Monday, July 31, 2006

Wherever You Go, There You Are

My friend and I went and applied for our visas for Russia last week. Just a small step, and it's still nearly three months away, but it becomes more real daily.

In the spirit of travel...

#24 - "Zorba the Greek" by Nikos Kazantzakis
#25 - "The Atlas" by William T. Vollmann

That's right, a two-fer ... Monday.

"...I have always been consumed with one desire: to touch and see as much as possible of the earth and the sea before I die."
-"Zorba the Greek"

"...he was simply looking for something. He wanted to see the world, that was all. He wanted to know and love the entire atlas."
-"The Atlas"

Two books about seeing it all, from radically different parts of the spectrum. When he gave me "Zorba the Greek" for my birthday, my friend told me "this'll make you want to pack up and get out of the country tomorrow." He was right; ZtG is a celebration of enjoying life. The bookish narrator is taught about passion and joy by Zorba; I identify pretty well with one, and it isn't Zorba. While I don't really buy into the whole theme of "cast away your books and live like a simple man," it is a pleasure to read.

"The Atlas" is anything but a celebration of passion and joy. Vollmann's been everywhere, and this is a collection of small vignettes -- some fact, some fiction, some somewhere in between. He's fascinated by the sadder sides of life, and his stories are populated by junkies, drunks and whores, all searching desperately for some sort of hope.

The quality is uneven, and it's not cheerful reading, but Vollmann's often brilliant and there's some amazing stuff in here. The highlights include the centerpiece titular tale, in which a cross-Canada train trip blends dreamily with scenes from visits to cities around the world; "Under the Grass" -- a haunting group of stories, inspired by the death of Vollmann's sister as a child; and "That's Nice," a tale that follows an attack in Bosnia that left two of the author's friends dead. It's brutal, a punch to the face. "The Atlas" is harsh and tragic throughout, but compelling. I'll need to read something pretty damn cheerful next, though.

25 books, in seven months. I'm a month behind the pace I initially set for myself. A day late and a dollar short.

Bad Beers Live

A while back, I wrote about Crazy Ed's Cave Creek Chili Pepper Beer -- and theorized that it's long defunct.

Fidel passes on this story, which shows that the beer not only lives -- it's thriving, and has crossed the Atlantic (to mixed reviews). Weird old world.

The PPA Loves You

Particularly when I'm good and drunk. I shelled out a whole bundle of money to see the Drams today -- buying tickets for myself and a bunch of people, perhaps more people than I actually have friends. The Drams are ex-members of Slobberbone, who were, at their peak, in the running for BEST BAND EVER, so this will likely be good.

Anyway. A few mp3s.

The Drams - Unhinged. This one's all over the web, so I can't imagine there's any legal problems with me posting it. If there are, let me know, and I'll take it down promptly.

Slobberbone - Can't Stay Sober
. Live in '02. A fine song.

Slobberbone - Champagne Supernova. Same show, Oasis cover.

The Screamers - Mater Dolores. Nothing to do with the others, but I've had this song in my head lately. I'm a sucker for Catholic mysticism. Later covered, to fine effect, by both El Vez and Skull Kontrol.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Headed For the Dragon's Lair

I'm not at all connected to what's going on in the world of hardcore music today -- you kids, and your loud music, and your tattoos, and why are you so angry? -- but oh holy Jesus, I walked into Criminal Records today, and saw a poster for a Gorilla Biscuits show on August 29th.

Gorilla. Fucking. Biscuits.

I haven't listened to the GBs in years, and I haven't been anything approaching straight edge in more than a decade. But when I was 16, 17 years old, these guys were my favorite band on earth.

I think I have to go, even though it's probably in poor taste for a 33-year-old drunk to be attending a straight-edge hardcore show out of weird 1989 nostalgia.

On the other hand, the Biscuits are probably all 33-year-old drunks by now!

Urban Fossils

Went for a drive down Moreland Avenue this morning, hunting for old buildings. With a bunch of developments going up or planned, the area's older structures are vanishing fast, so I wanted to capture a few.

Along the way, I found the following shell of a building. Absolutely no idea what it is -- some of it suggests industrial/power, but it seems to stylized for that -- but it's also not the kind of place you'd expect to find, say, an architecturally-daring restaurant. The internet turns up no clues; there was a sign up indicating it's handled by Inman Park Properties, but their web page doesn't have a listing.

If any Atlantans stumble across this -- the building's at the southwest corner of Moreland and Eastland.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Canucks That Don't Suck

As noted a few times now, Alanah at Vancouver Canucks Op Ed is now in the midst of 48 blog posts in 24 hours, all for charity.

The Canucks and Avs have had an often tense relationship, highlighted by Todd Bertuzzi's hit on Steve Moore. But I've forgiven that. I remember how, in the 1996 playoffs, so many people misunderstood Claude Lemieux when Kris Draper started beating his own face against the boards, screaming "Why must I be a Red Wing?" Lemieux just skated over to comfort him, but was then vilified by fans who didn't realize the generosity they were seeing. I can forgive Bertuzzi, in the hopes that someday history will vindicate Pepe.

Where was I? Despite recent history, the Canucks and I do have a longstanding relationship. I even had a Canucks Christmas ornament at one point. So in the interest of building bridges rather than fences, I present:

Greg's list of Canucks that I always thought were kind of cool

Jiri Slegr: Slegr is actually one of my current favorite players, though more for his (brief) time with the Thrashers than because of his Canucks period. He was one of the few bright spots on the early Thrashers teams, and it was a sorrowful day when he was traded to Detroit for, uh, Yuri Butsayev. Yes, Slegr won a Stanley Cup, but he also had to spend a few months in Detroit. Scarred, he spent the next season in Europe, before coming back to North America... and another stint with the Canucks. (who benched him most of the time, and then traded him to the Bruins, but who's counting?)

Jiri Bubla: We've been over this.

Jyrki Lumme: One of the all-time great hockey names, and the subject of the fine song by Glenn Ford and the Piers, "What's Wrong With Lumme?"

Trevor Linden: Now, when I'm reminded that Linden is somehow still playing, it's kind of embarrassing -- like realizing that Nitzer Ebb is still active. But in his time, I loved watching Linden -- hard-working, always noble, talented. One of those guys inextricably linked to a city -- if he'd never left Vancouver in the first place, I'm convinced, he'd still be good today.

L'ubomir Vaic: Damn straight.

Gino Odjick: Once one of the most feared fighters in the NHL, made the eternal fatal error of thinking he was destined to become an all-around player. Took the back cover photo on D.O.A.'s "Loggerheads" album. In college, I interviewed D.O.A.'s Joey Shithead for the University of Arizona newspaper. I began by asking about Odjick and the photo, and we ended up talking about hockey for 45 minutes -- leaving me with nothing really usable for the article.

Greg Adams: His name was "Greg," and he came from Arizona college hockey -- of course I liked him.

Dan Cloutier: No matter how bad things were going for the Avalanche, I could always count on Cloutier to give up five goals -- and I loved him for that. Thank the lord he stayed in-conference.

Richard Brodeur: One of those childhood favorites, where I don't think I had any true idea of his actual talent -- I just thought he was really cool. Probably the last hockey player ever to be nicknamed "King."

Geoff Courtnall: This is more due to his time with the Blues. That, and one of the most impressive noses in hockey history.

Craig Coxe: The man would fight anyone. He'd lose, but he'd take 'em on.

Jere Gillis: Became a stuntman after his NHL career.

Thomas Gradin: Quiet and unassuming, but really really talented.

