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.

Book Review: “Currency” by Neal Stephenson (Book 7 of the Baroque Cycle)


The seventh book of the Baroque Cycle and the the second part of the third volume The System of the World (2004) by Neal Stephenson is “Currency.”  Continuing where “Solomon’s Gold” left off, Daniel Waterhouse, Isaac Newton and other members of his philosophical club attempt to track down Jack Shaftoe for his counterfeiting crimes and tampering with the Pyx.  Meanwhile Eliza aids Princess Caroline of the Hanovers as her life is threatened amid the scheming over the successor to Queen Anne.  It all comes to a head as warring militias gather in London and the Whigs and Tories face off.

The Baroque Cycle gets better as it goes along and builds on past introduction of themes, characters and ideas.  I admit I’m guilty on not earlier paying enough attention to “minor” characters like Ravenscar and Bolingbroke whose significance becomes prominent in this episode.  Despite that this is another excellent novel of political intrigue, history, and humor.

I look forward to reading the final book, but also feel a bit sad that it will come to an end.

Previously:

Book Review: The Plot Against America


I’ve sworn off Philip Roth novels in the past but the premise of The Plot Against America (2004) intrigued me enough to check out the audiobook.  It’s a good thing too since I like this more than any other Roth book I’ve read.  (Previously: Portnoy’s Complaint, Goodbye Columbus, and American Pastoral).

The premise of the book is that in 1940 the Republican party nominates Charles Lindbergh as their candidate and the aviation hero coasts to victory of Roosevelt on an isolationist America First platform.  Before Pearl Harbor this was actually a popular movement in the United States to stay out of Europe’s wars and Lindbergh was a prominent proponent.  In the novel, the Lindbergh administration signs an agreement with Hitler and Pearl Harbor never happens.

The real Lindbergh was also known for anti-Semitic sentiments and actions that many see as sympathetic to the the Nazis.  So the novel is grounded in historical basis of the potential for a Fascist administration in the United States.

What makes the novel great though is that it is told as the memories of a young Philip Roth growing up in the Jewish section of Newark, NJ.  Everything in the novel is filtered through the views of Roth’s family and neighbors and historical characters like Walter Winchell who becomes the most vocal opponent to the Lindbergh administration.  In this way Roth never makes it actually clear that Lindbergh is actually the Nazi collaborator that Philip’s father fears he is or if he is simply a pragmatist trying to keep America out of war as many other Americans believe.  A prominent rabbi who befriends and supports Lindbergh and Philip’s older brother are two more characters who add to the uncertainty. Alternating with this alternate history is the more personal and sometimes mundane story of Philip’s coming-of-age in 1940’s Newark, where many of my favorite parts of the novel take place.

A lot of criticism takes the ending of the novel to task.  I feel much the same way that it is too clean and abrubt, but think it would work better if Roth hadn’t tied up the national story before telling the personal story of the Roth family in the wake of anti-Semitic riots.  Swap those last too sections and I think the ending would be much stronger.  Also, I’m a bit perturbed by events in American history that seem to be exactly the same despite that alterations Roth has made in the novel.  For example he has the 1942 World Series results exactly the same neglecting that with America not at war there would be star players at home who would change the balance.  Similarily he has Nazi Germany surrendering to the post-Lindbergh US in May 1945 even after stating that the Nazi’s strengthened their hold on Europe by the US not getting involved in 1941.

These are minor quibbles though as this is a well-written and thought-provoking novel.

Author Roth, Philip.
Title The plot against America [sound recording] / Philip Roth.
Publication Info. Prince Frederick, MD : Recorded Books, p2004.
Edition Unabridged.
Description 11 sound discs (13.5 hr.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.

Citi Field


The skyline over the Shake Shack is a memento of Shea Stadium.  The shakes are good too.
The skyline over the Shake Shack is a memento of Shea Stadium. The shakes are good too.

