Wednesday, December 06, 2006

James Kim, R.I.P.

For the past week I've been closely following the story of James Kim and his family, who disappeared on their way home to San Francisco after celebrating Thanksgiving in Oregon. The family got stuck in snow on Oregon back roads and it was 9 days before they were found on Monday. Miraculously James' wife Kati, and their two young daughters, were found alive and in very good condition. James though had set out on his own a few days before that to seek help and didn't make it, his body just recovered this afternoon. More details on the story can be found here and of course elsewhere on the web.

This story touched me as I've been watching James for many many years on TV and on podcasts that I frequent. He used to be a "lab rat" (product tester) back at TechTV, and a frequent and favorite guest on "The Screen Savers", a tech show that we all watched regularly. Since then he has been an editor and regular contributor to, and I'd not only read his stuff there but see him regularly on the CNET tips vidcast that my TiVo downloads every week.

James always touched me as I recall on "The Screen Savers" when his first daughter was born, and how happy and proud he was. He would frequently use his daughter as a subject when testing new digital cameras, for instance. I found myself emotionally invested in this story, and I'm very saddened that he didn't make it... but praise the Tiki his family survived, as difficult as this must be for them! The saddest thought I have of this is James died alone, without knowing that his family was found safe.

Godspeed, James Kim. You were a true hero to your family. And to me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ah, Trek in the 70s!

So I'm delighted yesterday to get my new DVD set of Star Trek: The Animated Series, the Filmation cartoon show from the early 70s that so many of us enjoyed as kids. The set is nicely presented, though I haven't watched the discs yet (the weekend's coming!). However, I'm reading the liner notes from the box set tonight, and these have got to be the funniest liner notes I've ever seen... though sadly, unintentionally! They look like they were written by Jordan (McAuliffe kids, ask your folks!).

Here's a few samples, starting right in the introduction where they apparently couldn't decide which way to go so they proudly proclaim:

"To boldly go where no one man has gone before"!

(from the description of Beyond the Farthest Star) "When the creature takes control of his ship, Captain Kirk uses bold tactics to convince the creature that is being lured to its death".

Isn't this the ultimate Trek no-no?
(from Yesteryear) "Dr. Spock is removed from history, despite being very much present aboard the Enterprise!"

Isn't that what planet-destroying clouds do?
(from One of Our Planets in Missing) "A massive planet-destroying cloud threatens to destroy every planet in the galaxy."

I hate it when that happens!
(from The Survivor) "However, when [Nurse Chapel's fiance] turns out to be a shape-shifting alien who later impersonates Kirk and orders the Enterprise into the dangerous Romulan Neutral Zone, the situation takes a turn for the worse."

Oh no, not that... Get, the SOFT CUSHIONS!!
(from The Infinite Vulcan) "When the cloned scientist cripples Spock by trying to clone him, Kirk resorts to philosophy."

Starfleet's Funniest Home Videos....
(from The Practical Joker) "The ensuing chaos proves to be amusing but extremely dangerous."

Believe me, there's more!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Another Bluesmobile...

At left is the gift I received from Jake this week, a large-scale replica of the Bluesmobile II he put together from me! It started life as a toy Crown Vic, but Jake did the paints and markings, and fashioned the push bars and spot lights himself. This photo doesn't do it justice (I'll take some better ones this weekend when I dig out the "good" camera) but I had to share it. (That's a standard 12-ounce beer behind it, for scale.) Thank you, brother!!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Trek Thoughts

I've been watching the re-mastered classic “Star Trek” episodes the past few weeks, featuring the newly-rendered CGI special effects. For the most part I've thought the remastering was excellent, with clean prints and vibrant colors; the new CGI has been okay, but only just. Some shots looked good, some looked very flat.

Until this week's episode, “Space Seed”. They have a much improved CGI Enterprise model, that looks fantastic, and they really used some excellent creative angles on the exterior SFX shots of the Enterprise and the Botany Bay (the semi-derelict 1990's ship they come across in this episode). For the first time I really thought the new effects did in fact improve the show. Bravo!!

