Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Checking In & Reality Returns

Things are hectic right now. My 6 year old starts 1st grade tomorrow and we had to meet with the teacher today, and fill out a form with the exact same information as 86 other forms we've already filled out and submitted. I start teaching my class a week from Thursday and have not prepared anything as of yet - fortunately it's a class I've taught many times before, so it should be alright.

On the blogging front, I want to thank those of you who stop by every so often and also encourage you all to visit the various "Blogs I Frequent". I can guarantee that you will find some unique and interesting words from an eclectic, intelligent, and wonderful group of people.

Update from a previous post - I wrote some time back that I have an idea for a short story. I still have the idea, in some greater detail than it was back then, but I have yet to find the words. Hopefully, someday they will come.

The Unexpected...I watched the movie "13 Going on 30" the other night at the request of my wife...I actually enjoyed it.

Finally, reality television has returned to the airwaves. Actually, it never really left but as a junkie for the genre, I still have standards (what a freakish comment). Last Comic Standing, Season 3 and Fear Factor have gotten under way and The Apprentice and Survivor are returning soon; I can't wait!

I am off to finish the last few pages of my book, have a scoop or two of Starbuck's White Chocolate Latte Ice Cream, and hit the sack.

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Delightful & Disturbing:News of the Day

First the delightful, this gives those of you who wish to avoid the disturbing ample chance to bail( I'll give fair warning). "Jenn & Steve" live at the Barking Crab - it was a wonderful, albeit toasty and humid, afternoon of fun. I need to thank those who showed up as a result of my persuasive advertising and wondrous charm: My wife Lucy (who actually gave up her usual sleep time as she works the night shift on the weekends), my daughter Victoria (who thanks to Jenn and Steve played percussion for the second set and had the thrill of her life so far), Linda, Richard, Nancy, Barbara, Barbara's very pregnant friend whose name escapes me, and Ned (and family). Despite the climate, the music was terrific (as always), the food a delight, and the Pete's Strawberry Blonde - yummy!

I really cherish the chance to enjoy the company of people that are just fun to be around and enjoy putting the stress of everyday life aside, if only for a little while; these are the moments I live for (especially because of really suck at baseball).

OK---Now for the disturbing...leave now if you must.
Some very sad news today, singer Laura Branigan, who charted big in the early 80's with hits like Gloria, Solitaire, and How am I Supposed to Live Without You, passed away in her sleep at the young age of 47. Current reports indicate the cause of death as a brain aneurysm - either way, it's a tragedy. This has nothing to do with who she was or the fact that she was famous, at least during the early parts of her career. It's just that it seems to me that when someone, anyone, dies at what seems to be before their time, it really gets you (me for sure) thinking about your (my) own mortality.

In other sad news, James Doohan, better know to many as Scotty from the original Star Trek recently made what is said to be his "final public appearance" as he has previously been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and already suffers from Parkinson's disease as well as Diabetes.

I mention these celebrities for several reasons. First, they both, at different times in my life, were impacting, though in different ways, to the generation that I grew up in. As my generation approached the middle age years we are closer to confronting just how short our time on Earth is. Not only as we ourselves age, but those remainders of the generations past that we cling to by way of our parents and grandparents.

I urge you to please take stock in all that you've been blessed with. Take a moment to let those you love know that you love them - not by taking it for granted they know, take a moment to say it. Hug the person next to you - even if you don't know them (unless they smell real bad or look suspicious - then just give them a smile, and say hello, gotta go).

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Friday, August 27, 2004

Where the Week Ends,The Weekend Begins

After a week of milling about in a melancholy funk, I am looking forward to the weekend more than usual. One of my friends lost a brother-in-law to brain cancer at the young age of 43; at 39 myself, let me just say it had an impact. Another of my colleagues lost her father-in-law, and from what I've heard, has temporarily been displaced from her apartment as the new landlord is deleading the house.

It's always a bit awkward sometimes when offering condolences or the sort. Deep down, I know that most of the time your friends know that you are there for them, but during these times, it's so often confusing and difficult to make decisions from the same thought processing methods used on a regular basis.

For me, It always been about hanging out with good people who I care about, just talking (about anything), the unexpected laugh from nowhere, and a good old fashioned (bear) hug.

In an effort to bring the mood to a better place, I am hoping for some pool weather on Saturday, along with some shopping (to get some furniture ideas). Sunday is going to be a great time as we are going to brunch at a place called the Barking Crab. My good friends Jenn & Steve are playing (music), the Boston Harbor is providing the ambiance, and hopefully, a large group of folks will provide the fellowship and fun. Oh, I almost forgot the crab cakes - their really good at The Barking Crab.

I'll be back with all of you soon. Until then, I promise to never really leave.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Vending Habits Revisited

I clearly spend too much time dealing with those darn vending machines. I've previously ranted about the woes of vending machine behavior, but I need to briefly revisit the idea in hopes of finding a cure to my "(that's a) sickness". I have come to realize just how much thought goes into my vending habit. I will carefully review the selections in one vending machine (on the third floor), then before making a final decision, go to the other vending machine (located on the first floor) reviewing the selections in an effort to make the best possible decision as to item to snack on. Where am I finding this time?

Mood and time of day (this usually happens twice a day-pathetic, I know) factor into the decision making process. The first obvious decision is to decide if I am in the mood for something salty or sweet; the resulting choice usually cuts my number of choices in half. This usually ends up being both a blessing and a curse because most of the salty stuff are in large (as a result of air,not quantity of product) bags - items such as chips, pretzels, the oh-so-salty Fritos, that sort of thing - which all tend to get stuck somehow, somewhere above where the contortionistically challenged (me, I) can reach and unlike many of the denser products in the sweet line (such as chocolate bars), don't respond well to the inevitable brutality boneheads like myself must inflict upon the machine in an effort to release the product from its grasp and satisfy my cravings.

