Friday, August 31, 2007

Return To The Blue World

Less than six months after leaving, Jules and I have booked almost all aspects of the 2008 trip to South Lake Tahoe. From the picture to the right of this post, it's clear to see the absolute beauty of what is fondly known as "The Blue World."

Sitting at the southern end of Lake Tahoe, the towns of Stateline, Nevada and South Lake Tahoe, California provide a perfect setting for this premier vacation destination. Right from the center of town, and just a couple of blocks from the famed casinos, you can board the Heavenly Gondola and be lifted to pure serenity.

Rising 10,067 feet, Monument Peak is Heavenly Mountain Resort and Lake Tahoe's highest peak. A fairly short, albeit steep hike from the Skyline Trail and you can take in 360-degree views of Nevada and California from high alpine vistas to miles of desert to the south.

I urge anyone with a passion for the outdoors, skiing, snowboarding, or life in general, to think hard about where you go next for your winter vacation.

Check it out! The Blue World

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dream On

Do remember the last time you dreamt? No, I'm not talking about last night while you slept soundly and entered that 5th stage of sleep. I'm talking about the last time you did an inventory of your life, what it is, what it was, what you want or have always wanted it to be. Perhaps many people wanted to be astronauts or firemen. Maybe you dreamed of being a CPA? Who knows? I only mentioned this because it seems that all too often, we get caught up in what life is and not what we want life to be.

I'm not a philosopher, a sociologist, or a psychologist, but for my often quiet demeanor and shy approach to crowds; I know people and I have known a lot of folks who have gone in just about every direction possible. While Jules and I were out sailing today, the topic came up and I recall mentioning a guy I know - a friend of both of us - who suffers from fairly frequent bouts of depression. I only know because I've known him a long time, but interestingly, he and I were chatting a few days back and he mentioned that even on his darkest days, when he barely wants to get out of bed, he continues to dream about what the future holds. I recall smiling because as I go through my longs days of thankless work and often sleepless nights, I haven't lost sight of what I want. The truth of the matter is that dreams don't happen over night. Sadly, many don't happen at all, but don't ever let either of those realities keep you from dreaming about what you want. And then take the next step. Step out of your shell and go after those dreams. Along the way you may falter now and again (you wouldn't be human if you didn't), but when you begin to reach your dreams, you'll look back and smile.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

OAR in Disturbia!

Last Thursday brought dark skies, crashing thunder, and lightning flashing throughout the New Hampshire sky as OAR took the stage in Gilford at Meadowbrook Farms. While thousands of fans, young and old, made their way to the shores of the state's largest lake, Stephen Cooper opened with an eclectic mix of covers, upbeat rifts, and praise for the band that made a name for his new label, Everfine Records.

Sandwiched between the young jammer and perhaps the country's most successful college band (Yes, oxymoron intended) was Augustana. While the crowd was anxious for the headliners to take the stage, chants for the hit "Boston" rang through the pavilion. While opening for a band that everyone else came to see must be hard on an up and coming act, Augustana was a real treat for those with patience. The seamless melodies and wonderful range of the lead singer were pleasing and soothing.

Playing a 2-hour set mixed with new and old tunes, OAR didn't disappoint. Oddly, they opened with "52-50" and closed their encore with "Love and Memories," but didn't leave the crowd without some of the bands long list of favorites from their years of touring just about everywhere. Patrons may have left in anger without the obligatory rendition of "Crazy Game of Poker," but this kid, the song of the night was "Road Outside Columbus." And while I would have loved to hear "Hey Girl," "About An Hour Ago," and "I Feel Home;" I've heard them all live before and was pleased to hear some lesser known songs and new material.

I look forward to OAR's next trip to New England and having gone to the show with my girlfriend, I'm willing to bet that OAR's unique blend of rock, melodious rifts, unbeatable horns, and a little reggae mixed in; have won over another fan!

Friday, August 3, 2007

"Once In A Lifetime: The New York Cosmos"

There are times in life when we see something that just blows us away and we feel the need to share. Having just watched the 2006 documentary titled, "Once In A Lifetime: The New York Cosmos," I felt so compelled.

