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Archive for January, 2010

I haven’t had much time lately to write anything, or even think straight, so here are some more random quotes to fill the gaping void.

Ever notice that ‘what the hell’ is always the right decision? – Marilyn Monroe

Have you ever noticed? Anybody going slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac. – George Carlin

One way to prevent conversation from being boring is to say the wrong thing. – Frank Sheed

When I was crossing the border into Canada, they asked if I had any firearms with me. I said, “Well, what do you need?” – Steven Wright 

What is said when drunk has been thought out beforehand. – Flemish Proverb

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Some people make New Year’s resolutions. Some people write out and plan their goals for the year. I, on the other hand, have bold predictions. Try not to get any on you.

In 2010, I predict that I will…

…explore more of this city that is DC.

…challenge nature head-on in at least 10 day hikes.

…cheer the USA soccer team on to World Cup victory.

…notice the small things.

…feast on hot dogs and beer at four new major league baseball stadiums.

…play a team sport.

…leap screaming from an airplane (then deploy parachute).

…play with puppies.

…excel at being a Grade A smartass.

…travel to Colombia.

…and much more.

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Five Random Quotes: Believe

A man’s got to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another drink. – W.C. Fields

My personal philosophy is not to undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible. – Edwin Land

Accept compliments and give praise from my fortune cookie

When I bore people at a party, they think it is their fault. – Henry Kissinger

The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working the moment you get up in the morning, and does not stop until you get into the office. – Robert Frost

 

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This, I promise, is my last shout out to 2009. Before we close out the year that was, I give you a list of some of the better albums I listened to. A couple were released in 2008, but who’s complaining? I admit I didn’t buy a whole lot of albums this year (thank you library), but I did listen to quite a few. At least enough to pick five good ones.  In no particular order:

  • Backspacer by Pearl Jam
  • It’s Blitz by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Ladyhawke by Ladyhawke
  • 21st Century Breakdown by Green Day
  • Hook Me Up by The Veronicas

 

Bonus #1: Five Best Concerts of 2009

  1. Chris Cornell (at 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.)
  2. Green Day (at Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.)
  3. No Doubt (at Nissan Pavilion, Virginia)
  4. The Ting Tings (at O2 Academy Brixton, London)
  5. Jimmy Buffett (at Nissan Pavilion, Virgina)

 

Bonus #2: Ten Most Listened to Songs of 2009

  1. This Love“, The Veronicas
  2. Let Go“, Frou Frou
  3. My Delirium“, Ladyhawke
  4. Crazy World“, Ladyhawke
  5. Love Gives Love Takes“, The Corrs
  6. Softshock“, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  7. Great DJ“, The Ting Tings
  8. Let Me Go“, Cake
  9. Never Miss A Beat“, Kaiser Chiefs
  10. Messages“, Filthy Dukes

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In this inglorious last year of the decade, I managed to see a bustle full of movies (115), in a variety of positions (not all of them comfortable). Here, in my humble opinion, are the best and worst:

Best

11. The Best Years of Our Lives – still working my way through AFI’s top 100 movies. A poignant look at veterans returning home during World War II and trying to re-learn how to get-by in real life.

10. Avatar – James Cameron must have a classic movie making recipe on hand. Throw in a hint of the Smurfs, a dash of Dances With Wolves, crack in some Starship Troopers, a dry rub of Aliens, with a sprinkling of Star Wars and you’ve got yourself an epic, eye-pleasing science fiction yarn.

9.  Vicky Christina Barcelona – sign me up for Javier Bardem’s Wooing Women 101 course. My first assignment is Penelope Cruz. Extra credit is Scarlett Johansson.

8. The Hangover – a little over-the-top debauchery and shenanigans in Vegas never hurt anyone. Well, maybe these guys. If you’re looking for a laugh and liked Wedding Crashers, this flick has your name on it.

7. Up – sweet, funny, eye-popping, silly, adventurous (and that’s just this blog – the movie’s not bad either.) I think Pixar can officially do no wrong. The only misstep so far is Cars, which did have its moments. The best character in Up is Dug, the loyal pooch. ‘I have just met you and I love you.’ Yes.

6. Frost/Nixon – a showdown between an arrogant Richard Nixon and the reporter that wants him to admit to his failings and wrongdoing. Then he transforms into a giant robot and…wait, I don’t want to spoil it, sucka!

5. Up In the Air – it seems slight and trivial, but life is often that way. It even manages to give you a sound, unexpected gut-punch at the end. Do we all attempt to escape from reality, by shaping our lives to shut other people out? It’s for you to decide.

4. Gran Torino – Clint Eastwood directs himself in a tale of racism, redemption and sacrifice. 

3. District 9 – a clear parallel to apartheid in South Africa, we follow one guy trying to overcome his own racism while hiding in the depravity of a refugee camp set up for aliens who appeared above Johannesburg 20 years earlier. A little bit of action, a little bit of humor, a little bit of tragedy and a lot of prawns on the side makes for a movie you should not miss.

