Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Kevin Funtime Rides Again

You can never see everything in travels. Every journey contains multitudes of bypassed opportunities, potential experiences passed over in favor of another sight. Contemplating these is a good way to go mad, and for the most part, I think I've learned to accept it -- to focus on what I'm doing rather than what I'm not.

But some still haunt me. I've recently had occasion to page through old notebooks, and that's taken me back to an affecting few hours of my life.

There are sensations that affect us deeply and immediately, and we don't know why -- a short sentence, a melody on the radio, a pair of pretty eyes. That's my pass through Trieste in a nutshell. Before the trip, I hadn't even thought of it as a possible destination -- I just ended up there through happenstance, when I realized it was the most convenient transfer point on the trip from Venice to northern Croatia. But upon entering I was immediately taken.

In my notebook of times past, I write that "Trieste is a city built for war -- a clenched fist." In memory, this remains an accurate view -- even bathed in September sunlight, the Adriatic sparkling, there was a beautiful coldness in the architecture and layout. An ice queen of a city, lovely but distant. And that may contribute to its appeal to me, that feeling that it would be impossible to truly know Trieste. I've always thought that I saw it in the wrong element, that it would be better suited to a gray winter's day, fog rolling in.

Like many of my favorite places, it's a combination of cultures: it's been part of Austria-Hungary, now Italian, many say it's more Slovenian than anything else. Mediterranean beauty with Germanic reserve. I spent some time in the bar at the bus station (next to a souvenir shop with a "Kevin Funtime" doll and plastic radios in the window) -- illuminated entirely by natural light streaming in, and the sunny seacoast feel without the normally associated bustle and energy was soothing.

I don't know that I'll ever see Trieste again, except in a similarly accidental and incidental visit. But in a few short hours a few years ago, it imprinted itself on me -- a rare place that evoked an instant connection.

(Trieste has a few interesting literary ties -- James Joyce spent time there, as he did in Pula, Croatia. And Jan Morris wrote a wonderful book about the place, "Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere," that indicates that I'm not alone in my feelings. My Mom called the latter book "pretty boring," but don't listen to her.)

Oh Patrick, My Patrick

Barring insanity, Patrick "Twitch" Roy will be selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame today (update: he has, along with Dick Duff, Herb Brooks and Harley Hotchkiss), giving me the excuse (as if any is needed) for some misty-eyed memories.

I was sitting in the Arizona Daily Wildcat newsroom, a few weeks away from college graduation, when news of the fateful trade came down -- and man did I think it was a mistake. I'd figured that Colorado was just a way station on Jocelyn Thibault's journey to the Hall of Fame, I was fond (unjustifiably so) of Andrei Kovalenko, and I figured Roy was about done. I've never been so happy to be proven wrong.

He was never one of my favorite players -- I tended to gravitate toward the slick scorers (Sakic and Kamensky), the agitators (Lemieux and Corbet), and the inexplicable (Josef Marha, whose trade to Anaheim for Warren Freakin' Rychel remains an emotional trauma). Roy's cockiness, as entertaining as it could be ("I've got my two Stanley Cup rings in my ears") could also be eye-rolling (his failed quest to beat the shit out of any Red Wings goalie) or hazardous (there should have been a court order preventing him from trying to play the puck, and yes, I remember the Statue of Liberty goal).

But when he was back there, he gave the team (and its fans) such confidence. When he was on, I could confidently say "they're not going to beat him today," and more often than not, be correct. When he infuriated the opposition, we loved it. In a sport that often seems to prize bland personalities, his quirkiness and intensity brought in some needed color.

And then there's those Cups. It's safe to say that without Roy, those two championships would have gone elsewhere. For that, I'm eternally grateful.

Congratulations, Patrick. It's well-deserved. We won't see your likes again, I fear.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Excuses, Excuses

Events have conspired so that umpteen embryonic blog posts/writing projects won't be finished tonight. I'm a very busy man, man.

Quick notes -- the AJC has a look at who wasn't qualified: Bondra (no surprise), Aubin (surprise), Vigier (moderate surprise), Petrovicky (not at all a surprise). I liked Petro but for an agitator, he was often pretty invisible. I've always liked Aubin, and the article indicates they just may try to get him back for less than the qualifying offer price.

It also confirms that Tomáš Klouček is now free, free as a bird. Dammit.

Showing a bit more respect for my favorite players -- the 'Canes have locked up Chicken Paprika.

And VCOE provides a hilarious and disturbing little gift for all haters of Kirk Maltby.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Something in the Works

Apologies to those who have been wondering about my take on the Nicole Kidman-Keith Urban nuptials -- I've been working on a longer writing project, which with some luck, will be complete today. After weeks of desperately needing rain, the last three days have brought Biblical torrents, which is conducive to staying inside and typing (presuming the Virginia-Highland neighborhood is not washed away).

On the Thrashers side of things, I only noticed today that TSN has lists of the teams' salary commitments for 2006-07; I've been looking for something like this for a while. A couple things stand out: with Štefan and Savard gone, the only two centers currently under contract are Holik and Slater, neither of which impresses me as even a shadow of a number one; and even with Modry gone, the Thrashers have six defensemen under contract for next year (seven, once Steve McCarthy is re-signed). This doesn't thrill me-- I'd like to see a vacancy that can be plugged by someone better. I don't have much use for Sutton, Exelby, or Hnidy, and hopefully we'll see some more trades soon. The Thrashers' payroll is in the $29-$30 million range now, without Kari Lehtonen under contract. Next year's salary cap is $44 million. My math skills aren't great any more -- that's why I majored in journalism -- but even with a trade, I don't see them being able to grab a top-flight center and a stud defenseman, but I'm going to continue dreaming of Zdeno Chára as a Thrasher.

Meanwhile the AJC has an article on Štefan's lowered expectations in Dallas, and a bit on Don Waddell's negotiations: qualifying offers for Lehtonen, newly-acquired Niko Kapanen (also a center, also not first-line material), and McCarthy, and negotiations to bring back 58-year-old Scott Mellanby.

Tomáš Klouček becomes an unrestricted free agent next week, barring some sort of surprise. I collect game-worn hockey jerseys -- something I'm not totally proud of, as it's hard to explain to girls, but there you are -- and until TK has a new contract next season, my mini-collection of Klouček jerseys will be sitting Shiva on the wall (is that even possible?). I considered a hunger strike, but this is less drastic.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Goodbye, Alex

Wow - my teams are active. The Avs trade Alex Tanguay to the Flames for Jordan Leopold and picks. I'm happier with this one than the Thrashers' trade -- Leopold will be good on defense for years to come -- but the Avs are getting pretty thin on offense.

UPDATE: Didn't know about Leopold's concussion history -- ugh. Still, Tanguay had a history of fading in the playoffs. I'm not totally heartbroken, though less enthusiastic than I was a few minutes ago.

Thrashers Lose Czechs, Free Salary

According to James Mirtle, the Thrashers have dumped Jaroslav Modrý and Patrik Štefan for Niko Kapanen and a seventh-round draft pick. I always liked both, obviously (Czechs!) but Modrý was often frustrating and Štefan never lived up to potential. It's obviously a salary dump .... so let me just, in the interests of boredom (I'm at work) fantasize that they're gonna trade for Pronger.

Ok, I know that's not a possibility, but still.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Slavs Represent!

Thank goodness -- Ukraine go through at the World Cup, so everyone's favorite Slavophile (if you have another favorite Slavophile, I'll settle for second favorite) knows who to root for going forward. I was feeling pretty hopeless after Croatia blew it yesterday. I presume Indiscretions is happy. I feel a bit bad that it came at the expense of scrappy and lovable Tunisia, but it's a cruel old world, innit?