Bret Hedican: Always seemed like a genuinely good guy. I always remember him, too, because of his bit role in the Petr Nedved drama.

Arturs Irbe: Who doesn't like Archie? Honestly, though, until I consulted hockeydb for this list, I forgot he was ever a Canuck.

Igor Larionov: I always root for the noble, classy types, which Iggy was until he went to Detroit. His autobiography was pretty good, as I remember.

Robert Kron, Frantisek Kucera, Petr Nedved: Three Czechs, three guys who never really quite lived up to the hype (at least on this side of the Atlantic). "Kron" is also a really great name to say over and over. Kron Kron Kron Kron.

Darcy Rota: A great hockey face.

Rich Sutter: I love all the Sutters. Rich was probably the least talented, but who the hell cares?

Esa Tikkanen: There wasn't much left of Tik by the time he came to the Canucks, but he was always so fun to watch.

Dave "Tiger" Williams: Hockey's greatest cook.

So there you have it. The Canucks have contributed plenty to my hockey life. They're not such bad guys after all, and I hope someday, maybe, they get a Stanley Cup!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Reading List

Oh, it's a slow evening at work (as you can guess -- second post in a matter of hours), and I've spent much of it just surfing the internet, over and over and over again.

To that end, here's a few things -- some new, some old -- that made for interesting reading this evening:

* A House of Mirth profile of Croatian writer Dubravka Ugrešić. I've yet to read any of her longer work -- perhaps this will motivate me. Some interesting insights into national identity in the former Yugoslavia, whether or not one is familiar with her writing.

* A personal history from Natalya at Indiscretions.

* Agony Shorthand interviews Mike Atta of Middle Class. I'm a sucker for punk nostalgia, especially for the stuff that predated me (by quite a bit, in this case). Good stories and keeps it all in perspective.

* Fredoluv, after a road trip with my brother, is playing video games for pay this summer.

* The Danbury Trashers are no more -- and there's all sorts of nasty stuff swirling about the carcass. Sidearm Delivery has been covering it all. Side note -- while this may make Brushback weep with frustration -- I love the Trashers' logo. LOVE IT. I would pay a decent amount of money for a Trashers jersey -- they ever have any Czechs play for them?

* On my last trip to London, I noticed that a disproportionate amount of the bartenders -- like, all of them -- were Polish. The Guardian looks at why.

* Haaretz has had some brave opinion pieces on the current Middle East conflict -- my friend Jane pointed me to this one.

* Another Albania travelogue, with some nice pictures.

* Forgotten NY -- a great site, which I'll add to the right side as soon as I remember (been meaning to for months) -- has a lovely photo essay on New York's neon signs.

* And of course, a repeat note -- Alanah at Vancouver Canucks Op Ed will be blogging 'round the clock tomorrow. Drop by, check out her stuff, mention Patrick Roy's four Stanley Cups.

History Lessons

Despite being something of a history nut, I've never had much use for the Civil War (unless we're talking about the Guns N' Roses song!). The obsession some have with it seems unhealthy -- though I realize that's hardly unique to Americans. I could never get into "Confederates in the Attic." Having lived here for seven years, I've heard enough about what a shit Sherman was. And so on.

That said, I'm often amazed down here, walking the streets and realizing I'm walking over 142-year-old battlefields. Placid neighborhoods or heavily-used thoroughfares that were once the site of fierce fighting. What was once a Confederate front line is now the Pitch-'n-Putt liquor store on Johnson Road. It's hard to envision -- when I think of battlefields, I think of, say, Gettysburg -- a large field, not city neighborhoods.

Not sure why this is so new to me -- Colorado had its share of history, after all. But I guess people there are squeamish about markers noting how many Indians were slaughtered on a particular spot.

I love maps, and I love looking at old Atlanta maps, looking at how things have changed over the years -- new streets, vanished streets, the stuff that used to be where shopping centers and parks lie now. I suppose that leads to a project for another day -- find a map of the Battle of Atlanta, and actually get some idea of where this thing unfolded, in my present-day personal geography.

* * *

Despite my aversion -- I must say that the Atlanta History Center's Civil War exhibit is fascinating, and has come close to putting some holes in my avoidance of the War of Northern Aggression. Check it out if you're in the area.

And on a lighter note -- the Battle of Atlanta led to one of the funniest Onion articles ever. A decade on, it still brings out the giggles.

* * *

Couple new links: the really cool All My Little Words, and the really funny American Hockey Fan. Check 'em!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Lukashenko on Ice

My friend Rob pointed me to the Dictator of the Month site -- an interesting glimpse at some of the world's less savory characters. Of interest is the page on Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. Check out the picture gallery, linked on the left of DotM's Lukashenko page -- Lukey Luke is, apparently, a big hockey fan. (Soccer as well.)

Not long ago I suggested that Venezuela's Hugo Chavez would be cheering for the Vancouver Canucks this year -- apparently Lukashenko thinks Hugo wouldn't be bad on a hockey team of their own.

Post Recycling

Yesterday's post left me a bit unsatisfied -- a feeling that I'd failed to say what I wanted, but also that I didn't know what I wanted to say.

As I think I've mentioned before (I'm too lazy to search through the archives), since moving away from Boulder, it's weighed on my consciousness cyclically: I go between extreme nostalgia for the place and saying "I've moved forward." It's rather ridiculous -- seven years on, I've had plenty of good times in the intervening years, plenty of interesting experiences. So, why am I still mooning over Boulder, Colorado, 1996-1999 like it was my first girlfriend?

One part is obvious -- it is my hometown. And returning there during that period, as an adult (legally if not mentally) reconciled me with the place after some unhappy teenage years.

I think, also, it was an idyllic time, an airlock in between youth and adulthood. I've said previously (ok, I did search) that it was the last time of my life when I could just sit there for a few hours, drinking wine, and not worry about anything -- a time when I had the privileges of an adult while still holding on to the irresponsibility of the college years, when I could ditch work to go sit at the James Pub (long gone now, alas) drinking Guinness.

There's also a disquieting sense, when I think of Boulder, that I've allowed myself to be left behind. My three closest friends from that era are all now married -- I still consider it a colossal achievement if I date the same woman for more than two weeks. It's silly, I know -- I've done plenty on the non-romantic front -- but we tend to focus on our shortcomings rather than our achievements, don't we?

Really, though, I think of that period as "Boulder" for me -- a snapshot of 1996 to 1999 now defines the city, and every little change is a little piece out of my heart, whether it be one more friend leaving or one more old favorite pub closing (and there aren't that many of either, any more). I really wouldn't want to go back to the way things were; thank God, I've grown up some in the past seven years, and some of my behavior back then makes me cringe. But I'll always miss it.

Have a feeling I've said much of this before. Apologies -- these have been moody days, unaccountably. This is what happens when the hockey world goes quiet.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

You Can't Go Home Again

Received an e-mail from an old friend this morning, saying that he's accepted a job in Sicily (Italy, not Ohio), and will be moving there in about three weeks (two days before I go back to Colorado to visit, no less).

Matt is one of the last of my close friends from the late '90s still in the Boulder area, and his departure is one more break with a pretty fun time in my life.

While I've long since accepted that it would be impossible to recreate that time -- and it took a surprisingly long time to really get that -- it's still always a little bit of a blow to see one more change. While I'm hard-pressed to think of much else that's stayed consistent from that time, there's just a small bit of pain as I get one more sign that nothing ever stays the same.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Today's Helpful Tip

If, on the last day of vacation, you decide to have a few beers and a plate of nachos (cheese and jalapeno variety), make sure you haven't promised to help your friend move afterward, in the Atlanta July heat.