I have to preface by saying that as a 33-year-old soccer fan, who has had the opportunity to live in a land where football (soccer) is the number one sport, and then returning here to the US where it is still trying to establish itself; I was blown away by this movie. Like most soccer fans, I likened the now defunct North American Soccer League with the New York Cosmos and the Cosmos with Pele. Aside from knowing that in the late-70's they sold out games at Giant's Stadium, my knowledge of the team was so limited. I knew that Franz Beckenbauer played for the team and that it was founded prior to his arrival, the teams and indeed the leagues success began with the most lucrative financial sports signing of the time in that of Pele.

Prior to seeing this, I was of the idea that the Cosmos were a team of has-beens who played against the never-weres, and whereas the latter is by-in-large true, The New York Cosmos team from 1975-1981 - particularly 76-79, was probably one of the best line-ups of playing talent ever - in any league. Yet with such an abundance of talent come the inevitable clashes of egos, which we in the US see all too often in our sports.

I choose not to write a lot about the content of this movie because I think it's important for any fan of soccer to rent and watch it for yourselves. I guarantee that your outlook on the development of soccer in the US will be seen in a different light. This movie changed my opinion and outlook on the long term prospect of the sport in our country and the reasons are many.

One thing is clear, the Cosmos and NASL grew too big and too fast. They were marketed poorly to Americans and without long term planning and player development, they were destined to fail, but for those great few years, I think there were wheels put in motion, which while not tangible, are evident today. I think that the folks who are so desperately trying to make the MLS work, understand what happened with the Cosmos and the NASL and thus are taking a different approach and letting the league grow a slow rate. I think the addition of a star like David Beckham is more than a shot in the arm. I think it's a first piece of a larger puzzle. Having learned more and more about soccer's successes and woes in the US I find people like Jim Rome to be absolutely wrong when saying that soccer has no future in the US. I just think that there are still so many people that don't get it, but if you look at the numbers, the MLS is growing in attendance and youth soccer is still the faster growing sport in the US.

Will the MLS ever be on par with the Premier League? Perhaps not, but I will not say no. I think that the sky truly is the limit for this sport and that without the lessons of the Cosmos as well as the huge, albeit short burst of enthusiasm of the sport over two decades ago, we wouldn't be where we are now.

This movie needs to be seen if you love soccer, history, and want to take a nostalgic look back American sports. Decide for yourself if Steve Ross was a visionary or threw around money in the wrong places. You, like me, will understand that the first team to sell out Giant's Stadium was not the Giants and the first million dollar players were not from our "big 4" leagues. While these two things have little to do with the huge impact this team had, they are interesting fact that when a few men have a dream, that dream can carry on, even after the initial impact is seemingly gone.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Get Ready for The Long Haul And Don't Sell Youselves Short with Fiction Publishing Options!

As I fight for my own sense of creativity to write new material for fiction and to revise my current works, I like to drop by some of the writing/publishing boards and websites I have involved in over the years as a writer. My lord - how some things never change. It seems like some of the same topics come up over and over when a few new folks join. I'm not going ot lie, it can be very annoying, but thankfully there are sites that have taken care of this by posting topics for new participants to read over, which directs them to popular topics that have already beat beaten to death. One such site is Absolute Write Water Cooler. One of the topics that comes up on boards quite frequently and for some reason just escapes many seemingly rational people is methods of publication and what is the best way to go for a new writer - traditional pubishing house or self-publishing. My take is as follows:

