The Twilight Zone, better known as Western Mass

Last weekend I drove back to Mass for my cousin Amy’s bachelorette party and my friend Jodi’s bridal shower. In this short weekend, I managed to see domestic abuse and the cops, attend a car show, meet a Massachusetts state senator, and dance on a stripper pole. Did I enter the Twilight Zone? No, just Western Mass.

I hit the road after 9 pm on Friday after dropping LTJ at Captain and Mrs Larby’s for their summer shingdig (sorry I missed it!). As I drove past the sign for Monson, I was waxing nostalgic on my childhood days. Some of you Diatribers dispute the existence of Monson, but I can assure you it is real. Whether or not it’s part of the Twilight Zone is another story.

I ended up hitting Palmer at 1:30 am and went to the local hangout to meet my cousin Melanie as it was just after last call.

Now that I have moved on from the backwoods of Western Mass, I hate to make generalizations, but I have to admit after the bar scene that greeted my eyes, I was very happy that I no longer live out there and have that for my Friday night excitement. It was a depressing mish mash of poofy hair and white wife beater tank tops. I scene of boredom and repetition, as I know all those people are there every Friday night of their life, unless they are making the “big trip” out to Springfield to party. And I hate to use the word “white trash” but let’s face it, that’s probably the most accurate way to sum it all up. At the very least these people are trapped in a dimension of time, the land that time forgot… I was starting to wonder if maybe I really was in the twilight zone.

Melanie’s first words to me were along the lines of “we need to get Sonya out of here. she’s wasted and starting fights.” Come to find out, she’s starting fights with the girl who hooked up with her boyfriend when they were broken up. Now, I was really feeling back home… as a similar scenario occurred another time I was home over a year ago and in that one a girl jumped me…

I followed Melanie driving Sonya’s car back to Ware (not Where?). We arrive at Sonya’s boyfriend’s house just as my phone rings. It’s LTJ and I say I have to run as we’ve just arrived. Before we hang up he warns me not to get into any fights (also referring to the time I was jumped in Ware). I laugh. How could that possibly happen tonight?

Fast forward a few minutes and suddenly Sonya is outside the house shouting at this girl that was there. Then Sonya’s boyfriend goes outside and is yelling at Sonya. The next thing I know he’s shoved her against the car and is pulling her by her hair. I am watching in shock, eyes wide. She runs into her car and he’s screaming something about how she hit the back of his car and he escalates into a severe ‘roid rage. He jumps into the passengers side of her car and is grabbing her by the throat. I run over to the driver’s side (the window is down) and I yell at him “If you don’t let her go right now, I am going to call the cops.” During the pause, Sonya punches him in the face a few times, jumps out of the car, and starts walking down the street.

We all go back in the house and he is yelling at me about how I threatened to call the cops on him. I respond by saying that no matter what she did he had her by the throat. He says I can leave his house. I say gladly and leave with the words “you people are all crazy.”

As Melanie is giving me the directions to get back to her mom’s house, two cop cars arrive at the house. In this close-knit town Melanie knows the cops and assures them that she will smooth over the situation.

Senator Stephen Brewer
Laughs at “the Internet is just a bunch of tubes”

So yes, LTJ, in a little under 30 minutes, I managed to get into a fight and see the cops. Nothing like being home.

The next day I meet Melanie and we go to this local ice cream stand / burger joint to grab food. The place is packed with hot rods. We have just landed ourselves in the middle of a car show.

While we are waiting for our food, this older man approaches us and introduces himself as Joe Schmoe, actually his name is Stephen Brewer, a Massachusetts state senator. He asks where we live and what we do. He says “Oh, I don’t know that much about computers or the Internet” to which I could not help myself but to reply, “Oh, the Internet is just a bunch of tubes.”

Saturday night is Amy’s bachelorette. We are in the middle of nowhere, Hardwick at my aunt’s and the party bus is late to arrive. The driver had a hard time finding it, surprise surprise. On the party bus, there was a pole and we made each girl dance on it…

So no, I was not literally stripping, just dancing.

The argument for Hybrids

In one of the Blogs, John Gartner discusses how the debate about the money saved by purchasing a hybrid vehicle has been taking the wrong approach. This just further emphasizes the point that more people should switch to these more fuel-efficient vehicles.

I’m glad to see that there is such demand for hybrids, though, and seeing that the demand for the is far above the supply that Toyota has been able to produce. The waiting list for these schnazzy vehicles is approximately six months, from what I’ve heard, and the tax reduction (no deduction) on top of the fuel-efficiency is only icing on the cake.

Edmunds say the Honda Civic Hybrid takes 6.1 years to pay back the cost over a standard Civic. So comparing it to the already fuel efficient standard Civic doesn’t look like a great deal. (I’ll keep my Civic Hybrid for at least 6 years, so I’m not upset)…

…Using Edmunds’ formula as best I could, the Prius pays back the extra cost in less than a year and a half when compared to the Dodge Stratus. The Honda Civic Hybrid takes less than 4 years to pay back the cost over a Chevy Cobalt. And the numbers for the Escape Hybrid look even better when you compare them to your average SUV.

