Category Archives: January

With Every Mistake We Must Surely Be Learning

So. I actually made it an entire month. I’m actually kind of impressed with myself. It’s been a little harder than I thought.

Some days it’s easy. I decide what I’m writing about, start typing, and when I’ve said all I want to say, I have like 600 words. I don’t know if that’s a gift or not, but I know it’s certainly a curse for all of you.

Other days it’s really difficult. Time sometimes isn’t on my side; other days there’s nothing going on in the world to write about. I thought I would keep a file of writing ideas, except there are currently two things in it. So that worked out real well.

So what have I learned? For one, that I may have bitten off more than I can chew. However, I’ll keep chewing until…okay this analogy is already off the rails. You get the idea.

The Words of the Prophets Are Written on the Subway Walls

For work, I had the occasion to travel to New York today. Now, I’ve been on a number of public transit systems, and I have to say, New York’s got a good one. The website is kind of intimidating for a novice, but once I had the route explained to me, I got from Penn Station to where I was going easy-peasy.

It kind of amazes me how many subway lines there are, mixing with shuttles and regional rail…I mean, that’s a lot of track to 1) lay, and 2) keep straight.

The problem is, I drive a lot. I much prefer it to buses and subways. I could never live in New York. But next time I’m there, I have like eight bucks on a fare card.

So there’s that.

If the Sun Comes Up Tomorrow, Let Her Be

We had a brief “90s Tuesday” at work today.  All that means is we played some 90s music.  But that got me to thinking…it’s funny how we pigeonhole music into certain decades like that, isn’t it?

Like, for instance, I love “80s music.”  When I say that, I mean a certain style of music: ridiculous synthesizers, kind-of-forced epicness, all that stuff that goes along with music made predominantly in the 1980s.  In reality, there is music from that decade that could have been made at any time, but we always have certain things we’re looking for in the back of our minds when say “80s music.”  Like Bon Jovi, for instance.  They made lots of music in the 80s, but I wouldn’t ever call them an “80s band.”  I’m talking Flock of Seagulls, Wang Chung…those are 80s bands.

So today, we listened to Hootie & the Blowfish, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and even a quick snippet of Hanson.  These are all groups that continued making music into the 2000s, but we associated them with the 90s, so they counted.  We would have had some Third Eye Blind, a group who had maybe one CD in the 90s, as well, but we kind of lost interest in the concept before we got to them.

The point is, we classify music into genres based on what it sounds like: rock, rap, country, techno, metal, etc.  But we also classify it by when it was made, even though any given decade gave birth to hundreds of popular songs across many different genres.  In what playlist does “Let Her Cry” follow “I Wish” by Skee-Lo?  A 90s playlist.  And my iPod.

(The other point is, I just woke up from a surprise nap and didn’t have anything in mind to write about.)

All Debts Are Removed

Movie review, Broken City, spoiler alert, stop reading, etc. etc.

* * *

I saw Broken City the other night.  What did I think?  ::sigh:: Man, this is hard!

• All right, look: I like “thrillers,” and movies with intrigue.  This film had some intrigue, except that it didn’t let the intrigue develop or last very long; and beyond that, it was kind of predictable.  At least, I thought so.  When the Mayor of New York (Russell Crowe) pays ex-cop-turned-private investigator Mark Wahlberg to find the man who is sleeping with his wife (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones…more on her later), well, it can’t possibly be that simple, can it?  Of course not, because we all saw the commercials.  I’m really starting to dislike how I can figure out plot twists before the movie starts simply because I paid attention during a trailer.

• Zeta-Jones is in the movie for like 10 minutes.  I heard some commentary that said she was “in a different movie” and I totally get it.  Her scenes – the ones where she speaks, as opposed to the ones where she gets followed, or sneaks off with Kyle Chandler – are fairly ancillary and unnecessary.  Here we have an award-winning actress, and it’s entirely possible that she filmed everything in one day and then cashed her check.  They could have had literally anyone play that part.

