Photo Friday 12.31.04

Each week Photo Friday posts a photo assignment. Your mission is the creative interpretation of the week's theme. When you're done, post the picture you took to your website and submit your link to Photo Friday.

Photo Friday is about challenging our participants to be original and creative within the constraints of the week's theme. It's not a competition. Anyone with a camera and a place on the internet to post pictures can participate.

This week's challenge: Best of 2004

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click image to enlarge

I don't like using a photo that I've already posted, but that the idea for this week's challenge, the year's best. I liked my pictures from the Philadelphia Kerry Rally and I really liked my abandoned toilet shot, but this was probably my best.

Stairwell behind the Benjamin Franklin Printing Office and Bindery.
Franklin Court, 4th & Market, Philadelphia PA.


Catholic Protection Limits

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Just to further cheese-off all those touchy Christian Conservatives out there who believed that their religion was being persecuted by the cashier at Macy's who wished customers a "Happy Holiday" instead of the "Merry Christmas" that our great country was founded on (or something like that), I vow to not wish anyone a "Happy New Year" this weekend.

To be sensitive to the many other faiths and cultures that do not mark their new year on January 1 (like the really old-school Christians, who celebrated it around March 25th until 1582), I will offer, "Have a Good One" to my fellow Christians and everyone else this weekend.

Boy, I can't wait for February, when the red-staters start up their whole "Put the Saint back in St. Valentine's Day" campaign.

Have a Good One.

Tomorrow: My New's Year's Goal(s).

[Note: The above picture was taken on my ill-fated photo shooting-spree of the Ben Franklin Bridge in November. From what I can find on the subject, cathodic protection is a system for protecting against rust. As you can see from the picture, it's working real well on the bridge.]


Hehe... you said Booty

As requested, the missus finally posted her booty. Her Christmas booty. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Another Year On the Books

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Susan Sontag

This morning I did something I haven’t done since finishing my 52 novels in 2004 goal in late October – I requested a book from the Philadelphia Library. Reading the obituary of Susan Sontag (pictured above) has made me curious to read some of her work. Since it’s a subject that I’m very interested in now, I chose her 1978 non-fiction On Photography.

I really have not had the urge to become involved in any book since finishing that fifty-second novel. I have enjoyed having the time to read the Philadelphia Inquirer from cover to cover, especially since there isn’t that obligation to finish what I have started. I thought that getting The Best American Short Stories 2004 would be a good way to ease back into longer works but the book has sat on my bedside table, unread except for the introduction, since the missus picked it up for me in October. For Christmas I received The Wilco Book and though I really wanted this for its bonus CD, I have been thumbing through it and reading a few things here and there.

While the goal I set for 2005 will have nothing to do with reading (I’m still trying to determine exactly what it will deal with), I do hope to continue reading – just not at the same rate, and not limited only to novels. The New York Times Notable Books year-end feature for 2003 and 2002 proved to be an excellent resource for selecting most of what I read last year, so the 2004 edition was the first place I went to for ideas for next year's reading. Here are the entries that caught my eye:

The Amateur Marriage. By Anne Tyler. Discovering Tyler was one of the highlights of completing my 2004 goal.

Men and Cartoons: Stories. By Jonathan Lethem. Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn was one of the better books I read this year. I’m curious to see his short story work.

Runaway. By Alice Munro. One of the bad things about limiting myself to novels this year was missing out on short stories. Munro is a constant on “Best of” lists and a favorite of mine.

Alexander Hamilton. By Ron Chernow. Joseph Ellis's Founding Brothers was an interesting book about the guys who don’t have monuments in Washington, and I wouldn’t mind reading a little more about them.

The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin. By Gordon S. Wood. It’s kind of hard to walk around Old City Philadelphia like I do and not become interested in Franklin.

John James Audubon: The Making of an American. By Richard Rhodes. One of the novels I read this year was Katherine Govier’s Creation, a fictionalized account of Audubon’s long trip into the Canadian wilderness. I’d love to see how his real life compares to Govier's excellent fiction.

Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age. By Kevin Boyle. I hope by not limiting myself to just fiction I can discover new (to me) non-fiction writers. The Inquirer review of this book, about the trial of a black doctor who went after the crowd that burned his house down in the 30’s, caught my attention.

That's it for now. Nothing too ambitious, I hope. Leave a comment if you have any other good suggestions. Just keep in mind that in addition to being a beer snob, music snob, etc., I'm also somewhat of a book snob (hint: I refuse to read The DiVinci Code).


Santa Claus is Going from Town

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When I was growing up, the youngest of nine children, the days after Christmas was the time to show off. Each kid had his or her pile of gifts, each carefully orchestrated to best display what Santa brought. That meant that boxes with clothing in them were used simply to prop up your new favorite toy.

Things are different now. As much as she likes following both of our childhood Christmas traditions - the boy’s get both a reindeer gift for leaving out carrots (her tradition) and a gift for leaving out cookie’s for Santa (my tradition), the missus does not like clutter. Freshly unwrapped gifts are put away by Boxing Day. But now, thanks to the wonder that is the internets, I can show off my gifts forever.

1. Old Navy Painter’s Jacket. I hate getting clothes as a gift. The missus knows that whenever she attempts to appease my pickiness about clothes she’s risking disappointment. She also knows that if she didn’t replace my worn out clothes – like the Gap jacket I’ve been wearing for the last eighteen autumns – nobody would. I know she agonizes every time she goes clothes shopping for me, so I’m sure she was happy to see how much I liked this jacket. It’s going to be great to wear while making snowmen with the boys this winter.