Tony Karon links to an interesting Guardian piece -- one-time Argentinian player Jorge Valdano writing about Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" goal. If, like me, your only interest in the sport back then was trying not too suck too much on the field, it's pretty good reading. (Ok, it's interesting even if you were paying attention back then, too.)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

In Foreign Lands

There's not any good way to admit this, so I'll just come right out and say it:

I spent part of my evening going to a party at a high-end fashion store, designed to promote the new movie, "The Devil Wore Prada."

There's some sort of comedy potential in this -- a guy whose wardrobe is almost entirely Target-based, a guy who wears hiking boots on dates, going to a bash at a place where they charge $650 for blue jeans or whatever. As you may guess, there were two motivating factors (and my excitement over "The Devil Wore Prada" coming to the big screen was not one):

1) girls

2) open bar.

As advertised, the booze was free, and there were girls, but I quickly ran into a problem. I'm not the smoothest conversationalist when you plop me down into the Society of Stunningly Attractive Girls Who Drink Too Much and Love Hockey and Have A Strange Eastern European Fetish (SSAGWDTOLHHASEEF) -- when you put me down into something like this, I pretty much just stare at the cleavage and drink the free beer.

I did glean two valuable fashion tips, which I present to you at no charge: for women, cleavage appears to be in, and for men, something best described as the "Gay Urkel" look appears to be in.

After quickly coming to the realization that my favored conversational gambits -- Hamas and hockey -- would get me nowhere, I relocated to friendlier climes. At Eclipse di Sol -- the place where I spend six out of seven nights, the place so nice that I link to it -- I settled in, relaxed. On the way out, I saw my friend PJ sitting at a table, chatting to a lovely intellectual-looking girl. I gave him a boisterous punch on the arm, and when he turned around, I jabbered about how I was going to head home, but it was great to see him, have a great night for a good 30 seconds before I realized that the only thing this guy had in common with PJ was a shaved head and a striped shirt. In fact, this guy was rather large, and had the hunted, cornered, angry look one associates with a guy who's just been punched on the arm by a total stranger. I bid hasty excuses and then fled. Flourish. Exeunt. Curtain.

Killing Time

I'm working a different schedule than usual this week, and combined with normal irresponsibility, it seems like I've had about two waking hours at home each day. As such I've started several posts but not finished.

Having a few spare minutes though, I've added a few links to the side that are kind of overdue.

In the hockey category -- an actual, literate blog devoted to the Thrashers -- Do the Thrashers Have Large Talons? It appears to be only sporadically updated, but what's there is good, and I'm glad to see someone actually devoting time to the Thrashers beyond their minor-league defensemen.

Two photoblogs -- Tucson Daily Photo, covering one of my former hometowns, and LittleTown in Hungary, covering a place unknown to me.

And finally, a friend hipped me to why was daddy kissing that man in the park?, which is unique, I must say. Perhaps not everyone's cup of tea, but it leaves me helpless with laughter.

Czechs just bounced out of the World Cup. Dammit.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Things Past

(above: 19th-century mill at Sweetwater Creek, near Atlanta)

#19 -- "In Ruins" by Christopher Woodward

As is probably apparent, I'm a sucker for ruins, destroyed buildings, empty shells, fragments of past establishments leaking through into the future. So I'm not sure why it took me so long to read Woodward's book; I've been casting a lustful eye on it for about two years now, but only this past week, got around to reading it.

It's both a meditation on the importance of ruins, and why they appeal to us. There's some fascinating bits about artists and writers that depicted their societies (usually London) in states of ruin; I'd never heard of Gustav Dore's "The New Zealander" (and I can't find a working online image), but it's captivating. He also talks up some ruined communities that I've never come across myself; Nimfa (which I may have spelled wrong -- I can't run up any online citations, but don't have the book handly) in Italy, top of the list. And the section on the Colosseum as a ruin is fascinating.

There's also a considerable bit on the 18th century English habit of creating fake ruins ("follies") themselves -- a bit much for my tastes, since the legit ruins are so much more fascinating. And sometimes there's a bit of presumption on the thoughts of past writers; ruins get cited as their major source of inspiration, even when they say otherwise.

Still -- Woodward's love of the ruins shines through, and he sounds like he'd be great fun as a travel partner. Learned, and passionate. Good stuff (even if he ignores Croatia's ruins.)

From Kaberle to Guantanamo

I know some of my friends aren't big on the Economist. But while I don't always agree with its stances, I respect its sober take on things, its tendency to avoid hysteria.

The current issue features an obituary of one of the Guantanamo suicides, and it's a perfect example. Restrained yet angry, and because of its calm tone, a more powerful call for the prison to be closed.

Then from a friend, trading sobriety for humor -- Stephen Colbert and Formidable Opponent on the prison. Same message, different tone.

The Long, Empty Summer Lies Ahead

Many years back, a good friend of mine -- epitome of the jaded hipster kid -- confessed that when he saw sports teams celebrating a championship, he was moved almost to tears. "They just look so happy!" he said.

I wouldn't go quite that far -- I'm a man, after all. But I got chills last night, watching the clock count down, and the 'Canes celebrate (great video here). There is, for my money, nothing like the Cup celebration in sports. A horrible confession: even watching the Red Wings skate around with it wasn't totally horrible, once I got over the pain of them winning.

František Kaberle goes down in history with the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning goal. I'm ecstatic. And while I know he became the symbol of all that's wrong and bad to non-'Canes fans, it was wonderful to see Brind'Amour lifting the Cup. On the other side of things -- tough to see Pronger, Aleš Hemský, Ryan Smyth, Fernando Pisani, and others dealing with the disappointment. The guy I felt worst for was one I'd forgotten was on the team prior to the Finals, Jussi Markkanen. When Roloson went down, everyone wrote off the Oilers' chances -- in the end, Markkanen nearly won it all for them.

By the time the lockout came around in '04, I'd lost a lot of interest in hockey -- this year has revitalized it. It's been a fun season, and last night's Game Seven provided a worthy ending.

My non-hockey-fannish friends can rejoice: this really does mark the end of the hockey-blogging for a while, aside from Kloučekwatch once his contract expires. Congrats to Carolina's fans -- here's hoping next year Atlanta makes a run at extending the Southeastern streak.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Why the Czechs, Anyway?

I'm often asked (seriously - complete strangers stop me in the street) the roots of my fascination with Eastern Europe, the Czechs in particular. It's not, as would be understandable, an ethnic issue -- while my last name resembles a typographical error, it's a French-based typo, not Slavic. My heritage, as far as I know, is the standard Western European blend of Irish/Scottish/English/French/German/Swiss -- nothing further east.

But yet, there it is. I root for the Czechs in international tournaments. I read Czech literature, watch Czech films, drink Czech beer, and live in hope that eventually there'll be some decent Czech rock music.

Part of the fascination lies in personal history. I lived in (then-West) Germany as a child, and was then (as now) a map addict. As we were traveling all over western Europe, I always wondered about those lands to the east that were verboten to us.

But that may all be after-the-fact rationalization on my part -- I hardly remember the time clearly. I barely remember last week.

I suspect much of it is mood. I like rainy days, dim alleyways, taciturn loners in pubs. I'm not goth, but I play one on TV. I relate better to the more reserved Slavic mood than to more ebullient people.

