Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown.

The first blog I ever posted, before they were called blogs (AOL has since removed it), was the day after a local tragedy in the Kansas City area. Three teenage girls, who went to my old high school, were killed in a car accident. I still remember their names, Amanda Bush, Alana Winn and Jennifer DeFranco. Three girls I never met. I was just a couple of years out of high school, so it hit pretty close to home. I ended up posting some of my thoughts online. A day or two after the accident, one of their sisters came into the Kinko's where I worked, to make necklaces that would contain her sisters’ picture. I gave them to her for free, and then showed her the site I had put up. She left a comment, which I’ll always remember. Columbine happened almost exactly a year later. And I went to the web again. A few days later a survivor was generous enough to stop by my site and post a comment, which was truly humbling.

There have been countless tragedies since, and there will be countless more, enough to drive us all to the edge of sanity. My wish is that we get close to that edge, and find the strength to move away from it. That all this senseless pain turns into something positive. And that can only happen if we open the lines of communication. It's not necessarily “politicizing” an issue just because you want to talk about it. There’s a time and a place for all conversations, but that doesn't mean that time or place is going to be overwhelmingly comfortable for everyone.

Adults, supposedly, are able to talk about the tough issues. These are the times when we should stop the name calling, or silly comparisons (planes were used on 9/11, should we ban planes) and voice our concerns. Share our hopes and our fears and, most importantly, listen to those who disagree. Put our politics aside, and put our children first. There’s no easy fix here. But if the senseless death of 20 children isn’t enough to convince us to at least consider every imaginable and unimaginable, idea on the table, then we’ll never do it. And then we’re all, at least somewhat, to blame.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

11-22: The Concert That Will Never Be


Last night, after catching up on “Dexter,” the better half and I flipped on the 12-12-12 Sandy Benefit concert. We came in at the end of the Bon Jovi set, and witnessed the Jersey-gasm all over the stage. I was reminded that I still believe the Stones and The Who are overrated, and while Clapton is still Clapton, someone needs to at least make all aging rockers dress age appropriately. At a bare minimum, they have to agree to keep all clothing on, and shirts need to remain buttoned.

Sometime between Alicia Keys babbling, while playing the same keys through three “songs,” and Kanye West sounding the portion of my brain that loves fantasy baseball and football became engaged. I love these kinds of shows. It might be what America does best: We know how to throw a party to raise money in the wake of horrible tragedy.  But I wasn’t thrilled with all the acts. So if I was able to organize my own benefit show, and disturbingly enough, I imagined it being for New York City and in the Garden, I started to think about who I would want. In true fantasy style, there needs to be some kind of stats, so the best I could come up with was picking 3-5 songs for each act. As an added degree of difficulty, I also wanted to pick who would introduce the various acts.

Without further ado (how come no one ever adds ado?) The 11-22 Show:

The show opens with Jon Stewart, who introduces The Fugees.
Fugees play: Ready Or Not, Fu-Gee-La, The Score, How Many Mics and No Woman No Cry.

Lewis Black introduces the Dave Matthews Band.
DMB plays: So Much to Say, Ants Marching, Cry Freedom, Stay and Tripping Billies.

Jimmy Kimmel then introduces OAR.
OAR Plays: This Town, Love and Memories, Heard the World, and I Feel Home.

Dave Chappelle introduces the Wu-Tang Clan.
Wu-Tang plays: Da Mystery of Chessboxin’, CREAM and Protect Ya Neck.

Russell Brand introduces Ryan Adams.
Ryan plays: New York-New York, Lucky Now, Come Home, Everybody Knows and Gonna Make You Love Me

Jimmy Fallon introduces Justin Timberlake. Obviously, right?
Justin plays: SexyBack, My Love, Rock Your Body and Senorita.

Jonah Hill introduces Mumford & Sons.
Mumford plays: I Will Wait, The Cave, Roll Away Your Stone, and Little Lion Man.

Chris Rock introduces Beyonce.
Beyonce plays: Ring the Alarm, Single Ladies and brings out Jay-Z for Crazy In Love
Jay Z stays and plays: 99 Problems, Never Change, Thank You and Empire State of Mind.

Louis CK introduces Billy Joel.
Billy plays: Miami 2017, Piano Man, and Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, The Downeaster “Alexa,” and of course, New York State of Mind.

