Thursday, June 29, 2006

The worst field trip ever.

Somethings are so bad that they are actually funny.
Today was like that. I should point out that no children were injured and they actually seemed to enjoy it (in a completely bizarre fashion).

We took a bus to the location in the picture below, The little Red Lighthouse under The George Washington Bridge. I can tell you this, the photographer certainly managed to make the scene look a damn sight more attractive than the reality.
It's frickin miles away and the bus driver HAD NO CLUE ABOUT DIRECTION, ABOUT HOW TO DRIVE, ABOUT STREETS IN MANHATTAN BEING NUMBERED!!!!! I'm not sure but at one point I think I saw him crying.
We get to the place where we get off the bus. Fine. We have to walk through mugger's paradise (shady, leafy paths with a multitude of escape routes and places where your body could lie for weeks before being disturbed by a fevered crack head) and across a highway to get to the LRL.
When we get there our guide is nowhere to be seen, the LRL is locked and I notice the signs on the fence of the construction site warning us about POISON. Great.
The trip leader makes a bunch of calls, we eat our lunch on benches on the swampy, mosquito infested lawn. One of our group, an Albanian said that the place reminds her of Kosovo during the war "but without all the bullets and killing".
The kids were great, eating their lunch and geting muddy. I think most of them just figured that it was a trip to 'see' the LRL rather than go in it.
Then we decide to leave. We call our bus driver to meet us. He is completely fucking clueless! He has absolutely no idea about where we are, where he is and how to connect the two. The man has zero initiative, and if there's one thing Mondale cannot stand it's lack of initiative!
Plus, I hate yellow buses, ask anyone who knows me.

We had to cross three very dangerous roads (and I'm talking exit ramps from the West Side Highway, yeah!) in order to get to the bus because the driver was an utter fuckwit who wouldnt, couldnt, shouldnt come to us!
Thank you for listening.

Drunk Blogging

Did I write that?
OK, I stand by every word of it but it's just funny when you wake up after a night of Becks (the beer, not the God) and you see that you have made a brilliantly coherent point.

I dont want to say "I told you so"

But I've always liked Al Gore.
I liked him when he was Vice President ( I felt that he was unlucky to be the #2 to a political genius like William Jefferson Clinton and thus be deprived a decent run at the White House).
I liked him when he ran against GWBush in 2000. I really. genuinely felt that after 8 years of Vice Presidential constraints he was actually campaigning in a way that suited him and I saw a man who was enjoying himself.
I also told friends in December 2000 that he was going to be the 'Nixon' of the 21st Century.
I Just hope I'm right.
Gore 2008!!!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

some musings....

Do you remember when I said that I would educate poor Americans with a quick history of Britain? Never really got around to it did I?
Ah well, welcome to my world.

Hungover breakfast of three doughnuts and a coffee this morning.

The Mondale CD IS on it's way, MacTechwitch has been jibing me about it. It's in place, set to roll off the presses. I just need to write some thoughtful liner notes. Should all be done by the start of August.

Teaching four year olds how to dance with a hangover is a very strange thing. This year I have changed the music (last year it was all 'Yellow Submarine' and 'Hello Goodbye'-I haven't willingly listened to the Beatles since) and am hitting the wee beggars with a mix of indie pop and left field country. I feel desperately sorry for my teenage sidekick who has to listen to Belle and Sebastian and Steve Earle. Actually I don't. It's my class, I'm the boss and I'm the one dancing with a toy turtle on my head. My tunes.

The older kid who groaned about playing 'bombardment' will soon learn. It's going to be a very long, hot summer in these parts if you don't like bombardment. You will be playing lots of bombardment. 'Coach' Mondale loves playing bombardment.

We are playing Portugal in the World Cup quarter final on Saturday! How excited am I?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Italy v Australia.

I was getting nosebleeds from having to support Australia. Nosebleeds and headaches, sleepless nights and strange sweats. Whilst I can't stand the Italian team (Just ask my Dad) I'm pleased that now I can concentrate all my energies on the Ecuador-busters.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Holland v Portugal

Did you see that? Did you f*cking well see that game?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Mondale's mix CD.

