Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sick of the Swine Flu

I'm sick, and the Swine Flu--er, the H1N1 virus--is the culprit. However, I'm not exhibiting the typical symptoms associated with influenza. My nose isn't running, I don't feel like crap, and I don't have a fever. In fact, the only symptom I have seems to be irritability.

Ok, that was really corny and I'm ashamed of writing it. But my point is that I'm tired of hearing about this disease and how bonkers people are going worrying about it. Yeah, I get it. It's a more virulent strain of flu. But I'm also pretty sure it's not the Black Plague. With any luck this will all blow over soon...but probably not before someone figures out a way to profit from it. Think "I survived the Swine Flu" t-shirts.

Now, I don't mean to diminish or make light of the seriousness of any illnesses or challenges people have to face. But our recent class discussion about how almost anything can be mined for writing purposes really has me wondering: when will we see the first Swine-Flu inspired book about some brave soul's harrowing struggle with this insidious virus, and how many more will follow? The Swine Flu has almost become a "fad" (bear with me) in the sense that it's inspired endless jokes and currently inhabits the short-term memory of popular culture.

Our current epidemic has a very SARS-like feel to it--unlike AIDS, which stuck around after its discovery and is now a daily fact of life for millions of people worldwide. Let's hope the Swine Flu turns out to be little more than a silly fad, and not something more serious and enduring.

Some Shameless Promotion

The Helix is coming out at the end of this week, so I'd like to remind everyone to go pick up a copy...

Also, I apologize in advance if anyone wastes fifteen minutes of their life reading any garbage by some Massie guy. That's fifteen minutes you'll never get back.

I'm Your Huckleberry

Though I grew up in the 1990's, I sometimes feel like I missed out on a significant chunk of the culture due to the overprotective nature of my mother, who wouldn't even let me watch The Simpsons until I was about fourteen. She was concerned about how disrespectful Bart was to Homer.

In recent years, perhaps due to fatigue or the fact that she can't win this battle anymore, she's lightened up on my kid brother Conor; he's fourteen now and he's been watching Family Guy (*way* cruder than the Simpsons) for several years. Where am I going with this? Well, my mother's restrictions also included a whole library of great movies rendered unsuitable for my naive and innocent mind. A little blood here, the "f bomb" there, a creamy tit or two--all these meant I would be spending the next couple hours in my room.

Over a decade later, I'm slowly discovering some quality movies made during my childhood. Last weekend while flipping through the TV channels my mother stumbled on the movie "Tombstone," which I'd never heard of, and a lengthy discussion of the film's merits ensued between her and my father. My father then explained to me that it's a western based on the true story of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

I cringed--westerns aren't really my thing.
"You'll like it," he promised. "It's good."
"When was it made?" I asked.
"Early nineties," he told me.

Ah. Of course. The Dark Ages. Naturally we had to watch the film, and I've been pissing my roommate off pretending to be Doc Holliday ever since.

Monday, April 20, 2009

While we're talking about baseball and gambling...

Seeing the preceding picture of Big Papi (David Ortiz) while writing about fantasy baseball and gambling reminded me of my time working at Foxwoods. I used to work in the poker room and the big dude would come to Foxwoods all the time to play blackjack right above me in the Rainmaker section.

Apparently that guy drops some serious cash at the blackjack tables. Word gets around quick when any celebrity is on-site, so one day when I heard he was there I snuck up to the blackjack pit during my lunch break and scouted him out from a distance.

If you think he looks big on have no idea. He's a behemoth. I wish I could've talked to him, but we were expected to be professional and refrain from harassing celebrities if we valued our jobs.

How to make a not-so-quick $100

Ah, baseball season. It is during this time of year that I channel my inner dork and engage in a ridiculous months-long marathon known as fantasy baseball, which may not quite fit the bill as arts, but it is surely entertaining, at least for me. Seriously, it's more fun than actually following the games themselves.

There's something magical about beating up on your friends and coworkers and bosses in a virtual showdown and hoarding as many statistics as you can for yourself. But like any good drug there's a downside, too. In addition to fretting about papers and exams, I now get to worry about injuries, slumps, DNP (did-not plays), Triple-A demotions and free-agent pickups.

In a competitive (read: money) league, you almost have to manage your roster daily to make sure all your players are in good health and getting playing time. You're also considering trades, poring over massive stat sheets for a competitive edge, and just generally losing your mind. The whole thing can get really anal.

Luckily, I will be released from this hellish existence by October. Of course football season will have started by then. After finishing third last year in the office fantasy football league--and collecting a nice $100 prize--you can bet I'm determined to go all the way to top.

At least in football they only play once a week...

Weirded Out

I went to another show this weekend in New London, this time at New London High School. The occasion was an effort to "save the 82nd Drum Corp" or something like that. It might have been the 73rd Drum Corp or the 75th Bugle Corp, but naturally I wasn't paying much attention. The event was sponsored by the local radio station Q105, among others.

The fundraiser charged me $10 at the door and it turned out to be a complete waste of money-- I only stayed for about forty minutes after finding out that the band I'd come to see had played before I arrived due to a last-minute rearranging of the slotting.

I did hear two lousy bands, and that was enough. The first looked promising as they took the stage; it featured seven members, including a trumpet, saxophone, a male and female singer, and the standard guitar/bass/percussion configuration. A jazz outfit, I guessed. I was half-right. They opened with a long jazzy tune that actually sounded quite good until the male singer opened his mouth and started rapping. Epic fail. The female singer had a solo about halfway through, which proved a nice respite from the rapping. The group played another jazz/rap abomination after the first song and then packed it up to decidedly lukewarm applause.

The second band called themselves the "Weird Beards" and I knew from the start I wasn't going to like them. They were a four-piece group with a creepy old hippie 50-something playing an industrial-sized cello. After opening with a bizarre pot-inspired tune that had the singer making farm animal noises, they proceeded to sing a rather creepy number about a guy stalking some girl at the bar.

I left after the Weird Beards' second song, because clearly this event wasn't going to get any better. So...that was my weekend, or a small part of it anyway.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Gone For Great

At the request of the band's frontman Nick Johns, I recently went to go see a show by Gone for good, whom I wrote my Q&A about, at the El N'Gee in New London, and I have to say they were surprisingly good live. Because the vocals sound heavily distorted and doctored on their demo CD, I was expecting the live singing to be sub-par.

I couldn't have been more wrong. Unlike a lot of bands who doll up their lead singer's voice on recordings to mask the fact that they can't sing, Johns' voice sounds as good live as it does on their CD, and is one of those rare voices that seems to jump from the microphone and fill the room. I was hoping to catch a cameo by their horn section, "The Bang," but they only play with the three-piece band once in a blue moon and weren't with them that night.

As Nick mentioned in the Q&A Gone for Good is playing garage pop rock at a time when Indie music is really popular, which is another refreshing aspect of their music. If you're ever around New London and you hear about Gone for Good, know that they're worth seeing.