For starters, I didn’t get my free taco from Taco Bell this year …

In case you missed it, Jason Bartlett stole a base for the Rays in Game 1, and Taco Bell, therefore, filled its promise to give a free taco to anyone in America who asked for one between the hours of 2 and 6 p.m. yesterday …

My plan had been to leave work around 5 or 5:30 and claim my free taco during my drive home …

That didn’t happen. Instead, I got a late phone call from a source I’d been waiting to hear from all day. I had been minutes away from closing shop for the day and trying it again today. So when the source called, I had little choice but to work his comments into my story and submit it. I finished and left the office a few minutes after 6 …

For a little bit, I was bummed …

Then again, this was the second year Taco Bell had run the promotion. And I’ll bet they’ll do it again next year …

And if I had gotten my free taco this year, I’m not sure it would have topped the revelation and fun of last year’s free taco.

* * *
Now, about Monday’s Game 5 monsoon in Philadelphia

I don’t blame Major League Baseball for starting the game. Supposedly Commissioner Bud Selig met with the involved parties before the game and, based on the forecast they had in their hands, they decided to go out and play. Fine.

But you’re asking for some serious problems when the conditions are so poor that the umpires aren’t calling the infield fly rule and the infield dirt is taking the shape of a shallow pond.

To complicate matters, it seemed as though everyone involved in the game or watching it was under the impression that the Phillies, leading the series three games to one and carrying a 2-1 lead heading into that infamous sixth inning, would be crowned World Series Champions when the game was called …

So, imagining the horror that would follow if the series did indeed end that way, I cheered immensely when BJ Upton reached base, somehow stole second base and then practically tip-toed around the rain-drenched third base to score on Carlos Pena’s single to tie the game 2-2 in the top of the sixth.

I breathed a sigh of relief and then yelled at the TV, “Now call this game!” Which the umpires promptly did.

It was only later in the post game news conference that Selig basically told reporters he was throwing out the rule book for the World Series; he basically said a World Series would not be shortened by rain under his watch …Which begs the question: Why did Monday’s night game last as long as it did?

Wrote SI's Joe Sheehan ...

Monday night's game had to be stopped. The weather deteriorated rapidly starting around 9:30 p.m., and the last two half-innings were played in conditions completely unfit for baseball. That they played those innings speaks poorly for both the umpiring crew and the commissioner; had the game not been a World Series game, with the attendant attention from network executives, there is no chance that the teams would have taken the field for the top of the sixth.

More good reads ...
a World Series Has Been Down Wet Paths in the Past
a Time Stops in a Delay, but the Strategies Don’t
a Umpires in Spotlight for the Wrong Reasons
a Phillies' Myers puts past behind him, on and off the field

* * *
Leading up to tonight’s game, my only hope was that the Phillies would win it tonight and put this quirky World Series out of its misery.

After all, it was comedian Andy Borowitz who wrote on Tuesday ...

In an unprecedented move, Major League Baseball cancelled the 2008 World Series today, citing "overwhelming lack of

This year's contest, featuring the Philadelphia Phillies and some other team, will be the first-ever World Series to be yanked before completion, but in the words of one baseball executive, "We're fairly sure no one will notice."

The decision to pull the plug on the Series came last night after the fifth game of the contest was rain-delayed and suspended with the score standing at something to something.
Some guys were on base and another guy was pitching when the rains came, but no one in the stadium showed a flicker of interest in the outcome.
But once it got underway tonight, admittedly, there was something fun about sitting down to watch an elimination game that had started two nights ago and was re-beginning in the bottom of the sixth inning with the home team having the edge and its championship-starved fans going crazy. I got an extra kick when the TV analysts pointed out, because the game was starting in the bottom of the sixth, the Phillies would have 12 outs to work with, while the Rays would have just nine …

So unprecedented; so intense.

Then, of course, Geoff Jenkins -- our proud former Brewer -- led off the game, er, the bottom of the sixth inning with a double off the center field wall and eventually scored to break the tie …

The Rays barely got going and it was over.

Phillies win.

World Series over.

Season over.

Don't let up

Kates and I just watched the half-hour Barack Obama ad ...

We're in.

I caught this on YouTube today... pretty good.


Act - React

A couple weeks ago I mentioned seeing the "Act/React" exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Here's my review ...

The brush strokes of a Monet painting? The colors of a van Gogh? Who gets that, right? BOR-ing. Yeah, I’d rather be home playing “de Blob” on my Wii.

But wait. The Milwaukee Art Museum has a nifty, cool exhibit where the art actually reacts to YOU! I know, right? Like, you can actually touch the art, and walk on it. And some of it moves with your shadow.

Get this — the exhibit is called “Act/React: Interactive Installation Art” and it’s at the Milwaukee Art Museum until Jan. 11.

It’s the first of its kind.

“This show is a timely show because of the mass media we have right now,” said John McKinnon, a curatorial assistant at the museum. “Obviously media is definitely changing the world and helping add to it. Video gaming is a million dollar enterprise and it’s definitely changing with the Wii system.”


“Act/React” has 10 so-called “environments” created by six different pioneers of responsive art, including a piece by the special effects designer who won an Academy Award for “Jurassic Park.”

While “Act/React” is a technological marvel, the art collection takes its color palette from its visitors rather than a desktop of keyboards or touchscreens. The art is motion-driven and begs anyone who steps in front of it — or on it — to invoke their creativity.

“People activate the art,” said Brigid Globensky, the museum’s senior director of education. “That’s what it’s about. There are some very cool artworks created by visitors. It’s just made for families and for kids to crawl and wiggle and really
intuitively explore all of these different artworks in their own act of creativity.”

Creative boundaries
The experience begins with Scott Snibbe’s addictive “Boundary Functions,” a retro-reflective square that appears almost like a dance floor. Step on it, and nothing happens. But invite another person to join you, and the floor comes alive.