The playlist is already available on Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/user/hirp/playlist/3QCxahj94qnd6z1yQZebYA

Monday, December 3, 2012

Excelsior



I've now been in Kansas City for 24 years. Other than the Jayhawks, I haven’t adopted any of the sports teams as my own. In fact, I've often gone the other way, and cheered against them. That’s probably worth a post all its own, and maybe a session with a shrink. But after the tragedy this past weekend, I've gone through my own run of emotions. Like any other decent human being, I fully understand that this has nothing to do with sports. There’s countless people suffering in the wake of what transpired, and everyone should be concerned first and foremost with baby Zoe.

Now, I understand that Jovan Belcher is technically a “murderer,” as I heard him called on the radio this morning. And I’m not, in anyway, trying to lessen what he did. Belcher brutally took the life of another human. But I can’t help but wonder if he suffered from some sort of mental illness. Not that it would make him any less responsible. It’s just how my mind works. When someone does something so crazy, and so out of character, I can’t help but wonder why. Now, we’ll never know what happened in their relationship. Nor do we really have a right to. And there’s nothing, at all, that Kasandra Perkins could have done to deserve that fate. And I hate to make a statement and follow it up with a “but”, but…there are things that can happen in life, that cause a person to snap. Doesn't make the snapping right or just, and it’s not an excuse. But there is a difference between someone snapping and a homicidal maniac.

I think, sadly, that anyone of us, if the circumstances are right (actually, wrong) are capable of snapping and taking a life. Like a perfect storm. Luckily, most of us are never in that situation. And even if we are, and do snap, it’s never okay. But it’s always, absolutely, worth trying to understand. Compassion, even for the unforgivable,  is what separates us from being animals. It’s also the best line of defense against similar future incidents.

Anyway, when I first heard they were going to play the game, I was appalled. I understand life goes on, and in most cases, we’d all go to work the next day if it happened at our office. Although, I can’t imagine any boss being made to go in the day after one of his employees took their own life in front of said boss. But this isn't your typical office. There aren't 70,000 fans cheering, booing, drinking or giving even half a damn at my office. No cheerleaders, celebration dances or foam fingers either. What I do, while it isn't life or death, isn't called a “game.” And we don’t say we’re “playing” anything.

Turns out the players made the right call. They knew what was best for them. I've never been more proud of the Chiefs, or more impressed with any coach. I feel that the organization should donate all the revenue for the day to fight domestic violence, suicide prevention as well as set up a trust fund for Zoe. And while I understand some of the players still want to honor their teammate, who still did something completely evil, but just might have been a victim too, in his own way. Hate to speculate, but I can’t help but think he was suffering from some sort of mental illness. So wearing a patch with his number would be flat out wrong. Although a patch with “Zoe” would be fantastic.

It's just impossible to find any kind of silver lining in this story.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rethink the Remake

So Hollywood is going to just keep remaking movies, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Fine, I can accept that. I’ll even see some. Okay, probably most. Although, most of the time I’ll wait for them to show up on basic cable or Netflix.  I just think it would make life more interesting if they’d take movies that failed to meet expectations (either box office or if the product itself) and gave them another shot. Apple failed when they worked with Motorola on the Rokr, the first phone that worked with iTunes. Then they had a mild success with a little gadget called the iPhone, you may have even seen one.
Understand, I’m not advocating a remake of Battlefield Earth. Some movies didn’t realize their potential, and then there are movies which should be considered criminal. I just think there’s a good inside Mario Puzo’s “The Sicilian” and Christopher Lambert in 1987 wasn’t the answer. Harlem Nights should have been a classic. And while there’s no Richard Pryor equal around, or a funny Eddie Murphy, this is the type of movie Hollywood should remake. Give me Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson and let Kevin Smith direct.  Let Tarantino give Natural Born Killers a shot, he wrote it and Oliver Stone just got lost in directing it.
Hollywood would be wise to consider doing the same with failed television shows, that had a little bit of promise, instead of butchering our favorite shows from the 80’s. “FlashForwad” was always a better idea for a movie anyway. “Luck” has all the bones of a great Michael Mann movie, he just needs to dumb down a bit so the average viewer has a clue as to what everyone is talking about. But Mann and Dustin Hoffman? Yes please.  Mann himself has reused a project that missed, and turned into a classic. Before Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino filmed one of their last good movies, Mann made a movie for television called “L.A. Takedown.” So do us all a favor, cancel the Scarface and Point Break remakes, and do something different while doing something for the second time.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympic Touch Up