Of course, watching this syndicated has sucked as the episodes are still cut up, with many scenes chopped. I still doubt I'll be buying these on DVD when they're released as I did splurge for the original classic DVD box sets but at least they're really showing they are truly committed to improving the show without changing it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Night at Symphony Hall

Buster & I had a busy but very fun weekend. Friday night I took him to see B.B. King... a 3-hour concert is a bit much for a 9-year-old (even one who likes blues!), but B.B. is 81 now and probably won't keep touring much longer... with Buster old enough that he may actually remember this show it seemed a worthy adventure to let him see this blues legend! And yes, it was long for him and he had moments of boredom and fidgeting, but whenever a song he knew was played he'd bounce right back and on a few occasions start singing along! It was his first real concert, and when it was done he was very glad he went. He was even able to go down near the stage at the end of the show and scored one of the little souvenir pins B tosses out to the crowd when he's done.

I've seen B.B. many times over the past 20-odd years, and have also met him twice... once even singing with him, a story I'm sure most reading this know and have heard enough of! It's been both fun and bittersweet watching B.B. maturing, and of course noting how I myself have gotten so much older... time marches on, the ultimate blues. Each of the past several times I've seen him B has looked a bit older, a bit more tired... and yet hasn't backed down from giving the audience what he's always given us: himself. An evening with B.B. really feels like you're meeting the man... no on-stage patter for him, he talks to the audience with true stories and lessons from his own life. The man is amazing, and amazingly humble. As always lately, I'm hoping this wasn't the last time I'll see him!

On another quick note, The Hey and I saw the new James Bond movie last night ("Casino Royale"), and came away very happy! I've always been a big Bond fan, but the movies have become more and more "Blowed Up" stunt extravaganzas with over-the-top stories and cartoon-character characters. This had its share of stunts but was still a genuine spy story with overall fairly believable characters... not perfect by any means but a great story and a good return to the basics for my favorite secret agent. Here's hoping they can build on this and keep moving in that direction!

Monday, October 30, 2006

WDW Pictures Posted!

I've uploaded a bunch of our trip pictures from Disney World earlier this month to my Flickr site, here: Enjoy!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Winter is Here....

Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals, on winning the World Series championship tonight! Two years to the day from when the Red Sox defeated them in the same ballpark, it was great to see them win in front of their home fans. Though I went into the Series rooting for the Tigers, only because theirs seemed like such a great story this year, clearly the way they played they had no business winning this thing.

I like the Cards too (and have been a David Eckstein fan for years!) so the only real disappointment for me is this didn't go seven games and extend the illusion of summer (40-degree, rainy summer!) a few days longer!

But most importantly, two years ago tonight, the Red Sox won the World Series!!!!

Also, of equal importance to me personally, it was one year ago today that I picked up the new Bluesmobile... and still keeping the Faith!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

We've Gone to Disney World!!

Okay, finally a chance to post some details from our recent trip to Walt Disney World (WDW). Unlike our last trip (in May '05), we left the computers at home, and lived for two full weeks with no internet access whatsoever... I'm happy to report we all survived just fine! I'll have a few photos through this post, and hopefully I'll get more posted to my Flickr site later in the week (stay tuned).

This year's trip was for a full two weeks, as we had an extra week "banked" at our Kissimmee timeshare. One drawback we had was due to some work constraints, The Momma had to fly down one night later than Buster and I, and she had to fly home two days earlier. That basically sucked (especially her going home before us), but I must admit the couple of days this afforded me to hang at Disney alone with Buster were very fun and rewarding!

Buster and I flew down on Saturday, 9/30, and checked into our condo that afternoon. We did some grocery shopping to set up house as we'd be in the same unit for the full two weeks, which was a very stress-free arrangement! I've been an owner at this particular resort (Orbit One Vacation Villas) since 1987, and haven't missed too many years there in between. They've kept the place up very nicely (though still no broadband internet), and it's only one mile away from WDW's main entranceway.

The Momma's flight on Sunday didn't get in until 11pm, so Buster and I took that first day to go to the Magic Kingdom. Though Buster had made it very clear ahead of time he still didn't want to go on any thrill rides (with the possible exception of Splash Mountain), we still had a great time riding favorites such as Pirates of the Caribbean and yes, Splash Mountain. Buster's favorite part of the day there was probably the hour or two we spent on Tom Sawyer's Island, a sometimes-overlooked play-and-explore area that's a great place to get away from the crowds.