Because you will wind up craving death.

This has been: Hints from Heloise

Monday, July 24, 2006

God Hates Greg

I realize I doom myself by even mentioning this on the blog, but I'm dating someone semi-seriously now, for the first time since roughly 1968. And accordingly, over the past few days, since I acknowledged to myself that this may be semi-serious, I've apparently turned into the most attractive man on earth. Cute girls asking bartenders about me, interrupting me to ask what I'm reading, etc. This after about 10 months that made the monastic life look action-packed. Someone, anyone, feel free to kill me.

* * *

Hockey stuff: the Vancouver Canucks have signed Jan Bulis. As way too many people have pointed out -- Alanah's starting to get testy -- Bulis is a left wing (and center). This gives the Canucks about 45 left wings for next year, while the only right wings they have (according to are Trevor Linden, Richard Park, and Tyler Bouck. Some people find this questionable team-building on Dave Nonis's part; I prefer to think that he's letting his political philosophy shine through, and trying to build a firmly left-leaning team. I heartily approve. We know who Hugo Chávez will be rooting for, once the NHL starts back up.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Vodka Verdict

Well, uh. Wow. That stuff has some pretty serious crazy-making potential. If you hear about a 33-year-old man arrested in Atlanta tonight for public drunkenness, naked except for a Jiri Bubla Vancouver Canucks jersey magic-markered onto his upper torso -- well, it's not me, of course, but it'd be totally understandable if it was.

Pretty strong stuff. I tried it straight (out of a Hartford Whalers shot glass -- OLD SCHOOL!) with a side of dill pickle slices. It's quite good, very horseradishy. I imagine it'll taste pretty fantastic in Bloody Marys, if I'm ever motivated enough to make one at home. A fun project!

Coming soon: Miroslav Fryčer's Moonshine!

(above: the leavings after I strained the vodka. A taste treat, I'm certain.)

The Streets of Where I'm From

A coda of sorts to the Ponce post.

I wound up at a party last night, along with a bunch of people who've lived in this neighborhood as long as I've been alive. One was a photographer, and I started talking about Mitchell's book with him, and asking for more details of what life was like in these parts.

One little detail came up -- he was talking about how Virginia-Highland (again, my 'hood) was really on the decline back then and has since rebounded to become a pretty desirable neighborhood. He said something to the effect of: "Yeah, you had all the hookers outside the Majestic and Plaza drugs, they all lived on St. Charles..."

Whoa. Now, St. Charles is the street I live on now, and it's pretty quiet and (if I were a real estate agent, I'd say) cozy. Hard to imagine that it was once a row of (I guess) flophouses and whorehouses, though some of the buildings -- including mine -- would seem to be ideal for that. Kind of fascinating. One of my many alluded-to-but-never-done projects is doing some research on the character of St. Charles through the years -- this was not something I would have guessed.

The fact that I find it kind of neat makes me wonder if I'm turning into some weirdo tragedy tourist, but hey.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Recipe for Disaster

My extended time off began the way it usually does: waking up, hungover, completely pissing away the first day, vowing to make better use of my time the rest of the vacation, and, to that end, putting together a list of tasks to accomplish like "clean out car" and "exercise" and "achieve peace in the Middle East," which is about as likely as the first two.

Today, filled with a new sense of vigor, I woke up and spent three hours playing Eastside Hockey Manager. Then I went to the bar and had a beer and did some reading. But, finally, I came home and fulfilled one of the tasks on the list:

Making Horseradish Vodka

I love horseradish. I wish it were in everything, except maybe yogurt. When I was back in Colorado, in April, I had some horseradish vodka at this fancy little place in Denver. It was fantastic, but really, I can make it myself, rather than paying $10 per shot. Right?

Anyway. According to the recipe I invented found on the internet, you need:

1 liter vodka (perhaps if you're lucky, you can find Andrei Nazarov's vodka in your town)
Fresh horseradish root, peeled
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns

Dump the vodka into some sort of container.

Grate one cup of horseradish root. If you've never grated horseradish, believe me, this will make you see God.

Once the tears stop, dump the horseradish and peppercorns into the container with the vodka. Seal, steep overnight. Drink (with pickle slices as a side dish).

I'm taking the liberty of naming this recipe I found on the internet created all by myself "Jiří Bubla's Horseradish Vodka," after the legendary '80s Canucks defenseman (I told you I'm a fan of obscure Czech defensemen). Described by one fellow player as "the strongest man ever to play hockey," Bubla is also the father of Jiří Šlégr. Once I start selling this stuff, the motto will be "the only thing stronger than this vodka is Bubla himself!" (at least until he sues me.)

Speaking of the Canucks, Alanah over at Vancover Canucks Op Ed is taking part in a charity Blogathon next Saturday, the 29th. She'll be posting every half-hour for 24 hours. Since I feel like Captain Awesome if I manage one post in 24 hours, that seems like a pretty heavy task (and accordingly, I'm giving money to Alanah's charity, rather than taking part myself). Click over there and join in.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Old Main Drag

I finally got my hands on a book I've been wanting for a while -- "Ponce de Leon" by George Mitchell. Not the legendary fountain of youth-seeking Ponce, but rather, as it's billed in the subtitle, "Atlanta's most famous avenue."

Ponce -- which lies a block to the south of me -- is one of the streets that best defines Atlanta, along with Peachtree. It cuts through much of the heart of the city, but never is absorbed by the surrounding neighborhoods. It's got Virginia-Highland and Midtown to the north, Poncey-Highland and, uh, probably something else to the south, but Ponce de Leon is an entity all its own.

Like the most interesting parts of Atlanta, Ponce gives off an air of seediness, of departed elegance, but Mitchell's book seems to indicate (I've yet to really read it-- it's a collection of interviews with Ponce's denizens-- just skimmed and looked at the pictures) that elegance was long, long ago. The book was published in '83 and Ponce looks much worse in the pictures than it does now. Also more vibrant, perhaps, though that well may be romanticization on my part. Definitely more of a community. On the flip side, definitely more junkies and hookers.

Ponce as it stands now (for non-Atlantans) is gentrification in action, at least down at my eastern end. ("Central" Ponce is still pretty depressed, "West" is getting pretty hip) A number of new condo and loft projects have popped up in recent years. In Mitchell's book, Ed Loring, the head of the Open Door Community Center (a homeless support project), says:

"Five years from now, places like the Open Door will be condominiums, and the Ford Plant will be a shopping center with restaurants and all those kinds of things."

23 years later, the Open Door is still around (I checked -- it's just around the corner from me) and the Ford Plant, while it has a bunch of shops, is still a dump (PPA synergy: this is the same Ford Factory that's across the street from the former Ponce de Leon Park), but on a more general basis, Loring's prediction has come true. For me, it's a fine line. On one hand, I'm all for a clean Ponce; on the other, I'd rather see Ponce keep its sort of scuzzy character than become a reflection of yuppified boredom.

In the interlude since Mitchell's book was published, who knows how many businesses have come and gone along Ponce (two worth noting, just from my personal experience: an Oi! record store, cannibalizing an old office supplies shop, and Tortilla's, a good cheap Mexican food place that's memorialized here). I'm surprised to see the number that have survived -- Mirror of Korea, Lake Chiropractic, Mary Mac's, and of course the Majestic and Clermont among them. And then there's those I just know from legend, places long gone before I even contemplated the possibility of living here -- Plaza Drugs, Ray Lee's Blue Lantern. Beyond that the photos are a glimpse into places I never knew existed. Diogenes? Smith House? Krystal? An interesting look at a neighborhood far removed from the one I know now.

