Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Political Theater" At It's Best

Every now and then, I'm going to just shamelessly plug a writer who must, under most any circumstance, be read. These are people I like so much I've created Google alerts just to read their stuff.

Today, speak up about Dana Milbank of The Washington Post. In yesterday's Post, he delivers nothing short of a laugh-out-loud piece that slices and dices Rudy Giuliani. Read it here, now.

The premise is that Rudy used to charge $100,000 per speech but, now that he's running for prez, is giving them gratis, of course. So Milbank went to hear Rudy speak to the Hoover Institution and literally parsed out the 46-minute word by cost. Trust me, hilarity ensued.

"Had America's Mayor charged the going rate, the 46-minute, 34-second speech would have cost the conservative think tank $2,147.46 per minute, including:
* $5, 368.65 for jokes about the weather.
* $21,899.94 for his views on education.
* $9,019.32 for his thoughts on taxes.
"Instead, the Hoover folks got all this free, and more! Giuliani threw in bonus thoughts on foreign policy such as, 'We clearly won the Cold War' (that two-second snippet had a market value of $71.58), and "We've never been a perfect country, we're never going to be a perfect country, but we're a good country, so we don't like war" ($214.74 for this six-second gem)."

Biting, hard-hitting, funny. Perfect political journalism.

The Post's description of his column fits - "an observational column about political theater in the White House, Congress and elsewhere in the capital."

He's great at skewering people with their own words.

He enjoys tearing into staff which, in a place where staff holds so much sway and swagger like Washington, it's always a fun thing to watch.

And he's clearly a practishioner of the old maxim about afflicting the comfortable - regardless of party.

Anyway, check out his columns here - worth a look and a nice, long winter's night of reading.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Let My Blog Open the Door

First of all, who knew that Pete Townsend has a blog? I mean, what the f-? Good little world we have here. I came across Robert Reich's the other day (by the way, he predicted Gore would win the Oscar and announce right there that he was running for prez - oops).

But now I see the mighty Pete has his own blog. Pretty much set as a way to build hype about his memoirs, the blog did, however, give Mr. Townsend the vehicle to author a spirited defense and spiritual hope for none other than Ms. Britney Spears.

Check it out:

"Dedicated Man In A Purple Dress to Britney in Long Beach. I said, 'Let's not be too quick to judge'. Roger said 'Britney? Britney who?' Like, Roger! Pullease...... read the paper.Just heard she's gone back into rehab. Pray for the babe. This is a tough business when you have a down period - she sometimes has over one hundred cars following her, every one with a camera geek in it.Tonight's show? My feet hurt. I gashed my hand. My fingertips hurt (my guitar strings felt too heavy). I'm happy. I must like pain."

So this is Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend - two musical geniuses, talking about Britney, the tart of all tarts. And who says the blogosphere isn't productive?

I guess Pete has a point on Britney but, let's face it, this is the woman who drove around with her kid on her lap - when she was sober. So we're not dealing with a properly-stacked deck here, are we?

And, if I'm Britney, would I take advice from this guy? I mean, hell, "Who's Next?" is a definitive album, "Tommy" a masterpiece and "Baba O'Reilly" defined a generation. But talk about a train wreck waiting to happen?

Still, I'll come back to his blog - if only because his entire profile is simply: "I'm in a rock band." Well put.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Horseshoes, hand grenades and, apparently, the Oscars

I was close to perfect. I took my perfecto into the 9th but blew it on one category. Damn you Alan Arkin.

The wife, well, she was perfect. Kudos to her and, apparently to the proprietors of a local Thai restaurant and the makers of the next great chick flick. Heidi killed me again in the Oscar pool, taking seven of seven categories in a clean sweep. Bravo, I say, bravo.

Unfortunately for me, pools are one of those things where almost is close enough.

Of course, we were both sleeping through most of the awards, as predicted. What a ridiculous charade it is to keep that show going so long. I’d love to see the ratings numbers for midnight and after. A joke.

From what I saw, I’d disagree with the conventional wisdom that Ellen didn’t do a good job. I actually laughed out loud at her into monologue (a rarity when watching standup for me). I thought the in-the-crowd with Scorsese and Eastwood was a little lame but the insider jokes were great – this is the ultimate Hollywood insider event … that’s what we expect!

And I loved the Will Farrell, Jack Black, John C. Reilly song – hilarious.

Still, kill about two-thirds of the show, make it two hours and America would be much happier.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscar night - My picks

Following a tradition begun by a good man, each year I try to get to every Best Picture nominee before Oscar night. Almost always a good time since, typically, there really aren't any bad movies nominated for Best Picture.

That goal was a lot easier before kids and, this year, I failed again. I made it to four of five - leaving 'Letters from Iwo Jima' at the alter. I had one more movie-going day in the week before I started the new job and two movies to go ... I picked 'Babel.'

Still, the wife and I have begun an annual Oscar pool and I see no reason not to show my cards here so I can be judged and hopefully judge whomever joins (so come on in, popcorn's on me). The bet in our house is choice of restaurant and movie for our next date night.

We take the big six and this year we're doing adapted screenplay as the tie-breaker (mostly since we've seen more of those movies than original screenplay nominees). Last year, she smoked me. I'm not feeling particularly strong this year, especially since she loved 'Dreamgirls' and it will probably do pretty well.

The sad thing is that we almost never know who wins before going to bed anymore. I'm sorry but midnight is just too late to sit up to here Martin Scorsese ramble. As Heidi said, one of the few times I wished I lived in California - the other, of course, being during baseball playoffs and, well, winter.

So here's my picks.

Picture - 'The Departed' should and will win. Sorry but 'Little Miss Sunshine' doesn't belong.

Director - Scorsese will finally pop his cherry (Goodfellas reference, not just being crude). Don't rule out Clint Eastwood, though, but I'm with Martin for good reason.