Most of all, though -- and here I focus largely on the Czechs, but it applies to the rest of the region as well -- a tendency toward excellence. The Czech Republic is about the size of New York State, but the nation produces talent on a level all out of proportion to its size. Compare the Czechs' hockey and soccer talent to that of much-larger neighbor Poland; hell, compare the Czechs' hockey and soccer talent to that of the U.S. On a higher intellectual level, few nations can compete. There's few trios outside of the U.S., UK and Russia that can match the Czech Literary Three of Milan Kundera, Ivan Klíma, and Josef Škvorecký, and that's just the tip of the reader's iceberg -- in the old days, lump in Bohumil Hrabal and Jaroslav Hašek, modern times Jáchym Topol, Iva Pekárková, Michal Viewegh, many more (check the great modern Czech anthology, "Daylight in Nightclub Inferno," for a glimpse). A few years back, someone-or-other -- I'm not so good with taking down citations -- compared the amount of contemporary Czech literature in prominent international translation to that of contemporary French. The result was wildly in the Czechs' favor. Add in some noted filmmakers -- Miloš Forman, Jiří Menzel, Jaromil Jireš -- and a playwright-turned-president, and it's obvious you've got a special little area.

Too highbrow? Allow me to indulge my drunken yob side. The Czechs are among the world's best beermakers -- I'd say really only the Belgians and U.S. microbrews can put up a fight. And, oh holy Jesus, they do produce some stunning women.

Hockey, literature, beer, and women. The four cornerstones of my life. The only question is, why don't I live there?

(for your pleasure: a Budvar beer commercial featuring a silly pun on Milan Hejduk's name)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

New Additions to the Family

Overcoming a hangover to be somewhat productive today, I've added a new section to the photos page -- black and white photos of the Balkans. I've lumped Croatia and Albania together here, and I've skimped on descriptions -- just because most of these are meant to catch a mood rather than document monuments. Nonetheless if you're curious about any of them (or have any feedback at all), please just say. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Klouček's Ribs!

I was going to write up something about the Czechs as a nation, but I'll save that 'til tomorrow; doing such a post after the plucky Czech underdogs were whitewashed by the Ghanaian powerhouse would look vaguely stupid, like cheering for the Whalers during the Stanley Cup.

Instead -- a recipe. I got down all cook-style the other day, and the result was pretty awesome ribs. Lacking any sort of good name for it, and unable to think of anything good and topical (do any Hurricanes or Oilers players have significant rib injuries?), I've named them after official PPA player Tomáš Klouček, the ribs being one of the few body parts he's yet to injure. I realize all of this is an unofficial endorsement, so if it cuts into his marketing possibilities vis-a-vis Nike and Gatorade, let me know, lawyers.

Anyway, here's what you need:

* rack of ribs
* healthy dose Tabil (explanation to follow)
* half an onion, chopped
* handful sliced jalapenos
* paprika
* two bottles beer (something you aren't going to drink - I used Heineken)
* oven and roasting pan if you live in the city, grill if you aren't street like me

First off, make up the Tabil. It's a Tunisian meat rub. Here's the most commonly accepted way on how to do that.

Rub the tabil vigorously into the meat. Don't skimp. Wear disposable rubber gloves, so that you aren't carrying raw-meat-germs when you go out and do whatever else you do, whether it be helping old ladies across the street or selling heroin to kids.

Actually, before that, you should have trimmed the meat. In fact, next time I cook ribs, I'd appreciate you reminding me about the trimming part, ok? Seriously, where were you?

If you live with me (and frankly, I'd appreciate a bit of help with the mortgage, if you do), preheat the oven to 350 degrees at this point. No idea what that is in metric, 1480 kilojoules or whatever, sorry Canadians. Throw the meat into a roasting pan; lovingly surround it with chopped onion, jalapeno slices, and a teaspoon paprika. Douse it with a bottle of crap beer. Cover and stick into the oven.

Spend the next 30 minutes playing Eastside Hockey Manager, instead of writing that novel, you sad piece of work.

Flip the ribs. Another 30 minutes of EHM. Why doesn't Sparta's stifling defense hold up against Slavia, dammit? Is Jaroslav Bednář seriously that good? Tomáš Klouček could tell us, but he's not actually here.

Flip the ribs again, douse with another bottle of beer. Wait 20 minutes this time, then uncover the ribs for the last 10 minutes.

Eat as is, or douse with a good spicy barbecue sauce. I use Dusty's, which isn't terribly helpful to those of you outside Atlanta, but it's less thick and doesn't adhere as much. Doesn't drown the meat.

Open good beer, drink it. Eat ribs. Enjoy! If Klouček ate these ribs, he wouldn't have languished away in Chicago this season, and the Thrashers would have won the Stanley Cup a few days ago.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ignored Opportunities

I live a few blocks away from the Carter Center, named for Georgia's Favorite Son, Jimmy Carter -- who, word has it, was once president. It's a sprawling, rolling complex, really a triumph of planning -- while in the middle of the city, it's amazingly peaceful. Lots of trees, nicely landscaped, several ponds -- and despite being just a little ways from a major bypass, the dominant sound is of birds chirping.

But until recently, I never went -- despite being only a 15-minute walk, it may as well have been in Alabama. One of my first weeks here, my friend Laura took me there for a picnic, and until last week, I hadn't been back. Nearly seven years. It's a perfect place to sit and read, which I do most mornings, and during the week it's largely deserted. If it were in DC, it'd be thronged with tourists, but my first time back last week it resembled nothing so much as a very well-kept ghost town.

Separately, I had an off-the-cuff conversation with someone about Mexico -- that I lived in Tucson, two hours from the Mexican border, for seven years without ever venturing down there. There was, I suppose, a sense of "it'll always be this convenient." Likewise, down here, there's a LOT of things I've meant to see, but each year the seasons pass and I shrug, a bit ruefully, and say "next year I'll do it."

It's ridiculous, of course, to think that I'm ever going to see everything available, regardless of where I live. But I think constantly setting my sights far afield ("I want to see Russia/Cambodia/Turkmenistan/the moon") I often forget about the stuff that's right in my backyard.

It'd be nice if this marked a sudden sea change in philosophy, but it doesn't; it's just rumination. But at least I've got a nice little place to sit and read now.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

World Cup Art

Some of the non-match World Cup stuff is starting to wear me down a bit, but Indiscretions posts a really cool link -- soccer ball art celebrating each of the competing nations. There's some really beautiful pieces there. And who knew that the German word for "Ivory Coast" is "Elfenbeinküste"? German -- the language of love.

Ten Years Later

This past weekend was a significant anniversary for a small group of people, though it passed, as far as I know, unacknowledged. On June 11, 1996, the first edition of the Boulder Planet newspaper came out (it was supposed to come out on June 10th, but in what was something of an omen for the star-crossed little paper, it took an extra day).

The Planet didn't make it to its tenth anniversary; it didn't even make it to its fourth. It faced an uphill battle; a free weekly newspaper trying to make it in a city of 80,000 people that already had two dailies and a weekly. In retrospect, perhaps it was doomed from the start. But for a time, it was a great ride -- at its peak, it felt like anything we'd try would turn out well.

The Planet was my first job out of college, and early on, a co-worker said "it'll be a long time before you realize how lucky you are -- having your first job at a start-up like this." I scoffed -- at 23, I was an expert on everything -- but, of course, she proved to be right.

Beyond the fact that the small staff gave me the chance (well, at the time it seemed like forced tasks) to do lots of little things, I worked with some of the most talented people I've ever met. Recent Pulitzer winner Jim Sheeler has been mentioned here before, but beyond him, we had a lot of really talented people, top to bottom.

