Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's a.....

Juliet. Well, o.k., Juliet, Naked, to be precise. Arrival time, 9:54 AM EST, today!

First things first. My nose is deep into the pages. Ahhhh, new book smells!
Lunch time, I'll be out in the car, seat reclined way, way, way back. I'm not the speediest of readers, especially if I'm reading a favorite author as I tend to lollygag around sentences, re-reading passages over and over to keep the wordy taste in my mouth.
So, 406 pages of Nick Hornby's latest may take me through the weekend. Just thinking if I should be packing High Fidelity along if I need to shake up the rusty synapses of my memory's tucked away files of that book to get through this book.

Well, in this osmetimes miserable world, a bliss shot of Hornby is always welcome.

ps. my otherwise slow posting may seem even more spotty the next week.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Kennywood? Say it Ain't So...

...that the star of 2008's Adventureland is actually owned by a Spanish company, Parques Reunidos? Late to the news here, I found out this little tidbit when I was reading why Spain wasn't part of the G-20 group. Kennywood, previously one of the largest family-owned amusement parks was bought up back in 2007. Things seem to be the same as far as operations go. It's just that, well, Kennywood was such a Pittsburgh homegrown type of place. It's as if the Pittsburgh Steelers had been sold by the brothers Rooney to, say, some Chinese mining consortium. Perish the thought.

Or, maybe not.


Friday, September 25, 2009

G-20 & Soft Ice Cream Music from Hell

From Steve Mellon of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who does these FANTASTIC 360 photo-displays, comes this video of the pre-protest the G-20 meeting gatherings in Pittsburgh. I especially love the inane soundtrack provided by the soft ice cream truck. One thing that keeps me on the straight and narrow and encourages me to hedge my bets on the possibility that there IS an afterlife is the conviction that, if there is a Hell, then there will be a Möbius strip of a highway that a Hades resident will be condemned to hitchhike on, with eternal damnation guaranteeing never being picked up and the soft ice cream truck passing by that person V---E---R---Y
S---L---O---W---L---Y while playing that sick cheapo organ music.

Perhaps it's the music that eventually drove the protesters to calamitous behaviour when they could have been down on the Strip enjoying a fine meal at Pamela's, Primanti Brothers', or Lidia's.

Addendum: Per this article, it seems that the ice cream truck music drove some folks into the deep end of the pool, as windows were broken and other property damage was done to various places including a Pamela's in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh.

Here's what I think about that serious mis-step.
There is NO WAY a Yinzer was responsible for this! Any proud resident of Pittsburgh would see this sin against Pamela's as adequate justification for a bit of intense facewashing. I guarantee that if any Yinzer is in the pokie with the clown(s) that dared to put even an innocent scratch on Pamela's plate glass, said clown(s) would soon be transferred to a fine UPMC site.

I have nothing against protesters as long as they maintain some level of civility. Once they cross the line into bodily or personal property harm, however, my empathy/sympathy goes out the window. And when I read that places like Pamela's are affected...well... thoughts of bodily damage toward the miscreant protesters come parading forth. Rather than putting these bozos in jail, I think they should be forced to pick up every shard and speck of broken glass. With their teeth.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Morning After on 91.3 FM

This Sunday, the last Sunday of September, I'll be manning the mike for Morning After, one of WVUD's regular Sunday Morning shows. From 9:00 am until noon, each Sunday a group of ageless wonders (or is that wanderers?) bring to their highly selective listeners (allegedly numbered in the high hundreds) their own take on what aural pleasures are best to ease one's body and soul into the last day of the weekend.

Preliminary choices for this week’s show include some new music from Robert Glasper, Loudon Wainwright III, Joe Henry, Todd Snider, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Dafnis Prieto and Stefon Harris, among others.

Old standbys like Nik Bartsch's Ronin, Jenny Scheinman, Ellis Marsalis, Irvin Mayfield, Galactic, Stanton Moore, and the Holmes Brothers are sure to show up somewhere in the mix. You can catch the show on 91.3 FM, if you're within 10 city blocks of the station (optimal range of a clear signal, it seems). Otherwise, tune in, as I do, on the web at www.wvud.org this Sunday from 9:00 am EST.

The Boss makes his 60th turn around the sun on Wednesday, the 23rd of September, so, being a Jersey boy, I'll most certainly be playing some Springsteen compositions, not all necessarily being performed by The Man himself. Wow! 60 years and still full of spit, vinegar, vitality, and most of his hair. As I pass my hand through a sparse follicle forest, I marvel at his energy and maintenance of wits.

10/15/09 "N.B.": The playlist for the Morning After has been updated to reflect the last few shows, for those interest in catching a glimpse as to what song genres are cvered.


Monday, September 21, 2009

"Juliet, Naked" - Tempting Freebie

Join the rest of the Hornby-ites and try your luck at having your name plucked for one of ten copies of his to-be-released-in-a-week book, Juliet, Naked.

Just click here.