Actor - Forest Whitaker for Last King of Scotland. Didn't see it, but the Academy always likes to think of itself as worldly. Watch out for Peter O'Toole, though for one last nod from the insiders.

Actress - Going with my heart on this one, Helen Mirren. She was incredible in 'The Queen.'

Supporting Actor - Going with my head on this one - Eddie Murphy. I think Marky Mark was better but Murphy will get the nod for going semi-legit in 'Dreamgirls.'

Supporting Actress - Jennifer Hudson. Period. She was amazing.

And the tie-breaker - Surprise, 'The Departed' for adapted screenplay. Loved 'Children of Men' but as much as I like them, I don't think post-apocolyptic thrillers are the stuff of Academy Awards.

So tune in at 8:30 (of 9 if you're me and watching 'The Amazing Race All-Stars). And good luck staying up through the intolerable speeches from Best Foreign Film winners and lifetime tribute honorees - I'll be snoozing, remembering the best line of 'The Departed' ("I'm the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy") and dreaming of victory in the house pool.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Cash is Clinton

Maybe it’s just me, but don’t you just love ex-presidents? I love the allure, I love the lifestyle, I love the fact that they get Secret Service protection for life. I can’t get enough of what they are doing – or not doing – with their time.

It is the ultimate retirement, really. You’ve had the greatest job in the world for four or eight years so what to do? Nothing, really.

Sure, Carter is trying to atone for a mediocre presidency and win the Nobel. Nixon was trying to atone for, well, everything, and stayed largely out of sight. Ford set the gold standard, playing golf and hangin in Cali.

And then there’s Bill Clinton. A relative pauper most of his life in Arkansas, the guy has been out earning large, phat cash. And who could blame him? They did ring up more than $10 million in legal fees thanks to Whitewater and Monica. And they had to prepare for Hillary’s self-financed run this year.

So in comes the Washington Post with a fascinating story of the ex-president’s big, big travel. Over five years, a cool $40 million. Nice.

The details in the story are pretty good, though it certainly could have been written with a bit more pop. But I love, love, love the graphics online.

This is why we need real newspapers to survive and thrive on the web. The folks at Google or YahooNews wouldn’t come up with these kinds of cool graphics. It’s fun to go speech-by-speech on the map to see Bill bouncing around the globe. I also wasn’t aware before that he was in New Zealand on 9/10/01 … makes you wonder if he was stuck there on 9/11 or had trouble getting home.

And it’s neat to see how much he got paid for his local speeches. Salem State College, Tufts and Temple Beth Avodah shelled out $125,000 for the big guy in 2001 and 2002. Funny, I wondered how Salem State attracted such good speakers … now I know.

Anyway, check it out, good read and very entertaining.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Romney Downswing ... Already?

First, I just thought it was the Globe being nasty to the local guy with their headline about his new ad just outright saying he was "faltering." Now it really seems Mitt Romney's national star may be dimming a bit at just the wrong time.

The Hotline, the most respected of all the insider must-reads, dropped Mitt in its unofficial White House 2008 rankings.

They wrote this:

"Romney's campaign kick-off was overstaged and underwhelming. Somewhere beneath the cant, the real Mitt Romney is struggling to get out. Also, the decision to go on the air this early may be a mistake because now, instead of peaking in the fall, he needs to start moving up in the polls before the summer, or else the media will go into a "what's wrong?" frenzy much earlier than deserved."


I'm not sure I totally agree that going on the air early is a bad move. Yes, it's true the media will wonder aloud if he doesn't start moving in the polls now but the great truth about ads is that, in a vacuum, they almost always work. Obviously, in a national campaign and, particularly in these early primary/caucus states, Mitt is going to have to do a lot more than just be on the air. In fact, in Iowa and New Hampshire, it'll be much more important to be on the ground.

But now it's all about name rec and John McCain and Rudy Giuliani have it, Mitt doesn't ... yet. My assumption with the man from Belmont is he's got money to burn. So what better cause right now? And, by the way, the ad is good - watch it here.

I stand by my "don't underestimate this guy" mantra about Team Mitt. The thing I would worry about if I was in the North End HQ is the subtle Romney-fatigue creeping into press stories. The problem with this campaign starting so early is that the press is already looking for the second and third acts and we're not even in March. When the silly Obama/Hillary infighting passes, they'll wonder why the Republicans aren't doing the same.

And don't forget, the press always wants a two-person race - three is just too many when you have active races on both sides. So watch out Mitt and keep an eye on that second chair because, eventually, the music's gonna stop. This year, it might stop earlier than anybody expects.

A New Senate Nuclear Option

Could the Joe-Mentum in the Senate be moving toward the GOP? It’s truly the new nuclear option for Senator Joe Lieberman, who told Time and The Politico that he’d consider switching to the Republican Party if Democrats don’t get their act together on Iraq .

“I have no desire to change parties,” Lieberman told The Politico. “If that ever happens, it is because I feel the majority of Democrats have gone in a direction that I don’t feel comfortable with.”

Lieberman said the pending fight over funding for Iraq and President Bush’s surge could be a tipping point for him – and, thus, the Senate. “I hope we don’t get to that point,” he said.

Proving the move is pretty well orchestrated, Lieberman said the same stuff to Time in a piece appropriately titled “What Joe Lieberman Wants …” Time talks about Lieberman preferring Sen. John McCain in the presidential sweepstakes, that he’s working on a Social Security fix with South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham.

About leaving, Joe calls it a “very remote possibility.” But, as Time notes, even that “possibility” gives Lieberman all the cards with the Democrats – and the White House.

What a far cry from last year, when Democrats thought they had Lieberman over a barrel and had him knocked out in a primary, never to be heard from again.

The trick for Joe is to use his power once and be done with it. He surely knows well that you can’t be the senator threatening to flip forever.

