Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The long winter

Christmas music on the radio ended four months ago. I reflected upon that this morning as a driving through a mild snowstorm -- that the weather really hasn't improved much since December. Granted, the snow here in the valley barely stuck to the grass, but the mountains got more than a foot, adding to a snowpack so far above normal that when the warm weather finally hits, the flooding isn't going to be fun.

The weather the past two months has been unusually bad for spring in Salt Lake City, and I'm worried May will be more of the same. We've had one truly nice day all April. I've been wanting to mow the lawn for the first time but keep getting grass-blocked by rain. I bought new running shoes I wanted to try out, but have been thwarted by rain and snow. Eldest had soccer practice yesterday that was interrupted by a three-minute hailstorm.

With the violent weather in other parts of the country, I know I shouldn't complain too much. OK, Mother Nature, we get it, humanity may have screwed the atmosphere up over the past 125 years and now it's biting us in the rear. Can you let up a little bit and give the whole country some nice, quiet spring weather at least for a few days? And if you want to really impress me, start this nice weather just west of the Rockies.

Only a little more than six months until the Christmas music starts again!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Look sir, Droids

I have owned a smartphone for three months now, and honestly, I don't know how I ever lived without one.

Of course, I knew how I lived without one, just like the time in my life I didn't know what it was like to own an iPod, a cell phone, a CD player, a Wii, an Atari 2600, a VCR, a Walkman, a computer, Cool Ranch Doritos, pants that weren't floods, beer whenever I wanted, Strat-o-Matic baseball, effective allergy medication, a king-size bed, a cat and contact lenses. But of all those technological and personal advancements, none has been quite like my HTC Droid Incredible over these past three months.

With my new smartphone, I started following Twitter. Not only can I instantly GPS myself, but I can also run an app that tells me how far I've run and track the route. I can update my fantasy baseball team on it. I can hand it off to my boys to play a game when I need them to be occupied for a few minutes. I can watch music videos wherever I want. I can see what the weather is going to be like (and with a new app I just downloaded for free, I can be notified of weather alerts). I can hear Pandora or Slacker anywhere I want. I can be an angry bird. Via apps, I can keep up with websites that I otherwise don't have that much time to follow on a computer. I can check my e-mail. I can look up random trivia when the need arises. I can identify a song that I hear on the radio (damn, I love Soundhound). I can listen to radio stations from all over the country. Oh yeah, I can call, take pictures and text with the phone.

However, the highlight might have come tonight with my MLB At-Bat app. It's the only app I've actually spent money on, but it's been mostly worthwhile, as it allows me to listen to any Major League Baseball game on my phone. Aside from some choppy connection issues that seem to have been corrected, I've enjoyed listening to Cubs games and other teams' broadcasts. I didn't get the video option, which is much more expensive and more designed for iPad. But with my MLB radio app, I do get one free game (chosen by the league) to watch on my phone every day.

Tonight, I watched a couple innings of the Rangers-Blue Jays game. This was the best part -- the boys watched the same couple innings. I wanted to see if the Cubs were the free game, but launched the chosen game to show Wife and the boys how cool it was. And instead of wanting me to read to them as they wound down for sleeping, they wanted to watch the baseball game. They didn't last long before getting tired, which was fine, good in fact because it was lights out before 8:30.

Wife predicted I would love a smartphone, but I'm not sure if she thought I'd be this crazy over one. In a few years, look for a similar post from me gushing over my first smart tablet.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nor Easter

We had a nice, low-key Easter today. The boys got their baskets from the Easter Bunny, and Wife was nice enough not to wake me when they discovered the baskets at 7 a.m. We went to 11 a.m. Mass, which lasted until 12:30 thanks to a slightly longer homily, extra Mass parts for Easter, and a Communion bottleneck at the front of the church. Littlest was unusually fidgety during Mass -- he usually sits pretty well, but not today, although he was admittedly bouncy all day.

After getting home, I got outside with the boys for a little while. The morning weather was nice, but it turned cloudy and chilly by mid-afternoon, but at least we got out. The boys played with sidewalk chalk and a little wooden glider airplane Littlest was given last week, while I pulled some weeds and cleared the garden of some leaves from last fall. I wanted to mow the lawn -- I haven't yet this year -- but thought it wouldn't be the best thing for the neighbors to hear on Easter (hopefully tomorrow, weather permitting). We came back inside and watched "Jurassic Park" and had our Easter meal: Wife made a small (and delicious) ham. We settled in for the rest of the day, watched "The Amazing Race," anhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifd put the boys to bed.

