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Archive for September, 2009

Five Random Books: Novel Novels

Okay, first let’s acknowledge that I haven’t read everything. It’s a big planet with millions of monkeys pecking away at millions of keyboards (including this one). I haven’t read all the classics. Not even close. No Jane Austin. No Ulysses.  No Tolstoy. (Plenty of Hardy Boys.) Yet, somehow, I’ve managed to read my share of good novels. Certainly I can pick five of my favorites. Can’t I?

With so many contenders, it’s not as easy as you might think. With the classics out-of-the-way, I don’t need to pander to expectations nor give off a whiff of pretension. I can just be me. Which leads to a different kind of whiff.

The first three novels listed are locks. They stand (no pun intended) head and shoulders above all other novels I’ve read. The last two I agonized over. I had to contemplate, compare, contrast, categorize and consequently flip a coin. With much ado about nothing, read on.

Time and Again (Jack Finney, 1970) – A simple, elegant tale of love and mystery with the intriguing idea that one can travel back to 1882 by simply re-creating, all around you, the trappings of that time long gone. And when you’ve immersed yourself completely and you wholeheartedly believe you are in the past, you are.

The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas, 1844) – Revenge may not be your favorite weekend activity (or I may have mis-judged you), but there are very few things more satisfying, more demanding of your sense of right, then Edmond Dantès executing his intricate, complex web of retribution against his mortal enemies. In the final analysis, unless you’ve had everything ripped from you and then forced to spend 14 years in a souless prison stewing it over, you should, at the very least, have a hard time condemning his actions.

The Stand (Stephen King, 1978) – I’ve probably only read a handful of books more than once. This is one. Massive in scope, epic in execution, humbling in concept, the only thing missing is time to read it once more. It’s the story of the few survivors of a devastating virus, coming together, taking sides and the ultimate battle between good and evil. As Tom Cullen would say, “M-O-O-N spells excellent!”

Battlefield Earth (L. Ron Hubbard, 1982) – I enjoy a good science fiction yarn time and again. I’ve read Asimov, Verne, Heinlein, yada yada, but this 1,000 page behemoth by the creator of Scientology (insert Tom Cruise joke here) is brilliant. It’s about a boy that overcomes incredible odds and kicks some alien butt. It’s no literary masterpiece. Its better, because the action doesn’t let up long enough to feel like homework. Never, under any circumstance, watch the movie with John Travolta. The movie adaption is so terrible, so miserable, that the title is the only thing in common with the book.

Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson, 1999) – It’s hard to describe this 928 page-turning, black-covered tome using actual words from the English language. It’s really a journey you have to take on your own. It’s the emotion, the sense of awe, the spectacle, and the satisfaction of an experience well enjoyed. The plot, if it has a core, is too many things to summarize in a paragraph riff. It’s multiple stories take place during World War II and ‘today’. Look it up. Take the journey.

Honorable mentions: (okay, the coin flip didn’t take. I also cheat.)

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell (Susanna Clarke, 2004), The Road (Cormac McCarthy, 2006), and Wicked (Gregory Maguire, 1995)

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Random Search Engine Terms

What random search engine terms are people using to find my blog? Hmmm, let’s see…

  1. dik diks in love
  2. fishing mermaid
  3. naked mountain skinny dipping
  4. 1970 swimming in underwear
  5. funny wiener dog quotes
  6. eat packing peanuts 
  7. nude swimming hole
  8. 60 ounce plastic fishbowls
  9. ghost chili
  10. dad skinny dipping photo
  11. bacilos taco truck idaho
  12. what do kenyan people eat
  13. the vegetarian beefeater
  14. lion killing
  15. herd wiener dogs

I don’t know whether this is an indictment of the content of my writing, or of the people doing the searching…

Editor’s Note: These searches are real, I do not jest. Though I do laugh. You can’t make this stuff up.

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Yes, I do mean you! Today we focus on the negative and how I hate these things more than you do. If that claim angers you in any way, don’t keep it bottled up. Blog it out!

I hate…

The New York Yankees in the playoffs – somebody please beat them like a red-headed step-child already.