But, for now, he could be exactly what the Senate and the country needs – a moderate voice to pull together both ends of the spectrum. Hmmm, sounds like the working definition of an independent.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Long Live The Beef

A friend of mine, who will go nameless because, well, you'll see, once won a great bet at the Hilltop Steakhouse.

He had just finished a tasty slab of prime rib - the king cut, I believe. Baked potato, all the fixings. Like a good man, he ate the meat but left the hunking piece of fat on his plate (as I recall, it was the only thing left on his plate).

So this other friend of ours says she'll pay for his meal if he eats the fat. And not just down it with a glass of water but chew it alone and eat it.

He pulled it off and, somehow, didn't throw up. And he got pie and a glass of milk for dessert. The story is the stuff of legend among the fellas and retold anytime any of us passes the Hilltop.

After today, that can only happen in Saugus now that the Braintree Hilltop has closed its doors. This picture tells the sorrowful story more than anything I could muster here. The plastic cows are gone. The placemats identifying each cut of beef on a map of a cow are history.

Where, on the South Shore anyway, will the fat-eaters of tomorrow craft their trade?

Where will the gluttonous masses go on a Saturday night to eat til they practically puke?

Where will guys who shouldn't be wearing cowboy boots and women who shouldn't be wearing Texas belt-buckles go for Sunday brunch?

The Outback? Puh-leaze, mate.

Bugaboo Creek? Sounds like a bad Robert Redford movie, not a steakhouse.

The 99? Might as well go to Unos and have a pizza, you wuss.

They, my friends, will go to Saugus where the Hilltop still lives, thrives and reigns. And then, for a brief time anyway, all will be right in the world.

Fly-over Follies

Sometimes, in the life of a political leader, there are stands that simply must be taken. They are votes of conscience, articles of faith, true profiles in courage.

And then there's Rep. Gil Herbel of North Dakota.

This week, the representative has taken up the cause of blocking a resolution honoring Bono, lead singer of U2 and repeated nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. The resolution paid tribute to Bono's work on human rights issues. Filed by Representative Scot Kelsh, the resolution credited Bono for his "humanitarian work in urging decision makers and religious leaders to set aside their philosophical differences to ease the burden of those who have the least among us."

Herbel blocked it because, well, Bono's issues allegedly have no bearing on the people of North Dakota. Really? Seriously?

Now don't get me wrong, the Legislature should certianly focus its attention on problems facing the residents of that state. And this resolution certainly shouldn't be the subject of much debate in the Legislature.

But c'mon Rep., is honoring a guy for humanitarian work all that bad? This is the legislative body that just last year passed resolutions urging the induction to the Hall of Fame of Roger Maris AND Maury Wills. I think they have some time on their hands.

Then again, they also passed a resolution urging Congress to pass a constitutional amendment protecting all human life (read: ban abortions).

Now I see why Bono's causes may not be their cup of tea. Oh, and Herbel said he was confused because he thought they were honoring Cher's ex-husband.

File under: Fly-over-state.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Me and Jakey McGee

Sick day today. No, I'm feeling fine. Jake's sick. Coughing so hard he's throwing up - all the time. Hasn't had a real meal in something like 48 hours. Already been to doctor, to Children's for a chest x-ray (they think there might be someting "more" going on ... words from a doctor you never, ever want to hear).

And so now he's home with me. We probably could have shuffled him off to daycare but good Lord, how much can a 14-month-old take? And they have this rule about throwing up: If he does it there, he can't come back for at least 24 hours. Makes sense if you think it through.

But boy does it make it tough on parents who work. I can't quite recall the last time I had a "sick day" that was truly just a day when I was sick, home alone. When it's just me who's sick, it's usually time for "Rub some dirt on it son and get back in the game." Life of a Dad, I suppose. Heidi's certainly done more of these days than I have (covering all days during campaign and my first weeks in the new job). But she has a big conference today and my boss is out of town so, hopefully, the office will be quiet.

So Jake's night went something like this:
7 p.m. - bed
9:45 p.m. - up and crying (right at the end of '24' ... which we missed part of)
midnight - up and crying
4:45 a.m. - up and crying
530 a.m. - up for good.

Then his morning's been something like this:
545 am - dressed by dripping wet Mom, who cut short her shower to get the boy.
547 am - crying because he had to be put down so Owen could get dressed
6 am - first attempt at breakfast (failed)
615 am - a bottle of milk
618 am - coughing
618:30 am - coughing worse
619 am - puking all over Daddy in his nicely-pressed shirt
620 am - Daddy pulls the plug on the day, puts on a flannel
635 am - second attempt at breakfast (half a banana)
640 - 7 am - assorted play/crying/bullying with Owen
7 am - Owen and Mom leave
700:01 am - crying (see previous entry)
700:02 am - Daddy realizes he's in for a long day
704 am - third attempt at breakfast (about four bites of Daddy's oatmeal)
705 - 720 am - good, quiet playtime with blocks
720 - 745 am - The Chase-Me-Around-the-House-While-I-Get-Into-Bad-Things-Like-Garbage-Cans-Bathtubs-And-Laundry Game. A classic.
750 am - fourth attempt at breakfast (failed)
755 - 810 am - assorted play
810 am - attempt to find favored toy under Owen's train table goes horribly wrong when Jake tries to stand up (under the train table).
810 - present - attempt to put Jake down for morning nap

He's only interrupted me with tears three times while writing this item. Now, the only sound in the house is the two pairs of kids overalls with other assorted laundry (and said nice shirt) clinking in the dryer and "Me and Bobby McGee" echoing out of the "mellow" mix on the iPod.

Happy kid means happy parent and, on sick days, quiet kid means happy parent. I better go get the papers, get the papers.