Lines are projected between you and anyone else who sets a foot on the floor, creating equal regions around each person’s feet. As you move, so do the lines of your region. You can try cutting through the floor to invade other people’s spaces, but your allotment never changes. Spaces can be combined only when you reach across your space to join hands with a partner.

Projected on a wall next to Snibbe’s “Boundary Functions” is his 2003 creation “Deep Walls,” a grid of 16 boxes that records a silhouette of anyone moving in front of it. The work is an ever-changing imprint of the last 16 people to interact with it.

“Act/React” only gets better as you progress deeper into the exhibit spaces.

Liz Phiilips’ “Echo Evolution” takes its cues from the sounds your body makes to create an enchanted neon musical garden. Later, visitors see Camille Utterback’s painting background in a trio of pieces that put brush strokes and splotches of color onto a screen based on people’s movements.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is Academy Award winner Brian Knep’s “Healing Pool,” a floor about half the size of a basketball court with colorful forms that reconfigure in the wake of anyone who passes over it. With each step you take on the floor pad, the pool tears apart and oozes together again, never appearing the same as before. Part of the fun is seeing what designs or words your feet can paint on the space before your trail fades.

Like almost all of the pieces in the exhibit, “Healing Pool” uses projectors and cameras to capture movements. But Knep also incorporated a set of sophisticated algorithms to create the glowing pool of organic patterns on the floor. It’s the same
system that influences the stripes on a zebra — they are always similar but
never identical.

No clicks or clacks
While works like “Boundary Functions” and “Healing Power” are addictive in the footwork they entail, Daniel Rozin’s “Peg Mirror” and “Snow Mirror” are more contemplative and soothing.

When you stand in front of “Snow Mirror,” digital particles land on your outline as if you’re a snowman in a storm. The moment you move, however, the particles break up and disintegrate as though they were swept by a gust of wind.

“Peg Mirror” is made of 650 circular wood pieces cut at an angle to spin silently and mirror your image. As they spin, the values of their beveled ends correspond to the dark and light areas of your reflected image It’s a digital photo, of sorts, of your body that will have you gazing in wonder.

“It’s very simple, very beautiful; it’s made of wood, yet it’s high-tech digital,” said Daniel Keegan, director of the art museum. “I think it’s one of the things that digital arts do really well, and artists working with technologies, they figure out a way to take very simple tools and materials and almost give you this magical sort of presentation. It’s so simple, it’s so elegant ... and it’s quiet. There aren’t gears running and things clicking and clacking.”

Magic and metaphor
No piece in “Act/React” stretches the imagination further than Janet Cardiff’s “To Touch” — a worn and marked-up wood table that erupts with mysterious stories when it’s touched.

The table stands illuminated in the center of an otherwise darkened room lined with dozens of speakers. When you touch the table, phrases like “your skin’s so soft” and “I remember the feeling of dried blood” are spoken — and whispered — by male and female voices.

The more space you cover on the tabletop, the more you hear, including screeching tires, knives scraping each other, circus music and a woman whispering the ABCs. All of it swells to create a spooky experience.

“Act/React” is guest curated by George Fifield, a Milwaukee native and the founding director of Boston Cyberarts. For him, the exhibition has been a dream since he saw similar work being shown at a digital art conference in 2000.

But the art shown in “Act/React,” Fifield noted, is more about magic and metaphor than it is about technology.

“The history of installation art in digital media and new media has always been mediated by an interface, whether it’s a keyboard or a mouse, whether it was a touch-screen panel” Fifield said. “The thing about being able to show interactive art without interface is that suddenly you’re cut free from the technology. You don’t have to have any special knowledge, you don’t have to know how to manipulate the tools. You just bring your intuitive sense about how to move through space.”

Bad medicine

I’m still battling this cold. But don’t worry -- I’ve been chugging the medicine and I’m on the back end of it now, I know it. It’ll be gone tomorrow.

But that’s not why I’m writing this …

This one’s almost as good as the morning I put on mis-matching shoes

This morning, as I was getting ready for work, I reached for my next dose of cold medicine … and accidentally grabbed the “night time” medicine. Before I realized my mistake, I’d already downed it …

Thanks to my mistake, I could barely keep my head from crashing into my keyboard at work …

As soon as I could take my lunch break, I was out of the office and crashed on our living room couch to sleep it off.

After I ate my lunch, I took another dose of cold medicine -- and made sure it was the “daytime” medicine.

Oh, and it was snowing this afternoon. Halloween hasn't arrived yet, and we've seen snow ... Our friend Tiffany says I need to pretend to like it so Phoebe can learn to be excited when it snows.



Sunday reading

A collection of good reads that caught my eyes during the last week ...

Baseball ...
a Cubs against Rays: The Series to die for ... A fantasy of what could have been. Great stuff that had me laughing out loud.
a Building the Rays
a Moyer a pitcher for the ages
a An Energetic Presence on Hand for Every Phillies Pennant
a Demolition Takes Shea Stadium Piece by Piece
a If Brenly leaves Cubs' booth, intrigue will follow ... I'll really miss Bob if he leaves the Cubs' booth, but if the Brewers hire him I'll stand up and clap. After the reports that came out of New York, I'll take anyone over Willie Randolph to manage the Brewers.
a After his grating escape to Los Angeles, Ramirez will strike it rich again

TV ...
a Pamela Fryman is the set mom on 'How I Met Your Mother'
a How 'SNL' Got Sarah Palin
a After playin' Palin, Tina Fey returns in '30 Rock'
a Fall season fails to capture viewers so far ... Kates and I didn't have any interest in watching any of the new shows this season -- except for "Worst Week," which was getting high praise coming in. But after watching Sam fumble beyond belief each week, it got unbearable after a couple weeks.
a 'Heroes': Five Ways to Fix a Series In Crisis ... I don't think "Heroes" is as bad this season as some of the critics have been saying. But I could get on board with several of these suggestions ...