I remember Easter being a big deal when I was younger. It's not anymore. Is it because we live someplace where the dominant religion doesn't celebrate Easter quite like Catholics do? Is it because we are far away from our extended families that gathered together without us? Or is it simply because I grew up? Easter was the centerpiece of about nine days off from Catholic school -- essentially, our spring break. Easter morning was a mildly big deal (not as big as Christmas, or course) as a kid, but requires little advance planning as an adult. We made a special meal but didn't go overboard.

Maybe the less eventful Easter is better in conveying the message behind the holiday -- after all, Mass seemed to be the central event of the day. That, and the extra V Chocolate peanut butter cup that the Easter Bunny brought.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The 2000s

I took a little break from my decades series while pushing through a big freelance project and then going to St. George (where I barely logged any computer time -- only enough to watch the first two episodes of "The League" on Netflix). I've gone from the 1920s through the 1980s, but I'm going to skip the 1990s for a reason (which will be evident when I write that post) and go write to the 2000s -- the most recent completed decade.

At first, I thought the 2000s might be the best decade to be a senior. For the first time in human history, people in their 60s aren't really considered old, and people in the 70s are getting to that point as well. There was a time when you got to your 60s, you retired, and waited to die. In the last decade more than ever, you got to 60 and kept contributing -- kept living, refusing to go quietly into that good night (ugh, did I just rip off "Back to School" ripping off Dylan Thomas?). However, I think this current decade may be even better for seniors, with Baby Boomers becoming even more accomplished in their elder status and people not being considered "old" until 75. (Unfortunately, this might go downhill in the 2020s and beyond, as Social Security wanes and seniors get sent on a quest to find their own health insurance -- thanks Paul Ryan.)

So I'm postulating that the 2000s were the best time to be a college student. Granted, student debt has skyrocketed and jobs have become scarce for college grads of the 2000s, but the four (or more) collegiate years spent in this decade must have been like no other. I think about my college years(1988-92) and wonder how different it would have been with a smart phone (or even a plain cell phone), a laptop, an MP3 player, the Internet, Facebook and MySpace. Techonolgy has completely changed the collegiate experience -- both academically and socially. Do kids even research things in a library or just go online? Is Kinko's even relevant when you can just make copies of things in your dorm room? Much of what I remember of college socially was trying to find opportunities to communicate with the opposite sex -- how easy this has become with texting and Facebook instead of spending time on the phone when you should be studying (at least during the week).

The stress of college hasn't gone away, but I imagine it has diminished. I hope that has translates into college kids learning more rather than just having an easier experience. I can't say, because I'm not in college anymore. I do wish that 20 years ago, I would have had an iPhone instead of my landline, and a real portable computer rather than my Smith-Corona typewriter. The college kids of the 2000s had it so good.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spring break

The boys' spring break is somewhat late this year. Usually here in Utah, it's around the last week of March, but this year, maybe because of the late Easter, it's this week. With their few days off, we took a family trip to St. George in southwestern Utah, where the temperature was in the 70s.

The trip was fun, and a good necessary break. We went hiking, saw petroglyphs, saw the movie "Rio" and went swimming in the hotel pool -- five times in three days. In fact, the swimming might have been the highlight for the boys. We enjoyed a good Thai restaurant and In 'n' Out Burger, and enjoyeyd less two pizza restaurants that we'll never go to again. On the way back to Salt Lake, we stopped at Fremont Indian State Park to see more petroglyphs.

Most importantly, we spent some family time together away from home. We haven't gotten out of the valley in months, and this was delayed by the late spring break. Not that late spring breaks are bad -- growing up and going to Catholic school, spring break was called Easter break, always the week after Easter, and when it was late, school wouldn't resume until May or almost May. This rare occurrence made spring fever almost a given -- you returned to school right as leaves started popping on the trees. Late spring breaks usually mean better weather (though not this year), too.

