Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Follow-up

to my last post -- there's a good bit on Kosovo here.

Balkan Jigsaw

One of the putative goals of this blog is to put up some pieces on current events I find interesting. Like so many of the other goals, I've fallen short. Part of the reason? I spend much of my time in real-life talking about this stuff -- the well runs a bit dry by the time I sit down. Another reason is that I feel like I should do more research if I'm writing about something of that impact, as opposed to a piece about how much Kirk Maltby sucks. And writing in-depth on the places that really interest me (Eastern Europe, if you haven't caught on) is proving a bit difficult when I'm living in Atlanta -- while I know enough to be able to hold a healthy discussion on it, I feel like a dilettante trying to provide honest-to-god analysis.

Case in point: I fully intended to write a bit about Montenegro's referendum vote to leave its union with Serbia. More than a week on, it seems rather pointless -- the union is ending with a whimper rather than a bang, most Serbians seem rather uninterested, and if there's a trouble spot in the final death throes of Yugoslavia, it'll be Kosovo. The rumored arrest of Ratko Mladić didn't come, and beyond that the referendum was mostly newsworthy for its refreshing lack of newsworthiness. A foregone conclusion was made reality, and in a peaceful manner that is hopefully now de rigueur for one of my favorite areas.

Speaking of that region, since this is a rather short post, I'll leave with a photo from my favorite city down there -- shot from the walls of Dubrovnik a few years back.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Beautiful Game

Three posts in one day -- this is what happens when it's 90 degrees outside, I don't have to work, and I'm trying to avoid hitting the bars at 2 p.m. Yesterday, frequent co-conspirator Fidel and I planned to head over to the Atlanta Jazz Festival, but the relentless heat quashed that -- as a wise man once said, "you can't impress pretty girls with your subtle wit if you've just expired from heatstroke." So we went and played pool and drank beer instead.

Fidel had brought along a copy of the Financial Times, as an inducement, I suppose, for me to keep the level of conversation high. A prominently-placed article caught my eye -- "The Dutiful Game," by Simon Kuper.

I should mention, at this point, that I'm excited about the World Cup out of all proportion to my knowledge of the sport. I won't be writing much, if anything, about it -- I'll leave it to people who actually know something (here and here, for instance) -- but I'll follow it with far more interest than the NBA Finals or the World Series.

I've never become a big a soccer fan as I've expected. There's only a certain amount of sports my aging brain can consume, and hockey satisfies most of my appetite -- plus the various cups and leagues are a bit dizzying. That said, when I'm in an easy position to follow the sport -- during one of the big international tournaments, or visiting England -- I'll devour it. I'll freely admit that many of the sport's intricacies are lost on me, but a big game never fails to deliver high tension, at a level the Super Bowl can only dream of matching.

Back to Kuper. His article is interesting as a history of German soccer, but leaves me unconvinced of its subject: that reunification has led to a decline in the country's sporting fortunes. His proof for his hypothesis is that Westdeutschland last won in 1990, just before the merger. Perhaps he's right, but sorry, I need more. Why did German reunification cause this decline? England hasn't won since 1966 -- is that because Harold Wilson met with Ian Smith?

The only other contributing factor is "other countries got better" -- which would seem to have little to do with reunification. His theory is that foreign fear of Germany led to good German football -- but it needs more support.

An interesting aside brought me back to something I've often pondered. Kuper mentions Hungary's dominance in 1950s international play, and it struck me that I never hear about Hungary in international team sports, or even Hungarian players. My oft-pondered question, and it's a bit of a leap from that, is -- why do team sports put down such deep roots in some countries but not others? It's obviously applicable to my favorite sport; why is hockey such a big deal in the former Czechoslovakia, while Hungary and Poland, two neighboring countries with somewhat similar 20th-century histories, have no ingrained tradition of the sport? Why Sweden and Finland but not Denmark and Norway? Why Russia, Latvia and Lithuania but not Estonia? Why have Germany, Austria, and Switzerland produced only a handful of significant players?

I really don't have any solid ideas on this; at least in the Eastern European nations, I've wondered if it had anything to do with Communist state-sponsored athletic programs, but outside of the USSR and Czechoslovakia, I have no idea how those worked. Any of the hockey-fan readers have any ideas about this?

Memories of VK

News that the Denver Post's Adrian Dater is writing a book about the Colorado Avalanche-Detroit Subhuman Sleazeballs (I'm trying to swear less) rivalry prompted me to go look up Dater's recent writings. One of them, in conjunction with all the paint thinner fumes pervading my condo, brought back memories of ol' #13, Valeri Kamensky, my first favorite Av (favorite Avalanche? ten years on and I still can't get the grammar straight. Favorite Colorado player?).