What I have begun to realize, is that I not only invest too much time, but way too much money on this insanity. I really need to bring some "healthy snack alternatives" such as fruit, yogurt, and (I am actually going to say this, so if you are prone to fainting spells at the sound of goofy shit-be forewarned) a trail-mix of some kind. Okay then, I am already feeling better having spilled all of this stuff so for now, I am going to get the grill going and start dinner for the family.

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Monday, August 23, 2004

Immigration Education

A few weeks ago, there was an Op-Ed piece in The Boston Globe that pretty much bad-mouthed one of the local politicians for supporting a piece of legislation that would provide in-state tuition rates to "illegal immigrants". Having both a brain and an opinion, I chose to research the truth and compose an appropriate rebuttal.

After too much time procrastinating, I've assembled the fruits of my labor and thoughts into a response piece which I submitted to the newspaper this afternoon. I offer it here considering the possible case it isn't published in it's entirety, it isn't published at all, or you are reading from outside of The Boston Globe publication area. I am very curious about your thoughts and especially with any feedback my friends from across the pond, outside of the United States.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The Real Deal on the In-State Tuition Bill
I am writing in response to a piece written by Mal Schulze of Framingham, and published in the pages of the Globe West on July 18th, 2004, entitled "Spilka's Priorities on Tuition are Misplaced". I suspect this "expression of outrage" by Mr. Schulze was either written out of political bias with the intent to harm Karen Spilka's excellent reputation and record, ignorance of the facts - that is the actual text of the legislation, or some combination of both. As both the son and husband of an immigrant as well as an American citizen residing in the state of Massachusetts, I have some opinions about the topic, and I've researched the facts to perhaps clear up some confusion for Mr. Schulze and the readers who saw his piece.

Mr. Schulze comments "she apparently considers subsidizing illegal aliens more important than our own children's needs" and "there's not enough funding. But apparently what money is available she believes should be given to illegal aliens." Reading statements like these could easily lead you to believe that we’re about to give a free pass to anyone who managed to keep a tire tube afloat long enough to reach our shores. This is not the case. Here's the exact wording directly from the article of legislation (which I obtained simply by asking for it):

"...for the purpose of determining eligibility for in-state tuition rates and fees at public institutions of higher education...an individual...who has attended high school in the commonwealth for 3 or more years and has achieved graduation from a high school in the commonwealth or attained the equivalent thereof, shall be eligible for in-state tuition rates and fees at the University of Massachusetts, or any Commonwealth state or community college; but, in the case of an individual who is not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, the individual shall provide…an affidavit stating that the individual has filed an application to become a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, or will file an application at the earliest opportunity the individual is eligible to do so."
Having presented you, the reader, with these words, I feel that I would be insulting your intelligence my elaborating beyond my own interpretation (which I suspect will be similar to yours). It appears to me that those who support this piece of legislation are simply willing to give those who have proved themselves to be worthy, are willing and able, and have demonstrated a legitimate desire to become contributors to our state's work force (and system of taxation, thereby adding, not taking away from revenues in the long run), cultural diversity, and abide by the rules and regulations of the Immigration laws of our countries (the same ones built upon by our own ancestors) a chance to do so. Furthermore, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education defines themselves in the following words (extracted from their web site at www.mass.edu): "The public higher education system in Massachusetts is committed to ensuring that all Massachusetts residents have the opportunity to benefit from a higher education that enriches their lives and advances their contributions to civic life, economic development, and social progress in the Commonwealth." Notice how they refer to "all Massachusetts residents" as opposed to just those who are American citizens.

I am certain that the text of the legislation speaks for itself and clearly distinguishes the mission of those who support it. I am also confident that those of you, like myself, who at least had questions after reading Mr. Schulze's words now have the real information on which you can make your decision. Schulze closes his text with the words "any candidate of any party who would be willing to put illegal aliens above our own citizens deserves to lose his or her election". These are strong words for someone who so obviously either didn't understand what they were commenting on or intentionally twisted the context with MAL-intent.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Reunited - Summer 2004

Saturday morning we made the trip into Brooklyn for our friends reunion, a wonderful semi-annual event that I spoke of some time back. The Careaga family courageously hosted this go-round as many of wonderful friends gathered for good food, good drink, good times, catching up, and of course - karaoke!

There were an unusual amount of absentees this time around, most noticeably "Johnny Dee", who in some ways can be considered the pioneer of this event we all look so forward to. However, the Mineos, Buonannos, Danieles, Re-Re, and Careagas with some help from Mike and Stacy and "Fede" visiting from Milan all had a memorable evening leaving us all looking forward to our winter get together.

I'd like to thank the Careaga family for their hospitality for both hosting the reunion and for giving my family a place to rest our weary head and some fortification before the 200+ mile drive back home.

That's all for this post my friends. Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Friday, August 20, 2004

Booklist 2004 - Part 5

28. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
by Douglas Adams

It was early May when I read this, the fourth of the five "Hitchhiker" novels and don't remember a lot about it. I do remember Arthur Dent ending up back on Earth, which he thought was destroyed. While back on earth, Dent meets the love of his life, discovers that there are no more dolphins and I vaguely recall that Earth is actually a replica of the original Earth (destroyed in favor of the construction of an intergalactic highway). Though as I write this, the actual book is just out of reach and I am far too lazy to get my ass off the couch to scan it for more accurate information to pass on to you, my faithful reader.

Though not a masterpiece, this book does have is share of Adams sarcastic, humorous brilliance and is just a necessary read to those who've made it through the other Hitchhiker adventures.