My friend Mike and I have a tradition each year of visiting New York City to see a ballgame between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves.  Mike grew up in Alaska watching the Braves on TBS in the Dale Murphy era when the team was pitiful.  I of course spent my first 17 years within 35 miles of Shea Stadium and the next 7 near the Mets top farm team in Norfolk, VA so I’m forever attached to the Mets.  Devoted to our wives and children, we usually try to slip out for a day game during the week and the schedule has been kind to us.

Here’s the history thus far:

  • April 27, 2005: Atlanta 8, New York 4 – The Mets lose with the help of the Manchurian Brave Tom Glavine.
  • April 19, 2006: Atlanta 2, New York 1 – Glavine pitches a much better game this time, but the Mets still lose.
  • April 21, 2007: Atlanta 2, New York 7 – With Brave-killer Oliver Perez on the mound the Mets win with the help of a big inning (while I’m getting ice cream for my pregnant wife).  See my blog post Another Weekend in New York for more details.
  • September 14, 2008: Atlanta 7, New York 4 – Mike was unable to attend this game so I went solo to witness the Mets bullpen implode in the 9th inning.  Photos from this game are at the end of my post Shea Stadium: A Personal History.

As you can see the Braves hold a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.  The fifth installment of this tradition would be different as it would be our first visit to the Mets new ballpark with the unfortunate name of Citi Field (see my blogpost Stadium Naming Rights for more of my thoughts on that issue).

We got a lot start and encountered delays along the road so we didn’t arrive until after the game started and both teams had scored.  Oddly, after having no problems parking when the Mets were constructing Citi Field in the Shea Stadium parking lot we found ourselves shunted over to distant parking by the World’s Fair Marina.  Mike declared it our prettiest parking spot ever.

The view from our seats in left field.
The view from our seats in left field.

The first impression of Citi Field is that everything is so big, even though it is smaller both in height and capacity than Shea Stadium.  The dimensions of the field are large, the outfield walls are tall, the scoreboard (and all it’s ads) is huge and the new Mets home run apple is freakin’ enormous. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda, a much-lauded entrance to the ballpark is bigger than it looks on tv and is quite impressive and attractive.  I also like the exposed ironwork support beams throughout the park and the bridge in centerfield.

We sat in the left field reserved section where a long homerun could land (as one in fact did, unfortunately hit by the Braves’ Martin Prado).  Seats in the outfield are one of the features I think are necessary for every great ballpark and something Shea Stadium lacked (except for a small picnic area).  The other great improvement are wide open concourses so one can continue to watch the game while walking to the concession stand, restrooms, or just stretching your legs.  My third feature of great ballparks is an adjacent neighborhood with shops, restaurants and bars is still missing although it is a bit startling that the chop shops of Willets Point are now just across the street from the Bullpen Gate.  As Mike pointed out, you can get your car detailed while you watch the game.

The chop shops of Willets Point will care for your car while you enjoy the game
The chop shops of Willets Point will care for your car while you enjoy the game

The game itself was an exciting back and forth affair.  Both the Mets and Braves scored a lot of runs and gave us three innings of free baseball in addition to the standard nine.  Sadly, this was yet another win in the Braves column.  There’s always next year!  And I definitely need to return as our late arrival and need for haste to return to Boston meant that there is much of the ballpark left unexplored.  My first impressions though are good.  I still miss Shea, but a little less now.  Frankly, in some ways I felt a little spoiled by Citi Field.  We Mets fans aren’t accustomed to nice things happening to us, but I could get used to this.

See my web albums for more ballpark photos.

Book Review: A Home on the Field by Paul Cuadros


A Home on the Field (2007) by Paul Cuadros is the story of rapid cultural changes in the small agricultural town of Siler City, NC.  Prompted by offers of work from chicken processing plants and construction firms, more and more Latin Immigrants are settling into this community with their children.  Cuadros, a journalist, went to rural North Carolina in search of a story about this quiet immigration but instead found himself advocating for a soccer team at the local high school.  Soccer was a way that Cuadros felt would help assimilate that newcomers as well as keeping young men in school and helping them learn loyalty and discipline.