It's coming!
I just need to buy the CDs, write the cover notes and produce the damn thing. Should be ready by the end of the week!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Book learning #13 and a half.

I saw the Da Vinci Code yesterday. It beat the crap out of reading it.
It was great, The movie theater was cool and dark and the seats were comfy. Just the place to nap on a humid New York afternoon.
I ate a hot dog and a gallon of Soda. Frau Random Doubt ate nachos and Sprite. Are we off diet or what? We'll go to hell for that!
Except we wont, you see the movie told us that everything we've ever believed was wrong and that God was in fact French.
French indeed?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Australia v Brazil.

It's half time.
I have never, ever supported Australia in any kind of sporting competition ever (OK, except the 1983 America's Cup).
Until now.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

What's not to love?

Friends, I will now quote the author Nick Hornby from his book 'Fever Pitch'.

"Seven Goals and a punch up"

"For a match to be really, truly memorable, the kind of game that sends you home buzzing inside with the fulfilment of it all, you require as many of the following as possible: 1, Goals. 2,Outrageously bad refereeing decisions. 3, A noisy crowd. 4,Rain, a greasy surface, etc. 5, Opposition misses a penalty. 6, Member of opposition receives a red card. 7,Some kind of disgraceful incident (aka silliness, aka nonsense, aka unpleasantness)".

The USA Italy game met most of these criteria. Best of all the USA got a great result thus depriving Italy of the result they wanted. Yeah! Italy got the shaft!
I'm that close to buying a USA jersey.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Book learning #13.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

One wouldn't nessecarily put the following into the same space as entertainment.

Closetted gay dad who picks up teens.
Emerging Lesbian.
Funeral home.
Rural Pennsylvania.
Empty marriage.
Fatal road accident.

But entertaining it was, amusing yet thoughtful. This graphic novel has what you want, if what you want is other people's sexual complexities and death.
The storyline is a bio of the author's father. It's intertwined with her own childhood (he died when she was in college) and sexuality. The interesting bit is the generational thing, her father could have come out in the 50's but didn't. He remained closetted, married, had a family etc. He admits that his actions have, well, had repercussions. His admission (but not his outing, he never actually comes out, it's fascinating) runs parallel with his daughter's coming out twenty five years later.

It's a great read.

Soca Warriors

First, let's get the emotions out of the way. A 2-0 scoreline does little to impress the outrageous nervousness of the situation. When the first of those goals is scored in the 83rd minute and, if it were not for Mr Terry of Chelsea, would have drawn the game.
Holy mother of God.
Shitting crikey.
Crazy Heck.

Now for the good bit. I watched the game in Sugarcane, a Trinidadian restaurant on Flatbush Avenue. Being 6'5 and coming straight from school's closing ceremonies I was the English guy in the jacket and tie. Nice.
Luckily a few of Listmaker's friends had grabbed a table near the big TV at the back. Drinks and the best damn chicken ever.
200 Trinidadians and their friends singing and banging every kind of drum and whistling whistles, a dance party at half time (nice touch) and me.
Me, occaisonally shouting out "COME ON ENGLAND!" We really need some funkier songs.
I managed to succeed on several fronts.
I managed to come away with a victory.
The old lady whispering friendly death threats turned out to be an empty vessel.
Best of all, I managed to do 'The Crouch'.
I did 'The Crouch' in front of 200 Trinidadians and some of their friends.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Do I look nervous?

We should beat them, The are a tiny island in the sun drenched Carribean. We should beat them, right?

If it's going to be so easy why am I so nervous?

Must stick to normal routine. I'll swim in the morning, I did that on Saturday, we won on Saturday.

I really tried to shake it off but the old World Cup nerves are back. I'll need friends and beer to help me through tomorrow.

The next phase has already begun.

Tomorrow we play Trinidad and Tobago. I've forgone the England HQ (I've not actually watched a game there yet, preferring to watch at home or at friend's homes). I'll be visiting a local Trindadian restaurant with the ever loyal Mr Glen. Assorted co-workers hope to join me at half time.
I can't stress enough, this is an absolute must win.

