and makes me wish I knew the city better. He's also got a fun collection of Atlanta esoterica -- including all sorts of stuff related to the Clermont Lounge. Good times.
James Mirtle breaks down what each team has to do to make the playoffs, and the Thrashers need to be virtually perfect, and Tampa Bay, Montreal, or New Jersey need an epic collapse. I don't see any of those teams except possibly Montreal cooperating -- so, this might be about it.
Longer, non-hockey-related post coming later, for my non-hockey-loving pals.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
My condo is, to put it mildly, well-insulated -- I've gone through the last two winters without turning on the heat, and don't even know if it works properly any more. The downside to this is that by about 10 this morning, I felt like I'd taken up residence in a pizza oven. The a/c unit in my bedroom is on the verge of death (tops on my to-do list, September 2005, was "get a new a/c unit installed). I don't deal well with humidity.
In theory, (once I get a new a/c unit) an overly hot summer would keep me inside during off-days, where I would, naturally, work on writing a novel and other great projects. More likely, what will happen is I'll fail to buy a new air conditioner, I'll end up going to whatever bar is dimmest at noon, and writing entries here about how hot it is, and the virtues of Pilsner Urquell on tap vs bottled.
Just in case anyone wondered what I'd bitch about with the overnights over -- now you know.
As I noted earlier, it's hard for me to feel much hate for the Carolina Hurricanes -- even moreso when they kindly let the Thrashers pound them a bit in a crucial (for the Thrashers, not the 'Canes) late-season game. And Tampa Bay lost, too, closing the gap for Atlanta... a gap that had widened the night before, when TB beat the Thrashers. Is Atlanta Thrashers hockey a zero-sum game?
Meantime the Thrashers have finally come to terms with Boris Valabik, the giant, tough Slovak defenseman they drafted back in '04. So now we know whose jersey I'll get once my last Klouček hopes have faded away.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
And still nothin' - but brief downtime at work means that I've added a few links to the right side of this here blog.
The guy who runs Agony Shorthand, my favorite music blog, has a new one on a subject even dearer to my heart -- beer. Go here. I want to sample every single thing mentioned, already.
Then, an old, old favorite has been resurrected: LCS Hockey is back from the dead. In the late '90s, long before every dipshit with a computer had a page about hockey, it was the go-to site for entertaining coverage of everyone's favorite sport. It also for a time featured a much younger me as Colorado Avalanche correspondent. It's good to see it back.