Later in the afternoon we hopped the monorail over to Epcot, our favorite park. We made our first visit to the Rose & Crown pub in World Showcase, which readers and friends know is one of my personal favorite WDW establishments, so that we could visit briefly with Pam Brody, the resident piano player there. Pam's been there for many, many years and prior to that had a very distinguished career playing on the Queen Mary, and playing for many celebrities. Pam again claimed to remember us (well, Buster anyway, who has sung with and danced for her in years past)... it's easy to think she's just being polite but she did recall that he was a singer! (Though this year he was too shy, despite her asking him several times... ah well!)

We picked up The Momma without incident, then spent the next day (Monday, 10/2) mostly arguing and bickering with the local Kissimmee CVS store trying to get a complicated prescription issue resolved (that had supposedly been all set up before we flew down). We also got a few hours in at the Liki Tiki Lagoon, a small water playground at another resort owned by the same group that ours is part of.

Tuesday was our first "real" vacation day as a family, then, and of course we spent it at Epcot! The highlight of this day was probably the fantastic lunch we had at the Coral Reef Restaurant, inside their Living Seas pavilion. This is one of the pricier restaurants there but it remains a favorite for the atmosphere, service and - of course - the food. And I don't even like seafood!

Wednesday was a water park day, we spent a few hours at Blizzard Beach before then returning to - where else? - Epcot that evening. I used to really enjoy the water parks before Buster was born, but admittedly I've found them a bit less interesting since he's still not interested in the bigger water slides and spends most of his time in the pre-teen area. They have a great one of these (for kids 5-10), but not much for me or The Momma to do. Still, Buster had a blast and we had fun, and didn't stay too long, so it was a good time.

Thursday we hit the Disney/MGM Studios park, one that I've liked more and more as they've expanded over the years. All of us had a really great day there. A highlight was again a great lunch, this time at the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant, one we hadn't tried before. The place was terrific though, and I'm sure we'll be back! We also checked out the new auto stunt show there, "Light, Motors, Action!"... this had just opened the same week as our last visit but we'd never gotten around to seeing it. A very fun show, especially for a Blues Brother like myself... I'll know what job I'd want if I move to Florida, give me the wheel!

Friday was basically a rest day at the condo, though that night we made our first visit to Pleasure Island - and more specifically, to the Adventurers' Club, another favorite. Buster loves the place as much as I do, and is already a pin-wearing member. Kungaloosh!!

Saturday the 7th was a day for the whole family back at the Magic Kingdom, and Sunday back to - hmmm, I know - Epcot again! Both good days, Saturday the MK was open until midnight so we stayed through the fireworks, finally left around 11:30pm. Sunday another great Epcot meal, at Chefs de France in World Showcase, and our traditional family hanging-out in the lounge at the Japan pavilion, where The Momma enjoys her sushi and I enjoy my sake. Mmmmmm, sake... Also had another visit to the Rose & Crown that day of course!

Monday, another off day, spent lounging and swimming at the condo. Tuesday was Animal Kingdom day, a park we all really like... though this particular day was exceptionally crowded. Still, we had a great time, and got a lot done. I rode the new Expedition: Everest coaster twice, and really liked it... though the Studios' Rock'n Roller Coaster remains my favorite Disney coaster. As the AK closes early in the offseason (5pm), around 4:30 we left and again went back yet again to Epcot.

Wednesday we went to Typhoon Lagoon, and it was on this day that things changed a little... Buster decided to try the adult water slides, and loved them! Finally, something all of us could enjoy together, we must have gone down them a dozen times! He wasn't doing the enormous speed slides, mind you, but the "Storm Slides"... long, curvy slides that are very fun. We also enjoyed the family raft ride there and of course their lazy river is a favorite.

Alas though The Momma on this day came down with a very nasty cold, and by the time we left the water park she was in bad shape. We aborted our planned return to Epcot that evening and retired back to the condo so she could rest while Buster and I again hit the pools there. (Buster got this same cold the day after we flew home; I'm fighting it only now as I type this, over a week later.)

Thursday the 12th was a sad day... The Momma had to fly home that day so she could work Friday night. (Which never happened due to issues with the timing of the roof on our house being replaced while we were away... but that's another story!) Still feeling bad from her cold but better than the day before, we dropped her off at the airport that afternoon.

Buster and I, though depressed, headed back to the Magic Kingdom (Buster's choice) and got there around 2:30pm. We again had a great afternoon, but something else changed... Buster agreed, with some trepidation, to try the "kiddie" roller coaster in Mickey's Toontown. Called Goofy's Barnstormer, this is actually a pretty respectable steel coaster... not very long and no big drops, but still a lot of turns and fairly fast.