"Now it's a World Cup"

That bloke on ESPN2, what's his name? Eric Wynalda? He just dropped a classic. He was describing the spawny bastard Germans and their spawny, spawny win over the Poles. I quote "YadaYadaYada, Alot of passion, a lot of color, and a lot of history as well". When he said the last bit about history there was a definite sinister glint in his eye, he wasn't talking about Beckenbauer against Boniek, He was talking about Stukas against cavalry, about panzer divisions rumbling through the early September dawn.

Which leads me nicely into why I hate the Germans, why I always want them to lose and why they just spoilt my night.
Fuckin Germans.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Book Learning #12

'Sir Alf' A major reappraisal of England's greatest football manager. Leo McKinistry.

Sir Alf Ramsey won the World Cup with England in 1966.
He was clearly a bit of a genius but also a rather odd fellow. He hated the media and his employers and they, in turn disliked him.

If I learned anything from this it will probably be this.
People who are gregarious, a little bit outgoing and able to deal with people are much more likely to succeed than those intense genius types who keep close counsel and/or are terribly shy and introverted.
If you can make people smile with a witty remark they are likely to let you get away with things, even if your actual track record is sub par. Inspire confidence beyond your ability and people will give you some grace.

Having said all that this bio is full of amusing anecdotes from a time before my own. Sir Alf was essentially a modest and highly reserved conservative Englishman, the book reads like that, it's no page turner but if you are willing to put in the effort you will reap the rewards. That's Sir Alf's philosophy in a nutshell.

A nice little pre World Cup bit of nostalgia

Friday, June 09, 2006

Lovely World Cup Moments #1

The girl in the grocery store, turns out that she is from Ecuador. She was so happy and was telling anyone who would listen about the 2-0 victory over Poland. I did more than listen, I told her it was a great result and that the Polish team must be fuming for all the missed chances late in the second half (I caught the second half after work) but I congratulated her anyway (never having really liked Poland ever).

Hooray! World Cup brings people together on Day one!

Frau Random Doubt is enjoying watching me watch footy. It should be noted that she has found a number of amusing household chores for me to do when I'm not watching the games.

Ummmm. World Cup forces me to make my top secret delicious Brownies from scratch.

Another sad yet inevitable aspect of the World Cup is the nightly 'Town Square Cam'.
This is a staple feature of any British news team, especially when England play in a European based tournament.
The reporters sit with their camera crews watching English fans getting drunker and drunker and waiting for something to happen. Something generally does and it gets blown all over the news, between an Iraqi car bomb and Baby Pittgolina.
It's sad.

Why England matters.

For the vast majority of the world tomorrow brings the beginning of the 2006 World Cup. From this point on I really couldn't care if you are a Democrat, Republican, straight, gay, black or white or from Delaware. From this point on all I really care about are the chances of 22 young Englishmen and their slightly dotty Swedish coach. Of course I'll be nice to Frau Random Doubt and I will feed the cat but beyond that it's all about events in Germany.

Why does England matter? I don't live there anymore; it's a long way away and it tends to rain. So why is it so important to me, achingly, heartstoppingly important that the England win the World Cup in 2006?

Its a little bit history, a little bit culture and a ridiculous bit pride. I've tried to follow that line from 'Pulp Fiction' "That's pride fucking with you" and walk away, except I haven’t and I never could, even if I wanted to.

Let’s look at the history of all this, albeit briefly.
Football began in England and very quickly spread across the globe. The arrogance of my imperialist forefathers prevented the England team from entering the first three world cup tournaments, in the 1930s as it was obvious to anyone listening that England would wipe the floor with the unwashed, uncivilized foreign opposition. They went instead to play a constant round of friendlies including one where the team had to give the Nazi salute before playing Germany, wouldn’t want to upset that nice Herr Hitler now, would we?
It wasn’t until after WW2 that we actually entered a world cup. It was in Brazil and we were beaten 0-1 by the USA. Arguably one of the greatest sporting upsets of all time. Right, yeah, thanks.