Read the full article from

Dictionary gets a new face

One of my favorite reference sites on the Web is , or it’s little brother . I’ve used these two sites mostly for their convenient domain names when trying to look up a definition or synonym.

Despite the very simple design and tacky, I’ve been a steadfast user of the site. I think my main complaint would have been how sluggish the site was on a daily basis.

All of this does seem to be fixed with their latest redesign that launched yesterday. The look is much classier, simpler, and easier to read. I’m very pleased with the changes, and congratulate for their good work in creating such a new design.

Flix. NetFlix.

For the past few years, I’ve had a number of people tell me how much they like . I’ve always been a fan of the service, and even Miss Possible was a subscriber back when we first had started dating. She cancelled the service, however, after we found that we weren’t really taking advantage of it because we would never be at one person’s house consistently enough to watch the movies all the time. Plus, when you first start dating someone, I think it’s difficult to immediately share a Netflix queue with them.

But, in that time, I’ve given a NetFlix membership to a number of people as birthday or holiday gifts. Each one of them enjoying it, after signing up and getting involved in the system. I had heard froma number of friends (The Captain and his lovely bride included) as well as a number of co-workers how great the service was. But.. It wasn’t until just recently that I started taking my own advice and signed up for the NetFlix service.

Since then, while we have not taken full advantage of our two-movie a month options, we’ve definitely watched more movies than usual. Being the summer, there’s a lot less new TV to DVR, so.. we’re more inclined to throw on a film or play an XBox 360 game.

Just today, though, I came across a very fascinating article in about the NetFlix service and how the facilities operate. It’s not one of those 6 page New Yorker articles, but rather a “Talk of the Town” segment that is roughly a page long or so. It goes into great detail about what is required to maintain the fast turnaround time.

Whether or not you’re a NetFlix subscriber, I recommend the article, it’s a fascinating read.

Imprisoned Behind One Bar

It’s not a good feeling when your cell phone’s battery power winds down to one bar. There’s that moment of dread, followed by uneasiness. On my phone, the display turns from a bright and cheery green 3- bar or 2-bar indicator to a dreary, solitary orange bar. As you could guess, I’m currently held hostage behind a single bar. What do I do? Do I dare leave the house? What if my phone dies? Where is my charger?

I remember Captain Larby’s cautionary tales about when he used to leave his phone charging whenever he was home. Then Dr. Doop warned that doing so can trick your battery. A certain school of thought has it that you’re better off letting your battery run down completely before charging it. With my old cell phone, I thought I was cheating battery death by turning it off during my office hours. I felt like a genius because my phone would hold a charge for two weeks. That eventually caught up with me, as did the battery’s old age, and I was lucky to get two days out of it.

But now my phone is young, spry, and the battery isn’t tricked. Still, it can be torture waiting for that one bar to topple. Considering it takes anywhere from two to four hours to charge, and one bar can last two days or more, these little hunks of aluminum and plastic can have a powerful hold over our lives. Do I go out tonight without it? Do I take my chances with one bar? Do I catch up with my friends later and sit here while my phone charges? It’s strange how much cell phones have affected our lives in just the last eight or so years.

Live Rattlesnakes Released In ‘Snakes On A Plane’ Theater

While we’re on the subject of movies.. why not bring up the mother of all crazy films to be released.. ever. The concept of Snakes on a Plane is the most ludicrous of all ideas I’ve ever heard of, and surprisingly it received relatively decent reviews. While the audiences were not out in force this past weekend to see the movie, the pranksters were.

Apparently, somewhere in Arizona, a few pranksters decided to release a few live snakes into a movie theater. While I was originally thinking that I might want to check out this film, I think I’ve now made it official that I’m going to be waiting until it’s DVD release to pick it up on NetFlix. Where I can be seated on my couch, in the comfort of my own home, and know for certain that nobody is going to be releasing any slithering creatures in my living room.

I’ll be watching you Miss Possible.

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Remember, remember the fifth of November

A Historian I am not. Prior to viewing the excellent film “V for Vendetta” yesterday, I had no idea who Guy Fawkes was. I didn’t know that in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe there was such a thing as Guy Fawkes Night. Much to my delight, the Brothers’ Wachowski and James McTeigue illuminated this little slice of European history for me and peaked my interest. I flat out loved this movie.

This film is not about the Gunpowder Plot itself, which was a botched attempt by Guy Fawkes and other Catholic conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 London, while King James, a Protestant, was there. In Fawkes, however, our antihero V finds a personal connection and sets in motion an elaborate plan to create a modern day edition of that failed plot. It’s 400-plus years later but London is at the mercy of a totalitarian tyrant and V feels that a symphony of explosions-percussion instruments is how he refers to them-is just the answer. A happenstance encounter with Evey (Natalie Portman-luscious even without hair) ultimately alters V’s vision of the spectacle, but does not deter his plan. The character of V is a brilliant mix of Edmond Dantes, the Phantom of the Opera and a Shakespearean Bard.

