Saturday, May 31, 2008

Rocky Mountain High

I was waiting to do a post until I got my photos uploaded, then I just now realized that Commandant Genius (that's me) either forgot to pack his digital camera USB cord or packed it so well that it can't be found.

So, I'm back in the homeland. I had a dawn flight yesterday, which rendered me more or less useless for my first 20 hours here. When I was a kid, the PPA family was split regarding vacation departures: my Dad and I went for the wake up at some ungodly hour, depart before dawn choice, while my Mom and siblings preferred to sleep in. After getting up at 4:45 am yesterday, I think I've finally defected and left Dad as the only pro-early family member.

But, now, I'm refreshed and awake. I timed it pretty well (if there's tornadoes tomorrow, this may be rescinded) -- the weather's amazing and this life without stress is not bad. I spent a couple hours on the parents' patio yesterday, drinking Fat Tire and reading Pynchon, staring at the clouds and feeling pretty good. This morning I went down to the Pearl Street Mall, drank coffee and bloody marys and enjoyed the sun and breeze, and wondered why I ever left this place.

The answer to that, of course, is that as of summer 1999 I didn't have a job and thus didn't have much choice. In any case, right now it's feeling like paradise. I know that in the coming days I'll deal with self-righteous dorks and kamikaze bicyclists, and remember that it isn't perfect. But it's pretty fantastic.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Writer's Block

It's a sad day when you're sitting in front of an empty Blogger screen, unable to even match the intellectual level of an entry about eating a giant hot dog. Up until the last week or so, I was at least doing a considerable amount of writing off the site, but even that ran aground this past weekend. Once again, I'm looking to Colorado (Friday!) to solve all my problems, inspire me to write, get me fit and healthy, and so forth.

I have a vague idea for a music-related post but it ain't happening now, a vague idea for a presidential campaign post but it probably won't happen ever -- there's not a lot of new ground to be tilled on that subject.

Once upon a time, jobless just-out-of-college, at the same time that I was daydreaming about going off to be a war correspondent in the Balkans, I got on a real Hunter S. Thompson kick. I lucked out in that I got into him through "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail" and "The Great Shark Hunt," which I'd still consider to be his best work -- "Hell's Angels" isn't bad, "Las Vegas" is overhyped, everything after about 1980 is poop and a lesson in what happens when you let a created persona take over. Anyway, imagine unemployed me reading and re-reading "Campaign Trail" while languishing unemployed in my grandmother's suburban Tucson house, and it's easy to see how I convinced myself that I should follow in HST's footsteps (minus the liberal use of drugs), go off on my own, be a maverick journalist, cover politics my own way, etc etc.

Thank god I didn't. Thanks to the internet, there's now innumerable bad writers doing the exact same thing, and I can't imagine much more soul-crushing than following this campaign (except going back in time and covering the 2004 campaign. Or 2000).

There's some things the U.S. does a lot better than the Brits -- food, weather. There's some things the Brits do a lot better. Regardless of your feelings for the sports in question, compare the coverage of American sports to the Guardian's coverage of soccer (alternately, compare Page 2 or Deadspin to the Fiver) and the folks across the Atlantic win handily. Likewise, they win in politics. American politics are a shouting match -- British politics are subtle and fascinating. I was in London and Albania during the 2005 UK elections, and I couldn't stop paying attention. I didn't really have a clue what was at stake, but the battles for seats in places I'd never heard of, the role of the Liberal Democrats, all that crap -- I just couldn't stop reading. Likewise, last week there was some by-election in some little out-of-the-way place that for reasons I haven't quite gathered was really really important, and I just loved reading about it.

So there's one cure for writer's block: ramble on aimlessly about nothing. Hey, that's more than I've written in a while!

* * *

Book update:

#18 -- "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" by Bill Bryson (re-read)

I needed something quick and this is the only Bryson book I haven't read 72 times in the past decade. It's a collection of columns he wrote for a British paper upon moving back to the U.S. after living in the UK for decades. All entertaining stuff, though his longer-form writing is more satisfying.

#19 -- "Death of a Hawker" by Janwillem van de Wetering (re-read)

I'm hoping to finally read Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon" while on vacation, so I need something fun and easy to occupy me now. Another Amsterdam cops novel, and as always,the characters' ruminations are a lot more interesting than the plot. Has the usual impact of making me want to move to Amsterdam, sit on a houseboat, and contemplate. I imagine if I ever do so I'll be disappointed since I've convinced myself that everyone in the Netherlands is a dry-witted, multi-talented, introspective intellectual. All because of these books.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The PPA's Life-Affirming Tips

If you're planning on spending your day off being really super-productive, a human productivity machine the likes of which the world has never seen, then don't -- I repeat, don't -- order something called a "Loaded Dogzilla" for lunch.

And also don't wash it down with three pints of Red Brick Blonde Ale (which may be my pick for best Atlanta beer now, though that's not exactly a fierce competition).

Regular blogging to resume sometime soon, after I (hopefully) get myself off the couch.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I May Not Do Much Else...

...but I do read books.

#15 -- "The Dark is Rising" by Susan Cooper

Not too hard to guess that after I read "Over Sea, Under Stone" I'd go ahead and read the next book in the series. This was actually the first I read when I was a kid and I remember being really unsettled by it -- can see why, it's a bit darker and spookier than the first book. Really satisfying, but I think it's time to put the Cooper books aside for a bit and write my own.