In 1966 we won the bloody thing.
There have been acres of books written about each and every single aspect of that undoubted triumph, I’m even reading one of them right now. On a warm July afternoon we beat the Germans 4-2 and Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet trophy to proclaim England’s glory to the world. I could go on; I could go on and on and on. Most English people do. That’s always been the trouble with being one of the post 1966 generation. We have had to hear so much about this from the generations that witnessed it (although fortunately my own father tends to go on about Norwich City’s 1959 cup run considerably more than he does the winning of the World Cup, for those interested he watched the final in a German bar whilst serving in the RAF).

The 70’s were bleak. In Mexico in 1970 we went out in heartbreaking style to the Germans 3-2 after being 0-2 ahead. We failed to qualify for 1974 and 1978. Truly a dour decade for our World Cup dreams.

I was really too young to appreciate the 1982 tournament except for Bryan Robson’s goal against France and reports of England fans causing trouble and getting stabbed., that scared me, I was 9.

1986 was the year that Maradona cheated by hand balling the ball past Peter Shilton’s head into the England goal. We were starting to see a pattern with our rivalries, Germany, Argentina; if shots had been fired between our two nations then the likelihood was that we would meet (and lose) upon the football pitch.1986 was also the year that many of the games were played at odd hours of the day, the tournament being in Mexico. I remember my father leaving notes beside my bedside as I was too young to be staying up every night for a month just to watch Canada play Hungary.

I remember the Italian tournament of 1990 very fondly indeed. I remember it for a number of fantastic reasons.
It was my first grown up World Cup. I was 17 and was allowed to have a beer or two whilst watching the games. The games were in the same time zone as we were, we had a large TV in the conservatory and our friends would all pile over and watch as David Platt and Paul Gascoigne became our new World Cup heroes. It was also a beautiful summer, hot and dry (uncommon for England) and we reached the semi finals playing fantastic football.
Ah yes, we reached the semi finals, the semi finals.
And who did we meet in the semi finals?
Germany. The new Germany, the oh so cool now the wall has come down Germany.
And yes, we lost on penalties and ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne cried and became an icon and lived off that moment for the rest of his drunken, confused life, and fuck! We lost to Germany. It seemed that one afternoon 7 years before I was born was destined to milk all the World Cup karma for ever and ever. I was 17 and I hated my father’s generation for what they had done 24 years earlier. I hated the fact that I would never ever get to live through what they had lived through. I hated the Germans too.
That year we were good enough. Plenty good enough. The final should have been Italy and England and it would have been a thing of beauty. We had emerged from the dark ages of aggro and being crap but it was not to be. Instead they ended up with Argentina and Germany and the Germans won by a miserable penalty in one of the most boring games ever seen.

We failed to qualify in 1994, something to do with a turnip. The tournament was hosted by the USA so we were better off at home anyway. Al Gore presented the trophy to the winning Brazilians in LA.

But we were back in 1998, two years after reaching the European championship semi finals in England and losing to Germany on penalties (I kid you not, In 1996 Football 'came home' to England. It came home but as Frank Skinner pointed out, "Found that it had forgotten it's doorkey"). We had fantastic players like some of the ones you may have heard of like David Beckham and Michael Owen and we met Argentina in the quarter finals and lost. Sometimes you can only hurt so much. Sometimes you just have to wonder what might have been if Beckham hadn’t been sent off for a pointless yet understandable retaliation.
The thing is this; I doubt we would have beaten France that year. We would have given them a good game and we were certainly good enough but sometimes the stars don’t shine for you. Sometimes you leave your umbrella at home and it rains. The French had home advantage and were good enough-even though Brazil should have won.
It was shortly after this that a friend at the time, Vinny, a French dude who worried about how much we English all drank came up with one of the best and most disconcerting lines I’ve ever heard. “ I have seen something that only your father has seen”. I was about the punch the frog, assuming he’d been peering into my mother’s bedroom window when he explained. “I have seen my country lift the World Cup* in triumph”. Bastard.

*Technically no, Vinny, technically you are wrong. Wrong and French. Ouch!
The trophy Bobby Moore lifted in 1966 was the Jules Rimet Trophy which was used until 1970 when Brazil won the tournament for the third time thus earning the right to keep the trophy forever. The trophy Didier Deschamps lifted in Paris in 1998 was the much less glamorous sounding FIFA World Cup Trophy which was introduced for the 1974 tournament held, and won by West Germany. So there is a difference. Vinny, you will read this and thank me.