2. The Wilco Book. The only item that came from my wish list, but that’s one more than I usually get. The main reason I wanted this is for the bonus CD of outtakes that came with it (I’m kind of a Wilco completist). From what I’ve heard of the CD so far it’s pretty out there, but the book is very cool. It’s half writings from the band members and half photo book from their photographer. The missus also picked up This Must be the Place, a book about the Talking Heads (a band who, like Wilco, were never afraid to experiment with their sound).

3. Jevon Kearse Eagles jersey. A jersey of a defensive lineman (and a guy nicknamed “the Freak”) is so much cooler than one of T.O. or McNabb. The missus lucked out here, because she tried to get those two jerseys first.

4. Alton Brown T-Shirt. This one was the missus most inventive gift. I never ever even thought of getting a shirt from my favorite TV chef, but she surprises me with this. Things like this show that she really does listen to me when I babble on and on.

5. Trivial Pursuit SNL Edition. This was from my goddaughter and I think I could probably talk my neighbors into getting together for this game (we do corny things like game nights). The only problem is that I really haven’t regularly watched Saturday Night Live since Phil Hartman left.

6. The Beer Lover’s Rating Guide and a six-pack of beer. From my godson. Isn’t that what the whole godparent thing is all about, getting beer from your religious ward? And he did his research (or more likely his mom did) because he got me a six of Lancaster Brewing Milk Stout, a favorite that’s not easy to track down.

7. A framed 8x10 of one of my photos. From the boys. I knew that the missus had been thinking of getting one of my pictures framed, but I never expected it to be an 8x10. I was floored by this gift. She let the seven-year-old pick which photo and he ended up selecting one I shot at the farmers market that I take the boys to every Saturday. That made it even more special.

So as you can see, I made out quite all right. Even without the gifts I would have know I have a wonderful family. Of course, they would have been even more wonderful if they could have come up with that $10,000 lawnmower.


Sinister Minister?

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The sudden death of Reggie White yesterday got me thinking about my entry into the world of football fan-dom.

Baseball has always been, and will always be, my sport of choice. I was never any good at it as a kid, but that hasn't stopped me from following the game day-in and day-out, year-in and year-out. Before my teenage years Sports meant baseball and nothing else. There was no secondary sport worth watching. This means that while I was idolizing Mike Schmidt, Gary Maddox and Rod Carew, I was missing out on Dr. J, Bobby Clark and Harold Carmichael.

In 1982 I was a nerdy eight-grader whose best friend was a Portuguese sixth-grader named Rui. We both loved watching baseball and playing it the way baseball geeks were meant to play it - on a computer. We were so far behind the curve on football that it wouldn’t have made sense for us to try to watch a game.

Then came the formation of a spring-summer league, the United State Football League. The USFL was our chance to get in on the ground floor of football. We would know as much about the Philadelphia Stars as anyone else. Plus the USFL teams had names and symbols that looked a lot like the juvenile ones we made up for our Atari 2600 baseball league. Not only could we finally be football fans, we could be rebel football fans of a cool new league!

The players I most remember from the USFL weren’t from the Stars (though I have always had a soft spot their coach, Jim Mora, who took the Stars to both USFL championships). The two players I remember most are Hershel Walker (of the New Jersey Generals) and Reggie White (of the Memphis Showboats). I still remember being upset when I saw a Starting Lineup figure with a “rookie” Reggie White of the Philadelphia Eagles. Did his USFL years mean nothing? [Just like today, where the Philadelphia Inquirer failed to list Memphis as one of White’s “pro” teams.]

But the USFL wasn’t around long and their players ended up being dispersed in a NFL supplemental draft. Since Reggie went to the hometown Eagles, it made sense to start following them. The USFL had taught me the fundamentals of football, and Reggie was my introduction to the “Gang Green” defense, then to Randall Cunningham, then to Mike Quick, and then to every Eagles team since.

I met White during the Buddy Ryan era when the Eagles still had open Saturday practices at JFK Stadium. I recall him being one of the more accessible players that day (especially when compared to the extremely vain Jim McMahon) and writing a bible verse alongside his autograph (which I have since misplaced). You couldn’t separate the player from the minister.

While the death of White has allowed me to think back to my childhood and being a rebel USFL fan, I’m having a hard time reconciling White on the field (as the Minister of Defense) and White off the field (as the minister of the Offensive). Of all the Inquirer coverage of White’s death, only Bob Ford writes at length on the contradiction between White as a football roll model and his homophobic and racist off-field speeches. In it he writes that White wanted to have an impact off the field but his inappropriate words betrayed his ambition. He marginalized himself with his outdated ideas. Ford finishes his column with how he thinks White should be remembered:
It is tragic that Reggie White is gone at 43. Time might have mellowed him and allowed statesmanship to overtake his stridency. We'll never know.

He should be celebrated and remembered as the great husband and father he was. Celebrated as the great football player he certainly was. And he should be mourned as the great leader he very nearly was.
It's hard to imagine anyone will bothering to mourn one of today’s defensive stars (like Ray Lewis, Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan) quite like that.


The Kids Are Alright

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Here's hoping everybody had a great Christmas and is enjoying their Boxing Day. We had a great day here yesterday, with the seven-year-old still very much a believer and the two-year-old really getting into it for the first time (though he was slowed down later in the day with a slight fever). Any Christmas that starts with Santa's milk being replaced by EggNog is a good one.

Today the two-year-old and I are taking it easy while the missus and the seven-year-old try to spend all their gift cards at early-bird post-Christmas sales.