#16 -- "On the House" by Simon Read

Eh. A true-crime book concerning the really bizarre murder of a depression-era drunk -- one that took the rather inept killers multiple tries. The problem is that you know most of the bizarre elements by the time you've read the back cover and the introduction, and you know who's responsible from the start. So 95% of the book is just explaining how it came to pass.

#17 -- "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" by Michael Chabon

I feared that all the raves about this might put my expectations too high, but this is so damn entertaining. The basics: post-World War II the Jews of Europe settled in Sitka, Alaska, rather than Israel; now, 60 years later, their lease is about to run out. Meyer Landsman is an alcoholic police detective, trying to solve crimes that people would rather see swept under the rug. The structure is gonna be familiar to anyone who's read any hard-boiled novel ever, but two things really put this on a level of its own: 1) Chabon really fully realizes his made-up world, and it's fascinating, and 2) when Chabon is on he can write rings about just about anyone on Earth, and he's on pretty much non-stop here. I thought "Mysteries of Pittsburgh" was good, "Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" great, but this is his best one yet.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Too Lazy to Think Up a Title

2008 winner, Laziest Homeless Guy in Atlanta award: the guy who sat on a curb and yelled "hey! man! Give me some money" across half a parking lot today. As someone who's rather lazy himself, I applaud his commitment to energy conservation, but it didn't pay off here since I'm also too lazy to walk across a parking lot.

I haven't exactly been Captain Fun Super Blogger lately -- work is a killer and when I'm not working I'm tied up with various project-type things that don't make for good blogging. And then when I'm not doing those I'm staying up til 4 a.m. drinking Maudite (which is apparently Quebec-language for either "skull-cleaver" or "don't drink four of these right in a row, merde-head") and, seriously, playing Worldwide Soccer Manager, which is about as addictive as heroin and about as productive (though since FC Brno are now Czech first division champions thanks to my leadership, maybe all the naysayers will back off).

I saw my friend Sherri yesterday, and she gently chastised me for not updating lately, but I just haven't done much -- haven't read much, haven't gone out shooting photos (aside from the above sign -- I was heading out to Sweetwater Creek with the Ski Bum and saw it, and had to make a return with the camera), haven't done much of anything. Hope that'll change -- if nothing else, I return to Colorado in two weeks, which will spawn all sorts of mewling about how great it is.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Service Interruptions

Things have been pretty busy down here, to the point where I haven't even been able to break away from Worldwide Soccer Manager had enough time to post a lazy photograph. Hopefully I'll be back on it in a few days.

In the meantime, here's the sights of Atlanta! (link via Atlanta Metblogs)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

History Lesson

Not much from me lately, I know. I've been constantly slammed and just really haven't had anything to write about. I'm three weeks away from a direly-needed trip back to Colorado, which will hopefully make life bearable again.

As is often the case in these situations, I turn to a hockey jersey.

Dukla Jihlava is one of my favorite Czech clubs based solely on aesthetics. Yellow is not one of my favorite colors, but somehow, Dukla's pairing of it with purple/red/burgundy (the shade seems to have evolved back and forth over time) looks really nice. Well, usually. I've got several Dukla jerseys, and some of them are among my favorites in my collection.

This one's dating back to the final years of Communism -- it looks much older with the cheap material. When I bought it, it was advertised as 1970s -- it almost definitely is mid- to late-1980s, though.

The only Vyhlidal I can find in my books about Dukla (yes, I have books about Dukla. Two of them. In a language I can't speak or read) is Michal Vyhlidal, who first joined the team in the late 1980s. A Czech friend who's pretty up on the history also says that's the only Vyhlidal that's played for them since the 1970s, at least. So I'm assuming this is him. He's actually still active, apparently, playing in lower Czech divisions and Slovenia recently.

One problem, though: as far as I can tell, he joined the main team the year AFTER this style went out of favor. So my guess is that this was initially worn by someone else, then handed down to Vyhlidal either on the youth team, or for a brief call-up to Dukla.

Dukla is a popular name among Warsaw Pact-era sport teams. Named for, I believe, a World War II battle in Slovakia, "Duklas" were generally army-related clubs (and therefore generally did pretty well). Dukla Jihlava in Czech hockey, Dukla Trencin in Slovak hockey, Dukla Prague in Czech soccer. Since the fall of Communism, most Duklas seem to have suffered (Dukla Trencin is doing ok under private ownership, I think).

Jihlava, meanwhile, has other significance: it's the hedgehog city, back on the PPA front page!

As usual, Tapeleg is to blame for all these jersey things.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Looking Forward to Euro 2008

I meant to sprint out of work last night and join Tapeleg and Meg to see the Avalanche's last hurrah, but things got busy and I stayed an extra 45 minutes, then I got stuck in Bon Jovi traffic, and so I arrived at the bar, sprinted into the back room, and looked up at the screen:

7-1. (it ended 8-2.)

I'm glad I missed the majority of the game; that was the hockey equivalent of Super Bowl XXIV for me. There's no team left that I really feel anything for -- maybe the Canadiens, but they're about to bounce out; maybe the Penguins, but only because I like penguins. The Wings look too good to lose (though their fans continue to indicate that Detroit was used as a thalidomide testing ground; that's some comfort), so I'll just set my sights on soccer. Go whichever Slavic team does best!