Friday, May 26, 2006

Road Trip

Sports Illustrated has been dumbing down its content for quite a while now, and The Pop Culture Grid is one of its latest forays into People the Magazine territory. I don't mind the PCG too much because it's quick and to the point, unlike the puff pieces they run about various athlete's workout programs and interviews with B-list celebrities who happen to enjoy sports. This week's grid asks four athletes where they'd like to go on road trip. Two of the four listed places that, as of SI's printing, are not accessible by car from the continental United States. Kara Lawson of the WNBA's Monarchs listed Capetown, South Africa as her ideal road trip destination. Perhaps she envisions flying to Johannesburg first, the grid doesn't really allow for any elaboration. I would advise anyone to avoid getting into a car with White Sox slugger Jim Thome, whose idea of a good road trip is packing up the car and driving to Hawai'i.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lost Angeles

In honor of the net's newest mp3 blog, brought to you by an old friend, I thought I'd share a relatively recent discovery of mine in the realm of online digital music. Ladies and gentlemen, it's The Hollywood Squaretet. If you like avant garde jazz and punk rock, which you most certainly don't, you'll love the Squaretet. Seriously though, I've only heard the two songs they have available on their site, Lost Angeles and Welcome to the F.U. Lounge, but it's some pretty interesting stuff. It's loud, abrasive, angry, and funny. Bonus points if you catch the reference to the Rolling Stone's "Heartbreaker" at the end of "Lost Angeles".

Death of a Salesman

I don't know if I'm cut out for a job in sales. When I was a kid, my parent's would usually participate in our neighborhood's annual garage sale. One year I was minding the store on a particularly slow afternoon when I decided that the best way to drum up business was to offer all shoppers free cups of water. I proclaimed this sweet deal with a homemade sign and went inside to fetch a pitcher of water and some cups, but it didn't manage to drum up any new business. Did I mention that it was raining at the time?

I was reminded of this today when I went to my local Stop & Shop and noticed a table near the checkout with a bunch of used books on it. Since I'm a sucker for used books, I took a closer look and saw that it was part of a promotion. Anyone who bought two raffle tickets to benefit a local children's cancer charity got a free book. Now I didn't look at every book on the table, but the stuff that I saw was pretty bottom-shelf material. I didn't see any microwave oven user's manuals or Garfield books, but it really looked like they asked all of the employees to bring in any books they had at home that they didn't want anymore. Free water, anyone?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Outside Providence

Michelle's parents were in town this past weekend (our first visitors in Rhode Island). Unfortunately, it was pouring rain the entire time, so we weren't able to do a lot of the things that we had planned. We wound up spending most of our time in the car and indoors in Providence. I like to write about travel, and while we didn't travel away from home this weekend, we've only lived here for a little more than a month so in some ways, visiting Providence was sort of like a vacation.

We kicked off the weekend on Friday night with dinner at Andino's on Federal Hill, Providence's Italian neighborhood. I hadn't been to Federal Hill since we moved here and the only place I had been to on Federal Hill was an Indian restaurant, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. Andino's turned out to be a pretty old-school Italian restaurant (what some might call a red-checkered-tablecloth Italian restaurant). Maybe I'm being a little bit too harsh, but my experience wasn't the greatest. We had a 7pm reservation and were running a little bit late, so I dropped Michelle and her parents off at the restaurant and went to find parking. When I made it to the restaurant, the first thing the hostess said to me was "it's at least a 45 minute wait." No greeting or even an inquiry as to whether or not I already had a reservation. The service was disappointing the entire evening and the atmosphere was a bit lacking as well. The food wasn't bad, but I'm pretty sure you can do a lot better somewhere else on Federal Hill.

The rain managed to let up for a little while on Saturday. We headed back to Providence and took a stroll around the Brown University campus. We've driven past different parts of the Brown campus several times since moving here, but this was the first time we have explored it on foot. We broke for lunch on Thayer Street, then went downtown and took a stroll through the Waterplace Park and the Riverwalk. We pretty much had downtown Providence to ourselves, which was somewhat disappointing, but not too surprising given the weather. I'm not sure how lively downtown Providence is on a typical Saturday afternoon when the weather is decent. It sounds like they have a lot of festivals downtown during the summer, so it sounds like it could be a happening place.