I dig the Olympics. I’m not wrapped up in them like many, not even as much as my wife, but I really do appreciate how great all these athletes are at what they do. The human interest angles are always interesting, as well. But I can’t help myself, I want to tinker. I also want the answers to questions that I don’t believe I can get from this set up. So I’ve dreamt up my own little Olympic set up. Not because I want to take away the opportunity to shine from someone like Michael Phelps, I’d still like all these sports to have their World Championships, and I think it’d be fantastic if they were watched by hundreds of millions of sport fans across the globe.
That said here’s what I want to see:

·         Each country gets 25 spots on their Olympic team.
·         Each member of the team must compete in 20 of 25 events. I know there are currently 26 events, but hey, this is my set up and 25 just works best.
·         Every athlete must participate in 15 sports.
·         The team members aren’t announced until the Opening Ceremonies.

You won’t get to see who the best in the world is at any specific sport. You may not even see Michael Phelps at all. But for me, what makes this such an intriguing idea is that if you see Phelps, you’ll really get to see what kind of athlete he is. He’ll swim, but he’ll also play some basketball, run track, maybe even gymnastics. LeBron James would lead the basketball team, but I’m sure he’d also be a beast in handball, but how would he do in fencing and synchronized swimming?

Without doing a ton of research, here are a few of the athletes I’d select for the US Men’s team:
LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Johnson, Michael Phelps, Larry Fitzgerald, Andy Roddick, Russell Westbrook, Tim Tebow (really), Mike Trout, Rajon Rando, Cam Newton, Ashton Eaton and Patrick Willis for starters.

The one thing we might actually learn from all this, is who the greatest athlete in the world is. This, oddly enough, is often talked about during the Olympics anyway.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hate It All


Hate’s a strong word. I understand that as I say the following:
I hate everything that happened at Penn State. Above everything, I hate Jerry Sandusky. He’s a monster. I hate those who didn’t run to the nearest mountain top and shout for the victims. I hate that Joe Paterno sat on his hands and turned a blind eye. I hate that Paterno did everything else with so much class and integrity. I hate that Paterno didn’t recruit like every other football coach and made it so easy to admire him.  I hate calling what he did and didn’t do a “mistake.” I also hate calling him a criminal, even though he just might be. I hate that we’re putting so much faith in what seems to have been a very thorough investigation, but wasn’t, in anyway, a legal investigation.
I hate that the NCAA is getting involved now. I hate that I agree with a lot of their sanctions. I also hate the idea of vacating wins. While playing for Penn State in 2000, Adam Taliaferro was paralyzed on the field in a game against Ohio State. Adam’s response to the vacating of wins was perfect, “NCAA says games didn't exist. I got the metal plate in my neck to prove it did. I almost died playing 4 PSU. Punishment or healing?!?” Today Adam is an attorney and a motivational speaker.
I realize the NCAA was in a tough spot, but so is everyone else involved. A reaction was needed and just. The word of the day was “unprecedented,” and I guess that’s a good thing. I wouldn’t have been upset had they received the “death penalty” for everything that went on, and I have no beef with the $60 million, but vacating 13 years worth of wins is bull. This isn’t about punishing Penn State or Joe Paterno. Vacating wins is about the NCAA not wanting to see “#1-Joe Paterno 409 Wins” in their record books. I understand why, it doesn’t feel good to have someone who was involved in such a horrendous crime against children. Okay, so it doesn’t feel good. It happened, and while Paterno did a lot wrong, he coached his team to those wins. We saw them. Players played in them, and one almost died in one of them.
If a CEO, or anyone else, is linked to a crime, or even convicted of a crime, we don’t get to vacate anything they did. Good or bad, life happened. Vacating is just another way of trying to look the other way. Vacating wins, in the instance and any other, is a cowardly and weak act. It’s also an insult to the victims of a monster. I can’t say their lives were ruined, because that seems unfair and judgmental, but their innocence was ripped away from them. Don’t tell me that had anything to do with a game, or even 111 games.
We now know a lot of things happened over the past decades. Sandusky preyed upon innocent children. Paterno and the powers that be at Penn State assisted in covering up unimaginable crimes. And games were played, many were won. Those games are simply not important here. I hate it all.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Zero Worship