Music ...
a Radiohead's 'In Rainbows' experiment pays off with 3 million sales ... It's a great album.
a Music site to sell songs for a dime

Politics ...
a Barack Obama for President ... From The New York Times.
a Many reasons still for Obama to worry, and McCain to hope ... It's not over until it's over.
a It's Time to Retire the Shuttle
a Perfect role for Palin: Good sport ... A reaction that pretty well sums it up about Palin's appearance on last weekend's SNL.
a $150,000 Wardrobe for Palin May Alter Tailor-Made Image
a Look Is the Same; the Labels Have Changed
a Campaign curtains closing, and I don't want to leave
a The aura of Mr. Smooth
a Obama, McCain cried when...
a Confessions of a Phone Solicitor ... This is a great read on multiple levels. It's amusing -- and quite funny to me -- the lengths the McCain campaign and its supporters are going to try tarnishing Obama. ... And few things test my patience more than telemarketers.
a I needed to know: can Obama pick a fantasy team? So I asked him ... This is a fun read from my friend Tom.
a The vast left-wing fantasy ... An editorial setting the record straight on ACORN.

Media & the Internet ...
a Safety in Numbers? Poll-Driven Press Goes Out on a Limb
a How the board came to endorse Obama
a Popularity or Income? Two Sites Fight It Out
a Campbell Brown's CNN Role: A Matter Of Opinion
a YouTube tosses 10-minute limit to show full TV episodes
a Facebook in a Crowd ... An excellent perspective about the fake-ness lurking on Facebook.

Life & other stuff ...
a As Yard Sales Boom, Sentiment First Thing to Go
a The incredible, flexible, movable house

We'll miss you Amy

So Amy Poehler had her baby yesterday ...

We figured it out this afternoon as we watched our "Sunday 'Saturday Night Live' " and realized Poehler wasn't appearing in any skits, aside from one previously-recorded sketch ...

(By the way, while last night's show wasn't stellar -- aside from Maya Rudolph's appearance as Michelle Obama -- we did get three, THREE! Coldplay performances, including a great oldie -- they played "Yellow" for their third song, and Chris Martin capped it by saying into the mic "Barack Obama!" ... The band launched into a fouth song as the credits rolled, though, we as television viewers only got to hear a few seconds of it ...But back to Amy ... )

We got our confirmation when Seth Myers went solo on "Weekend Update" and I promptly logged on, finding the news here.

While we're extremely happy for Amy and her husband, Will Arnett, and their new son, Archie ... We're pretty sad her SNL appearances are all but a memory now. The send-off to her at the end of Weekend Update was worthy ...

Here's my tribute to Amy Poehler -- A clip of her playing Andy Richter's sister on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." I was a big fan of Conan -- and Andy -- during my college days, and I loved the nights when Amy appeared on the show. That's when I first took notice of her ...

Wee ball

OK. I got comfortable on the couch and fell asleep for most of tonight’s Game 3 -- which, after a lengthy rain delay, didn’t start until almost 9:30 …

But I awoke for the best part -- if you discount Ryan Howard’s breakthough home run and 45-year-old Jamie Moyer’s pitching performance …

The thrilling ninth-inning ... Eric Bruntlett gets on in the bottom of the ninth when he’s hit by a pitch … Then Shane Victorino comes up prepared to bunt, but Rays pitcher Grant Balfour throws wildly at his ankles, the ball gets by the catcher Dioner Navarro and Bruntlett takes off for second base. The ball bounces off the backstop to Navarro and it looks like he could have a play on Bruntlett, but Navarro throws wildly, the ball skips past second base and Bruntlett trots safely to third base …

Now the Rays walk Victorino and another batter to load the bases … Oh, and they call in their right fielder Ben Zobrist to play defense as a fifth infielder. Can’t say I’ve seen that before.

Still with no outs Carlos Ruiz, comes to the plate … and hits a squibber down the third base line. Evan Longoria charged it and tried to bare hand it, but his underhand throw goes way over Navarro’s head. Bruntlett scores easily.

Phillies win Game 3 in the bottom of the ninth as the clock is about to strike 2 a.m. in the east …

Now I can’t fall back asleep.

I’m watching MadTV … They just showed this ha-larious skit with John McCain trying to learn how to use a computer … I wonder if it would be as funny if it wasn’t 1 in the morning ...

This Palin spoof was pretty good too ...


Thursday's Saturday Night Live on Friday

... Kates and I are cleaning off our DVR, and we just watched last night's Thursday night edition of SNL ...

Need I say more?

The opening sketch was wonderfully entertaining. I've so missed Will Ferrell as George Bush ... And seeing Tina Fey, Darrell Hammond and Ferrell playing together -- priceless.

And Fred Armisen's bit with the interactive map was ha-larious!

Are you in, or are you out?

... Oh boy, "High School Musical 3" hits theaters this weekend.

And it's getting pretty decent reviews ... Seriously, who cares about the cheesy storylines. The charm is in the colorful pop and dance numbers ...

"...the movies are achingly wholesome, set in a
preposterously shiny world where everything looks if it were freshly painted within the last five minutes."
I remember how Kates and I got caught up in the excitement when No. 2 premiered. Good times.

Sarah Silverman's "Demented" Comedy

Though I'm not a big fan of her comedy, I find Sarah Silverman to be a fascinating character ... I caught this one on YouTube this morning; it's worth watching all the way -- especially for what happens at the end of the interview ...

Sick and tired


On Wednesday night, we welcomed Chloe to our house, and she’s staying with us until Tuesday while her parents attend a conference in New Mexico …

And I’ve spent the last two days at home, taking care of Chloe -- the dog-- and Phoebe -- the 6-month old.