Great Novelists Hate the Red Wings

"For a third of a century, I got by nicely without Detroit."

-opening line to "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance" by Richard Powers

* * *

Longer non-hockey post coming later today, as I gradually emerge from a dreadful work week into five days of vacation. Five days that I've been looking forward to like they're five months.

Quick notes of some new added links: House of Mirth -- good lit and music blog, discovered while hunting for some background on Ismail Kadare -- and the Battle of Alberta -- one of my most frequently-read hockey blogs, but I forgot to ever bother linking. Whoops.

Quick hockey note: the Thrashers have locked up Niko Kapanen, who I've really managed to inflate in my mind into the next Joe Sakic, and also signed Kyle Wanvig, who I still think of as some sort of really hot prospect who's on the verge of a 40-goal season, but in reality is already 25 and showing signs of becoming a career AHLer.

Quick temperature note: it's too goddamn hot here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Order of the Sacred Hedgehog

Moving some crap around this morning, I gathered up some hockey jerseys, and for the first time took a good, hard look at the logo of Czech club HC Dukla Jihlava.

As if I was seeing it with new eyes, I gasped, I felt shock -- "Is that a freaking hedgehog on the crest?"

It turns out that yes, it is a hedgehog. Two hedgehogs, in fact, countering the more familiar Czech lion, in the four panels of the crest (which is the crest of the city of Jihlava, actually).

I've never, in all my Czech interest, known much about Jihlava -- Bobby Holík comes from there, and, well, that's about it. It turns out to be a fairly interesting place, and picturesque (though, of course, a tourism page would be expected to highlight the pretty buildings as opposed to the BP stations).

But that's neither here nor there. Why the hedgehogs?? Even the city's most popular beer is hedgehog-oriented.

As it turns out, it's widely believed that "Jihlava" comes from the German word for "hedgehog" ("igel," which seems to be a stretch, but I'm not exactly Noam Chomsky when it comes to linguistics), and according to this page, "According to legend, many hedgehogs were in the way when the town and its fortifications were built." So, reading between the lines, Jihlava puts the hedgehog in its logo because the city is built on the squashed remains of thousands of them. Ick.

The hedgehog symbol, of course, spurs all who wear it to fight like the fierce hedgehog, like Jihlava native Marek Chvátal (left, photo swiped from HC Dukla web site). He's playing in the Devils' organization this year, so be sure to give him the hedgehog cheer when he comes to your city.

Or just sing this song, HC Dukla's fight song from the 2004-05 season. A rough translation of the lyrics, far as I can tell, is: "Dukla! Dukla! Goal! Goal! Dukla Goal! Fight hedgehogs fight! More beer, over here! Dukla!" No wonder they got relegated.

EDIT: Apparently Marek Chvátal isn't with the Devils this season. I could swear I saw something saying he signed, but obviously that was incorrect. Rather than rewrite the above bit, I'll just suggest you work wherever Chvátal ends up playing into your travel plans.

The Pride of Albania

#23 - "The Successor" by Ismail Kadare

Four books in a couple of weeks, and five days off work coming up. Years of experience have taught me what will come next: I'll convince myself that I'm back on the "50 books" train, I'll boldly proclaim that here, then I'll make my next two books Pynchon and Dostoyevsky and I'll be lucky to crack 35 for the year.

I'm long overdue in mentioning Kadare here. He's really about the only Albanian novelist in print in English, and I've been a fan for years. A line in "Spring Flowers, Spring Frost" gave this blog its name. Thanks to winning the Booker International prize last year, many of his books are now back in print in the U.S., a circumstance I'm very happy about.

Most of his novels -- including this one -- deal with totalitarianism on some level, understandable since he's from the country that was the Hermit Kingdom before it was cool to be the Hermit Kingdom. They deal with power, and the shifting nature of perception in a country where someone is controlling reality. The result is dreamy (the temptation is to say "Kafkaesque," but I throw that word around too much, especially for someone who's read very little Kafka), paranoid, and often slyly (and unexpectedly) funny.

The titular successor of the novel is a very thinly-disguised Mehmet Shehu, once next in line to Enver Hoxha, then disgraced and dead, purportedly by his own hand -- but rumors abounded that it had been orchestrated. The plot of "The Successor" centers around that death, and the various theories and conspiracies surrounding it.

It's one of the better introductions to Kadare, actually, along with (I'd say) "The General of the Dead Army" and "Broken April." My favorite is "The Concert" -- his most ambitious and wide-ranging book -- but that one sent me to the reference books more than a few times, so its requirements for Albanian history knowledge may be a bit much. In any case, "The Successor" is a fine example of a good (and little-known) novelist.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Internet is a Wonderful Thing

There is a fair amount of inside joke involved, and I don't expect anyone to get the same level of joy out of this that I am...

...but this made my night. Maybe my week.

Marketing to Drunks

Where did this come from, and why did no one tell me? I'm not a big ice cream eater, but a cream stout ice cream is strange enough to persuade me to give it a try.

Having grown up in Colorado, I associate the phrase "black and tan" with innocuous things like getting trashed in Bullfrog's Pub (sadly defunct). But for many other people, it has a not-so-great connotation. Some people say that the Black and Tan is well-known as a drink in Ireland -- but an Irish friend of mine, who knows his Guinness, was pretty shocked to find out that the phrase was commonly heard in bars here. (you can imagine how thrilled he was to hear about "Irish Car Bombs," too.)

B&J sent out a letter of apology -- no word on how this affects upcoming flavors like NKVD Nougat and Sabra Strawberry.

The verdict on the ice cream? First impression was really damn weird -- really malty, almost fizzy. In subsequent tastings, the chocolate seemed to overcome everything.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Back to Normal

Ok, I went a few days without posting about hockey. See? I live a rich, varied life. Now get off my back, ok??

A few days back, the Czech hockey site posted an interview with a favorite player of mine, seeming to indicate (through my very limited understanding of Czech) that said player might be coming back to the NHL. (no link -- I'm too lazy to hunt it down now, it's 92 goddamn degrees here. If anyone reading this knows Czech, fine, I'll post the link, and you can translate it for me. OK??)

That rumor (which also surfaced last year, and probably other times as well) brought back memories of a particularly black day...

The Worst Trade in Colorado Avalanche Team History

For all of the canny moves Pierre Lacroix made -- picking up a supposedly over-the-hill Roy, trading Owen Nolan for Sandis Ozolinsh, getting Ray Bourque for spare parts (ok, Martin Grenier isn't a spare part) -- there were a bunch of trades that, in retrospect, were disasters. Regehr and Rene Corbet (and, uh, Wade Belak) for Theo Fleury and Chris Dingman? Chris Drury and Stephane Yelle for Derek Morris, Dean McAmmond, and Jeff Shantz? Serviceable goalie David Aebischer and his reasonable contract for serviceable goalie Jose Theodore and his totally insane contract? All bad. Bad, bad, bad.

But nothing gets me quite as much as this one:

March 24, 1998

Colorado Avalanche trade Josef Marha to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks for a conditional pick in the 1999 draft and Warren Rychel

If you're a hockey-fan reader, you may be scratching your head at that one. (my non-hockey-fan friends are already feeling their eyes glaze over as they make mouth-fart noises.) Marha managed a total of 53 points in the NHL before bouncing over to Switzerland in 2001-02. To that point, he'd managed nine points in parts of a couple seasons with the Avalanche. Compared to the other trades, it was a minor blip on the radar.