[Above cookies (from left to right): Sugar, Oatmeal Raisin, Ricotta, Sugar]


Cry of a Tiny Babe

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Nativity by Paul Phillips

Mary grows a child without the help of a man
Joseph get upset because he doesn't understand
Angel comes to Joseph in a powerful dream
Says "God did this and you're part of his scheme"
Joseph comes to Mary with his hat in his hand
Says "forgive me I thought you'd been with some other man"
She says "what if I had been - but I wasn't anyway
and guess what, I felt the baby kick today"

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

The child is born in the fullness of time
Three wise astrologers take note of the signs
Come to pay their respects to the fragile little king
Get pretty close to wrecking everything
'Cause the governing body of the whole land
Is that of Herod, a paranoid man
Who when he hears there's a baby born King of the Jews
Sends death squads to kill all male children under two
But that same bright angel warns the parents in a dream
And they head out for the border and get away clean

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

There are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn't to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums
And the message is clear if you've got ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear
It's a Christmas gift you don't have to buy
There's a future shining in a baby's eyes

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

- Bruce Cockburn, "Cry of a Tiny Babe" from Nothing But a Burning Light


Mow Mow Mow

For those who have waited until the last minute to get The Accidental Blogist a Christmas gift, here’s a suggestion:

click image to enlarge

The Dixie Chopper Xtreme Mowchine! A 32-horsepower mowing monster capable of going 15 M.P.H. and cutting eight acres in an hour. At that rate it would take me about two minutes to do my whole yard! As the Dixie Chopper website says, “This mower will make you the envy of your competition.” I didn't even know I had lawn-mowing competition, but I like the idea of them being envious of me.

For those not willing to spend $10,200 on me, you could just head over to The American Street and cast a vote for Ipso Photo as best Photo Blog. eRobin over at Fact-esque was kind enough to nominate my Photo Blog for a Perranoski Prize. I’m trying not to whore for votes, but if you feel so inclined to vote (after checking out Ipso Photo, of course), I won’t stop you.

Merry Christmas from Blogger

My Christmas gift from Blogger seems to be the corruption of my layout template (including my whole sidebar). Until I get time to fix it things are going to look pretty plain around here.


Update (8:59): Getting there.

Update (9:16): I think I'm back.

A Christmas Wish

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If I had one wish that I could wish this holiday season, it would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.

If I had two wishes that I could wish for this holiday season, the first would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing in the spirit of harmony and peace.. and the second would be for $30 million a month to be given to me, tax-free in a Swiss bank account.

You know, if I had three wishes that I could make this holiday season, first, of course, would be for all the children to get together and sing.. the second would be for the $30 million every month to me.. and the third would be for all encompassing power over every living being thing in the entire universe.

And if I had four wishes that I could make this holiday season, first would be the crap about the kids.. second would be for the $30 million.. the third would be for all the power.. and the fourth would be to set aside one month each year for an extended 31-day orgasm, to be brought about slowly by Rosanna Arquette and that model Paulina somebody, I can't think of her name, of course my lovely wife could come, too. She's behind me 100% on this, I guarantee you.

Wait a minute, maybe that sex thing should be the first wish! So, if I made that the first wish, because, you know, it could all go boom tomorrow, and then what have you got? No, no.. the kids singing would be great, that would be nice. No, no, who am I kidding! I mean, they're not gonna be able to get all those kids together! I mean, the logistics of the thing is impossible! It's more trouble than it's worth! So, we reorganize: here we go. First, the sex - we go with that; second, the money. No! We go with the power second, then the money, and then the kids. Oh, wait, oh geez! I forgot about revenge against my enemies! Okay.. revenge against all my enemies, they should die like pigs in Hell! That would be the fourth wish! And of course, my fifth wish would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing in the spirit of peace and harmony. Thank you, everybody.

- Steve Martin, Saturday Night Live December 6, 1986


Photo Friday Holiday Hiatus

According to their website, there will be no Photo Friday challenge tomorrow. But there is a Thursday Challenge from Thursday Theme for today. While I don’t post my Thursday Theme photos on The Accidental Blogist like I do for Photo Friday, I have been participating each week. Today’s theme is “Vehicle” and my entry is posted on my photo blog, Ipso Photo, as my Daily Photo.

While Photo Friday seems to have more prestige and many more entries (almost 250 so far for last Friday’s “Tacky”), one thing about the Thursday Theme site I like is that they tell you a week in advance what the next theme will be. I think this results in better pictures from me since I get seven days to contemplate and take the photo. Photo Friday announces their theme on the day it’s posted, and I’m sure many people go with a photo they already have in their files. In fact many people seem to post soon after the new theme goes up, which makes me wonder how much thought goes into their selection.

Don’t get me wrong, both sites are great and are full of fantastic shots. I just wish that Photo Friday would give us a little more warning.

Fantastic Planet of Football - Week 15

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fantasy players wear teeny tiny helmets

Week 15:
Speed Merchants 64, Three And Out 41

To quote Fred Willard in A Mighty Wind: "Wha' Happened?" My Fantasy Football team was coasting along for the last three weeks on cruise control, with me only having to make one roster move. Then last weekend it fell asleep at the wheel and ran off the road a slammed into a tree (how about a grisly little metaphor for your holiday weekend travels?). Both Terrell Owens and Willis McGahee go down with injuries. Brandon Stokley and Jermaine Wiggins combine for 1 measly fantasy point. Brian Westbrook gets the Eagles to the red zone and Andy Reid lets Dorsey Levens take it in for the big fantasy payoff. Putting Ben Roethlisberger in for Jake Plummer didn't change anything; both had a lackluster eight fantasy points. Even the Baltimore defense let me down. All of this resulted in a first round 64-41 loss to the same Speed Merchants team I beat last week.

All I have now is the runner-up game against The Lucky Bastards, who lost to Deep Threat last weekend. Since it's the last game, and since two of my players are out, I'm making big moves. T.O. and McGahee are out, replaced by Joey Galloway and Levens. Since my regular QBs are both playing tough defenses, I dropped Plummer and picked up Drew Bledsoe, who will start.

God help me, I hope that's enough to salvage third place.