UPDATE: 645 p.m. The wife has now taken Jake off to the doctor as his condition worsened throughout the day. I'm now on Owen detail - which is markedly easier. All in all, though, Jake was a champ. Sick as a dog but still managing to melt my cold, black heart about a dozen times throughout the day. And, somewhere in there, I was able to read the papers, take a couple press calls for work, listen to some chill tunes on the "mellow" mix and even read a bit of my book. Not bad for Dad duty.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A moment of mute, please

I was taken, this morning, with the death of Dr. Robert Adler, co-inventor of the remote control.

Not just because it is a writer's dream of puns.

AP's lede was good - Hit the mute for a moment of silence, the inventor of the remote control, Dr. Robert Adler, has died.

Other stories credited (read: blamed) Adler and his co-founder for creating the couch potato and launching us into a generation of bloat. Right, and the inventor of the book created degenerative eye disease.

The tabloids, well, they had more fun. One Brit news site heralded "TV remote controller inventor switches off" with the sub-head "No, he wasn't found down the back of the sofa." Insert loose change, lost remote, and other jokes here.

But it's likely the classic tale of a guy who did hundreds or thousands of things with his life and his obit, well, it's the one thing they remember. Clinton will have Monica, Ford had pardoning Nixon, Anna Nicole had, well, nothing special.

Somewhere, in Boise or Austria, the family of Dr. Adler is saying, 'But there's so much more.' Yes, well, there is - and plenty of stories reflected it. He had something like 180 patents, the most recent registered just a few weeks ago. His touch-screen technology is used from the Holocaust Museum to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

But such is life in the modern age. If you are infamous, and Adler was, that is your cross to bear.

I know when I get back on the couch in a few minutes, I'll thank Dr. Adler for allowing me to relax in peace.

Of course, I won't be able to take his invention from the wife's hands to flip off the chick flick she's watching but look at the bright side - the person who's busy inventing that important gadget will be honored someday too.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Nader beats Obama, Hillary and Newt!

Thanks to The Concord Monitor's great Primary Monitor blog for this one.

Fox News and Opinion Dynamics just put out a great national poll.

Some hilarious trends that actually make me feel better about Fox, the American people and humanity at large.

1. More people say they are closely following the 2008 presidential campaign (77 percent closely/23 percent not closely) and the Congressional debate on the Iraq war resolution (69/29) than all of the following - the death of Anna Nicole Smith (51/48), this season of "American Idol" (26/71), the trial of Scooter Libby (31/65) and the arrest of the diaper-wearing astronaut (41/57).

I am slightly freaked out that 51 percent of the populace says they are following the death of a moron closely and don't at all get that Americans aren't more interested in a decorated astronaut who drives across the country in a diaper to kill a woman she thought was a threat to the man she was cheating on her husband with.

But I digress.

The true hilarity in this poll is the ranking of candidates voters say they will never, ever vote for. The key phrase here is, "under no circumstances." The results may (but I doubt it) send some candidates back to the drawing board.

The ranking - remember, you don't want your name on this list:

Ralph Nader - 76 percent
Newt Gingrich - 64 percent
John Edwards - 45 percent
Hillary Clinton - 44 percent
John McCain - 40 percent
Rudy Giuliani - 36 percent
Barack Obama - 34 percent

Love it.

Sadly, for the Man from Belmont, his name never even comes up. Not a single question about Mitt Romney. Hmmm. Wait, there is the ever-present question of whether voters would be more or less likely to support a candidate who's a Mormon (8 percent say yes, 26 percent no and 62 say it doesn't matter). But Hillary, McCain, Rudy, Obama - they're all there in the horserace questions.

But No Mitt. Sorry, Eric.

The new must-read in town

For the first couple days, I let it alone. I merely linked to my wife's new blog on the side rail here, hoping people might happen upon it like they happened upon mine.

And some did, which is cool.

But then the wife did something entirely unexpected. She took what we both thought would be a blog like any other (this one included) and made it into something I think is truly revolutionary. Rather than just write about our kids, her life, her job, the world at large, the wife has decided to make hers a blog-o-forum for the millions of people out there just like her.

Hence, the Working Mom's Blog.

It's fabulous and, all spousal pride aside, a must read.

The wife sent an email to all her friends and coworkers who happen to be working moms and urged them to join the forum - to trade ideas, to tell tall tales of little people and bring some sanity to what I have long said is one of the two hardest jobs in the world - being a full-time working mom. (The other, by the way, is being the mayor of any urban city tied with pretty much anyone who works with, around or near a dump).

She hasn't talked any of her friends into contributing yet and I worry that they won't because they're intimidated by the medium, worried about being too personal or scared that she's a better writer than they are. All these things are true - but no reason not to join the fray. That's the beauty of the blogosphere. Everyone is welcome, all are equals and no opinion is worth any more than another.

So tell your mom, tell your wife, tell yourself, go check out The Working Mom's Blog. I think there's a book in this someday ... time will tell.

Either way, I'm very proud.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mission Accomplished … for now

It was V-P Day in the Guarino household yesterday. You remember V-E Day and V-J Day to commemorate the victories in Europe and over Japan . Well, last night brought the victory over P – literally.

We had a parade, we had some treats, and we had a boisterous party for the reluctant potty-trainer.

Mrs. G employed a trick we all knew from college and old “MASH” episodes and it worked like a charm. She had some little toys in a bowl of warm water. Put the boy on the pot, let him play with the toys in the warm water for a minute or two and … well, the rest is history.

Now, to continue the pained war analogy, I don’t exactly see this as an armistice. This is much more like our current wartime situation. Last night was probably a lot more akin to Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” moment in the silly flight suit on the aircraft carrier.

But I won’t be hanging any banners or declaring an end to major combat operations. I know the insurgents are out there. I know they are well armed. I know there is much more fight to come.

Our problem is, we are a bit Bushian in our plans for an exit strategy. We believe that we have the will, the troops and the patience to wait out the insurgents and win the day. Will there be bumps along the way? Sure.

But we are not so Bushian in our diplomacy. We have tremendous support from our allies, we won’t hesitate to change course if needed and we are stockpiling weapons at our disposal.