But -- but -- Marha was a favorite of mine (and as we've seen, I'm not terribly rational about who I choose as favorite players), a quick little guy. And he seemed to represent the hope that many of us had in those early years following the first Cup, that the Avalanche team was somehow self-sustaining, that it would grow new parts to replace those that grew old and broke away. Now, years later, it's obvious that was a vain hope.

Rychel? He was picked back up because he was "good in the locker room" (which was nice, because outside the locker room he wasn't noted for much other than an ability to take a punch in the face). The added leadership helped the Avs greatly, as they blew a 3-1 lead in the playoffs and lost to Edmonton in the first round.

Against all logic and sanity, I still think that perhaps, had Marha stayed in Avs-land, he would have fulfilled his promise, and to this day he'd be putting up 100-point seasons, the residents of Denver would have Josef Marha facial tattoos, and so on. Instead, a few undistinguished years with Anaheim and Chicago, and then over to Davos. Rychel played 28 games for the Avalanche the next year, then retired. This trade really didn't work out for anyone, did it?

* * *

Couple link updates: added Army of the Ohio, dropped Molto Benny (because it's DEAD). I think I planned to add some more, but it's too damn hot to carry through on plans like that. Maybe later.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Comfort of Familiarity

#22 (special Claude Lemieux book) - "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" by Haruki Murakami (re-read)

With all the books that I haven't read gathering dust on the shelves, what in the hell am I doing reading books that I've already read? Well, after GBV, I needed something good and quick, and Murakami's an old favorite -- one of those that could possibly lay claim to the title of "Greg's favorite author."

I first read this probably six or seven years ago -- my friend Mary (DC) had touted it forever. Like just about all her recommendations, it was great. Two stories, running parallel -- one in a fast-moving modern Tokyo, one in a slow, dreamy Kafkaesque village.

Detailing much of the plot is problematic -- the two stories intertwine, and part of the fun is watching the structure gradually reveal itself. The Tokyo portion is set in a world of information and data espionage; the village, meanwhile, is welcoming a new resident.

Like most of Murakami's protagonists, the narrator(s) is/are quiet, quirky loners, given to extended meditations on things like sofas and paper clips. Murakami may be better than anyone I've read at exploring loneliness as well as the need for solitude.

This isn't HM's best book, but it may be my favorite -- and after the struggle with Powers, I really needed to come home to this. It's great. ICJ, if you're out there, you should definitely give this (and a few of his other novels) a read. (well, so should the rest of you.)

Couple links:

Official site
Swiss fan site
Salon interview
Hackwriters profile

Memories of Stupidity, vol. 2

December, 1995. The morning after the final party I hosted at 2028 1st St., Tucson, Arizona.

I wake up, a shambling mockery of a man. Eventually I stumble outside, into the back yard-- now a wasteland of broken glass. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of beer bottles are shattered, obviously thrown against the side of the garage. I'm moving out of the house in about two days, and now my hungover self faces the delicate task of making sure all the shattered glass goes with me.

A friend calls, to make sure I haven't expired from alcohol poisoning. "Who did this?" I croak. "Who? Why?"

"You told them to," she answers. "You told them the best way to get rid of empties was to throw them against the wall."


Friday, July 14, 2006

Hell, Yeah.

Richard Powers got me confused? You should see me and my tiny Luddite mind trying to grasp Thomas Pynchon. Nonetheless, this is some really damn good news. I've read everything of Pynchon's except the mammoth "Mason & Dixon," which still taunts me from the shelves, and loved it all except for "Slow Learner."

I recently told a friend that with some novelists, I stop trying to understand every little nuance, and just let them take me where they will. Pynchon's the main one I had in mind there. I'm confident that good portions of the new book will be well above my head (though I'm pleased to see the reference to the Balkans), but I'll have one hell of a fun time reading it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Acknowledging Inspiration

Many years back, I hovered around an internet message board also frequented by a fellow named Dan Schmidt -- who tracked his reading with a series of short, online book reviews. No idea what's happened to him since, and his web page doesn't seem to have been updated since 2000, another internet ghost town -- but I enjoyed his "Book Diary," and it's one of the things that prompted me, years later, to start foisting my book choices on everyone.

And so,

#21 - "The Gold Bug Variations" by Richard Powers

Right -- I've already raved about this. Allow me to rave a bit more. Unimaginably beautiful. It's three parallel storylines -- in the 1950s, scientist Stuart Ressler closes in on the secrets of DNA, and discovers love; in the 1980s, librarian Jan O'Deigh meets art historian Frank Todd, and they draw Ressler out of a self-imposed exile; and three years on in the '80s, post-Ressler's death, O'Deigh tries to recreate his discoveries.

It's complex as hell. There's long stretches that presume some more-than-basic knowledge of biology, as well as classical music. And these aren't just throwaway passages -- they're elaborate metaphors for each other, and for the overriding theme of what it is to be human and love. It's slow going, but oh so rewarding. And as mentioned before, it's got me listening to "The Goldberg Variations" in hopes of picking up just some of the deeper meaning ascribed to that piece. (I'm not, but I remain hopeful.)

There are a few passages right at the middle that are just breathtaking, one of those rare moments where I found myself completely in thrall to the writer. But that's nothing compared to the last chapter. I'll say nothing other than if you read this and find it slow going, you are amply rewarded (at least I was: there was a hundred-dollar bill taped to the last page). Cynical and curmudgeonly as I may be, this book does leave you feeling that humans are pretty marvelous creatures, and shitty as relationships may be, when you feel that click, they're worthwhile.

Read this. I'm telling you. Just brush up on your Mendel first.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Great Lake

All my talk about Michigan centers on my dislike for the hockey team it has the misfortune to host, but the state actually played a formative (and positive) role in my life growing up. Besides being the birthplace of John Brannon, it's also my Mom's home state, and the destination of many childhood summer vacations.

My grandparents lived in a house on Clifford Lake, a little place north of Grand Rapids. It's a tiny place -- Yahoo! maps doesn't even locate it, and I think it may actually be considered part of nearby Greenville. But as a child I thought it was immense -- and was confused and a bit put off because it wasn't considered one with the surrounding Great Lakes.

It was a perfect place for a quiet, lonely kid with an overactive imagination. My grandparents' house was filled with all sorts of little oddities -- slot machines, a bar, old books and magazines. Out back there was a hill, leading down to a dock and pontoon raft. Just beyond the house next door, deep woods.

Memory is gracious, of course, but it really was a calming place. I remember the trips there as endless periods of books, the Detroit Tigers on tv, All-Star Squadron comics, swimming, baseball cards, and raft trips around the lake. Those excursions are the most memorable. We'd cut a slow, leisurely path around the lake -- which, again, seemed immense -- people-watching, stopping to swim, letting imaginations run wild over the nooks and crannies of the shore.

Everything seemed beautiful and nice, whether it was boiling hot or pouring rain. To this day, just a memory -- verbal or visual -- of the place sends me. Meijer's slushy drinks, the neighbor's collection of 1970s Justice League of America comics, the general store down the road that kept its Playboy magazines at a good level for a pubescent lad's eyes, my grandmother's willingness to purchase all the crap cereals my mother normally eschewed.

Our last trip out there was, I believe, in 1988; the next summer, we moved to Arizona, making the long road trips unbearable, and soon after my grandfather passed away. The house was sold, my grandmother moved, and Clifford Lake became a part of the past.

