Monday, November 27, 2006

Covers Corner

By accident rather than design, two songs that have recently had me hitting the "back" button on my car's CD player are both Bob Dylan covers. 16 Horsepower's version of "Nobody 'Cept You," and Entombed's version of "The Ballad of Hollis Brown."

Two very different bands, two very different songs, both great (though I can't imagine La Nanuk having any time for the latter). While I like Dylan just fine, I've never been anywhere near a diehard fan. But he must have something in his songwriting -- covers of his songs tend to turn out well (and while I like both the aforementioned bands a lot, neither has what you might call a spotless record when it comes to covers).

A Warning to the Youth

I'm not sure what exactly was meant by that last post, but I'll leave it up as an example of the perils of mid-day drinking. Don't do it, kids, no matter how much it may appeal to you, no matter how cheap and cold the Pilsner Urquell is, no matter how friendly the bartender is. It just leads to the online equivalent of smearing feces on yourself.

It's no wonder I spend every winter down herebattling a succession of low-level insurgency colds. Tonight, one week after the infamous brief glimpse of snow, it's up in the 60s. It's supposed to stay in the 60s and 70s all week.

Despite the weather, I'm starting to feel all irritatingly Christmasy. Did some shopping today, and not coincidentally, I'm staying in tonight despite the nice weather (after the Russia trip, I'm not far above giving handjobs in Greyhound station bathrooms to fund Xmas). This is the time of year when I generally turn into a big, gooey ball of love, getting all emotional and crap and telling all my friends how much they mean to me. It's like a Lifetime movie except I need a shave and I'm frequently drunk on smoked beer.

Checking Out

I've avoided the news completely since Saturday (unless you count "the Atlanta Falcons' receivers suck" as news), so only in the last few hours did I see the rather alarming (unless, like every human on earth, you dislike him) footage of Silvio Berlusconi collapsing at a rally. And even then, I only saw it because I was spending the lunch hour (three hours) at Atlanta's fine Atkins Park pub (doctors suggest that a bar is the best place to spend three hours at midday Monday).

The cause was, apparently, an irregular heartbeat. I remember when I felt hip and cool for having an irregular heartbeat, but now decidedly un-hip George W. Bush and Berlusconi have both suffered its ill effects. Back to the drawing board.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Lost Month

Uh, November's almost over? What? The month that began with such optimism -- thoughts of a novel in a month -- has sort of gone nowhere rapidly. When the inevitable best-selling biography of Greg is written, November 2006 will be summed up in two words: "little happened."

As you've probably gleaned, the Nanowrimo attempt went nowhere. It wasn't even a valiant attempt. I grew un-thrilled with my initial idea about 1500 words in, decided to switch, and just didn't get going.

Curiously, I'm not that discouraged (though displeased by my shoddy work ethic). I'm actually anxious to resume work on a previously-started project, so maybe some good will come out of this.

* * *

But in the absence of Nanowrimo, what have I been doing? Well, I'm not really sure. I haven't been blogging that much. I haven't been out shooting photos. I haven't been climbing mountains. I haven't been furiously plowing through books. The month's just sort of ebbed away.

* * *

Did get through another fine book though-- pretty much just getting it to the point where I'll fall just short of 50 for the year, disappointing everyone:

#40 -- "Rites of Spring" by Modris Eksteins

I picked this up on a whim some time ago, then worried that it was far too academic for my tastes, as it gathered dust on the shelf. I'm glad I did follow my whim: it's fantastic. Oh so complex, but wonderfully written.

Eksteins links the birth of modernism and avant-garde in art to the changes in society that brought about the World Wars. The thread may get a bit thin at times, and I'm not sure I have the necessary background to be able to even grasp some of his arguments, but it's a great book. It's a testament to his skill that Eksteins can make things like ballet interesting to me -- I was captivated by "Rites of Spring" and found myself reading it in bigger chunks than is normal for Mr. Short Attention Span over here.