29. Napalm & Silly Putty
by George Carlin

This is another round of Carlin being Carlin. Short rants, one liners, and a host of strong opinions with an awful lot of laughs. If you enjoyed Carlin's previous book, "Brain Droppings", reviewed in an earlier post, I suspect you'll enjoy this as well. I happen to really like these words that appear in one of the Amazon.com reviews:

Carlin takes no prisoners. I highly recommend these 260 pages of fierce, bleeding-edge social satire and humor. Proof positive that there is true freedom of expression (thank God!) in this country. In any other country they probably would have locked him up a long time ago!

30. 3rd Degree
by James Patterson

This book is the third (and most recent) in the "Women's Murder Club"series co-authored with Andrew Gross. "From the start, the series (1st to Die; 2nd Chance) has felt like high-concept TV with a smart edge, featuring an appealing and reliable cast of four female crime busters (a cop, a prosecutor, a medical examiner, a reporter) who race along byzantine plot lines humming with blood and sex, romance and heartbreak. But Patterson is an author who will detonate readers' presumptions for the sake of story, and in the series' third installment, the prolific author, working with frequent collaborator Gross (The Jester, etc.), defies expectations in a shocking way. Readers will love him for it."(Publishers Weekly)

I fell in love with the four main characters back in 1st to Die (especially Lindsay Boxer, the cop, whose character is so real sometimes you feel like you could touch her). The entire series thus far, including this wonderful book, has the same formulaic pace that makes reading Patterson so much fun. I really love this book as Patterson test's the emotional connection of the reader to his characters by killing off one of them (even Patterson exposed this as part of the press for the book, so I'm not revealing any secrets).

31. Four Blind Mice
by James Patterson

The eighth of the "Alex Cross" novels (for those who've been following along with the posts may be wondering what happened to the sixth and seventh books "Roses are Red" and "Violets are Blue" were terrific as all of the books in this series have been - I had read them a couple of years ago when they were first published) features a series of murders of army wives that appear to have been committed by a good friend of John Sampson (Cross' best friend). However, Sampson is convinced that his friend is being framed and asks Cross to intervene.

The truth that cross discovers actually had me quaking because of the potential reality. Something of an exploration of the old saying that "absolute power corrupts absolutely;" A great, yet somewhat frightening read.

32. Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right
by Al Franken

A hysterical look as the frightening truth of the George Bush administration and the insanity of the right wing media. I enjoyed reading this book as much as it made me feel like someone was scraping at my brain with a plastic fork.

Along with the diatribe there are several enjoyable antics where "Team Franken", basically a group of Harvard interns, push the envelope of comedic expose revealing ugly truths through side-splitting laughter.

33. Icebound
by Dean Koontz

Koontz has been incredibly prolific over his thirty plus year career but this one falls short of a worthy read. I really hate to say it but I hated this book. In fact, I have nothing more to say about it other than if you have any interest, you can follow the amazon.com link to read the reviews there.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Happy Birthday Cuzzup!



(Photo:Cuzzup Birthday in Boston @ Vinny Testa's 2000)

I think it would be best to explain what Cuzzup and more inportantly, who Cuzzup is. First, the word Cuzzup is a derivation of the W A Z Z U P slogan that Budweiser was using in their ad campain some time back (for the record, I would rather die of thirst than drink a Bud - but their ads are funny-sometimes). In a (I really want to use the word serendipitous here but I'm not sure it as appropriate as) coincidental moment where I dialed the phone, it rang, and just as she answered - from the TV in my living room came a WAZZUP and from that moment, CUZZUP was born. Now, for the who...Cuzzup is my cousin, my best freind, Annalisa (or as my aunt would say, A-na-lee-za). I first met my cousin a touch over twenty years ago when she was just seven and I was nineteen. Her family was living in a suburb of Chicago at the time and she came to spend that summer at our house. Throughout that first summer, the pesky little demon seed quickly earned her nickname "DEVIL CHILD". For three summers, my "sweet" little cousin came to Brooklyn and by the time the third summer came around, I was outta there - got my own apartment. I just couldn't take another summer of that little brat.
Fast foward to the summer of 1997. More than ten years had past since I'd seen or heard from her when I get word that Annalisa was getting married. "Holy Shit! was my reaction. the little Devil Child-getting married?" Then, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with my cousin and discovered that my little cousin, the little devil child had grown up. From that point on, we had begun to talk more and more and soon became the best of friends. Funny how time changes things. The fnny thing is, that our reunion, and getting to know Annalisa, the adult taught me more about myself than anything else. Looking back on who I was in the "old days" and my reaction to her just being a kid - it was something of a revelation.

Anyway, I am very proud of my cousin Annalisa and where she has taken her life. We've been pals ever since we hooked up again. Today is Annalisa's 28th birthday - Happy Birthday Cuzz...Here's to another year of good fun, good health, and good times.

Your cousin Chris

P.S. If you happen to need a trailer and live in the southwestern United States, call Trail Boss, the official enclosed trailer of the Manzanita Speedway.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Sleep Disorder

It’s getting to the point where I’m having a difficult time remembering my last good night’s sleep. Of late, getting to sleep has been a chore (as has been staying asleep, but I’ll get to that later). I lay there on the bed doing what I think is expected of me – head on pillow, body under the covers, eyes closed, yet I remain awake; my brain on overdrive.

I then attempt to fatigue my brain by making up wacky songs and performing complex calculations involving large numbers (no scientific notation), an occasional decimal point (or fraction), and the alphabet; yet sleep continues to elude me.

On occasion, I’ll get out of bed and wander into the office to noodle around on the ‘net for a while in hope that my tired body can convince my brain that it’s bed time. Of course, once I finally get back to the bed I must either repeat the craziness described above or repeat some twisted mantra while doing breathing exercises in hopes of relieving excess stress (did I just say excess stress?) and anxiety. Eventually, there comes a point where body and mind simply collapse from their conscious state – and the nightmares begin.