But one coda. A decade after my last trip, in the summer of 1998, my friends Kynan and Mary and I took a wide-ranging road trip from Colorado to Chicago and other points Midwest. While Mary was up on a separate Wisconsin excursion, and after Kynan had flown back early (due to commitments, certainly not because I'm a bad traveling partner. I think), I took a day to head up to Clifford Lake.

It had recently been battered by a storm, taking some of the sheen off, and it became clear to me on this trip that my love for the place, combined with youthful naivete, had glossed over some of the less-desirable aspects -- rather than the paradise I'd always imagined, many of the residents fell into the unemployed and frequently violently drunk demographic.

But after a night in a dingy motel well out of town, I went back to the site of my childhood joys and watched the sun rise over the lake, burning off the mist. That's the lasting image I'll take away from Clifford Lake -- a wonderful, peaceful sanctuary.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

My Next Phone

Friend passes this along:

Zoe Williams in the Guardian.

I don't really match up with any of her animal types, but that doesn't mean this wouldn't be one of the best things ever to happen to me.

Dream, 07/11/2006

Early morning hours, as I started to come awake:

I'm in an enormous high school. There's a lot of construction work being done -- so much so that no one can go to class. However, they're also not letting anyone go home, so the halls have replicated the scene seen when airports shut down, masses of people curled up in corners, asleep on the floor. One fellow, rather unaccountably, has clothes drying on his enormous dreadlocks.

I'm looking feverishly for two friends -- Britt Hallett (an old high school friend that I haven't seen in six years now) and MD (friend of current vintage). No luck. Finally, I'm told that I need to go see U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his office; I'm expected to turn in my semester's worth of homework for some sort of international policy course. As I'm walking into Annan's office, I'm horribly aware that I've done none of the homework. At that point, terrified, I woke up.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Slowly Recovering

Yeah, I know how it looks: I vow to stop blogging about hockey for a while, and bereft of any thoughts, I stop altogether. In reality, the World Cup final became a bit taxing. The beer, the emotion, the beer, the multiple plates of nachos and wings, the beer, the overtipping something like 100% after drinking too much beer, then off to another place to have more beer, and where I more or less slipped into catatonia.

Good times, though. The WC party was combined with a going-away party for a friend, which led to lots of overstated and probably embarrassing proclamations -- "You are a fucking SAINT, my friend! This city is going to go straight to hell without you!" Repeat 20 times, pausing only to watch Zinedine Zidane go insane at perhaps the least opportune moment.

Thank God the World Cup only comes once every four years. More often would probably kill me.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Unexpected Survivor

A little west of my place, there's a modern shopping center (Borders, Home Depot, Whole Foods, etc) where once stood Atlanta's main baseball field. Ponce de Leon Park housed the Atlanta Crackers minor league baseball team, which always struck me as an odd name for a team, as well as the Atlanta Black Crackers, which always struck me as even odder.

Ponce Park also had a number of other attractions, I guess -- an amusement park, a lake, and most famously, a giant magnolia tree in center field. The park was torn down some years before I was even born, and any traces seem to be long gone.

Well, not quite. I was always under the impression that the legendary magnolia was part of the past -- so I was surprised and thrilled, while researching another, long-term project (and you're forgiven if you're starting to think that's code for "thing I'll never finish"), to find out that it actually still stands.

This morning -- trying to do something healthy before the World Cup and inevitable hours of drinking -- I strolled over and dutifully took a few pictures of the tree, and the surrounding area. It's hard to really get a feel for the park's layout -- the tree was in center field, but if my estimations are correct, that was a short center field, and it's hard to figure out where the stands were. Even this postcard doesn't give much of an idea -- nothing tips me off as to which direction was which (and where's the damn magnolia?). The boundaries are easy enough-- all the surrounding land is considerably higher than the former park -- but I can't really overlay an image of the old park onto today's geography.

It's hard to imagine the surrounding area at all back then -- though several of the buildings are consistent. The lofts to the southeast were a Ford Motor factory -- now it's a pretty unpleasant-looking building. The Sears building directly across Ponce is now variously city offices, a police station, a gym, and empty. The once-important railroad tracks that must have run behind center field are now in ruins, the railroad bridge that runs over Ponce a rusted hulk.

The Braves coming to town doomed the park -- they required one of those colosseums that were so popular in the '60s and '70s. Hard to imagine what the area would be like now if it had stayed, if it would have boosted or brought down the surrounding areas. When describing my neighborhood to out-of-state friends, I've called it the equivalent of Chicago's Wrigleyville without the baseball field; it's a lazy answer, but maybe actually not that far off.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Hockey Interlude

As I was drowning in failure the other night, a friend brought up my blog to the aforementioned cute girl, saying "Greg's really intelligent and literate, but then you read his blog and realize he thinks about nothing but hockey."

First thought is thanks, Fidel, you're never going to be my p.r. agent. But second thought is yes, point taken. This was originally intended to convey the vast array of life's offerings, or something like that, but it's become kind of hockeycentric lately -- moreso, oddly, since the season ended. That's probably because it's easiest for me to write something about hockey; I don't take it terribly seriously, I don't have to actually get things right (research is for suckers!), just try to make it entertaining. So, that in mind, I silently vowed to give my hockey-hating friends a break, and write only about non-hockey subjects for a bit. (though in the meantime: Kirk Maltby humps goats)

I'm breaking that rule already, because it runs up against another of the blog rules -- that of subjecting everyone to a bit on what I've been reading.

#20: "Tropic of Hockey" by Dave Bidini

It's been a long while since I've read a hockey book, but was reminded of this one when Alanah mentioned it in the comments a while back. It appealed to me when it first came out, but it got swept aside in favor of other things, and was long since forgotten.

It's Bidini's story of traveling to some odd places, watching and playing a brand of hockey far removed from the NHL. The journey takes Bidini and his wife to remote areas of China, the United Arab Emirates, and Transylvania -- some places where you wouldn't expect to find any native hockey, some with a much longer history than you'd expect.

It's really entertaining. I read another of Bidini's books, "On a Cold Road," some years back and wasn't really impressed, but this is good -- both as hockey lit and travel lit (though I'd hesitate to give it to a non-hockey fan). His on-ice descriptions of playing the game are possibly the best I've read (admittedly, a short list -- as I've complained often, quality hockey literature pretty much begins and ends with "The Game"). And on the travel side of things -- Bidini and wife come across as the kind of people with whom you'd really like to share a journey.

* * *

Since I've already crossed the Rubicon, shall I share a bit more about hockey? I shall? Well then! I've been ignoring the "Atlanta Spirit" ownership squabbles because rich guys in a slap fight is limited entertainment, but hey, it could actually affect the Thrashers. Great. Since the team's mostly set -- and indicators seem to be that this won't stand in the way of a multi-year deal for Lehtonen, though I've seen some things contradictign that -- it won't harm them too much, presuming it's over quickly. But so much for any lingering dreams of Anson Carter heading south.

Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down

Atlanta's weather extremes -- heat that would make a Bedouin wilt, rain that would give residents of Mumbai pause -- came together this week, then canceled each other out, producing a few days of climatic bliss.

Thursday night was one of those brief periods of perfection; after work, I wound up drinking champagne with my two closest friends on the patio of my favorite restaurant, enjoying the perfect weather, and getting introduced to an attractive young lady. She was one of those rare people who's immediately visibly intelligent (she was reading "Cloud Atlas"), blessed with a good sense of humor (though since we were embarking on an ill-advised attempt to smoke cigars -- don't ask -- it wasn't hard to find something funny), and again, attractive (pretty eyes, dancer's physique). Yeah, I know several intelligent/funny/attractive women, but they're all friends and co-workers -- in my experience they don't exist outside of that little geodisic dome.