• There was one scene featuring Chandler (campaign manager for mayoral candidate Jack Valliant) and Barry Pepper (mayoral candidate Jack Valliant) where Pepper demands some dirt on the mayor.  Chandler reminds him how he got to where he is – the issues – and that that’s how he’s going to win.  A genuinely good scene.  So of course 1) Chandler ends up dead, and 2) turns out to be Valliant’s lover.  I think.  It’s kind of implied, but never outright declared.  I kind of liked that; as if to say, “these two men are together, just as this man and woman are, and that man and woman are.”  As if it doesn’t matter.

• Speaking of a man and woman being together…the relationship between Wahlberg’s character and his actress wife unravels in a hurry.  There is no indication of any problem, then he decides that she’s sleeping with her co-star and starts hitting the bottle again.  Oh, okay.

• That being said, the beginning and end of the film tie in together and we get a resolution; it may not be happy, necessarily, but it’s fair and just and allows Marky Mark to redeem his fallen hero.

In between all of that is your standard “the mayor’s a crook/he’s selling off land to his cronies and himself” plot.  Again, I like that kind of stuff, but prefer it to be fleshed out more, so that even if I can’t figure out what’s about to happen, I at least have some time to.  So all told, I guess I liked the story, but something about how it was told rubs me the wrong way.

(I should really use some sort of stars/thumbs system.)

Tell Me What the Name of This Is

I’ll admit I don’t watch a ton of commercials; usually I ignore them, because they just get in the way.  The networks have to pay the bills, blah blah blah, yeah I get it.  Whatever, not my problem.

Of the commercials I do see, however, my absolute least favorite are the ones for various different medications.  They’re always the same: show people being happy and healthy and having fun, then tell the viewer to ask their doctor about ________.  NOWHERE IN YOUR COMMERCIAL DID YOU TELL ME WHAT YOUR DRUG IS FOR.  If I was making a car commercial, and turned in a spot that didn’t show the car, I would be fired.  Yet somehow, all you get is a name – Celebrex, Claritin, Bleepblopmorphin, and you’re supposed to just bug your doctor.

So stupid.

I Will Follow You, Will You Follow Me?

I had intended to watch Fox’s new serial killer drama, “The Following,” but instead watched a basketball game. Eh, that’ll happen.

However, thanks to the beauty of “on demand,” I watched the premiere tonight. I don’t have a lot of thoughts, but I feel like this is going to be a show that I merely think is “all right,” yet still have to watch every episode of. I hate when that happens. I used to like “Nip/Tuck” and watched it every week. Then I kind of got tired of it, but still watched it even though I kind of hated myself for it.

Anyway, I feel like they did too much in the first episode. Like, I appreciate exposition more than the next person, so I have no problem with saving some stuff for episodes two through 10. However, I feel like most folks would get bored; people want stuff to happen RIGHT NOW EVERY WEEK C’MON C’MON C’MON NOW NOW! Not me. Sorry.

I also thought Kevin Bacon was essentially doing an impression of David Caruso in CSI: Miami. Except where Caruso would deliver his lines with more cheese than a fondue pot (“He’s teaching him…how to be…::glasses off::…a serial killer.” YEEEEEAHHHHHH!), Bacon says the big lines very matter-of-factly (“He’s teaching him how to be a serial killer. Hey, where’s that coffee I asked for?”).

So yeah. Maybe I’ll write about the show, maybe I won’t. Regardless, I will watch it, and it will make me mad. Guaranteed.

Blue Moon, I Saw You Standing Alone

I’m really tired and don’t have any thrilling ideas to write about, so I thought I’d instead share a story that I submitted for a “listener mail”-type section of a podcast I listen to.  It’s about how I came to choose my favorite soccer club, and how another member of my family had chosen his.  He chose incorrectly.

* * *

I had always played soccer as a youngster, as part of the local youth league and, later, my middle school team.  I enjoyed the game, but as MLS was still in its infancy, and my hometown did not yet have a team, it was difficult for me to follow.