Sean Kingston – horrible. Stop singing. Please. ‘Dial 9-1-1, shorty’s fire’s burning on the dance floor.’ Enough.

Kanye West backlash ad nauseam – it’s over. Go buy a Taylor Swift album if you need to assuage your guilt.

Ten Oscar Best Picture Nominees instead of five– so the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decides to wrest more dollars from your dirty, scrooge-like fists by adding five more nominees to the Best Picture race? Sham! Outrage! I predict Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen as Best Picture. Word.

Sixburgh Nation – shut up, Pittsburgh Steelers fans. No one likes insufferable blowhards. Unless we happen to be that insufferable blowhard. But today we’re not, so stop talking about winning six Super Bowls already. We heard you the first two thousand times you yelled in our ears.

Celebutards– Paris Hilton, that means you. You have no business on our TVs. Or in our pure and un-sullied tabloids. You have done nothing worthwhile, so stop wasting our time so we can focus on how much our favorite TV stars weigh…

Greed – if you have too much money, then give some to me. Stimulate me and our economy in one fell swoop!

The New York Yankees – again. You can never have enough hate for these guys. Especially when they build a stadium for $1.2 billion and then go and charge $2,600 for a single ticket behind home plate. For a baseball game. Against the Royals.

Washington Redskin’s lawyers – if you are a loyal Redskins fan and enter into a season ticket contract with a soulless, corporate greed factory, you better believe they will take advantage of you and have horn-headed lawyers slap you with a lawsuit and take your sorry ass to court if you even hint at de-faulting. Then you better believe they’ll re-sell your tickets and get twice the profit. Fight oppression!

Making lists like this one – don’t make me do it again. Although, it does feel good to rage against the machine from time to time.

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Part 3 of 3

This, luckily for you, is the final entry in my road trip trilogy of terror. Finally, we get to the root cause of why I roadtripped to begin with…baseball! Hold on for a short treatise on the highs and lows of each Major League stadium I sauntered through like a deluded dignitary. I suggest you pause now to get a hotdog and a beer. If you pause long enough, you may even escape reading this.

Great American Ball Park (Cincinnati, Ohio) – Home of the Reds

Highs

  • A great view of the bridges spanning the Ohio River that link Cincy to Kentucky and the quaint town of Newport.
  • The Washington Nationals were in town and they won 5-4. Which doesn’t happen very often…
  • I inhaled a tiny Coney hotdog. It was satisfying for 4.5 seconds.

Lows

  • At the 4.6 second mark, I was still hungry.
  • The confusing number of mascots. One is almost too many, but four? Gapper (looks like a retarded, red Phillies Phanatic), Mr. Red (looks like a spastic baseball headed Mr. Met), Mr. Redlegs (a mustached baseball head, which tells you all you need to know) and Rosie Red (because otherwise there’d be too many dudes).

 

Comerica Park (Detroit, Michigan) – Home of the Tigers

Highs

  • Tigers! Everywhere there are tigers! To say that Detroit doesn’t like its team name is to fly in the face of numerous tiger statues and leering tiger heads looking down from every direction. Very impressive.
  • A ferris wheel and other rides for the kiddies.
  • The home team scored two runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to win in dramatic fashion.
  • First a torrential downpour, then a rain delay, and then the clearing of the infield tarp and then the crew drying and making the infield playable again. How often do you get to see that? Kinda cool.

Lows

  • A 45 minute rain delay, there is such a thing as waiting too long.
  • David Aardsma gave up two runs in the bottom of the 9th inning and the Seattle Mariners lost in traumatic fashion. (errrgg!!!!!!)
  • The Detroit skyline had the least interesting view of all the stadiums but it was smack dab in the middle of the city, in a relatively nice area.

 

Progressive Field (Cleveland, Ohio) – Home of the Indians

Highs

  • Ken Griffey Jr. (Seattle Mariners) hits a homerun!
  • The view of the city skyline is picturesque.
  • Heritage Park is the home of the Indian’s Hall of Fame, split into two sections; those players that are actually in the official Major League Baseball Hall of Fame (in Cooperstown, NY),and those that are only good enough to make the team’s Hall of Fame. It was historical.
  • A perfectly positioned food court and bar, behind center field, that allows one to enjoy the game, a brew and an italian sausage all at once. Brilliant.