So I’m 35 (wait, what?) now and I can safely say that I don’t worship athletes, or any celebrities, the way I once did. I won’t lie, I still find myself looking up to people more than I should. Yes, both literally and figuratively.  But the 13 year old in me (I know, this is opening me for a lot of really bad Sandusky-like jokes) doesn't deserve to have his heart broken anymore. It’s not like I was ever a huge Penn State fan or loved Joe Paterno. I did, however, have a ton of respect for him and appreciate what the school stood for. Of course I liked him, how could you not like the old guy on the sideline with glasses so thick you could see what he was thinking. How I wish that last statement was true.
Man, there’s something about those glasses. Damn those glasses. Having worked in optics as long as I did, I've made lenses that thick before. Every time I did, I felt bad for the poor SOB who had to wear such heavy things. More than that, I couldn't help but feel sorry that they had such poor vision. I had a vague idea of how much they missed seeing. Or so I thought. Turns out, Joe wasn't missing as much as we hoped. He was just looking the other way.
We all shoulder some blame here. Not that we’re responsible for what Sandusky did, or what the powers that be at Penn State didn't do. But they don’t jump up on that pedestal as much as we put them there. No one should be on a pedestal. Funny, when looking up “pedestal” on Wikipedia, there’s a note that states it’s often misheard as “pedal stool.” Turns out, that’s probably more accurate. Even more accurate is “peddle stool.” It’s all bought and sold, and it’s almost always crap.
I think it’s time we reevaluate what a hero is. No longer should it be the guy who runs the fastest or jumps the highest or throws a ball the hardest. No elected officials. Not even the guy who runs into the burning building. A hero, for me, is not anything I want to define. Being a good parent, spouse or a loyal friend, that’s heroic enough now.  Maybe it always was.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Know Justice?

At what point, exactly, did our Justice System no longer matter? The only court that carries any kind of weight now, is the Court of Public Opinion. The legal system can convict or acquit, and it really doesn’t matter. Long before a jury or Judge even hears an opening argument, guilt and innocence has already been decided.

Take a look at this list of names/cases:
OJ Simpson
Casey Anthony                                                                                      
Michael Jackson
Barry Bonds
Lance Armstrong
John Edwards
Roger Clemens
Joran Van Der Sloot
George Zimmerman
Mike Tyson
Kobe Bryant
Duke lacrosse

I bet that anyone who reads this post knows all those names, and what they were accuse of. Furthermore, everyone has their own feelings as to the guilt or innocence in each case and more often than not, their opinions differ from was decided in a courtroom. I know it’s true for me.

But what does that say about us? What does it say about our legal system? I really don’t know, for sure, but I think that whatever it says, we should probably be concerned. Either way, public opinion says we’re right.

  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Future So Bright

I’m not sure how I noticed this, but it just became very clear to me that there is a solid crop of actors who appear to be leading the new guard.  But before we can look ahead, we must look back. If you go back 15 years or so, it looked as if Leonardo DiCaprio, Vince Vaughn, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Ed Norton, Mark Whalberg, Jaquin Phoenix, Cuba Gooding Jr, Will Smith and Adrian Brody were the up and comers. (And no, I’m not counting Clooney here. He’s just been around too long, even though he didn’t really hit it big till “ER” in 1994. Also see: Brad Pitt.)
DiCaprio, although not my favorite, has put together perhaps the most impressive resume in movie history. Seriously, if these were stats, his numbers would look like Michael Jordan’s. Vaughn shifted from doing darker independent movies (Clay Pigeons) and began to riff on his best role ever (obviously Double down from Swingers.) So while he’s had more than his share of box office success, I’d actually call his career a disappointment at this point.  Damon has been turning out pretty high quality flicks on a consistent basis while is buddy Affleck has recently turned things around after stepping on a few landmines and dating Jennifer Lopez. Phoenix went a bit loony, so well documented in fact that he documented it himself. Gooding has mailed in every performance since winning his Oscar. We get it, you have a big smile. Will Smith has become the biggest actor on the planet while Brody can only be recognized now for doing razor commercials.
The future belongs to Ryan Gosling, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeremy Renner, Chris Pine, Michael Shannon, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Justin Timberlake (yeah, I said it), and Shia LeBeouf, Chris Evans and Emile Hirsch.  Renner, Pine and LeBeouf will duke it out for the title of Box Office Champ. Gosling and Gordon-Levitt will continue to make just great films and show limitless range. Rogen and Hill will end up being great dramatic actors, as so many other comedians have in the past.  
The biggest compliment I could give this group is, if I were to be in charge of casting a remake of The Godfather (which should be a felony), I’d cast most of them.  In fact, here’s how I’d cast the film:
Gosling -Michael.
Renner- Sonny.
Godon-Levitt as Fredo.
Pine-Tom Hagen.
Timberlake -Johnny Fontane.
Hirsch- Moe Greene
Rogen-Tessio.
Hill- Clemenza.
Shannon -Luca Brasi.
Evans-Barzini.

