We watched the show last night. Austin and I made a game of rating each tribute performance, and it was interesting to see that we both had roughly the same feelings about each performance.
Our system was to start everyone with an 8. If the performance was close to the original Beatles version, the score went up. If the performer did a good job making the song their own, the score remained the same. Various elements resulted in points off. Here are our scores:
MAROON 5 - All My Loving & Ticket to Ride = 10 (very authentic take on the songs by a band I generally only like about 50% of the time)
STEVIE WONDER - We Can Work It Out = 8 (perfect Stevie-funk version of the song)
JEFF LYNNE, JOE WALSH & DHANI HARRISON - Something = 10 (nailed the song)
ED SHEERAN - In My Life = 8 (it felt very much like an Ed Sheeran song, which is actually faint praise in my book, but it was a creditable cover)
KEITH URBAN & JOHN MAYER - Don't Let Me Down = 6 (Mayer pulled this down with his vocals, and both ruined the guitar solo, only Urban's vocals saved it)
KATY PERRY - Yesterday = 4 (Katy Perry shouldn't be allowed to even listen to Beatles music any more. She has a lovely voice, but I don't know where it was last night. Just warbled one of the most iconic songs in the English language. Even my teen daughter couldn't wait for her to get off stage.)
IMAGINE DRAGONS - Revolution = 9 (except for the intro, they nailed the song, but made it their own. Neither of my kids like this band, but both were rocking to this cover.)
DAVE GROHL & JEFF LYNNE - Hey, Bulldog = 10 (the track could have come right off the Yellow Sub album.)
EURYTHMICS - The Fool On The Hill = 2 (I'm being generous. Annie Lennox murdered the song with her croaking. They should have stayed in retirement.)
ALICIA KEYS & JOHN LEGEND - Let It Be = 9 (Legend was awesome on his vocals, and I'll be looking for some of his original music now. Could have been a 10 if Keys wasn't singing. She's a warbler, and took all the heart out of her verses.)
PHARRELL WILLIAMS & BRAD PAISLEY - Here Comes The Sun = 10 (I didn't know much about Williams before the Grammy's, but that kid has talent. Just a spot-on duet.)
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL - Here Comes The Sun = 0 (This may have been the camera shots, but they did nothing but hang there. No action. No thrills. However, I have to be honest in that I hate Cirque du Soleil, and don't care for their performance styles at all, so hanging motionless probably was the best thing they could do IMO.)
GARY CLARK, JR., JOE WALSH & DAVE GROHL - While My Guitar Gently Weeps = 10 (I have no idea who Clark is, but these guys smoked the song in a way I thought only Harrison and Clapton could.)
PAUL MCCARTNEY & RINGO STARR - all songs = need I bother saying it... 10. (I was particularly pleased with the Sgt. Pepper/With A Little Help because I'm compiling a playlist of as many live recordings as possible of the Beatles (together and solo) doing the songs from the Beatles' studio albums. I have McCartney doing the first part, trailing into another song after "Billy Sheers", and Starr doing the second, starting at "Billy Sheers". Now I can have them both doing the whole thing live.)
My wife thought I was being biased in my rankings, since she knows I'm a Beatles purest at heart. However, I have to point out that in general, I only sometimes like Maroon 5, I nearly always like Katy Perry's voice (even if I don't always care for her lyrics), I've never liked Dave Grohl or Eurythmics, and I'm not overly fond of Imagine Dragons or Ed Sheeran. The only ones who actually achieved about what I expected were Eurythmics. So, I'd say I came to this program with a pretty open mind, and came away very, very happy with the results.
On a personal, fan note: I'm sorry to have seen that, while Sean Lennon and Dhani Harrison were there, Julian Lennon wasn't. Dhani did a lovely job paying tribute to his father, and I would have liked to see Lennon's sons get to perform in his honor, too. Mind you, it was very sad that both Sean and Yoko were singing along to Hey, Jude (though Sean actually did not seem to know the words), when the song's namesake was nowhere to be found.
Publishing professor Leigh Grossman (well-known to Lunacon attendees) is offering a series of workshops on various aspects of publishing and writing in the next few months. The complete list, schedule, rates (some are free) and contact information are at the following link.http://www.swordsmith.com/wp/workshops
I've been a guest lecturer in Leigh's publishing classes at University of Connecticut, and find that his students learn a lot about the business. He is clearly a very knowledgeable and effective teacher. Seek him out if you are in the area. The workshops will be worth your time and money.
