Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Take Two

Seems a bit odd to have the NHL resuming soon after the climax of the Olympics -- I can just imagine the players (well, the Swedes and Finns, at least -- Canada and the U.S. should be well-rested) realizing "wait -- there's more?" And those gold medals so recently prized by the Swedes, they're already on the top of the nightstand, the recipients planned, you know, to get a proper display, but you've got to shop around, find the right thing, and by next month they'll be in the hall closet, forgotten, collecting dust until some spring cleaning a few years down the line, at which point they'll pop up on eBay.

The Thrashers get back to work tomorrow, against Buffalo, a team that's pretty much had their number this season. Other than that, though, they're in really pretty good shape. Bobby Holik (a/k/a The Guy Who Can Actually Win a Faceoff) will be back, though Patty Stefan (a/k/a The Eternal Tease) is out for a few weeks, and J.P. Vigier (a/k/a Brad Larsen or Ramzi Abid) is apparently done for the year. The weeks off should presumably have helped Kari Lehtonen's paper-strong groin (but wait -- wasn't all the time off blamed for all the groin strains early this year?), and even after the January free-fall, Atlanta's only two points out of a playoff spot. And they're surrounded in the standings by Montreal, Toronto, and Boston, all teams that (I would argue) have more problems than the Thrashers.

But, they don't have much room to fill holes -- they're up against the salary cap, and most of the trade speculation involving the Thrashers has to do with them becoming sellers if they fall, rather than buyers if they hang in. Nothing really bad there -- the only possible targets that are really appealing (Jokinen) are too expensive, and the thought of picking up Eric Weinrich or Ken Klee just fills me with a sick dread.

In other news, official Post-Pessimist Association fan favorite Tomáš Klouček is, according to a posting on a Chicago Wolves message board, basically done for the season with another leg injury. I can't find any confirmation of this on any official website, but since AHL news is generally about as easy to find as entertainment listings for N'Djamena, that's really no surprise. This being the 782nd injury of Klouček's career, and since he seemed to have sunk below several other Wolves on the Thrashers' organizational depth chart, I'm guessing my hopes of him getting called up and propelling the team to a Stanley Cup are rather faint (and, more realistically, we've probably seen the last of him in a Thrashers' jersey). Nonetheless, we'll hold strong here. Hodně štěstí, Tomáš!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Monday Roundup

Uh, it IS Monday, right? The days run together at my age. I return to overnights tonight (a two-week stint) and on cue, I woke up this morning with a sore throat and congested brain. It sounds like the height of hypochondria, and in reality it's probably just coincidence -- more a product of absurdly fluctuating weather and an unhealthy lifestyle.

What isn't coincidence is the depression that hits when I realize I'm coming back to this shift. Normally, I'd say I'm a cheerful, witty guy (back me up here - anyone?) -- hit this shift and I'm goth, baby.

But, just two weeks (with six days off in between), and once through the darkness, I'm just one week away from a trip to Colorado.

* * *

Friends and acquaintances have been in overdrive lately, trying to find me the proper girl -- in one evening of Seinfeldesque absurdity, two girls each told me, sotto voce, that I should date the other. Not sure why it's kicked up a notch recently, if I just appear more desperate than usual (and I live my life at a high level of desperation), if it's just the season, or if my recent birthday was a reminder of my mortality.

It's unquestionably been a dry spell lately. A few months since I even went on a date (by choice), longer than that without sex (uh, not entirely by choice), and longer still without meeting anyone I'm really into (not by choice).

So it was with great pleasure the other night that I actually met someone of interest, at a bar, no less. I'd long since really given up on bars as a good opportunity to mix, but with my online dating experience becoming the world's longest unfunny joke, this is a welcome relief. Of course, it's a sign of how bad it's been that getting a phone number was treated like a Super Bowl victory, and we're still a ways from ending any of the above losing streaks, but since the only thing I usually get on a Saturday night is drunk, it's a nice change.