After the park, we headed over to the RISD Museum. The museum definitely lives up to its reputation. It's not a huge museum, but the breadth and quality of the artwork on display is quite impressive for a museum of its size. Unfortunately, a number of exhibits were closed. Of course, we'll have plenty of chances to go back and visit when they re-open for a very reasonable $8 cover charge or during their monthly free exhibitions.

I though that the RISD Museum provided excellent background information and context for most of the items they had on display. I always try to maintain a balance between observing art and reading about it when I visit a museum. It's tempting to just read the descriptions and give the artwork a cursory glance when you're at a museum that provides you with a lot of good information, but it's a chance I'm willing to take. I had one of my worst art appreciation experiences ever at the Isabella Stuart Gardener Museum in Boston, which deliberately eschews any information or context about the art on display. I think the best approach is to really key in on the pieces that captivates your interest and read about or just buzz by the stuff that you aren't really into.

We had tentatively planned to go to Newport on Sunday, but the weather was even worse than it had been on Saturday, so we decided to stick around Providence again. We did a driving tour of downtown and the east side, which probably wasn't much of a tour, seeing as we don't know our way around town all that well. We then headed over to the Providence Place Mall, one of the jewels of Providence's rejuvenated downtown. Putting a big mall in the center of a city may seem kind of strange or even grotesque, but I kind of like the idea. Providence is too small to support a blocks-long retail district downtown, so it's either a mall or nothing. They got a lot of things right with the Providence Place Mall, including a row of shops and restaurants accessible at street level and an architectural style that fits into the downtown landscape about as well as a mall could hope to. That being said, the parking situation was completely insane. Once we entered the parking garage from the street, it took at least five minutes to get to the take a ticket machine. Getting out took at least 20 minutes. It didn't appear that any of the ticket booths were out-of-service, so I'm guessing that it's that bad on most rainy weekends.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Destination Unknown

The Economist weighed in (subscription required) on Syracuse's DestiNY USA shopping and entertainment complex this week. Needless to say, they aren't exactly bullish on its prospects. They more or less echo the sentiments that I have already expressed on this blog. The project still appears to be a longshot, and even if it ever gets off the ground, it's not going to magically solve all of Syracuse's economic woes. As an added bonus, the print edition has a nice photo of Clinton Square under an almost eerie purple-colored sky. On newstands now.

Weigh In

I just got my new Rhode Island driver's license in the mail. It's the first driver's license I've ever had that has my weight printed on it. Perhaps it's part of a statewide attempt to shame people into losing weight.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Maple Leaf Rag

This is a cautionary tale about the consequences of wearing sports apparel for teams that you do not follow or support. My good friend Greg Wu gave me a nice Toronto Maple Leafs "throwback" t-shirt a few years ago. When I wear the shirt out in public, I often get comments from people who see the shirt and assume that I am a Maple Leafs fan. It happened to me twice today at the grocery store. The first encounter was with an employee who told me about a co-worker who loves the Maple Leafs so much that he flew to Toronto a couple times this past season to watch them play. The second encounter was with the aforementioned employee himself. I finally had to fess up and tell him that I wasn't actually a Maple Leafs fan after he started asking me my opinion of some of the personel moves that the Leafs made this season, about which I knew absolutely nothing.

These kinds of interactions make sense. There probably aren't too many die hard Leafs fans anywhere in the States, so when people see someone who they think shares their allegiance, they want to acknowledge it. Two interactions that I still don't quite understand are a cabbie who once asked me if I played for the Maple Leafs when I wore the shirt and some fans at a Kansas City Royals game who called MDS (who was wearing a Detroit Red Wings shirt at the time) and me out for wearing hockey t-shirts to a baseball game.