I’m exhausted.

There was a sweet moment Wednesday night shortly after Chloe arrived and Kates went to the grocery store to pick up some things. We had already put Phoebe to bed, and I went to work in our office but didn’t know where Chloe had gone … I found her curled up below Phoebe’s crib. And she refused to follow me out of Phoebe’s room. Chloe was protecting her.

But I also started to get that feeling Wednesday night that my Thursday was doomed … The head cold I thought I’d beaten earlier in the week was making a comeback. And Phoebe was out of sorts too; she appeared to be catching a cold of her own and there was something going on with her eye. Added to that, both Kates and I had hoped to put in extra hours at work on Thursday evening and we were having a tough time sorting out who should pick her up.

Thursday morning came. Both of us went to work, and I dropped off Phoebe at the daycare …

An hour later I was picking her up and heading home with her. Kates had received a follow-up call from Phoebe’s doctor; she had Pink Eye. Kates called me at work with the news, and I promptly shut down and put in for a sick day.

We got through the morning all right, though getting Phoebe to eat her squash for lunch was a little traumatic. And she wouldn’t fall asleep when it was time for her second nap. And we had to make two trips to Walgreens for her prescription because I forgot my debit card during the first trip … In the afternoon, we took a nap together on the couch. And we had some fun playing and listening to music; she loved dancing to Blind Melon’s “No Rain.”

We watched “Bad News Bears,” the 2007 re-make, which I’d recorded onto our DVR some time ago mostly because I wanted to see Sammi Kane Kraft, whom I met this summer, in action. The movie was better than I’d anticipated … And today I caught “Stand By Me” on AMC. It’s been years since I saw that one -- it was as good as I’d remembered.

And today. Well, it was a supposed to be a vacation day for me … Rather, it was another day of paying close attention to Phoebe, and fitting in laundry and other household chores where I could. In addition to managing my own health, and making sure Chloe is still getting her due attention …

When Kates arrived home tonight, my face must have told the story. “You ready for me to take over?” she laughed.

Like I said, I’m exhausted.


As seen on the Web

Some Web finds I've been meaning to share for a few weeks ...

First in the political spectrum ...

I came across this Sarah Palin flow chart after the vice presidential debate.

Then there's "Palin As President." I got wind of this one a couple weeks ago from a college buddy and it's becoming an instant classic. Very Short List pubbed the site earlier this week and also included a video of Palin "singing" a response to a question from Katie Couric ... Ha-larious!

And the Boston Globe wrote about this one that allows users to "help Sarah make sense."

* * *
Also compliments of Very Short List ...

Here's an amusing blog focused on "Cake Wrecks."

... And here's a fascinating photography site from a guy who took pictures of people driving their cars. So cool!

And this Web site allows you to read a book on your work computer. ... Pretty clever.

* * *
Finally, my friend Jocelyn posted this one over the weekend ... Too cute.


The World Series

… The guys on Sportscenter had a great line this week, a line that put it all in perspective. A notion I’d been sort of dreading in the days before it came true Sunday night …

“It’s the World Series matchup everyone wanted to see right? After Red Sox-Cubs. Or Cubs-White Sox. Or Red Sox-Dodgers. Or Angels-Dodgers. Or really any combination -- the Brewers, anybody -- than the one we have.”

Pretty much.

It might be the most boring World Series matchup ever for anyone living outside Philadelphia or Tampa Bay. Mark this down, this is probably the least interested I have ever been -- and might ever be -- in a World Series matchup.

Go Rays. I guess.

I shouldn’t be so harsh. But, gosh, I was drooling over the thought of Dodgers-Red Sox World Series.

Admittedly, I have been warming up to this scrappy bunch of Rays -- their tight defense, their strong hitting, their aggressive base-running. And B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria -- those kids can play …

And how can you not love the fact that they’ve been so bad for so long, and almost out of nowhere, here they are playing in a World Series. They’re like the Amazin’ Mets of the new millennium.

So I was right on the Rays advancing to the World Series, but wrong on my National League entry; I picked the Dodgers. That gives me a 3-3 record with my predictions this fall ... I need a World Series winner to get me over .500.

I'm picking the Rays in seven games for the reasons I mentioned above. No doubt, the Phillies will be tough, but I think the Rays' home field advantage puts them over the top.

Buckle your seat belts. It's going to be a good series.

Some good reads ...
a Hats Off to the Rays. Hair, Too.
a Phillies’ President Took Path From Upper Deck to the Owner’s Box
a Famished Philly wants to taste a championship
a Keeping it real: Baseball authenticators a tough team to beat

* * *

Let's applaud the Red Sox, though, too. They did put up a good fight that had me fearful of the Rays’ chances.

Mike Lupica had a good line of his own on Sunday morning’s “Sports Reporters,” saying if the Red Sox beat the Rays in that night’s Game 7, it would mark something like 10 straight ALCS games in which they faced a game-set-match situation and won. That, Lupica said, should be enough for Red Sox fans to change their rallying cry from “Wait ‘til next year” to “Wait ‘til this year!”

It was not to be, though. At least for this year, the Boston rallying cry is “Wait ‘til next year.”

Here's some good reads from the ALCS ...
a No return trip to World Series
a Just raise a toast to Tampa Bay
a It's tough to eliminate a number of thoughts
a One for the money

Political reads

Less than two weeks to Election Day, and oh, this is gettin' good ...

Here's some reads that couldn't wait for Sunday ...

a Sarah Palin's term for it: 'Tasergate'
a Sarah Palin is horror-fied in 'Tales from the Crypt'
a Palin charged state for children's travel, later amended expense reports



... I watched last night's Heroes during my lunch break today ... Something that's quickly becoming a Tuesday ritual ...