Previous screeds on Mr. Hornby's latest were here and here.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yinzers in Haiku

The Pittsburgh Filmmakers have sponsored a G-20 themed haiku contest. Here's the complete list of the haikus submitted. The winner will make it on a theater marquee! My favorite is:

Yinzer diplomats?
G20..like bingo n'at?
No?? Reahlley? Git aht!
– Brian Kruman

Even the Wall Street Journal took notice in today's edition. Front page, to boot.

For other haikus, check out this site from a talented young writer temporarily doing hard labor in Paris. Oh, the pain!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ouch! Nick Hornby's Taking It On The Chin

The Times reviewed Juliet, Naked on August 29th with the closing line, "Reading Juliet, Naked isn’t exactly a waste of time. But I’d rather be building sandcastles. "

UK's The Guardian's verdict on August 30th is a tad more enthusiastic although it's last paragraph begins with a sigh and ends with a wish. "Elasticity – a sense that a novel has been written, in part at least, because its author needed to find something out for themselves – is an underrated part of what creates narrative atmosphere and tension. It's also a large part of why we read on. Nick Hornby is an enormously accomplished writer, but next time I'd love to read less about what he's already decided and more about what he still needs to find out."

At least The Independent ends on a positive note. "Juliet, Naked has only a bare plot, and the most tentative of romances, but it is about feelings being reawakened, small lives being expanded, and the function that art can play in the process. It is only gently comic, but subtle and insightful, and really quite touching."

The NY Times has not reviewed the book. Since Mr. Hornby is one of the featured speakers/authors at the NY Times Great Literary Conversation on October 4th, 5 days after the book appears in the States, I'm wondering if the review is in but won't be published until AFTER the October 4th event.

My order's been in since late Spring. With Mr. Hornby, it's not so much the destination as the trip there that is always the reward with his books. In fact, the final destination, taken apart from the rest of his novels, tend to be not so much disappointing as let-downs. It's as if the ending is a short rest before each book continues on its own imagined life.
So, I've got my ticket for the Juliet, Naked train. Tuesday, September the 29th, I'm boarding the train on rails going to the vanishing point.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

More Wave Dogs in Missoula

Based on comments on a previous post, seems the Wave Dogs of Missoula are quite the popular visit...so, without further ado, here are some additional photos from the same day.

And one more, showing that a Lab don't need no stinking kayak to brave the chilly waters of the Clark.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

A World of Confusion

From today's NYT, a short little piece tucked away announced that Cater Semenya, the world champion runner from South Africa, has withdrawn from a weekend race amid speculation about her sex.


Here's the lines that threw me for a loop, though.
"Arne Ljungqvist, the former medical commission chairman for track’s world governing body, would not comment specifically on this case, but he cautioned that a person’s sex is not always easy to define.

“There is no simple, single lab test that can tell if you are a man or a woman,” he said. "It is not black and white."

Arne, come on! You have got to be kidding me?!? Is this how stupid PC behaviour has made us? Lab tests? What's happened to simple use of 20/20 vision?

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Planning My Next Life

Just covering all of my bases. Want to make sure that next time around, I've the got the handsome thing done right. Great hair color, a set of piercing (but not scary terrorist) eyes, a rakish yet responsible look, and, most importantly, an inviting disposition that immediately invites scratches behind the ears, low rumbled conversations, basic food and water, and eternally long backrubs.

So, Todd Snider's Dog, next life around, I'm coming back as you!

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

D'un Endroit à l'autre

A new and, IMHO, most interesting blog, here.

La Vie Poeme.

A view from Paris through haikus and photos, as evidenced by a certain particularly familiar face.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Things to Do in Missoula While Gazing at the Enchanting Sky Slip By

Missoula, MT, at 3,209 ft above sea level lies in the Bitterroot valley surrounded by ??? mountains. The Clark Fork meanders through the city; you'll be criss-crossing it as you drive through Missoula. The lapping of the rapids can be heard pretty much anywhere in the city even when the river is out of sight. Downtown Missoula is particularly open to strolling about.

There are eateries and bars with open bars beckoning passer-bys to come in and sit a bit. Sitting a lot does not seem to be an activity favored by Missoulians. These folks are fairly fit and trim, as the outdoors smacks you upside the head with things to do. Metrosexuals are a human species not seen around these parts, not that Missoula lacks for cultural events. Cosmetics and high-end fashion markets are bone-dry here. Practicality and versatility in dress and accoutrement seem the guiding principles. Also Gore-tex; people are conceived and clothed in Gore-tex here. There is a plethora of outdoor gear related stores here.

Bike and kayak car racks are de rigeur. A result is an abundance of taut cheekbones and an under-usage of body deoderant products. A stuffy nose is a helpful condition to be blessed with when chowing down at some of the fine eating establishments in town.

To keep the denizens ever-active, the city even built an eternal wave machine right in the Clark Fork. Brennan's Wave, just north of the Higgins Avenue Bridge and within view of the Wilma theater in downtown Missoula is a great place to simply hang out and stare. Initially created for kayakers, enjoyment possibilities soon extended past the limits of the biped population of town.