With spring break behind us, we have six busy weeks ahead before summer break. I'm not in a rush for the boys to finish the school year (particularly Littlest, who is graduating preschool), but I do want the weather to improve. Spring break should never feel like winter break.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The 1980s

The 1980s and California seemed a natural match. You could make a decent argument for the 1950s, but in my opinion, the Eighties were the best time to be living in California.

Hollywood has always been Hollywood, but in the 1980s, California was the setting for so much that came across movie and TV screens. Think of these productions that captured the essence of California:

I Love L.A.(Randy Newman's music video)
The Karate Kid
Better Off Dead
It Don't Mean Nothing (Richard Marx's music video)
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
Back to the Future
Lethal Weapon
Free Fallin' (Tom Petty's music video)
Lakers games the whole decade
Valley Girl (the song more than the movie)

Even bad movies captured California well -- think "Less Than Zero." And yes, California wasn't perfect in the '80s, with its violence, smog and the Clippers, but it was still incredibly unique.

California dominated the decade not just because of the southern part of the state. Consider what was happening in the Bay Area in the Silicon Valley, with the explosion of the computer and video game industry. The video game part of this explosion was reason enough for me to pick this decade for California -- as the industry expanded in the early 1980s, the state was ground zero for new games. Maybe I'm over-glamorizing this, but playing "Tron" in California must have been a slightly different experience than playing it in Chicago. You weren't just experiencing the California culture in the 1980s, you were part of it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The 1970s

Deciding what the best decade to live in New York City wasn't easy. The 1920s, before the Crash, must have been incredible. The 1950s, with its postwar prosperity, and the 1960s, with its burgeoning arts/theater scene, are good candidates as well, as are the resurgent 1990s (thank you, "Rent" and "Seinfeld"). But I don't think any of these decades would have topped New York in the 1970s.

First, New York became the center of the movie universe in the '70s. Think of any random movie scene involving New York, and more than likely a 1970s movie is popping into your head -- perhaps "Saturday Night Fever" or "The French Connection" or "Manhattan" or "Godspell" or "Warriors" or ... well, you get the ieda. Next was the theater scene, as strong as ever.

But what really gives the 1970s to New York was music. Disco and R&B centered itself around the Big Apple during the decade, but so did punk (The Clash and Sex Pistols notwithstanding). Even the Rolling Stones were singing about Central Park. Add some Bruce Springsteen, and you see how important New York was not just in the 1970s, but also to the whole history of rock 'n' roll.

If you watch "Saturday Night Live" episodes from the 1970s, you see the New York culture reflected in the comedy. "Barney Miller" and "Welcome Back Kotter" weren't videotaped in New York, but the opening and closing credits of both shows conjure up indelible images of the city at this time. Add Reggie Jackson and the Yankees, and you see why New York in the 1970s is almost irresistible.

I've never been to New York, but this is the Gotham decade I'd want to be dropped into if that technology became suddenly available. The city was debaucherous, energetic, a little bit scary, iconic and alive. In other words, it was everything New York was supposed to be.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The 1960s

I think the 1950s really lasted until 1963 -- up until President Kennedy's assisnation and the Beatles' emergence (oh my, did I just rip off Dream Academy's "Life in a Northern Town?). So after the new American honeymoon of the 1950s ended, what did the 1960s bring besides more, rapid cultural changes? I think the Sixties might have been the best time to be a kid.

By kid, I don't mean a teenager, but rather, a tween and younger. This might be my most controversial decade selection. I'm sure many decades can lay claim to this. Being a kid in the 1950s might have been just as much fun as it was in the 1960s, and anyone whose childhood was in a certain decade might say their decade was the best for kids and provide good arguments.

Here's my argument for the 1960s (and by the way, I'm picking this over my own decade kid decade, the 1970s): Just as American culture aimed itself toward teens in the 1950s, it aimed younger in the next decade. For the first time, things were marketed toward children. Television and movies were created for children. Recreational opportunities were geared toward kids. The whole driving vacation idea was an effort to provide maximum fun for kids.

Of course, the argument exists that marketing anything toward kids is bad, and I don't completely disagree with that. But with that marketing came a ideal that kids were important. The 1960s produced "The Brady Bunch," the Easy-Bake Oven, the "Big Wheel" and "Mary Poppins" -- all with kids in mind.