He wasn't the most obvious choice for a favorite player -- constantly overshadowed by the Captain, the Best Player in the World, the Goalie, and the Nicest Guy on Earth. But during those heady years of the late '90s, when the sky was clear and we had laughter in our hearts, Val was one of the most exciting players on the team.

He was never consistent, which drove people mad and kept him on the second strata of Avs (Avalanches?). He wasn't terribly talkative. He wasn't terribly tough (though if anyone can find footage or a photo of Kamensky punching out Ulf Samuelsson, I'll adore you forever). But when he turned it on, he could produce goals like you'd never seen.

You didn't see many Kamensky jerseys at Avalanche games; one of my more frustrating memories is seeing a beautiful girl wearing one outside McNichols Arena, before a game in, oh, '98 or so. Our eyes locked. We noticed and appreciated the matching "13" on each other's shoulders. The lights dimmed. The music swelled. And then her boyfriend returned from the "Will Call" window. I hope he realized what a treasure he had.

Nothing lasts forever, of course. After years of trade rumors, he finally went to the Rangers as a free agent, where he was not popular, and then on to the Devils and Stars, where he was a spare part. He finished up his career in Russia last season, I think, and is now consigned to the annals of hockey history, living (I believe) somewhere in Connecticut.

The letter to Dater's column suggested retiring Kamensky's number -- while I can't see that being a remote possibility, I love lost causes. Maybe it's time to follow the lead of the Willie McGee movement. Retire #13!

If I've figured out YouTube, I leave you now with perhaps my fondest Kamensky memory:



update: I very belatedly realized that Angelfire's blocking system prevented the Forsberg photo from being visible. I've stolen it and put it up in a place that's visible to all.

Today's Overheard Cell-Phone Conversation

"He was literally sitting outside of Baskin-Robbins, drinking coffee, and the truck hit him."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Red Star Rising

As is habit, the forthcoming Russia trip is already affecting my reading choices. The last book I read was by one of the country's great novelists; the next book I'll read is a travelogue through the former Soviet states of Central Asia. Add in a St. Petersburg article in the latest New Yorker, the Lonely Planet guide, and Sidearm Delivery, and most of my reading these days is Russo-themed.

Including, of course, the just-finished book:

#16 - "The Hidden War" by Artyom Borovik

Not at all what I expected -- I'd figured that this was a straightforward chronicle of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Instead it's more focused -- Borovik speaks to soldiers, officials, deserters, family members, rebels -- taking down their impressions. The overall effect is that no one on any level really knew why they were there.

Borovik spends considerable time with the grunts, but avoids the temptation to start seeing the war through a romantic prism of the self. There's a tendency (Hemingway-fueled?) among many contemporary war reporters to treat conflict as a personal rite of passage: "I went away to cover this war, and came back a man." This isn't always bad; Anthony Loyd's "My War Gone By I Miss It So" is great. And to be honest, when I was directionless and jobless after college, I entertained daydreams of heading off to some remote field of unrest and inflicting my insights upon it.

Back to Borovik -- while he's a presence in the book, he's largely a narrator rather than a character, an observer in the mold of the great Ryszard Kapuściński. At times, in fact, he's too withdrawn for my tastes. I would've liked to see a bit more of his reactions to some hairy situations.

Some of the book presupposes a knowledge of late '80s Soviet internal events, and so parts were a bit lost on me. Overall, though, a solid book -- perhaps not up to the level of Michael Herr's "Dispatches" or Kapuściński's "The Soccer War," but very good nonetheless.

* * *

Borovik died in a 2000 plane crash; "The Hidden War" is, apparently, his only book translated into English, though I've seen references to other books. Read more about "The Hidden War" here.

Friday, May 26, 2006

That's More Like It.

Regular reader "Anonymous" has submitted the following mirror image:

Victory.



Against all odds, the bathroom is repainted with only a minimum of splatterage, the mirror is reinstalled, and I can slowly resume a normal life. I can also spend Memorial Day weekend getting good and drunk.

We've come a long way, you and I, since this. This has made a man out of me.

Two questions:

1) after all the sturm und drang, shouldn't this be a bit more dramatic? An unearthly halo, perhaps, around the new mirror? 72 virgins? Any of that?

2) did I really just spend nearly a month of my life on a project that could have been completed in a week, if I weren't so averse to planning?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Deep, Calming Breaths

After my earlier hysteria about losing Marc Savard, I've regained my equilibrium and perspective. In the end, the money would be better spent on a top-two defenseman, Savard's numbers were likely inflated by his linemates, as long as Kari Lehtonen is healthy this team will never lose again, and so forth. Just plug Patrik Štefan into the top line -- he's due for a 200-point season. Everything's going to be ok.

Also cooling my jets -- Spector's Hockey repeating a rumor that Alexei Yashin might end up with the Thrashers. Some things may be worse than no center at all. It's hard to think of anything more destructive than Yashin and his stupid contract -- could they even afford defensemen after that?

