Archive for May, 2009

Name That Genre

Returning from vacation, I find myself grateful to live in Boston with its plethora of college and public radio stations.  From my experience listening to commercial radio stations here and abroad it would seem that with the exception of hip-hop and r&b, music of this decade is no longer played on the radio.  It’s a pity, because I’d argued there’s been a outpouring of great new rock and pop music of all subgenres over the past 5-6 years, but you have to go to the internet to find it if your not in the signal range of a station like WERS.

Otherwise, you will hear music from the 90′s.  Not any music from the 90′s, but specifically from the mid-to-late 90′s and even then artists like Radiohead, Beck, The Flaming Lips and the Eels won’t make the cut.  No this is that peculiar 90′s genre that is kind of bluesy, but watered down so as to have no edge.  Kind of folksy but but so crafted for commercial appeal that you know no “folk” were involved.  Kind of jam band-ish but without the virtuosity.  Examples of this genre’s performers include the Goo Goo Dolls, Sister Hazel, Collective Soul, Counting Crows, Deep Blue Something, Live, Marchbox Twenty, The Verve Pipe, The Gin Blossoms, and most iconically Hootie and the Blowfish.  There were many more, but perhaps due to their blandness it’s only recently that I’ve come to realize that this style of music was not the work of just one or two bands.

Seriously, listen to these three songs below and tell me that they do not sound like the work of the same band, perhaps on the same album.

There are some who call this genre post-grunge, but it doesn’t really seem fair to name it just for something that came before it.  I’ve come to call it Boring Rock, but perhaps we can find something more charitable.  So I challenge you dear readers to Name That Genre!

Beer Review: Guinness 250th Anniversary Stout

Beer: Guinness 250th Anniversary Stout
Brewer:  Guinness & Co.
Source:  Draught
Rating: *** (7.3 of 10)
Comments: This commemorative beer is available for a limited time.  Basically it is a carbonated version of the stout that made Dublin famous.  The pint I was served was rich & dark, but surprisingly not much head (the bartender poured it quickly too, although I don’t know if that matters for this version).  The beer has a peaty aroma and the same Guinness flavor but much fresher and lighter.  This is a tasty alternative to Guinness Stout that people who don’t like the original because it’s too “heavy” may like better.  I’d try it again, but I’m still smitten with good old fashioned Guinness.

Beer Review: Lindemans Framboise

Beer: Framboise
Brewer: Brouwerij Lindemans
Source:  750 ml bottle
Rating: *** (7.9 of 10)
Comments: When one reviews beers one is supposed to rate according to type, but this was my first lambic and it caught me completely off guard.  It looks like a raspberry fizz soda, smells like a raspberry fizz soda, and tastes like a raspberry fizz soda.  I checked the label to make sure that it was actually an alcoholic beverage.  Mind you, lest you think it be a fruity beverage like a hard lemonade or something of that sort, let me tell you that this is a really tasty and well-crafted raspberry fizz soda.  It goes especially well with chocolate.  So indulgent!

Beer Review: Victory Lager

Beer: Victory Lager
Brewer: Victory Brewing Company
Source:  Draft
Rating: * (5.6 of 10)
Comments: This Philadelphia microbrew is a light golden beer with a thick head and light carbonation.  The aroma is kind of musty and the taste is kind of creamy and sweet with a lasting aftertaste.

Beer Review: Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady Ale

Beer:  Scarlet Lady Ale
Brewer: Stoudt’s Brewing Company
Source:  Draft
Rating: ** (6.4 of 10)
Comments: A very attractive copper colored ale with a thick head and a toffee aroma.  The taste is hoppy and mildly bitter.  After a few sips the head was gone and there was some light lacing on the glass.  A decent beer.

Photopost: Boston Nature Center

Did you know that Boston has a nature center?  I didn’t until I moved to Jamaica Plain and saw that  it was fairly close to our house as the crow flies.  Despite this knowledge it’s taken me a year and a half to finally make the 1.5-mile walk to Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary located on what once was the grounds of the Boston State Hospital in Mattapan.  Peter, Susan, and I walked over on a lovely Memorial Day passing through several cemeteries – Forest Hills, St. Michael’s, and Mt. Hope – which were appropriately bustling with visitors.  There are also several garden shops along the way which I expect have a symbiotic relationship with cemetary visitation.