I don't know how general the appeal is -- this isn't for a casual history buff, really -- but I learned a considerable amount and enjoyed reading it. It highlighted, also, just how little I really know beyond the basics of WWI, something that'll have to be addressed sometime in the future.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Fame and Fortune

Official player of the Post-Pessimist Association Tomáš Klouček is in the news -- the subject of a feature in the Syracuse Post-Standard. Uh, it's all about how he's taking a shitload of penalties this year, but he seems to have a positive attitude about it all, and hey, fame is fame. With fellow Cruncher Jaroslav Balaštík getting called back up, it's only a matter of time for our boy. Semper fi! Put in the orders for your Klouček jerseys now!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Maximum Overdrive

I think the planet passed through a comet's tail over the weekend -- nearly simultaneously over the past two days, my cell phone, internet, and cable television (for the fifteenth time) crapped out. That led to lots of helpless swearing and inability to communicate with anyone. The phone and the internet were magically resurrected at different points last night (the cable remains out), but my joy is limited since I presume my microwave oven is going to begin enriching uranium.

In addition, it snowed last night. (Just a bit, not enough to impress someone from Cleveland, no residue to justify photos) While this isn't exactly unheard of -- this is Atlanta, not Nouakchott -- I think it's the earliest it's snowed since I've lived here. Snow in January yes, but November? Comet's tail, I tell you.

* * *

Went to the much-ballyhooed Georgia Aquarium yesterday, amidst two days where I did Atlanta-type things I've been putting off far too long (ate at the Sundial atop the Westin, strolled through Centennial Olympic Park), and it's pretty nice. Dunno about $24 worth of nice (the last aquarium I went to was Chicago's, which I'm pretty sure was free), but well-put-together. I don't have anything really intelligent to say beyond Fish! Lots of fish!, but those fish are pretty cool. It's a primer in crass commercialism -- I thought it was a mall when I first stepped in, and the mascot is an orange fish named "Deepo," as in aquarium sponsor "Home Depot." But whether it's the holiday spirit or some newfound tolerance, it really was kinda pleasant.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Bestest Bands Ever

(above: Born Against, Phoenix, 1991 or so. Photo by Thayer Johnson, one of the many people I've lost complete track of over the years. Taken from the back cover of "Bottom Line" 'zine #1 -- that's a post for another day, though.)

Most likely, when I discussed aborted plans for a list of every band I've ever called my favorite, my subconscious really wanted to do it -- it was just looking for an excuse. Brushback complied with encouragement, and here we go.

As time goes on, in the chronological order of things, this gets tougher. When I was in fourth grade and Uday Narahari and I would sit down and make lists of everything -- favorite bands, favorite songs, favorite football teams (this was a leisure activity -- in retrospect a bit weird) -- I had clearly-defined favorite bands. Later in life, though, I've become less-devoted and it's a bit tougher.

Anyway. Let the embarrassment commence:

The Precursors

Before I'd really started listening to bands on a regular basis, two artists stand out: Abba and the J. Geils Band. I loved one song off of my parents' copy of "Abba: the Album" -- "Hole In Your Soul." Diehard Abba fans I've encountered later in life don't even recall the song, but I would play it over and over. Same deal with "Freeze Frame" by the JGB -- that actually became the first album I ever owned, on my own. Everyone else on the internet seems to have a Kiss album as their first, but I'll lay it out straight. J. Geils Band. "Freeze Frame." It only gets worse.

Duran Duran

A product of MTV -- my parents got it, I was in fourth grade or so, and the videos off of "Rio" and the first album were pretty freakin' exciting. Uh, there was "Rio," "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Is There Something I Should Know"... I remember staying up for the World Premiere Video of "Save a Prayer." They could've become my first-ever concert (and oh, how differently things might have turned out), but I got the chicken pox before their Denver appearance. I began fifth grade and found out that Duran Duran's status had been changed to "gay" among my peers, and I wasn't too into "Seven and the Ragged Tiger" anyhow, so I moved on...

Mötley Crüe

Maybe I was really into eye makeup as a kid? Unsure. "Looks That Kill" seemed fraught with excitement and danger, I bought "Shout at the Devil" (clandestinely -- I was afraid of getting into trouble because they might be devil-worshippers), and played the shit out of it. Discovering "Too Fast For Love" just increased my fandom. Read an interview with Nikki Sixx in "Hit Parader" or whatever in which he discussed how he got his hairstyle -- the ingredients were something like "lots of eggs and sleeping on my face." I considered emulating that. Eventually became my actual first concert, with Autograph opening at McNichols Arena. Started losing me as they got glammier.


Sort of a 1A to the Crüe's 1. A "Grace Under Pressure" t-shirt was my first band t-shirt. Had just about all their '70s/'80s albums and listened to them well into college, though anything after "Grace Under Pressure" held little appeal, and even that one was suspect. "2112," though? "A Farewell to Kings"? Oh yeeeeeeeeeeeah. Creem Magazine used to make fun of Geddy Lee a lot, which would move me to fury.


