Concert Review: Alastair Moock


Today my family & I attended a special performance by singer/songwriter/folk troubadour Alastair Moock at the Children’s Music Center of Jamaica Plain.  Moock, himself a father of four-year-old twins, entertained both his young audience and their parents with selections from his album A Cow Says Moock, some new songs, and some timeless children’s classics.

I have some of Moock’s albums and from his gravelly voice I imagined he would be a grizzly, gruff-looking type, not the clean-cut man we saw before this.  His voice is still pretty incredible though with a lot of expression.  He an easy manner performing for the children and did some clever tricks like singing “The Alphabet Song” backwards.  He was very receptive to his audience whether it be the boy who asked him to play a song on the banjo next or my own son’s insistence that there be a kitty cat on the bus saying “meow, meow, meow!”  Moock’s original songs are folk ditties with clever word play.  Highlights include a song about “Belly Buttons” set to a Latin beat and a song about “Spaghetti in My Shoe” that name checks various forms of pasta and footware and then is repeated as Ramones-style rave-up.

The audience was up and dancing for the most part.  My son chose to quietly contemplate the music but sang along with the familiar standards like “Old McDonald’s Farm,” “I’ve Been Working On the Railroad,” “The Wheels on the Bus,” “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain,” and “You Are My Sunshine.”  Moock fit a lot of music and a lot fun into a one-hour show.

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Movie Review: The Damned United


Title: The Damned United
Release Date: 27 March 2009
Director: Tom Hooper
Production Co:   Columbia Pictures Corporation
Country:  United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: Biopic / Sport
Rating: ***1/2

Summary/Review:

This movie is a highly-fictionalized account of the life of English football manager Brian Clough (Michael Sheen) who was able to lead clubs like Derby County and Nottingham Forest to win the First Division championship.  Central to this film is Clough’s short term as manager of Leeds United, one of the most successful clubs of the 1970s and one Clough had been critical of for their dirty style of play.  The film is set up to focus on Clough’s relationships with two different men.  One is Don Revie (the always great Colm Meaney) Clough’s predecessor as manager at Leeds United.  If the film is to be believed Revie’s slight of Clough at a FA Cup match early Clough’s career provided both the motivation for Clough’s success but also his hubris and ultimate failure at Leeds.  The other relationship is with Clough’s assistant coach Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall) who has great skill at scouting players for the team.  The structure of the film with its historical inaccuracies comes off as melodramatic especially since the true story would make as good or better a film.  The Damned United is saved by brilliant acting performances by the Sheen as the mouthy and flashy Clough, Meaney, and especially Spall’s portrayal of the long-suffering Taylor.  I also enjoyed the gritty football action sequences that capture an era of sport long gone.

Movie Review: Little Miss Sunshine


Title: Little Miss Sunshine
Release Date: 18 August 2006
Director: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
Production Co: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: Comedy
Rating: **1/2

Summary/Review:

This dark comedy seems to me as if the filmmakers got together and made a bet that they could make a movie about a dysfunctional family with the most awful characters possible and still have them rally together for a Hollywood ending.  If that’s the case, the filmmakers pulled it off quite well in this road trip movie about a family racing to California to fulfill a young daughters dream to appear in a beauty pageant.  There’s a lot of this movie that’s too precious and the recurring gags about the family’s VW minibus remind me of a Roger Ebert comment on how funny cars are a sign of desperation.  And there’s a lot of scenes that defy belief. Still this movie’s high points stand out and I’m especially impressed by Paul Dano who is expressive despite playing an angry teen who has taken a vow of silence, Steve Carell as the suicidal but droll uncle, and the always wonderful Alan Arkin as the vulgar grandfather.