Buster loved it! After riding it a couple of times he decided he wanted to try Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, one of the full-size coasters there... and he loved that too! (Indeed, that ended up being his favorite.) So after almost two weeks, he decides on his next-to-last day that he likes coasters. Ah, if only that was on the first day! But it made for a very fun ending to the trip.

Thursday night he and I revisited the Adventurers' Club, as one visit there per vacation is simply not sufficient. Then Friday we went back to Epcot for our last vacation day, which was planned to be a relaxing day hanging out at all our favorite World Showcase spots.

Except, Buster now wanted to try more "big" rides! So he rode Mission: Space (the newly-tamed down version, with no centrifuge action), which he mostly liked but wasn't overly impressed with. Then while again sitting in the Rose & Crown he asked if I thought he'd like Space Mountain. I told him it was pitch dark and a lot scarier than what he'd been on so far so I wasn't sure he would, but after some thought he said he really wanted to try it. So, off we went to take the Monorail back to the Magic Kingdom... and after riding it, he said he loved it but it was "too short". Ha! I guess the next time we get down there the rythym of the vacation will be a little different now that he'll be into all these rides. We went back to Epcot and rode Test Track, which he also liked, then finally made it back into the World Showcase with only a couple of hours left in our day, and in our vacation.

We rode the River of Time ride in the Mexico pavilion again... this is a very slow, low-key boat ride but has, ever since Buster was about two years old, always been one of his favorites, and even with his new-found love of roller coasters this still remained true. We rode it a couple of times in a row that night as he was very sad to realize our time there was coming to an end (as was I). Then we hurried up to the Japan pavilion to spend our last remaining time there. I watched the nightly Illuminations fireworks show from there while Buster was inside the shops hanging out in their extensive Pokemon section... I think he was playing the role of docent to other kids looking around, he'd been a regular there for two weeks!

After the fireworks we sat down for one last urn of sake and a soda in the Japan lounge. Another trip over... another great trip! Saturday we flew home without incident, and it was back to the real world.

Highlights I'll remember -

Epcot Epcot Epcot! Epcot, and specifically, World Showcase, remains our favorite place to visit. Away from the thrill rides and with the crowds fairly diluted, this is why we return over and over to WDW for vacations and actually are able to relax there. Each country has spots where we love to sit down, relax with food or drink, and enjoy the atmosphere without getting overrun by it. Yay, Epcot!

The Food and Wine Festival. It's been a couple of years since we were here while this great festival was going on, but I love it. Lots of additional food, wine and beer choices from all over the world are available in small kiosks set up all around the World Showcase lagoon. As we were there for the opening weeks of the festival this year it certainly made for larger crowds, but it's a very fun and festive atmosphere. Yay, more wine and beer choices! (Oh, and food, yeah, that too!)

Special cast member moments. The "magic" of WDW comes from its employees more than it does from the attractions. While making a dining reservation one afternoon the cast member gave Buster, with some ceremony, a special "Citizen of Walt Disney World" pin, and he couldn't have been more proud... until later that day, while showing it off to our server at an Epcot restaurant, she gave him an official cast member "35th Anniversary" pin that *I* was jealous of! Later in the week another cast member gave him a neat "My 1st Visit to WDW" pin... but had to make quite the argument as Buster kept refuting the claim:

Buster: "Actually, I've been here before!"
Cast Member: "Well, it's your first time at Epcot this trip then!"
B: "No, I've been coming here for two weeks!"
CM: "Well, it's your first time in Disney World today!"
B: "No, we were at the Animal Kingdom earlier..."

He finally took the pin though!

Growing up. By far the biggest memory of this trip was Buster again showing new signs of maturity. Not only did he finally - and suddenly! - decide he would try and then actually like some thrill rides, but over the whole trip he showed more independence than we'd seen him display before. He frequently would go play in the play areas on his own while The Momma and I would do something else, or run ahead of us (when we'd let him) and meet us at a destination. This gave us some new-found freedom, and him new-found confidence.

