Monthly Archive for January, 2004

Battle Royale

whoaBattle Royale has one of the best plot lines (and fan following):

Ninth grade students are taken to a small isolated island with a map, food and various arms. They have to fight each other three days long until the last one remains and are forced to wear a special collar which will explode when they break a rule.

The Japanese are an absolutely amazing people.

Where I’ve Been…

My MapThis is a map of where I’ve visited or lived in the United States… This is really jarring, because I haven’t crossed the Mississippi, and I haven’t ventured into the heart of Dixie. I think that says something about me, but I’m not sure what.

Resolution: before I turn 28, (which gives me 2 years), I want to add at least 3 states. One of them must be California… that’s the easy one.

Florida Keys and Miami

Causeway The Causeway

I enjoyed going through my photos of our Miami and the Florida Keys trip in early January.

These photos, along with my trip journal, will help me to always remember it…

Continue reading ‘Florida Keys and Miami’

On to New Hampshire

dean-kerryNH Prediction: Dean will not win—but, he might become the Comeback Kid of 2004 with a strong 2nd place finish. Where does Kerry go after NH?

Then again, I’ve been wrong before.

On a complete aside, I was up in Concord working for Al Gore 4 years ago, having hauled several cars-worth of Massachusetts college students in tow. Seeing the weather forecast, I don’t regret sitting this one out.

Dresden Dolls get signed are Negotiating

The Dresden DollsUPDATE – It seems that we jumped the gun — Amanda from the Dolls informs us that “it’s actually not true and we’re still in negotiations”. So, rumors aside, here is a quote from their band diary:

…the band has just agreed to enter into a massive distribution and promotion deal with a large label…

SO, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Everyone’s favorite goth/punk/pop cabaret duo just got signed to Roadrunner Records, reported by Jenna

This is the former all-metal label that eventually put out the first (and best) Sheila Divine LP — so they’ve been good to Boston bands.

I just peeped their new video for Girl Anachronism, which is very cool.

Happy Chinese New Year

4702, The year of the monkey.

iLife ’04

I ordered iLife today… a good distraction from boring work-life, and from the Dean campaign in general. Suddenly I’m not hanging on every headline.

Jason’s writeup sounds pretty cool — I want to make fuzzy rock songs in Garageband … maybe Presley will sing?

Also, I’ve imported my 2000+ photos into iPhoto, which is really good at managing photos, (if not editing them)… hopefully the new version will speed up the app’s response-time.

Iowa Post-Mortem

Well, my predictions were completely off!

I’m not sure what this means… we’ll see what happens in the coming week. With the State of the Union and all its assorted distractions, Dean might come back strong next week in New Hampshire.

Then again, I just saw him scream through his concession speech, and I can’t help but offer this advice: When you’re on television, speak to the people, lay out your agenda. Don’t scream like a monkey, trying to excite the 2,000 kids in front of you… cos they didn’t show up to caucus for you.

Iowa Predictions

I spend much of my time each day reading newspapers and talking to friends about politics, but rarely do I post on the subject. There are some excellent sources that focus on politics and the race for the White house. So, the last thing this country needs is another blogger for Dean.

However, today is the Iowa caucus —a bizarre exercise that makes the Electoral College look downright democratic—so I thought I’d take a few minutes to give my take.

First, the headlines seem to point to Dean dropping off dramatically in the past weeks. I can’t deny this, by the Zogby polls are always a bit dubious. I think Dean will prevail.

So, here’s my predictions:

  1. Dean – Strong organization will drive turnout, but will beat Gep by only a few points. He will break 30%.
  2. Gephardt – A disappointing second, will mark the beginning of the end of his campaign. He should get close to 30% if the unions are out in force.
  3. Kerry – Looks good in latest polls, but doesn’t have the ground operation of the first two. I think he’ll beat Edwards because he’s spent the most time in Iowa, but cold weather could keep his senior base from coming out. Kerry will break 20%.
  4. Edwards – This guy is the real “anti-Dean”, and I think his positive message and southern drawl can help him continue on after New Hampshire. Though he’ll finish 4th, I think he’s positioned better than Kerry moving forward.

Is General Clark the wild card? He doesn’t figure in Iowa, but he’s working all alone in New Hapshire…

Reality Check

There is something to be said about all-inclusive vacations! Even with a great airfare deal, my credit card is at…

$1,451.71

It was worth every penny, however.

Day 5: Back to Miami

Last night was cold! I know it’s much colder home in Boston, but Key West shouldn’t be 50 and windy as hell! We spent our second night heading down to Mallory Square for Sunset. I was wearing a wool turtleneck sweater, and was chilly.