2. Inglorious Basterds – everyone and their brother has said this is Tarantino’s best movie since Pulp Fiction. True. What’s most shocking is the movie’s insistence on a revisionist history of World War II. You may want look away during some of the more graphic Nazi killings, but you will nonetheless be riveted by the acting and dialogue.

1. Star Trek – beam me up, Scotty. The new J.J. Abrams adaption, reinvention, origin story (or whatever you want to call it) of the original Star Trek characters is sleek, funny and everything the previous movies and TV shows should have been. I am still more of a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan than the original show, but all these characters are iconic and I’m glad to see them back and kicking butt.

Worst

5. Miracle at St. Anna – it tries for epic but ends up treacly and hollow. The payoff is lame. But by the time you get there you already don’t care.

4. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – there is only one possible reason to watch this movie. Eye candy. The eye candy of big, loud, bright explosions with the  ‘pow’ of robots punching each other. And the eye candy that is Megan Fox. This reason is not compelling enough. Bah!

3. Meet the Robinsons – frantic, pointless, mind-numbing computer animation that just pisses me off.

2. Observe and Report – like a dark, angry version of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, except worse. Plus you get to see the flasher’s full monty, and that’s just not right.

1. Land of the Lost – umm, so terrible. Makes the original TV show look like a work of genius. Will Ferrell, you are on notice.

That’s all I got.

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Let’s be clear, this letter is all about me, me, me. There’s no need to deny it or pretend otherwise. This is my chance to brag about what I’ve done, what I know, and how awesome I truly am. It’s where I yell “LOOK MA!” as I hit that bulging hornet’s nest with a big stick. In other words, I speak before I think. And I never expect to get stung.

But since this is after all, the season of giving, I’m willing to cut you in on my conceit. At least once a year, I’m willing to take the focus slightly off me, and give you some attention as well. I’m sure you deserve it. So if you send me your ‘me, me, me’ letters, I will read them (as far as you know). I’m also willing to go a step further and thank you for your attention now, even if, deservedly, it lasts but briefly. So, I am humbled by those that read every word of this letter, grateful to those that skim through it (looking for juicy parts), and wholly forgiving of those that press delete before opening it (even though they won’t know it). Let’s get started.

2009 was a year. Profound. But what type of year was it?

Was it an up year? Or a down year?

Was it a smack you in the face year? Was it a lay quietly in your snuggie in front of the TV year? Was it a throw down your top and drive off into the sunset year?

Did it make you laugh? Did you make you cry? Did it make you sing karaoke against your will? Did it throw caution to the wind? Did it excel in every way?

Who cares. 2009 was what it was. Don’t over think it. Let’s pause here to look at a few of the non-required highlights.

Breweries – Let’s all shout an ode to beer, the joyous liquid. In my questionable wisdom, I made a point to check out a barrel-full of beer making places. In Maryland, the District of Columbia, Ohio, Michigan and Washington. The real question is, why am I writing this drivel instead of sitting at the local brewpub? Hmmm, this letter may end up shorter than usual…see ya!

London, England – Okay, I’m still here. You lucked out. I’ve been to London a number of times over the past few years, but this was the first time I’ve stayed on the East side, in the Shoreditch district. Nearby is Brick Lane, with its overabundance of tasty Bengali Indian cuisine and curry restaurants. Conveniently, the 2nd Annual Stag & Dagger music festival thumped on the first night we arrived. 100 bands in 20 venues, all within spitting distance of the hotel. Of course, we also had to lay waste to messy shwarmas and salt beef bagels (liberally slathered in sinus clearing mustard) sold in the late night walk-up stands. And we drank caipirinha from fishbowls for good measure. Somehow we also managed to visit the Westminster Abbey and Winston Churchill’s Cabinet War Room (the underground command bunkers during World War II).

Baseball – In my quest to see a baseball game in every Major League stadium, I added three new stadiums in 2009, in Cincinnati, Detroit and Cleveland. Each stadium had its own charm (like gigantic tiger statues in Comerica Park). In two of the games my team, the Seattle Mariners, lost badly. Crap. The M’s lone highlight was Ken Griffey, Jr jacking a solo homerun. Also on the agenda was watching the ground crew making the field playable after a rain delay, feasting on hot dogs, and other impressive things. Next year…maybe a visit to Chicago?

Leavenworth (Washington state, USA) – It’s a small Bavarian village on the other side of the Cascades. A good place to enjoy Oktoberfest, a bit of bratwurst, the fall foliage, and visit a few vineyards and wine tasting rooms.

Books – Instead of this letter, please read “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson and “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell.