Still, my perspective, as one of two Deciders, is this: Will he figure the damn thing out before he goes to college? As long as that answer is an unqualified ‘yes,’ I’ll sleep well.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hello, Mr. Magnum?

I really, really thought the polar bear story from Memphis couldn’t be topped this Valentine’s Day.

I should have known.

From today’s Springfield Republican, a truly devious Valentine’s thought – “Illicit romances also blooming.”

The lede from Stephanie Barry, “Roses are red. Violets are blue. Caught on tape skulking out of a motel? Shame on you.”


Turns out private investigators will be working overtime alongside flower delivery guys and romantic restaurant waiters. It seems, according to the PIs, Feb. 14 is a great time to pinch the cheating hearts – tracking said deliveries and staking out cheap motels. One investigator, the aptly-named Rollie McCarter III, said he’s had to beef up his staff by two to respond to recent calls for domestic surveillance.

“It’s such an easy task,” McCarter told The Republican. “The subjects are predictable … and they’re sloppy because they’re so worried about pleasing that other person.”

Another PI says he’ll be on a call today from a wife who suddenly saw a lot of strange numbers on her husband’s cell phone bill. Good thing Mrs. Guarino-Blog doesn’t check mine – she’d be tailing me back to a lot of calls from strange people ... newspaper reporters.

World, meet George Kottaras – the other rookie

Top notch piece of subtly brutal social/media/sports commentary by Gordon Edes in this morning’s Globe about Dice-K’s first catch with the third-string Sox catcher on day one of training camp yesterday.

It followed the current reining formula, of course: When there’s no real news but you have to write or air something, write about how crazy it is that the news media’s covering the non-news. All this is true because the media did have to cover Daisuke Matsuzaka’s first day in camp and the Sox did only give them access to one leisurely tossing session with the aforementioned third-string catcher, George Kottaras.

But Edes took the story to a new level by telling it from the absurd vantage-point of Kottaras – a guy who will either be riding pine on Yawkey Way all year or, more likely, starting in Pawtucket. The team sees him as eventually replacing captain Jason Varitek someday … just not someday soon.

Best line: “… for the next 10 minutes or so, a ball passed back and forth between the two rookies – the catcher making the big league minimum, the pitcher with a $103 million price tag hanging from his sleeve.”

The Herald’s Jeff Horrigan did a passable version of it, mostly focused on the crowd, the media and the tick-tock absurdity of it.

But Edes’ story – dripping with details on the very divergent lives of two rookies doing that most basic act of having a catch – is just what I want from my spring training reports.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The man from Belmont enters

He looked good, there’s no denying he looked good. Oh, Romney, I mean.

Of course I mean Romney. The guy always looks good. He had that same stiff little walk, the same pitch-perfect delivery, the same rousing populist but conservative oration, the same picture-perfect family.

I’ve covered several of these announcements and Mitt did as well as can be expected. And the coverage thus-far reflects it. He’s chiseled, he’s handsome, he’s the well-spoken outsider. I really liked the jabs at Washington insiders and The Neophyte, that’s a rare touch of personality from The Mittster.

A couple problems:

One: That plane looks like it might hit him – a rare slip by the usually spotless Romney advance team.

Two: The national media, already gravitating to the flip-flopper storyline, appears to now want to hit him for being a bit too perfect.

Consider this lede from Roger Simon at Politico:

Mitt Romney is so good he is almost too good. Candidates want people to come away from their events thinking “presidential,” not “slick.” But Romney is so polished and looks so much like a president would look if television picked our presidents (and it does) that sometimes you have to ask yourself if you are watching the real deal or a careful construction.

And three: The Mormon thing just keeps on coming. America ’s most-watched cable network (CNN) and most-read paper (USA Today) both featured it prominently today.

Does Mitt have what it takes to win again? Sure. And the more people underestimate him, the better he’ll do.

But the Republicans are suddenly acting a lot like Democrats. They can’t settle on any one candidate to like, let alone a new standard-bearer. Their not getting any help from the White House and the press will now only give them reasons not to like these guys.

For the man from Belmont, it’s got to be a pretty unsettling place to be.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Love Hurts

There’s love stories and then there’s polar bear love stories.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s a great tale of love and loss, courtesy of a couple polars in Memphis who got a bit too frisky in their first mating attempt.

The lede in the Commercial Appeal story sort of says it all: “Courting is complicated, especially when you weigh 650 pounds and have claws the size of hubcaps.”

Seems Payton, the male, took things a bit too far with Cranberry, the female, in their first meeting – knocking her off a 14-foot cliff and breaking her leg.

Cranberry now has surgery to repair the leg and, sadly, at least several weeks in isolation to recover.

I guess this is what they should expect when they try to mate a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old.

File under: Love hurts. Ohhh, ohhh, love hurts.

GUEST BLOG - Our Greatest Challenge


From the moment our first son was born, everything we did was a learning experience. Changing diapers, making bottles, learning to survive on 2 hour stretches of sleep, how to hold a baby, diaper bag and several bags of groceries at once, and so on.

We have managed to master – or at least look like we've mastered - each step along the way…. Until now.

Potty training, without question, is the toughest one yet.

Owen is a smart kid, there's no doubt about that. He knows his letters and numbers, he can sing tell you what just about any animal says, he likes to "read" (translation: he likes to sit with books and tell stories based on the pictures, which is pretty cute), he can climb virtually everything and knows the names of far more dinosaurs than I do. But he has yet to figure out what we mean when we say "time to go potty."

He sits there. He swings his legs. He talks about Buzz Lightyear. He asks me to tell him a story. He asks me to read him a story. He plays with the toilet paper. He plays with whatever is in reach.

But peeing? Not a drop. And Number 2? Please.

That is, until we pull up his brand new Buzz Lightyear or Thomas the Tank Engine underwear.