The action in this flick is stylistic, without stepping on the toes of “The Matrix”. There are swords, blades and bullets galore but the bloodshed is minimal and also stylistic (think Kill Bill). In fact, V’s preferred method of murder—check that, justice—is poison, leaving a peaceful corpse decorated with a rose. His victims are not innocent bystanders to some delusional terrorist plot, but rather decorated society members with horrifying skeletons in their closet such as a lecherous priest and a Limbaugh-esque talk show pundit.

The overtones reek of political strife. The film blatantly references Hitler and Islam while also evoking post 9/11 fears of terrorism in the form of subway explosions and biological warfare. It is entertaining, eye-candy, thoughtful and exciting all at once. If you have Netflix, cue it. If you rent from Blockbuster run, don’t walk, to rent “V for Vendetta”. Sadly, the Guy Fawkes mask, cape and hat don’t come with the movie. But I know what I am going to be this Halloween. Or, perhaps on the eve of November the fifth…

Replacement Richard

I’m convinced that the real Little Richard is either dead, ill, or retired, and a replacement is filling in for him. Not that Little Richard keeps a particularly high profile these days – I don’t know if he still tours or records – but he’s featured in a TV commercial for an insurance company. Ladies and gentlemen, that cannot be Little Richard. I refuse to believe that’s him. Yes, the wonders of technology can change the appearance of anyone or even bring the dead back to life (a la Forrest Gump), but Little Richard is supposed to be a 70-something year-old man and this imposter looks downright cartoonish. Mark my words and cite this blog entry when the truth is revealed.

Here we go again

Well, boys.. here we go again. The Bronx Bombers are going to try to march into Precious Fenway in an attempt to put the end to the AL East race.. and I’m scared. The Sox have not been playing well lately, and though we’re only a game and a half out — thanks to my father’s Orioles — I’m hoping to win the series.

In true Yankee Fashion, they’ve managed to buy the top players in Major League Baseball, and crank it up a notch for the last half of the season. The Sox, down captainless, have been struggling as of late, and hopefully will be able to turn on the gas for the next few games. The starters (from Schilling on down) need to come around, the bats need to be hittin’ and the bullpen needs to snap out of the worst funk that it’s been in since the start of the season.

This is the first Sox-Yankees 5-game series during the regular season since 1973, and it’s no doubt going to be the first of the last few series during the later summer months that will determine the playoff matchup this coming fall. Let’s leave the Wildcard for the AL Central, and let’s knock the Yankees out of the playoff picture starting with a big series this weekend.

Speaking of buying their way back on top.. what are the Yankees going to do when Matsui comes back? Damon, Sheffield, Matsui, and Abreu makes one heck of an outfield, good thing the AL isn’t planning on adding a Rover to the lineup. Maybe the Yankees can buy that too.

In any event.. let’s get into high gear as we come into the last 2 months of baseball.. and watch the Sox try to climb back on top.. starting with a big win this weekend. C’mon boys. Show us what you got!

Back in My Day…

Am I getting old or is the world just changing faster than I can keep up? Last weekend, Swedish Girl and I went out for some drinks and appetizers and wanted to catch a movie – My Super Ex-Girlfriend, to be exact. I’m a fan of Luke Wilson, Rainn Wilson, and I don’t mind Uma Thurman. I had seen the trailer and I was game. It seemed like a decent 90-minute comedic diversion. I even had two free cinema passes given to my by my boss, so I was looking forward to a good night. Unfortunately, the mulitplex didn’t cooperate.

I was shocked and horrified to find out that, after lasting less than three weeks (JUST 3 WEEKS!), MSEG was pushed out of the theater. I stood there, incredulous, checking and double-checking both movie boards inside the cinema, as well as the big board outside. Gone. And later on, I checked on line and it’s only playing in two distant cinemas. And I’m not about to drive 30 to 45 minutes for a movie.

Is it just my rose-colored memory, or did movies used to stick around a lot longer years ago? Even really bad movies were guaranteed one or two months at the cinema. Guaranteed. And good movies stuck around for three months. Weren’t Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction around for half the year? What has happened over the last decade? I realize that this is a billion-dollar industry and cinemas want to have the hottest, latest movies, but this is ridiculous.

I’ve never felt pressured to hurry to the theater to see a movie within 10 or 12 days for fear that it will be pulled. Didn’t It’s Pat: The Movie even get a longer stay back in 1994? Maybe I’m just whining about nothing. Maybe this is yet another consequence of the fast-paced, attention deficit disorder, MTV generation. Maybe this is what we now get in the DVD era, where producers and movie studios don’t care about long box office runs and it’s only the opening weekend that really matters. However you define it, it makes me feel a bit old.