Showing the ladies some love:
Emma Stone plays Kay, and is twenty times more likeable than Diane Keaton.
Anna Kendrick replaces wet towel, Talia Shire.

And you know what, that’s not bad. Of course, it wouldn’t compare to the original, but IF it were to happen, I’d trust everyone of those actors with those roles. And if you wanted to do just a cool, fun flick, like reboot the Oceans series, you could pretty easily find a slot for all of them.

The key, of course, to the future of movies is that the studios green light the best scripts and not just sequels, reboots or paint by number films.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Show Me De Niro

Robert De Niro is personally redefining “jumping the shark.” If you didn’t know, the phrase that was born from the “Happy Days.” A now infamous episode where the Fonz, literally, jumped over a shark. To most it represented the exact moment the show took a turn for the worse. I’m not yet sure what we should call it, but whatever “it” is, Al Pacino is doing his own version.

Take a look at this amazing list of movies De Niro appeared in between 1968 and 1997:
·         Mean Streets
·         Bang The Drum Slowly
·         The Godfather: Part II
·         Taxi Driver
·         The Deer Hunter
·         Raging Bull
·         Once Upon a Time in America
·         The Untouchables
·         Midnight Run
·         Goodfellas
·         A Bronx Tale
·         Heat
·         Casino
·         Jackie Brown

Those are just the highlights, in my opinion.  De Niro appeared in 53 movies over those 29 years. If you even purchase a movie occasionally, you probably own no less than five of them. Then after ’97 made a very noticeable shift and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to enjoying Analyze This and Meet the Parents. Those were a couple of fun comedies, and it was entertaining to see him make fun of his on screen persona.  

Things steam rolled out of control. The quality didn’t just drop off, it has vanished. The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, really? I’m convinced he has simply stopped reading scripts. There’s no other way the young Don Corleone agrees to Showtime or 15 Minutes. How he and Pacino agreed to do a movie with 50 Cent is beyond me. Still, Righteous Kill was so bad that 50 wasn’t even the weak spot. See: Pacino jumps a banister and runs off like he’s Carl Lewis.
What’s troubling me most right now is, the pace he’s turning out crap. Post 1997, and including movies currently filming, in pre-production, or post-production (according to my bible, IMdB.com) De Niro has worked on 40 movies. That’s 40 forgettable roles. How does this happen? Can Congress look into this?
It’s not that there aren’t any good roles for men in their 60s. Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones have done some of their most memorable roles in the last seven or eight years.  What they haven’t done? New Years Eve.
I’m calling it: De Niro’s career has Bullwinkled.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dear Jack:

Dear Mr. Jack Harry,
As a member of the media for over 40 years, you should know better. Stating your opinion and following up your statement with, “it’s MY opinion,” as you often do, is a complete copout. It’s embarrassing really. My 10 year old will give reasons for her opinions, and even if it’s an attempt to explain why I’m so mean and the world is so unfair, at least she puts some thought in to it.
Yesterday on the radio, with Kevin Kietzman, you again stated that you believe the University of Missouri is far superior to West Virginia University. When asked in what context, you said all. When specifically asked if you mean just sports, you said yes. Mr. Harry, that’s ridiculous. With the use of any logic, or you know, actual real life events, there’s simply no way one could come to that conclusion. Yes, you’re still entitled to your opinion, but so what? You could say, and at this point it wouldn’t shock me, that in your opinion, the earth is flat. Sure, you’re allowed to have your own beliefs, but when those beliefs fly directly against fact, you have to be called out on it.
The facts, Jack, let’s deal with facts.
West Virginia is the by far, the superior football program. Why can I say this? Because of the following:
·         An all-time record of 700-457-4 compared to MU’s 629-520-52. That’s a .603 winning percentage against a .545.
·         Since joining the Big East, WVU won seven conference titles. MU never won the Big 12, and last won the Big 8 in 1969.
·         Winners of three BCS Bowl games. By my count, MU hasn’t played in any.
·         Gary Pinkle’s tenure is the bright spot for MU, and he’s done a great job. Since 2001 he’s 85-54 at MU. Over that same period, WVU is 98-41.
·         In hoops, the Mountaineer’s have a record of 1621-1005 compared to MU’s 1532-1045. Again, a better record.  MU has never been to a Final Four, West Virginia has been to two.
Sure, you can have your opinion. You do that. The rest of us, we’ll just stick with the facts. That way our opinions can actually be worth hearing.  