I'm off to our family celebrations for the Chinese New Year. Wishing all my friends much joy, good health and prosperity in the Year of the Horse, 4712!
Update from NYC. On Friday, I put a can of ginger ale in the drawer of my office
desk. Today, I took it out, and it was as cold as if I had put in the fridge.
Understand, please, that the desk drawer is right next to the radiator and
my space heater. I mean within inches of both heat sources. Insane.
I have little to say of import or note on this grim anniversary. (Original Sandy post here
) Our house lost a good part of the shingles from our roof, which caused flooding in the coat closet in our entry hall. We didn't lose power, though my parents did for a short period. Our basement did not flood, though it had been prone to flooding in the slightest rain during the previous 16 years (we'd just had our main sewer line replaced the day before Sandy).
We had a great insurance expediter (I'm very happy with the way Allstate handled our claims). Though there was some old damage to the roof (long story) that they wouldn't cover, they did cover a good part of the entire repair, which was made by a contractor whom my aunt recommended. If only we'd found him when we had the entire roof redone about 12 years ago, we might not have lost a single shingle; his workmanship was *that* good.
We left the hole in the ceiling of the coat closet until this past Saturday. After 362 days without a drip of leak, we have now deemed the repair satisfactory, and I've insulated and sheetrocked the closet ceiling. A little more joint compound, primer and paint, and we'll have a place to hang our hats and coats again.
In short, yes, we had damage. Yes, it was troublesome. In the end, we came through Sandy in much better shape than so many people we know (I'm still learning of old friends who lost their houses to the Breezy Point fire), I count us blessed.
Wishing you all a complete recovery from the storm, and no more weather-related troubles going forward.
I haven't had the time this year to do a full update on my annual Halloween Music Playlist. If you are looking for some sounds for your Halloween celebrations, I hope my list from last year
proves helpful. If you have any suggestions to add, please feel free to add them in comments.
Have a safe and happy Halloween.
...that Amy and I stood in front of an altar in her mother's home, and were married in the Buddhist tradition of her family. Amy's father had passed away just 6 months prior (though he had given his blessing to us), and we had thought that her mom would want us to push back the wedding until the traditional one year mourning period had ended. However, her mom felt that her dad would have wanted us to go on with the wedding as scheduled.
It was a lovely ceremony, though very alien to my Irish-Italian Catholic family. I think my parents and brothers, and Amy's mom and family were equally nervous about the whole thing. My family processed in, carrying the traditional gifts and food items that Amy's mom had instructed us on (she apparently reduced the requirements out of respect for my parents and due to Amy's dad's passing). Amy and I paid our respects to her ancestors at the altar, lighting incense, praying quietly and bowing deeply three times.
We served tea to our elders and family. We received gifts and good wishes from them. Treats were served. When it was done, we were, in her family's and her god's eyes, man and wife.
That evening, we had the rehearsal for the Catholic ceremony that was to be held the next day, and a rehearsal dinner at my parents' house. Although Amy and I tend to view 10/30 as our official anniversary because that's the day the papers for the state were signed by the priest, my brother and her sister, I always think fondly to 10/29 as the day I got married. Amy's mom passed on a year later. I hope she and Amy's dad have been happy with the job I've done for their daughter.
Heard on a radio station promo:
The Devil challenged God to a baseball game.
God laughed. "I have all the greatest players in the game... Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Gehrig."
The Devil laughed. "I have all the umpires."
From now on, when I get emails where the sender is replying in all caps above 12 points in size, I'm going to assume they are trying to yell at me. In such case, I'm going to call it "Fontificating". I've seen this word used in other ways, but not this way. I used this today, and my boss and staff are all going to adopt this usage.
Mark it down and check the OED in a couple of years.
Today, Christina marched with her school in the New York City Columbus Day Parade, and managed to get herself some camera time on TV.
(She appears at about 21 seconds, and is then center screen waving at 28 seconds.)
Christina's high school made a video for Katy Perry's new song ROAR. It's appropriate, since their school mascot is a tiger. Christina appears in the video twice but very fleetingly. Still, I think it's a well-done production, considering it was done in a very short time.
A couple of weeks back, we loaded up the family, and headed for northern California for my cousin Mike's wedding. A brief synopsis of the trip and subsequent vacation in the San Francisco area follows for those who are interested.