Goddamn MTV again -- the video for "Indians" was played over and over, a promo for some concert involving that big metalfest at Castle Donnington, and my friend Andy Seery and I embraced the Anthrax ethos wholeheartedly -- half a dozen t-shirts, goofy shorts, the band logo painstakingly traced onto the back of my denim jacket, and yes (this'll only make sense to anyone who saw that video), "INJUN" written on the brim of a baseball cap. I think "Persistence of Time" was the last album I bought.

Black Flag

It starts getting better here. Got some special "Thrash Metal" magazine due to my fascination with the previous band, and it had a bit on the recently-disbanded Flag. The cool (to a 14-year-old) name, the crazy-looking photos, and the Pettibon album covers in the SST ads just looked nuts to me, and I got my hands on the "Wasted...Again" compilation and "My War." Good thing too, if I'd started out with "Family Man," I probably wouldn't have revisited the band again until I turned 30. I still listen to "Damaged" a lot, and a few of the others have pride-of-place in the collection. They hold a space similar to the Rolling Stones in my heart -- a relatively-brief period of greatness, only four or five releases, but those four or five releases are some of my all-time favorites, whether I'm 16 or 33.

Minor Threat

See, ok, everything's improving here. I was introduced to them shortly after moving to Tucson -- I'd yet to learn of straight-edge, and they (by this point, six or seven years gone) were pretty damn inspiring to me. Another band I can still listen to a lot today. Gorilla Biscuits probably get another 1A designation here.

Born Against

We discovered politics! Probably about half our little Tucson crew (and these lines weren't clear until much later) embraced the smartassed Born Against/ABC No Rio thing (from afar), half embraced the whiny/Ebullition/Downcast thing. I guess that makes it clear where I fell. Ugly, pissed-off music, coming from a perspective that I could understand -- well-off suburban kid. They just seemed a lot more articulate, witty, and rational than most political punk bands. I still listen to BA occasionally, still follow the stuff Sam McPheeters does.

Drive Like Jehu/Rocket From the Crypt

And I started getting a little less hardcore. The San Diego scene replaced NY in my heart. As was so often the case, my little brother was way ahead of me, getting into these while I was still listening to the Up Front album over and over. Still listen to Jehu, lost some excitement over RFTC after they produced a string of marginal albums before breaking up.

Laughing Hyenas

One of the many bands I discovered too late -- I actually had the chance to see them about 1991, but passed (probably because they took drugs!). The aforementioned Thayer saw that concert and described them as "an even crazier Pittbull," which was what passed for praise in our circles. Again, finally saw them about the time of "Hard Times," well past their prime. "You Can't Pray A Lie" and "Life of Crime" remain two of the best things I've ever heard.

Uncle Tupelo

Hey, there's a shift. Moved to Boulder, discovered alt-country (to the eternal amusement of some friends). "No Depression" remains a favorite, even if it's less accomplished than their other albums... I guess 'cause it's the first I ever heard. Remain a fan of the various offshoots. Listened to the Old 97s a lot, too.


Combined the best elements of AC/DC and country. Lotsa songs about beer. Last album was kinda dull, but they put out some great stuff.

As you can probably guess at this point, I'm losing some enthusiasm for this project -- not just due to length, but because as I've grown older, it's become less important to pick favorites (and I'm a much more passive music fan now -- a few concerts a year as opposed to two or three a week). If I were to pick a band now for favorite? I probably have listened to the Hold Steady, Wilco, Steve Earle, and Entombed the most in the past year or so -- of those, the Hold Steady could lay claim to the top spot, perhaps.

Anyway. Kind of a fun trip down memory lane -- hope you get a kick from this exercise in self-indulgence!

Some honorable mentions over the years: the Rolling Stones, Hot Snakes, 411, Unsane (the band I asked about their recently-deceased drummer), Bruce Springsteen

The Bucs are Saved

Finally -- some good news.

When I Put That Photo Up...

...I didn't plan on it being the top thing on the blog for the next four days.

More soon, I'm just sick of seeing my stupid drunk 25-year-old face eternally.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Eight Seconds

Discovered this while digging through some crap. This was at the Grizzly Rose in Denver, late 1990s.

I didn't last eight seconds.

Monday, November 13, 2006

As Promised...

The Russian pics are up at Go here.

Whew! Hope you like 'em.