To be fair, we just started this process in earnest this weekend. We bought the tiny little Tighty-Whities (and they're damn cute), we committed to regular trips to the potty throughout the weekend and we readied for multiple loads of laundry. But after a weekend of accidents and not a successful trip to the potty, we're a little mystified.

How do you teach a 3 year old who has spent his entire life peeing at will how to pee on command? How do you teach him what it feels like when he has to go? It's one thing to show him how to stir cookie dough or how to put on his pajamas but how to do you teach him to control his bodily functions?

I'm sure in a few months we'll look back on this and have a good laugh. Until then, we're going to be doing mountains of laundry.

Outlandish D'Amour

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are The Police and we’re back.”

With that, Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland ripped open the Grammy’s and reunited after nearly twenty years last night. They rocked ... but only kinda. They played “Roxanne,” which was a supreme disappointment to me.

Of all the songs they could have pulled from the catalog, why that one? Sure it’s the most identifiable – other than maybe “Every Breath You Take.” But music has changed a bit in the 20 years you’ve been off doing solo projects and making film scores, boys. The Police rocked in their prime. And to rock now, they have to rock harder than that.

“Next to You” would have been my choice. Take a look at this and tell me this isn't a band you'd go see live. Or "Truth Hits Everybody." Hype it up, play it fast and blow the doors off the joint. It would have at least made those losers in the front “pit” jump up and down a bit. They’ve all heard “Roxanne” so many times, it didn’t feel unique to them. It felt like it looked - a bunch of old guys playing a song you've heard too many times.

So the tour was announced today at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. Impressive locale. Maybe it will be more than a greatest hits effort to make money. But, at $225 a ticket for the best seats, I have my doubts. Shows all over the place, including Fenway on July 28 (I think I’m away, sadly) and closing the North American tour out at MSG on Aug. 1 and 3. That’s cool.

Anybody wanna go to New York ? Nothing like a show as the Garden, nothin'.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Thanks, Charlie Sennott

A little while back, I took on those who were lamenting the loss of the final overseas bureaus of The Boston Globe. I argued ("Don't Cry for me, Bogota," Jan. 25) that it is a sad loss but said I wouldn't really cry over it - mostly because I thought the Globe was better served serving its local interests. I also argued that those foreign-based reporters could still do a heck of a job covering national and international issues doing what reporters have done for years, parachute in to a locale, find the story, know the story and write the hell out of the story.

Thankfully, Charlie Sennott proved me right today on Page One.

Under a stinging headline, "Told to wait, a Marine dies," Sennott pours out the story of Jon Schulze, a Marine and father from Minnesota who came back from Iraq - like many other Marines and soldiers - with troubles. He was angry, he had nightmares, he couldn't readjust. So he drank too much and abused those around him. When his thoughts turned to suicide, Jon asked for help from our government. They told him to sit tight for a spot in the VA, he was 26th on the waiting list for 12 beds.

Jon killed himself.

It's a stinging rebuke to our federal government, the VA and how we're all treating vets.

But it's also a great Sunday read and proof the Globe, reassigning some of its former foreign assets, can still do a good job covering the world.

Sennott was the London bureau chief of the Globe, a job that typically had him far from London - covering all of Europe and drifting well into the Middle East. He was in Afghanistan several times and put his life on the line to bring back compelling coverage from a world away.

I, for one, am glad he's going to keep doing that. Today's paper is proof that good reporters can bring good, important stories if they're given room to roam, some solid backing from the top and the space to write it - whether or not the paper has storefront offices dotting the globe.

Days of Discontent

These are painful, painful days.

It happens every year, this dark, quiet, nameless depression. It's mid-February. Valentine's Day - that most fake of holidays looms. The weather, well, stinks. The kids can't really play outside for more than a few minutes without looking at you with frozen snots and wind-burn. You wear so many layers that you can't help but feel like the kid brother, Randy, in "A Christmas Story" who can't move his arms.

But it's not all that entirely.

It's mostly that there's not a single good sports storyline to follow.

Let's be clear, I'm no sports junky. I'm as casual a fan of professional and college sports as they come. I listen to the headlines, watch the highlights when I happen into them on the news and scan the Globe and Herald sports pages most every morning.

But the sports I do actually care a bit about are baseball and football. I love listening to the Sox on the radio on my way home in the summer with the window down. I love sitting down with a pile of nachos and taking in as much of a football game as The Boys will allow.

Now that the Bears went kerplunk, football season is over (no, I don't count that silly Pro Bowl game. That just makes me realize how little I can afford to take a good vacation to Hawaii). And baseball, real baseball, is two months away.

Hockey, pro basketball, college hoops, you say? I'd rather watch the director's cut of "Reds" most days. Hockey left my system after about age 12 when the Bruins stopped being fun and pro basketball did too after Magic and Larry hung em up. College hoops is great, but only in the Tournament. And don't even get me started on the Bruins and Celtics. Dead sports, both of them.

So I'm left to dream of spring, lean on Netflix for good deliveries and hope The Police truly rock tonight on the Grammy's.

Apparently, I'm not alone. The Herald announced on Page 1 this morning that they were doing their earliest baseball preview package ever. The great Tony Massarotti's two-page spread is pretty surface but, well, it was enough to turn the thoughts forward, not backward.

Pitchers and catchers report in 5 days. Can't be soon enough.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cockfighting on the Road to the White House

As a reporter, I saw a lot of strange things on the campaign trail. As an adviser, I saw more. But nothing quite brings out the true oddities of life in government and politics like the early jockeying of a presidential campaign.

To wit: The buzz out West about an end to cockfighting in New Mexico.

This week, New Mexican Gov. Bill Richardson suddenly came out in favor of a ban on cockfighting in his home state - one of only two states to still allow fighting birds. Richardson, a Democratic candidate for president, seems to think siding with the longstanding rooster fights might be an, umm, blemish on his record or somehow lead people to think he represents something of a backwoods state.