Sadly, we walked around the Hilton (which basically took over the waterfront a few years ago), but couldn’t find the Cat Man. We did catch Jeep and Mo and some tumbling/acrobatic group. Not bad, I suppose, but nothing you couldn’t get at Fanueil Hall on a Friday Night.

Drinking was again the goal, but we had such difficulty finding good places to drink. After a drink in some sports-type bar on Duval, which had the Patriots playoff game on, we settled on Key West’s cheesy landmark, the Hog’s Breath. The food is average, the service was terrible (we ordered dinner in the bar), and the music can only be described as awful. D’ya like Dave Matthews or Jimmy Buffet? super.

So, we walked up and down Duval again, and retired around midnight, utterly sober.

In the morning, we took the scooters for a ride again, and then returned them. Then we headed down Route 1, back to Miami.

Meeting Sara in South Beach, we walked along Lincoln Road, browsing the antiques and overpriced clothing shops. We ate at the Nexxt Cafe — which is a bit like the Cheesecake Factory, only you’re stuffed into a hundred tables out on the sidewalk where you can watch the beautiful people and ugly tourists shuffle by. I could tell you what I ordered, but it wasn’t really memorable.

It was nice to see Sara, and escape the Totally Tourist ambience of Key West. Sadly, I’m a city boy. However, you Miami folks honk your horns too much. For now reason. Seriously.

Since our flight is leaving tomorrow at 7:25am, I think we’re going to leave here and find a cheap motel near the airport. End of vacation, and back to work!

Day 4: Key West

Scooters! What else to do in Key West? We headed to Moped Hospital down the street from our Inn, and each rented a scooter for the day. For $40 each, you get to wheel around town helmet-less at 30 mph… quite a lot of fun, even with our little Korean models. Every once in a while, a real motorbike will zoom past us and put us in our place, but it feels liberating to be able to zip around without wearing your feet out. 30-mph feels like pretty fast when you’re flying by bicyclists.

We first headed to the graveyard, which is an odd place. The water table is so high, and the coral rock so hard, that everyone is buried above ground in little cement boxes. There are funny epitaphs, crumbling and new markers… and we noticed, quite a lot of Masonic imagery. There were many of those little compass symbols, 5-petal roses, pentacles (5-pointed stars) — everywhere. This added a little creepy element to the walk through.

Next, we hopped onto the scooters and headed up to Southard St. and Grinnell St., for a Cuban Sandwich and Cafe con Leche at the 5 Brothers. Presley ate a Fritas Cubanas, which was something like a sloppy joe with potato sticks and onion. Both were pretty tasty.

Then, on to the Southermost Point, which is the southernmost point in the Continental United States, if you don’t count the Navy yard gated off to the west. It’s only 90 miles to Havana– much closer than Miami.

Back on the scooters, and we zip back up to Whitehead St. and Truman St. to visit the Ernest Hemingway Home. This is a totally commercialized operation that takes your $10, and herds you into the house for a guided tour. Our guide was Dave, who, though completely taken with his own corny puns and jokes, was utterly inept at dealing softly with inquisitive tourists. A middle-aged woman asked what year the house was purchased by Hemingway, to which Dave theatrically closed his eyes, sighed loudly, and snapped “1931…. Now, does anyone know where I left off?” Then he explained that you may take all the photos and video that you like, but not during his tour. Upstairs, Presley took out her SLR camera to catch two six-toed cats lounging on Papa’s bed, to which Dave reminded her that we are not to take photographs during his tour, all but assuring that he would not be receiving any tip from our wallets.

Still, obnoxiousness aside, it was interesting strolling around the grounds, watching the big cats with their big paws. The cats give the estate a magical quality, prompting Presley to muse, “The Paul Revere House could use some cats…”

Day 3: On to Key West

After breakfast as Magrove Mike’s in Islamorada, we started heading west. We stopped briefly at the Bahia Honda State Park Beach for some sun and splash. I read, while Presley napped.

Arriving in Key West, we missed the Sunset celebration because I needed to find an Internet Cafe—my boss called me and told me that I had forgotten to submit my timesheet, and if I would like to get paid, I had better do so. So, after the business was taken care of at the Sippin’ Cafe, we checked in the La Pensione Inn on Truman Ave. near Duvall Street. Apparently Harry S spent some time here.

Heading out onto Duvall Street should be an adventure, but we found most of the restuarants and bars to be lacking in patrons—maybe it’s the time of the year. After walking around for what seemed like hours, we settled on Caroline’s Cafe for dinner, because you could sit outside and drink Margaritas and Coronas while watching revelers on the street. God, there are so many old people here!

After downing a few drinks with dinner, (I had the Mahi-Mahi cooked cajun style, Presley had a whole cooked chicken, I kid you not), we decided to hit a few bars. There was the Irish bar, with the village drunks (and no females), and then there was the Karaoke bar next to Crabby Dicks, with Marie behind the bar, and Karaoke’ers belting our Country songs in the back. At least there were some women at this place… Presley did a rousing rendition of Cheap Trick’s I Want You to Want Me, though I think this crowd didn’t appreciate it as much as I did.