And yet, that's sad too, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Coming Soon.... WDW Details

We've been back from our most recent Disney World trip for over a week now, I'll get some pictures and stories posted as soon as I have some free time! But yes, we had a great trip.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

New Treks

I watched the revamped classic STAR TREK episode "Balance of "Terror" this morning, done with new special effects... basically I can take it or leave it, but at least they were true to their word and very respectful in how they changed the effects. No scenes were added (so I wouldn't expect we'd see the fleets in "Errand of Mercy", for instance), just replaced. Some shots looked very nice, though only one shot of the Bird of Prey really jumped out at me as something great. Quite a few shots looked good, but several also had that flat, 2-D cgi look as well and just distracted from the show.

The remastering itself was great, at least watching it on a standard-def TV. Colors and contrasts were great, though that made some of the new CGI shots look even more flat by comparison.

It was fun to see, and I'll look forward to seeing more episodes, but certainly not something to make me want to upgrade my DVDs. (And not sure I'd choose the new versions over the old if I was buying the sets for the first time.) Will younger people really be happier with the new effects? I don't know, I guess I'm not really in a position to judge. But I'm content with the approach they took, at least!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Happy Birthday, B!

B.B. King turned 81 today, and though he's slowed down a bit he still spends more days touring than most performers a third his age! Buster and I will be going to see B.B. in concert in mid-November, it'll be his first (and very possibly only) chance to see this legend before B. retires!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Sad "Passing"....

I was attending a (very dull) business meeting at my company's Canton, MA facility this afternoon, and found that Davenport Avenue in Canton has been destroyed and built over by a new, still under construction condo complex.

Davenport Ave is where we lived for 6-7 years back in the 80's, the days of our "wild youth". And our rented house on that old dirt road, #12, was definitely the center of our wildest moments. Dubbed the "Blues Mansion" (and also later the "Blues Mansion East" as we also had parties at Jake's place in western MA), it was the gathering point for a large group of friends... most of whom were part of what became our Star Trek fan group, the "USS Christa McAuliffe". We had New Years' and Independence Day parties that lasted a minimum of three days and as many as 5 days, depending on when the holiday fell. (5 days would be a mid-week holiday, stretching into the weekend!) It's where some of us met for the first time, and most of us are still close friends to this day. It's where our original Bluesmobile was housed much of the time throughout that decade.

You get the picture. I was very pleased when, just a few months after I moved out of that house at the end of the decade, I learned in a town newspaper that when they implemented a new E-911 phone system in Canton they had to change the house numbering... on that particular house. Our number had been retired! Now the old New England cape-style house is gone (probably has been for a while, though I know it was still there early this year), but the memories remain....

....well, some of the memories remain, at least! ;-)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Touch a Bluesmobile

NOTE: From this point forward I'm going to take to calling my son by his Blues traveling name, "Buster"... it's just easier to write and type than "C", surprisingly!

Buster and I had a great time Monday (Labor Day) at the "Touch a Truck Day" event in N. Attleboro. This was a fundraiser for "Mothers Without Borders", where they brought in emergency vehicles (and were supposed to also have some construction vehicles, though none made it) and let kids explore them, hands-on. So there was a police car, a paddy wagon, two fire engines, an ambulance, one sports car... and a Bluesmobile. It was very fun, as the adults liked the Blues Brothers connection (Buster & I were suited up), and the kids - who didn't all know the Blues Brothers - just thought we were a real police car that they could sit behind the wheel of. (As the genuine cruiser was understandably only letting kids in the rear seat.)

Got some photos put up here on the Flickr site, my favorites are the ones showing half a dozen kids at once crowding into the Bluesmobile, having a great time. Of course, it took me two days to find and set back every switch, knob, and setting the kids had managed to mess with while there, but neither I nor the Bluesmobile minded!

Buster also enjoyed it, and being in costume was a big center of attention himself. We'll certainly be open to doing more of this type of show in the future!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

YouTube Test

I don't expect to be doing much video uploading, but I want to make sure I can... here's two videos from our Disney vacation last year (May '05) just to test the concept.

First, The Momma's favorite performers from Epcot, Japan's Matsuriza drummers:

Next, my faves, the Voices of Liberty from Epcot's American Adventure pavilion:

This has been a test.... stay tuned for future posts.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Catching Up....

I can't help but notice that I'm still getting 100 hits or so each month, so I suppose I ought to try and get back in the swing of posting more often. That probably won't really happen until later this fall (after we're recovered from our next Disney trip in October), but hey, I owe ya something!