* * *

After missing most of them, the Olympic men's hockey medal games actually made it to channels I get, so I was able to watch parts of the last two -- and man, if the stuff I missed was this good, I really did miss out. I'm not sure how exactly the Czechs managed to hold on and win bronze -- well, yeah, I am. Tomas Vokoun played like Tomas Vokoun. In the final period there, the Russians looked like the world's most dangerous team, a group assembled with the sole purpose of kicking ass and scoring goals -- and somehow Vokoun stopped everything. Why he's not more often accepted as one of the absolute best goalies, I know not.

The Sweden-Finland game began at 8 a.m. locally, at which point I was still deeply unconscious, sleeping off Saturday night's excesses. So I only saw period three, in a hazy bleary pain, kept alive through coffee. And it was some of the most entertaining hockey I've seen in a long time. Tight game, a clearly overmatched Finnish team staying in it against all odds but ultimately falling short. Since there's no commercial breaks in Olympic hockey (and I take back anything I've ever said negative about commercials -- I needed one, badly) I was on the edge of my seat for the full thing. Sweden looked flawless, and while I was rooting for the Finns, I have no ideological differences with Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin, Henrik Lundqvist and the rest. Great stuff, and seeing the team singing along lustily to the Swedish anthem afterwards touched my black, shriveled heart.

* * *

Courtney is in Egypt, and blogging it MySpace style from there. Check it out -- hopefully will inspire, say, me to get going on planning a trip to someplace cool.

* * *

Now reading: "The Life of Graham Greene, Volume 1" by Norman Sherry; now listening, "Thank the Holder-Uppers" by Claw Hammer; now watching, "Pepe Le Moko," which was excellent and featured a hot, feisty gypsy girl who looked like Rula Amin, so five stars!

Friday, February 24, 2006


So much for the Czechs. Go, uh, Finland, I guess.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

No More Miracles

Well, the afternoon Olympic hockey games couldn't have turned out better -- Czechs in, Canada out. I don't know why, exactly, I'm so anti-Canada, given that I've always had fine relations with that nation, and they have a number of players (Sakic, Pronger, Iginla, Blake, etc) that I like quite a bit. I suppose it's the crazed, nationalistic fervor that grips their media (and some fans) -- the belief that Canada has a sort of divine right to win everything, a moral supremacy over the other nations. It's like reading neocons writing about U.S. foreign policy.

Now if ever a team had moral supremacy, of course, it's the Czechs. Glad to see them win though I can't understand how a team almost entirely composed of goal-scoring maniacs seems to be unable to score. But they advance, and I'm happy.

The U.S., meanwhile, bounces out. I can't say that, in the end, I care that much. They keep sticking with the old guard to the point of foolishness, even though that old guard is composed of jerks and morons. Sure, there's a few Americans I like -- Miller and Weight come to mind, and some of the younger guys (Drury, Cole, Gomez) -- so maybe next time around I'll be a bit more willing to throw my heart to my native land.

But this time, I've been for the Czechs from the start -- the majority of my favorite players are Czechs anyway, and it's difficult to suddenly change course and root against them and for the Hatchers and Chelioses (Chelii?) of the world. Add in my noted rampant Slavophilia, and, well, the Czechs have my fullest support. Now I just don't have to pretend that it's divided.

And hey, it's also great to see former Thrasher Milan Hnilička doing well. When Hašek went down and Vokoun suddenly turned mediocre, I feared for the Czechs' fate -- but so far, ol' Milan's been strong.

The Swedes are next. Go Czech Republic!

Gray World

I've been at home virtually not at all this weekend -- between a movie ("Match Point," good) and getting treated to an actual home-cooked dinner Monday, and then a full day of goofing off yesterday, I haven't been on the computer too much. Add to that some pretty ugly weather -- from gray and cold to a brief moment of sunny and warm Tuesday to warm and pouring rain today, I'm low on seratonin or whatever, and while I've got a bunch of things to do this morning (blown off in order to spend four hours at Apres Diem yesterday), I'm instead sitting here watching "Miracle on Ice" (1981 Karl Malden version) and returning to this.