* * *

The AJC has continued its spate of recent Thrashers coverage, including a bit today on a few players who are into paintball. Slava Kozlov seems a bit scarily committed to it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Things I Hate to Admit

As I copped to a post or two ago -- I've gone back to the online dating thing. I'm not sure exactly why I still feel it carries such a stigma -- everyone's doing it, etc etc, but it still feels like I've been assigned to the remedial male-female relationships course.

It shouldn't, sure. Having gone out with a fair amount of girls met both on- and off-line over the past couple of years, the average attractiveness/intelligence is probably pretty similar.

And it really is tougher than hell to meet people here, especially when (like me) you're relatively quiet. Once upon a time, I went through a spate of picking girls up at grocery stores or Borders, enough to garner a sort of reputation for it, right when that wellspring completely dried up. The problems there are of my own making; if I'm going grocery shopping or book shopping, I'm generally dressed in a manner that suggests I list "beachcomber" as my primary occupation. Unshaven and wearing flip-flops doesn't score with the intellectual girl-next-door types I like.

The bar scene doesn't work well either, which is a pity, since I spend most of my time in such establishments. I have a near-unfailing ability to pick out the girl who's married, a lesbian, or seventeen years old, or all three, or none but pretending. Even beyond that, if it's loud, I get irritable and crotchety; if it's quiet and I can rely on my conversational skills, well, I'll have been drinking, which doesn't lead anywhere good. I went through a (much-maligned) period of talking about hockey when stuck for a subject -- one female friend of mine suggested I'd be better off talking about Japanese tentacle porn. Recently, on St. Patrick's Day, I changed tacks and gave an impromptu lecture about the new Palestinian government -- which worked, surprisingly, but I don't really think the "Hamas Gambit" is one to rely upon long-term.

So it's back to the web. I remarked to a friend last night that I've already gone through the usual three stages: 1 - "Shit, I can't believe I'm doing this," 2 - "Hey, there's lots of cute, intelligent girls here!" and 3 - "Another e-mail? Why can't a man get some peace?" So in a matter of weeks, I'll be dropping it again, and then complaining about being single, as the whole stupid cycle begins anew.

(Post title taken from a Victim's Family album. Other things I hate to admit: that I remember the discography of a band I never remotely cared about, but I forget why I went to the grocery store as soon as I enter the front door)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

Last night's discussion of Frank Kaberle and his culinary skills got me hunting through the online stacks for similar hockey cookbooks -- I turned up '80s Flyers and Flames cookbooks, and a Bruins tome from the '90s, but that's about it.

It doesn't really matter. When you want hockey-themed cooking, there's really only one place to go:



"Done Like Dinner," by Dave "Tiger" Williams and Kasey Wilson.

For all I know, this is the Canadian equivalent of "The Joy of Cooking" (Amazon lists it as still being available by special order), but I'd never heard of it before stumbling across a copy some years back, and I've never heard of it since.

It sort of fuzzily indicates that this is the type of food Tiger liked to eat before games, but it's pretty obvious that he supplied the name and Wilson supplied the recipes. (And some dude in marketing supplied recipe names like "Buffalo Left and Right Chicken Wings")

The food's fine, I guess -- meat-and-potatoes or sports bar fare. I haven't cooked out of this in a few years, though I remember liking the "Richard Brodeurburgers."

But really, who was buying this because they thought it would enrich their palate? It came out in 1987, at the tail end of Tiger's career, and he camps it up -- whether in the photos or joking references to his dying career.

He supplies pithy one-liners to each recipe, some of which are kind of funny, some of which are eye-rolling, but most...

"In hockey most chickens are turkeys, and I have little respect for either except when they have met their maker -- a deep-fryer." (from the aforementioned chicken wings recipe)

...are incomprehensible. Reading these bits is hilarious -- I could spend all day transcribing them here.

"Even the Flames couldn't stand the heat in the south. Bite-sized for the once-bitten, twice shy. There are no chickens on my team -- they are all in my cookbook." (Fried Chicken Nuggets)

Was he trying to play up the "crazy" persona? Had he legitimately lost his mind? Was all of this totally lucid during the '80s, and growing up in Colorado, I missed it?

Having dug this out for the first time in years, I'll probably whip something up ("Opponent's Ribs"? "Eddie Shack's Beer-Baked Ham"? "Stickhandler's Shish Kebab"?) this weekend. Until then, I'll leave you with my personal favorite, from "Red Russian Nut Puffs" --

"Harold Ballard's fantasy of what he'd like to serve at Maple Leaf Gardens, but this would never be served there because Russian-bashing is popular when Harold's in attendance."