It's been a busy summer, mostly nicely busy apart from another major car repair to the Saab (transmission-related this time), some substantial and expensive dental work, and The Momma being put on-call at her job more often than our budget can comfortably handle.

But there's been lots of fun too. C and I have gone to quite a few great town events, most notably the town's summer "Concerts on the Common" series where they have a free concert every Sunday night. (The last one of the season was rained out this past weekend, bummer!) It's a different music style every week so it's been a fun way to expose C to the different styles and just get out and be part of the town. We usually bring lawn chairs and a ball or Frisbee to pass the time. The music's sometimes good, sometimes so-so; occasionally great but never horrible. And as the Common is walking distance it's very convenient.

We've also gone to a few wildlife presentations at our town's state park, one on turtles, one on raptors (birds of prey), and one on snakes (The Momma took C to the latter as it was on a workday for me). All quite fun, with live animals to see.

Also earlier this month was my company's summer picnic, a very large affair that C & I attended. There were quite a few highlights, the best probably being C's chance to ride a camel... which he did four times! He also enjoyed the carnival rides and - of course - the video game arcade. I've got some photos of him on the camel that I'll post once I finally get around to downloading the camera.

This past weekend C & I spent Saturday at Fenway Park. While the Red Sox were on a west cast road trip they had a minor league double-header at the Fens, at minor league(-ish) prices. The (Single A league) Lowell Spinners played a game, followed an hour later by a PawSox game. Our seats were terrific, 6 rows behind the home team dugout... never something we could get at an MLB game! C lasted through the entire first game and (despite the one-hour wait between games) through the third inning of the second game... all in all we were there for about 6 hours. Yay!

Our next big gig is next week, on Labor Day, when C & I will be suiting up and taking the Bluesmobile to a charity car show for kids in North Attleboro, MA. Called "Touch a Truck Day", it's an opportunity for families to come and let their kids explore (hands-on) police cars, fire trucks, construction equipment, ambulances - and a Bluesmobile - with the proceeds going to charity. It should be a fun afternoon, if the local police parked next to me don't take exception to our car of course!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Con Photos Posted

Hopefully I'll find some more but I've got a bunch of photos from the Shore Leave con posted now to my Flickr site. Enjoy!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Shore Leave - At Last!

After months of anticipation we made it to the Shore Leave science fiction convention last week, and the trip did not disappoint. I haven't gone to the con for its programming in many, many years, and this was no exception, but the weekend remains one of the high points of the year for me each year. Mostly it's a chance to just Get Away... a break after many months of the daily grind. This year that was especially true, I hadn't had a vacation in 14 months (since last year's Disney World trip) and it'd been a particularly grueling winter and spring at work. Shore Leave for me is usually four days spent hanging out in a nice hotel pool and bar (despite the poor redecorating of the hotel this year, sigh!), and to catch up with old friends, some of whom I only see at this event each year. (Thanks to Towaway for the photo at left.)

As mentioned repeatedly on this blog in recent months, this year's trip was also to be the "official" christening of the new Bluesmobile. This was historic (well, at least to US!) not only for the sake of the new Bluesmobile, but because this trip marked the reunion, for the first time in 18 years, of my Blues Brothers partner "Jake" and myself! Jake has been in the US Marine Corps since fall of 1987, and he hadn't attended a convention since 1986. I'd last seen him four years ago, just getting together for lunch; but we last put the suits on and performed 18 years ago, at a July Fourth party in 1988. I've got my son, "Buster", and my friend The Hey, "Mighty Mack", personifying two Blues Brothers from the "Blues Brothers 2000" sequel (and the film that provided the model for my "Mark II" Bluesmobile)... but 25 years ago it was Jake & I... and we could sing.

Well, at least we could... that was a long time ago! But it'd be fun to put the suits on and see what we could still do, since we've never lost our passion for the characters and - more importantly - for the music.

So I put on the suit Thursday morning (this was July 6th), and then Elwood drove out to pick up brother Jake in western Massachusetts.

We looked good.

We headed south towards Baltimore, the car running beautifully and the tunes blaring, us bordering on blowing our voices out before ever getting there. Life was good. Even two very nasty traffic jams, both on the Jersey Turnpike, couldn't quite dampen our spirits (though the second one was much more frustrating). Seeing the Blues Brothers on the highway, other motorists were having a grand time jockeying for position to chat with us and to take our picture with their camera phones. We've gotta keep our eyes on the internet, there were literally scores of photos snapped of us on that drive (and also to a lesser extent on the return trip, when traffic was perfect). A Jersey State Trooper going northbound even pulled over to the center divider to check us out while we were stuck in traffic southbound, but he was happy to see us. The positive energy felt really good, and it's nice to think we made the traffic problems more tolerable for quite a few other folks as well!

