Wednesday, July 25, 2007

33 is upon us... well at least upon me...

Yep, as the title denotes, today marks my 33rd birthday. It caps a year of many highs and indeed some frustrating lows - one of which I am in the midst of dealing with at this very moment, and for that reason, I will keep this brief. I will say, however, that for all that have known and loved Ginger, if only for a short time, it is sad, but a long life has been lived. When I took her home, I doubt as though I would have had such feelings in dealing with the loss of an animal, but in essence, she became a part of me and me her.

Ginger was left on the doorstep of Pet Quarters in 2003 when my then girlfriend went to the store and brought her back to our apartment. Two years later, Jen and I split and she decided that Ginger was to go to the Humane Society, in the hope that a family would take her home... again. Clearly Jen hadn't grasped the whole commitment thing when she brought Ginger home, but alas, I couldn't allow her to be at the mercy of another shelter and I brought her with me.

For a time, many thought it was odd that I had a guinea pig. Quite frankly, it was, but what was more odd was that she had come close to death twice and battled back to squeak another day. I don't really know what age these animals are supposed to live to, but Ginger was at least 6, if not years older. She came to us in 2003, very quiet, standoffish, and almost fearful of humans. Why wouldn't she be? After these past 4 years, she has been nothing but a cute little girl who brought happiness to me, my family, my nieces, my girlfriend, and many more.

So as the day of my birthday comes to a close, I choose not to celebrate myself, but to celebrate the life of someone I couldn't have imagined I would love. This is not my day. With the heaviest of hearts, but the fondest of memories, I thank you and love you, Ginger. Signed: Dad.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

David Beckham - Bend It Like Pele

Not more than a half hour ago, history was made in Los Angeles at the Home Depot Center. With a capacity crowd including a not-too-shabby 11,000 season ticket holders, a large and eclectic mix of A-list celebrities, and no less than 19 ESPN TV camera's mounted around the stadium, the suspense and speculation came to an end. The hype, however, may be far from over with this one, especially if it has legs. It being he. He being David Beckham, the former English, Manchester United captain, and most recently a member of the Spanish League champion squad, Real Madrid. He being the biggest star to play professional soccer in the United States since Pele retired for the final time. Anyone with a little knowledge of professional soccer in the US knows how soccer fared with that go around, but this is different. In 1975, Pele signed the biggest professional sports contract in history to play for the New York Cosmos of the North American Professional Soccer League. The million dollar signing was unheard of at the time in sports, but the Cosmos were trying to establish a brand in a country that was enamored with Football and Baseball. Here we are 32 years later and Beckham has signed one of the biggest sports contracts in the world to play for an American league that is inferior to every league he's played in, but listen very closely when the Major League Soccer officials whisper: "Beckham was not brought here to save soccer. Soccer doesn't need saving."
I couldn't agree more. The MLS has already lasted far longer than any other outdoor professional soccer leagues and it's star players are younger and better than the men who came before them. Soccer is a niche sport in the US and comparing it leagues like MLB, the NBA, and the NFL isn't fair. Now Beckham might not be a spring chicken, but in soccer years, he's a young 32-year-old and in better shape that most. Pele on the other hand, had already retired at least once and with well-documented monetary issues, was easily persuaded by the lucrative cash.
Having lived in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and being a 17-year fan of Manchester United - long before Beckham arrived at Old Trafford - This was a unique opportunity for me to see a great team that played minutes from my former home, to see a former Man U star, and to see the fans, media, and camera flashes usher in another era in Beckham's career.
Less than a week a ago, after merely one practice, it looked as though the debut of the English superstar known best for his free kicks and his amazing ball-placing ability, may be put off until his ankle healed. The very thought of which sent ESPN executives into a tizzy. Prime time on Saturday night with that many cameras to just see the Los Angeles Galaxy? Well, Landon Donavon's a good player, but he's no David Beckham. Can he play on the same field as Beckham, talent-wise? No doubt. Does anyone know? Nope, but this isn't the reason to pick apart why Donavon and Beckham aren't sharing the spotlight. That's a whole different blog and I'd rather wait to see what happens the next time a European club starts calling. If he snubs yet another for the security and low pressure of the MLS, well, then perhaps we'll address the issue, but for now, the pressure is all on Beckham. Just don't tell him. For all intents and purposes, he acts like it's all just another normal day.
With a newly taped ankle, Beckham was substituted in with 12 minutes to go in the match. The crowd went crazy and there may have even been the hint of a smile on Mr. Beckham's face. After an unwelcome, but fair tackle about 7 minutes later, Beckham got back to his feet. For a moment, as he was charging the ball, it was as though this night wasn't all about the pageant surrounding the player. As we know, this match was a friendly, a mere pre-season match for Chelsea, and hopefully the parade before the big game.
The truth is that Beckham could truly have an impact on his team. He has the leg and accuracy to make a connection with Donavon the most prolific scoring forward in the MLS. Make no mistake, this isn't some farewell tour like Pele enjoyed in New York. Beckham may be taking this assignment more seriously than any other. Soccer pundits think that Beckham may have come to the US to escape the pressure and huge talent pool of the European leagues, but the irony is that just a month ago, Beckham won Spain's biggest futball honor, which was just after he was called back up to the English squad to show the brilliance the team had almost forgotten about. David Beckham is far from done proving people wrong. Tonight he got a brief taste of Hollywood. When all is said and done, I'm curious is Hollywood will portray him as the hero they have portrayed Pele.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Green Compromise?