I was struck dumb by meeting someone who's pretty close to my ideal woman, but managed to stammer out some approximation of witty conversation, my head swimming, until finally she said she had to leave -- her fiancé was picking her up. Whoops. The hell with it -- where's the monastery?

There Are Worse Epitaphs

"Dead Scot bought snakes on internet"
-headline, some British paper, glimpsed in Heathrow Airport, 2004

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Various Crap

I feel compelled to do some writing, but nothing's really leaping out at me. I'm a bit tapped out on hockey -- with TK heading to the Buckeye State, and the Thrashers and Avalanche seemingly largely set, only the fates of Ronald Petrovický and Jiří Šlégr are of much interest to me. I've got one hockey article sort of on the burner, but I don't feel up to pursuing it right now, and none of my non-hockey writing ideas are really past the embryonic stages.

So then? A grab bag.

* Thrashers of the past: James Mirtle has a piece on forgotten defenseman Daniel Tjärnqvist, who was signed by Edmonton earlier today. It's pretty damn entertaining, if more than a little insane.

* Lit watch: I promise not to make this a habit, but a mid-book update on the neglected book list -- I'm currently reading Richard Powers' "The Gold Bug Variations," and it's excellent. Stunningly beautiful. Also slow -- it deals with science, music, and art on a pretty high level, and none of those are my strong points. So it'll likely be a while before I can chalk up another one for the list (unless I get moving on some non-fiction). But I can pretty heartily recommend it (I'm assuming here that the last third of the book won't just be a collection of fart jokes). More to come on this; in the meantime there's an interview with Powers here.

* Music watch: Inspired by the novel, I've been listening to a lot of Bach lately; specifically, Glenn Gould's 1955 version of The Goldberg Variations. This bumps up against Entombed (specifically, "To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth") on the car CD changer. It makes for a nice varied listening experience (since seriously, I seem to be unable to switch out either album).

* More music: I originally got (very belatedly) into Claw Hammer through Agony Shorthand, and said site has a new brief appreciation of said band. Pretty cool, and maybe it'll finally motivate me to pick up the first album (and motivate me to listen to something besides Bach/Entombed).

* Klouček redux: Today's signing motivated me to belatedly explore the, uh, Bluejacketslogosphere, I guess. A couple cool sites -- here and here -- but not one mention of TK (just fellow signee Ty Conklin). Do you people realize what a treasure you've got on your hands??

* Beer watch: I like beer, and like peppers, and I love Rogue's beer -- the Dead Guy Ale is the best beer ever named after a Victory Records band -- so it was with great joy that I found out that Rogue's Chipotle Ale had made it to Atlanta. The verdict, though... ehhhhhh. Not bad, just not exciting. I bought a few bottles, so hopefully it'll grow on me, but at this point I'm still more into a pepperoncini in a glass of Pilsner Urquell. It did give me an opportunity to remember the worst beer I ever had -- a brew that included a chili pepper in ever bottle. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I've tracked it down: Crazy Ed's Cave Creek Chili Pepper Beer. Sweet Jesus, even in my Labatt's-swilling college days, that didn't pass muster. I suspect it's no longer made, since I can't find many contemporary references, and with good reason. The only beer that's ever hurt my mouth.

That Was A Quick Vigil

KAPOW! Blue Jackets sign Tomáš Klouček to a two-way contract.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Kooking With Kaberle

I've probably made it clear that I'm a big fan of Carolina Hurricanes defenseman František Kaberle. I regretted it (mostly alone) when the Thrashers gave up on him; I cheered and felt vindicated when he had a (for the most part) solid Stanley Cup final, including the Cup-winning goal. Since a) the Thrashers didn't have Kaberle in 2005-06, and b) Kaberle scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 2006, it logically follows that c) if the Thrashers had kept Kaberle, they would have won the Stanley Cup this year. Makes one think, no?

There's a lot of reasons I like Kaberle. He's Czech. He's got movie-star looks. He was easily the most skilled defenseman to wear a Thrashers jersey in their 24-year existence. There's his eight Norris Trophies, his numerous scoring records. He's a great, great man.

And he's also accomplished in the culinary arts. (ok, his wife is.) A while back I mentioned the Kaberles' contribution to "Cooking With the Birds," the Thrashers' cookbook of a few years past. Unfortunately, I didn't give the real recipe, just a parody involving tons and tons of butter. Six people died recreating that fake recipe, and for that, I apologize.

So I stepped up to the oven, and here we are:

Kaberle's Chicken Paprika

1 chicken breast fillet, boneless and skinless. The cookbook recommends Butterball. Guess what company was one of the cookbook's sponsors. I used Publix brand, with no ill effects.
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt to taste
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp flour

for "side dish":

Place a photo or reasonable substitute of Frankie K somewhere in the kitchen. Make it an honored place. A place of respect.

Put on some good music. I suggest Dvořák's (Antonin, not Radek) Symphony No. 9 in e minor, F. Kaberle, conductor.

Cut the chicken into small pieces.

Wilt the onion in the melted butter.

Add paprika, chicken, and salt. Brown it. Add water, cover and simmer until tender (about 40 minutes worked for me -- though the cookbook says 45. I probably shouldn't quarrel over details with František Kaberle, author of "Underworld," "End Zone," "Libra" and other critically-acclaimed novels.)

Now's a good time to make the side dish. Take vodka. Pour it into a glass. Maybe people tell you that it's too early to drink. But it's a hot day (if you're in Atlanta, and if not, well, it gets hot other places). You work hard. Don't you deserve this? Yeah. You do. Treat yourself. Anyway. Vodka. I don't know what kind Frankie endorses, so you're on your own here. Top it off with limeade.

Doesn't that taste good? Doesn't the world seem a little better? Go ahead. Have another. Repeat until the chicken is done.

Once the chicken is tender, remove it from the pan. Mix the sour cream with flour. I usually eschew sour cream in all facets of my life, but Kaberle is a Nobel laureate and I am not. I'd follow his orders if I were you. Stir the sour cream/flour mixture into pan, simmer the gravy for five minutes.

Strain the gravy over the chicken. Serve with pasta. Another vodka/limeade might be good about now, too.

Enjoy it. Feel grateful that a man such as František Kaberle shares his gifts with us.

Unfortunate Monuments

I live a couple blocks away from the building above. It's probably recognizable to anyone who lives nearby -- it dominates the neighborhood, the only structure over three stories tall. A brick building with a flamboyant top story that doesn't seem to fit. But it's a dead zone, a haunted house in a vibrant neighborhood. It's still in use, but it's separate from what's around it. There's no interaction.

I know a few basic facts about the place -- it was built as the Briarcliff Hotel in the 1930s, and almost immediately began declining. (Whoops: 1920s. Creative Loafing ran an article about it a few months back -- I'll just defer to them for the history, here.)

It's in an area of thriving activity, but walking by, it's ominous and unfriendly. A glimpse through a door as I walked by the other night revealed a fluorescent-lit hallway, littered and blocked by overturned tables and chairs, a flickering Coke machine, no signs of life.