Somewhere within the boundaries of the unconscious state my body and mind have surrendered to, lives an evil director of dreams daring to destroy what semblance of sleep I’ve found. In one nefarious nightmare, I find myself running to the bathroom and upon arrival, discover the porcelain pond and pending stream of unconsciousness is actually a subconscious trigger to activate consciousness (at a most unreasonable hour) so that the river of dreams is correctly deposited in the appropriate receptacle in the conscious world (I knew having a bathroom in the bedroom would pay off). Can you guess what happens on my return to bed?

The physical body, barely able to function, far beyond exhaustion, begs the brain to simply shut itself off. Unfortunately, another round of nocturnal nonsense, delirious doggerel, and the ever popular mind math lead the way to the next wave of unconsciousness. The nightmares begin again; perhaps one of the worst nightmares of all.

I actually have this dream that the alarm clock is buzzing which forces a battle between my unconscious state and my looming conscious awareness of the symbolic nature of an active alarm. At this point, I need to sort out whether or not I awaken within my dream or from it. Not sure if this is even possible, I ultimately awaken from both – twice as confused, twice as distressed, twice as tired, and twice as frustrated as a gander at the actual alarm clock (which requires a series of eye rubs and fumbling for my glasses often resulting in a painful toe stubbing incident and/or the dropping of a poorly placed cup of water) indicates a ridiculous hour usually somewhere between four and five in the morning. With the actual alarm set to sound at six, the race is on to maximize what little time is left to rest this weary existence.

As I struggle to find the right body position, the last cool spot on the pillow, and the correct combination of collective bargaining between mind and body forcing a final collapse into yet another various version of a sleep state, a very conscious awareness of the pending unconsciousness occurs as my mind wrestles with the concept that now more than ever, time is of the essence.

I finally find myself falling into the deepest sleep of the long night when once again, the ringing of an alarm and the roar of the radio fill the room with unwelcome decibels signaling the start of a new day as I arise into my state of confused consciousness wondering how am I to make it through another day. It is in fact during one of these periods of confusion in which I found the clarity of mind to write this essay. I am left now with just enough time to ponder what lies ahead only a few hours from now as the vicious cycle inevitably will begin once more.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Booklist 2004 - Part 4

22. Life the Universe and Everything
by Douglas Adams

The third of the five volume "Hitchhiker's Trilogy" loses a bit of the momentum in terms of story that the first two books build to, but continues to provide the hilarious moments we've come to expect from the characters that by this point, we've come to love.

Here's a book description extracted from Amazon.com that pretty much sums us my own sentiments and points of interest with this book:

"HYSTERICAL!" - The Philadelphia Inquirer...The unhappy inhabitants of planet Krikkit are sick of looking at the night sky above their heads--so they plan to destroy it. The universe, that is. Now only five individuals stand between the white killer robots of Krikkit and their goal of total annihilation. They are Arthur Dent, a mild-mannered space and time traveler, who tries to learn how to fly by throwing himself at the ground and missing (this reminds me of my the brilliant Michael and his terrific blog Notes from a Darkened Room. Please stop by there - I assure you it will be worth your time); Ford Prefect, his best friend, who decides to go insane to see if he likes it (I like this idea but I think I might be too far gone already); Slartibartfast, the indomitable vice president of the Campaign for Real Time, who travels in a ship powered by irrational behavior; Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed, three-armed ex-head honcho of the Universe; and Trillian, the sexy space cadet who is torn between a persistent Thunder God and a very depressed Beeblebrox. How will it all end? Will it end? Only this stalwart crew knows as they try to avert "universal" Armageddon and save life as we know it--and don't know it!

I'm not sure if the story line here is less that what I wished it to be or the characters and there histrionics were so exaggerated, interesting, and funny that they forced the main story into the background. Either way, I'd find it hard not to recommend especially if you've read the first two.

23. Brain Droppings
by George Carlin

For the most part, this is a written collection of some of Carlin's stand-up material that he's been performing since the late sixties. As a big George Carlin fan, I was familiar with much of it but of course, still find it funny.

I found this book fun to read for a number of reasons (other than my devotion to Carlin's comedy material). First, I love to laugh and often need to. Picking up this book during one of those necessary times where laughter was needed, laughter was provided in short, easy to read chunks that make it worthy of leaving a copy in reaching distance. Be forewarned that Carlin is a man of opinion that may harshly differ from yours. You do need to have an open mind and the occasional ability to actually think about some of his commentaries.

24. The Great Bridge
by David McCullough

I grew up in Brooklyn and as such, heard many folktales, stories, myths, and so-called historical facts about the Brooklyn Bridge. As a grown man, when I found a book about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge written by one of the most respected historical authors in the world, I had to read it.

An exhaustive account of an engineering marvel that (not unlike today) was plagued with difficulties from corruption, politics, and egos (I guess it's true that history seems to repeat itself). What I found most interesting, other that how they were able to accomplish such magnificence in engineering without the "high-tech" equipment of today, is the incredible similarities that make such a project difficult.

The book was quite long and though interesting at most times to me, occasionally lost me in some of the explicit detail regarding the personalities (especially the Roebling family), the politics, and the engineering. Having read what I just wrote, it almost seems that the same thing that makes the book interesting is what makes it boring at times - if you can figure that out, you'll understand what I am trying to say.

25. Pop Goes the Weasel
by James Patterson

In this fifth book in the Alex Cross series, Patterson delivers a formulaic thriller featuring the evil Geoffrey Shaffer, a British Diplomat known as "The Weasel." Along with three equally menacing figures, a group known as "The Four Horsemen" embark in a real life role-play that gets way out of hand eventually jeopardizing Alex Cross, his family, and his relationship.

The Alex Cross novels are just a great way to escape and are just great to read. I can't say enough good things about them.

26. The Best American Travel Writing 2000
edited by Bill Bryson

An eclectic collection of enthralling essays edited by the premier author in the genre of travel writing. I really love this genre and enjoyed reading these short stories about the kind of adventures and experiences that stimulate the senses; a very worthy read.