Now to a topic that has been bothering me, which happens to be loosely related Sugarloaf Mountain, at least in location. The deal is this; we in Maine, like most other places, have been taken over by everything Green. No. I'm not saying that I'm against improving the environment. Of course I am I want to improve the environment, but these people are off the wall. They often say one thing and do another and cross political lines more often then democrats seeking votes. The sad fact in Southern Maine is that some of these folks have taken their agendas to places they should just STAY out of. Don't get me wrong, anyone who is qualified should be able to run for elected office, but there are certain elected offices that do not have political affiliation. For example, if you go to the polls and vote for an office and that person's affiliation is NOT next to their name, there's a reason for that. The most egregious example of this is with the Portland School District. That's right, the Portland School Board is made up of elected officials who are supposed to represent the best interests of Portland's residents and not their own political aspirations, but I'm sorry folks, this is just not the case. This past year we had up to 3 members of the school board who were/are outspoken Green party members. While I have a pretty good idea what party the other members may belong to, they don't talk about it and certainly don't run as a part affiliate. I won't mention the three (Oops! 2 now) members names, but to think they are on the board to serve the people rather than get a foothold towards higher elected office and to broaden the exposure of their party, is wrong. This is not a rant against Green members, but those individuals and those who support them. It's irresponsible and shameful.
My other current gripe with environmentalist is more frustrating because it deals with our future sources of power and the ever-growing debate about alternative energy. For all that care, I think alternative energy is GREAT. I too, wish we could be less dependent on oil and perhaps we will get there, but folks, those of you that are pushing harder than other need to pick a side and stick to it. You either want other resources that are clean and efficient or you don't. If you, do, some sacrifices need to be made. I say this because here in Maine we have had a great opportunity to produce energy with the use of wind turbines. in Western Maine. One farm has already been established in northern Maine and another, larger one was proposed for a mountaintop near Sugarloaf. The amount of power this would produce is immense, but when the meetings came to a close and the LURC votes had been cast, it was turned down as the turbines would not only be seen from hikers and nature lovers, but a few bats might not see them. Are you kidding me? When CLEAN environmentally friendly energy opportunities like this come up, we must take them and being hypocritical is nonsense. Some people are their own worst enemies and will never be happy. Yes, a smaller version of the western Maine wind farm has been proposed and we will see what complaints surface this time...

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Essence of The Title... The Soprano's and Journey!