Last night's episode -- not to mention much of this season -- had some of the best moments and twists we haven't seen since the show's glorious first season.

Claire got shot by her mother -- and of course, came back to save the day. Peter met his once-dead father and then watched Dad steal his powers. Hiro didn't exactly kill Ando. And the whole Daphne-Parkman relationship that we saw in the flash-forward a couple weeks ago has sprouted its roots ...

And Suresh. Man I'm sick of him. Stacy needs to freeze him useless real fast.

* * *

I thought I was coming down with something this weekend ...

I knew it when I awoke Sunday morning. My nose was stuffed so full I could barely breathe and I felt that lump in my throat. The kind that feels like a golf ball is blocking your airway.

Within hours, I was at our medicine cabinet, launching a war on whatever bad cells I acquired ... I was downing cold syrup as fast as the instructions allowed. I was filling myself with fluids ...

By Monday, whetever I had progressed, and I was on the brink of misery. It was evident something was going around our office because others complained of the symptoms too ... But I kept after it. More cold syrup. More fluids. And I was in bed unusually early Monday night ...

And today it's all gone. Ah, what a feeling.

* * *

I'm on a Mates of State kick again -- That adorably talented pair of musicians from one of my old stomping grounds in Kansas ...

I picked up "Re-Arrange Us" a few weeks ago -- finally! -- but didn't get much time with it other than a short drive home ...

But over the weekend, I was gathering another batch of music to give my friend Raechel for our latest CD exchange; we started this exchange thing several months ago to help each other discover new and different music, and I promised this month to introduce her to Mates of State ...

I'll admit, I told her, sometimes you have to be in just the right mood to listen to them. Kori can play a mean organ, but some of their stuff sounds like a couple of kids just yelling into microphones and making racket ...

Still, that's part of their charm -- along with the lush harmonies, and the beats and melodies that can be oh so fun to sing and dance and rock out with.

So I slipped in "Re-Arrange Us," and now I can barely get myself to press the stop button.

Unlike their older stuff, I can't find a song on this disc I don't like. The harmonies and melodies are as sweet as ever. Their chemistry blares through the speakers, and each song is packed with an emotional punch. I love it.

Here's a couple cool interviews I found of the Mates while bobbing around YouTube and trying to quench my latest kick ...

And here's a pretty sweet live edition of "The Re-Arranger." If I'm not mistaken that's the Headlights joining them on stage for the finale ...


Sunday reading

Some of the good reads that caught my eyes during the last week ...

Sports ...
a Ramírez done as Dodger? ... Man, I hope not.
a Free agents-to-be raising their price tags with big postseasons
a Sports also paying a price amid struggling economy
a How much do you love football? So much you'd cut off a pinkie to play it? That's what Trevor Wikre did. ... Astonishing. My friend Tom sent me this one.
a Tony Womo Out Three To Four Weeks With Bwoken Widdle Fingey ... From The Onion.

Politics ...
a Powell endorses Obama, chides McCain campaign tone ... The news of the day.
a Sarah Palin stirs up controversy in the wink of an eye
a Leonard Pitts Jr.: It's sad, but Sarah Six-Pack is the real thing ... I remember "Dave." Great movie.
a Pentagon divided over John McCain
a Johnston speaks about Bristol Palin, Obama, baby ... Not that it's any of our business. But if he's doing interviews about it, I'm going to read it.
a Working for the Working- Class Vote ... This is an interesting one from The Times about what Obama calls his "biggest boneheaded move."
a Behind McCain, Outsider in Capital Wanting Back In ... an interesting perspective of Cindy McCain.
a He Just Can’t Quit W
a Bush Calls For Panic ... From The Onion.
a Poll: 85% Of Americans Would Like To See Candidates Compete In Funny Obstacle Course ... Also from The Onion.

Joe the Plumber ...
a Three Guys and a Table ... I didn't watch this week's debate. I couldn't take any more of it, but reading and seeing the media storm over Joe The Plumber has been quite amusing.
a Joe the Plumber: Not a Licensed Plumber
a Joe the plumber's story has some cracks
a Debate darling 'Joe the Plumber' not a licensed plumber, owes back taxes
a If `Joe the Plumber' is like my plumber, he can go pound sand

Media & the Internet ...
a Rolling Stone ends large format after 4 decades
a Parker Says Sarah Palin Isn't Ready ... More from her column a couple weeks ago
a Mainstream media look for love in fresh faces Palin and Obama ... More from Kathleen Parker.

TV ...
a For NBC Pages, ‘Please Follow Me’ Is a Fervent Wish

Life & other stuff ...
a Suit against God tossed over lack of address ... From my friend Raechel.

And finally ... my eyes caught this AP photo this week from the Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany. So dazzling, I had to share it ...

Saturday Night Live ... sort of

Keeping with our routine of watching Saturday Night Live on Sunday afternoons ...

And our yearning to see what Tina Fey and the SNL crew will come up with this week ...

This week, the real Sarah Palin got her air time, and it was equally entertaining. She was a good sport about it.

In the opening sketch ... The use of Tina Fey's "30 Rock" co-star Alec Baldwin made the sketch ...("What?! The real one!? Bye-ee.")

And Weekend Update ...

Outside of Palin's appearances, the funniest sketch was Amy Poehler's bit as a pregnant woman being picked up by some men in a bar ... I'd post it, but I couldn't find a clip to post. Gosh, we're going to miss Amy.


Finding a Ryder

Ever heard of Serena Ryder? I hadn’t. Until a rep from her Atlantic Records label contacted us several weeks ago to promote her upcoming shows in our region.

But listening to Serena Ryder talk about growing up with musical genes and spouting music history, her passion is infectious. It’s no wonder she’s on the cusp of greatness.