27. Howling at the Moon
by Walter Yetnikoff

I love music. I love the stories of the music business from the good to the bad and the pretty to the ugly. The one-hit wonders, the superstars, the egos, the drugs and self-destruction. I love it, I love it, I love it. Walter Yetnikoff was the president of CBS records during a pivotal time in the history of popular music as defined by my generation. I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who shares my passion for music.

Here is the Publishers Weekly review which I found to be worthy of reprinting as it echoes my views more eloquently that I can at this moment in time:

This memoir by Yetnikoff, the former president of CBS Records, may lead to hipsters changing the phrase "partying like a rock star" to "partying like the president of a record label." After joining CBS in 1962, Yetnikoff, who guided the careers of Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, among others, became addicted to power, sex, drugs and alcohol as he gave himself over to the everything-in-excess rock and roll lifestyle. Recruited to CBS by fellow lawyer and future music mogul Clive Davis, Yetnikoff, with the help of right-hand man Tommy Mottola, alternated between swinging deals and pissing off a who's who of entertainment's elite including Michael Eisner, David Geffen, Michael Ovitz and Steve Ross. Though once in a while it feels as if he is a name dropper of the highest level, Yetnikoff shows an unguarded side of musicians that the public rarely sees. Similarly, he sometimes still feels the need to prove he did the most coke or had the most sex, but for the most part the story of his downward spiral, which leads to losing his job and family and brings him to the edge of death, is captivating and even occasionally touching. Thanks to coauthor and music writer Ritz, the book maintains its fast pace and conversational style from start to finish so that, in the end, Yetnikoff's raucous life story becomes a cautionary tale, with a steady backbeat.

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Random Ramblings and Nonsensical Nonsense

Today, while cleaning my office, actually, rearranging things on the top of my bookshelf, I found an old college notebook with some scribblings that I will share with you here.

#1: I clearly wrote this for someone who was going through something. I have no recollection who or what, but here it is:

Sometimes you get the blues
and getting your shit together
can be kinda rough
sometimes it even gets to the point
where it seems the
ones who love you most can't help-
no matter how hard they try.

Just remember, I know the feeling-
I know it well enough to describe it.
The only thing I can say is
be strong-hang in there,
and stick with it.
It'll be alright-and those
who love you will be there for
you all the way through.

* * * * * * * * * *

#2: This is clearly a verse from what never (yet) became a poem or song lyric:

you've had your heart broken
saw it lie there on the floor
but instead of saying enough is enough
you went right back for more

* * * * * * * * * *

#3:Okay, this is hard but I did always say this blog is about me being me and sharing the good and bad. I've written a lot of sappy stuff but this is just plain nauseating as I read it tonight. Perhaps I'm just in a bad mood-who knows. I still feel it's my duty to share this because that's what this is all about - a personal cleansing if you will...here goes (don't say I didn't warn you):

Dated 11-6-1989 (Exactly one month before my 25th Birthday, which makes this even more pathetic)

A vast oasis-
Beauty and grace that none have known before
white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters-
consistently perfect weather
The beauty of the sunrise and the
equal beauty of the sunset.

I know it sounds like it's too good to be true-
But if you could imagine the pleasure
of being able to live in this oasis-
you know how much pleasure I feel
having you in my life.
I Love You.

[Are you still with me? Holy crap that was about as pathetic as one can be. However, going by the date alone, I can verify with full honesty, that as a result of this load of applesauce, I actually got the girl!!!]

* * * * * * * * * *

#4: A simple quote that I am certain many can relate to:

"I'm most civil when I don't look or play the part." (Christopher Daniele)

* * * * * * * * * *

#5: Here's a quote that had me laughing for days after I first heard it. I was in grad school taking a research class when the librarian came and gave a presentation. While talking of particular research methods and materials, he uttered the following:

"Topics such as Education, Technology, Abortion, France, whatever..." (Jeff Feinsilver 9/2/1991)

* * * * * * * * * *

#6: A classic quote that I continue to find entertaining:

"An expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less until eventually, they know everything about nothing."

* * * * * * * * * *

#7: A condom joke I wrote (sometime in the early nineties):

Guy says to his girlfriend, "Do I have to wear a condom? I can't feel anything when I wear one." Girlfriend replies, "Good, then we'll be even for a change."

* * * * * * * * * *

#7: Not sure what was going through my head when I wrote the following, but here goes:

Trying to Find
Death in Birth
We Seek Life
And it Ends
We Live For
What is It
When and Who
We Don't Decide
Time is A
Decision for
Us Not to
We are Born
We are Life
We Don't Die
We Live Again

* * * * * * * * * *

That's all for now. Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Something's Gotta Give

Have any of you seen this movie? I just love surprises, and one of my favorite surprises is watching a movie that actually lives up to its hype (people were going on and on about this one) – and more. This was an absolutely fantastic piece of film making from the writing, cinematography, directing, and acting.

First off, it’s a movie for adults. That’s not a swipe at anybody, it’s just that the themes and storylines would seemingly have no interest to a younger crowd. Jack Nicholson plays Harry Sanborn, “a perennial playboy with a libido much younger than his years.” Somewhere along the way however, the 63 year old has a coming of age revelation along with an unexpected twist of fate that both saves his live, and changes it. Frances McDormand is convincing in her rather minimal supporting role as the feminist sister of Diane Keaton’s character adding color and back story dialog while Amanda Peet plays the perky, attractive, free spirited, daughter who brings the Harry Sanborn character, more than 30 years her elder, into her mother’s beach house for what she thought would be a private weekend getaway; until the unexpected arrival of her mother and aunt, which simply starts a string of wonderful film moments that provide emotional range, thought provoking dialogue, and a sweet, romantic ending that brought a big goofy grin to my face (and I’m betting will do so to yours).