Sugar Mountain

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I wanted to write a nice little post about my Christmas cookies yesterday and ended up so ticked off about Dubya that I forgot completely about it. So anyway, as you can see from the above picture, I made cookies. A lot of cookies. And that doesn’t include the Raspberry Squares I made two weeks ago or the Thumbprint Cookies I made with (read: for) my seven-year-old last week.

I started with two batches of my old standby, Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, and got to use my Pampered Chef Medium Scoop for the first time. The scoop made things go a lot quicker. While it made cookies a little bigger than I usually make no one seemed to be complaining.

Next up was a batch of the missus' favorite, Choc-Oat-Chip Celebration Cookies. I’ve always had a problem with these things spreading out too much, and I still do. Putting the cookie trays into the freezer to cool before re-using them seemed to help a little but not completely.

Then I moved on to the cookie-cutter cookies. I always make sugar cookies but this year I tried a new recipe from Good Eats guru Alton Brown. Mine have always come out dry and uneven. Alton’s tip is to use confectioners (10X) sugar instead of flour when dusting the rolling pin and work surface. Flour removes moisture from the dough, while the sugar just makes the cookies sweeter. I took another tip from Alton and bought quarter-inch trim from Home Depot and made “rails” for the rolling pin to ride on. That way everything was exactly a quarter-inch. The result was my best sugar cookies ever, if I do say so myself.

The last cookie I attempted wasn’t as big of a success. Using a recipe I had from a Philadelphia Inquirer Food section from last December, I tried to make Austrian Linzer cookies. I don't know if there was something wrong with the recipe or what, but I had to adjust the size of the cookies (they were the size of hockey pucks) and the baking time. I still wasn't happy with the results. The missus took them into work with her and said they were a hit, but the missus also works with Learning Disabled kids, so there you go. The recipe went right into the recycle pile.

And I'm still not sure if this is going to be enough cookies to get us through the holidays. I would appreciate any suggestions (other than eat fewer cookies).


Negotiating With Myself In Public

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i'm not telling you. nanny nanny boo boo.

"Now, the temptation is going to be, by well-meaning people such as yourself, John, and others here, as we run up to the issue to get me to negotiate with myself in public; to say, you know, what's this mean, Mr. President, what's that mean. I'm not going to do that."G.W. Bush 12/21/04.

My thoughts on how to fix the press so that Bush doesn't get away with another “Press Conference” like yesterday's [Warning - rant follows]:

FoxNews is blatantly conservative and gets huge ratings. CNN and MSNBC try to be everything to everybody and don't get any ratings (how many Keith Olbermann fans do you think stick around to watch Joe Scarsborough?).

So what one of these networks should do is fight the president at every step. Become known as the Woodward & Bernstein of the 21st Century. Be the station responsible for Rummy leaving. Be the network that forces Bush into the corner until he admits that he doesn’t have a real Social Security plan. Look harder at his appointees (or at least past the White House press releases). Don’t let up. Yes, 51% of the country will hate you, but 49% will love you and that's a lot larger audience than you have now.

FoxNews got to the top by stepping on Clinton's throat and never letting up. When people complained about this, they said it was their job as the press to stay on the story. Of course Fox is evil and there was a lot more going on than just the "press" at Fox doing its duty, but their reasoning is valid and pretty much un-debatable. It could just as easily be used for good rather than evil.

Right now, as eRobin over at Fact-esque rightly points out, the President is getting one big free ride while the press cries, "don't blame us." They're busier writing stories about how much Dubya gets away with than writing stories about what he's getting away with. Gee, he didn't answer that question at all! Well, gee, you think maybe you should do your job, go around him (maybe even sneak around behind his back, tee hee) and find out for us! Stop relying on the White House for your story! As with the whole WMD mess, we seem to always get the story too late.

Arrrggggg! Get backbones, people!

That's it for me. I'll leave the press to eRobin and the rants to the missus.

Drink Your Effing Oatmeal

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[A note about the post title: Oatmeal is big at our house. We all eat it, especially on frigid mornings like yesterday. My love of oatmeal is so great that it borders on the unhealthy. So imagine our shock when the missus and I watched The Firm eleven years ago and saw Wilford "Eat Your Oatmeal" Brimley as the f-bomb-dropping bad guy trying to kill Tom Cruise. While Brimley chasing Cruise around was one of the sillier parts of a completely ridiculous movie, I tried to made it even sillier by coming up with a snappy Hasta La Vista-type line for Wilford if he did catch and finish off Cruise. And thus, "Eat Your Effing Oatmeal" became a lifelong catchphrase between the missus and me.]

It’s been a while since I talked beer. Truth is, between fighting off colds and me and the missus being too busy with the holidays to have many real dinners, I haven’t been drinking a whole lot of my beer. Not that I haven’t been drinking, I just haven't been drinking my beer. I’ve been drinking Coors Light over neighbor’s houses at Christmas get-togethers, or $2 Buds at a bar during the Eagle's Monday Night Football games or paying seven bucks for a 7 & 7 at my work’s holiday party (Seven Bucks!?!).

So that explains why Wolavers Organic Oatmeal Stout had survived so long on the “Drinking…” section of my sidebar. Last night I finally had the last of my Wolavers six-pack and I wanted to comment on it before I forgot.

I have to admit that the “organic” on the label was what caught my eye when I was searching for something different at Oaklyn Discount Liquors. I had never tried an Oatmeal Stout, so that was attractive too. It was a bit of a risky buy since I had never heard of the brewery and it cost a few more bucks than most of the craftbrews. My seven-year-old (who often advises me on my beer purchases) decided it for me when he said, “hey, you like oatmeal, right?”

Well, I’m glad I took the risk. Wolavers, out of Vermont, has made a smooth and tasty stout. I’m no expert, but it was a very flavorful beer. Along with a strong coffee/chocolate taste were other flavors I didn’t recognize. I can only assume some of that unique taste came from the oatmeal. Very good stuff.

