Thursday, November 29, 2001

While there's nothing like the first blush of new love, the first rush of new blogging comes darn close. Two buddies of mine have started online journals in recent weeks, and each is worth a look.

The first one belongs to my pal John Popa. I met this dude at a comic book convention about a year and a half ago, and we hit it off instantly. It's frightening how many interests we share: comics, musical theater, loud Hawaiian shirts, beautiful women in sweaters... if it weren't for hair color and wildly divergent choices of favorite band, people would be hard-pressed to tell us apart.

Jody LaFerriere's blog is the other new kid on the block, but don't let that deceive you. She's had a Web presence since 1995, which in my book easily qualifies her as an Internet pioneer. Her Big Dumptruck page is still going strong with updates roughly every six to eight weeks, but I'm enjoying the hell out of the less structured, more stream-of-consciousness observations in her blog.

I would be remiss if I didn't note two things Jody has of which I'm openly covetous: status as a full-fledged TopFive contributor (as opposed to my once-a-month subscriber privileges) and her wonderful, adorable son, Mookie.

Give these two good folks a read. Just remember to come back here when you're done.
Posted @ 2:47 PM

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

I read the first Harry Potter book a couple of years back. It didn't grab me at all until the last few chapters, but it was an enjoyable enough read.

I've got many friends whose tastes often overlap with mine who love the series. Based on those opinions, l may give the other books a whirl at some point, and chances are I'll take the movie in before it leaves theaters.

Not that Potter author J. K. Rowling needs any of my cash: she's on track to become the first billionaire author in history. Not bad for a 36-year-old single mom who was on the public dole not so long ago.

Football was looking pretty bleak this season for a guy like me living just inside the Beltway. Not that the last few years have been stellar for the boys in burgundy and gold, but watching your team drop the first five games tends to let the wind out of one's fannish sails.

Then, somehow, Washington pulled off an emergency Bat-turn. Suddenly, they're 5-5.

This is one hell of a roll to be on. If they can keep the momentum going, the only team on the horizon they really have to worry about is the Bears. Can you say 10-6?

No, neither can I. But at least I can dream while I look forward to next year.
Posted @ 1:31 AM

Thursday, November 22, 2001

I've gone on and on about how I love my TiVo, but there's one feature I haven't had a chance to take out for spin until this morning. If you're in the middle of recording something, you can start watching it from the beginning and it will keep logging the show while you do.

Today I'm seeing just how cool that can be. I always love the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, but in recent years it's been tough to drag myself out of bed just to watch TV, even it if is a once-a-year event. So either I'd get up in time and be sleepy, thereby missing much of the enjoyment, or I'd get up half-way through and miss a lot of the actual goings-on.

But not today. I woke up about 10:30, made coffee, plopped myself down in front of the tube and started watching from beginning. I'm skipping through the commercials and lame host segments and just watching the actual parade itself.

It's nearly as good as the year, not too long ago, when I was actually there in Columbus Circle with my brother Geoff. Certainly warmer and drier.

So I start this Thanksgiving enjoying a satisfying but admittedly trivial blessing. I'm just warming up. Soon I'll turn my thoughts to family, friends, and loved ones, the true joys of my life.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.
Posted @ 11:53 AM

Monday, November 19, 2001

While on vacation overseas earlier this year, I met a fellow American at a dinner party and had a wonderful conversation with her about our mutual admiration for Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.

The next morning, as I was checking out of my hotel, news of the author's death at the far-too-young age of 49 reached me. It seemed the world had seen the last of his distinctively sharp humor.

Now it looks like there will be one last hurrah for Arthur Dent and company. Pieced together from various drafts found on his computer, a sixth and final Hitchhiker's story, A Salmon of a Doubt, will be published next year on the anniversary of Adams' passing.

I'm cautiously hopeful over the prospect of this new story. The first three books in the series are about as perfect an expression of one man's comic voice as can be found. The fourth book, So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish, set a richer, more mature tone for the series and gave the characters more depth without losing any of their humorous appeal.

It's the fifth book, Mostly Harmless, that gives me pause about Salmon. The tone and voice of that book reverted to the style of the original trilogy. That step back bothered me immensely while reading it.

Worse than that, Mostly Harmless ended on definitively cynical note, the end result coming off like a violent doorslam on the possibility of any more Hitchhiker's stories. It was as if Adams was saying to the readers that he'd had enough of his most famous creation and wanted to leave it behind. Fair enough, I thought. It's his story, and he could and should be able to let it go if he so chose. But the book itself seemed like a lousy way to deliver that message, and left a bitter taste in my mouth.

With this sixth installment on the way, I may have to reassess my interpretation of Adams' intentions with Mostly Harmless. It's possible that he was simply responding to the pressures of the fan base and churning out one more Hitchhiker's tale.

From what I know about the guy, I don't think that's the case. If he was still writing these stories half a decade after he seemed to put that fictional universe to bed forever, I'm convinced that he actually had more he wanted to tell.

I hope my new assumption is right. If it is, it'll be great to have one more chance to grab my towel and romp through Douglas Adams' hilarious corner of the universe.
Posted @ 1:47 AM

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Here on the east coast of the United States, it's 1,000 hours until Christmas! If you're not in this time zone, check out how long you've got left here.