I should get an album of the St. Petersburg photos up sometime today. In the meantime, here's a panoramic shot (using the stitch feature) of the Hermitage, Palace Square, Alexander Column and the General Staff building. The vagaries of the stitching make the latter look a bit like it's collapsing, but other than that, I like this photo (these photos).

Click on this one for a larger version -- it's a big sucker.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Hunkered Down

It's cold here this morning (well, it's crept up to 50 now, but I'm still not in any mood to go cavort in the sunshine), I've done nothing of interest in the past several days (taking it easy recuperating from the cold -- I didn't even get drunk to celebrate Petr Tenkrat's return to glory), so as I kill time before going to drink beer and watch football (the Bucs aren't even playing 'til Monday), it's time for another jersey introduction!

It's an Aleš Píša home HC IPB Pojišťovna Pardubice jersey, from the late '90s. It's one of two Píša jerseys I own -- I could have picked up a third (a Rangers jersey) a month or two back, but I've sort of restricted the jersey-buying these days.

After a few star-level years with Pardubice, Píša came over to Edmonton in the early part of this decade, seemed to be doing well, and got traded to the Rangers -- then headed back to Europe when (I think -- I'm going by memory here) the Rangers refused to give him a one-way contract (the same problem that led to them trading away Marek Židlický's rights). He's spent the last few years with Severstal and Khimik in Russia, before moving back to Pardubice this year.

It's a really cool jersey, another of my favorites. I've never seen this numbering style anywhere else, and for once, the European ads don't really bother me. There's a lot of wear on it, and a bunch of what appear to be blood stains (though maybe a previous owner was wearing it when someone spit V8 juice on him).

When I bought the jersey, the seller said "I don't even know how to describe this one -- it's pretty weird." Actually, I think it's pretty sedate -- the lion head was the symbol of (now-merged) IPB Pojišťovna, an insurance company, and it's a rare advertisement that actually makes a good sports logo. IPB sponsored Pardubice from 1997-2002 -- in what must have caused some confusion, Sparta Praha was also sponsored by IPB at some point during this era, and had the same logo on the club jerseys for a time. Pardubice is now sponsored by Moeller Electric, and has had jerseys with that company's logo at times (other times, it's a cartoony horse, a version of Pardubice's traditional symbol). Which would you rather see on a jersey, a regal lion's head or a freakin' bell?

For the most part, everything is sublimated on this jersey. The EVC patch above the left breast is stitched on, and is a different material than the rest, and the nameplate is stitched on (but the name itself sublimated). Each shoulder, though, has an embroidered Staropramen patch. I've got a Kladno jersey from the late '90s that also has such a patch -- I believe Staropramen sponsored the Extraliga for a while. As beers go, Staropramen's no Czechvar/Budvar, but I'd take it over Pilsner Urquell. Now I'd like a beer, actually. Thankfully in just over an hour I'll be drinking some (but sadly, it won't be Czech).

I always thought Semtex was some sort of plastic explosive.

Once again -- the idea for these jersey profiles was stolen from the good-natured Tapeleg at Jerseys and Hockey Love. It's one of my favorite hockey blogs out there -- check it out!

(Addendum - one other credit: I scanned the pic of the Sparta jerseys out of the super-cool "Naše krev je Sparta" book. Anyone with an interest in Czech hockey -- which, I presume, is every single one of you -- should pick that up.)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Writing Tutorial

#39 (Special Doug Weight edition): "The War of the End of the World" by Mario Vargas Llosa

This one took me a loooooong time to read -- I started it back in the summer.

Head and shoulders above everything, it's got a great lesson for writers. There are roughly one hillion jillion characters in TWOTEOTW, and every single one is fully-realized and fleshed out. There are some nasty, nasty folks in it, but they're still human. I've read far too many books over the years that pretty much divide the characters into "good" and "bad" camps, and the bad guys are just hateful cardboard standups. Everyone who's starting to veer that way in their writing should read this and see how a pro does it.

TWOTEOTW (even THAT is too much to type) is a retelling of the story of Canudos, a religious and rebellious community founded in Brazil's backwater in the 19th century. Its creation drew the unloving attention of the government, which launched a series of bloody assaults to wipe it out.