Movie Review: Princess Mononoke


Title: Princess Mononoke
Release Date: 26 November 1999
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Production Co: DENTSU Music And Entertainment
Country: Japan
Language: Dubbed into English
Genre: Anime / Fantasy / Adventure
Rating: ****

Summary/Review:

I don’t have much experience with anime so this was a wonderful introduction.  Princess Mononoke is a gripping adventure, imaginative fantasy, and a feast for the eyes.  There are many establishing shots that look like fine works of art.  The story is centered around Ashitaka, a prince who slays a fearsome demon that attacks his village but is cursed in the process and thus has to go into exile.  Seeking the source of the demon, Ashitaka finds himself between the spirits and gods of the forest and a town of ironworkers who threaten the forest’s existence.  There’s a clear environmental message here but it’s not too heavy-handed, and I’m impressed that no side is ever seen as good or evil and the viewers sympathies keep shifting as the story goes along.  A quite excellent film all around.

Movie Review: Mathematically Alive


Title: Mathematically Alive: A Story of Fandom
Release Date: 2007
Director: Joseph Coburn & Katherine Foronjy
Production Co: Vitamin Enriched Inc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: Documentary / Sports
Rating: ***

Summary/Review:

This movie is about something near and dear to my heart – fandom of the New York Mets.  Set during the historic 2006 season when the Mets lead the National League in wins and made it as far as the 7th game of the championship series, the documentarians track several diehard fans through their game rituals and Mets-centered lives.  The premise is very similar to Still We Believe: The Boston Red Sox Movie, but without support of the Mets and Major League Baseball, Mathematically Alive lacks the glitz and production values of the Red Sox film.  Major League Baseball trademarks and ballgame footage (and even Mike Piazza’s face!) are pixellated out of the movie.  The affect though makes this even more of fan-based film, by fans and for fans, and Mets fans true to their blue-color heritage are not about glitz.  I was especially excited to see the son of a good friend near the end of the film pontificating wisely about his favorite team.  A must-see for Mets fans, recommended for baseball fans, and others may be interested if sports fandom interests them.

Movie Review: 24 Hour Party People


Title: 24 Hour Party People
Release Date: 5 April 2002
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Production Co: Baby Cow Productions
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: Biopic / Comedy / Music
Rating: ***1/2

Summary/Review:

This surreal, comic film tells the story of the Manchester music scene from the mid-1970’s to early-1990’s.  Central to this story is Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) a TV news presenter who champions Manchester music scene by managing bands, starting a record label, and opening a night club.  History and legend are gleefully mixed together as Wilson narrates his own story, often breaking the fourth wall to comment on events from a later perspective.  Real people from Manchester bands appear in cameos sometimes commenting that the scenes in the movie aren’t how they remember them.  The effect can be overly cutesy at times but mostly is rollicking good fun and Coogan really carries the film.  Of central importance though is the music as bands like Joy Division (later New Order) and the Happy Mondays take center stage.

Elmo’s Song


I got tagged for a meme on Facebook and as my preference I’d rather post it here where I can find it again in a few months.  I think I’ve done this one before to be honest.  Most of the responses are nonsensical, but hey, there are some good songs here.

These are the “rules”:

1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.

2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS.

4. Tag n friends, where n is a non-negative integer

5. Everyone tagged has to do the same thing.

6. Have Fun!

IF SOMEONE SAYS ‘ARE YOU OKAY’ YOU SAY? “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” – Stevie Wonder

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF? “Come Back Baby” – Aretha Franklin

WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GIRL/GUY?  “Woman Be My Country” – Johnny Clegg and Savuka

HOW DO YOU FEEL? “Sail Away Lady” – Uncle Bunt Stephens

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE? “End of the Night” – The Doors

WHAT’S YOUR MOTTO? “Kansas City” – Wilbert Harrison

WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU? “Coda” – David Goodrich

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN? “Salvation”- The Paperboys

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND? “If I Needed Someone” – The Beatles

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY? “Wasted Word” – Kris Delmhorst

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? “Maybe Sparrow”  – Neko Case

WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE? “The Train Song” – Music Together

WHAT IS YOUR PASSION IN LIFE?  “Ed Ladki Ko Dekha [1942- A Love Story]” –   Kumar Sanu