Ladies and gentlemen, Dave "Tiger" Williams -- the Samuel Beckett of hockey.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Caught Off Guard

Imagine my surprise to see that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has published not one but two articles on the team in recent weeks -- I was under the impression the paper had forgotten about the whole club. (link goes to the general Thrashers page. www.bugmenot.com is forward-thinking enough to include the first name that you have to enter along with the user ID and password.)

One of the stories covers possible replacements if Marc Savard jets, and it's pretty damn scary, "The Shining"-level scary. I'm not a big Savard fan, and I think his numbers are boosted a bit by high-profile linemates, but here's a sampling of the suggestions:

* Alexei Zhamnov
* Michael Peca
* Jeff Halpern

Now bear in mind that this is for a first-line center. The first line is traditionally a scoring line. Let me put forth a few names that would be about as good in that spot:

* Jiří Dopita
* Tomáš Klouček
* Kari Lehtonen
* a skating garbage can
* me

The article also suggests Jason Arnott,which isn't horrible, and Joe Sakic (not likely). But all of a sudden re-signing Savard seems urgent, even more urgent than re-signing Klouček.

The other article focuses on František Kaberle, and contrasts his excellent season with the penalty- and turnover-prone Thrashers d-men, while discussing Hartley's dislike of Frankie. He would have been very welcome this season. Not all is lost, though -- looking at the picture alongside the article, I think we've discovered a wayward branch of the Kaberle family tree.

Housekeeping

There's a whole new mess of links over there to the right -- check them out! Tell them I sent you, and watch the puzzled, uncomprehending glances. A brief rundown:

* added an e-mail link

* added Vancouver Canucks Op Ed to the sports section

* added A Fistful of Euros to the current events section

* broke off an "Eastern Europe" section, though those may be of limited interest to anyone but me. But -- I use this as my bookmarks page when I'm not at my computer, so there. Added Balkan Scissors, East Ethnia, the Prague Post and the Tirana Times to that.

* created "Atlanta" links -- added Dying Peach, the Buford Highway Project, and my favorite place, Eclipse di Sol.

* created "Music" links -- added Lexicon Devil and 200 Lb. Underground.

* added Molto Benny to the miscellaneous section.

Go forth!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Notes From Blogground

Oh Lord, it's hot. Up until this week, I'd fooled myself, saying we'd peaked as far as heat, this isn't so bad, all these pussies complaining about the weather should cram it, etc. Now I'm pouring sweat at 9:30 pm despite an air-conditioner at full throttle and lamenting to an empty room that I ever left Colorado. I'm watching the Oilers-Ducks and drooling over that cold, soothing ice. Those commercials where the train of lousy beer plows through and brings sweet relief to all the overheated citydwellers no longer seem ridiculous -- rather heavenly.

Anyway.

#15: "Notes From Underground" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

With the trip to St. P coming up later in the year, it seems appropriate to brush up on my Dostoyevsky -- a "Crime and Punishment" reread will probably come soon. It's shameful that it's taken me this long to read "Notes," given that it's about 130 pages, but my copy was left in a friend's SUV one drunken night and for a long time it served as an unfortunate reminder of unfortunate behavior.

But we're reviewing the book, not my personal habits, aren't we? I feel like a philistine of the highest order saying this but the first part of the book largely left me cold. Brilliant writing, of course. But...

Some years back, I had a conversation with my friend fredoluv about some band or other, in which I lamented that I hadn't heard that band before I'd heard all those that took their chops and ran with them. (It may have been the Birthday Party, which in a bit of beautiful symmetry, I've had on the CD player a lot lately.) The trailblazing band didn't seem terribly new or interesting after hearing all the groups that had followed.

Same problems, different medium with "Notes." Bitter alienation is such a staple of fiction now that what was undoubtedly groundbreaking at the time now seems like old news.

Happily, the second part picks it up a bit -- abandoning the manifesto form for a more traditional narrative, which I'm apparently better placed to handle. A sly wit, too -- I laughed out loud several times.

It struck me as I read this that Dostoyevsky's "Underground Man" would find himself much more at home in the early part of the 21st century. He's a bitter, twisted man, unable to directly take on those who upset him, finding slights in whatever he can. If he were around today, he'd just start a blog.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Hnilička na hrad!


Shockingly, the Hockey World Championships aren't televised down here. Am I the only person in Atlanta who felt the absence of seeing Belarus-Switzerland live?

I've been following the games on http://www.ihwc.net/, where they at least have some live updates (if someone knows of some live web feed -- I should've asked earlier, I guess). It's got some failings -- most notably the disconcerting habit of labeling every go-ahead goal as "game-winning goal." I left the house the other day thinking the Czechs had beaten Russia 2-1, as a result -- imagine my surprise to come back and find out they'd won 4-3 in overtime.