I went out shooting some photos yesterday morning, before the sun came out and before I began doing the whole "Lost Weekend" thing. It marked the first time I'd really taken my new digital camera out for a spin. I got it for Christmas, but laziness and other factors have kept opportunities for good pictures low; I've yet to go hiking, or really go to see anything interesting and photo-worthy at all in 2006.

I resisted going digital for quite a while -- my reasons basically summed up by a trip to the British Museum last summer, and watching other tourists snapping indiscriminately, getting set to go home with 1,000 photos. My idea was that having the erase/redo option made one less selective and less likely to get good photos. Two weeks later, I'd decided I wanted a digital camera, because of the subsequent trip to Albania; switching back and forth between color and black-and-white film was a pain, and left me stuck with whatever was in the camera at the time, regardless of how appropriate it was. I've got a lot of rather pointless black-and-white photos of Tirana's garishly-colored apartment blocks as a result.

At Christmas, I received the Canon PowerShot A520, and fell in love with it pretty quickly -- though my Dad's warning to make sure I read the instructions thoroughly was a good one. I did my usual skim, and out there yesterday, the myriad functions were befuddling. Some other adjustment problems -- I still instinctively hold the viewfinder up to my eye, giving me a good view of nothin' at all; and can't seem to grasp the concept that bothered me so much in London, that I can delete a misfired shot and try it again without wasting film.

But it's a neat toy. Alas this little bit is rather anticlimactic -- the jaunt was cut short by bad weather, and then getting lost in Atlanta/Decatur's spaghetti street map. But I'm looking forward to the next hike, or next month's trip to Colorado, when I can really cut loose.

Friday, February 17, 2006

My Backyard

That's the title of a '90s song by House of Freaks, a band that popped back into my head lately when their singer and his family were found, brutally slain in Richmond. The song was a winsome (and sarcastic) paean to the South -- and good enough, when I heard it on a mix tape, to make me buy the rest of the album under the assumption that it would have at least some of the greatness of that song. (it didn't.)

(an aside here -- that tape, made for me by noted Colorado journalist Jim Sheeler, remains one of the more formidable audio collections I've ever heard. It brought together all of the stuff I'd been missing while trapped in a straight-edge limbo, a mix of similar one-hit wonders (such as my now-fellow-Atlantans Magnapop) and more noted (but then unknown to me) bands like Wilco, and while the tape long ago gave up the ghost, I still keep the track listing. Good memories there, and I'm forever in Jim's debt, aside from the fact that it convinced me to buy the Chris Mars solo CD)

But where was I? Already straying far afield from my intended topic... that song's in my head due to recent contemplation of my place down here in the City Too Busy To Hate -- the prospect (however faint) of perhaps leaving has me wondering how I'll eventually look back on my time here. I've never fully settled in, more than six years on, and never really immersed myself in Atlanta/Georgia/Southern culture -- still haven't been to the World of Coke, still don't eat greens and okra, still don't give a shit about the Civil War. Where HOF seemed at least bemused and tender to the foibles of their neighbors, I'm much more likely to bitch about lousy drivers, crumbling infrastructure and (seven or eight months out of the year, at least) the soul-destroying humidity.

But on the other hand -- I have had a hell of a lot of fun here. Almost all of my friends are similarly transplanted, so maybe we're like... a little community of expatriates? Ok, that's a stretch. But a small group of like-minded restless people, a good living situation (right in the middle of the SoHo of the South), has made for a fun last few years. And as much as we complain about Georgia's cultural bankruptcy, it's not THAT bad, and there's always something to do.

(And the food is great: even the crappiest pub has something at least EDIBLE, something more cosmopolitan cities such as London or Boulder, Colorado, can't promise)

I loved Arizona when I lived there, but since leaving, I've felt greater desire to visit Bangladesh. So maybe the trend will reverse itself and I'll be forever nostalgic for the Perimeter, Buckhead, and the Majestic Grill. Or, third option, I'll be reading this ten years from now and weeping, because I'll still be stuck here.