If I have any criticism whatsoever, it would only be one based on a personal quirk. The casting of Keanu Reeves as the young, nice doctor whose character is a necessary and delightful part of the film; yet unless he is playing an evil twisted menace like the Donnie Barksdale character in The Gift, he just isn’t totally convincing to me. I must be fair though, he did do a good job in this movie, and I just would have believed it more if it were someone like Greg Kinnear or Hank Azaria in the role (but that’s just my opinion). I’m giving this movie 5 out of 5 (pick your own cutsie units) and calling it a must see.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Booklist 2004 - Part 3

14. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams

I first read this book in college along with the other books in what was then a three-book trilogy. In true Adams tradition however, he wrote two additional books in "the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy." I decided that since it had been so many years since I read the original three books, I’d reread them before taking on the two I hadn’t read. As of this writing, I’ve read four of the five, all of which will be covered as these reviews continue.

I recall the first time I read this book while on the subway going to school and just laughing uncontrollably as the New York City straphangers feared for their safety and my sanity. All these years later, I found myself once more laughing till it hurt reading about Arthur Dent and his outer space adventures along with the wackiest cast of characters an imagination can conjure.

The story is unique and funny, the characters are whimsical, the adventures are hilarious, and the humor is sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, witty, and just plain gut-busting. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite laughs as the book describes the entry for alcohol in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a direct competitor to the hugely selling Encyclopedia Galactica. “The best drink in existence is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. It says the effect of drinking a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.” You just have to love this stuff!

15. The Stone Cold Truth
by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin

Another pro-wrestling autobiography - this time chronicling the life and career of Texas native Steve Williams who became wrestling legend, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and helped to change the face of pro-wrestling in the modern era. Wrestling fans will enjoy the details of Austin’s career in the wresting business but many of the stories here fall short and seem to end just before the good parts.

16. Music City Babylon
by Scott Faragher

Having worked as a booking agent in Nashville, this country music insider offers his bias of how things “really work” behind the scenes. A look at the popular figures in the country music business, their (alleged) attitudes and “quirks” behind the scenes, and the music industry in general (particularly the world of booking) is offered from what seemed like an angry man with an axe to grind and a lot of bad feelings. If you can get beyond the bias, it’s an interesting read, though currently out of print – you’ll have to find it at a library or in a closeout bin.

17. Cat & Mouse
by James Patterson

The fourth installment in the Alex Cross Series (discussed in previous posts), Patterson reprises psycho villain Gary Soneji along a European nut job counterpart (Mr. Smith) and provides a terrific twist that’ll keep you guessing and have you on the edge of your seat. This book is another winner by Patterson though at times is quite graphic and disturbing.

18. The Five People You Meet in Heaven
by Mitch Albom

I’ll start by saying this is a great book and a must read. I feel this book is going to affect different people in different ways – all of them wonderful, inspiring, uplifting, and motivational. The main character, Eddie, in death, finally comes to terms with who he was and what his place was in the world.

To those who’ve ever pondered the question “If I die tomorrow, will I have left my mark on the world? Will I have left anything memorable behind? Did I really accomplish anything? A unique and interest look at the answers to these questions from the other side through the eyes of a man who could represent any of us in our lives.

This book is another quick read, as was Albom’s previous book, the ever popular Tuesday’s with Morrie (another must read).

19. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
by Douglas Adams

This second book in the Hitchhiker’s “trilogy” takes us along with Arthur Dent and friends through a whole new set of insane adventure while trying to find the question to “the answer of life (which is of course, 42).” Yet another side splitter.

20. The View from Nashville
by Ralph Emery

With nearly a half-century in the country music business, Emery tells some of his favorite stories about some of Nashville’s most popular artists. Though seemingly egotistical at times, the stories are interesting (provided you are a fan of country music) and easy to read. This is probably more information than most need or want, but I read most of this book in the bathroom.

21. Invitation to a Beheading
by Vladimir Nabokov

I was participating in a book group discussion when the conversation took an interesting twist, and a colleague mentioned this title and its unusual concept. I’m not sure if I can intelligently put into words an accurate description of this book but I can tell you it was unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The title above will link you to Amazon.com where you can read some interesting commentary and facts on the book and judge for yourself. What I found particularly interesting is that this book was originally written in Russian and later translated by Nabokov’s son Dmitiri; and happens to use the English language with a grace and eloquence that left me breathless (when I wasn’t laughing or feeling bad for poor old Cincinnatus).

---Addition, 8/11/2004. After rereading this, my lack of efficient brain cells and apparent fatigue really left the commentary for this wonderful book short of what is deserved. I highly recommend this very unique book and offer the following synopsis extracted from this web site:

Like Kafka's The Castle, Invitation to a Beheading embodies a vision of a bizarre and irrational world. In an unnamed dream country, the young man Cincinnatus C. is condemned to death by beheading for "gnostical turpitude." an imaginary crime that defies definition. Cincinnatus spends his last days in an absurd jail, where he is visited by chimerical jailers. an executioner who masquerades as a fellow prisoner, and by his in-laws. who lug their furniture with them into his cell. When Cincinnatus is led out to be executed. he simply wills his executioners out of existence: they disappear, along with the whole world they inhabit.

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Exhaustion and Good Times

That's me folks, exhausted. Last week was a bit on the busy side for me and I am feeling the effects this weekend. Friday was a definite high point when our friends Jenn & Steve came over for a visit. Victoria had a great time as she always does, easily grabbing as much attention from as many people as possible. Coercing me into letting her keep my harmonica (which I was never very good at), Vickie, on her first ever try was playing like a champ entertaining the four adults.

