Monday, July 30, 2007


We lost two folks yesterday, one really famous, the other not so much: Swedish film making legend, Ingmar Bergman, and former major league ballplayer & hitting coach, Bill Robinson. I won't pretend to be a huge fan of either, but since I'm reasonably well-acquainted with each of their oevres, I can still claim to feel a little sense of loss.

I'll start with Bergman, since he's the more "significant" of the two. We'll hear plenty about his 50+ year career over the next few days, and from what I know, he deserves it. I've probably seen somewhere between 5 and 10 of his films, which represent a mere fraction of his total work. But based on that handful, I can say two things for certain: he was an incredible artist, and I don't really want to watch his movies very badly. His near-obsession with death and the human capability to feel loss make for powerfully-realized examinations of characters' lives, but also leaves me feeling like shit when the movie's over. But I'm not here to slag on the guy, far from it.

In fact, when I saw Seventh Seal for the first time, about 10 years ago, it really affected me. The way Bergman dealt with his philosophical & historical subjects in the context of a well-developed narrative, complete with humor and relationships and family, is fascinating and impressive. And some of the scenes are shockingly powerful, as when the villagers burn "the witch," or the final scene when the travelers confront the fate they've been struggling to evade. Real goose bump stuff, let me tell you.

And Wild Strawberries, released in the same year as Seventh Seal, is equally notable. It essentially deals with the same themes -- death & loss -- but presents them in a different manner. It's a hard film to describe, but if you've seen it, you know that certain scenes really stick in your mind. The final scene does it for me, as well as some of the "flashbacks."

Tough to segue from one of the greatest artists of the 20th century to a journeyman ballplayer, but I didn't write today's script. And in his own way, Bill Robinson meant as much to me as Bergman did: not much, but enough to feel the loss. Not necessarily because he was a key supporting member of the "We Are Family" 1979 World Champion Pirates, nor because he was one of dozens of quietly effective hitters whose batting prowess was hidden by the overall suppression of offensive numbers during the sixties and much of the seventies.

Nice stuff, but I know those things mostly through the prism of after-the-fact analysis and research. Nah, what I remember is Bill Robinson standing in the first base coach's box at Shea, giving that little two-fingered hand-slap to the multitude of Met hitters who reached base during the glory years of the mid-80's. Not sure what that was ("Gimme two"?), but I never saw another first base coach do it.

And finally, Bill Robinson started one of the '86 Mets' four bench-clearing brawls that summer. As a former teammate of Rick Rhoden, he had his suspicions that the Pirate pitcher was doctoring the ball during a game. And he told him so, growling "stop cheating" as they passed each other between innings. Rhoden took exception, Robinson stood his ground, and before you knew it, Knight & Mitchell & Stawberry, and the rest of the boys found an excuse for one of their favorite summer past-time: fisticuffs.

Just as there are many, many Bergman movies that others think are significant, I'm sure there are literally scores of other more significant memories for Bill Robinson. But these are mine. These are the ones that stay in my head, and make me miss the guy who's gone, even if I haven't really thought about him in years.

Either way, farewell fellas. Thanks for what you left.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007


If I can briefly interject with an item from the "Oh, By The Way . . ." files, I saw perhaps the strangest t-shirt ever the other day.

I'm sure we've all seen (way too many) t-shirts that riff on the "Enjoy Coke" logo & phrasing. The Coke icon is . . . well, iconic. And the "Enjoy . . ." campaign is at least as old as I am.

(Which ain't young.)

I've seen "Enjoy Cocaine," and many others that don't spring to mind. But a couple days ago, right in front of my office in midtown Manhattan, I saw a new one. Walking with two teenage girls was a young guy, probably about 18. A "normal" looking tourist, strolling about Manhattan in all his corn-fed, blond-haired glory. Basically, a kid just like the other 34,000,000 frat boys wearing t-shirts throughout our great land this summer.

Except this one wore a t-shirt that read, "Enjoy My Large Cock."

I was too shocked to laugh. I'm laughing now -- cause it's fucking funny. But at that moment, my mouth was agape so wide . . . well, in theory at least.

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Yeah, I know it's been a long time. So long, in fact, that a percentage of those who actually care won't ever see this. Which leads me to the philosophical question, if an I-pod plays on shuffle but nobody hears it . . .

You get the idea. But the idea isn't to philosophize, but to play some goddamn music. To rawk! That's right folks, after a too-long hiatus, after contentious social drama that saw the internets descend into rancor, it's time that I set the universe right again. It's time that I do a Delicious Dozen . . . Minus One. Let's hit it:

1. "Better Version Of Me" -- Fiona Apple (Extraordinary Machine):

Ahh, nice way to begin (although this "version" sounds like crap -- is my I-pod screwy?). Anyway, I like this song. It's not in the class of the incredible title song, but then again, what is?