Neil Young doesn’t know it, but he taught me how to play harmonica,” Ryder said in a phone interview with me a few weeks ago, declaring the fellow Canadian’s “Harvest” album as her all-time favorite.

The way Ryder is going, Young will probably find out soon.

At 25 years old, the Toronto-based Ryder was earlier this year crowned New Artist of the Year at Canada’s Juno Awards and Billboard called the songstress “Canada’s most promising” artist.

She’s coming off a fantastic summer playing festivals, including the giants of Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, and next month the up-and-coming singer-songwriter is swinging through the region for a show in Milwaukee this weekend. She’ll also play two shows in Chicago next weekend.

Her songs have that raw emotion of a Janis Joplin, the soulful sound of a Toby Lightman and the spunk of an Alanis Morissette. Her personality carries the vitality and charm of a young adult but she has the maturity and wisdom of a schooled, industry veteran. The girl knows her stuff.

“Sometimes there’s a connection to something that I totally believe in,” Ryder said. “You know certain things and you don’t know why. I definitely feel like there’s certain wisdom that exists regardless of our intellect.”

A self-proclaimed “AM radio kid,” Ryder recalls Linda Ronstadt and Roger Miller as major influences while she was growing up, as well as the crop of singer-songwriters who rose out of the 1990s — women like Ani Difranco, Jewel and Tracy Chapman. They prompted her to buy her first guitar at age 13.

But Ryder thinks the music was in her veins long before that. Her mother was a touring backup singer and go-go dancer, and her biological father, whom she’s never met, was a Caribbean-folk musician. Her uncle also was a singer-songwriter.

“It was in the genes, in the blood for sure,” Ryder said. “Definitely there was some genetic history because none of that was going on when I was born and alive.”

Ryder was singing and performing as fast as she learned to talk. At the age of 2, she says, she jumped on a stage at her sister’s wedding reception and began singing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” to the crowd. By age 7, she had begun performing at hotels and events, and at 15 she moved to metropolitan Peterborough, where she played countless shows during the next few years.

Without any formal training, most of the songs and instruments she picked up she learned by plain observation and listening. When she finally began taking piano lessons, her teacher doubled as sort of a vocal coach, helping young Serena learn to sing and play songs she picked.

“It was kind of pre-destined,” Ryder said. “I was a little bit of a freak though as well. There was something inside of me that had to be explored. I had to do it. It was unexplainable like that was something that satisfied my soul like nothing else really did.”

After putting out a series of independent live recordings, Ryder caught wind in 2005 with her “Unlikely Emergency” album. On the strength of the emotionally-charged single “Just Another Day,” Ryder began touring the world, garnering outstanding reviews along the way.

Ryder followed that with 2006’s “If Your Memory Serves You Well,” a collection of notable Canadian songs that includes a rollicking cover of Galt MacDermot’s “Good Morning Starshine.” I fell so deeply in love with her version of the song, I couldn't get it out of my head for days ...

It was in March 2007, during a stop in Austin, Texas, that Ryder caught the ears of Atlantic Records. She signed with the major label before the end of the month and within two months recorded her U.S. debut, the EP “Told You In A Whispered Song.” The disc’s five songs are a compilation of gentle studio acoustics and new songs that are surely just a hint of what’s to come from Ryder.

In January, Ryder expects to release her first full-length album with Atlantic, an album she proudly points out was recorded in the same Los Angeles studio where the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac have recorded music.

“Signing with Atlantic was huge, huge, huge,” Ryder said. “It was kind of the last piece of putting in the foundation of your career. I’ve been building that foundation for a very long time and I feel like they’re a huge part of my foundation and family and I have a good relationship. I feel like I kind of got married in a sense musically.”

Ryder is feeling blessed to be part of the history, something bigger than her. She’s fully aware she’s at the beginnings of what she hopes is a fruitful career, and she’s all for learning from the best.

Already, Ryder has worked and toured with a handful of greats including Steve Earle, Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings of The Guess Who, The Corrs and the Blind Boys of Alabama.

But she also says she's figuring out quickly who’s in it for the music and who’s in it for the money. She recalled one recent experience of watching Robert Plant come backstage to greet his opening band because “he dug their vibe on MySpace.” Ryder said she was amazed at Plant’s approachability.

For the most part, she says, famous people “seem to be truly phenomenal people and really passionate about their craft with an unwavering love and vivaciousness. They’re still stoked about music.”

But she added, “I’ve learned that there’s a lot of heresy about famous people and people who have made it,” Ryder says. “... Every single stereotype is true. It’s like you get what you give, do unto others, it’s pretty true. There’s a few lucky assholes out there who are successful, regardless.”

So then, what can one expect from Ryder?

“Lots of honesty and lots of connection definitely,” she said. “I’m so intrigued by meeting people and by sharing my idea and my energy and having a conversation on stage.”

Oh, the lament!

More from "that game" on Thursday night ...

The remorse is most intense for the thousands who were actually there and left, streaming early out of Fenway Park when a two-run double careened off the Green Monster like a final, insulting slap. At 10:45 p.m., it was 7-0 in the seventh inning, seemingly a third straight blowout that would put an end to the Red Sox season.

On the way home, the unfaithful followed the greatest baseball playoff comeback since 1929 on BlackBerrys on the Green Line and car radios on the Massachusetts Turnpike, their pockets burning with ticket stubs from the seats they left behind. (More)


Aside from that Red Sox comeback ...

How could you go wrong with last night's television ...

I, of course, was sleeping through one of the greatest comebacks in baseball's postseason history. But I'm not bitter about it ...

Kates and I caught last night's other highlights on DVR tonight ...

First, the special Thursday night edition of SNL ...

It's always good to see Fred Armisen’s impression of Barack Obama. And Darrell Hammond, well, he's good doing just about anyone -- his take on John McCain's constant blinking was right on ...