Insincerely yours,
Gregg

Monday, May 21, 2012

Back to the Future

Last Friday, one time Chicago Cub messiah, Kerry Wood retired after a 14 year career that was plagued by injuries, and will go down as one of the all-time greats. To be specific, “great what coulda-beens” By now, if you follow sports at all, you know that in just his fifth start in the majors, he threw what I believe to be, the greatest game ever. A complete game, no walks, one infield hit and 20 strike outs. It was 1998 and with Roger Clemens in his mid-30’s, it looked like the un-official baton of Texas Fireballers was being passed on. Of course, Wood’s arm was a mess after the year, and he missed the entire following season. Still, he bounced back and by 2003, he reached 1000 strike outs faster than anyone else had before.
The point of all this? Well I was speaking with a friend about Wood’s career after his last game, and it just amazed me that 14 years had passed. I started a list of things how things have changed:
In 1998, the following were all true, happening, news or just interesting to me:
·         Robin Young, Nolan Ryan and George Brett weren’t in the Hall of Fame yet.
·         Alex Rodriguez had 64 career home runs.
·         The New York Yankees had won one World Series in 18 years.
·         Peyton Manning was a rookie and John Elway was a Super Bowl champion.
·         Kobe Bryant was in his second season and Michael Jordan won his sixth NBA title.
·         You were playing video games on either: a Sony PlayStation (the first one), Nintendo 64 or a Sega Saturn.
·         Shawn Colvin won the Record of the Year Grammy for “Sunny Came Home.”
·         Top five movies in the box office were: Armageddon, Saving Private Ryan, Godzilla, There’s Something About Mary and A Bug’s Life.
·         You were using AOL 3.0 when the year began.
·         Mark Zuckerberg was 14.
·         The Bellagio opened where the Dunes once stood.
·         Sex and the City, Dawson’s Creek and Sport’s Night made their television debuts. One out of three aint bad.
·         The Nokia 6120 was the top selling cell phone, and you played the hell out of Snake.
·         A gallon of gas cost $1.15.
·         A little company called Google was founded.

All this makes me feel old. I have a this weird quirk (one of many) where I judge time by how much has changed in sports and pop culture. When guys my age start retiring, I start questioning where the time went. Truth be told, I don’t feel any different today than I did 14 years ago. Maybe I’ll mature a little over the next 14, just in time for Kerry Wood’s son to take the mound.

Friday, May 18, 2012

PVD: It's Real

Three weeks ago my wife and I went to Mexico, an island called Isla Mujeres that sits just a few miles off the coast of Cancun, but it’s nothing like Cancun. We stayed a small resort called Privilege Aluxes. It's taken me this long to sit down and write a review because of Post Vacation Depression (aka PVD, don't be afraid to seek professional help.)

We went with two other couples, and it was our third trip to the region after having gone to Playacar in the past. I loved Playacar, but after our six days in Isla Mujeres, I can tell you that I doubt we'll return to the mainland. The island is just fantastic. I haven't been, but it felt more like Europe. A serious Mediterranean vibe going on. As my friend said, "every trip should start with a boat trip." Just driving through Cancun to get to the dock, was too much Cancun for me. But once we boarded the ferry, the stresses of everyday life and traveling, washed away. You cross maybe four shades of beautiful blue water to get to Isla. When you reach the island, it's a little overwhelming for a moment, with all the offers to help with luggage.