The building also provided the scene for one of those little vignettes that leave you wishing for the full story. A couple years back, a friend and I were sitting at the window table at the Righteous Room, across the street. Suddenly, papers and possessions started raining down from one of the upper-story windows. As this was going on, a fellow strolled up to the building, casual, relaxed, and idly looked up at the source of the plummeting material -- then jumped like he'd been shocked. He sprinted inside, presumably upstairs, and within minutes the flow stopped, except for a couple lagging documents, floating lazily to the ground.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Kukla's Korner is reporting that the Thrashers have signed Fred Brathwaite, Jason Krog, and Darren Haydar. Brathwaite (I've always been a fan) is, I presume, insurance in case Goalie Holocaust '05 repeats itself. I'd imagine Krog, who's had middling success with Anaheim in the past, will be a spare forward, perhaps where I had MacKenzie in the previous post. I really hope he makes the big club; there's a rather nice little wine bar in town called the Krog Bar, and the endorsement possibilities would seem to be limitless. I'd never previously heard of Haydar -- he seems to have done quite well for Milwaukee of the AHL in pervious years, and now presumably will be counted on to do the same for Chicago.

Piecing It Together

Well, the Thrashers have their first line center, I guess. Eh. Rucchin's a nice enough player, and did well playing with Kariya back in the day -- and I suppose given what remained out there, this is about the best available. Still, not terribly sexy.

The Thrashers also signed Glen Metropolit, about whom I know virtually nothing, other than "he's big in Finland."

So now, according to TSN's list, the Thrashers have... just under $31 million committed, if I'm adding correctly (and perhaps I'm not -- that seems really low). Ah, they've left Mellanby off the list. Oh, and Lehtonen and Kapanen aren't signed -- righto. It's early yet. Ok, so that'll add a few million more. And players like Mark Popovic and Karl Stewart, who will presumably be challenging for permanent jobs with the big club, aren't on there either.

Presuming the signings go ok, here's a rough depth chart, in terms of talent/appropriateness for the spot:

Boulton/Slater/Metropolit or Stewart

Hnidy or Popovic


So, really, the big hole is a secondary RW. I guess they could give Slater or Stewart a shot there (or Kapanen, if Slater's penned in as second-line center). Or maybe Alex Bourret (114 points in the QMJHL this season) will be ready -- beyond that, the winger prospects are thin. Juraj Gracik will play in Slovakia next season, Tomas Pospisil isn't sounding terribly thrilling... anyone else?

There are a few free agent possibilities still out there -- Trevor Letowski? Anson Carter (yeah!)? Radek Dvorak? Valeri Bure? Petr Sykora? Bulis or Rucinsky on the off-wing? Konstantin Koltsov? Carter is by far the most appealing out of all of those, but Atlanta hasn't been mentioned as a possible destination. Sykora wouldn't be bad either, actually, but I have no idea what'll be available $$-wise after Lehtonen and Kapanen are signed up. Maybe Bourret is the answer.

And, of course, there's the possibility/hope that one of the defensemen will be traded. Again, not a lot of use for all three of Sutton, Hnidy, or Exelby. Of the three I'd most like to see Hnidy dealt; most like to see Exelby kept. But no one's asking me, now are they?

Edit: Looking over this again, I'm reminded that the Thrashers only kept six defensemen on the roster for most of the season, so -- if Coburn's ready -- Hnidy may be headed for Chicago.

Edit Edit: I forgot to mention two more additions to the links -- CasonBlog, yet another entertaining 'Canes blogger who's now in one of my former hometowns, and Kukla's Korner, which has been a giant help in these recent days of player movement.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Tribute to #19

In light of today's events, it seems only proper to honor the greatest hockey player ever to wear that number.

Glad you're with us for another year, Joey!

Memories of Stupidity, vol. 1

Freshman year at the University of Arizona, in my Sociology 101 lecture. I was seated next to two very pretty girls. Unfortunately, that Sociology 101 class was pretty deadly dull.

I started taking notes, dutifully, but Morpheus got the better of me. Next thing I knew, I was jerking awake as everyone around me got up to leave. Confused, I took stock of the situation, and realized I'd continued taking notes after losing consciousness, but moved off the paper, and my left arm was now covered in angry red welts and deep blue ink.

Checking my notes (on the paper) later, they went from the standard verbatim transcript of what the professor was saying into what appeared to be a short story about meeting Ozzy Osbourne at a 7-11.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

"I just wanted to be independent. But that's not easy."

The Financial Times has an interview with Haruki Murakami, one of the finest authors going. Really inspiring stuff, especially for an aspiring novelist. Good reading.

No War But Class War

Watching yesterday's England-Portugal match, trying desperately to avoid slipping into a coma, I was struck anew by something troubling: my severe, and inexplicable, dislike for Wayne Rooney. In a match where I had no loyalties, in a sport where I have no loyalties, it's a bit strange.

I dislike plenty of players in all sports, but I always have (in my mind) a good reason -- whether it be a tendency to cheap-shot, too much hype, or a tendency to say amazingly stupid shit. I don't know if any of this applies to Rooney. His talent seems to be unquestionable, and nothing about him suggests laziness. I know the overrated aspect applies to England teammate Beckham, who is the one I really should hate, as he represents everything I despise -- but he just elicits eye-rolls, whereas I took inordinate delight in seeing Wayner sent off yesterday.

Here's the thing: it's not Rooney's fault. It reveals something pretty horrible about me. I dislike Rooney because he looks like someone I'd dislike in real life.

Now, I know the folly of making assumptions. I've probably had the wrong first impression of most of my friends. People tend to assume I'm Brad Pitt upon first meeting me. So making judgments on Rooney based on what I see on the TV ("telly," for my British friends) isn't justified.

But, I can't help it. He looks -- in my eyes -- stupid and thuggish. Somehow his whining to the refs seemed more petulant than the other players. I see Rooney and I see the drunken, glassy-eyed oaf who spills his beer on you and then thinks you owe him one. So it's intellectual and class snobbery on my part -- the kind of thing I like to think I'm above. And I don't know why poor Wayne is singled out. It's not like I have any illusions that the players I like are sitting around contemplating Kierkegaard (though we'll see -- maybe someday Tomáš Klouček and I will end up discussing the works of Milan Kundera).

Of course, it could also just be that Rooney's not as smart as me, not as good-looking, but he'll still have more money and girls than I could ever contemplate.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

And This Year's Boston Bruins Bust Will Be...

Marc Savard, signing on for five years at $4 mil per, and joining a hallowed tradition that includes Alexei Zhamnov, Brian Leetch, Martin Lapointe and Kevin Stevens.

I've voiced my lack of enthusiasm for Savard before, though I know the Thrashers will miss him (miss his skills, not his penchant for dumbo penalties). But surrounded by second- and third-liners on the Bruins, his totals will likely plummet.

The busy bank-breaking Bruins also signed Zdeno Chára, which is more upsetting -- it ends my little dream of Big Z in a Thrashers uniform.

The Thrashers, as expected, re-signed Scott Mellanby -- no complaints, providing it wasn't $3 million a year or something (I'm far too lazy to look these things up). Actually, the whole Southeast Division's been quiet, aside from the Lightning losing Pavel Kubina, and the Hurricanes picking up, uh, John Grahame as their backup goalie. I'd promise to update this with any movement, but really, you want a responsible blogger for that.

Watching England vs Portugal Today...

I was put in mind of this, sent by a friend the other day (and I hope she's not angry about it getting swiped).

(alternate post title: "Exclusive Footage of Detroit Red Wings Prospect Camp")

Also, a friend pointed me to something I'd been missing -- the Guardian's Minute-by-Minute coverage of the WC matches. Good stuff that would have been useful during that drudgery game this morning. They're doing France and Brazil now. I'm halfway watching -- mostly to see if Brazil's goalkeeper snaps and murders one of his own defensemen, as he's looked likely to do all tournament.