Monday, June 17: I woke up to agonizing pain in my left leg (except for my heel, which was completely numb), unable to stand or walk to the bathroom. I'd been having pains in the leg before this, but it had been bearable. I called my doctor, and went to see him (my mother and father were able to drive me). He diagnosed a compressed disc in my back, and a pinched nerve. He gave me steroids, painkillers and something to prevent the other pills from upsetting my stomach. Then he told me I would have to spend a week on bedrest. I told him that I had to board a plane for California on Thursday. He said I probably wouldn't be getting on the plan. I told him that I was going to board the plane, one way or the other. I went home, took my pills, and settled on the couch with Christina's laptop, called my boss, and told her I would try to get my work done from home before I left. She told me not to worry about it, and rest. I didn't rest, but coordinated with my staff to reassign work, and prioritize.
Tuesday & Wednesday: I took my pills religiously, and stayed on my back in bed or on the couch. Christina and Austin took care of me, in between going to their final exams. By Tuesday, I had no more pain, but the numbness remained in my heel.
Thursday, June 20: We headed to the airport, courtesy of Amy's nephew's excellent chauffeuring. Austin did a bang-up job helping me with our bags, and we gave ourselves extra time for getting through security and for my limp. The numbness in my foot had expanded to the entire outside of my foot from heel to the two smallest toes. We flew United to Houston, and then just made our flight to San Francisco. The flights were without incident, and I was able to remain fairly comfortable with sufficient legroom on an aisle seat. We picked up our rental car; a very sweet 2013 Chevy Malibu, paid for with American Airline miles that American had not allowed me to spend on actual airline tickets. Then we had a 2.5 hour drive to Grass Valley, where we would be staying in a terrific little rental house with my parents, my three brothers, my aunt and my niece. We went over to the house where Mike, his parents (Uncle Jim and Aunt Sheila), brothers and sister were staying for a little BBQ and family time. Overall, it was a very long day, but a good start to the trip.
Friday, June 21: We spent much of the day around the rental house. There was a great family room with a pool table, foozball table, board games, videos and DVDs, and wifi for the kids. Through the day, new guests arrived, and we spent some time with my cousins Dan, Jeff and Ali(cia), as well as Dan's S.O. Vanessa, Ali's husband Curt and their kids Dylan and Ryan. Later in the day, Dylan came to our place, so my parents could babysit him while his family went to the rehearsal dinner. We all took turns with him, with Austin playing pool with him, Amy playing cars, and he and I playing Candyland (I'll note that it was just the two of us playing for two rounds, then he pulled out another playing piece, saying it was Mommy - Mommy who proceeded to cruise right through the entire board in one card flip, landing on the finish to the cry of "MOMMY WINS!" - You gotta love a kid who cheats but does so in a way that means his mother wins). Late in the evening, my brothers, aunt, niece and our family went out for dinner at a local restaurant, Five Mile House in Nevada City. We had a table on the lawn, where we were entertained by a terrific live blues group. When the hostess said she was seating us on the lawn, I joked, "I hope we don't get in the way of the bocce game." As we came outside, lo-and-behold, there actually was a bocce court. So, my brother Brian and I taught Christina, Austin and my niece (as well as some interested onlookers) how to play bocce. Lovely evening.
Saturday, June 22: Wedding day. We all dolled up in our best Brooklyn wedding duds - suits for the guys, dresses and heels for the ladies, except for Christina who decided to wear this particular cream-colored dress and cowgirl boots that she found in Kohl's the week before, marked down from $100 to $10, with an additional 30% off. It needs to be said here that my cousin Mike is a bona-fide cowboy. He's worked on ranches, cattle drives, etc. He currently lives in Austin, Texas doing construction, but he's a serious country boy, and his new wife, Sommer, is a country girl. The wedding was to be outdoors at a ranch. It was a lovely location, with the vows exchanged on a patio setting overlooking the trees and valleys. The guests were kept cool with iced tea and lemonade. The guests were each asked to inscribe a piece of advice for the couple on pieces of foot-long 2x4, which Mike plans to incorporate into the house they are building.
The groom and groomsmen were all dressing in identical green cowboy shirts, jeans and cowboy boots (yes, Austin, my brothers, father and I were "better" (if not more appropriately) dressed. The maid-of-honor and bridesmaids, however, were dressed identically with Christina. She was tickled to fit in so well. The officiant (I'm still not clear whether she was a minister or not) made really touching ceremony, and in short order, I had a new cousin-in-law. We retired to the "hall" (a re-purposed barn) for cocktail hour and dinner, which was served buffet style, and very hearty. Uncle Jim gave a very heartfelt toast to Mike and Sommer, as did the bestman, maid of honor and father of the bride.