And Kristen Wiig as the misinformed “Crazy McCain Rally Lady” was perhaps my favorite of the night -- coupled with Amy Poehler's and Seth Myers' "We Liked It" segment ...

* * *
Next it was on to Letterman's show and (insert dramatic music here) John McCain's appearance ...

As if we didn't already know it was going to be good (Read the fascinating transcript here), Letterman pulled out a map illustrating how McCain skipped out on Letterman's show a couple weeks ago.

The band played The Who’s “I Can’t Explain” when McCain was introduced. Letterman’s first question to the senator was “Now what exactly happened?” To which McCain said “I screwed up.”

It was on.

McCain was totally on the defensive and working hard to gain sympathy. His whining about Barack Obama not accepting his invitation to a town hall meeting? And then his suggestion that Barack Obama come on Letterman’s show to debate the issues with McCain? C’mon…. They’ve had three nationally-televised debates -- one of which was a town hall format -- and McCain has lost more ground than he’s gained.

But Letterman stayed his course and never let up. And, oh, it was fun to watch … McCain was squirming when Letterman pressed him on whether Sarah Palin was ready to become president. And then McCain couldn’t give a definitive answer when Letterman pounded him on the legitimacy of the Obama-Bill Ayers connection (Didn’t he say in Wednesday night’s debate that he didn’t “care about an old washed-up terrorist”) -- and to top it off, Letterman brought up McCain’s connection to Gordon Liddy. McCain initially stumbled to respond. ...

It struck me even more when McCain, as Letterman was still pressing a few minutes later, did a complete one-eighty and tried to laugh all of it off, saying "There's millions of words said in the campaign! Come on!"

It was a bad idea for McCain to go on the show.

But hey, Ne-Yo’s performance was pretty good.

* * *
I heard about this one on the radio this morning ... Ha-larious.

My favorites, each delivered by Obama ...

"I was originally told the venue would be Yankee Stadium. Can somebody tell me what happened to the Greek columns that I requested?"

"I do love the Waldorf Astoria. I hear from the doorstep you can see all the way to the Russian Tea Room."

"Barack is actually Swahili for That One."

Chatting about Augustana

Augustana is swinging through town in a couple weeks as part of the “Tag This” tour -- with The Hush Sound, The Spill Canvas and One Republic -- which is hitting clubs, theaters and college venues through early December.

A rock quintet from San Diego, Augustana found some success with their single “Boston,” a 2007 hit that sold more than 1 million copies in the United States. The band’s second album, “All the Stars and Boulevards,” sold 300,000 copies in the United States and reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers chart.

In April, Augustana released their follow-up album, “Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt,” which Billboard Magazine called “one long, soft-focus sunset anthem: warm, well-crafted, hazy and very safe.”

Last week, I got to talk with bassist and vocalist Jared Palomar. Here's some parts from our conversation ...

“We probably should have been named something else,” he said when I asked about the band's name origin. Palomar admitted the story behind the band’s name isn’t the stuff of legend. The name doesn’t have any strong meaning to the band members; they accepted the name based on a friend’s suggestion. “We should be named The Rolling Stones or something,” he joked.

No matter the name, the band gig is working pretty well for Augustana. They’ve just completed a tour with established rockers Counting Crows and Maroon 5, even sharing stage time with the Crows.

“They really took us under their wing on the tour,” Palomar said, recalling the latest stretch was Augustana’s second with Counting Crows. “They’re really cool mentors to us. They invited us to play with them during their set, we played with them on a few of our songs. So I think we learned a lot from them, they really stretched us to grow musically.”

Throughout the tour Palomar said fans can expect to get about 45 minutes worth of music from the band, an upgrade from the 30-minutes sets Augustana did throughout their summer tour. “A little longer never hurts,” Palomar said.

“We’re definitely looking forward to it,” Palomar said. “College towns are always really fun, I think. It will be a cool experience. We try to have a pretty fun energetic show with a little bit of bluegrass, a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll and we just try to have fun.”

The quintet consists of Palomar, Dan Layus (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Justin South (drums), Chris Sachtleben (lead guitar, mandolin, lap steel) and John Vincent Fredericks (piano, vocals).

Layus and former member Josiah Rosen founded the band around 2002 while attending Greenville College in southern Illinois. After recruiting classmate Palomar, the guys started getting some positive feedback and dropped out of school to join the music scenes in Los Angeles and San Diego. There they found South and began to solidify their lineup, though Rosen left the group in 2006.

“Dan had written a few songs and we played them in college,” Palomar said. “We hadn’t really thought about doing it seriously, but then we started playing a few shows and it kind of came into our heads a little bit more and we thought of doing it as career.”

“Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt” captures the excitement of new love and the band’s growth into a more cohesive unit.

“We actually got to spend a little more time writing songs and actually got to tour with them (before recording),” Palomar said. “With that experience behind us, when we were in the studio, I think we were a lot more confident playing together. It was a lot more fun to record it.”

Tribune endorses Obama

Really. Is it any surprise?

Earlier this week, The Boston Globe also cast its vote.

About last night

"It left you speechless and stunned -- and mostly exhausted. In one of the most remarkable comebacks in postseason history, the Red Sox erased a 7-0 lead over the final three innings to stay alive in the American League Championship Series last night. Boston's 8-7 victory over the Rays -- the winning run scored at 12:16 a.m. this morning -- sets up a must-see Game 6 tomorrow night in St. Pete ..."
--Sports Illustrated

Yeah. So last night ...

Kates and I were downing chicken burgers for supper, and I was enjoying Game 5.

B.J. Upton had put the Rays ahead 2-0 in the first inning with a bomb over the Green Monster ...