So what the hell does that mean - the essence of the title? Well, it means that from time to time I will write something directly or indirectly relates to the name of this blog - "33 is the new 23." That being said, I thought I would chime in on the Soprano's ending. Kind of. I didn't see the ending when it aired, nor did I have to because it has become one of the most talked about endings of any show, ever, and deservedly so. When I finally saw it, it was like watching a re-run. I watched the show for a few seasons while I had HBO and enjoyed it, but I can't saw I am as crazed as others. However, there is one part of the ending that while making some people shake their head, made me smile.

You see, like a few other 33-year-olds, I'm a fan of Journey. Nope. I don't have any tattoos of their logos or of anything, I don't ride a chopper, and I will never be found donning leather, but I think the allure of the band far out-reaches the stereotypes it has had over the years. Can some of their music be referred to as "cheesy 80's ballads?" Sure, but that doesn't mean the music isn't good. Journey may have drawn most of their current fan-base on stardom of two songs in particular - "Faithfully" and "Open Arms," but the band's 75 million plus, world-wide sales reaches much further than these songs. When they came out, "Open Arms" in 1981 and "Faithfully" in 1983, the terms power ballad and arena rock were in their infancy, but bands like Journey, REO Speedwagon, and Stix pushed this sub-genre to every corner of America - whether they wanted to or not. While the band may have rather had the critics writing about the other guitar-driven songs on their albums, the songs that made the albums sell made the most chatter and are most aligned with the band today.

Yet, Journey, of these three bands in particular was able to transcend its' success to sales of their albums to the once extremely popular medium of movie soundtracks. It's a fact that Journey has had more songs appear in movies and on soundtracks than most, if not any other band, ever. The list is somewhat suprising, but given the royalties the band has collected from the aforementioned; it's probably something they aren't shy about. So the fact that "Don't Stop Believing" was featured in the Soprano's last episode may still be a little odd given the show's audience, but it makes more sense than some would think.

Two things come to mind in particular when choosing such a song. First, the premise of the show itself - in this writer's opinion - has stronger cultural ties to the 1970s and 1980s than today's cultural landscape. The characters in this show would have listened to Journey and not Green Day; it's just the way it is. As for the significance of using "Don't Stop Believing," well there are some people that don't think there was any, but we all know that such a notion is silly. We're talking about a show that ended by cutting to a black screen. we're talking about David Chase. He wouldn't just write a song into the series ending without something up his sleeve. What that something is, we may never know. Let's not fool ourselves. At the end of every episode, Tony reflects while a song is playing. It's not usually a song like this, but therein lies the unique nature of the choice. One can listen to the words of the song and come up with a few difference anecdote like the fact the episode stops after the lyrics, "don't stop," or you can go a little further and think that the song title as a metaphor for what David Chase wanted to do with the ending - leave it up to the imagination of the viewer. If so, it's perfect. You can believe whatever you want to believe in regard to what happened to Tony or any of the other characters in the bar that night and in the years to come. Thinking of it that way, Chase was brilliant to choose this song, but then there's more. Like I said earlier, I am not a Soprano's expert and don't claim to be, but I know that people from everywhere have poured over this topic looking for answers and there is one more that, to me, has to raise some eyebrows. Of course it has to mentioned that prior to licensing the song to Chase, former Journey frontman, Steve Perry, insisted on knowing the outcome. A bit demanding for a musical has-been? Sure, but to his credit, Perry kept quiet about the ending. Now he and his former bandmates are laughing all the way to the bank as they have seen a resurgence of album sales since the finale.

The various sets of lyrics in this song and how they could be used with plot is just plain uncanny. "Some will in, some will lose," is one that fits very well into the Soprano's landscape, but moreover, to fans of the show that are perhaps a little upset that the show has now ended, maybe it doesn't have to for them. As Steve Perry sings, "oh, the movie never ends, it goes on and on and on and on..." I was left a little in awe. I expect I'm not the only one.