The heyday, I guess, was from 1997 through early 1998, including a near-sweep of state journalism awards. Life seemed perfect: long, beer-soaked lunches and happy hours, knowing that we were doing some great work, and the utter joy that comes from being in your mid-20s and in paradise. I'm over-romanticizing it, of course. I had no idea at the time how unique the experience was, as my co-worker had said. I was a self-absorbed, over-dramatic little snot, much of the time. But I still get all misty when I look back.

Ultimately, mismanagement, the crowded market, layoffs, and subsequent plummeting morale killed the Planet experience -- I left in spring 1999 (in a properly self-absorbed, over-dramatic manner), and the paper itself went under early the next year.

I've stayed in touch with several Planeteers since leaving, and count a few among my closest friends. For historical purposes, a few are represented on the web; I've mentioned Sid plenty of times, now bravely trying the "blank front page" format, and Sauer; former Planet humor columnist Earl Noe is, I believe, responsible for the "Mondo Boulder" site, and office manager/cartoonist/pornographer Matt McKown is making friends with some new work.

This is, I fear, a post that has little interest to anyone who wasn't there. Thanks for indulging me, those of you who've read this far. And any old co-workers reading this: raise a pint this weekend to the Boulder Planet's memory. Yeah, it's a little late, but we were never much for deadlines.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Actual Thrashers News!

The Petteri Nummelin era has officially ended in Atlanta -- the Thrashers traded his rights to the Minnesota Wild for a conditional third-round draft pick in either 2006 or 2007.

Nummelin's years in the Thrashers' organization were memorable, and he'll be missed... ok, who the hell am I kidding? I didn't even know Atlanta held his rights (they were acquired from the Blue Jackets in the Tomi Kallio trade). He's spent the last few years in Switzerland. It's just the first Thrashers news in a while, and I'm not coming through on a couple more posts tonight, so here we go.

Fare thee well, Petteri.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Cannibalizing the Work of Others

I feel like I spent yesterday in some sort of conspicious consumption contest -- today's been an exercise in lethargy, most of it on the couch watching the Czechs pound the U.S. (rather quiet about that, aren't you, Ed?)

Instead of my own words, I give you the latest installment in bitching about the World Cup announcers, courtesy of an e-mail from frequently-referenced friend Fidel:

and you're right about US commentators - i thought the british were bad. if that fecker shouted out 'PK!' one more time for a penalty kick i was going to kick the tv.

not to mention the awful attempts at profundity and poetry - soft focus introductory packages filled with stirring music and a gravelly narration 'when you think of germany, you think of nazis, bratwurst and germs (although that is coincidental) but today we just think of balls'. sepia tinted old-timer triumphantly rips out freshly typed sheet of paper from underwood and stares mistily out the window at space where new mercedes will be parked following abc royalty check, as music reaches crescendo.

perhaps ok to suggest significance of world cup - but then following ivory coast match, coverage of route 66 roadster racing begins. sure enough, sepia, music, typing geriatric: 'when you think of the route 66 speedway, you think of speed..."

bleeding hell.

In other news, Can't Stop the Bleeding actually provides a pretty compelling reason to root for U.S. success. Fair enough -- beyond the Czechs, I hope the Americans do quite well.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

0 For 3

This is how the day went: didn't get to sleep 'til past 5 a.m. due to various ridiculousness, woke up at 9 a.m., found myself capable of some basic motor function close to 11, met a friend to watch the World Cup and begin drinking beer at noon. Ten hours, two bars, six pitchers of Pilsner Urquell, a few Bloody Marys, a plate of nachos, one barbecue, a few slabs of ribs, a few chunks of bratwurst and knockwurst, and two games later, here I am. Ready to pass the hell out.

A good portion of the day was dedicated to watching the World Cup. I don't have anything remotely insightful to say about the matches ("Mexico won because they kicked the ball into the net more times than Iran kicked the ball into the net"), so instead, a few observations:

* Mexico/Iran was, as my friend Fidel pointed out, the good American's worst nightmare: which is more alarming, illegal immigrants or Iran's nuke ambitions? Turns out, I guess, that Iran is less cuddly -- when the Iranian goal set off hollers of "Iran! Iran! Iran!" a few stolid all-American types turned around and left. Likewise, Mexico's two second-half goals sparked "USA!" chants and drunken frat guy impersonations of Islamic ululations.

* All of the emotions surrounding Iran's team must be a bit mixed, though; the fans cheering in Atlanta are, I'd guess, bigger fans of the prospect of Iranian regime change than Dick Cheney.

* After a pretty thrilling first half, the second half of Mexico-Iran was a tad slow -- Iran hanging back the whole time, two quick Mexico goals, more hanging back. It gave us lots of time to discuss the best lines to use to console gorgeous and disappointed Iranian girls.

* By the time Angola-Portugal came on, the endless pitchers of Pilsner Urquell had dented our consciousness, and I swear I remember very little past the near-immediate Portugal goal. I didn't have a big rooting interest but ended up going for Angola; the obvious underdogs, plus Portugal had this horrendously whiny little shit on their squad (forget his name -- he's on Man United normally), who'd shriek at the refs if anything untoward happened, like the Angolan goalkeeper making a save. This guy didn't get his ass kicked enough in junior high. I also rooted for Serbia-Montenegro and Iran today, so I struck out.

* Far less local rooting interest for Angola/Portugal-- after the big partisan crowds for the previous match, I only noticed one (Scandinavian-looking) guy brandishing a Portugal scarf.

* After about one beer, we started making joking references to the Alan Partridge "World Cup" segment on the legendary "The Day Today" -- to my surprise (and I dunno why I'm surprised), someone's uploaded it to YouTube. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Sound of Silence

(to right: Google's third image search result for "i hate heat." Numbers one and two didn't really work, but you can read the blog post that's tied to #1 here. That first paragraph says it all.)

As long as I live here, I'll continue to be lulled by a few nice days, then be shocked -- shocked -- when it turns unbearably hot again. Which it did today. 95 degrees, unbearable in my condo, unbearable outside. It was the perfect day to find a cool, dim bar, hunker down and drink lots of cold beer, and watch Cups World and Stanley. But a man's got to work, alas, so I'm sober and only half-watching. But at least the air-conditioning is strong.

This morning, looking for any way to cool off, I went to my favorite outdoor cafe, sat, and read:

#18 - "A Time to Keep Silence" by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Another book, already? So soon? Maybe 50 books IS possible! Well, until you consider that "Silence" is, uh, 97 pages. Hardly really a book. But it's not like I'm getting paid to do this, you know?

Anthony Lane's recent article rekindled my interest in Fermor, and in it, Lane raved in passing about "A Time to Keep Silence" -- so when I saw it, shoved into the stacks at my favorite used bookstore, I snatched it up.

It's Fermor's tale of a few stops at monasteries, in the 1950s -- Benedictine and Trappist in France, and an abandoned Orthodox cave monastery in Turkey. It's a subject of no small interest to me -- while not religious, I find the monastic life pretty interesting, and appealing on some levels (appealing: quiet, lots of time to think, beer-making; unappealing: lots of work, religion, no girls, and they probably discourage drinking yourself senseless on the beer).

Fermor writes beautifully, of course. I've said that and it holds true here -- I've gone on and on and there's not more to add. Every word is valuable. Subject-wise, he's a little limited here, because of a (stated in the introduction) respect for some secrets of the monasteries. As such there's not much on why (if he found out) most of these people entered the life, which is what I was curious about.

He weaves in the interesting history behind the orders (particularly the Trappists), but the most fascinating part was the abandoned cave monasteries of Cappadocia, in Turkey. There, the silence of the book becomes all-consuming, mysterious and beautiful.