Right now in my fridge, in addition to my usual Yuengling Traditional Lager, I have a half-case each of Guinness Extra Stout and Flying Fish ESB Ale. While these cost about twice as much as my Yuengling, the missus really couldn’t complain. She bartered with my brother: a case of beer for his old MP3 player (he was moving up to a iPod). I called him from BJ’s and finished the negotiations. According to my brother a case of Yuengling didn’t cost enough to make a fair trade, but he didn’t want a full case of either the Guinness or Flying Fish. So I offered to buy a case of each and split them with him. He was happy, the missus was happy, and I was happy. I consider the high-priced beer my commission for closing the deal.

The Guinness is the Extra Stout, not the “brilliant” Guinness Draft. The Extra Stout is dark as night, smooth as silk, and oh-so-good. I’m usually a Pale Ale/Lager kind of guy, but now – with Guinness and Wolavers – I’ve had two great stouts in a row. The ESB of the ESB ale stands for Extra Special Bitter, pretty much a 180 from the stouts, and another style I rarely buy. But Flying Fish seldom disappoints so I’m anxious to dip into that.


Wicked (Reindeer) Game

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The missus and I finally picked out our Christmas CD for this year (well really I picked it out, but she was cool with it). We went with the retro-cool sounds of Chris Isaak and his newest CD, Chris Isaak Christmas. I had my sights set on a Beach Boys Christmas CD, but the California sounds on Isaak’s CD are close enough.

Isaak runs through plenty of the new classics like “Rudolph”, an earnestly Elvis-like “Blue Christmas”, “Let It Snow”, and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (with help from Stevie Nicks). Sometimes, like on “The Christmas Song”, he doesn’t have much to add (who could top Nat "King" Cole anyway?) but the laidback yet inventive sound of his band makes the song worth a listen. Other times, like on “Mele Kalikimaka”, Isaak and his band nail it better than the original. Bing Crosby’s version of this song may be the most famous, but the song should really be sung by someone who owns a surfboard. Just like Fats Domino on Christmas Gumbo, Isaak brings new enjoyment singing these songs we’ve heard a million times without becoming too goofy.

As great as Isaak handles the classics, what really makes this CD worth owning are the five new original songs on it. Isaak somehow has written Christmas-y songs that wouldn’t feel out of place on his non-Christmas CDs. Well, except for “Gotta Be Good” which, if the world would be willing give a new non-novelty Christmas song a chance, would quickly become a classic of it’s own.


A Bunch of Marys

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this is not - repeat NOT - a christmas hint

On this weekend full of football (now that the NFL plays on Saturday and Sunday) I thought I would wrap up the Accidental Blogist’s Division III football coverage that's been soooo popular.

Yesterday at the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl the Linfield Wildcats (the team that crushed my beloved Rowan Profs in the semifinals last week) beat the Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders 28-21 for the Division III Championship. It’s little consolation that Rowan lost to the eventual champs. From what I caught of the game on ESPN2, the Stagg Bowl looked like a good game. The score stayed close throughout and the game was well played, but it was difficult to watch without thinking of what the Profs could have done to a school named Mary.

I had my own sports outing this morning. The Haddon Heart Holiday 5K Run has long been a Christmastime tradition of mine. Each December I must go out to Westmont, NJ and get my quality long-sleeved race shirt (which often gets “borrowed” by the missus) and see two of Philly’s favorites, Santa Claus and Bernie Parent. I doubt Parent, goalie of the Flyer’s only Stanley Cup teams, has had to pay for a beer since the 1973-74 season. Every real Flyers fan knows that “only Jesus saved more than Bernie.”

Philadelphia's love for Santa, on the other hand, hasn’t always been as strong.


A Little Less Conversation

From Pearls Before Swine, what a converation between the missus and our seven-year-old son looks like (click strip to enlarge):

click to enlarge

Welcome to my world.

Fantastic Planet of Football - Week 14

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fantasy players wear teeny tiny helmets

Week 14:
Three And Out 83, Speed Merchants 60

Drew Bennett came up big and led my Fantasy Football team to a 83-60 win over Speed Merchants. That third straight win allowed Three and Out to end the regular fantasy season with a very respectable 8-6 record.

Today marks the beginning of the fantasy playoffs with yet another game against the 10-4 Speed Merchants. The playoffs are typically the time that I, like all good coaches, overanalyze and change everything that got me to the playoffs. This postseason should be no different. After three weeks of not touching my roster (and those three straight wins) I think it's time to shake things up.

Even though my QB Jake Plummer is playing against the porous defense of Kansas City he's become too erratic, both physically and mentally (after flipping hometown fans the bird last week). This weekend I'm going with Ben Roethlisberger. Even though Big Ben hasn't been a big fantasy point-getter he's facing the sad Giants. Playing him should make it even more fun to watch the Steelers cream New York today.

Actually, that's it for this week. The rest of my guys are playing soft defenses this weekend and even I'm not so incompetent a GM to mess with that. So here's my roster this weekend:
QB B. Roethlisberger (Den - QB)
WR T. Owens (Phi - WR)
WR B. Stokley (Ind - WR)
WR D. Bennett (Ten - WR)
RB W. McGahee (Buf - RB)
RB B. Westbrook (Phi - RB)
TE J. Wiggins (Min - TE)
D Baltimore (Bal - D)
BN D. Graham (NE - TE)
BN J. Plummer (Pit - QB)
BN I. Bruce (StL - WR)
BN W. Dunn (Atl - RB)
BN L. Suggs (Cle - RB)
BN D. Staley (Pit - RB)


America's Team vs. America's Funniest Home Video

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Let's play "One of These Things is Not Like the Other" - NL East edition:

Headline story on Braves.com [as of 6:00 this morning]:

Braves acquire Hudson from Athletics.

