Mamma Mia ... no

Phoebe and I just finished doing the dishes and rocking out to ABBA.

I'd been wanting to do that -- the ABBA part -- since about 10:30 last night, when Kates and I finished watching "Mamma Mia!"

It's a breezy, film about a girl, Sophie, who uncovers her mother's diary and learns of three men who could be her father. Without her mother knowing, Sophie invites all three to her upcoming wedding in an attempt to learn the truth. Eventually Sophie's mother spots the three men settling into her paradise island complex. And hijinks ensue. Yada, yada, yada.

With such a wonderful cast -- Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Christine Baranski -- it's no wonder the film was such a box office draw and, especially within my family circle this past Christmas, continues to be a popular DVD. It has some marvelous cinematography, too.

And yet, I found oh so little to like about the film.

I thought the film was terribly corny and it trashed most of the ABBA songs it featured. Kates called the film "the biggest piece of cheese ever."

The whole “Dancing Queen” number, with the island’s people following Meryl Streep's Donna character in droves and joining her in a song and dance on the pier, for no apparent reason, was a complete farce. “Lay All Your Love On Me” fell into a similar framework, but with men in scuba flippers dancing on the pier. ... Colin Firth's acoustic turn on "Our Last Summer" was a breath of fresh air, until Pierce Brosnan joined in and ruined the rest of the song; he made us cringe every time he sang.

The story line stumbled and was too predictable.

And it further proves my point that the songbooks of popular bands should not be made into musicals. With the exception of "Movin’ Out" -- which wasn’t so much a musical as it was a ballet musical -- they come off like a hodgepodge of music thrown together to create a renewed interest in the songs they're based on. The plots feel forced. See: "Across the Universe."


Long days, longer nights

Some week.

I realize I said that about last week, too. But this week was crazier yet.

Throughout last weekend, Phoebe complained her mouth hurt. But mostly she was acting like her same energetic self, and she didn't have a fever. So Kates and I dismissed it as teething, and we began are week -- despite Phoebe not sleeping well and keeping us awake nearly all of Monday's early morning hours -- as normal.

Then Kates got a call from the daycare Monday morning that Phoebe was running a fever and her caretakers believed she'd caught the strep throat that's going around The 'Ville. ... Kates contacted me and I retrieved Phoebe to take her home for the rest of the day. Staying with our procedure for the days when Phoebe is sick, I stayed home with her in the morning; then, Kates came home for the afternoon round while I went into work.

Monday afternoon, Kates took Phoebe to the doctor, who officially handed down the diagnosis: strep throat. The doctor gave Kates the choice of a giving Phoebe a shot or prescribing medicine, which we'd have to give routinely for as long as 10 days. The one-time shot sounded better to Kates -- though Phoebe, who took it on her bottom, absolutely screamed. On the other hand, Phoebe was extremely proud of the Band-Aid on butt.

The diagnosis meant Phoebe had to stay home for at least 24 hours, thus missing daycare Tuesday and forcing one of us to stay home with her. Kates accepted the calling.

Have I mentioned we're both feeling swamped with work responsibilities? Kates headed to her school around 6:30 Monday night to do the preparation and planning for her substitute teacher. Meanwhile, I played with Phoebe at home and had her in bed at 7:30 ... Then, I dove into my work, staying up until about 2 a.m. ... At 3:30 a.m., a crying Phoebe found her way up to our bedroom; I calmed her down and she ended up in bed with me ... Kates arrived home from school at about 4 a.m. ... I was awake again at 6:30 a.m. getting myself ready and heading back to work at 7:30.

I love this thing we call life.

Wednesday, Phoebe returned to daycare and Kates returned to school. During my morning drive to work I made a phone call to my good friend Stephen in New Jersey, who I hadn't spoken to in months, to wish him a happy birthday. It was much-needed phone call, we caught up, and all was well for the day.

Except I was burning the midnight oil again Wednesday night. Another aspect of the week: I said yes to lecturing in four classes. I spoke to two journalism classes Monday, and I was scheduled to speak to a public relations course and a journalism course Thursday. ... I was up until past midnight working on projects and preparing for the class discussions.

But on Thursday, my preparation for the public relations course went to waste because of a scheduling snafu, which was my fault. And I felt awful when I had to make that call to the course's instructor Thursday morning to tell him I couldn't participate. As much as I'd like to do it all, I have to keep reminding myself: You can't do everything, and that's ok.

Still, when things do work out, the rewards are enormously uplifting. I received wonderful compliments for a couple pieces I wrote this week. But the best compliment of my draining week came when I ran into a student who was in one of the journalism classes I spoke to. "I just wanted to say thank you for coming to our class yesterday," she told me. "It really means a lot when we have people like you come speak to our class and we really appreciate it."

That's what it's all about.


The Pack is back

I'm watching the Steelers and Jets in the AFC Championship game now.

I don't care who wins.

All that matters is the Packers are going to the Super Bowl.