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST FEAR? “Infinity Guitars” – Sleigh Bells

WHAT DO YOU WANT RIGHT NOW? “Cruel Sea” -Maybe Baby

WHAT DOES YOUR LOVE THINK ABOUT YOU? “We Are The One” – The Avengers

WHAT WILL YOU TITLE THIS NOTE AS? “Elmo’s Song” – Sesame Street

Book Review: Boilerplate : history’s mechanical marvel by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennet


Author: Paul Guinan and Anina Bennet
Title: Boilerplate : history’s mechanical marvel
Publication Info: New York : Abrams Image, 2009.
ISBN: 9780810989504
Summary/Review:

Boilerplate reads like a textbook or maybe one of those Time-Life history books from the 1980’s covering the period 1893-1918 when Professor Archie Campion’s Mechanical Marvel walked the Earth.  In hopes of eliminating the loss of life in war, Campion invented the automaton Boilerplate to be a robot soldier.  This book covers the life and times of Professor Campion, his remarkable sister Lily, and the mechanical marvel itself, Boilerplate.  A noble automaton, Boilerplate served in the Spanish-American War in Cuba and the Phillipines, is on hand for the Boxer Rebellion and the Russo-Japanese War, and finally serves as a doughboy in The Great War where he vanishes while searching for the Lost Battalion.  Along thew way he becomes acquainted with Theodore Roosevelt, Nikola Tesla, Jack London, Mark Twain, Frank Reade, Alice Roosevelt, Jack Johnson, Lewis Hine, T.E. Lawrence, Jeanette Rankin, Pancho Villa, and Black Jack Pershing.  It shouldn’t be too big a spoiler to reveal that this robot never existed.  The beauty of this book is in its historical detail.  Sidebars cover historical events in accurate detail without mentioning the fictional centerpiece of this book.  I could see this could be an interesting teaching tool for children, because there’s so much history here as long as you keep in mind that the robot is fake.  This is a unique and entertaining take on alternate history.

Recommended books: The Remarkable Worlds of Professor Phineas B. Fuddle by Erez Yakin and Five Fists Of Science by Matt Fraction.
Rating: ****

Book Review: Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen


Author: Rivka Galchen
Title: Atmospheric Disturbances
Publication Info: Blackstone Audio, Inc. (2008)
ISBN: 9781433214455
Summary/Review:

This is an odd little novel in which a man becomes convinced that his wife has been replaced by a simulacrum and heads off on a wild-goose chase to her home in Argentina to find her.  Along the way he gets caught up in what he calls a “meteorological conspiracy” and ruminates on things philosophical and psychological (as well as meteorological).  I’m pretty certain that the unreliable narrator has a mental problem that makes him believe his wife has been replaced rather than that happening in actuality but the novel is never too clear on the subject.   I need to take better notes of why certain books make it on my reading list.  This almost reads like a fictional version of one of Oliver Sacks’ case studies.

Recommended books: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks and Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem.
Rating: **

Soccer Spectating Report 10-23 January 2011


Liverpool 2:2 Everton (16 January 2011)

Everton traveled across town to Anfield for the second leg of the Merseyside Derby.  The Reds dominated the first half with Tim Howard rightly angry with his defenders.  Raul Meireles broke through in the 28th minute to put the home side up by 1.  The Blues came out strong in the second half and within 6 minutes Sylvain Distin and Jermain Beckford put them up 1-2.  Sadly, the come from behind would not last as a Tim Howard foul set up a successful conversion of a penalty kick by Dirk Kuyt.  On the one hand it’s a disappointment that Everton wasn’t able to hold on to a win.  On the other hand a road draw with Tim Cahill and Steven Pienaar not available (and taking 4 points from Liverpool on the season) is not too shabby.

Barcelona 4:1 Malaga (16 January 2011)

Barça demolishes yet another La Liga opponent.  I feel like such a glory hunter watching this time, yet they play so beautiful.  At least Malaga was able to net one goal for themselves.