Fermor wrote this nearly 50 years ago, so I have no idea how these places have changed since. Perhaps the Trappist monastery has a gift shop. But reading this is vicariously peaceful -- but the life doesn't become too appealing. I'm not planning to take this on, after reading the book. But, in all honesty, it's something I could see considering much later in life (especially the way dating's been going lately, har har).

I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point for Fermor -- like I said before, you wanna begin with "A Time of Gifts." But if that (and "Woods") appeal, this is a beautifully-written quick read.

Talking Heads

It's not, I'm happy to be reminded, just hockey announcers that aren't so great.

Someone on ESPN, yesterday, explaining why Ghana have reason to be positive: "They have a lot of players."

A friend passed along this, from Fox Soccer Channel, I believe: someone offering their "condulgences" to a player who'd recently lost a family member.

Friday, June 09, 2006


The World Cup is, as you may have heard, under way. Brian Ed Sauer is blogging it all. Check it.

Elsewhere, Tony Karon is doing a ton on the tournament. On the other side of the political spectrum, a co-worker passed on Henry Kissinger on the World Cup. Geezus, everyone really is watching this. I can't really imagine, say, Noam Chomsky and Václav Havel weighing in on the Stanley Cup. (a pity, really.)

A Disclaimer

I don't, in fact, like every single thing I read. The only things I see through to the end are things that hold my attention, and that's why most of the book reviews are as glowing as articles on the new Pitt-Jolie "more popular than Jesus" baby. But there's plenty I dislike -- Stephen King once related a Stanley Kubrick anecdote, in which the secretary to the filmmaker SK would hear the regular "thunk" of dissatisfying books being thrown at the door. I'm just like that, except I don't have an office or a secretary, and I don't actually throw the books, because I've got a small place. They'd break something.

I also do read things that aren't Russia/Eastern Europe-related. Honest to God.

Naturally, now, a Soviet-related book that I'm going to slobber all over:

#17 -- "The Lost Heart of Asia" by Colin Thubron

My first experience with Thubron was "Journey Into Cyprus," which I picked up in the same London store where I found Fermor's "A Time of Gifts." That may be the most literarily profitable trip to a bookstore I've ever made. My interest in Cyprus is/was negligible, but Thubron wrote so well that I wanted to retrace my steps. So I figured his loose trilogy on Russia/the former USSR would be even better.

Not quite. The first book, "Among the Russians," was good, and insightful, but I got he took a bit too much joy in pointing out what shits he thought all the people were. It seemed somewhat lacking in generosity and a bit too self-satisfied. Both things that can be applied to me, probably, but I'm not being read by tens of thousands.

It took me 'til now to decide to pick CT up again, and the second volume in the trilogy is so much better. On the first page, I was struck by a passage so beautiful, so perfect, that I meant to take it down as a reminder of how great words can be. Then I came upon another, equally good passage a few paragraphs later. Then another. And on and on, scattered through the book -- a few lines of such perfect description and haunting beauty that I just shook my head.

"Lost Heart" retells Thubron's travels through Central Asia -- the "Stans" -- in the years immediately after the breakup of the USSR. A confusing time, and the book's full of confused people -- residents with a set idea of where they want the future to lead, that dissolves into uncertainty almost immediately.

History and the 1994-present run together, and that's where this book is most spectacular -- ancient empires and conquerors fallen under the region's sands are more real than the just-dispersed Soviet leaders. Central Asia's extremes seem to come through the pages of this book, lending the tale a beguiling air of mystery and opacity.

Next up: something NOT Russia-related. Promise. Next two, in fact (I've got a book lined up in the on-deck circle).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Come Home, Frankie.

Regular readers here know that I'm a big fan of František ("Chicken Paprika," "Pee-Wee Herman") Kaberle. My man has scored a goal tonight, as the Hurricanes lead Edmonton 3-0 after two periods. It should be noted that NO current Thrashers defensemen have scored a goal in this year's Stanley Cup Finals. Kaberle 1, World 0.

Come back to us, Frank. I know we were bad to you. But we won't hurt you again.

I hope the 'Canes fans appreciate him. Sigh.

(update, 10:15 pm: one goal, two assists for Kaberle SO FAR.)

I Don't Really Know Who Eliza Dushku Is

but if she wasn't already, she just became one of the hottest women on earth.

I Know It's Only Rock and Roll

"If there were no fights, it was not a good gig."
-John Lennon, perhaps apocryphally paraphrased in the liner notes to "Everything Went Black"

It's been ages, now, since I've been to any shows... I did see Aimee Mann back on Valentine's Day, but that was 'cause a friend had an extra ticket. Before that... Dwight Yoakam last summer? Steve Earle? I forget the last one I saw. Before coming out here, I worked as a music critic for several years in Colorado, and I think that experience combined with age has made me less enthusiastic about live music -- umpteen dozen badly-bearded hippies with acoustic guitars overshadowed the good stuff.

But there's a bunch of concerts that lodge in my mind for one reason or another, so without further ado, a random list of memorable concerts in my life:

1) Motley Crue -- McNichols Arena (Denver), 1985. My first concert, their "Theatre of Pain" tour. I felt like a very badass 12-year-old, nullified somewhat by the fact that my Dad accompanied me. I cringed when some giant dude screamed "why the fuck is everyone bringing their parents to this?" outside the front doors; wanted to shrink under the seat when Vince Neil led off the set by saying he'd heard Denver girls had the best tits in the land. The tale is still a staple at family dinners. Random bits of trivia: Autograph opened the concert, perhaps the most mediocre heavy metal band in recorded history. Also, on the way down, we were listening to the Broncos-Chargers game on the radio -- a game that's entered Broncos lore because Louis Wright blocked a Chargers field goal try in overtime, ran it back for a touchdown, had it called back, blocked the re-kick and ran it back for the touchdown.

2) Tucson hardcore house parties, Sanjay Desai's house, 1991-92. Sanjay's parents had this amazing lowered living room that presented a natural venue for shows, and was both big enough and remote enough that the neighbors never complained. Groundwork, Soulfish, Outreach/Forthright -- all footnotes to footnotes to footnotes in hardcore history, but the center of our lives around then.

3) Fugazi, the Offspring, 411 -- the Palladium (Hollywood), 1991. My friend Daron (of the aforementioned Soulfish, later 400 Years and Delegate) and I flew out for this one, hanging around ex-NFAA guitarist Gavin Oglesby and Triggerman like groupies pre-show. 411 is kind of lost in the mists of time now, but for their brief existence, they were one of the tightest, most entertaining bands around. I'd missed the whole first wave of SoCal straight edge, something that troubled me greatly at the time, and 411 was a bit of a connection to that. On the big stage, they really shone. The Offspring were good enough; little did we know that within years they'd be an everpresent annoyance, with the catchphrase to that execrable "keep 'em separated" song used to promote recycling at the University of Arizona. Fugazi were, as ever, amazing. After the show, we went straight to LAX, where we slept until our 8 a.m. flight back to Tucson in molded chairs that probably contributed to years of back trouble.

4) Rocket From the Crypt/Superchunk -- Downtown Performance Center (Tucson), early '90s. I'd dismissed RFTC after disliking the "Paint As A Fragrance" album, and was just there to see Superchunk. RFTC proceeded to put on perhaps the finest show I've ever seen -- I don't remember a single detail of Superchunk's set. RFTC was probably my favorite live band ever -- I wish they would have called it quits before ruining it through their last few albums, though.

5) Iceburn -- Downtown Performance Center, early '90s. It's amazing how, when you have limited musical knowledge, something so self-indulgent, dull, and unpleasant can seem groundbreaking and awesome.