And onto 2002 Japan and Korea. We beat Argentina which was quite simply divine old boy. Then we messed it up against Brazil. Fair enough, they were worthy winners but dammit!

That’s sort of why I think this has to be our year. We have rebuilt ourselves as a footballing nation. When I was a kid going to football was often pretty scary. There were hooligans (they haven’t quite gone away but they used to be everywhere) there were deathtrap stadiums that either burned you to death or crushed the life out of you and following the England team was best done at home under a blanket. Neo fascists corrupted the support with their racist chants and paramilitary banners.
We have taken all that back. England’s support is blacker and more Asian, there are actually women involved these days and we have reclaimed the cross of St George as our rightful national symbol. I hope to God that we are not blighted by hooligans in this tournament although I am sure there will be some violence, although not on any kind of scale as we saw in the past and hopefully not involving English supporters.
Of course we mock the Germans, its impossible not to, ask Red Sox fans to be nice to Yankees? See what I mean?
None of this happened with government initiative (although plenty of politicians have tried to cash in) it happened because the fans made it happen, because when we lose we hurt and winning is at best a distant memory and for most of us a dream unfulfilled.
I know it’s been a ramble but please, if you have a choice, why not tune in Saturday morning at 9am, ESPN and give the boys with three lions your support.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I'm ready.

I've spent the last few months in training.
I've been watching my diet, running and swimming.
I've lost some weight and am now in a better physical and mental shape than I've been in years.
All I have to do now is grab the remote and sit back.
I am ready to win the World Cup!

It's a broad church.

Is this blogging thing.
I have to admit that when it comes to music I haven't got the faintest idea what he's taking about almost all of the time.
But he's Cumpstey, Rev Milo, The dude who once wore a snood, one of the originals.

He's got a blog.

You can read it (Radio Speedwagon) and see if it makes any sense.
Even so it's a thing of beauty just like the man himself.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

And then there was lobstah!

As the party wound down the four happy wanderers from the emerald City of the Empire State found the nearest mountain and drove up it.

Cadillac Mountain, a wonderful spot to end an afternoon of wedding style partying.

Youthlarge and Listmaker hold onto each other in the face of a summit breeze.

Frau Random Doubt and myself take in the fresh air (They have a gift shop and bathrooms at the summit, very user friendly).

After driving back down the mountain discussing all of our family's idiosyncracies we had time to do the one thing remaining on our three day Maine tourist checklist... LOBSTER!!!

Frau Random Doubt about to make short work of this one.

Jeepers Creepers! yet more action from the State of Maine!!

After the ceremonies the festivities kicked in!

Mr and Mrs Weasel with Weasel's mum and Mark. Under a whicker arch! Yeah!

We told Listmaker that this was traditional Maine headgear.

Salty Pete, Weasel and Mondale.

Let the good times roll!!

Like, I was pretty wasted by this point and I started to take like, cosmic pictures of groovy garden ornaments.

Mazeltof! Some actual pictures of the actual wedding!

And now, some real wedding pics....

The path to married bliss is lined by family, friends and New Yorkers discussing real estate.

Weasel is wearing a kilt. That's right. Hoots! He's wearing a kilt!

"Stop pacing, you'll sink this thing".

"She'll be here, it'll be fine".

The happy couple!! (that's the top of Country Mouse's mom in the foreground.

Oi Vey! Some pictures from Maine.

At last! After a week of not even bothering and then a few days of technical issues I present to you some pictures of our fantastic weekend in Bar Harbor. We were there to celebrate the Weasel/Country Mouse union, wedding photos to follow.

Three New Yorkers wander the country lanes of Maine gently discussing real estate prices.

It's all so beautiful, so fresh, so fragrant. We also keep reminding ourselves that it's all so completely frozen for 6 months of the year.

Weasel and General Weasel with an assortment of mini Weaselettes

Frau Random Doubt, Listmaker and Youthlarge wander the gorgeous coastal paths of Bar Harbor discussing real estate prices.

Weasel's cuzzen Jim and bruvver Baz discuss breakfast products, Jim the veggie vs Baz the pork afficianado.