It's not a perfect book by any means -- I think it's far too long (remember when you were a kid and went to see "Out of Africa," and it got to a point where you said "ok, that seems to be a logical end," but it kept going, and you were squirming in your seat? You don't? Ok, maybe it's just me) and somewhat padded, and there's some rather unsettling treatment of women. But despite the occasional slog, it was a pretty great read. And after the length of time it took, I actually feel a sense of accomplishment today.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Rambling Wreck

I remember a Fox Trot comic strip from many years back, showing the mother hollow-eyed and crazy, listing off all the things she'd done in the past three hours, and then lamenting that she'd taken antihistamines with coffee. Today wasn't quite like that, but after calling out sick, the coffee/DayQuil combination (try it at home!) spurred me on to new heights of activity. None of it mental, though. I'm good for unthinking actions only. It's probably a mistake to sit down and write on this; it's all I can do to avoid writing an entry about how I moved a filing cabinet today. (It looks GREAT in the new location!)

* * *

A while back, I was thinking about an entry on "every band I've ever called my 'favorite'." I abandoned it because the opening trio of Duran Duran/Motley Crue/Rush is pretty damn embarassing. But one of the bands that would (unashamedly) be on it was the Laughing Hyenas, who I loved in the early '90s. So it was with that muted shock that greets the passing of someone you didn't actually know, that I read about Larissa Strickland's death the other day.

I got into the LHs really late, and missed their glory years, but discovering their back catalog sent me -- it was a reflection of an anger and pain light years from the stuff I was generally listening to at that point. For a sheltered straight-edge suburban kid in Arizona, they (and their notorious lifestyle) were terrifying and alluring. I didn't see them live 'til it was way too late (about the time of the "Hard Times" album, which I've only in recent years been able to admit wasn't very good), but nonetheless, I worshipped pretty heavily at the altar in college (to fredoluv's disgust).

Rest in peace. I'll dig out "You Can't Pray A Lie" this week, the only sort of tribute I can really pay.

* * *

By the time of Tuesday's elections, all my optimism had dwindled away -- I was resigned to the Democrats not only failing to take the Senate, but also failing to take the House. So the actual result has been a hell of a treat, and everything since (Rumsfeld out, Bolton a dead issue) would have me doing backflips if I wasn't shoving kleenex up my nostrils at every opportunity. It's almost too much. I feel like I've overdosed on Halloween candy.

When it became apparent the other night that George Allen was really going to lose in Virginia, I text-messaged a friend and said "now it's time for shattered illusions." It's gonna be a tough time after the euphoria -- people on my end of the spectrum satisfied by nothing less than world peace and socialized medicine, people on the other end looking for any excuse to pounce. The glow's already draining away.

Still, that asshole Santorum is out, Allen is out, Bolton is done. The silly optimistic part of me is giggling like a fool. I was also kinda happy to see Heath Shuler win, though only on party lines and nostalgia -- I don't think I actually agree with him on anything.

* * *

As noted elsewhere, I finally saw the Thrashers play in person the other night. In addition to a ripping good game (what I saw of it: parts were missed as I awaited a new refrigerator), I noticed a new feature this year: you can text message things to get posted up on the scoreboard. Yeah, I imagine it's commonplace by now, but it's the first time I've noticed it. Most were of the garden variety "Hi Joey!" type, with a marriage proposal thrown in (I hope to God it wasn't sincere), and the random "I like turnip greens." I wonder how many "Bring back Kloucek" messages can go up before they'll block my number?

I Get Things Done When I'm Sick

Prague pics are up! All of 'em! Go here.

Russia pics coming soon.

The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn

I've got some sort of awesome death disease that's torn out my throat linings and made my nose a snot faucet, so I'm going to spend the day shuffling in between bed and the couch. That means I'll likely write, but it'll be whiny! Or NyQuil-fueled. One of those.

In the meantime, Kynan W.K. reminded me that I haven't updated the Bucs-Raiders contest, partly because both teams suck so badly that it's grievously depressing. I've done it now, and two surprises:

1) the Buccaneers have broken 100 points? HOW?

2) I forget #2. Stupid NyQuil.

Anyway: the graph! More later.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Late Greats

Three days off work and I had no time to think; a friend moving, parties, getting a new refrigerator, hockey, football, other duties. Many things were neglected (chief among them: Nanowrimo -- update to come tomorrow). Things may be returning to normal. We'll see.

#38 - "A Fan's Notes" by Frederick Exley (re-read)

I recommended this to the Ski Bum not long ago, citing it as one of my all-time favorites though I hadn't read it since 1998. That reading was by a much younger, disaffected Greg, and one who was going through a rather confusing time in his life -- so when Ski Bum wasn't so enthused by the book, I worried that perhaps I'd romanticized crap.