6) Born Against and Groundwork -- DPC, early-mid '90s. Groundwork, friends of mine, were in one of their confused periods of disintegration -- this one stands out because singer Brendan stormed off the stage in a Kent McClard-inspired fit of pique over people slam-dancing, leaving the rest of the band rather befuddled. Born Against, at their height one of my favorites, had by this point entered their "everything's a joke" period, but were still pretty excellent.

7) Los Crudos and Absinthe -- the Candy Shack (Tucson), 1995 or so. Absinthe was Brendan's post-Groundwork band, and this show was enough to briefly revitalize my flagging interest in Hardcore. The Candy Shack was this dingy little (and I presume short-lived -- I moved soon) place that became the hardcore hangout after the DPC shut its doors, a ceiling about six and a half feet high, and it gave a little jolt to a flagging scene.

8) Space Team Electra -- Round Midnight (Boulder), 1997. I never got into the whole shoegazer thing, but STE blew my mind. Copious amounts of alcohol, a tiny space, soaring music, high volume, and Myshel Prasad's astonishing voice made me think, for one of the only times in my life, that maybe I should try hallucinogenic drugs. (I didn't. Forever kind of a wimp.) Afterwards, my (retired blogger?) friend Sid and I interviewed the band, all of us in a state of extreme inebriation -- I went directly to the newspaper office, wrote it up before sobering up, and it later won a Colorado journalists' award for music criticism. That would seem to have indicated great things for my career; it didn't. Similarly, I never got quite the same rush from Space Team again, though they were always good (and their first album, "Vortex Flower," was also really good). And Myshel was cuter than hell. They're apparently still around in some form; a website is here. Hunt around and you'll find a bit of my drunken column from way back when.

9) John Fogerty, the Old '97s, Cracker, and Lucinda Williams -- the Fox Theatre (Boulder), 1997. This was probably spread over two days -- it was one of the Gavin/Adult Alternative shmoozefests that came about annually, giving me the chance at free booze, shows, and buckets of CDs for a few days. Being 25-ish at the time, most of the acts didn't really appeal, but these four did. Lucinda was at her height, right after "Car Wheels"; Cracker, a band that's only occasionally impressed me recorded, were fantastic; it was the first time of many that I was to see the Old '97s, and it began a diehard interest that lasted for years; and John Fogerty, well, I've always loved CCR. I forget how many forgettable solo albums he'd done by this point, but for that night, he was pretty magical.

10) William Topley -- some hotel in Boulder, 1998. I could take or leave Topley and his blue-eyed soul -- this was at the next year's Gavin conference. But my friend Mary and I spent all day drinking free beer outside, then watching him play under some pagoda. An extraordinarily pleasant day, even if I couldn't name a Topley song if you held a gun to my head.

11) Son Volt -- Boulder High School, 1998. I love Son Volt, but God, they are/were the world's most boring live band. Playing one of Boulder's "E-Town" shows, they took to the stage in the auditorium of a school where I'd spent one unpleasant year a decade before, no beer to be served, and played a set that looked like they were doing it out of legal obligation.

12) A whole bunch of bands -- Steve Earle, Del McCoury, Robert Earl Keen, Joe Ely, several more -- some Boulder County fairground, summer of 1999. I was in my "unemployment" period, and thus was free to start drinking beer at 10 a.m.; most of my friends around then started drinking beer at 10 a.m. whether they were employed or not. The whole day's a blur of hot dogs, falling asleep under trees, and country music. REK was great; I've seen Earle better since; I could remember very little else. One of those amazing Boulder weather days, though, where you become acutely aware that you live in paradise. Post-show, an unnamed friend urinated on someone's SUV because, as I recall, he didn't like the personalized license plate.

13) The Saw Doctors -- Boulder Theater Fox Theatre (Boulder), summer of 1999. I'd written a freelance article about the band prior to this show; they were apparently so taken with it that they gave me a shout-out from the stage, and offered to buy me beers. Unfortunately, I was in Chicago at the time.

There's a few others that pop into mind from the Atlanta stage in my life -- beating a girl I was dating handily at pool at an Old '97s show; seeing Daron (and Delegate) again and then taking him out on the town, only to see him get kicked off the stage at a karaoke show; intervening in a troubled relationship at the Dwight Yoakam concert. But those haven't faded enough to get the dreamy sepia-tone of memory, yet, so I'll wait a few years down the line -- when I can fully romanticize them.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Updating My Resume

Alanah over at VCOE has kindly pointed out my next job.

Viva Cote d'Ivoire!

PPA reader CoCo passed on this 2004 piece, which is great. (I wonder, though, what the author would say about someone of French-German-Irish extraction... who's wholeheartedly adopted the Slavs of the world as his soul brothers.)

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Missing Link

Here's the missing part of the previous post.

Inspired by my purchase yesterday, I went way down Atlanta's Moreland Avenue to shoot a photo of the real-life subject of the print, the Rio Vista sign. Glad I did -- the RV has gone out of business sometime in the past two years, and the property's up for sale. I don't travel down Moreland much. The only thing really of note down there is the Foxy Lady Lounge, which I should perhaps check out; presumably foxy ladies hang out there, and I am a connoisseur of foxy ladies! Beyond scary-looking strip clubs ("Blaze Club" encourages one to take Dad there for Father's Day, since "Dads Love Dancing Girls"), though, there were a lot of cool photo-worthy things down that way, and I'll have to head down when I have more time. But anyway, here's a photo of the Rio Vista sign, which still exists for now. Bonus shot of the PostPessimistAssociationMobile in the background. About a minute after this photo was taken it nearly got hit by a semi. If I had to replace my car and my toilet in the same day, I would be in tears by now. But I didn't and I'm not. Uh, where was I? Ah, yes, here's a direct link to Katherine Linn's Rio Vista print, so you can see what's going up on my wall, and compare to the photo. Nod and stroke your chin as you do it.


(note: apparently Blogger is trying to commit suicide rather than let loose several paragraphs of me talking about toilet installation; at this point, I've been trying to post this for about two hours. I've put more effort into this post than into some relationships.)

6:30 p.m. update: it's a photo holding this whole thing up -- Blogger's upload function is kaput. I do, contrary to appearances, have things to do, so I'm just gonna chop out the photograph-reliant portion and post that later.

I woke up at seven this morning with an aching head and a chronically running toilet down the hall; by 10 a.m. I still had the headache, had a new toilet and was out $480. I'll spare you photos, since I didn't actually do this myself, but it was a bit instructive. If I'd done this, it would have become a month-long saga of toiletlessness ("6/18/06: bucket full, need a new one. Soon the new toilet will be installed"). In the hands of professionals, it took a few hours.

I should state here that I got the new toilet because the old one was something like 40 years old, and the plumber's quote to fix it was $250 or so, without warranty. I didn't change the toilet, as some have suggested, because I didn't want to clean the old one. Hmph.

Perhaps, also, I've missed a trick: there's got to be vintage toilet collectors on the internet. Maybe I should've had them leave the old device and seen what I could get for it on

* * *

After a date last night, I went to bed shockingly early (and soberly), by my standards. But around midnight or so, I woke up and had one hell of a time getting back to sleep -- I was exhausted, I wanted sleep, but it just wouldn't come. I ended up playing Eastside Hockey Manager for hours -- for a hockey fan, that's about as addictive as nicotine-coated heroin. If you start feeling bad about your life, consider this: at 2 a.m. I was trying to coach HC Sparta Praha to the Czech championship. We're currently in third place, but with the pickup of Jan Hlaváč, things are looking up. Oh, God, what have I become?