Starting off the evening with some nice conversation and a few beers (Buzzard's Bay), I proceeded to grill up some beautiful 16oz. Rib Eye Steaks and some Corn on the Cob with garlic butter while Steve was entertaining Victoria and Jenn and Lucy were making plans to redecorate our house. Of course, once dinner came, so did the first bottle of wines, a pleasant Zinfandel courtesy of our delightful guests. It was a nice dinner with great conversation and just enough Vickie for added cuteness.

Shortly after dinner, bottle of wine number two was popped open while Victoria was put to bed two hours after her usual bedtime (that of course didn't deter her from waking us up at an ungodly hour while trying to sleep in a bit). It has quickly become tradition when Jenn & Steve come over for dinner for us to enjoy some fun and frivolity by playing games. We changed things up a bit as they brought over a neat little game called Scene It. This board based game uses a die to determine how far you advance on the board, while using a second, three dimensional-triangular shaped die (I don't recall how many sides it had) to determine which type of question or circumstance you must endure to continue with your turn. One of the neat features is the game uses a DVD with tons of movie clips that many of the questions are based on. It was lots of fun to play (for the record Jenn won).

After Scene It, we moved on to our old favorite, UNO. Uno is just a simple card game that turns into a really fun time with the four of us (and the warm fuzzy effects of the spirits of the evening). Amidst the game however, Friday had long become Saturday and it was time to place this wonderful visit along side the others in area of our hearts and minds that store the good ones.

Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Friday, August 06, 2004

The Strength in Me

Back in 1990, during a lapse in judgment in my mid 20's, I was going to marry this girl who I ended up not marrying, and not even really knowing (blinded by lust) after more than two years together. However, that is all a story for another time. There was a point back then where we planned an entire wedding, for which there is commonly a point in which the groom has a dance with his mother. I thought it would be a nice idea instead of using the typical, cheesy, wedding songbook selection, that I would write my own song to dance with my mom. From that thought came a song called "The Strength in Me". Here are the lyrics:

The Strength in Me
(C)1990 Christopher Daniele

You raised me, and nurtured me
You held me in your arms
You sheltered me from the cold, cruel world
You kept me safe and warm

You were the star, that guided me
You were the light that shined on me
You are the reason I can be
You are the strength in me

It was always you who believed
In the power of my mind
You taught me all the questions
To the answers I needed to find

It was your courage that inspired me
You paved the way, then set me free
You are the reason I can be
You are the strength in me

You were the star, that guided me
You were the light that shined on me
You are the reason I can be
You are the strength in me

Now the time has finally come for me
to start a family of my own
Using all you've taught me
as the foundation for my home

And if one day my children could say to me
What I'm saying to you tonight
Then I'll know for sure
That I raised them right

You were the star, that guided me
You were the light that shined on me
You are the reason I can be
You are the strength in me

Needless to say, that relationship ended and though Ispent insane money on the wedding, we fortunately never got married. Today, I write this post 14 years later; I've been happily married for a bit over two years - but unfortunately, both of my parents had to attend the wedding from the "sky-boxes" as they have both passed on.

My family was never really the touchy-feely type, we never really said things like "I Love You". Though I sometimes wonder if they knew for sure, I need to believe they knew how much I admired and loved them.

Until next time, May God Bless you All!

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Booklist 2004 - Part 2

6. The Alchemist
by Paulo Coleho

This book literally just fell into my hands one day, which I took as a sign that I should read it; and I am glad that I did. The Alchemist is a “fable about following your dream” but it is so much more than just the words of the many who’ve read this timeless classic can articulate. This story, though distinct in it’s ultimate lesson, lends itself to be interpreted by the journey of its reader, which makes it unique in that it is both the same, yet different for each who reads it.

I have fallen in love with this story of the young shepherd Santiago and his all too familiar thoughts, feelings, and dreams. Spiritually uplifting, yet challenging to those who dare put themselves in young Santiago’s place during his beautiful quest. If I only had to recommend one book this year, this would be the one.

7. The Mask
by Dean Koontz

This is one of Koontz’ older works originally published in 1981 under the pseudonym Owen West. I don’t actually remember a lot about this one since I read it back in February; which may not be such a good sign. I do remember it having some interestingly suspenseful moments but what comes back to me most of all is that I remember thinking it would make a much better premise for a screenplay than a novel.

Both “Dragon Tears” and “From the Corner of His Eye” are other Koontz titles that come to mind that I enjoyed thoroughly though I can’t help but want to take on the project of adapting The Mask into a screenplay.

8. Don’t Know Much About History
by Kenneth C. Davis

I remember actually fearing the fact that I had to take World History I and II in order to get my college degree and intentionally didn’t register for those classes hoping that somehow the curriculum would change just in time. Ultimately, I waited until the last possible semester and of course, had to take both due to the unfortunate circumstance that I had no incriminating evidence on the administrative staff who could have waived me from these important classes. I was fortunate as well to have two great professors who taught me a lot about how to understand and learn about history.

Nearly twenty years later, I have this deep urge to re-study American history so that I don’t feel like an ass if my daughter were to ask me questions that I had no clue as to how to answer. Don’t know much about history is an appropriate title for this book because it actually details the way things actually happened as opposed to the slick, “produced” fables of the classic textbooks of my youth. A well written, well told story that covers more than 500 years of American history in an easy to read, easy to understand, thought provoking, often opinionated, tome. Anyone with an open mind and the desire to learn about the fascinating facts of American History and have a grater understanding of the need for historical record will find this to be a treasure.

9. The Lost Continent
by Bill Bryson

Reminiscing of his younger days growing up in Des Moines, Iowa and his frugal father’s idea of a vacation; that is, R O A D T R I P. Oh, but not just any road trip, apparently Bryson’s dad had a knack for finding peculiar places across the Midwestern United States and beyond.