I didn't. "A Fan's Notes" is still beautiful and painful, and if anything I appreciate it far more now than I did as a younger man. It's Exley's "fictional memoir" of his life -- it's up for debate how much of it was actually true-to-life (his biographer says, basically, all of it) but if even bits of this tale were true, Exley had one hell of a path to walk.

Full of tales of failed marriages and friendships, going in and out of asylums, destructive drinking, "A Fan's Notes" is a chronicle of failure. It's honest on a level I can't conceive-- I think of myself as pretty self-aware, but if I were introspective on Exley's level, I'd be incapacitated by despair. It's brutal.

Doesn't sound very pleasant, does it? And it's not. But it's also captivating, and oh so well-written. Exley's life's battle was to become famous; his entire body of work is this and two sequels (generally far less well-regarded, but I remember them being pretty good -- again, it's been some years), but "A Fan's Notes" alone is enough to justify whatever fame he achieved.

(He also has the coolest author photo ever. Makes me wanna take up smoking.)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Down to a Science

I think LP was joking in the comments to the last post, but I seem to have perfected my procrastination. After mildly getting over-analytical about my writing Thursday, I took Friday off from Nanowrimo (I may also have been hungover) to regroup. Then today I was helping a friend move all day. Then tomorrow is football, of course. Then Monday I'll be hungover.

I may not have the writing work habits where I want them, but my excuses are all-pro.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Maybe Deadlines Aren't So Good For Me

Dream last night: I had returned to Boulder High School as a 33-year-old (yes, I really did graduate the first time around). I was in a furious panic because I'd forgotten to go to school, and gone to Russia instead -- and so was trying to do a semester's worth of homework (though I'd only been in Russia for a week in the dream) in the hours before class. This is what one day of writing does to me?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Whole Bunch of Crap

A few things I've been meaning to post about, but have been too scattered to really address ... now in one convenient bundle.

Operation: Nanowrimo is going, uh, sort of. The webpage is getting kind of overloaded so uploading (or doing anything else) is tough right now. As such, I'll refrain from putting a link to my page there 'til it's a bit more stable.

I sat down this morning, flexed my fingers, started writing, sweated, agonized, and uploaded the first batch... and it came to 355 words. Less than 1/100th of the way there. Good lord. For the first time, I've had some doubts that I'll be able to do this. But, we shall perservere -- I got some more done later in the day (not sure how much, due to the aforementioned server issues), and there's at least a few more days before I start over with a chronicle of the wacky adventures of Vaic Fan, Pletka Fan and But Fan, or just use Brushback's "navel" excuse.

I think I'm really prone to writing overly briefly, after years in various media jobs, and that's a bit of a hindrance here. Anyway. No more excuses -- the next update will be triumphant.

* * *

Word has it that there was a World Series recently. It's a sign of how far my interest in baseball has waned that my nominal favorite team won the damn thing and I barely paid attention. Yeah, I've been busy, and more than a little stressed, but... you don't have to work too hard to find the World Series on television, and I barely saw any of it. Glad the Cards won, enjoyed reading the Cards blogs in the series' wake, but I don't feel too much else.

Surfing about in its wake, I found Touching All the Bases, and digging through the archives rekindled a bit of the old (and really, it's been more than a decade since I was much of a fan -- close to 15 years) baseball love. Baseball really does, as Plimpton said, produce some very good writing. I've read "Ball Four" and Bill James and Thomas Boswell and a few others more than anything ever printed about hockey, and reading through TATB made me want to dig those out. The early '80s/late '70s baseball and football cards were also a nostalgia trip -- show me an '81 Topps football or '80 baseball card and I'm taken back.

* * *

Indulge me in sappiness now: as mentioned, things have been a bit chaotic and stressful lately -- the trip threw things off, work has been a bit of a load, the weather's been crazy, bouncing from near-freezing to sunny and 75, with the occasional torrential rainstorm.

Contributing the most to the waywardness of the PPA ship is the imminent departure of my friend Mary (a/k/a MD, the trip companion) for London. She's been a good friend -- one of my two closest -- for several years now, a stable and reassuring presence, and it's very tough to see her go.

MD's a sweet, wholesome girl, who's been a good counter to my often-irresponsible lifestyle, and a generally nice person to be around. She's lent an air of calm when it's much needed. I doubt she's reading this -- she's not much on the Internet things -- but if you happen to, kiddo, I'm gonna miss ya.