* * *

A few blocks down from me, there's an absolutely spectacular beer store -- but they must have the most wildly inconsistent distributors on earth, because while they always have a great selection, you can't count on seeing the same beer twice. Today I stopped by to get a bottle of wine for a new-home-owning friend, and to restock my sadly empty fridge. But current favorite Duvel -- which is in most grocery stores in town -- wasn't there. Nor was almost-as-well-loved and even-more-frequently-available Pranqster. But Krušovice -- a Czech beer I've never seen on this side of the Atlantic, and trust me, I pursue these things -- was suddenly available. As were a whole bunch of Polish beers that I've never seen. If they ever get it together and have all my favorite beers in at once, and get Czechvar/Budvar back in, I will be one happy (and drunk, and fat) man.

* * *

The Stanley Cup Finals start tonight, and I still haven't really worked out who I'm going to root for. I suspect that it'll be one of those things where I figure it out as the series goes along -- who will capture my heart? That makes it sound, I realize, like I'm going to wait to see who's skating around the ice with the Cup to decide. I'm not that bad. The deciding factor may be Chris Pronger, a guy I find it virtually impossible to cheer against. Random Pronger story: some years back, I was at a game at the then-Kiel Center in St. Louis, and bought a Pronger jersey. Riding the train back to the hotel afterwards, a young boy said to his father: "Daddy, that's Chris Pronger!" If only the girls in the bars of St. L were that suggestible.

* * *

Most interesting search terms that have led someone to this site lately: "Things men hate to admit." Someone also got here by doing a blog search on "Hamas," and I imagine they were rather confused to be led to a bit about my romantic life.

I should also note that this is the number one site on Google for "'kirk maltby' + gonorrhea" and "'kirk maltby' + testicle." If someone ever actually visits this site through one of those searches, I'll buy everyone here a round.

* * *

Denver's own Brian Ed Sauer -- the guy who taught me most of what I know about soccer, and who knows far more about the sport that he wouldn't tell me -- will be blogging the World Cup starting in a few days. I'll link as soon as there's something there beyond a placeholder. Sauer really does know a shitload about the sport, and is a hell of a writer besides. So check it out. (once it's up, I mean.)

(and the Czechs are gonna win, Brian.)


Comments at two days of Summerfest:

11:30 a.m. Saturday (when the drinking laws ain't so strict) -- "Naw, man, I can't have a beer. Not before 12. I've got standards. Except during football season."
-random, rather impassioned guy

Sunday -- "I was born a dog and then a warlock turned me into what I am today."
-guy working the non-alcoholic beer booth

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Weekend Festivities

Whoever sets up the Virginia-Highland Summerfest each year must have a direct hotline to whatever higher powers there are. After endless sweltering, painful heat, followed by two days of torrential rain, it's been nothing but gorgeous for the weekend -- 80ish and sunny, light breeze, nice enough to fool me once again into thinking Atlanta's always got perfect weather.

I wandered up after my hangover cleared, thanks to a couple Bloody Marys -- Atlanta has some ridiculous draconian neo-fascist laws that mean you can't get served before 12:30, but when you got the connections, man, you can get hooked up. And if a day called for Bloody Marys, it's this one.

The festival is what you'd expect it to be -- crafts stalls, food stalls, cover bands ("man, as interpretations go, you do the best Cream"), lots of people. Pretty crowded -- as someone who's a relentless fast walker (to the point of near-rudeness, I fear), it forced me to put the brakes on a bit. None of that sounds terribly good, but it's pleasant. I live down the street, and look forward to it each year -- I'm regretting not taking the full weekend off this year.

I actually splurged on some art -- first time I've done that in a long time. My decorating skills are often derided -- my walls are a mishmash, with hockey jerseys, photos from various travels, concert posters, antique maps, a Czech flag, a poster for Bogart in "The Big Sleep" which has traveled to seven or eight different residences with me (and shows the wear), and a few other odds and ends. The new stuff doesn't give it any more cohesiveness, but it'll be a bit tougher for friends to mock than a Tomáš Klouček jersey.

The one thing I've been holding out for is a linocut by Katherine W. Linn. I saw her work for the first time at last year's fest, then dithered until post-festival before deciding I really wanted one. This year, no dithering (for the one I purchased, click that link, then "Linocuts I" -- I bought the "Rio Vista" print). She renders Atlanta landmarks of the non-tourist variety -- rather than Stone Mountain or the World of Coke, the neighborhood bars and restaurants and groceries. I love that sort of thing, as has probably shown through before. Many of her prints remember places that were gone before I came to Atlanta; others have since gone; a few (The Majestic Grill, Moe's and Joe's, George's, the Clermont) are still hanging on. I don't know how interesting the prints would be to those outside Atlanta, but I'm absolutely enamored of them.

I also broke one of my top rules -- that I only display photographs I've taken. This isn't as self-absorbed as it sounds; I fear that if I start putting up others' travel photos, that I'm -- in a way -- letting them do the work for me. But a photo by Hope Shakya caught my eye -- a shadowed doorway in an old Moroccan king's palace. It's probably some years before I'll get to Morocco, and there's no guarantee I could ever come close to capturing that scene. And most importantly, it just blew me away. Alas, it's not up on her website, but plenty of other lovely photos are.

One more link, though I didn't (due to limited money and wall space) purchase anything -- Atlanta Vintage Travel. It's local scenes (old and current) done up in 1930s travel poster style, and they're fantastic (if you like that style -- as you can probably guess, I do). Eventually, wall space or not, I'll have to get the Majestic poster.

Maybe It's Time to Move

When you hang out at a neighborhood bar, there's a really good argument for never picking up another local there -- if things go pear-shaped, as they inevitably do, you're going to run into that person again there, and your favorite bar is going to suddenly be rendered uncomfortable. And when I say "you," I mean "me."

I've already ruined one bar -- one that's basically right behind my house -- by dating too many regulars. You'd think I'd know better than to make that mistake again, but no.

Last night after work, I planned to have a glass of wine at my favorite place, head home and read. Soon as I walked in, the manager said "hey! Why don't you drink with us, at this end of the bar?" I'm rarely given geographic instruction on where to sit, so that was a bit odd. Then the bartender said, sotto voce, "to warn you -- she's down at the other end of the bar."

Now a word of background. This is all about a fling that lasted less than a month. (for longtime readers, we're talking about Hamas girl.) She ended up blowing me off, and vanishing off the face of the earth, the same way I've acted toward many girls, so I can't really complain. But she also indicated to mutual contacts that she'd like to see me again. But in any case, there shouldn't be any drama, right? Especially since I'm a well-adjusted adult?

Right. Well, I couldn't just have one glass of wine and then leave -- she'd win then. So much for well-adjusted. I'd occasionally glance down at the other end of the bar, and dammit, she really is cute. No fair. Once things terminate, can't girls I've dated shave their head, or start doing heroin, or start dressing in trash bags? At one point I looked down there, and she was all alone, and studiously staring straight ahead at some point in the distance -- just as I do. Maybe it's good that it flopped, as we're too much alike, apparently (in silly, passive-aggressive ways).

To end the suspense, we never did speak. She ended up talking to some guy, and it's a testament to self-absorption, insecurity, or both that I didn't consider until this morning that maybe she actually liked him, and that it wasn't a performance for my benefit.