Maybe more significantly, the Sixties were the last that provided kids this importance without any cynicism or despair, perhaps for the last time. Kids of this decade weren't immune to the turmoil of the world around them -- indeed a 9-year-old boy in 1961 likely ended up fighting in Vietnam -- but they hadn't grown to simply expect it. I think by 1970s, that innocence was lost, for better or for worse.

One other thing about the 1960s -- a kid at this time grew up with the Beatles. Yes, rock 'n' roll was geared toward teens and the slightly older crowd, but much of it trickled down to tweens, and the Beatles were no exception. I imagine it was a thrill to hear a new Beatles song on the radio for a typical 11-year-old in the mid '60s.

The 1950s

The 1950s are perhaps the biggest no-brainer of any decade in my series of posts. Quite simply, the 1950s were the best time to best time to be a teenager.

Everything came together perfectly for teens in the 1950s. For the first time, teens owned cars en masse, and had places to take them to. They drove those cars to drive-ins, where they watched movies specifically made for the younger generation. The radios in those cars played music geared specifically for them, this newfangled rock 'n' roll. Simply put, the 1950s seemed to be made for the teenager.

I imagine how much fun it must have been to be a teen 55 years ago, cruising with friends, listening to Elvis, Little Richard and Buddy Holly on the radio. There's a reason this decade is so fondly remembered in "Grease," "Back to the Future" and "Happy Days": American culture was undergoing an incredible transformation, and the teens of this time were not only experiencing these change, but also driving it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The 1940s

If the 1930s were all about sports journalism in my eyes, the 1940s must have been the best decade for working in the news media in general.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

(By the way, as I go through each decade, you will notice a pattern with my preferences -- the decades will be either the best for my profession, for a certain age or a certain place.)

The number of newspapers was declining in the 1940s, but not so much that most big cities dropped to one daily newspaper. The profession was more respected as ever and still so important.

Radio was in its golden age, and radio news was at its pinnacle. By the end of the decade, television began to grow, offering journalists a chance to work in this brand new medium.

World War II dominated the news in the early to mid 1940s. Though I don't think I would have been brave/committed enough to be a war correspondent, the journalist back home stiil faced an enormous task -- disseminating the massive amount of important news. With the two invasions of Iraq in my lifetime, I voraciuously watched and read the war news and respected the efforts to bring that news to the people. The journalistic effort in the 1940s must have been incredible.

After the war ended, the news didn't. Europe was rebuilding while American was redefining itself. The Cold War began, and Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball. And the media didn't skip a beat.

So the best decades for journalism, in my opinion, were decades before I was born. Did I become a journalist 50 years too late? No, because in my 20-plus years in the business, change has been the norm and exciting (despite hard times in newspapers). I would not have switched decades, but it's always fun to wonder "what if?"

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The 1930s

I started writing about decades with my 1920s post, and I'm moving into the 1930s today. I am declaring that the Thirties were the best time in to be a sportswriter.

First, yes, I'm sure there were other things in the 1930s that were better known for than sports journalism. But because this is my blog, I'm going to naturally sway toward things I know best or am nostalgic for. That said, the 1930s were a kickin' time for sports journalism.

Baseball, which had exploded in popularity in the 1920s, continued to be America's pastime despite the Depression. I envy the beat writers for Yankees, Cardinals, Cubs and Giants during this time. But it wasn't just baseball: Other sports were coming into their own during this time, including college and pro football, horse racing and the Olympics. Boxing became even more popular thanks to the proliferation of radio. With that proliferation and with newspapers at their peak (they would start declining in numbers soon enough), sports were covered like they never were before.

Sports journalism continued to grow in the subsequent decades, with radio giving way to TV, and with more sports (e.g., basketball, golf, hockey) coming onto the national scene. But as it grew, it changed. Sports journalism was never as exciting, and perhaps never as important, as it was in the 1930s.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The 1920s

A posting project for this blog that I've been pondering for a while is to take a decade over the last century and decide what the best thing a person could be in that decade. For example, the 1950s might have been the besthttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif time to be a baseball fan (that's not what I came up with for the 1950s, however). Much of this is simply perception and history and is not meant to be a thesis-level treatise of American culture. Still, it's been fun to come up with something for every decade.