Ajax 2:0 Feyenoord (19 January 2011)

It feels like a long time since I’ve seen Ajax.  I enjoy the Amsterdam supporters chants and the especially appropriate singing a Bob Marley song (“Three Little Birds”).  This was the second leg of the Klassieker derby, although while Ajax are close to the top of the table, Feyenoord are not very competitive this season.  Ajax easily handled their rivals with a Toby Alderweireld goal in the 31st minute and a Miralem Sulejmani penalty kick in the 77th minute.  This match got my hopes up for Ajax to continue climbing up the Eredivisie table but they then proceeded to lose their weekend match at Utrecht.

Palermo 1:0 Brescia (22 January 2011)

Not for the first time I’m writing about a 1-nil match involving Palermo where the final score gives no indication of the end-to-end play on the field with numerous shots off the crossbar, crosses right across the goal mouth, and great saves by the keepers.  Palermo had the better of possession and chances on goal and their efforts were finally rewarded with a lovely shot in the back of the net by defender Cesare Bovo.

FC Bayern München 5:1 1.FC Kaiserlautern (22 January 2011)

It’s been a long time since I’ve watched a Bundesliga match and it seemed to me that the pace of play both in dribbling and passing was faster than in other  leagues.  The score of the game is a bit misleading as Bayern München piled on 3 goals in the final 10 minutes.  Still, the home side dominated the match overall unlike their earlier meeting at Kaiserlautern when the Red Devils upset the Bavarians.  I need to make sure I fit in more German fußball in my soccer diet.

United States 1:1 Chile (22 January 2011)

The USA opened up their 2011 campaign by hosting a friendly against Chile at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.  The American roster included an even greater number of young, inexperienced players than the previous game in South Africa with seven players earning their first caps.  Chile drew first blood with a beautiful set-up and goal by Esteban Paredes in the 54th minute.  Substitutes Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo spiced up the US attack in the second half. Agudelo was tripped making a run through the box and Bunbury sealed the equalizer on the penalty kick.  Another decent performance by a young American side giving hope for the future.

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Book Review: The Big Short by Michael Lewis


Author: Michael Lewis
Title: The Big Short
Publication Info: New York : W.W. Norton, c2010.
ISBN: 9780393072235

Other books read by same authorMoneyball and The Blind Side

Summary/Review:  While no amount of listening to NPR’s Planet Money prepared me to understand all the financial jibber-jabber in this book, Michael Lewis’ always engaging storytelling style made this book an enjoyable (if infuriating read). And central to this narrative is that few people understood the financial instruments that lead to the great collapse of 2008, even the CEO’s of Wall Street’s top financial firms.  The heroes of this book are the odd bunch of characters who saw the flaws of bundling subprime mortgages into triple-a-rated bonds and profited by betting on their eventual collapse.  The part of the book where one of Lewis’ subjects speaks at a Bear Stearns event at the same time that companies stocks are crashing is unbelievable and cinematic in its brilliance.  This is a must-read for anyone wanting to learn about the fiscal crisis and the evils of the Wall Street system.

Favorite Passages:

“That was Eisman’s logic: the logic of Wall Street’s pecking order.  Goldman Sachs was the big kid who ran the games in the neighborhood.  Merrill Lynch was the little fat kid assigned the least pleasant roles, just happy to be part of things.  The game, as Eisman saw it, was  crack the whip.” – p. 175

“The ability of Wall Street traders to see themselves in their success and their management in their failure would later be echoed, when their firms, which disdained the need for government regulation in good times, insisted on being rescued by government in bad times.  Success was individual achievement; failure was a social problem.” – p. 210

Recommended books: The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 by Paul Krugman, The drunkard’s walk : how randomness rules our lives by Leonard Mlodinow, and The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Rating: ****