How people could get that from the "sport" of cockfighting is beyond me.

We've seen hometown governors, senators and congressmen do a lot of things over the years to bolster their records before launching a run at 1600 Penn. Romney did it here, so did Dukakis. Heck, W. Bush even happily worked with Democrats before leaving the Texas Governor's Mansion - for a while, anyway.

But cockfighting?

"The bottom line is that if Bill Richardson is not running for president, this wouldn't be an issue," said Leo Lopez, a 42-year-old Hobbs native who has been attending matches since he was 12. "He doesn't want it to be known that he's from a state with cockfighting."

Well, who could blame him, really?

But it could be worse, Governor, imagine you were running from the Tula Province deep in the woods south of Moscow. Now then, you'd have something to talk about.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Tivo Shows Some Fight

Thank you, Tivo, for not going quietly into that good night.

Check out this story from today’s San Jose Mercury about Tivo teaming up with to provide a sort of ‘On Demand’ for their customers.

I was an early Tivo subscriber. We bought the box before it was cheap, signed up for the monthly service and told everybody that it changed our television viewing lives. It did and has now made us much better consumers of The Box. We watch better shows, fewer commercials and, on most nights, very little crap.

Comcast came along recently with its DVR, as has everyone else. We haven’t dumped Tivo yet and this news makes me want to stay with the original master.

So far the movies aren’t too pricey and seem like they might even be pretty easy to download – except for Neanderthals like us who don’t have wireless and have to hook The Box up to the phone cord every couple weeks since there’s no jack in our living room. (A rant for another day...).

But competition is good for everyone so it’s good to see Tivo isn’t throwing in the towel yet.

Maybe next they can figure out a way to not recommend Burt Reynolds movies and reruns of that show with Balki?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Oasis: DO Go Away

For the record, before I rant about them, I used to love Oasis.

Great ‘90s band, I thought. “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” was a fabulous album. Still gets regular play on the treasured iPod.

Some of their later albums, well, they were good. Each seemed to have one or two good songs - "Live Forever" and "Stand by Me" among them - but nothing on the scale of the start-to-finish greatness of Morning Glory.

Like most bands I like, I held out absolute judgment on them until I saw them live. My two favorite bands are U2 and Springsteen and the E Street Band so I value live music more than most and, because they set it, the bar is pretty darn high for putting on a good show.

I finally got around to seeing Oasis at the Orpheum in 2000 and, while they played a ton of good music, the show pretty much sucked. Liam and Noel just sort of stood there shouting out the music, didn’t offer any real energy and enthusiasm and crapped on the crowd whenever they could.

Like most Oasis fans, I always sort of discounted what they said because, well, clearly they were idiots who just made good music.

But making fun of U2 for talking about AIDS, famine and stupid poverty in Africa ? Now that’s just over the line, you dumb Brit. Check it out here in today's London Telegraph, Noel's interview with Neil McCormick, a good friend of U2, by the way.

Say what you say about Radiohead and compare yourself to The Beatles but, for God’s sake you yellow-toothed bastards, U2 doesn’t push its causes down anyone’s throat. I think there’s maybe one mention in each show these days, about a five-minute intro to “One” (which, by the way, is a song you no-doubt wish you wrote, Mr. ‘F-ing in the Bushes.’).

Let’s face it, Noel, you guys were about two good songs away from being the 90s version of Talk Talk. You are a three-hit wonder still living off your first good album and your 15 minutes ended at about minute number two.

Shut up, sit down or go wash your hair. But don’t knock U2 for trying to make the world a better place while also making good music – fans actually like that.

Yeesh, I feel better ...

The Man Behind the Hope

The Nation just popped a fascinating profile on David Axelrod, the 51-year-old reporter-turned communications consultant (hmmm, now that’s an idea…) behind Barack Obama and Deval Patrick.

It’s a great read and, unless I missed it, exactly the kind of stuff the Globe, Herald, BoMag or Phoenix should have done during the 2006 campaign.

The piece sheds light on Axelrod’s thinking, methods and past – all of which will help frame the upcoming Obama-for-Prez movement. Of course, the piece starts with stories of similarities between the Patrick and Obama campaigns – one thing we heard a lot of in 2006.

I always wrote that off as similarities between the candidates, their uniquely impressive speaking styles and their views of government more than any kind of Axelrod playbook. This piece doesn’t delve too deeply into that, other than Axelrod saying he’s not the message deliverer but the guy who they feed off – “It’s like riffing with great musicians.”

I’ll give him this, he is astutely on message.

The piece doesn’t shed any real new light on the Patrick campaign but the test, as Axelrod surely knows, will be when the Obama campaign turns ugly. For all his protestations and the media hand-wringing, the 2006 campaign for governor was nothing compared to the presidential whirlwind the junior senator from Illinois is about to hit. And, like Patrick, Obama wasn’t particularly well tested on his past and, like Patrick, was elected more on a wave of tremendous public support, personality and over-arching vision than nuts and bolts plans. That won’t last long in the fields outside of Des Moines or the town dump in Exeter.

But don’t bet against Axelrod. Too many have already and lost their shirts.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Owen’s Stegosaurus Moment

I guess I expected it someday, but it sure shocked the hell out of me when Owen clearly, directly and perfectly identified a stegosaurus the other day.

Let me be clear, I'm not selling the boy as a genius (yet), I’m not grooming him as a child paleontologist or anything (yet). But, c’mon – to be able to ID three different kinds of dinos at age three is pretty cool. And his teacher, the wonderful Miss Katie, says he’s one of only three kids in his class who can actually pronounce the words. My boy.

The point here, though, is that Owen saying such a thing was a total, utter, wonderful surprise. And I like that.

I’m not a big reader of books on child development. I was, at least for the first 6 months with Owen. I read the “What to Expect…” stuff when Heidi was pregnant and again when he was a newborn.