Witty, sarcastic, nostalgic, often unusual, and just plain funny, this book provided cover to cover enjoyment and chock full of classic, memorable quotes (such as "I will say this, however--and it's a strange, strange thing--the teenaged daughters of these fat women are always utterly delectable ... I don't know what it is that happens to them, but it must be awful to marry one of those nubile cuties knowing that there is a time bomb ticking away in her that will at some unknown date make her bloat out into something huge and grotesque, presumably all of a sudden and without much notice, like a self-inflating raft from which the pin has been yanked."). Here, Bryson takes us to the type of places that people don’t usually visit intentionally. I simply love this man’s sense of humor, and writing.

10. Jack & Jill
by James Patterson

In this third book in the Alex Cross series Patterson shines as a storyteller with plenty of fast-paced action told in short, easy-to-read chapters that make it very difficult to put down.

One of the unique angles in the Alex Cross series is the depth to which we learn of the Cross household. Two young children and his ageless grandmother help to intensify the complexity of the Cross character as he splits his overwhelming dedication to his family and his work.

11. All Souls: A Family Story from Southie
by Michael Patrick Macdonald

A memoir of his youth, and growing up in the projects of South Boston, Macdonald tells his story of brotherhood and neighborhood from a place where organized crime, racism, drugs, and street gangs are in constant battle with family, friendship and the American dream.

I selected this book to read because it was used as part of the “One Book” project at the community college where I work. Though raw and powerful at times, I found myself questioning the integrity of the stories and the moral character of the Macdonald family. In all fairness, I know nothing of the time and place discussed in the book, but the storytelling was so over the top at times, I couldn’t tell if it was impassioned, or just bad, over the top writing. I also found it hard to feel bad (and yes, I felt like the author was looking for that) when they really just could have left if it was as awful as described.

One of the more unusual “characters’ in the book was Mrs. Macdonald, the author’s mother. I seem to recall hearing that in the eyes of a child, a mother can do no wrong. In the case of this family though, the children really had to have been completely blind, deaf, and flat out stupid. Though dedicated to seeing to her children’s needs, this woman…I really don’t want to be disrespectful of someone’s mother, so let me just say, she got around. I really felt this book was a complete waste of time but in all fairness to my own ignorance, for those who were a part of those days in South Boston, you may choose to venture through these pages just to see if it’s what you remember.

12. I’m a Stranger Here Myself
by Bill Bryson

When Bryson returned to live in America (after two decades in England), he was asked to write a (I think it was weekly) column for a newspaper. After a hysterical introduction telling us how he just couldn’t take on this task at this time, he somehow gets “suckered” into the job and begins to tell stories of the rediscovery of his homeland. Very short chapters that seemingly equate to individual columns tell sometimes compelling, always hilarious stories. On average, this book provides at least one laugh per page. If you like to laugh, get this book.

13. Jewish as a Second Language
by Molly Katz

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I often joke that I am 100% Italian-American (my ethnic descent) and 50% Jewish. Not only does Brooklyn have a high concentration of Jewish people, but many different sects within the Jewish religion and culture. I found this book to be a funny look back at the cultural nuances I was witness to by someone who actually can explain the meaning of them, and make me laugh as well.

Another similarly funny book that I read a few years back is called “How to Talk Jewish” by comedian Jackie Mason. In How to Talk Jewish, Mason explores the language and vocabulary rooted in Yiddish, from literal to interpretive translations all told in his familiar comic voice.

That's all for this time. Until next time, May God Bless You All!

Sunday, August 01, 2004

A Class Act moves on to Chicago (and other memories)

I love New England and the city of Boston. However, having grown up in New York City, I remain forever a New York Yankees fan. Beyond my dedication and fanaticism to the Yankees, I am a diehard fan of the game, the sport of baseball. Sadly, it was in my lifetime when the sport I love so dearly put sportsmanship on the backburner to business enterprise and ticket prices rose, salaries went into the stratosphere, and corporate sponsorship reached new heights by taking over the actual names of the ball parks. Yet, with the exception of a one year boycott after the last player strike, I have been watching the game of baseball since I could remember. In fact, I actually taught the finer points of the game to my dad who emigrated from Italy in 1955 (he was a professional soccer player there) while he insisted I watch soccer on the Spanish stations (what a hoot that was for me, especially since they were speaking in either Spanish or Italian).

Easily the most difficult part of living in this town is being a Yankee fan (granted, it would probably be difficult for a Red Sox fan to live in NY, but for very different reasons). I will admit that the Red Sox have a fan base known for their loyalty, but they really have a huge chip on their shoulder for the fact that their team last won the championship in 1918; the Yankees have won 26 championships in that time. Now before you critics start in with the old moneybags Steinbrenner (referring to principal owner of the NY Yankees, George Steinbrenner) and how he just "buys" championships, the Yankees have won 6 of their 26 World Series under his ownership; so SHUT UP with that already. And before I go any further, I do not hate the Red Sox, at least not in the same way that so many of the Red Sox fans spout absurd comments such as "Yankees Suck". For instance, Johnny Damon, one of my favorite ball players, is a Red Sock (???Could this be the correct wording???) . Here is a guy who clearly eats, sleeps, and breathes the game of baseball. Anyway, before this post just goes completely away from what it's title implies, I'll stop ranting and move along.

Yesterday, Nomar Garciappara was traded to the Chicago Cubs. Nomar, a ten year veteran and lifelong Red Sock (until yesterday), epitomizes what a professional athlete should be - work hard, play hard, be true to your game and true to your fans and your team. Nomar always gave his all and got on that field day after day playing to win at all costs. Unfortunately, Nomar was never appreciated by his team for his efforts and even though he clearly has a great fan base here in bean town, dare I say he didn't always get the respect he deserved from them as well. I hope that Nomar will receive the respect he deserves in Chicago. Furthermore, I hope the fans in this city take a cold, hard look at what they've lost.

Until next time, May God Bless You All!