Not too mention having fun and kicking some butt.  Once Cuadros fields a team they immediate success in their conference and participate in the state championship tournament in each of the three seasons documented in this book.  But getting on the field is a challenge of its own as Cuadros has to fight the power elite of the school system and face down racist opposition from David Duke himself!

In many ways this book is very similar to Outcasts United – a Southern town, an influx of immigrants, culture clashes, and ultimately hope for America’s future.  There’s also the tough but caring coach.  Cuadros is no Luma Mufleh on the harshness scale, but he does end up suspending star players before a key game due to fighting.  The big difference in this book is that the coach is also the author.  I found Cuadros’ writing style a bit dull at first, and considered giving up after 50-pages.  The game descriptions in particular seemed cliched in that they always began in media res and then pulled back for the big picture of the game in progress.

But I’m glad I stuck with this book as I really warmed up to Cuadros and his players and their story.  Cuadros also has some really insightful commentary on the controversy over immigration.  Cuadros also relates some harrowing tales of his players making journeys across the border returning from visits to family.  These boys grow up way too fast.

Cuadros also offers some critique of the way soccer is played in the United States as a “country club” diversion of suburban middle class who stick to a boring and predictable style of the play.  Hopefully scouts from Major League Soccer, NCAA schools, and US Soccer will read this book and Outcasts United.  The children of immigrants are the future of our nation and should figure in our national soccer scene as well.

Favorite Passages

“[Duke] had said it all for everyone in America who views the migration and Latinos the way he does.  They didn’t want the workers or their families living in their towns but the sure wanted their chicken.  And that was all that mattered.  America spoke with its stomach and it wanted its tomatoes picked, its cucumbers gathered, its blueberries busheled, its hamburger ground, its pork processed, its Thanksgiving Day turkeys slaughtered, its Christmas trees cut, and its chickens butchered, and it didn’t care much how that was done as long as the people who brought its food were kept invisible and cheap.

Duke had spent two hours bashing the very workers who had brought him his fried chicken.  He didn’t even realize the full extent of his hypocrisy. … If they were sincere about recuding illegal immigration, they could take a stand and refuse to buy these products.  They could stop eating fried chicken, bacon, hamburgers, steaks, lettuce, turkey, hot dogs, tomatoes, grapes, wine; and stop purchasing other products like furniture and textiles; and deny themselves services like landscaping and construction.  But I suspect that, like Duke, most would simply help themselves to a nice plate of chicken.” – p. 55-56

Author : Cuadros, Paul.

Title : A home on the field : how one championship team inspires hope for the revival of small town America / Paul Cuadros.

Edition : 1st ed.

Published : New York : Rayo, c2006.

Book Review: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell


Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2004) is Malcolm Gladwell‘s psychological and sociological investigation into the human ability to make quick decisions.  This power – which he calls thin-slicing – can be both advantageous and dangerous.  For good or for ill, Gladwell contends that we humans make snap judgments all the time and this book is way of becoming conscious of this quick process.

While I find some of Gladwell’s conclusions hard to swallow, I do enjoy many of his stories and anecdotes.  Examples of what stands out in my memory include:

  • The Warren Harding problem – totally unqualified candidate becomes President because he looks “presidential” to many voters
  • Coca Cola executives changed the formula of Coke because it was losing in blind sip tests to Pepsi, but it turns out that sip tests are a poor judge of the full sensory experience of drinking an entire serving of Coke from the famous bottles or its red cans.
  • Consumers often hate new products because they are unfamiliar (examples include the Aeron chair and All in the Family) and thus it can be tricky to make judgments on a product from consumer testing
  • Project Implicit is a test which shows the associations positive and negative that are made of people due to their race.  (I took a test and got the result  “Your data suggest no difference in your automatic preferences for White people vs. Black people” of which I feel rather sanctimonious about).
  • In improvisational theater, improvisation arises entirely out of how steadfastly the participants adhere to the rule that no suggestion can be denied
  • Comparisons between autistic people and the overstimulated brain of a police officer in hot pursuit of a suspect both lack the ability to interpret facial and behavioral cues.  Gladwell takes us into the failures of judgment that led to the killing of Amadou Diallo and how officers following proper police procedures can protect themselves from this “temporary autism.”