Headline story on Mets.com [as of 6:00 this morning]:

Welcome to NY: Mets unveil Pedro.

Headline story on Phillies.com [as of 6:00 this morning]:

Michaels' play voted Blooper of the Year.

I hate to admit it, but I got the idea for this post from watching last night's Lou Tilley's Sports Connection. Honest, I was only flipping through. The above photo, however, is mine.

I'm taking the boys into work today for our Christmas Holiday Party at Philadelphia's Down Town Club. The missus has to work, so I'll have to keep these two entertained all day by myself. Wish me luck.

Photo Friday - 12.17.04

Each week Photo Friday posts a photo assignment. Your mission is the creative interpretation of the week's theme. When you're done, post the picture you took to your website and submit your link to Photo Friday.

Photo Friday is about challenging our participants to be original and creative within the constraints of the week's theme. It's not a competition. Anyone with a camera and a place on the internet to post pictures can participate.

This week's challenge: Tacky

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I'm going with tacky as "not having or exhibiting good taste".

My Home Owners Insurance Provider.
Audubon, NJ.


Scoreless In (Okay, Near) Seattle

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is it too late for hints?

Week 13:

The good news, and big news, in the Division III Playoff Semi-Finals last weekend was that the perennial champion Mount Union had been taken down (at home!) by lowly eighth-seed Mary Hardin-Baylor (which is a university, not a woman). It was the Purple Raiders first home loss since 1999 and marks their first back-to-back years without the D3 championship since 1994-95. While the Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders may see this as their year, most D3 teams would agree that nothing could be worse than the prospect of facing the mighty Mount Union in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, of which the Purple Raiders have won seven of the last eleven. For getting rid of the 800-pound gorilla from Ohio, the team that faces Mary Hardin-Baylor next weekend in the Stagg Bowl owes the Crusaders a big thank you.

The bad news from last weekend is that Rowan isn’t that team. After blowing out teams in their first two playoff games by a combined score of 101-21, my Profs traveled all the way out to McMinnville, Oregon just to be shut out by Linfield College, 52-0. Linfield's offense has earned a reputation this season as a scoring machine but Rowan, no strangers to the end zone themselves this season, had just as much trouble trying to overcome the Wildcats defense. Rowan's usually flawless quarterback Mike Orihel had three interceptions and was sacked twice in the Profs first shutout in nine years.

Rowan fans can feel good about this season and the near future. The Profs exceeded pre-season predictions while being guided by the sophomore Orihel. Orihel has proven he’s the real deal and will no doubt come back next fall wanting that Gagliardi Trophy that he led his team so closely to this year.

As for my high school alma mater, Holy Cross High, I’m happy to report that three Lancers (QB Rob Curley, OL Dennis Landolt, and OL Phil Costa - all seniors) made the Philadelphia Inquirer’s All-South Jersey Offense first team.


Reindeer Tracks

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it's a big door

I took a personal day today for my annual Christmas Cookie Baking Blowout. So far it’s twelve dozen down, about six dozen to go. So real quick, off the top of my flour-dusted head, here are the best Christmas songs to originate on non-Christmas albums:

1. "Fairytale of New York" – The Pogues (with Kirsty MacColl), from If I Should Fall From Grace With God

2. "Cry of a Tiny Babe" – Bruce Cockburn, from Nothing But a Burning Light

3. "River" – Joni Mitchell, from Blue

4. "Merry Christmas from the Family" – Robert Earl Keen, from Gringo Honeymoon

5. "Santa’s Beard" – They Might Be Giants, from Lincoln

6. "2000 Miles" – The Pretenders, from Learning To Crawl

Honorable Mention to the Waitresses’ "Christmas Wrapping", originally released on the I Could Rule the World If I Could Only Get the Parts EP (which was little more than an excuse to put that song and the theme song to Square Pegs on vinyl).

Above picture is of the front door of St. Peter's Church in Society Hill.

Back to the kitchen.

Update (12.16.04): I cannot believe I forgot "Jesus Christ" by Big Star, from Third/Sister Lovers, only one of my all-time favorite albums. I would rank the song third on this list. I also forgot "Merry Christmas, Emily" by Cracker, from Forever. I can be forgiven for not remembering that, it's really not that memorable. Let's put that last on this list.


The Soft Glow of Electric Sex

The Governor of Vermont would like the above lamp, a replica of 1847's The Greek Slave by noted Vermont artist Hiram Powers, removed from his desk. He's afraid that it might get broken but he also admits, a la John Ashcroft, that he fears that kids might see a nakkid woman. I suggest the governor replace the lamp with a more dignified one:

Of course, he'd have to win a major award to get it.

God is a Real Estate Developer

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After 10 years of working in Philly and riding PATCO past Olde St. Augustine Church, I'm still waiting for them to put up the sign saying how much the parish is costing the taxpayers by not having to pay property taxes on a pretty valuable piece of real estate.

While I don't really believe that places of worship should have to pay property taxes, I also don't believe in vouchers for parochial school students (which I assume this sign is advocating). And I didn't believe in them while I was paying my way through Holy Cross High either. So quit ye olde complaining Olde St. Augustine.

I think I might still be a bit cranky from my tummy-ache. I'm picking on a church.

[Post title comes from an old song by the great Michelle Shocked.]