But there's good things about the site too -- most notably a sly sense of humor that creeps in. In the Czech-Finland game recap, they mention notorious diver Jarko Ruutu being "allegedly hauled down." And in a feature article on Zbyněk Irgl's game-winner in that Russia game, the caption on the photo of the puck in the net reads: "This is Irgl's handiwork: this is Sokolov's pain." Far more pathos than anything Bill Simmons has ever written.

Czechs meet the Swedes for gold tomorrow, propelled in part by a strong performance by ex-Thrasher Milan Hnilička. I'll be hitting the refresh button like only the most rabid fan.

I Hate What I'm Becoming

Over at Covered in Oil, they have a good reality-affirming post about separating hatred from the team from hatred of the fans. It's a good, rational post, needed in these heady and passionate times. The internet makes it especially easy to lob verbal grenades at the other team's fans, whether mocking Avalanche fans for alleged lack of knowledge of the game, or mocking Red Wings fans because often, they live in Detroit.

My hatred of the DRWs aside, I've been friends with some of their fans, seen hockey games with them, and so forth. They've seemed like decent blokes if a bit sadly misguided. But they're no more or less capable of greatness or stupidity than those who back any other team.

Ok. Now hold that thought.

In the eternal pursuit of pointlessness, I've started online dating again. I'm not proud of this, not remotely. But I own up to it because a) everyone's doing it, b) it'll become awkward if I start blogging about dates and I've left this detail out, c) despite Atlanta being a rumored beehive of single 30-something women, I am damned if I know where they hang out, and d) at least I'm not going the mail-order bride route. Yet.

So anyway. I've started this up. And started communication with an attractive, intelligent, well-traveled, well-read girl. And exchanged a few e-mails with her, and found her to be pretty appealing.

You see where this is going, don't you?

She's a Red Wings fan. Diehard, apparently. (I went on a few dates with a Wings fan about two years ago, but she was of the "is Yzerman still playing?" stripe.) Passionate enough that it's one of the things she tells an anonymous weirdo on the web.

Hijinks will ensue!

Hybrid Moments

It's been a strange few weeks here -- shockwaves from events in other's lives radiating outward, some making me glad for the relative calm in my life, others making me wonder if I've fallen too deeply into a rut. The weather is often ominous, switching from sunny and pleasant to overcast to torrential rain in fractions of hours. Headaches and bad dreams are frequent. There's a psychic shrapnel in the Atlanta air this May.

Overshadowing everything -- the sudden passing of a co-worker. It's shocked everyone and hung over everything for the past two weeks.

I have mercifully little experience with death. People in my life have died -- at age 33, if they hadn't, it would be quite a statistical anomaly. But those have either been the end result of a long debilitating illness, or someone I hadn't seen in years.

In this case, I wasn't close to the person, but I'd seen her several times a week for more than five years now. It leaves a void I would not have predicted.

And it reopens an age-old question -- what next? It's times like this that I feel my absence of a real faith -- one way or the other -- most keenly.

Of my two closest friends here in Atlanta, one is a devout Christian -- and she knows there is an afterlife. The other a staunch atheist -- and he knows there isn't an afterlife. Me? I waver between agnostic and what the personals euphemistically call "spiritual but not religious," and I don't know anything.

It's a terrifying emptiness of knowledge, this blank space on the map. It's less of a concern as it directly affects me -- when I die, I'll find out.

But those around me, there one day and gone the next, what is left? Scattering atoms or a transformed soul?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Odds and Sods

Imagine my delight to open the latest issue of the New Yorker, and find that Anthony Lane had profiled the legendary Patrick Leigh Fermor (not available online). I was first tipped off to Fermor by repeated mentions in Robert D. Kaplan's books, but the two books RK quoted ("A Time of Gifts" and "Between the Woods and the Water") were long out of print in the U.S., and commanded prohibitive sums.

Last spring, I found the first in the basement of a London used bookstore, and spent a wonderful afternoon immersing myself in it -- sitting in a London park (forget which one -- near the British Museum), under a tree, looking at girls and reading "A Time of Gifts."

It's the first of a planned three-part tale, recounting an 18-year-old Fermor's walk from the Netherlands to Turkey in the early 1930s. ("BTWATW" is the second -- the third is still undone, and I deeply hope Fermor will manage to get it done.)

To say the books are captivating is an understatement. Fermor writes beautifully and wittily, and he really did this at the last possible moment -- pre-autobahns and European Union, with the first stirrings of the world war to come, he travels from country to country, relying on friends of friends and the kindness of strangers. I can't imagine anyone reading this and not wanting to follow in his footsteps.