Then we repaired to the other half of the hall, where the DJ got everyone dancing until near midnight. It was a great mix of country music, oldies and recent dance music. No line dancing, but you can't have everything. I couldn't dance other than a couple of slow songs with Christina and Amy, and to shuffle back and forth to some of the faster songs. Christina and my niece Alyssa danced all night with my brothers and cousins, and we just had a fine old time. It ended too soon, but we did gather the cousins for a once-per-decade group photo, as well as one with the bride and groom.
Sunday, June 23: We had to check out of the rental house. My parents were going to spend a day with Uncle Jim and Aunt Sheila. Brian was going back to L.A. to await my parents' arrival for a visit with him on Monday. My brothers Joe and Rob, my Aunt Bonnie and Alyssa went into San Francisco for some quick sightseeing. Our family headed down to the San Jose area, where we had a hotel booked for the rest of the week. We settled in for a relaxing evening. Amy and I enjoyed a quick cocktail and we had dinner, then lounged in the pool, after a short visit to the fitness center (where I managed 3 miles on the recumbent bike, despite still having a numb left foot).
Monday, June 24: We went into San Francisco for sightseeing. We parked near Fisherman's Wharf and took a Hop-On/Hop-Off tour bus. That let us see the sights without driving all over town. It was damp and chilly, and none of us were dressed appropriately - so, it was a perfect San Francisco visit. The kids enjoyed the sights, particularly the foggy Golden Gate and Lombard Street, which we drove down ourselves on the way back to the hotel. We had late lunch at Fisherman's Wharf, which we worked off in the fitness center and pool that evening. And yes, my foot remained numb.
Tuesday, June 25: The weather was absolutely miserable - rainy with very low visibility. Still, we headed for our last scheduled sightseeing spot - The Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. It was a long ride, but we are all big Charles Schulz fans, so we were looking forward to it. As luck would have it, the bad weather meant that the place wasn't very crowded. We got to meet Mrs. Schulz, who was visiting with family, and were given a docent tour by Mr. Schulz's good friend and former next-door neighbor. It was really something special. Then it was back in the car, through the rain back to San Jose to relax before our flight home.
Wednesday, June 26: We dropped off the wonderful rental car, and found our gate. The bad weather delayed our flight, but it was a direct flight, so we were back home around midnight New York time. Amy's nephews picked us up, and we arrived home safe.
All-in-all, we had a great time, weather not withstanding. It was good to spend time with my brothers and my cousins, and to see Mike & Sommer off to a good start on their married life.
(P.S. the numbness in my foot is only now fading. It's still in my heel a little, and I still limp, but the rest is coming back.)
This year, Austin was, once again, the last man cut from the high school team. The coach told him that he needed to (a) work on his physical fitness, which he has done admirably by slimming down and toning up his muscles, and (b) play in a more competitive league than we did before. The latter took some doing, as it is difficult to find a competitive league for 15-year-olds. Most kids who don't make the high school team seem to stop playing at this age.
We found him a team at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish. I was asked to be an assistant coach, which I gladly accepted since I love coaching. Our team, the Wolverines, ended up being the most amazing team we've ever worked with, but not in the way you might think. We weren't a powerhouse team. We didn't go undefeated, and none of the boys were breakout all-stars. What made the experience was two-fold.
First, the head coach, Joe, and the two other assistants, John K. and John Y., had the best attitude about the team. They were in it to have fun with their sons, improve the boys' skills, and maybe win some games. Winning was never the goal, and it had the effect of making the season fun for everyone.
Second, the boys themselves were incredible. They welcomed Austin to the team immediately and fully at the first practice. He didn't get left out of anything; there was no hazing - he simply was part of the team. And the boys treated me the same way - no testing of the new coach; referring to me as "Coach Sean" or "Coach" from the start (a respect I've rarely gotten on other teams I've coached), and even asking Austin if I was OK when I couldn't make a game. These were not Stepford Kids - they still goofed off from time to time, but they just had the most positive attitude I've ever encountered in a group of teen boys. Even when games went against us, I never saw them get down in the dugout. They were upbeat and giving it all they had. I loved working with them, and was honestly honored to have been able to do so.
Austin established himself quickly as our shortstop and starting pitcher. He had his ups-and-downs through the season, but came through with an approximately .435 batting average. He positioned himself as a leader on the field and in the dugout. He made me very proud.