There are three things about this year's NFL season I've maintained since the opening week.
  1. The Minnesota Vikings would not finish the season with Brett Favre.
  2. The Chicago Bears were overrated.
  3. And the Green Bay Packers were heading to the Super Bowl.
I was proven right on all three accounts, thank you very much. ... And now that I think about it, it sure would be amusing to see the Jets make the Super Bowl and set up a meeting between two of the teams Favre failed to take to the big game during his final years  -- a notion Favre haters floated all week.

There was hardly a doubt in my mind the Packers would be advancing today. ... I say hardly because my stomach churned every time the ball went Devin Hester's way, and that third-stringer Hanie kid was pretty decent. That fourth quarter wasn't easy to watch.

Now they're burning Jay Cutler jerseys in Chicago. ... I, too, found it a little mysterious to see him standing with so much ease on the sideline if he suffered a serious knee injury.

The Packers have played with so much confidence throughout the playoffs. The defense is tight, always stepping up when it needs to make a big play. Aaron Rogers is the real deal, and he has one of the best receiving corps in the league to throw to. Now they've added James Starks. Look out.

On to the Super Bowl.

Good read ...
a Twitter gives fans ultimate Packer party

Updated reads (2.1.2011)
a Reality Finally Caught Up to the Bears
a A missed lesson in knowing when and where to whine

Championship Sunday

Some week.

A week ago, Kates and I were in the midst of a three-day weekend, thanks to Martin Luther King Day. Monday, she went shopping for the day with some girlfriends, aka my coworkers, while I stayed home to work on some projects of my own.

But there would be no time for relaxation the rest of the week. At work, legislative themes dominated my assignments and thinking. Wednesday night, we were gathered around the radio and listening to the governor's state of the state address like a fireside chat, while Phoebe sat at her table coloring. I spent most of Friday afternoon in a meeting with the state's department of higher education. And by the end of the day, those of us around the table were looking at each other wondering what happened to the refreshment we expected to be feeling after an extra day off.

Then there's the whole house hunt. When I wasn't dealing with the responsibilities of my work this week, I was crunching numbers and thinking about the latest and greatest house to present itself for us. ... But I'll save the details on that for another time. I'll leave it with this: We have an offer pending.

And yet all I really wanted to talk about this week was Packers football.

There has been a whole lot of hoopin' and hollerin' in our household during the last few weekends. They beat up the Bears to end the regular season. They put away Michael Vick and the Eagles to open the playoffs. And last weekend's drubbing of the Falcons was beyond entertaining.

Then the Bears beat the Seahawks to advance to today's NFC Championship game against the Packers ... Hooooooooooooly cow. In K-Town, we were in the heart of the Packers-Bears rivalry, and we could feel the drum beats all the way down in The 'Ville. ... Just check out this Fan-O-Meter that went viral.

This story says everything you need to know ...
Love those big rivalries all you want - Lakers-Celtics, Yankees-Red Sox, Ohio State-Michigan. They've got nothing on Packers-Bears for grit.
For 90 years, from a time of leather helmets to these days of instant-replay challenges and excessive-celebration penalties, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears have played rough. Through cold and wind and snow and bitter winters, these two bloody-knuckled pioneers of the NFL and their founders, Curly Lambeau and George Halas, have left marks on the game that will never go away. Twenty-one NFL championships between them, dozens of Hall of Famers who line the walls in Canton and a combative history of rugged, emotional matchups.
Then, there's the whole social media thing. I've said it before and I'll say it again: It's times like these that define why I love social media. Seeing the status updates and tweets of my friends and contacts further illustrate how big this game is. No matter the distance, the virtual discussion makes it feel like you're all in one room. ... The one-liners, taunts and links were popping up all week. Today, I'll bet four of every five updates I see are related to the game. Like this one being posted by several people ...

The Dead Bird Epidemic has finally come to an end: 53 Eagles found dead in Philadelphia; 53 dead Ravens in Pittsburgh; 53 dead Falcons in Atlanta; and 53 dead Seahawks all over Soldier Field! And the Wisconsin DNR just issued the Packers a Bear permit…

The buzz has consumed me this week. So much that I had to keep myself from writing Go Packers! at the end of everything I wrote.

My heart is going to be racing when the opening kickoff finally arrives.

Good reads
a Aaron vs. Jay, Packers vs. Bears in NFC title game
a For Matthews Clan, N.F.L. Is All in the Family
a James Starks gives Green Bay Packers an extra dimension on offense
a Distant and Fading Memories of First Bears-Packers Playoff Game
a Packers' best way to stop Hester: Don't punt
a Packers’ Rodgers Handles Pressure With Ease
a Green Bay Packers' choice of Aaron Rodgers over Brett Favre has worked out well
a A Packers Cornerback Is Overlooked No Longer
a No. 6 seed Green Bay Packers and New York Jets each need one more road win for a trip to the Super Bowl
a NFL playoff teams are linked by having star quarterbacks
a Cutler passes exam, but tougher test vs. Packers sure to follow
a Lesson Learned, the Bears’ Tice Is Teaching Again
a The Onion: NFL Season Seems To Be Building To Some Sort Of Climax

One Year in 90 seconds

Something beautiful. And timely considering we've been watching a steady snowfall outside our windows this morning, and we just returned inside from shoveling it.