Accountability Unpayable

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I'm still getting over a 24-hour (I hope!) stomach virus. I'm up to Gatorade and toast with a light spread of lingonberry preserves (how pretentious is that?). I don't feel much like thinking up a post today, so once again I'll hand it over to Harry Shearer, from his le Blast newsletter. This goes out to the missus and all the other teachers caught up in NCLB:
We now know what George W. Bush means by "accountability": we'll be stern as hell if teachers don't get their kids to pass a bunch of tests, but if a secretary of defense advocates a war of choice, and further advocates fighting it on the cheap with too few troops and too few supplies ("we go to war with the Army we have", he said this week), and further totally miscalculates the post-war situation, we ask him to re-up for another four years. To revive a question Republicans used to ask about a certain Clintonian imbroglio: what kind of signal does this send to our children?
I took the above picture November 3rd (a very sad day in Philly) just off Washington Square.


Fantastic Planet of Football - Week 13

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fantasy players wear teeny tiny helmets

Week 13:
Three And Out 94, The Sharks 55

Strong outings from Brian Westbrook and Drew Bennett propelled my Fantasy Football team into the fantasy playoffs. With the 94-55 win over the Sharks, Three and Out not only made the playoffs, but also locked up the third seed (in a four-team playoff system).

This weekend we play the Speed Merchants, who have locked up the second seed, meaning that our two teams will play back-to-back games. While that makes this game statistically meaningless, I happen to work in the same office as the Speed Merchants' GM and would love to notch back-to-back wins against him (or at least win this weekend and have him enter the playoffs a little worried). I'm still pretty happy with how my roster looks, and for the third week in a row will not touch my line-up.
QB J. Plummer (Den - QB)
WR T. Owens (Phi - WR)
WR B. Stokley (Ind - WR)
WR D. Bennett (Ten - WR)
RB W. McGahee (Buf - RB)
RB B. Westbrook (Phi - RB)
TE J. Wiggins (Min - TE)
D Baltimore (Bal - D)
BN D. Graham (NE - TE)
BN B. Roethlisberger (Pit - QB)
BN I. Bruce (StL - WR)
BN W. Dunn (Atl - RB)
BN L. Suggs (Cle - RB)
BN D. Staley (Pit - RB)
The Lucky Bastards (5-6-2), Slackers (5-8), and the Sharks (4-9) all still have a chance to get the fourth seed and face the 12-1 Deep Threat. I'm not sure what kind of chance any of them has against Deep's Peyton Manning-lead team, but Three and Out was the top seed last year and lost in the first round of the playoffs, so I know better than anyone that anything can happen.


Down in the Valley

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you know, for the kids

Week 12:

With five touchdown passes from sophomore star quarterback Mike Orihel, Rowan cruised to a 56-7 rout of Delaware Valley College to advance to the semifinals of the Division III Championships. By halftime, the Profs had outscored Aggies 42-0 and no doubt began eagerly awaiting the results of the Linfield-Occidental quarterfinal game to see if they would get to play another home game (with a Occidental win) or have to travel to Oregon (to face Linfield). Not long after their win the Profs found out they would have to start packing their bags for the left coast. With Linfield beating Occidental 56-27, Rowan will travel 2,926.4 miles to play the Wildcats Saturday at noon in McMinnville, Oregon.

I’m not saying that McMinnville is small, but according to the Linfield website’s “Top 15 Quirks and Perks of McMinnville,” #11 is a corn maze, #9 is the Goodwill store, and #7 is the 7-Eleven on Baker Street (you know the one). #15 is the soon-to-open Cold Stone Creamery, which is pretty cool (no pun intended). Of course, all Glassboro/Rowan had to offer when I was there was Butch’s Barber Shop - where for five bucks Butchy would give you any hair style you wanted (as long as it existed in 1948) in about five minutes, and a Wawa you just had to cross South Jersey’s most dangerous train tracks to get to.

My high school alma mater, Holy Cross High, whose season was over November 26, ended-up ranked number 7 in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s final South Jersey Football Top 10. While I’m sure the Lancers would rather have the State Parochial 3 State Championship trophy (that went to St. Joseph-Montvale), there’s worse things than being called one of the best teams in South Jersey.


A Guy Walks Into a Salad Bar…

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A quick post with an old joke and a new link, since I have to be in Bala Cynwyd soon and don’t have much time:

Rich Hall told this joke years and years ago on WMMR when 'MMR was still the station in Philly:
Two guys are driving down City Line Ave and arguing over how to pronounce Bala Cynwyd. One guy says it Bal-a Sin-Wid, the other guy says it Ba-la Kin-wood. After arguing for a while they decide to pull into a fast food joint and ask a local. So they go in and asks the guy behind the counter, “How do you pronounce the name of where we are right now?” And the counter guy slowly says:

Burr-Gerr King.
Anyway, if you’re like me, you don’t want to reward any companies that spent big bucks to get BushCo reelected. So before you go out shopping this weekend, check out this site, and make it a Blue (state) Christmas. It provides a list of all the companies that were naughty (gave primarily to the GOP) and nice (gave to the Dems).

Photo Friday - 12.10.04

Each week Photo Friday posts a photo assignment. Your mission is the creative interpretation of the week's theme. When you're done, post the picture you took to your website and submit your link to Photo Friday.

Photo Friday is about challenging our participants to be original and creative within the constraints of the week's theme. It's not a competition. Anyone with a camera and a place on the internet to post pictures can participate.

This week's challenge: Abandoned

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Abandoned LPs (remember those?).
5th & South, Philadelphia, PA.


Seeing the Lights

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I met a German girl in England who was goin’ to school in France – Chuck Berry, "It Wasn’t Me"

The missus was unpacking my two-year-old son’s backpack that he uses for nursery school and pulled out a picture of a menorah that he colored. She asked him if he was learning about Hanukkah at school. Umm… yeah! (Yeah is always preceded by umm). So the missus next asks if he knows what Hanukkah is. Umm...Yeah, eight days.