We walked from the pier to Privilege, while someone took our luggage to the hotel. When we entered the lobby, we were very impressed by the decor (and my new goal is to one day have a water feature like theirs in our home.)

My wife and I were in a superior room (524) with a partial ocean view, we were on the side of the school. ANd yes, we heard the children the first two mornings we were there. But it wasn't that bad. The room itself, a little small, but that's pretty insignificant. The balcony is huge, with a roomy jacuzzi and tons or privacy. One very cool feature that I don't remember being mentioned in any reviews I read, was the door from the shower (also huge) that opened up to the balcony. The bed was on the firm side, but pretty comfortable. Our friends stayed in Premium Suites, and 625 has the best views, from the rooms I saw. The suites are very spacious, with a great living room and balcony. Probably worth the upgrade, but definitely so if you’re going with a larger group.

The grounds of the hotel are kept immaculate. Almost every day we saw them working on the little details, like painting a fence or hosing off the paths. And everyone was very nice, often helping us with our very limited Spanish. The beach is beautiful, and it’s not hard at all to find a spot. Make sure you have your camera ready at sunset. Also, if you want some great pictures, head down the road a bit to the bridge to the Avalon Reef hotel, beautiful views there. The pool is pretty relaxed, and like the rest of the hotel, never overly crowded. In fact, I think that might be my favorite aspect of the resort: it’s just so peaceful. There’s plenty to do, but doing nothing might be the best choice.

We ate most of our meals at the restaurant, where we were waited on by Anthony, and he was fantastic. Flirted with our wives, but it was funny. We ate out twice, once at Olivia’s, which was our best meal on the island. It’s a cool place with a friendly staff. And then we went shopping one night and ended up eating at Rolandi’s, pretty good pizza (and I’m a pizza snob) also a really fun atmosphere.

One day we rented a golf cart to drive around the island, which was a fun way to get to see everything the island offers. We learned that next time; we HAVE to go to Garrafon. Looks like an all-day activity, with the zip lines and snorkeling. There are beautiful views of the water and Cancun.

Remember to bring lots of $1 bills, as it’s a little challenging to get change, and you’ll want to be able to tip the staff during your stay.

Writing this brought back the PVD. Can’t wait to go back next year.
video



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Eat Lightning, Crap Thunder

She was six years old and thrilled to be a big sister. He was the cutest baby ever, wait, correction; I was the cutest baby ever. For the first few years of my life, I shared a room with my sister. I’m told that I used to often sing myself to sleep. Now, judging by how awful my voice is now, I can’t imagine it was much better back then. What would have caused most big sisters to smother their little brother with a pillow was somehow music to her ears.
My sister has jammed multiple life time’s worth of surviving into her 40 years here. She’s battled her demons long enough that the fight should go to the judges, but there was always another round and another bell. She has a Rocky-like way of answering each bell, when the average person would throw in the towel.
A few months back she found out she had a new opponent, with a long ridiculous name: Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A dirty fighter who never really lost, but at the same time doesn’t win all that much either. So she threw down the way only she does. You’d swear she’s part pit bull.  Things were going well, and they were taking a break from the chemo to see just how big of an ass-whopping she had put on her ugly rival. I don’t know much about these fights, but I was told that was a very good sign.
Then about a week and a half ago she had some pain in her abdomen. The woman with a pain threshold like no one else retreated back to her corner for some help. Tests were run and now those results are back. Damnit to hell, it’s another nasty, dirty, repulsive opponent with another horrifying name: Renal Cell Carcinoma, or Kidney Cancer for short.
Like many of her other past fights, the odds makers can’t be trusted, but those of us in her corner hope she goes mid-evil on her foe and then get some well deserved rest from fighting for her life.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bore