All in all this was an interesting book, definitely entertaining to listen to while working on mundane tasks.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. Hachette Audio (2005), Edition: Unabridged, Audio CD

Book Review: Brilliant Orange by David Winner


Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football (2001) is an historic and poetic investigation into the culture and sport of the Netherlands by English journalist David Winner.   At the heart of the book is the story of the Amsterdam club AFC Ajax which rose out of the Dutch version of 60’s counterculture with a new style of play, Total Football.   The club dominates Dutch football and becomes the first team from the Netherlands to make an impression in Europe as well winning three consecutive European Champion’s Club cups from 1971-73.

Just as quickly as it rose the club falls apart amid intrasquad rivalries and star players moving on to richer fields in other countries.  But many of the same players are reunited in 1974, this time representing the national team of the Netherlands in the FIFA World Cup.  The Dutch side makes it to the finals only to lose to their rivals from West Germany.  According to Winner, this loss takes on a national hubris and the lasting effect of the loss on Dutch culture takes up a whole chapter on its own.

There are many stars of Dutch football – in fact the key to Total Football is that all the players are highly skilled and versatile enough to move from positions to position – but there is one central figure that dominates this book, Johan Cruyff.  Winner even contends that Cruyff is the most famous living Dutchman, and who am I to argue since I can’t think of anyone other contenders for the title.

These are the central themes of Brilliant Orange, a book that also mixes in:

  • the effect of the Dutch landscape on Dutch architecture
  • the Dutch hatred of Germany and the reasons they give for it
  • how appreciation for football as the “beautiful game” tends to overcome the desire to win
  • the Netherlands “anticlimactic” return to the World Cup final in 1978, again versus the host nation Argentina
  • the oddity of Ajax’s fan base identification with Judaism
  • interviews with Dutch football stars past and present

Author :Winner, David, 1956-

Title : Brilliant orange : the neurotic genius of Dutch football / David Winner.

Edition : Paperback. ed.

Published : London : Bloomsbury, 2001.

Arnold Arboretum’s Lilac Sunday


I hesistate to put “Lilac Sunday” into the title of this post since I didn’t see any lilacs on my visit.  Susan, Peter & I took a lovely Mother’s Day walk on a sunny, blustery day and arrived at Arnold Arboretum fairly early in the morning.  This is a good time to get there on Lilac Sunday before approximately 3.25 kajillion people descend on the Arbortetum.  Peter received a lovely tatoo of the Earth with flowers and a recycling logo and immediately set to work on removing it with his teeth.

Next we joined Arnold Arboretum curator Michael Dosmann lead an excellent tour to the lilacs (“just to the lilacs, not of the lilacs” he specified).  We learned fascinating things about maples, lindens and tulip trees.  After the tour I chose to luxuriate in the grass while Susan chased Peter up and down the hill to the lilacs.  So my family saw the lilacs on Lilac Sunday while I lay splayed in the grass photographing buttercups.

I will have to return on a less-crowded day this week to visit the lilacs.  Until then, here are my photos from Sunday, 100% lilac-free.

Previously: Lilac Sunday, YEAH!

Wake Up The Earth


Some photos from today’s 31st annual Wake Up the Earth parade and festival, the annual celebration of…well, I don’t know what, but it’s very fun and very JP.  Spontaneous Celebrations is the organization behind the festival that dates back to the days of (successfully) opposing the construction of I-95 through Jamaica Plain and Roxbury.

The parade featured stilt-walkers, dragons, twirlers, puppets, marching bands, drummers, and lots of kids in strollers.  We followed the parade from the Loring Greenough House all the way down Centre Street to Lamartine Street to the field by Stony Brook Station.  We were just one of the many families pushing strollers down the street.  It’s fun to be in a parade.

There was lots of music, activity and social activism at the festival.  We were particularly fond of the taiko drummers of Odaiko New England.  If they didn’t wake up the earth, I don’t know what will!

We had a blast and will definitely return next year.