The Boston Nature Center itself is quite lovely.  We took the Snail Trail and the Fox Trail which led us through the woods, along a creek, over a boardwalk, and past a wide wetland marsh.  Sadly Peter was not in the mood to walk nor to be carried, nor anything much else that day so our visit was abbreviated.  Still I’m glad we finally made it out.  Now I can check something off my Mission: Boston list and more importantly I know another great green space within walking distance of Jamaica Plain.

Some of the best photos are below, while the rest are at my online photo album.

Daisies!

Daisies!

A babbling brook

A babbling brook

A redwing blackbird

A redwing blackbird

One of the garden centers appears to still accept credit cards from the 1970s.

One of the garden centers appears to still accept credit cards from the 1970s.

Fenway Park

Updating the out-of-town scoreboard is done by hand at Fenway

Updating the out-of-town scoreboard is done by hand at Fenway

On Sunday I attended my second Mets game of the month, this time a road game here at home in Boston.  It feels a bit odd to don my blue & orange hat for a trip to Fenway since I will root for the Red Sox against any other opponent.  Yet I’ve done it many times dating back to the Mets first interleague appearance in Boston back in 1998 and the games are among some of the most interesting I’ve ever seen.

Here are some highlights:

  • June 5, 1998 – Mets 9, Red Sox 2: Arguably Pedro Martinez’s worst game in his best season in that he allowed home runs to four Mets.  Martinez beaned the Mets new catcher Mike Piazza early on forcing him from the game but Piazza’s replacement Albert Castillo hit one of the home runs and scored two runs in the game.  Odd.
  • June 6, 1998 – Mets 1, Red Sox 0: The next day I didn’t have a ticket but walked up to Fenway and got one from a firefighter for $10.  You’ll never hear of anyone getting same day tickets anywhere near that price today.  Tim Wakefield pitched his heart out allowing only one hit, and lost. Brian McRae walked, stole second, advanced to third on a ground out, and then scored on a balk.  And that was it! Crazy.
  • July 13, 2000 – Mets 3, Red Sox 4: Things looked good for the Mets at first as Bobby Jones of all people was able to keep pace with Pedro.  Later on odd things happened with Carl Everett and Dennis Cook (which would come to ahead two days later with a complete Everett meltdown).  A Melvin Mora error and some late-inning heroics by Brian Daubach off Armando Benitez gave the win the Red Sox.  Exciting game nonetheless.
  • June 27, 2006 – Mets 4, Red Sox 9: After a six year absence the Mets returned to Fenway on a day that was also the first time Pedro Martinez returned to Boston as a Met (and received a warm welcome when he pitched the next evening).  In a nice touch, the fans and players saluted the 1986 AL Champion Red Sox on the 20th anniversary of the year they lost the World Series to you-know-who.  There were a ton of home runs in this game, three for the Mets, but the Red Sox would score more runs by far.
  • June 29, 2006 – Mets 2, Red Sox 4: Curt Schilling pretty much shut down the Mets this evening.  This is the only occassion when I’ve encountered rude fans at Fenway as a trashy-looking woman and her teenage son shouted insults and threw peanuts at Mets fans in my sections (although for some reason they left me alone).  This game sewed up a sweep for the Sox and at the time it looked like they were bound for the postseason and the Mets were fading, but in the end it was the the Mets who reached the playoffs that season.

The grounds crew to the rescue!

The grounds crew to the rescue!

Sunday’s game was interesting as well partly because a thunderstorm pelted the field with rain and hail in first inning.  Fans ooh-ed and aah-ed as lighting struck buildings in nearby Back Bay.  I sat in the family section in left field near the Green Monster, safely ensconced under the roof.  So I had a good dry view of the heroic grounds crew as they rushed to get the already sodden field covered with a tarp.  It was also amusing to watch the people in the front rows evacuate their seats.  On the scoreboard they showed a video of a couple of guys lip-syncing Milli Vanilli’s “Blame it on the Rain” and dancing with the Wally the Green Monster in a rain slicker.  Turns out the “two guys” are Red Sox pitchers Jonathon Papelbon and Manny Delcarmen which further proves that I can never recognize athletes when not in uniform.  Anyhow, it’s pretty funny and you can watch it below:

When play resumed, things looked good for the Mets as they took a lead into the fifth inning and seemed in control of the game.  And then the Red Sox batters made mincemeat of the Mets bullpen – especially Brian Stokes – and just kept hitting and hitting and hitting.  Oh well, it turned out to be a lovely day and while some blokes lamely tried to heckle Gary Sheffield, I sat among some friendly fans.  Which is good because we’re all squished together in that special Fenway way.