And the trip was only one small part of an amazing and eventful life. I know from passing mentions that Fermor went on to have a storied espionage career in WWII, and then a life of travel and introspection. I haven't finished Lane's profile but it's rekindled my love for this all-time great. And -- it has the good news (for people other than me, at least) that the books have been rereleased in the U.S., here and here. Check them out -- you won't regret it. I know my critical faculties are in doubt since I've slobbered over the last few books I've read, but anyone with even the slightest love of travel will love Fermor.

* * *

Actual real news from one of the slew of e-mail lists I'm on: starting next month, the Friday Project's "The Friday Thing" will be free, as will the archives. Sarcastic, funny as hell, often outraged -- fantastic stuff, especially for the Britishers around here.

* * *

The NHL's final four is set, and maybe it's a testament that they do go on too long that I had to continually remind myself that the winner of Edmonton-San Jose wasn't going to the finals. There's no teams left that I feel a particular loyalty to, and also no teams left that I really despise. Even the once-mocked Ducks really don't seem so ridiculous any more, and perhaps our children's children will long for the days of old school hockey, when teams had good names like "The Mighty Ducks" and featured classy logos like a duck-shaped goalie mask -- much as time has lent nobility to other silly names.

Onward though, tangents be damned. Lacking any real pressing reason to go for either team, I'm picking the Oilers in the West and Hurricanes in the East. While I'm always a sucker for out-of-nowhere goalies like Bryzgagglegalanovsushinsky, and I still want to see Teemu Selanne do well, the Oilers have Hemsky and Spacek, and I'll always root for Pronger (at least 'til five years from now, when he signs with Detroit). In the East, it'd probably be smarter to choose Buffalo -- a better goalie, I suspect, and all those zippy little dudes -- but I'll give some love to the other Southeastern team, and can anyone rationally pick against Rod Brind'Amour? Well, of course you can. He's never won a Cup, so picking against him has always worked out. But I like the guy and that does it. 'Canes in 6.

* * *

For those who've been asking how the bathroom project went, eat m... I mean, it's still not done! Removing the mirror begat big holes in the wall, patching those holes begat sanding, sanding begat plaster dust in my toothbrush. What was to be a half-hour job will now involve me repainting the room this weekend, unless something more enticing comes up, like jury duty. I'm thinking about turning this into a business -- I'll come over, destroy your bathroom, drink your beer, and leave the project undone and you stepping over random debris for weeks on end. $75 an hour!

* * *

I'll be revamping some of the crap on the right side this weekend, adding a ton of new links, an entire new subset of links (oooo!!), maybe some other stuff. I'm kicking around the idea of getting a new template, one that has a smaller font size, but I'm still haunted by the comments adventure. So for now, I'll probably stick with the large-print edition of The Post-Pessimist Association.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Call for Entries


I'm in the mood for some good new music, but not much has been coming my way lately. My usual source never responds to his e-mail, I can't motivate myself to read any music blogs besides Agony Shorthand and Lexicon Devil, I'd rather read the back of a soup can than Pitchfork, etc.

So, any of you reading this -- what should I be listening to? For a quickie idea of what's been on the CD player lately -- the Hold Steady, Birthday Party, Entombed, Mike Doughty, the Rough Trade country CDs, Fred Eaglesmith, Fugazi, Hot Snakes, Old 97s ... longer-term favorites, Slobberbone, selected Black Flag, selected Stones, '70s Springsteen, Wilco, Farrar and Son Volt, Unsane.

Whatcha got?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Dreams are Curious Things

Last night: I had stolen a helicopter, and was piloting it through the skies over New York. The helicopter came handily equipped with a television, so I could watch the news coverage of my escapades. I was trying to land on the top of a building but was unable, whether due to lack of piloting skill or distraction from the TV. Finally, I was crashing into the water when I leapt out, swam to shore, and emerged into a cafeteria -- where I ordered a steak sandwich, and walked off, calmly snacking.

I don't even like steak sandwiches.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Abandon Ship

When I started this, back in '06, it came along with a pledge: I was gonna read 50 books in the year, and my readers were gonna tag along for the ride. Yeah, that ain't happenin'. We're closing in on halfway through the year, and I'm not halfway through 50 -- I'm not one-third through 50. So to spare everyone the indignity of me going back and editing posts to talk about my goal of reading 30 books in 2006, or seeing me give synopses of Hardy Boys books in a desperate attempt to hit the half-century mark (personal favorite: #8, "The Mystery of Cabin Island"), I'm scaling it back to "I will read however many books I've read by December 31, 2006." Less inspiring, more attainable.

That said, #14: "Cloud Atlas" by David Mitchell

It's rare I go into a book knowing I'll love it, but in this case, the combination of ejaculatory reviews and a recommendation from one of the few people whose literary opinion I swear by made it a winner before page one. And yes -- it was. I'm reluctant to go saying much about the setup -- part of my joy was realizing how the book was assembled. Suffice to say that it's dreamy, and beautiful, and wonderful.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

In Ruins

(Above: a photographic representation of the current state of the Colorado Avalanche. That's right! It's symbolism!)