Day 2: Key Largo, Snorkeling & Sailing

What a busy day! We got up this morning, determined to go snorkeling. We’ve learned one thing about Key Largo—there is utterly nothing worth doing in Key Largo besides snorkeling, diving and outdoor activities. We rented a dual kayak, and paddled around the mangroves in the Pennekamp State Park .

And, at 1:30, we took a 38’ Catamaran sailing out to the coral reef, strapped on some fins and masks, and plunged into the 72-degree water to look at fish. Even though 72-degrees sounds like warm water, it’s better to wear a wet-suit, though it will make you look ridiculous. We saw these blue and yellow zebra fish, a foot-long rainbow looking fish, and some gray barracudas who looked unamused. Note for future reference: bring clothes for the sail back to shore, no matter what the cabana boys say in the gray shed.

Following the advice of our Captain (what was his name?), an old former hippie who had been sailing for 22 years, Presley and I headed for Bentley’s, south to MM 83, for dinner. As we arrived, we noticed a man and his daughter that sailed with us earlier in the day—apparently they took the same advice from the Captain. We chatted at the bar with Danielle and Mr. Bernstein from North Carolina. She is a freshman at Virginia Tech, studying chemistry, which was my first major, afterall.

When we were finally seated, we went a little overboard (pun?), and went with 1 dozen steamed clams. Presley ordered a glass of Riesling, and the Grassy Key Lime Yellowtail, and I asked for a glass of Fume Blanc from Sonoma, and the Yellowtail stuffed with crab meat. mmmm… This was definitely the place to eat, though I think Ballyhoo’s has better food, (though, in a much more casual atmosphere).

Day 1, Part II: Arriving in Key Largo

We passed through Miami Beach — stopping briefly to eat lunch and wander into the shops as it rained. People are very friendly here — even in Benetton! I made Presley take off her shoes and pop into the surf… rain or no rain. One odd thing we noticed about South Beach was the copious numbers of scooters motoring around. Very odd indeed, but it makes perfect sense to own one here, in the sun, where the streets are relatively small and slow. No helmets!

We then headed down towards the Keys, down that crowded strip-mall heaven that is Route 1. We passed by the University of Miami, and I briefly considered what college in such a place would have meant. The strip malls thin out a bit heading south, but they really don’t stop until you cross into the Keys, only to pick up again as you approach Key Largo. We checked into our room at the Westin Key Largo, at MM 97. It’s a beautiful resort in the middle of a sub-tropical forrest. Presley remarked that it was the nicest hotel room she has stayed in.

Consulting our guidebook, The Florida Keys, Joy Williams guided us to Ballyhoo’s, a little shack in the median of the highway near our hotel. Clearly not as attractive to tourists, as it’s not on the water, Ballyhoo’s serves excellent fish. I had the fresh caught Mahi-Mahi, prepared Mensiuere-style, and Presley ordered the Caribbean pan-fried Scallops. And both were two of the most delicious dishes I’ve ever tasted.

Day 1, Part I: Boston to Miami Beach

It’s freezing! temperature is in the teens, and we’re late out the door to Logan. Since we live closest to the Green line , we decide to walk over the Charles to the B-line. But, temperature is in the teens! I’m wearing a light jean jacket with a thick wool turtleneck sweater, a knit hat, but no gloves! Pulling my suitcase around the rotary, and onto the bridge—it’s sooo cold. And it’s almost 7am. Our flight leaves at 8:05!

Presley hands me one of her gloves (for the suitcase-carrying hand), and we both bury our bare hand in a pocket. Speed-walking down across the bridge, I start to get nervous on time—we’re living under Orange-alert these days and Logan isn’t the easiest thing to get to without driving…

Desperate measures! We call Boston Cab, and have them meet us on the Boston side of the Charles. 5 minutes later, a cab pulls up, and our driver throws our suitcases in the trunk. I’m glad to be out of the cold.

15 minutes later—7:15—we’re pulling up to Terminal C, having travelled southbound in the new big dig tunnel for the first time. The fare is $22.15, thought the driver says he hit the wrong button and overcharges… I give him $30—far too much, but he got us there quick, and that kind of solace is worth a 50% tip.

Just made it through security to board our Song Airlines flight to Ft. Lauderdale. As cheery and stylish the new Song branding is, the brand doesn’t extend well into the cabin. Sure, the seats are leather, but they’re this odd light blue color, and each seat has a bright accent leather—pink, green, orange. I think that it’s supposed to be stylish, but it comes off looking like an airline for the Romper Room set… very Micky Mouse. Perhaps Kate Spade hasn’t put her final touches on yet.