Far be it for me to tell someone how to live their life or even which method of publishing is right for THEM, but to me, this issue is cut and dry. First, let's set the premise that we are talking about fiction. I say that because it is often much more feasible to self-publish non-fiction depending on the topic, but by-in-large, if your work is good enough and should be read by a wide range of readers, you shouldn't have to pay to have that happen. Trust me, even if and when you get a publisher to accept your work, you will still be pounding the pavement to promote that work or you won't publish traditionally again. First time writers (note that word, please) rarely get promo budgets unless they are already known and if you happen to get an advance and don't make that money back in sales - good luck with your next book.
But I digress, we are talking about self publishing vs. traditional and the fact of the matter - whether most people want to admit it or not - is that most people who self-publish fiction were or are unable to get their work accepted by a traditional house. Even worse, their are some people who finish a novel and then have the audacity to tell others that they shouldn't have to pay the same dues as the rest of us in regard to sending out query letters, looking for an agent, drafting, re-drafting, etc... Sympathy for those folks, I have not. I think that if you believe in your work and you make it the best it can be, if it's good enough, SOMEONE in the traditional publishing world will notice. This may take years to happen, but if you stick with it, it will. And no, that does not mean you have to publish with a large New York house, but the bottom line in fiction writing is that money should flow TO the writer. You should never have to pay for your work to be published and that includes PODS, vanity presses, and the evil institutions such as Publish America. (That's right. Sue me, PA!) If you are truly dedicated to your craft, the answer should be easy. Do your work; do your research, and follow your dream, but remember; dreams can take time!

Popular Websites Will Not Bring Youth To The Polls!

Have you ever seen the annoying little banners at the top of your computer screen when on a website like myspace or facebook? Of course you have. Have you ever tried to play the game it is asking you to play so you can win whatever prize? I would think that some of you did, if only to see what would happen, but you were smart enough to realize that it's a scam.
That said, why would people pay any more attention to ads or banners from presidential candidates on the websites they frequent? Seriously folks, most of the people that use myspace or facebook are not trying to change the world. Conversely, they are often connecting with friends, looking for dates, or surfing. The mere fact that these sites are so popular now just means that people know about them. It is in NO WAY indicative of how or when someone will vote.
Call me what you will, but there are a lot of things that may or may not be good alternatives to sitting in front of either a computer screen or Xbox 360. That doesn't mean the youth of America are going to get involved with them.
The problem with this topic, which is actually quite amusing, is that every four years, a candidate says they will win the election because of the youth vote. A few years back, Howard Dean raised a ton of money by using teens and twenty-somethings to solicit through the internet. Obviously Dean got spanked in the primaries, but that didn't keep John Kerry from hedging a victory on young voters coming through for him. Are these people serious? Sure, you can get people involved a lot easier through the internet because they are already on there, but getting them to the polls to vote is a lot more difficult. Do the research, the percentage of young voters has not had an impact on elections over the past few campaigns and it will not in 2008. There will be countless candidates, who will allow themselves to think this will be the year of the internet platform, but the joke's on them.

iPhones an investment? Not so much!

It's rather ironic that I am writing an opinion piece about technology on a website that more or less is a byproduct of our dependence on all things new, but websites are easily changed, refreshed, and updated. iPhones will be updated, they will be changed, and they will be updated, but in case you didn't realize when you plucked the $500 down for a new one with the smaller memory version; yours will not fit that bill.
Phones of any sort, be it a regular camera phone, PDA, or smart phone are not investments in the traditional sense. An investment is something we put money towards to have an impact on our future. A lot of time there is risk involved. Sure, for those who want to be hip and in the now, buying an iPhone is a great investment in today, but do you really need it? Do other phones do almost, it not all the same things? Are those phones cheaper to buy? What do you do next year when the cost of your iPhone is down to $250 and the new one on the market has a new feature and will run you $600?
Having the newest and the best innovations is great, but sometimes it's good to know when something has long-term value. People get into a pattern of always buying the newest, cutting edge items, when they really should be buying something more practical and putting the rest of the money towards better use.
For example, I'm willing to bet that almost every, if not all, the people who bought iPhone, already have a nice cell phone with Bluetooth and internet capability. Furthermore, I bet these same folks have iPods. No, not the Nano, but the ones with the bigger screen and the loaded memory. Additionally, I'm willing to bet that both of these work perfectly fine, despite being separate devices. Now how about you take the $500-$600 dollars and either allocate that towards your 401K, IRA, or through it into a mutual fund. Then wait a year. Your devices will still probably work just as well, but you'll have made an investment that has yielded you something for the future. Women may not be swarming to see your new iPhone, but did you really think they would anyway? Bottom line; if you have the money to throw around, go ahead and buy one. It will still be a poor investment, but will not have the same economic impact that these have on most of their buyers.