Every quarter or so a song comes along that is so catchy, so rockin', so danceable, so infectious that the references to it seem to be everywhere.

A most recent example: Cee-Lo Green's F*$# You. ... I love the song, and I was immediately dazzled the first time I saw the music video several  months ago. The color!

The most entertaining sketch on an otherwise bland SNL last night -- which is unfortunate, considering the one and only Gwyneth Paltrow was playing guest host -- was the "Record Meeting" sketch during which the actors substituted every F-ing reference with the clean, FCC-approved "forget" version, along with some sugars and Sasquatches.

The sketch provided an extra dimension of entertainment in the waiting see whether any of the actors might slip up a-la Jenny Slate to start last season.. ... Nobody slipped.

As the sketch wrapped, it provided a perfect segue into Cee-Lo's highly-anticipated, TV-friendly performance.

Other highlights from last night's SNL: The opening monologue was entertaining, only for watching Kristin Wiig bounce around in the background as a loony Dolly Parton. And the digital short featuring Pee-Wee Herman and other guest stars had some memorable moments.

a Cee-Lo: F*$# You official video
a Gwyneth Paltrow performing "Forget You" on "Glee"


A crown, but little royalty

Capping what I said the other night about the BCS championship ...

I refer to Bob Ryan's excellent column after the game ...

Please, don’t get me started on the inanity and uselessness of the foolish bowl games that feature 7-5 and 6-6 teams, and that includes the one Boston College played in the night before the Big Game. So many of them are despicable scams, and colossal money losers for the participants. If you care even a little about the topic, you owe it to yourself to seek out the excellent book, “Death to the BCS,’’ by the Yahoo! Sports triumvirate of Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter, and Jeff Passan.

That the world does not need these ridiculous bowl games is beyond dispute. The postseason college football calendar needs to be revised. The latest this BCS championship game should have been played was Monday, Jan. 3.

Oh, it gets better. Read on.


Football, snow and stuff

I spent a good portion of my weekend teaching and advising. Journalism students.

Sharing the wisdom and experiences I’ve gathered during the last decade. … Talking philosophies on news story structure. Leads. Sources. The importance of beat reporting. Leadership. And my new favorite -- convergence.

I never quite imagined being in this place. And yet it’s a place I always wanted to be.

* * *

How ‘bout them Packers!

Of course I couldn’t contain myself when Tramon Williams intercepted Michael Vicks’ final pass in the end zone and the Packers clinched the game yesterday. I was tearing from one end of the living room to our bedroom and back, pumping my fists and shouting in celebration. ... James Starks was good, too.

Out of fear of jinxing their run, I’ll say no more. … But here’s hoping.

And the Seahawks beating the Saints!? ... Wow.

And this video, Tecmo Bowl geeks, of Marshawn Lynch's winning touchdown is awesome! ...

* * *

I couldn’t care less about the BCS championship game tonight. Between the stupid BCS system and seemingly endless violations and greed, I lost interest in Division I college football a long time ago.

* * *

As I write this, The ‘Ville is getting slammed with snow.

Fun. At least it’s the huge-snowflake-fluffy-pretty kind of snow.

I was outside and shoveling within minutes of getting out of bed this morning. Didn’t miss that last winter. Kates’ school was closing at 11 a.m. And at 5:30 p.m. -- my school wasn't canceled -- I was returning to my car and scraping the pile of snow from it.

The forecasters are saying we’ll have 11 inches by tomorrow morning.

I learned Kates’ school was canceled tomorrow before she did -- via one of the local newspaper’s Twitter accounts. Her phone rang about five minutes later with the official word.


A winter song

I stumbled on this video tonight while searching for video of the ladies' performance of the same song at this winter's White House tree lighting ...

In an age when Lady Gaga and Katy Perry get more attention than they deserve, Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles are far more appealing and pleasant in my ears. ...


Majik memories

There's not many things better than watching the Packers win a thriller over the Bears to finish the regular season and propel themselves into the playoffs.

My love for the Packers started, of course, with Sunday afternoons spent watching the games at my grandparents house as a child. I have so many good memories of eating popcorn and watching those Packers of the late 1980s, featuring Don Majkowski and Sterling Sharpe ...

So I was intrigued when I spotted the link to this video about Majkowski in a Tweet this afternoon. One of my best memories of those days is, hands down, the play at the 2:59 mark of the video against the Bears, which clinched the Packers' first win over Chicago in years.

He's no Wally Pipp.


Happy New Year

After a year of earthquakes, WikiLeaks, oil spills, bailouts, bedbugs, iPads, vuvuzelas, Silly Bandz, “refudiations,’’ and shellackings, it’s safe to say we could all use a night out. ~ The Boston Globe 

For us, 2010 was about adjusting to new challenges. And reflecting on the past.

2011 will be about making the most of our opportunities and building anew.

Hopefully that includes finding (or building) a home to call our own.