I'm not sure, exactly, why it hovers over me so -- I don't have any desire to get together with her again, cute and sexy though she is. Maybe it is a foolish 14-year-old competitive instinct, that because she blew me off rather than vice versa, I feel like I lack "closure" (a stupid word at the best of times, stupider when you're talking about something this brief). Mostly, though, I think I just want to be able to drink without complications.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

More, More, More

Inspired by Brushback's pointing out "Moscow In My Eyes" -- and not having done enough HTML the past few days -- I've started a list of a few city-centered photoblogs, down in the lower right. I'm a sucker for the photos of others. If anyone has any to suggest -- please point me in the right direction. These are obviously rather Eastern Europe-centered, and if anyone has more of those (St. Petersburg? Budapest? Tirana? Kiev? Minsk?) pass 'em on. But I'm always interested in seeing more, regardless of location.

You Call It Recycling, I Call It Making Good Use of Resources

The "writing" section of is up, including the travelogue I wrote after returning from Albania last year. There's also a link back here, in case you get lost.

The magic happens right here!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Memories of Albania

When I was in Tirana last year (a smattering of photos here), I was struck by -- and delighted by -- the flamboyantly-painted buildings, the brainchild of Mayor Edi Rama. I didn't get many good photos -- in part because I only had black and white film the day I went out shooting buildings.

Doing some desultory web surfing at work, I came across this post: some great shots of some of the buildings, as well as a link to the New Yorker's profile of Rama. Check it out.

Après Game Seven, Le Deluge

(Note: last night's post was the 100th for the PPA, unremarked upon at the time -- blame the Belgian beer)

I'm a bit hockeyed out after watching last night's game, and then voraciously devouring the post-game blogs. The result seems to have provoked a lot of strong reactions; Sabres fans taking the loss the way I would if my team lost a game seven and my house burned down; the predictable jokes about 'Canes fans; and Jes Gőlbez's entertaining (if savage) broadside against Buffalo's reaction.

Welcoming a few days' respite from hockey, before I start my divided cheering (I just want everyone to do well!), I went for a long walk through the neighborhood this morning. It's been soul-crushingly hot of late, and as may be apparent, I don't react well to heat or humidity. Last night, though, it poured rain, and oh the difference it made. I slept well, woke up refreshed rather than oppressed.

And then, as I was saying, the walk. I sometimes forget just how green Atlanta is. It's one of the things that struck me most when I moved out here; while Colorado is one of the two places in the world that qualifies as paradise made reality, its diversity of flora leaves something to be desired. Atlanta is just lush, and never moreso after a storm. With the sky washed out to a pale gray, and the sun (dreaded, hateful sun) no longer a presence, the overhanging trees take over -- it's as if there's nothing overhead but an endless canopy of verdant leaves. The humidity was present as always, but robbed of the fiercer heat, it was almost welcoming -- steamy and exotic rather than sweltering.

It was a brief stroll -- just up to my favorite used bookstore (about which more, someday) and back -- but comforting, and after some weeks in which I've felt like a hamster in a wheel, relaxing. I'm not ready to welcome the heat and humidity into my heart, but it's nice to remember that there is beauty even in the things I hate.

Last Refuge of a Desperate Man

It has to be the worst nightmare for one of the writers at ESPN's "Page 2": you think the week's about done, you're already planning a weekend of joyous debauchery, and then the editor pokes his head around the cubicle wall: "hey, Carolina and Edmonton are meeting in the Stanley Cup Finals. Can you give me 800 words comparing the two cities? And make it edgy?"

Because you aren't at the top of the heap with shitheads like Bill Simmons and insane people like Scoop Jackson and insane shitheads like Skip Bayless, you say yes, and hurriedly crank something out with comparisons like: "Raleigh: Known for barbecue! Edmonton: Known for deep-fried Twinkies!* Edge - Raleigh!" and "Edmonton: Hockey players with no teeth! Raleigh: Fans with no teeth! Edge - Edmonton!" You turn it in, and then if you have any sort of soul at all, you go home and hang yourself, because you work for Page 2. I hate Page 2, except for Tim Keown and Hunter S. Thompson's corpse.

(And don't get me started on Page 3.)

But to a degree, I have to follow the Page 2 model now. We have a Stanley Cup Final in which I don't have strong feelings for either team -- I find both admirable, hard-working, with a pleasant aftertaste. Neither team has Valeri Kamensky, but on the other hand, neither team has Kirk Maltby. Who, then, to root for? The argument for the Oilers would seem to be that one just doesn't root for stupid upstart teams in non-traditional markets. As a fan of Original Sixers Colorado and Atlanta, that carries considerable weight with me. On the other hand, the argument for Carolina would seem to be that Edmonton has won a bunch of Cups, and thus doesn't deserve any more. That logic is also infallible.

Being sort of bored at work this evening, and aided by a few beers (Duvel - I step it up when we get to crunch time in the playoffs) I sat down and worked out a complex mathematical formula to determine who I should root for. Without further ado:

Carolina Hurricanes:

-Number of Czechs: Two (Vasicek, Kaberle) x3 = 6
-Number of other Eastern European guys: Two (Babchuk, Tverdovsky) x1 = 2
-Number of guys I've liked and respected for a long time and would like to see do well: Three (Brind'Amour, Weight, Hedican) x2 = 6
-Number of young players I find exciting: Two (Cole, Staal) x1 = 2
-Good goalie story: One (Ward) x 1 = 1
-Former player from well-liked team bonus: Two (Kaberle, Weight) x 1 = 2
-Generally seems like a cool guy bonus: One (Commodore) x 1 = 1
-Traded Radim Vrbata penalty: Minus 2
-Friend of mine really likes Recchi, to the point of occasionally using "Recchi" as an online alias, and writing a song with "Recchi" in the title, bonus: Plus 1
-Kaberle's Chicken Paprika bonus: Plus 2
Southeast Conference Represent! bonus: Plus 1
22 points

Edmonton Oilers:

-Number of Czechs: Three (Spacek, Dvorak, Hemsky - good job on that trade deadline pickup, boys) x 3 =9
-Number of other Eastern European guys: Two (Samsonov, Ulanov) x1 = 2
-Number of guys liked and respected: Two (Pronger, Ulanov) x 2 = 4
-Number of young players I find exciting: One (Hemsky) x 1 = 1
-Good goalie story: One (Roloson) x 2 (better goalie story) = 2
-Former player from well-liked team bonus: Two (Pronger, Staios) x 1 = 2
-Generally seems like a cool guy bonus: One (Ulanov) x 1 = 1
-I own a freaking Ales Pisa game-worn Oilers jersey: Plus 1
-Once employed Kirk Maltby: Minus 2
-Team came to its senses and traded Maltby away: Plus 1
-Jaroslav Pouzar bonus: Plus 1
22 points

So it's settled: I root for a tie. Here's hoping both teams win three apiece, and then the seventh game is wiped out by Spanish influenza.

Congrats to both teams and their fans. 'Canes blogs which presumably will cover the series better than I are located here and here; Oilers blogs are here and here.

* - I don't know if they actually eat deep-fried Twinkies in Edmonton. I don't know what they eat in that mysterious land. Perhaps... each other.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Work in Progress

For a while now, I've been working on getting my various travel photos up to a more permanent and attractive site than the free online galleries. And I've done it... part of the way. is now up and running. It's only got photos from my Balkan travels -- and those are incomplete (color only at the moment). Details are sketchy on some -- I need to go back to my notes for the Dubrovnik photos, in particular.

Plus, the optimistic "writing" link on the front page is dead -- I don't even have the courtesy to put up animated "under construction" gifs. Sorry. There'll be something there, soon.

In the meantime, though, head on over and check out what's there. Any feedback welcome. Again, that's -- eating up more bandwidth!