A few innings later, the Rays had taken a 7-0 lead. They were putting on a clinic in Fenway that featured three home runs and four stolen bases, including two steals of third ... I was enjoying watching the scrappy, young Rays taking it to the Red Sox. Aside from Game 1, the Rays had been all over the Red Sox.

Still, with a lingering sadness from the Phillies knocking off the Dodgers on Wednesday night, I also was thinking, "This is kind of fun to watch, but man, the Rays and the Phillies could be one of the least interesting World Series ever ..."

The TV analysts were talking about the champagne being on ice in the Rays' clubhouse. The fans were leaving Fenway. And Tampa hadn’t blown a lead larger than three runs all season. The game was over! ... So over! Wrote Dan Shaughnessy ...

They were inches from a clean getaway, a Fenway sweep that would have embarrassed the defending world champs and elevated the Tampa team to elite status. And they coughed it all up in three ridiculous innings.

While I fell asleep. And missed one of the biggest comebacks in post season history.

Serves me right. Earlier in the game, during the fourth inning, I missed Carlos Pena’s two-run home run when I ran upstairs for a few seconds to retrieve some more food. And then I missed Evan Longoria’s home run during the very next at-bat when I figured I had enough time to catch a bathroom break and not miss anything …

While I was sleeping, I missed David Ortiz’s three-run homer (an annual ritual of the post season baseball I’d been missing this fall …) with two out in the bottom of the seventh. And I missed J.D. Drew’s two-run shot to make the score 7-6 in the eighth inning.

I woke up just in time to see Coco Crisp’s epic 10-pitch at-bat and his line drive, which tied the game at 7-7.

Then I dozed some more, and woke up again to catch Drew’s game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth.

I promptly turned off the TV and stumbled up the stairs in a sleepy daze.

Never doubt the Red Sox.

From Bob Ryan ...

The Red Sox are the defending champions. They always come to play nine innings, and if it takes the greatest postseason comeback in 79 years to stay alive, then they will give you the greatest postgame comeback in 79 years.

Got that,Rays?

More good reads ...
a Red Sox-Rays has all the hallmarks of baseball's next epic rivalry
a Inspiration Can Easily Turn to Folly
a Are we catching a last look at Varitek?
a Francona is happy for Phillies, not Philly
a It's a long climb, but Sox know way
a Suddenly, Sox no longer the hot ticket


Frank Caliendo on Mike'd Up

Ah, the comedy of Frank Caliendo ...

Here, he breaks out the John Madden around the 2-minute mark, and adds a funny twist on what the NFL should do with Brett Favre's No. 4 ...


McCain's new stump speech

... So I'm taking a "me" day today.

I shipped Phoebe to daycare this morning and then came home. I'm not going into work today. I took a day off ...

But in between catching up on e-mail and some reading, doing some home repair, laundry and running errands ... the day has gone way too fast.

I did also get to catch up on some TV, and last night's Daily Show segment featuring John McCain's new stump speech was ha-larious ...


Glory days

... So I finally got around to watching last week's Heroes today.


I'm really liking evil Sylar as good guy Gabriel ... It also occurred to me that I don't miss Micah and Niki at all, but somehow the writers managed to keep Ali Larter around by inventing Niki's twin Tracy. ... And speaking of Micah, whatever happened to that girl he hung out with last season who could learn stuff by watching it on TV? Did she get whacked and I've just forgotten it? ... Stupid strike messing everything up.

What's more interesting is my old acting mate Adam Craig popped up on last week's episode of Heroes as an assistant who delivered some information to Nathan. I told him it was good to see him showing his Kansas City roots with a Sprint cell phone ...

As for this week's episode, I think Maya needs to go the way of Niki ... and Vortex guy?! And the big reveal that Parkman's father is out and playing mind tricks on the heroes!? Whoah.

( ... By the way, this week I wrote a preview about a local theater group producing "Little Shop of Horrors." It gave me an urge to listen to a musical soundtrack and I pulled out "Wicked." ... Now I can't bring myself to turn it off. Good stuff...)


Sunday reading

Some of the reads that caught my eyes during the last week ...

Baseball ...
a Don Zimmer the ultimate common denominator
a Upstart Rays aim to keep surprises coming in playoffs
a Francona sets standard for managers
a Cardinal O'Malley is no Fenway regular. But he keeps tabs on Boston's secular faith
a Architect of Phillies, Gillick Will Listen to Anyone’s Plans
a When Philadelphia Was a Winner
a Series of changes in last 40 years
a Manny In La La Land
a Financial crisis will slow Cubs sale
a A look back on a Chicago baseball season gone bad

Football ...
a The Brett Favre Backup Club

Media & the internet ...
a Tina Brown jumps off page and onto the Web
a Couric Rebounds With Web and Palin ... I'm not yet a fan of her newscast, but her YouTube stuff has been catching my eyes.
a Katie Couric In The News For All The Right Reasons: Her Work
a Turn and Face the Change -- With Newspaper Industry in Crisis, 'Everything's on the Table'
a Social networking sites help companies boost productivity
a Seeking Broader Reach for Social Web Sites
a Check out my Twitter ... I'm telling you, forget newsprint -- it's all in social networking, blogs and newsfeeds, people.
a Newspapers’ Web Revenue Is Stalling ... Ugh.

TV ...
a Brea Grant gets off and running as latest 'Heroes' villain

Politics ...
a The destructive policies of President Bush
a In Wisconsin, a tilt toward Obama
a Historians ponder Lincoln's legacy, lessons we can learn
a He Told Us to Go Shopping. Now the Bill Is Due.
a Postponing the election: It's a joke, or is it?
a A frustrated Esquire endorses Obama
a Obama vs. McCain: Scripted and improv
a Worst of times
a When the gloves and lipstick are on

Life & other stuff ...
a What makes Boston in a league of its own