Having watched the Avalanche since they invented hockey in 1995, gosh, golly, that was really probably the worst playoff series I've seen them in. Worse than the meltdown against the Oilers and Curtis Joseph, worse than... worse than any of the other losses (it's early, my memory isn't so good any more). Usually they've played a part in their own defeat, but this time around -- I couldn't really think of anything to write about the series (as you may have noticed!) because it looked like the Ducks had scheduled a series of exhibitions against a Belarusian minor league team.

And now Pierre Lacroix is out. Probably a good thing -- general managers really have a short shelf life (aside from Bob Clarke, who has nine lives) and Sneaky Pete's strokes of genius have become fewer and fewer in recent years. Most of the attention focused on the Theodore trade, but in retrospect, two preseason pickups may have been far, far worse... Pierre Turgeon and, holy God, Patrice Brisebois. Montreal fans had made Brisebois their whipping boy for years, and now, Avalanche fans can see why. He wasn't a Norris Trophy winner in his prime, and his prime was a decade ago. And luckily, barring a buyout, Avalanche fans apparently have another whole year to see both of them taking up space that could be better used by, I dunno, bringing back Rene Corbet or something.

(Above: Rene, longing to make Mike Vernon look foolish just one more time)

I'm curious to see who shows up in the Avalanche GM spot next year -- please, God, let it not be Eric Lacroix (the Denver Post says Pierre has a "candidate in mind" -- uh oh). Second round or not, whoever it is has a tough job ahead of them. There's only a handful of bona fide offensive threats on the team -- Sakic (who's got maybe a year or two left), Hejduk, Tanguay, Brunette, hopefully Wolski; Rob Blake is also about done; there's not a lot of cap room. I can't find any list of whose contracts are up and whose aren't (I know Hejduk, Theodore, Turgeon (shit), and Brisebois (dammit) are signed for next year, Sakic and Blake aren't) but I suspect a lot of useful guys -- your Laperrieres, Laaksonens, and so forth -- are up.

Every year it's been fashionable to write off the Avalanche, to say "this is where it all ends" -- and it hasn't yet. And I know there's a long offseason ahead. But I have a feeling that a long, cruel, post-apocalyptic winter is in the offing.

(Update: The Rocky Mountain News has a bit on the impending free agents -- apparently I called it wrong and Laperriere and Laaksonen are locked up. But Tanguay, Liles, Svatos and Vaananen are restricted free agents, Hinote, Skrastins, Dowd, and Clark unrestricted. Of those latter four, I'd love to see Skrastins back -- in fact I'll be really upset if he's not -- Dowd played well after being acquired, Hinote is pretty effective, I don't know much about Clark...)

(Update to the update: I mentioned knowing little about Clark, then noticed he was the second leading-scoring defenseman during the playoffs. I also note that he used to play for the Atlanta Thrashers, the team that plays in the city in which I live. I never claimed to be good at this.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

My New Way to Waste My Life


I recently assisted a friend with a project he was working on, and in return, he very generously gave me a gift certificate to NHL.com's online store. I in turn converted that gift certificate into NHL 2K6 for the Xbox 360, and last night, I made haste over to my friend Fidel's to try it out.

Expectations were tempered -- I'd heard horrible things about every hockey video game made since about 1996, and Fidel usually speaks of hockey fans with the same disdain one generally reserves for connoisseurs of scat pornography.

You can probably see where this is going: we played for about seven hours straight, with a break to return to a former favorite bar (which is awful -- hard to believe I drank at such a hideously depressing place twice a week for a couple years) and a couple games of video boxing, which is also terrifyingly fun.

But anyway, NHL 2K6. Tomáš Klouček gets a regular spot in the Thrashers' defense rotation, which wins my heart right off. The Avalanche actually score goals, something I haven't seen in real life in, what, a week? (note: written before Dan Hinote scored) It's obviously far more technically advanced than the Sega Genesis games that dominated my college years -- the searchlights that occasionally emanate from the goalies being one example -- but the old instincts came back terrifyingly easily. I had a blast. By the end, Fidel couldn't say anything more than "this is great shit" while occasionally berating Ottawa's forwards.

I also realized that I can hold forth on, say, Tomáš Vokoun's superiority to Ty Conklin with far more authority than I can anything else. And I think any hope for a functioning relationship is shot for the next few months, unless I find a girl who knows the Florida Panthers' lineup inside and out.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Dear Colorado Avalanche, Please Score Goals

Just a helpful reminder from your friends at the P-PA! Currently, the Red Wings have scored as many goals in the second round as you guys, and while I realize that Captain Consonants in the Ducks' goal is a mystifying fellow, he occasionally does let pucks go by. I've read about it.