Luis Castillo dances off second when things were going well for the Mets

Luis Castillo dances off second when things were going well for the Mets

I’ve been visiting Fenway Park pretty much every year since 1997, and it just gets bigger – more seats, more concourse, more concessions, and more ads (which add some nice color) – but the seats are still narrow as can be.  All the changes have been for the better improving what was already one of the best ballparks in baseball (although at least the Mets have something comparable now).  I look forward to going back for a game when I can root for the Sox.

More pictures from the game in my ballgames photo album.

A mound conference when things were going poorly for the Mets

A mound conference when things were going poorly for the Mets

Photopost: Outer Banks

Saw a lot of critters and little bit of art on our recent travels to North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Pretty black birds flew all around the beach house

Pretty black birds flew all around the beach house

A double line of cops on bikes preceded us down the main drag of the Outer Banks

A double line of cops on bikes preceded us down the main drag of the Outer Banks

The art deco detail of the Wright Brothers Memorial

The art deco detail of the Wright Brothers Memorial

Flocks of pelicans patrolled the beach

Flocks of pelicans patrolled the beach

This fox settled down for a nap right behind the house.

This fox settled down for a nap right behind the house.

We saw many hares on our nature walk

We saw many hares on our nature walk

The charming Currituck Beach Lighthouse

The charming Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Visit my web photo album for many, many more pictures from this trip (most of them of my son).

Book Review: Becoming Manny by Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg

When Manny Ramirez played in Boston, I enjoyed watching him play and always thought he got a raw deal from the Red Sox fans & media who accused him of being selfish, lazy, and disruptive (among other things I can’t print here).  I always got the sense that Manny was shy and just wanted to play baseball well and not deal with the stresses of public scrutiny, which I can find understandable.  Becoming Manny: Inside the Life of Baseball’s Most Enigmatic Slugger (2009) by Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg confirms my understanding of Manny, although my esteem for him has fallen since he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (ill-timed for the release of this book as well).

Still this is a well-written and informative biography, especially the parts about Manny’s early years before he reached the major leagues.  Rhodes is a psychologists and offers some great insights through he lens of Manny Ramirez of children of immigrants, the extremes of poverty and strong community in inner-city neighborhoods, and the life of youth athletes.  There is a special emphasis on coaches teachers, and friends who mentor young athletes.  In Manny’s case there are older and wiser men to guide him through most of his life, most importantly Carlos “Macaco” Ferreira a Little League coach and lifelong friend.

Manny-lovers and more importantly Manny-haters should check this book out.  It’s an excellent example of baseball biography at it’s best.

Becoming Manny : inside the life of baseball’s most enigmatic slugger / Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2009.
ISBN: 9781416577065
1416577068
Description:304 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Edition: 1st Scribner hardcover ed.

Book Review: Brideshead Revisited

The William & Mary Boston Alumni Chapter selected the Evelyn Waugh classic Brideshead Revisited (1945) for our May meeting. The novel is the reflections of Charles Ryder upon his relationship with the aristocratic Marchmain family after coming upon their crumbling homestead Brideshead while serving in the military in wartime England.

In the first section Ryder flashes back to forming a friendship with the younger son Sebastian Flyte while they both studied at Oxford (I use “studied” loosely here as they spend much of their time partying).  Sebastian has two characteristics that stand out: one he is Catholic, and two he is barking mad (or batshit insane as we’d say here in the States).  A third characteristic emerges over the course of the novel.  Sebastian is a depressive alcoholic and Charles is his codependent enabler.

The second part of the novel is much less interesting as Sebastian, the novel’s most interesting character, is only discussed second hand.  Here Charles returns from traveling abroad for his art, indifferent to his wife and children and instead strikes up an affair with Sebastian’s sister Julia.  This leads to the climax of the novel in which deus ex machina leads Julia to remember she’s a practicing Catholic and calls off the affair and plans for divorce.

From what I understand about Waugh, he was a convert to Catholicism and wrote this as a Catholic allegory.  Yet the Catholics in this novel are portrayed as lazy, selfish, drunken, and foolish.  That the novel is told from the point of view of the unsympathetic agnostic doesn’t bode well for a positive image of Catholicism either.  One of my  book club friends felt the Catholic message of this novel is that “God will get you in the end.”  That may be.  As a critique of England’s crumbling aristocracy, the novel’s other theme, this book works much better.  But overall I’m none too impressed.

Author : Waugh, Evelyn, 1903-1966.
Title : Brideshead revisited : the sacred and profane memories of Captain Charles Ryder, a novel / by Evelyn Waugh.
Published : London : Chapman & Hall and the Book Society, 1945.

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