Book Review: The Dead Hand by David E. Hoffman


Author: David E. Hoffman
TitleThe Dead Hand
Publication Info: Anchor (2010)
ISBN: 9781415965825
Summary/Review: This book is a history of the Cold War from ca. 1979 to collapse of the Soviet empire which draws on interviews, memoirs, and previously secret sources to present both the American and Soviet sides of the story.  It’s interesting to read about many of the top stories of my childhood from a historical perspective – Afghanistan, the Korean Air shoot down, Iran-Contra, Grenada, Reykjavik Summit, the Evil Empire and “We begin bombing Russia in five minutes,” Cherynobyl, Glasnost and Perestroika, Mathias Rust flying into Red Square and the Soviet Coup of 1991 are all recounted.  There are many surprises such as Ronald Reagan’s deep desire to eliminate nuclear weapons from the world which seemed contrary to his defense rhetoric of the time but also the rationale behind Reagan clinging to the Strategic Defense Initiative (even though it was never a reality and it proved a stumbling block in disarmament treaties).   Things on the Soviet side are even scarier as an incident in 1983 when a false alarm almost lead to the launch of a full-scale nuclear missile attack.  Hoffman also details the Soviets extensive and illegal biological weapons development. The last part of the book Hoffman discusses the danger of the remaining nuclear and biological weapons left over after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  While Hoffman’s point is that the danger of these weapons didn’t go away after 1991, this portion of the book  just isn’t as compelling as the earlier parts of the book and it feels kind of tacked on.  This is a fascinating look at recent history that I found both eye-opening and educational.

Recommended books: House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World’s Two Most Powerful Dynasties by Craig Unger and The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower by Robert Baer.
Rating:

Book Review: Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove


Author: Jack Rakove
Title: Revolutionaries
Publication Info: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, c2010.
ISBN: 9780618267460

Summary/Review: Subtitled “A New History of the Invention of America,” this historical look at the American Revolution and the framing of the United States Constitution does take a different approach than the typical popular history of the era.  Rakove tries to emphasize that founders of the United States were ordinary men who rose to the occasion to make the best of the opportunities that the revolution provided for nation-building.  He also emphasizes that these founding fathers rarely agreed.  The strength of this book is that if offers an intellectual history of the arguments that America’s founders and the compromises that they needed to agree to.  Rakove also deserves credit for including figures whose names rarely appear in popular history – such as George Mason, John Dickinson, Charles Carroll, John Jay, Henry and John Laurens, Richard Henry Lee and Robert Morris   –  alongside John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin.  The book systematically discusses the origins of the revolution, the decision for independence, the course of the war campaign, diplomatic missions in Europe, United States governance under the Articles of Confederation, the framing of the Constitution, and the successful establishment of the new government.  My main criticism of this book is that Rakove is often too generous in discussing the motivations of his subjects.  For example, most historical works interpret George Washington wearing a military uniform to the Continental Congress as a deliberate part of a campaign to gain the command of the army, but Rakove makes it seem like happenstance.  Regardless, this is a well-written and engaging history of the nation’s founding and I recommend it to anyone interested in the time period.

Other little tidbits I liked:

  • John Adams liked Rembrandt’s work, especially “The Prophetess Anna,” the portrait of his mother with a bible that my son liked at the Rijksmuseum.
  • In a letter written in 1784 to Samuel Mather, Benjamin Franklin expresses a desire to return to his childhood home of Boston and perhaps “lay my bones there.”

Favorite Passages:

“We think of happiness as a personal mood or state of mind.  In the eighteenth century its connotations were broader. . . Happiness was a condition that whole societies as well as individuals could enjoy.  It implied a state of social contentment and not merely personal cheeriness and good humor.  Happiness was one of those broad concepts that both private and public meanings, subject for philosophical inquiry rather than psychological babbling.  For Jefferson the concept of happiness was something to ponder as well as pursue.” – p. 300

“Traditionally, bills of rights were thought to operate as a restraint on government by providing people with a basis for knowing when their rulers were overstepping their power.  But that function no longer fit the political life of the republic.  ‘Wherever the real power in a government lies, there is the danger of oppression,” Madison observed.  “In our Governments the real  power lies in the majority of the community, and the invasion of private rights is cheifly to be apprehended, not from acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.'” – p. 394