I'm starting with the 1920s, a decade I believe was the best time to live in Chicago.

Carl Sandburg wrote his classic poem "Chicago" in 1916 about the gritty nature of my hometown. I wonder what he thought about Chicago once it got into the Roaring Twenties. The city grew up, grew out and grew crazy during the decade. Before the 1920s, Chicago really was the key for goods going east and west, but it went beyond that in a short time. Immigrants flooded in to give the city an even more unique character, while the city's commercial base moved beyond stockyards and railroads.

One other thing, prohibition turned Chicago into one giant, albeit sometimes violent, party. I'm guessing the Twenties truly roared in Chi-Town.

I wonder if Chicagoans of the 1920s realized what was occurring as their city turned into a metropolis. Chicago's transformation led to the World's Fair in 1933, highlighting the city's ideal vision (even in the face of the Great Depression, that must not have been fun in Chicago in the 1930s).

I almost picked New York for the 1920s (rest assured, it gets another decade), and I'm sure a number of other cities prospered during this decade. And an argument could be made for the 1990s as the best Chicago decade (or even the 1980s, but I think living in Chicago the the 1980s might taint my judgment). I do know this -- if I could be dropped into any city in 1925, or could be dropped into any Chicago decade, this time and place are where this fiction would intersect.

Zoom

I swear, this past week was the fastest of my life. I don't mean the fastest because everything was so great and awesome that time flew because I was having fun. I mean, it was so busy that it was just a total blur.

This is what occurred since Monday morning: Two soccer practices, two school co-ops, two days of the car in the shop, two rush freelance projects that I finished up, two speech therapy sessions for Littlest, haircuts for the boys, a swim lesson for Littlest, a boot camp workout for me (honestly, I'm amazed I squeezed this in), a preschool board meeting for Wife, the NCAA championship, a day of work at the newspaper, a preschool newsletter to prepare, Little Gym classes for both boys, a few playdates, and rotten weather all week. Before I knew it, it was Friday after midnight, home from work. I'm not sure how it went so fast.

This exemplifies how nutty the week was: I went to pick up Eldest from school Thursday, only to discover I don't take him home on Thursdays. I ... thought it was Tuesday. Yes, it was that kind of week.

I'm looking forward to a slow weekend, probably inside because of the continuing rotten weather, with no freelance project to delve into. I'm looking forward to writing plenty this weekend. And I'm hoping next week slows down.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Name my blog!

In the past several weeks, I've been pleased with the amount of posting I have managed on this blog. All this writing has felt good, too, and is inspring me to write more. I'm going to restart my NFL blog this month, and I want to start a dads blog and a Generation X blog, hopefully both soon. The challenge is finding time to write all four and promote them. I'm finding time to write one semi-consistently, but can I make time to write four amid being a stay-at-home dad, working part-time, freelancing, exercising (the Ragnar is less than three months away) and chauffeuring the kids to and from their plethora of activities? I'm going to try. I need to try.

I want to start the Gen X blog next. My goal of the blog is part nostalgia (OK, a large part nostalgia), but also is writing about issues that concern adults of my generation. We were young, optimistic and ambitious 20 years ago, and now we're all parents and at an place in our life that we considered middle-aged when are own parents were this old. So besided looking at the past, I want to examine the present.

Who am I kidding, the new blog is going to me mostly looking at the past. One series of posts I've been working on is the top 10 WTF music videos of the 1980s -- expect a deep analysis of "Love is a Battlefield." I want to start all this soon, but I'm encountering one problem: I don't know what to name this blog.

For a while, I was thinking to play off "Generation X" with something like "Gen Xcessive." However, anything online, particularly in the Web address, with an "X" in it is going to conjure images and alert Internet filters of an adult website. So I'm trying to come up with a name that screams "Gen X" without actually saying "Gen X." I thought of combining names familiar to our generation: "Punky Fonzarelli" or "Dexy's Atari Nirvana." I thought of simply going with a nonspecific, somewhat generic name {"Click and Point" -- eh, but you get the idea) and hope readers then associate the title with the blog.

Perhaps I'm worrying about the name too much, but I want to come up with something catchy enough that people remember, and want to visit, the blog. Of course, I need to write quality content for people to want to come back to the site. A good title can only help that.