Cute story, but what’s really cool is that a local Lutheran church runs my son’s nursery school. In this age where religion is such a politicized topic that major networks won’t run an ad by the United Church of Christ, who just wants to make it clear that - like Jesus said - all should be welcome at church (because it’s message is too controversial), my 32-month-old Roman Catholic son is learning Jewish traditions from a Lutheran teacher. Just another reason why we love our son’s nursery school.

Happy Hanukkah everyone!


A Few of My Favorite Things

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I took this picture of carolers on the steps of the rehabbed Zane School Building during the Collingswood Christmas tree lighting. One of the best things about Christmas is the music. I love Christmas music, both modern and traditional. In my book (missal?), Christmas music is second only to May Crowning songs for cool church music. Oh, like you don't think about these things.

As for the modern music, the missus and I have a tradition of picking up a Christmas CD each year and through the years we have compiled quite an eclectic collection. While I’m not sure exactly what order we picked these albums up in, I can tell you that this tradition goes back so far that the first two are on cassette!

A Charlie Brown Christmas - The Vince Guaraldi Trio. A must have. One of the few Christmas specials to put some serious thought into its soundtrack.

A Christmas Gift for You From Phil SpectorPhil Spector & Various Artists. You know you’re making a musical impact on your kids when your son recognizes Darlene Love’s voice at age four. The Wall of Sound hasn’t held up well on cassette, I need to get this on CD.

The Alligator Records Christmas Collection – Various Artists. A great mix of old-time blues and Creole country. Includes Saffire – the Uppidity Blues Women’s take on modern day holiday blues, "One Parent Christmas."

White ChristmasAl Green. Picked this up because the Reverend Green sings some of my favorite R&B songs. The CD isn’t quite in the same league as “Let’s Stay Together,” but there’s no denying that the guy’s having a ball singing carols.

A Different Kind of ChristmasVarious Artists. My favorite Christmas CD, with only one low point (Fishbone’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”). Lots of great obscure stuff (Syd Straw, the db’s, Poi Dog Pondering) and beautiful songs from Bruce Cockburn and T-Bone Burnett.

Merry Christmas from MotownVarious Artists. Old School Motown, not the new stuff. Not as good as Phil Spector’s Wall of Christmas Sound, but pretty close. Worth it just for the baritone of the Temptations "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer." Also the only way Michael Jackson (as part of the Jackson 5) gets played in our house.

Cool Christmas BluesCharles Brown. – The coolest Christmas vibe this side of the Charlie (no relation) Brown Soundtrack. Includes "Merry Christmas Baby" and "Please Come Home For Christmas" straight from the original source.

A New Wave Christmas: Just Can't Get EnoughVarious Artists. 80’s pop Christmas music with very few clunkers. A good mix of obscure and favorites. Includes perhaps the greatest Christmas love song of all time, the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl doing "Fairytale of New York". I’m pretty sure it’s the only Christmas song with the line “You’re an old slut on junk” in it, and it’s still one of the most beautiful love songs of all time.

Maybe this Christmas Various Artists. – The Maybe series all seem to have a 50/50 good/bad mix of music, but the good make them worth having. This one is worth it for Ron Sexsmith’s title song and great takes on some classics by Coldplay and Bright Eyes.

Nick at Nite: A Classic Cartoon Christmas - Various Artists. You know, for the kids. Includes great tunes from the Muppets, who weren’t cartoons, but then again neither was Rudolph.

Christmas GumboFats Domino. Original bought from the remainder bin as a bit of a joke, but has become a favorite. A great N’Awlins take on the standards.

When My Heart Finds ChristmasHarry Connick Jr. You know, for the missus. Oh, all right, I admit that when Sinatra’s not available Harry’s just fine. The guy really does have talent and it’s displayed here on a couple of his originals, which sound like they came straight from the 40’s.

Maybe This Christmas TooVarious Artists. Once you get past Avril Lavigne’s fingernails on chalkboard take on "O Holy Night", this is a pretty good CD. Good mix of the beautiful and the goofy.

We still haven’t picked up this year’s CD yet. The obvious choice would be Maybe This Christmas Tree (that’s a pun, not a misspelling) but it doesn’t have a lot of recognizable names for me. Plus it has Pilate, another band I never heard of, doing "Fairytale of New York," which I believe was done perfect the first time and shouldn’t be touched. I’ve long wanted to get a Beach Boys Christmas album, but the missus has always overruled me.

Maybe this Christmas…


Up All Night

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hey, ba-bee

Blockbuster’s DVD-by-mail finally got around to sending me Before Sunrise this week. As I mentioned last week, the missus and I had seen this Ethan Hawke-Julie Delpy movie in the theatre when it came out, but seeing the sequel, Before Sunset, this year made us want to see the original again.

In comparison to the sequel, the original suffers two big disadvantages. Where 2004's Before Sunset takes place in real-time – chronicling ninety minutes of conversation in Paris, 1995's Before Sunrise takes place over several hours in Vienna. The other disadvantage is that Before Sunrise transpires overnight, so much of the film is darker and leans too heavily on encounters with the sideshow-like people who come out at night. Before Sunset benefits from the brightness of its sunny afternoon and the interaction with others has been reduced.

Of course, the most important aspect of the movie has very little to do with the setting or other characters. It’s all about the conversation between Hawke and Delpy. (It’s my generation’s My Dinner With Andre, with more kissing and without that “it’s inconceivable” guy from the Princess Bride.) Their dialogue is sometimes pretentious, awkward or just plain silly, but coming out of the mouths of two twenty-three year olds, that’s totally believable (I can say that now that I’m a mature – but still pretentious – thirty-six).

That’s the biggest thing this movie and its sequel have going for it, believability. They make it seem effortless, but if these two actors didn’t carry these movies as well as they did not only wouldn’t you believe in their characters, you wouldn’t even care about them. Instead you end up hoping they connect again, and make another great movie (Before Middle-Age?).