We didn't reach the hotel until well after 8pm because of the traffic, but no matter... we settled in for a few drinks at the bar and started meeting up with old friends. Towaway was already there, up from Florida. The Hey, scheduled to arrive Friday afternoon, strolled in unexpectedly around midnight Thursday night instead. Sweet! Mojo was finally delivered by his drivers not long afterwards, in from Hollywoodland. We were up late talking, drinking, hanging... just catching up.

Friday, the first day of the con, we mostly just wandered the halls (and the bar and the area restaurants). After a great dinner with many of our fellow McAuliffans (our science fiction fan group), we were back at the hotel, and around 11pm decided to check out the karaoke bar going on in the ballroom.

There was some buzz when we walked in from folks who noticed us. After a few we decided to go for it, and signed up. Took about 40 minutes for our turn to come up, but we got a great introduction... "You've seen our next entrants lurking in the shadows in the back of the room for a while, so let's bring them on... the Blues Brothers!"

We got a lot of applause as we made our way to the stage, then it got quiet... "These guys look good, but do they think they can sing?"

Yes, we did... and we were right. We broke into "Hey, Bartender", and we rocked the house. Jake's vocals were dead-on, my harp sounded strong and pretty good, and though we hadn't as much as rehearsed in 18 years, we still had the moves. We left to a thunderous (well, to my ears at least but I believe it's not too overstated!) ovation and calls for more.

It felt great. Amazing.

A little later we went up for an encore and went with the more traditional "Soul Man", again sounding good and feeling better. (Though we did manage to briefly mix up a verse, where the karaoke version had an unexpected edit... threw us off for a moment as we hadn't been watching the prompters at all!)

It turns out that was it for the weekend for any opportunity to perform. We'd hoped for a chance to do more... but even so, it was enough. It reminded me of the Blues Brothers movie... pick Jake up from prison, drive across a few states for a few days, perform two songs and then back to the clink!

I paid for it a bit later that night though. I've got a bad back, and I must have pinched something dancing during the performance. I didn't notice it then but by the time I was heading to bed I was in considerable pain and limping badly. It was a tough night sleeping, but I couldn't have been happier regardless! After a morning(-ish) soak in the hot tub I was feeling better, and totally recovered by Saturday afternoon.

Though our stage time was certainly our own personal high point of the weekend, Saturday night was a close rival as we joined with about 20 McAuliffans gathered for a dinner to celebrate our 20th anniversary as a group. We definitely consider ourselves "family" and so this was a special gathering, and we were happily surprised to be joined by another couple that none of us had seen in many years, Shawn & Melissa Allen. They lived not too far away and had actually met through the McAuliffe, so seeing them - and their two children - was a special treat indeed!

I'm gathering some photos from the weekend and will get them posted to my Flickr site sometime in the next week or so. Here's looking to next year, when with a bit of luck the
Brothers will ride again!

In the meantime, only 75 days until my next vacation, the big family trip back to Walt Disney World. Yay!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

New Photos

I've uploaded new photos to my Flickr page, with pictures from last weekend's car show and yesterday's parade/ball game trip to Westfield. Both gigs were fun, the highlight for me was a chance to see Jake's father, Art, for the first time in I don't know how many years!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Public Unveiling...

Quick update - The Bluesmobile will get her public "coming out" parties this month. This weekend, on Sunday 6/11, The Hey (a.k.a. Mighty Mack) & I will be bringing the car to the Xtreme Street car show in Raynham, MA. This will be our first time "dressing" for the part since I painted the car... I'll take pictures I'm sure.

Then the following weekend, we'll be in Westfield, MA driving in the "Westfield in Motion" parade, at 4pm on Sat.6/17. It starts just south of the Westfield Green from the parking lot of the First United Methodist Church (16 Court Street), runs down Broad Street and ends up at the Middle School where a vintage (1880's rules) base ball game will be played. (I may be more excited about the base ball game than the parade!) The Hey, "C" (a.k.a. Buster), & I (Elwood) will be there and fully dressed for the parade.