It's been a crazy weekend, but rest assured, there will be actual new posts here soon, as well as some other SPECTACULAR FEATURES. Amazing stuff is coming, friends.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Things Other People Do

At some point in between now and the day I die, I will write up a post or two about some strolls I took through odd parts of Atlanta, and photographs I took. But today is not the day.

In lieu of that, official friends-of-PPA (them and Marian Hossa) Robb and Dayna went to Roswell, New Mexico, and then Robb wrote about it. It's good fun and now I wish I went to Roswell when I was a resident of the American Southwest. Instead, I live through Robb.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Drinking and... Downloading? No, That Doesn't Work

One of the hazards about the occasional night of excess is that the internet provides whole new ways for me to make a drunken ass out of myself. It was hard enough for me when all I could do was call people -- but now that I can text message, e-mail, blog, or otherwise? If I wake up from a bender with some dignity intact, it's a moral victory.

Last Saturday's festivities ultimately included a trip onto MySpace, and some plaintive friend queries. The result is that in addition to Unsane, Noah, and assorted others -- Thrashers star Marian Hossa is now one of my MySpace friends. There's no real way for a 33-year-old man to make that sound good.

Pavel Kubina and, I think, some others have yet to respond. Tomáš Klouček? No profile.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mysterious Epistles


Tearing out a grocery list this morning, I came across this note, buried deep in one of my notepads. I keep this little book with me to jot down ideas, etc., and often have it with me in bars -- but I'm coming up blank on who might have written it (no, it's not my handwriting, thanks for asking).

No idea, either, when it was -- I don't think I've had this one out with me in a bit. It's kind of flattering (if indeed I was the intended recipient), and as mysteries go, this is a pleasant sort. Forever unsolved, forever untainted by the disappointment reality would likely bring.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Wow.

I know I'm risking alienating my non-hockey-liking friends, but that (Red Wings-Oilers, Game Six) was one hell of a third period. (For my non-hockey-liking friends, the Oilers won, and so my laptop isn't in pieces across the room.) If it was indeed Yzerman's last game, it was kind of sad to see him go -- though I prefer this to see the Wings giving him a farewell Stanley Cup.

Meanwhile, catch the guys who scored all the Oilers' goals? ALES Hemsky and Fernando PISAni. I'm not saying there's any connection, but the Pisa jersey is going deep into the closet if the Oilers end up facing the Avalanche.

Hockey Talk

After a busy day of littering my life with tiny, potentially painful shards of glass, I'm relaxing (if that's the proper word for edge of the seat tension) with a Pilsner Urquell in front of the Red Wings-Oilers game. I'll resist any comment, to avoid counteracting whatever good karma is being generated by the spirit of Ales Pisa. But I will point you to GoonBlog, which managed to dig up a clip from an old ESPYs show, featuring Chris Chelios in a role where I didn't actually hate him.

Watched the Avalanche-Stars game yesterday, and while obviously pleased and relieved by the result, I was struck by how shallow the Avalanche's scoring depth is now. In the early days of Le Avalanche, there was just wave after wave of burgundy, scoring goals and making life grand -- now, beyond Sakic/Brunette/Hejduk/Tanguay, there isn't much (and yeah, I know Turgeon and Svatoš are out). Contrast that to a team like Ottawa or Edmonton (or, yes, Detroit) -- where every player on the team seems like a threat to score -- and it's rather thin. Doom and gloom aside, though, it was great to see Theodore play so well.

Go Oilers.

Members of the Working Class Love the Sound of Breaking Glass

Ten points if you can identify where the headline came from -- in part because I can't remember. I may have misquoted it (a Google search doesn't turn anything up), in which case, ten more points if you can give me the correct line.

I spent the morning trying to recreate the cover of "Damaged," the above being the more-or-less current state of my bathroom. The vacant spot behind the old mirror didn't contain a severed head or bushels of child porn, kind of a surprise, since everything else has convinced me that the previous owner of this place was insane. I envisioned a quick thirty minute job to replace the mirror -- instead it's been about four hours (with a break for a beer), there's still big chunks of glass on the wall, the wall itself is damaged in several areas, and the new mirror is still in its packaging.

As a bonus, the bathroom floor is covered with shards of broken glass. Memo to all future would-be Tim Allens: when they suggest "put down a dropcloth," they are not fucking around. I've got the glass out of the sink, the shower, and the toilet bowl, and I've cleared enough of a path that I could walk barefoot from the door to the shower tomorrow, if I were incredibly stupid (which, given the current state of this project, isn't out of the question). I'm weighing the possibility of crashing at a friend's house; he's out of town and won't care, until he gets back and reads this, and finds out who left dirty dishes all over the place.