I think that’s required reading, particularly for the first solo flight with child. Who among us hasn’t had that moment when the husband/wife leaves to run some errands and you are alone with the kid the first time?

Mine went something like this:

Me: “Ok, kid, this is it. No dying on my watch.”
Owen: (Silent, slightly puzzled stare of the confused, doubt-filled or pooping child)
Me: “You can puke, you can poop and you can get hungry. Just don’t die on my watch. Just wait till Mommy gets back.”
Owen: (Looks around the room, sees Mommy nowhere, bursts into tears).
Me: “Ok, ok, no crying either.”
Owen: (Full-fledged wail)
Me: “Ok, cry. Just don’t die.”
Me (repeating): “Not on my watch, not on my watch, not on my watch.”

So I gave up after Owen hit his stride. I put the books away and let pure skill, dumb luck and instinct take over. And Jake, well, he’s been a challenge too but I feel like books are kind of for sissies now.

The problem is when the boy breaks out “stegosaurus” after I randomly asked him which dino was on his jammies. I mean, is this supposed to happen around now? I’m not entirely surprised when he counts to 20 (he always skips 13 for some reason – I think he might be Lucifer). And he’s had the ABCs down for a while now.

But what’s next? Long math, the Dewey Decimal System, and the intricacies of the 3-4 defense in the NFC?

Who knows? And, truthfully, who cares? If I knew, I wouldn’t have the reaction I had when he popped out “stegosaurus” with that big, wide, toothy grin.

Now I just walk up to him hoping those moments do happen – on my watch.

An Ouchie, from ... and for Hillary

Thanks to the Globe’s Names for trolling through former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe’s new book, “What a Party!” and finding what is surely one of the few tantalizing tidbits – the story about Ben, Matt and Gwyneth with Bill and Hill at Camp David.

The story is recounted here, so take a look.

But the even shorter version is that Affleck and Damon went to Camp David in 1998 to screen “Good Will Hunting” for President Clinton. McAuliffe found his way there and Hillary was around. Apparently the boys watched some playoff football with the Pres before dinner, where the true hilarity ensues.

And I quote:

“During dinner, while Damon bent Madeleine Albright's ear, Ben rose to greet his date. ‘Who's that?’ McAuliffe asked Hillary. ‘That's Gwyneth Paltrow, the actress, you idiot,’ snapped the first lady.

That is classic. You really can see Hillary calling McAuliffe an idiot on that one. By this point, she’d already been in “Emma,” “The Pallbearer,” and “Se7en” and that very year she was staring in “Sliding Doors,” “A Perfect Murder” and the movie that really put her on the map, “Shakespeare in Love.”

To quote Hillary again, “You idiot.”

Of course the kicker is that Clinton loved the movie, loved its sweet ending and said he had a romance like that and chasing the girl was the best thing he ever did. And, as Names points out, a few days later the Monica scandal broke.

Now that’s an ouchie.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Go Bears!

It's great to be in New England these days for one main reason . No, not these guys. It's because all Pats fans are suddenly Bears fans. And who am I to complain?

I've been a fan of the Monsters of Midway since I was a young pup and somehow became fascinated with a whispy young back named Walter Payton. I think I'd seen "Brian's Song" with my brothers one night and, after I realized it is ok for guys to cry, I decided I loved a team with that kind of heart and a runner with that kind of grace and speed. I had it in #34.

I loved the Bears through some trying times. Can you say Bob Avellini, Vince Evans, and Mike Phipps at QB? A coach that let players leave the field early to make some personal phone calls and had Ken Margerum as a wideout and Gary Fencick as the lone defensive standout? It was bad.

In 82, things picked up. A new coach arrived, a tough-talker who once roamed Soldier's Field when they were the Monsters - Mike Ditka. He came into minicamp and said "The good news is, our goal is to win the division, conference and super bowl. The bad news is, as I look out at you all, many of you won't be here to see it." And he had a hotshot rookie quarterback, Jim McMahon.

Still, they finished the season 3-6. So much for changes.

But they were .500 the next year, and, in '84 Walter broke Jim Brown's single-season rushing record and they hit the playoffs for the first time in years.

And then came 1985. What 15-year-old wouldn't want the team they'd loved for years to suddenly propel itself into a dominant power. Only one loss, the best defense EVER, and the Super Bowl Shuffle. I am still ticked at Ditka for not giving Walter a Super Bowl TD (handing it instead to that overweight lineman named Perry because the TV loved him). But they throttled the Pats (sorry locals) and were World Champs again. Good, good times.

Then came the Tomczak era, some good seasons but no more rings, the strike, Walter's retirement, the loss of Ditka, and a series of pretty unremarkable years.

Thanks, I think, to the return of a glory days-style defense in 2005, the Bears are back. I get thrills and chills like that 15-year-old again with names like Urlacher, Tillman, Brown and Tank Johnson, what's not to like? Jones and Benson are no Payton but they get it done. I'm not as down on Rex as most, but I do like Griese more (having seem him play in college, I think he's got talents) and you can't say many bad things about Muhsin and Des Clark.

So we're underdogs this time, giving 7. That's probably fair. The AFC is dominant and the Colts are a tough, tough team to beat.

Could it happen? Of course it could happen. The Bears have been defying expecations all year. On this given Sunday, I'll sure be wearing my Bear colors - and I think some of my friends and neighbors will be joining in in rooting for the return of the Monsters.

Go Bears!

Well this isn't going to be easy

I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but this is just plain hard.

Day two into this whole work thing again and it seems pretty clear I have to come up with a better way to keep my side projects (this among them) going. As you can see, the blog suffered as my employment became, well, full.

I could detail but the bottom line is out the door by 7 and not back in the door until after 7 doesn't leave much time for blogging. We all know I won't be blogging at work. So where, dear reader, do I find the time?

Thoughts, suggestions, surrogates and clones are welcome.