That changed when I went off to college in 2002.  On the heels of Team USA’s appearance in the quarterfinals at that year’s World Cup (an event that has long been my favorite in all of sport), and with the internet readily available and a lot of time on my hands, I was able to follow the game overseas.  But I needed a club.  So I did some research; I knew I didn’t want a “big” club, but I also didn’t want to go digging around the lower divisions.  Members of my favorite band often spoke of their love of their favorite club, so I looked into it.  To me, the struggles of the club, and its inferiority complex, seemed to mirror those of my local sports teams.  I looked at photos and saw the kit and it just looked right.  And thus, the most important decision of my freshman year of college was made.  I was a Blue.  A Sky Blue.

A Manchester City Blue.

I checked scores on matchdays, read articles, learned the roster.  Seeing the matches remained difficult, but I did the best I could to keep up with the squad.  Plus, it felt good to say when I saw some clown in an Arsenal shirt that I was “City ‘Til I Die.”

By senior year, I knew enough about what was going on at the club to be considered about as “true” a supporter as a 22-year-old American guy who had barely seen a match can be.  Over the Christmas break, I sat down with my father to watch a documentary made by my favorite band, Oasis.  The Gallagher brothers had been instrumental in my selection of City, and I got a chuckle out of the graphics on the screen identifying those who were speaking as “Cool Blues” and “Dirty Reds.”  My father asked me what that meant; I told him that I could only presume it correlated with their choice of football club.

That was when he said the words that changed everything forever: “Oh, well I guess I’m a ‘Dirty Red’ then.”  My dad had a favorite club as well, and it was Manchester United.  My God.

As far as I knew, my father’s affinity for soccer ended at the same time as my sister’s middle school career.  Since then, the only relationship he had to the game was his emergency gall bladder surgery that forced me to watch the Americans’ win over Mexico in the 2002 World Cup from a hospital waiting room.

I asked what drove him to the dark side.  He was a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL, and the owners of the team, the Glazers, owned United; thus, he heard about the club and began to follow it.  Not intensely, but still, enough to tick me off.

To that point, we had never talked about English football, and I had never mentioned my support of City.  He then reminded me of something that I had completely forgotten about: when I was on a student trip to the UK some years before, I had brought him back a souvenir pen set emblazoned with the Manchester United shield.  The familiarity with the club name, from this souvenir, had combined with United’s ownership situation to create a new supporter.  I was hoist by my own petard.

As the years went on there was minimal trash talk between us on the topic, mostly because I had nothing to crow about.  But once that oil money came in, things began to change.  It all culminated on that glorious day in October of 2011: City 6, United 1.  At Old Trafford, no less.  I called my father at work to make sure he had heard the score.  Then I called him again.  That dirty Red.  He deserved it.

Of course, karma reared its ugly head, leaving City eight points back late in the season.  But just as City manager Roberto Mancini declared United the league champions, a comeback for the ages began.  City pulled level on points and entered the final day of the season in first place on goal differential; the advantage, of course, was a result of that thrashing at Old Trafford.

I had to work that day, but was able to watch the first half of the match before leaving home.  When I got into my car, Pablo Zabaleta had given City a 1-0 lead, and the title was there to be had.  But by the time I had been able to set up the live stream at work, Queens Park Rangers had tallied twice to take the lead, and in typical City fashion, i.e. suffering their sole home defeat of the season to a team in the drop zone to blow the title, it was all to be for naught.  Part of me thought that, thousands of miles away, I had a part in this.  I couldn’t keep my mouth shut after a win in October, and I was paying for it in May.  I dreaded the phone call I was about to receive.

But lo, there was stoppage time…and there was Edin Dzeko.  2-2.  Maybe.  Just maybe.  No.  It couldn’t be done.  Could it?

I was explaining to the uninitiated around me that “if City could just get one more goal, maybe right here from…AGUERRROOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

They had done it.  Manchester City Football Club were the champions of England.  And I had a phone call to make.  My lone regret is that my dad wasn’t there in person so I could give him a triumphant wanker sign, in traditional hooliganistic fashion.

A game of fathers and sons, indeed.