I think I may make this benchmark the new official start to my personal Christmas season. Forty-one and a half days seems about right: long enough to do just about everything (the carols, the cookies, the TV specials, the shopping, etc.), but not so long that I burn out on the whole thing. I'll try it this year, and let you know how it goes.
Posted @ 12:14 PM

Saturday, November 10, 2001

TV round-up time: first, a brief comment about the premiere of The Tick. For once, Tim and I are of one mind on an entertainment subject, so I'll simply second his summation and add this observation: every time I look at David Burke, the actor playing The Tick's loyal sidekick Arthur, I feel like I'm looking at Mark Hamill's younger brother.

Now, onto "Once More, With Feeling", the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which also aired this week. I've been a big fan of Buffy and the gang since my friend Jennie hooked me on the show back in '99. I've been doing musical theater for going onto fourteen years. So when I heard showrunner Joss Whedon wanted to send his Slayer on a little stroll down Tin Pan Alley, I knew this would be an episode to remember.

I hoped Joss could pull it off. He's always been successful at bucking convention and winning on long shot bets in the past. In fact, he's provided more real twists and satisfying turns than all the "surprises" ER has ever tried to deliver. Still, we're talking musical theater on prime-time TV here. The potential for a disaster of Cop Rock proportions loomed large.

So what do I have to say after finally watching the TiVo-ed episode tonight?

Just this: when am I going to learn that Joss always, but always pulls off the big gambles.

The entire production, from the good-as-any-Disney-heroine's plaintive beginning number to the devastating ambiguity of the finale, "Where Do We Go From Here?", was superlative. I was especially enamored of Spike's unrequited love song to Buffy, "Rest In Peace" and Giles' self-revelatory power ballad, "Standing In The Way."

It's pretty clear why the ep worked. Joss understands the vital thing that makes for a great musical: the songs must reveal the characters' inner feelings and advance the story at the same time. Too many actual Broadway shows of late can't seem to grasp that simple truth.

Here's a measure of how wonderful "Once More, With Feeling" was for me. If I can get my hands on a recording of the soundtrack, I might be able to fend off my powerful urge to start listening to Christmas music for a couple more weeks, at which time it'll be more acceptable to those around me.
Posted @ 10:53 PM

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Those who've been acquainted with me for any length of time know that two of my biggest obsessions are Hawaiian shirts and Christmas. For years, I've been trying to bring these passions together by finding the perfect yuletide aloha shirt. I've run across a few candidates in the past, but the patterns have always skewed too much toward the tropical (i.e. Santa on a surfboard) and not enough toward a traditional holiday look for my liking. In fact, I was becoming convinced that I'd have to find the appropriate fabric myself and have a shirt made from it.

Yesterday, all my years of searching paid off. Behold this early Christmas miracle.

Now I've just got to find someplace to wear it.
Posted @ 3:54 PM

Tuesday, November 06, 2001

My math skills are a little rusty, so could somebody check to make sure I've worked out this little word problem correctly?

The cancellation of Bob Patterson + Nathan Lane's throat polyp = a new star for The Producers
Posted @ 1:02 AM

Monday, November 05, 2001

Mr. Peabody would be so proud: the Internet Archive Wayback Machine is just about the coolest thing I've seen on the Net all year. Plug a url into the search box at the top and it returns snapshots of that site going back as far as five years.

See Web stalwarts in their infancy. Check out pre-portalized search engines. Discover what places you visit regularly were doing before you found them. Pick over the bones of the dead. You'll find it quite addictive.

The Wayback Machine is new, but it's already getting slammed by heavy traffic. That means getting through can take a little while. It's working about half the time for me. If you don't want to deal with that hassle, wait for off-hours before you give it a whirl.
Posted @ 10:10 AM

Friday, November 02, 2001

On the last night of my trip to Chicago, I had plans to get together with an old friend I hadn't seen in about six years. Sadly, unforeseeable problems caused those plans to fall through.

While trying to think of a pleasant, low-key diversion to fill this void in my schedule, I spied Buckingham Fountain out my hotel window, its lighted form just becoming visible as the sun set in the west. The fountain is one of my favorite Chicago landmarks, and I hadn't thought I'd have a chance to visit it during my very busy business trip. With a smile on my face, I went down to the lobby, hopped in a cab, and headed north toward the fountain's Grant Park location.

The last bit of residual daylight was just fading from the sky as I reached the fountain. A nice mix of families and couples were there enjoying the place, but it was by no means crowded. I walked around the base, reveling in the sight before me while reminiscing about other wonderful nights spent there.

After a few minutes, loudspeakers began blaring patriotic music in time with a red, white and blue light show in the fountain itself. It was corny and stirring at the same time, as are so many such things these days.

As I was enjoying the show, my cell phone rang. It was the friend with whom I had planned to spend the evening. We talked for about half an hour, catching up a bit and comparing notes.

The conversation was too brief and I still wished we could have actually seen each other, but talking with this long-feared-lost friend while enjoying one of my favorite places from home made for a sweet, magical moment.
Posted @ 11:17 AM


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