Recommended books: Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis, The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood, and Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America by Steven Waldman
Rating: *** 1/2

Book Review: Tinkers by Paul Harding


Author: Paul Harding
Title: Tinkers
Publication Info: Brilliance Audio on CD Unabridged (2010)
ISBN: 193413712X
Summary/Review:  This book is set around the visions of an elderly man on his deathbed remembering his childhood and his own father whom he hadn’t seen in 70 years.  This is not a straightforward narrative with visions and vignettes dominating in an asynchronous away.  For this reason alone I’d suggest that this book would be better read in print rather than listening to the audiobook like I did.  It’s a pretty book with lyrical writing and some scenes stand out (such as when the father returns covered in mud after an epileptic seizure to find his family holding supper for him) but overall this book didn’t grab me.
Favorite Passages:

“Your cold mornings are filled with the heartache about the fact that although we are not at ease in this world, it is all we have, that it is ours but that it is full of strife, so that all we can call our own is strife; but even that is better than nothing at all, isn’t it? And as you split frost-laced wood with numb hands, rejoice that your uncertainty is God’s will and His grace toward you and that that is beautiful, and part of a greater certainty, as your own father always said in his sermons to you at home. And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it. And when you resent the ache in your heart, remember: You will be dead and buried soon enough.”

Rating: **1/2

Soccer Spectating Report 2-9 January


For the new year, I’m giving up coming up with a new, clever title each week for my soccer-blogging. With that said, let’s dive into the game reports:

Fulham 3:0 West Bromwich Albion (4 January 2011)

An entertaining match at Craven Cottage saw Fulham earn their first win at home since October and may be the best game thus far in the season.  Goals included a scorching long-range shot off the keeper’s hands by Simon Davies and very similar headers from a corner kick by the USA’s Clint Dempsey and Brede Hangeland.

Everton 2:1 Tottenham Hotspur (5 January 2011)

Speaking of best games of the seasons, Everton earned a very satisfying win at Goodison Park (first home win since October) against the 4th-place Spurs.  With Tim Cahill on international duty, Everton played two men up top with great success.  Louis Saha scored on a brilliant strike early in the first minutes of the match.  Van der Vaart equalized for Tottenham a few minutes later.  Things went back and forth with good chances for both sides until the 74th minute when a Saha shot rebounded off the keeper and Seamus Coleman headed it into the net.  Perhaps one of the most exciting moments of the EPL season for me thus far.

Palermo 3:0 Sampdoria (6 January 2011)

The flamingo-pink Sicilians dominated their Genoan guests with goals from captain Fabrizio Miccoli, Giulio Migliaccio, and Massimo Maccarone.  Not bad when facing one of Serie A’s strongest defenses.  And all that offense kept the ball from finding the back of their own net as well.

Scunthorpe United 1:5 Everton (8 January 2011)

I’ve never watched a FA Cup match before but I’d heard a lot of the lore.  I only caught a small portion of this game so if you went by what I saw (end of first half, beginning of second half) it was a 1-1  draw.  I like that the game was played in a tiny old-fashioned stadium that held a little more than 9,000 spectators (although it’s not as old as I thought as it was built in 1988).  It must be a real treat for fans in lower divisions to have Premier League teams come to visit, especially when the home side scores as Scunthorpe United did in the opening moments of the second half.  The rest of the match was all Everton and the Blues advance to the 4th round with a match at home against (gulp) Chelsea.

It was a good week for the teams I follow.  I’m beginning to see how football sets one up for false hopes and heartbreak.  After a big win against Tottenham Hotspur, I look at the table and see that Everton are only 10 points out of a spot in European competition.  A strong second half of the season and maybe just maybe.  Of course, Everton are also just five points above relegation.  I guess I didn’t realize that even if the same 3-4 teams always win that the rest of the pack stays pretty close together.