He's Through With Cars

Blondie's "Rapture" has been playing on a tape loop in my head for a good two days, and while I've always loved the song, I'm about 14 runs of "Now he only eats guitars!" from drooling, shrieking madness. And no distractions are readily apparent: I'm in the midst of my work week so drinking myself insensate isn't really an option, and I can't watch hockey for a few weeks.

Anyone with the slightest sense of current affairs knows, though... the Winter Olympics are on! And I can't watch hockey? No -- the games (aside from the U.S. team) are being broadcast on MSNBC, a channel I've watched a grand total of zero times over the years... so I was unaware until Wednesday morning that it wasn't a part of my cable package. I debated quickly shelling out for the expanded package, but really, would it have been worth it to spend a ton of money to watch a couple weeks of Olympic hockey? In perhaps the first incidence of fiscal responsibility of my life (I shelled out for the NHL Center Ice package, after all), I decided no.

If the Czechs keep on losing to the Swiss, anyhow, I won't miss much, other than the chance to root against Team Canada.

Anyway: my focus group has informed me that posts about hockey are not a hit. So onward. The travel bug is starting to set in again, and I desperately need to start making plans to go someplace. Southeast Asia is almost certain -- after the Warsaw Pact-centric theme of most of my travels, I need to broaden myself a bit. But I think I can probably wrangle another overseas trip later in the year and that's what's causing a great internal debate. Go back to the Czech Republic? Visit Hungary? Finland? Russia? South America? Eritrea?

There is something that never fails to be invigorating about deplaning overseas, in a drab airport surrounded by signage in a mysterious (ok, usually Slavic) language. It's probably helped keep me sane over the past few years of fluctuating work schedules and Atlantan ennui. This is the longest I've gone in about four years without having a new trip confirmed and I think it's starting to show -- restlessness, increased dissatisfaction, "Rapture" running through my brain.

So, readers, all six of you: what should move up the list? Cast your ballots, though I reserve the right to count them Haiti-style.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Already Going Awry

I'd started creating an entertaining post-Valentine's Day post, but it veered quickly into not-entertaining-land, so instead I'll report that I've got my hands on Afshin Rattansi's new book, and you should too. I'll write something long, and real, later, ok?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Things I Missed

One of the late pleasures of having been the world's most dogmatic music fan in the late '80s-early '90s is belatedly, a decade and a half later, discovering bands that cooler heads were listening to at the time the performers were actually in existence. The most recent Exhibit A is Claw Hammer -- they were at their peak when I was too busy buying everything on Revelation Records to notice, and they carried the dual stigma of having long hair and being on Epitaph, which automatically got them lumped in with (f'rinstance) R.K.L.

So a few months back, I spent an idle night at work paging through Agony Shorthand and marking down bands that sounded interesting, and noticed multiple raves-in-passing about CH, and so, why not? Why NOT give them a try?

Yeah. Absolutely fantastic. The band undoubtedly played Tucson's DPC a bazillion times when it was my refuge, and I missed them? Crazy stuff - confident creative punk rock, and good God, Jon Wahl's got one of the most distinctive singing styles out there, a loopy, fucked-up yowl that's all over the map. First thing I got was "Pablum," reputedly their high-water mark, and if they never did anything better, that's nothing to be ashamed of. It should've been a formative album of my hardcore years (it came out in 1993, at the height of that period) -- it's a pity that I didn't hear it 'til I was 32 YEARS OLD.

The other day, I picked up their swan song (I think - a less lazy blogger would check it, wouldn't they?) "Hold Your Tongue and Say Apple" - it came out on Interscope in '99 or so, and judging by the label and the fact that you can find promo copies for $0.01 on Amazon, probably sold about six copies. It's a pity, too -- while not the unbridled awesomeness of "Pablum," it's perhaps even more risk-taking, and provides an effective bridge to Wahl's next batch of excellent, about which more anon. And "Sugar Breath" - track number five, friends -- is the latest song to completely dominate my life, and wear out my right index finger stabbing at the "repeat" button on the car CD changer.