The playoffs began the Thursday we left for a week vacation in California, and the updates from the team weren't encouraging. The tournament is double-elimination, so each team continues to play until they lose two games. Our team lost the first game in the final inning, 6-5, so we moved into the "B" bracket. We lost the next game on Saturday... BUT, the team we played had brought along overaged, ineligible players, so we were awarded a forfeit win after the game. This advanced us back into the "A" bracket, and we won the next game on Sunday.
The next round began on the Thursday we came back from California, and Austin was fired up. This was going to be a tough game. We were playing against St. Columba, a team we had tied three times in the regular season (including once on Father's Day, prompting me to point out to both teams' coaches that our sons had given us each a tie for Father's Day). If St. Columba were to win, they would be the champions, as we already had one official loss. If we were to win, we'd have to play them again the next day for the championship.
Austin came in pitching hard, and did really well in the early innings. However, our defense wasn't as tight as it should have been, and it quickly became a very close game. After 4-1/3 innings, Austin had had enough on the mound, and was replaced, but he moved to shortstop, where he did his best to take control of the defense. As for his batting, he had two singles, a double, and his first triple ever (he came up just needing a homerun shy of hitting the cycle), as well as scoring once, an RBI and three stolen bases.
About this time (mid-fifth-inning), the umpires noted that we only had about 6 minutes on the clock (regular games can only last 2 hours). The league commissioner was there, and told them that this was a championship game, and had to play a full seven innings, regardless of time. The umpires weren't happy about that, as no one had told them, and they had plans for after the two hour period. The game continued, but at a slightly accelerated pace. Just as we were coming to bat to our last licks, there was a crack of lightning, and that was it - game called for safety reasons (with which none of the coaches objected - player safety is paramount). So, we came in second place, though so close to the win, we could taste it.
As stated above, it was a fun and energizing season. Austin and I really enjoyed playing with the OLG Wolverines. Austin continues to develop into a fine ballplayer, and we hope the high school coach will finally be convinced to keep him on the roster next year.
(I have been asked by OLG if I'd like to have my own, more competitive, summer, 15-16 travel team to coach, but my work obligations and juggling two kids' summer games make that impossible, much as I'd love to do it. I have offered to continue as an assistant coach for the summer team, and hope to hear more on that after the July 4th holiday.)
Christina's team finished the regular season tied for first place with arch-rival St. Edmund's (both teams 11-1, with each having lost to the other). There was a one game runoff to determine homefield advantage for the playoffs. Unfortunately, due to the worst officiating I've ever witnessed in all my years coaching, we lost. It was very difficult to reconcile how two umpires could be so blatant in their bias toward St. E's. One ump was constantly talking into his Bluetooth headset, and calling girls safe or out while his back was turned to the play, with the only consistency in his calls being that a St. E's runner would always be safe, and a BK runner always out.
How bad was it, really? Let me put it this way: In all my years as a coach or parent, I have NEVER raised my voice to an umpire. I hold what they do to be an incredibly difficult job, and a generally thankless one. I respect the effort that umpires make, and so I am very respectful of them. However, this day, I blurted out one "You've got to be kidding me!", and every player on Christina's team turned toward me with eyes wide. The team captain turned to Christina, and said, "You know it's bad if your dad if upset at the umps." That's how bad it really was. It was disgraceful, and nearly led to a parental riot. A complaint was filed with the league about both umpires.
We played through the playoff rounds, and advances to the championship game against St. Edmund's. When we arrived at the field, we found the same two umpires were assigned to officiate. And they were just as blatantly biased in this game as in the last. And if anyone complained, the umpire had them ejected from the park (yes, a public park). Our girls played hard, but in the end, we lost the championship game because of these two morons. I will note that they literally ran from the field when the game ended, and with good reason. I honestly believe, if they had lingered, things would have gotten ugly, and someone would have gotten hurt. Not at all the way we wanted to end the season.
Shortly thereafter, Christina and I attended Sports Award night. The mother of one of a graduating captain made photo books for all of the girls, and used a number of the photos I'd taken and posted online through the season. Christina received her participation trophy from the team, and we learned that, although she had the lowest batting average on the team, that average as .340. Any pro would kill to end the season with a .340. We were then surprised when Christina was presented with the Athletic Director's Award for "Hard Work, Dedication and Leadership".
I'm very proud of Christina's accomplishments on the field, and she remains my champion. Next up: Senior year, and hopefully a third city championship.