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Benjamin Franklin’s 305th Birthday


This coming Monday is the holiday where we observe the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.  I encourage one and all to celebrate the life of Dr. King and put in some volunteer service time.

But, Monday is also the birthday of another great American leader, Benjamin Franklin, who was born in Boston on January 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6, 1705].  Come learn more about this Son of Boston on a Boston By Foot tour lead by knowledgeable Boston By Foot guides (including yours truly).  The tour visits sites associated with Ben Franklin’s life in Boston from his birth in a house on Milk Street until the age of 17 when he ran away from his home town after a falling-out with his older brother.  This tour is unique in that since Franklin spent much of his long life elsewhere – Philadelphia, London, and Paris for starters – the sites often offer a launch point for talking about Franklin’s varied careers in printing, science, invention, postal services, public service and as a founding father.

The tour meets in the public park at the corner of Washington and School Streets by the Irish Famine Memorial and Borders Book Store.  The cost is $15 per person ($5 for Boston By Foot members) and the 90-minute walking tour departs at 2 pm on Monday, January 17th, 2011.  More information is available on the Boston By Foot Meetup Group web page.

Click photo to see more images of sites visited on this tour.

Official tour description:

Celebrate and learn the life of Benjamin Franklin by walking among the sites of his homes and haunts in Colonial Boston. In his day, Benjamin Franklin was America’s greatest scientist, inventor, diplomat, humorist, statesman, and entrepreneur. Ben was born in Boston, came of age in Philadelphia, and was the darling of Paris. From his many inventions, creation of civic, philanthropic, and educational institutions, to his his roles in the founding of America, his legacy is immeasurable.

This comic is brought to you by the letters E, A, and D (via Derangement and Description)


I love the Count. I love archives humor.

That’s two, two great things I love about this comic!

Ah ha ha ha ha ha!

This comic is brought to you by the letters E, A, and D

via Derangement and Description

Soccer Holiday


I don’t have much to report on as in the past couple of weeks I’ve been distracted by holiday activities.  The European leagues have also been on holiday break and/or had games canceled by winter weather so I haven’t missed much.  Seeing the rash of snow and ice postponements makes me think that there’s actually wisdom in the USA’s summer soccer tradition.

Manchester City 1:2 Everton (20 Dec)

Here’s a game that can get one’s hopes up.  Everton gets there first win in forever on the road against a team sitting near the top of the table.  Leighton Baines and Tim Cahill were the heroes with goals in the 4th and 19th minutes respectively.  Then the Toffees managed to defend against some strong City attacks even after they went a man down when Victor Anichebe drew a second yellow card.  Sure, it’s probably one of those fluke things, but it does make me hope that Everton might turn this season around.

Related posts:

2010 Year in Review: Favorite Books


Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year not books published in 2010.  For previous years see 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing.

  1. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  2. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
  3. A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin
  4. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  5. Netherland by Joseph O’Brien
  6. Coop : a year of poultry, pigs, and parenting by Michael Perry
  7. A City So Grand by Steven Puleo
  8. Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
  9. Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg (A)
  10. From the Pews in Back: Young Women and Catholicism by Kate Dugan and Jennifer Owens

Every Book I Read in 2010

Books published in 2010 in bold. (A) is for audiobook.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

2010 in review (according to WordPress)


The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 45,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

 

In 2010, there were 231 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 1172 posts. There were 390 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 396mb. That’s about 1 pictures per day.

The busiest day of the year was October 28th with 247 views. The most popular post that day was Book Review: The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, google.com, books.google.com, twitter.com, and search.aol.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for favorite books of all time, the blind side book summary, the blind side book review, jesus before christianity, and cadillac mountain.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Book Review: The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis October 2008
7 comments

2

100 Favorite Books of All Time (10-1) March 2009
3 comments

3

Book Review: Jesus Before Christianity by Albert Nolan, O.P. March 2008
5 comments

4

Book Review: The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham January 2007
4 comments

5

Saint Brigid February 2007
1 comment