2. "Throw Back The Little Ones" -- Steely Dan (Katy Lied):

I has myself a Steely Dan phase back about 18 or 19 years ago, but Katy Lied wasn't really one of my favorites. I preferred Royal Scam or Aja. As to the song, it's an instrumental, and it's feels weird waiting for Donald Fagen's distinctive voice to kick in . . . but it never does.

3. "A Spoonful Weighs A Ton" -- The Flaming Lips (The Soft Bulletin):

Neighborhood regular Applesaucer recently lent me a whole bunch of CDs that I loaded up into I-tunes. A rather eclectic mix, and this 'Lips album was among them. This is a pretty odd song (not surprising), but it's also strangely slow, with piano and what sounds like strings. Eh.

4. "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" -- Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin III):

I love this album. In fact, I think III is my favorite Zep effort. I love its eclecticism, its unpredictable sounds. And this song one of the elements of that quality. Other than Plant's voice, there's nothing in this one that sounds like anything they did on their first two albums. In fact, not much that sounds like their subsequent releases either.

And it's not even one of the strongest cuts on III. Anyhow, we're picking up after that two song lull. Let's go, let's go . . .

5. "Shine A Light" -- Rolling Stones (Exile On Main Street):

Welcome to classic rock hour at Mike's Neighborhood! And speaking of "eclectic" efforts from otherwise hard-rockin' Brit groups of the late 60s-early 70s. What can I say? Just another of the 19 great songs on an album that needs little commentary. There are probably 10 songs off this album I'd rather hear (and from Exile's "slow song" category, what beats "Sweet Virginia"?), but this leaves little to be desired.

6. "Turd On The Run" -- Rolling Stones (Exile On Main Street):

Welcome to weekly I-pod weirdness! Ugh.

Not an "ugh" to the song. See "another of the 19 great songs," above. But when I want random, I want random. And with over 400 albums in the mix, this shouldn't happen. Ugh. This Thursday Mix is crashing in flames.

7. "Memories Of You" -- Ethel Waters (An Introduction To Ethel Waters):

Well, at least we changed up a bit. Ethel Waters was pretty amazing. A wide range of stuff, from early "pop" music, to a sort of proto-jazz vocal style, with a healthy divergence into some very bawdy stuff that would make Big Mama Thornton blush (when Ethel sings about "My Handy Man," let me assure you, he ain't fixing the pipes under the house. He prefers to use a location inside the house).

This song, unfortunately, is a tad less inspiring. Meanwhile, we've got four chances to salvage this growing disaster. C'mon 'Pod, gimme some lovin . . .

8. "Summertime" -- The Sundays (Static & Silence):

Pretty cool. I'll never complain about Harriet Wheeler's sweet voice piping into my ears in the morning. And this is a pretty little ditty from one of The Sunday's late-90's albums. I thought this song'd be a bigger hit than it was, but it never really caught on. After hearing it on some local radio station outside Seattle in the Summer of '97, I ran out to buy the album hoping I'd get something resembling their late-80s gem, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.

I didn't. "Summertime" was about as good as it got on this one. But at least that's what we got today, so I can't complain. But I can wish for something grander, something more sublime, something special . . .

9. "Cruising In The Atl (Interlude") -- Outkast (Stankonia):

Hmm, this "song" ended before I finished typing in the name. As I mentioned a few times back, I'm not as big a fan of this album as I'm supposed to be. Whatever. Meanwhile, depression is kicking in . . .

10. "The First Taste" -- Fiona Apple (Tidal):

And what better cure for depression than a cut off Fiona's first album. Jeez. It's a beautiful song, with her sweet, smoky voice. But its pseudo-funky, slowed-down equatorial sound always reminded me of Sade. Of whom I'm not a fan. Oh boy, here we are, one chance to so much as arrive in the zone of salvation. I'm not hopeful, but here goes . . .

11. "Jesus (Closet Mix)" -- Velvet Underground (Peel Slowly And See):

Interesting -- a song I've never heard. Among Applesaucer's bestowal last week was this 5-disc set by VU, on which each "album" is supplemented by alternate takes, demos, songs that didn't make the cut, etc. And, while this one is "interesting," I can see why I didn't make the cut: "I'll Be Your Mirror" or "I'm Waitin' For My Man" it ain't. Nothing wrong with it, but we're talking a different league here, no?

And there you have it. After a long sabbatical, I return with the first full-fledged clunker of the Thursday Random Era. I'm ashamed, I feel chastened, I should probably have my I-pod taken away from me. Let at me.

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Monday, July 23, 2007


Steve. A Zoo. Two plus two.

"0702_3588.JPG," uploaded by "jeffdphoto" on July 23, 2006:

No silly caption, no heavy thoughts, not even anything to say about the picture.