As you can see, Brennan's Wave is open to all species of animals and their caretakers. In addition to kayakers and dogs, surfers can also be spotted on the Wave, seemingly glued to one spot. Once you're in the rhythm of the wave it seems any container would do. We spent a too short couple of hours here, marveling at the kayakers' easy slippage from the top of the Wave through the middle and out the end. Two of the kayakers brought along their 2 golden Labs who spent a short time running up and down the shoreline, following their owners, before deciding to jump in and join in on the fun. The water was a bit chilly, I'd say around 50-55 degrees. It didn't seem to matter to the dogs as they swam up through the rapids before turning around and riding the rapids down river.

It's a different style of life here, an enviable mix of outdoor immediacy and great coffee.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Bears, a Convoluted Theory

While strolling around Morain Lake just outside of the villages of Banff and Lake Louise, we came across a side path seriously guarded by an intense and fit Canada Park Warden (am I inventing this position? She had a uniform, badge, and hat so I'll go with that title). Next to her was this sign. Standing off to one side was a group of hikers, three in total, loudly discussing their hopefully-soon trek up the trail into the woods. The written rule in Canada's national parks is that hikers have to comprise a minimum group of 4 prior to heading off onto the ursine trails. Due to time constraints and a group-fear fueled by our self-delusion that we exuded odors of edibility, the eight of us, though large enough by a factor of two to take on these bear trails, opted to not head up the tasty human morsel trail.

That didn't prevent yours truly, in bear-thought mode since we came out West, to start inventing scenarios as to how the Canadian National Park service came up with the ideal number of Four. I'm sure the Chinese National Park Service would have opted for another number as Four is not the number one would want to be grouped in when hiking in China's national forests. Although, the bears there are not close to Grizzly size and pandas (yes...they are not bears) would not be mistaking hikers for shoots of bamboo. So, Four. Was it a trial and error situation wherein groups of one, two, three, and four were sent up various Grizzly Bear infested mountains and then interviewed when (and if) they came back as to the grizzliness of their Grizzly encounters? Were the weights, sex, and tastiness of the hikers taken into consideration for the group size? What, as Mr. Gaffigan opines, were their thespian skills? And the Group of Four? Does this ideal group size mean minimal attacks or NO attacks/encounters? What if someone in the group was feeling particularly frisky, adventurous, or demented?

Before we headed off into the Canadian wilds, I hope we would have asked for some published test results or at least some smelly carcass we could haul with us to dump as soon as a bear approached. Save for one short bear sighting form the safety of a ton and a half car, our vacation was filled with the giddy anticipation of spotting (and then running/playing dead/talking softly/other tricks allegedly know to work) a bear. We maintained a minimal bear quorum of five, cheating on the long side of things. Our conversations were loud, thorny topic-ed, and packed with laughter, all human cacaphony guaranteed to run off any wildlife. Except for magpies and crows, 2 animals sounding similar shrill calls to ourselves.

All through our vacation, whenever we were on the trails, even when chances of bear encounters were nil, I was humming this little ditty (Quicksilver Messenger Service's "Bears"). One never knows when a well-hummed lyric could sooth the savage beast and my East Coast Sensibilities (or lack of sensibility, as opined by several Montanans) inclined me to hum. Loudly. And with a cowbell. Din-din is on the way and it'll be singin'.

Quicksilver Messenger Service: "Bears" lyrics-
"Quicksilver Messenger Service - Bears Lyrics:

(Crazy Laughter)

When walking between the lines and the squares,
Be careful that you don't step on the bears.


There are bears on the stairs, often in pairs,
And they're very hard to get along with.

(sniff, Sniff Sniff)

There are bears in the gutter, so be careful not to utter,
A sound that will disturb.


There's something about honey, makes a bear kinda funny,
especially when it's time to eat.

(Sniffs.... SHHHH.....

There's a bear

(crazy Laughter

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Flathead Lake, Montana...

..Fly-fishin' for the Flathead Lake Monster. Must have been using the wrong fly, nary a bite from the alleged large critter, though it seems t-shirts and sodas regarding the cousin of Loch Ness Nelly are to be had. Souvenir t-shirts, the turista chum.

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Pedicures Suspended in Water

Mutual admiration society meeting of toes, crisp, cold, clear water and distant sounds of motor boats (not provided here..you'll have to hum in A sharp). Inch long fish came up to investigate possible edibles only to discover finely pedicured toes slowly pushing the water from here.......to there.

Other related pics are here.

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Vacation Dilemnas

The curse of decision-making while at Lake Louise, Alberta.

Do you stay inside and enjoy the view while sipping a coffee and clinking your bone china cup,

do you brave the 65 degree F weather and sit on the outdoor patio and coif a brew or two, while birds flit from emptying tables to the webs of chair legs, picking at fine pastry droppings?

Hmmm??? Why not both?

(NB: Click on the pix to access the Flickr album of other pictures.)

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