Paphos, Cyprus – First, rent a car in Larnaca. Second, learn to drive on the wrong (left) side of the road. Third, enjoy. We took a leisurely drive from Larnaca to Paphos, through a few quaint villages along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. We sat on the waterfront and enjoyed a lunch infused with seafood and beer. Then we drove around with no particular destination and no goal. Scenic and refreshing.

Icicle Ridge Winery – Not to be outdone by its sudsier cousin (our good friend beer), I also managed to raise my pinky finger during tastings at 13 different wineries in Northern Virginia and Washington state. Yes, that’s right. I may now qualify as something of an expert wino, even though I retained none of the possible knowledge that I could have attained. Icicle Ridge Winery (WA) was the best of the lot, with a free tasting (11 wines!) and a great setting. Also good were Village Winery and Vineyards (VA) and Chrysalis Vineyards (VA).

Music – I rocked out to a load of concerts (18), listened to a few dozen new albums and used my airline miles to buy a new iPod Touch to keep them all at my fingertips. Of the concerts, I enjoyed Green Day and Chris Cornell. The Barack Obama inauguration concert with a ‘yes we can’ variety of artists on the National Mall was also worth noting. Garth Brooks played three songs and proved why he is still a great entertainer. Of the albums, I enjoyed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs ‘It’s Blitz! and Pearl Jam ‘Backspacer’.

Road Trip (Ohio and Michigan, USA) – Traveling a hefty 2,197 miles through the states of Ohio and Michigan, with your wiener dog as a co-pilot, while blaring CDs over and over, is a fine way to spend a week or so. I managed to attend some ball games, nosh good food, sip some beer, take in a few sights and generally make a nuisance of myself. Especially interesting were slipping about the University of Michigan campus, gaining potential music knowledge at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (none retained), and sifting sand between my toes along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Hiking – I’ve been missing out on hiking over the past few years, mostly because I’d be off traveling or because I’m just flat lazy. So one of my 2009 New Year’s resolutions was to do more day hikes. And lo! I succeeded! I joined the local Capital Hiking Club and managed to trek about Virginia and Pennsylvania. I also did a hike in Washington making about 12 day hikes in all. A majority of the hikes were along portions of the Appalachian Trail that runs from Maine to Georgia. One day I might have to tackle that whole beast.

US Open Cup Championship (soccer) game (Washington, D.C., USA) – The expansion Major League Soccer team, Seattle Sounders FC, enjoyed a fine first year of existence. They played well, made the playoffs, and broke multiple attendance records. Additionally, all US soccer teams at all levels of play participate in an annual domestic tournament called the US Open Cup. The Sounders advanced to the championship game against DC United and pulled out an incredible victory on DC’s home pitch. We came adorned in blue and green to witness an energetic game and proved that US soccer fans can have a bit of passion for the game. Case in point, over 100 Sounders fans traveled all the way from Seattle to attend the game, while singing songs and shouting like only hooligans can. Oy! Now bring on the World Cup!

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia, USA) – Whether is was camping in the rain or hiking among trillium flowers or standing still to escape notice of that bear or swimming underneath freezing waterfalls or pausing dramatically to allow that rattlesnake to get the heck out of my way or scrambling over rock formations to see the incredible view, I spent a good amount of time in Shenandoah National Park. Thought you should know.

Television – Surprisingly there are quite a number of decent new shows to look out for, including Community and FlashForward. Others to either keep watching or start watching at all cost are:  Fringe, Dexter and Lost.

Truck Bed Sledding – If you think that using a black inner tube or a regular sled are the correct ways to careen crazily downhill, then you are wrong. The actual correct way is to find a cast-off truck bed liner in the woods, pull it to the top of a precipitous drop and then on the count of three, have six or so screaming diehards jump in and hold on for dear life. Sanity and medical insurance not included.

Tower of London (London, England) – The Tower is a sprawling fortress bursting with historical intrigue, death and Beefeaters. It consists of 20 total towers, with the largest, the White Tower as the most famous. Our Beefeater gave us a rousing tour of the grounds and told of horrific beheadings, disappearing young princes whose bodies turned up hundreds of years later in the tower wall, wars, and crazy kings. Basically the history of England could almost be summed up within these walls.

Kruger Park (South Africa) – If you like near death lions, lithely trotting leopards, angrily charging elephants, curious rhinos, trapped in your room bats, baby giraffes extending their necks for food, muddy snorting hippopotamus’, racing zebras, suspicious buffaloes, bashful bushbucks and more impalas then you can shake a stick at, then you’d do well to book a three-day safari through Kruger Park. If you like breathtaking sunrises, curious rock formations, sparse forests, post-wildfire plains, high bluffs with views forever, gigantic baobab trees, dusty scrub brush, flowing rivers, darkness illuminated with spotlights, and an occasional camp or lodge in the distance, then drive around in your white 4-wheel drive for hours on end. If none of this appeals you? All the more for me.

peace and merriment to you and yours

View the Wordle version: http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/1507817/2009

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