Now that they're long gone, the only living survivor appears to be Wahl's new band, the Amadans. I've got "Sour Suite," which is worthy and fantastic -- a friend compares it to Roxy Music, I hear... country lounge?, but either way, it's been another constant player. It came out in 2001, and Wahl's apparently been kind of quiet since then -- his "semi-official web page" hasn't been updated in a few years now, since an entertaining anti-Stones rant. But lo! There's a new(er) CD, "Iron Nails Run In," on Rudek Records, available frightfully cheap. I'm ordering it today and suggest you do the same. I figure I have some seriously negative musical karma now, for choosing to give my money to Insted and Judge while these guys were around, and this is the only real option to make things right.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Better Minds Than Mine

I'm a little ashamed that I'm not writing about anything of consequence thus far, but not ashamed enough to actually do something about it. The "working overnights and thus my brain doesn't function" only holds until tomorrow, at which point I have to either smarten up or find a new excuse.

In the meantime, there's a recent piece by Tony Karon that's pretty right-on in re recent Palestinian elections, so why don't you read that instead?

Don't Look Now

since my Thrashers post -- guess which hockey team has won two straight. Go on. Guess.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Comic books aren't just for kids anymore

(the title of multiple comic-related articles I did for different student newspapers, in more innocent times)

I'm in the process of sorting and eBaying the very last of my once-mighty comic book collection. I quit buying anything new and purged 90 percent of it a few years back -- partly for space reasons, partly in the interest of not lugging those boxes through another move. It's a slow process, not least because it still isn't hard to get me to give them a last read for old times' sake (I read every issue of "Nexus" again, all 80 or so, before putting them up on eBay), and now that I'm into the last bastion -- the Legion of Super-Heroes -- it's just going to get worse.

From the age of 11 or so, the LSH was my favorite comic (for the uninitiated, it's a group of super-powered teenagers in the 30th century), and dragging these out into the light of day for the first time in some years... well. It's a trip. At one point I had all but about 15 appearances of the Legion, dating back to the late 1950s, and on Christmas morning I'd wake up at around 4 (this was before I learned to appreciate -- nay, covet -- sleep) and read them all, in chronological order, waiting for my parents to awaken. Interesting thing I've realized in the past few days: when I was a kid, I had all of the Legionnaires' powers, identities, and first appearances memorized, and I guess I STILL DO. Wildfire - emits energy blasts! Drake Burroughs! "Superboy" #195! Dammit.

Eventually, and fortunately, I discovered girls and real life, and comics became a background hobby (and I no longer felt compelled to pursue my one-time dream of owning every DC Comic ever published, thankfully). Other factors -- repeated revampings of the Legion's history, rising cover prices, and on one unfortunate trip to a comic store, overhearing a group of fans debating the merits of various female characters' breasts -- dulled my interest, and eventually I quit cold turkey.

I still feel a slight tug when I pass the comic rack in Borders -- like seeing an ex-girlfriend that had her fun points -- but to my relief, a quick perusal of the covers indicates that the storylines are healthily incomprehensible to me now. And while selling them off produces some nostalgia, it's not difficult, just as selling off my record collection was easier than expected. Better they go to someone who'll read them, rather than just sitting in my closet, taking up room.

(And I still have my geeky habits: I own game-worn hockey jerseys, for pete's sake.)

So this is it -- barring some head injury a few years down the line that encourages me to start buying and reading again. The long-delayed closing of a chapter in my life that once upon a time, produced a lot of fun for a quiet, lonely kid.

(Timber Wolf - Super-strength, speed, and agility! Brin Londo! "Adventure Comics" #327!)

Back to the Grave

Vacation's over and the overnight shift resumes tonight, so my young blog will see some benign neglect over the next few days...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Books 2006

There was a "challenge," I suppose, floating around the internet last year -- read 50 books in 2005. Ever late to the party, I vowed to do so in 2006-- for all I know I've been reading 50 books yearly, but I've never counted. So to keep me honest, the rundown thus far:

1. "Resurrection" by David Remnick
2. "Our Band Could Be Your Life" by Michael Azerrad
3. "Snow" by Orhan Pamuk
4. "Spring Flowers, Spring Frost" by Ismail Kadare
5. "Burr" by Gore Vidal
6. "Life is Elsewhere" by Milan Kundera

To be updated as I finish new tomes. It may seem a little self-absorbed to post such a list, but what is a blog if not a way to act out self-absorption?