Lows

  • Felix Hernandez pitches terribly and the Mariners lose again, 6-1.
  • There is a race during the game with the mascots Ketchup, Mustard and Onion. Original. Their kid-friendly mascot is Slider (which looks like Barney the Dinosaur on crack).
  • There was a cool looking cemetary across the street, so after the game I went out and strolled through like the locals. Then I became terribly lost, and could not remember the street I was parked on, nor the name of the parking garage. 30 minutes of random city exploring later, I roared out of the parking garage just as it started to rain. Booyah!

 

Verdict: Originally, I was going to give Comerica Park the edge as the best of the three (those tiger statues!), but Progressive Field (originally called Jacob’s Field until 2008) was among the first of the new wave of retro stadiums built, and it just grows on you the more you think about it.

Also see:

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Part 2 of 3

Here we explore some of the beer offerings I encountered on my road trip. Buckle up and put on a raincoat, this is about to get sudsy.

Tremont Taphouse (Cleveland, OH) – with 24 beers on tap and around 80 bottle selections, this small taphouse/restaurant would be my favorite place to hang out if I lived in Cleveland. Slightly out of the way in the Tremont district, it had cute bartenders and a neighborhoody, local vibe. They don’t brew their own, but at the time they were showcasing the Flying Dog Brewery now located in Maryland. Best Beer I had: The Old Leghumper – a porter from the Thirsty Dog Brewing Company in Ohio, with the motto ‘so many legs, so little time’. I agree.

Atwater Block Brewery (Detroit, MI) – this is a good little brewpub not far from Comerica Park on the Detroit River, in an area that doesn’t seem to get much traffic. Which is unfortunate, because it had a very congenial atmosphere with friendly staff. They win extra points for the bold sign out front “Beer is Good”. Indeed. Best Beer I had: Michigan Amber

Great Lakes Brewery (Cleveland, OH) – a lively brewpub where the tasters and the pint I ordered, were…well who can remember? Seems hazy…  Best Beer I had: Lake Erie Monster– at 9.0% ABV this double IPA beast really smacks you upside the head. So potent they only give you half a taster.

McNulty’s Bier Markt (Cleveland, OH) – with around 100 beer options, this Ohio City district bar fancies itself as a Belgian Beer Bar. And rightly so, that’s about the only kind of beer available. Dark, cozy, with easy on the eyes bartenders, if you’re looking to sip a Belgian pint, this is your destination. Best Beer I had: Dilirium Tremens

Hofbräuhaus (Newport, KY) – a boisterous place that everyone in Cincinnati and Kentucky must go to, with a huge patio and live music inside, you are left to find your own seat in the multitude of picnic style tables. Once seated, you order a mammoth, gut-busting liter of beer. Then you order a sampling of Wursts, including mettwurst, bierwurst and bratwurst. Best Beer I had: In fact, the only beer I had was the Hofbräu Dunkel, Munich’s favorite beer. Another would have ended this trip early.

Grizzly Peak Brewing Company (Ann Arbor, MI) – a good place for the University of Michigan students to hang out, debate their love of Ohio State, talk politics, and hoist some serious pints. Best Beer I had: Bear Paw Porter

Arbor Brewing Company (Ann Arbor, MI) – another U of M brewpub across the street from Grizzly Peak, that can claim decent beers and good fish tacos. Best Beer I had: Red Snapper Special Bitter

Saugatuck Brewing Company (Saugatuck, MI) – located just outside a small seaside (lakeside?) town of the same name on Lake Michigan, it reminds one of an old community center turned into a brewpub with the eating part called The Lucky Stone Pub. We arrived on quiz night, but found the questions far too easy so didn’t participate. Best Beer I had: Vanilla Nutmeg Oatmeal Stout – it just sounds tasty, and it was.

burp

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