I often find myself missing writing these days. It’s just that I can never find something I really want to write about. Raising a ten year old, who can often make me question every decision I make and doubt any parenting “skills” I thought I may have. Then in the blink of an eye, she says something that makes me feel like I actually get it. Sure, that could be fun to write, but it’s a lot like watching old Met highlights (like you can call them highlights) because all I see is what could have been. Really Carlos Beltran, I’m still waiting on you to swing at that pitch.
I’d love to add my two cents to the political debate of the week, but I’ve made an effort to back off that sort of thing, besides, the world needs less political blogs. Even mine would be right at all times. I don’t see enough movies or listen to enough music to have anything to say there either. Although Avengers was awesome and there’s a bunch of movies coming out this summer that I’m looking forward to seeing: (The Dark Knight Rises, Gangster Squad, The Dictator, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Bourne Legacy)
I’m also not sure of the exact moment I became such a dad that I have almost no idea what music is popular these days. It happened before I joined Spotify, but that probably hasn’t helped much. I put some music on while I’m at work, but I always seem to just play what I know. Same goes when I’m mowing. If I turn on the radio, it’s sports talk. Or if I just happen to put on a station that plays music I hear one of five artists: Adelle, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Ke$ha or Rhianna. Basically, the same stuff my daughter players.
My only conclusion: I’ve become amazingly boring.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sad Irony

I just read a story about a mother in Staten Island, suing the city for $900 trillion. Yes, trillion with a “T.” The reason for her suit, she claims the city was wrong to take her children away, and place them in foster care. If she’s right, hell, there’s simply no amount of money that would make things right again. The woman lost custody because the city claimed she was mentally unstable. The irony here, and it’s sad, is that asking for $900 trillion kinda screams, “Mentally Unstable.” She could have just asked for the deed for the world.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Less Social Please

I’m a fan of social media, which is as obvious as saying Tim Tebow can’t throw. I think it does so many things for us. Helps reconnect old friends, allows you to keep tabs on family and friends, it’s a great way for businesses to communicate with their customers, it’s often my first source for news and an even greater source for entertainment. The sky is the limit, or the cloud is.
That said, I’m sick of watching a news program where they solicit Tweets, Facebook or Google+ comments. You report the news, I’ll decide when I want to add my two cents, and where I’ll add it. I, for one, am not looking for interactive TV when I watch the news.  If the situation calls for it, send your interns out to find out what the public is saying online about a specific issue. Okay, so do a little leg work. A little, I don’t know, reporting. That’s what journalists do. I get it, times are changing and they want to be current.
Using the public tweets is on par with using their bumper stickers. Only the bumper stickers usually have better grammar and at least a driver can been seen, it’s not AS anonymous as a tweet. I’ve long felt this way, but when I heard a few months back that CNN had actually laid-off professionals in favor of going with more of their iReporters, it just made me sick. Obviously, the iReporters are doing more than just tweeting, and I think they occasionally get something interesting from the public, or at the very least, there’s more relative video out there to tell the stories. That doesn’t replace a trained professional, just because they are able to capture an event with the camera on their iPhone.
The fact that this trend came along makes perfect sense. There’s a natural curiosity, to see what will come of a newly armed public. But it’s time that this trend dies off. Tell your viewers to follow you online, of course you have to promote your brand and it’s a great place to break stories, and direct the public to your shows and websites for more details than you can cover in 140 characters.
I’ve also been known to get sucked in by a story that gets my juices flowing, and leave some comments on various websites. I think it’s great that a story can spark conversation, but if you’re going to allow comments, I think you need to have someone monitor them. It’s too often, and too easy, for those conversations to be hijacked by a few who are more interested in childish games.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

96 Words on Tebow

So for a good four months, the media spoon fed us one Tim Tebow article after another. The Haiti earthquake and the tsunami in Japan had shorter shelf lives in the news cycle than Tebow’s athleticism, faith and poor mechanics.  
The latest story everyone is running? Yeah, it turns out Tebow is both incredibly popular and polarizing. This isn’t news, this was by design. The media is setting up sequels to their own stories faster than Vin Diesel sets up a sequel to his movies that no one over the age of 18 admits to seeing.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top Ten of '11

My annual Top 10 Movies of the year (although I just checked an old site, and my top 10 of ’10 is blank, not sure what happened there):
10. Sarah’s Key
9.  The Kids Are All Right
8.  50/50
7.  The Ides of March
6.  The American
5.  Super 8
4.  Moneyball
3.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
2.  Drive
1.  Crazy, Stupid Love

Movies I haven’t seen yet, that I have high hopes for: The Decedents, My Week With Marilyn, Hugo, Warrior, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Adventures of Tintin, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, War Horse, Contagion, Red State, Young Adult, Rampart. Wow, let’s just call this list “incomplete.” I have some work to do.

(movies released in late 2010 that I didn’t see until 2011 are eligible.)


Basically, it's Ryan Gosling's world, and we just live in it.