Metal Thrashing Mad

Part of the intent of this thing is to give me an outlet to talk about hockey -- since 95% of my friends couldn't give two shits about the sport, I need such an outlet (though obviously those friends also won't care about any of these posts).

This morning seems appropriate to start -- I'm horrendously hungover, I had to drive 20 minutes to take a shower thanks to yesterday's caulking activity, and the Thrashers lost their eighth game out of nine last night, just days after GM Don Waddell (rather rashly) promised the team would make the playoffs. At this point, it's not looking terribly hopeful, since the team that looks to be the main rival for a spot turns into the '84 Oilers when playing Atlanta.

What a difference a month makes -- in early January, Lehtonen was back and looking sharp, the wins were flowing like cheap white wine, and if Waddell's prediction had come then no one would have thought twice. Now? Managing to take one of two from the (lousy) Panthers provided the only bright spot in recent weeks.

There's two pretty gaping holes in the lineup (and unfortunately, not enough salary cap space to really fill them). Marc Savard is a career second-line guy sometimes made to look much better by his linemates (and really, there's something pouting about his personality that makes me automatically dislike the guy), Bobby Holik is a career third-line guy asked to be a second-line player.

But at least at the center spot they can patch something together. When, in my dotage, I look back on the 2005-06 Atlanta Thrashers, it'll be the defense... Jaroslav Modry losing control of the puck at the blueline, Garnet Exelby holding his stick like a baton, Andy Sutton tripping his teammates, Shane Hnidy's unfortunate facial hair. I like fifth or sixth defensemen-- one of my favorite players is one-- but not more than, you know, two of them on a team. Aside from Greg de Vries and Niclas Havelid (who both might be a #2 guy on other teams), the other d-men all are of the type that shouldn't be playing more than a few minutes a game. When Frankie Kaberle was let loose, it barely caused a whimper in the space-time continuum, but man, we could use him now.

And due to the aforementioned cap issues, there's no help to be had any time soon, unless Braydon Coburn suddenly realizes all his potential. So what's to be done? Who knows? I just complain about it, I don't offer solutions. My head hurts and I need coffee.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Super Bowl of Blogs

Writing on this at this point is sort of the equivalent of starting a teenage punk band -- not totally sure what I'm doing, no real audience beyond a few friends, just playing around in the garage. Later on, if this reaches arena rock stage (or, given the punk band image, perhaps... the Warped Tour? Is that still around?), presumably I'll look back on these posts with a little embarrassment, and a little longing for days gone by.

A few years back, I'd spend overnight writing shifts looking up random things on the web, and went through a phase of hunting down old acquaintances from cities past. One night I happened upon a blog by Sid Acker (sort of in a backwards manner - he'd mentioned a novel by a mutual acquaintance), which should be listed over there as "Nude Highway Driving," if I've figured the links thing out correctly. I spent a pleasant evening reading through NHD, laughed a lot, and e-mailed Sid to say hi.

Responding, he chatted a bit about the blog-- and how it'd just begun as a writing exercise. "Interesting," I said to myself, and then thought no more.

Fast forward to Super Bowl Sunday, 2006. I'm sitting in Atlanta's most depressing bar, watching a fairly boring and inept Big Game, no girls to be seen except the friend who was kind enough to come out and join me. We were talking about my writing -- a two-week vacation was coming to a close and I'd written a grand total of four pages. A blog was jokingly mentioned, and Courtney quickly grew serious. "Why, you SHOULD do a blog!" she said, or words to that effect.

So fast forward again, a few days later. It's morning, it's cold outside, and I'm trying to put off recaulking my tub. And lo, The PPA is born.


Of such inconsequential beginnings, dynasties are born