Just wanted to note that this street is about 10 minutes from my place, in lovely Astoria, NY.

Oh . . . and neither of the two fellas in the picture are me.


Thursday, July 19, 2007


You know, just cause I haven't posted in a while, and I figured this was overdue.

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It wasn't exactly what I hoped for, but it was pretty damn close. We went to a cafeteria-style joint and loaded up. They ran out of whatever beef and/or pork was available earlier, but they had some fried veal thing (which I refuse to call "veal cutlet," cause that ain't sufficiently Southern sounding). Excellent. Smothered in brown gravy too. Mmmmm.

That was the "meat," and for my "three" I chose fried okra (wow), turnip greens (delish; I think there may have been a 400 pound pig swimming in the grease at the bottom of the little dish), and fried green tomatoes. Ohhhh, yeah.

I'd never had fried green tomatoes before and they were damn good. The food was all rib-stickingly fine, and I'm proud to report I stuffed my face, but good.

I also had corn muffins and some pecan pie for dessert. The Coors Light served in the can really finished things off. Much as I hate that watery swill, I really wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

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"What's this?" ask the three remaining readers of the most infrequently updated formally formerly (thanks Edgar) daily Blog in the whole 'sphere. Well, here's where it stands:

Some of you may have heard that an 83 year-old steam pipe burst yesterday, blowing a 30-foot wide hole in the middle of Lexington Avenue, causing a stampede of commuters from Grand Central Station, spewing asbestos-laden gunk hundreds of feet into the air, and reminding everyone in Manhattan of that dark morning of nearly six years ago.

My office is but one block from the site of the mishap. But I didn't hear, see, smell or feel a thing. I didn't.

(No taste either. Let's be serious, shall we? This is not a joking matter.)

Why was I gloriously oblivious to the whole shebang? Because I was on a plane from Birmingham to New York as the shit went down. Anyhoo, my office is in the "frozen zone," and even if it weren't, I'd be something less than likely today to take the city government's/ConEd's word that the air is totally safe. Uh-uh.

Math was never my favorite subject, but in my calculus, Absestos Shooting 700 Feet Up Through A Gaping Hole In The Street = Mike Stays Home.

(I'm funny that way.)

But the good news is, I can blog during the day! I can post! I can visit other blogs and comment! I can use exclamation points at the end of every sentence and not worry about how stupid it makes me look! Yeah, technically I'm working today, but you know how it is, being summertime and all.

The big question though: Tomorrow?

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Back to Birmingham . . . Chapter III. So you know what that means.

My quest for Southern vittles continues. This time I did my own research, conducted my own due diligence. Dropped hints, asked questions. And hopefully I've found what I'm looking for. If all goes as planned, tonight's dinner will be in this 50 year-old truck-stop/family joint that serves its food mostly cafeteria style. I have no idea what this is, but Southerners among us should know: Meat & Three on the menu. Ten types of "meat" to choose from; lots of "vegetables" as sides.

And apparently mac & cheese qualifies as a veggie, so I think I'm in good hands. I can all but taste that country-fried steak with cream gravy in my belly as we speak. Good health and low cholesterol probably ain't up on the chalkboard for tonight's dinner.

(Oh yeah . . . as you'd expect, there is some work to do as well. Some. But who wants to hear about that, right? That's what the plane ride's for.)

Report forthcoming when I return.

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Monday, July 16, 2007


Steve running the Zoo.

"IMG 2991," uploaded by "dneighbo" on June 17, 2006:

No matter what his friends said, Colin was convinced that one day Riverball, a combination of soccer and Irish step dancing, would take the world by storm.

The fact that he also believed "the ladies love me ponytail" never helped his credibility.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Wow. Just when you think things can't get more out-of-hand, they get more out-of-hand. Bush is such a dick it defies belief.

I don't personally care that a man goes into stir or not. That's not the point. But the justice system determined that this man was guilty and needed to serve his time. And the President who never met a law he didn't want to piss on simply decided that he didn't agree. No jail time needed because he thought it was excessive.

The same President who mocked a woman he refused to save from execution.

What more can I possibly say?


Monday, July 02, 2007


I got a little closer to the authenticity I sought, but not close enough. Some of the folks we work with down in Birmingham took us to Dreamlands for barbeque. The sauce was very tasty, but overall I've had better ribs. These were a bit too fatty, not fall-off-the-bone-tender, and just a bit too chewy.

Very good potato salad though.

I managed to ask some of the local gang for their personal recommendations for local grub, and I hope to find the gustatory satisfaction I need on the next journey. I think I need to skip the ribs and go further still into the heart of Southern cooking. Perhaps after the third request they'll understand me when I say I don't want fancy, and I don't want funky. I want greasy and unhealthy and very possibly unsanitary. I need the real deal.

I think I'm back in less than three weeks. To be continued . . .

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