Off to the Keys

Presley and I are off this morning to Miami and the Florida Keys for 6 days. We’re going to visit Sara, and meander around in the Keys in search of sun, fun and the perfect Key Lime Pie.

I’m packing up the powerbook and the digital camera, so a travelog might spurt up. Our hotel in Key Largo has wi-fi, and I’ve already looked up hotspots in Key West

X-mas in Buffalo

Ornament on the familial X-mas tree

Ornament on the familial X-mas tree

Macy and Jeremy at Spot Coffee, Elmwood Ave.

Macy and Jeremy at Spot Coffee, Elmwood Ave

Exhibit at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Exhibit at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Continue reading ‘X-mas in Buffalo’

New Cannon Digital Elph

Me and my new Cannon ElphSince my birthday is so close to X-mas, people always ask me if I got shorted on gifts growing up… to which I reply, “no, not really… I was an only child.”

In fact, at times, it’s a clear advantage, because it allows a person to combine both occasions into one super-gift — exhibit A (left), my new Cannon Digital Elph SD100, from Presley. There was nothing more perfect in this world that I could have received, and I wasted no time shooting.

Different individuals have different needs from a camera — Mr. Powazek recently got a new Cannon Digital Rebel, which looks like one hell of a package. But my needs are simpler… I wanted a small digital camera for the same reason I wanted a 12-in powerbookMOBILITY! The most important criteria for me was the ability to whip it out, (excuse my choice of language), and shoot from the hip at what ever crosses my path.

Would it be nice to achieve the kind of detail and depth of field that serious photographers obsess over? Absolutely. But, that’s something I’ll let the photographer in the family worry about. Thanks honey.

Best of 2003

Well, I’m late with my yearly round-up. I’ve enjoyed reading what other webloggers have written on 2003, and hopefully I’ve got something to offer. Here goes:

MUSIC

Yeah Yeah YeahsI won’t bore you with my theories of correlation between poor economic prospects and quality rock music—suffice to say, 2003 was a lousy year to look for work, but it was another excellent year for rock. Without any dominant “ism” (e.g., Alternative, Rap Metal, etc.) defining what was cool, smaller bands were given the chance to experiment.

  • Stellastar, Stellastar —The 80s are back, and I’m thankful for it. But to dismiss Stellastar as a Gothic throwback would be a crime— Shawn Christensen’s voice is more a post-punk David Byrne, (and I love basist Amanda Tannen’s backup vocals). My Coco is a great tune.
  • Blur, Think Tank —Ok, enough New York bands… Let’s talk about Blur. With their seminal guitarist Graham Coxon gone, and the Gorillaz side project behind him, Damon Albarn and crew turned out something no one expected—a melodic, measured, mature album, with some of the best album art by Banksy that I’ve seen. I miss the mod days of Modern Life, but this was a fitting evolution.

FILM

Lost in TranslationSummer movies still baffle me—I never saw The Hulk or X-Men 2—but there were a few interesting films sprinkled amongst the usual trash this past year. There were so many I missed this year, but here are a few worth considering:

  • Lost in Translation—I started a new job this year, and I work closely with a Japanese girl, whose English skills are… well, limited. So, this film was my favorite in 2003. I was rolling on the Cinema floor laughing during the “why do they switch their Ls and Rs” conversation. I’d marry Scarlett Johansson tomorrow.
  • In America—Jim Sheridan’s semi-autobio story of an Irish family moving to New York after the death of their son, was about as sweet and magical an experience as is possible at the movies. I hadn’t expected it to be so emotionally heavy, but there is redemption in the end.
  • Angels in America—I’ve never seen the play, but this 2-part HBO movie was exhilarating, inventive, and gut-wrenching. This film tackles the big questions of faith, love and identity.
  • Kill Bill—Uma and Quentin were back in 2003, and despite rumors that Kill Bill was going to suck, I really enjoyed watching Uma slice and dice her way through her addressbook. Part II is coming in 2004, so maybe we’ll find out who the hell Bill is anyway.

POLITICS

Howard DeanFor those of you in late-primary states who might not be paying attention, there’s a presidential campaign underway. Never in my lifetime have the stakes been so high—2003 showed us terrorism, preemptive war, tax cuts, budget deficits, job loss, and gay marriage (one positive, at least).

  • Howard Dean—Not only has Howard Dean single-handedly handed the Democrats their balls back, he’s re-written the campaign handbook and made blogging an important tool in reaching the Grass Roots. Silly establishment pundits are still dismissing him as the flavor-of-the-week (and weak), but I think he’s going to put up one hell of a fight, and he’ll be walking and talking a lot more like a traditional candidate after the primary.
  • Nothing else good happened in 2003. sorry!