All in prep for her real "christening", the ride to Maryland next month for SHORE LEAVE!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Be Afraid....

...Be very afraid. It's only about a month until our annual Shore Leave convention trip. I'm especially anxious to be going this year after the debacle of last year, when I did end up going but only for a very abbreviated and hectic 24-hour trip.

Not to mention I haven't had a legit vacation since our Disney trip over a year ago. And not to mention that at Shore Leave this year we'll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of our Star Trek fan club, the USS Christa McAuliffe, and more to the point 20 years of friendships with an extended family.

And not to mention I've got the Bluesmobile ready to go, the trip to Baltimore to be her "christening".... And not to mention this trip will mark the reunion of the Blues Brothers, my partner and I, for the first time in 17 years!

So what's to be afraid of?

I hear they've changed my bar.

My bar... the Paddock Lounge at the Hunt Valley Inn, where I've been spending one weekend every summer for the past 25 years doing my best to relax and lose myself from the outside world. The place where the profile photo of me at the top of this page was taken. A quiet (well, at times), warm, cozy retreat with a hunting lodge feel.

Apparently, according to my friend the Little Guy, it's undergone some "major" changes: "They've made it more 'nouveau business' Crate & Barrel/Pier 1."

MY bar!!!

Well, how bad could it be, really? They'll still have beer, right?

We'll see. My fear is it will have lost its cozy charm and become just another soul-less (souless? soulless?) corporate watering hole for business travelers on the move.

Fortunately, there's Padonia Station just a couple of miles down the street... if the Paddock is now an alien place, I can spend a good chunk of the weekend there. And in the meantime, the locals need fear as well....

After all, the Blues Brothers - and the Traveling Beerbellies - will be tearin' up the joint!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bluesmobile About Ready to Roll!

I spent a good chunk of Memorial Day weekend finishing all the major work on the Bluesmobile... I've loaded some more pictures to the flickr album here! Only a few very minor detailing touches to do and then she'll be ready for her official "christening", hopefully as soon as next weekend.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Extra, Extra: C Turns 9!

Yesterday "C" (a.k.a. "Buster Blues!) turned 9. I stayed home and we had a terrific family day, very fun yet very low-key. We went swimming, then out for a nice dinner at our favorite family restaurant, Pizzeria Uno's, then home to open presents. He'll have a small birthday party this weekend; I shouldn't and won't complain but for the life of me we couldn't get him interested in a "big" party or event! He was certain he wanted a party with just three or four of his closest friends, and extended family, and he wanted to have it at home. Well, saves us some money at least!

It's going to be a very hectic weekend though, got several errands and one (potentially unpleasant) medical appointment tomorrow, then C's party on Saturday, than an early college graduation brunch for The Momma's brother in northwestern MA Sunday morning. (Those who know us realize we don't do "early" well, especially when we're going somewhere a couple of hours away!) Also for C's party we have to go pick up a couple of C's friends in New Hampshire Saturday morning, and bring them back afterwards in the afternoon... yeesh! But at least they're all fun events so it'll be worth the extra work.

One year ago this week we were at Disney World for C's 8th birthday... we'll be heading back there this fall and we're already counting the days until that trip (136). Kungaloosh!!

Bluesmobile, Phase III

Things have calmed down to some extent at work, and should continue to get better over the summer. Maybe I'll actually start updating this thing more often again! (But no promises....)

Work on the new Bluesmobile has been going well, and you can see the latest "in progress" photos here.

Most of the big work is done, excepting some large graphics on the roof, but there's a couple of days' worth of detail work still to complete, and I want to try to get more severe "weathering" done as well. Now if only I'd get some warm, dry weather again! It looks like Memorial Day weekend may be nice (though still over a week away so no placing bets), hopefully I'll be able to get a lot done then. My ultimate deadline remains my trip to the SHORE LEAVE convention in early July... only about 6 weekends away now, 5 considering this coming weekend will be a bust.. That seems like it won't be a problem but the bad weather has certainly pushed me closer to the deadline than I'd like... and I really want her done sooner so that I have time to get her nice and dirty!

Also of interest, a couple of weeks ago The Hey's wife said she saw a Bluesmobile clone driving around in Rhode Island. The license plate? "BLUES2", same as my MA plate! Quite the coincidence! Then just last week Towaway found an article in a RI newspaper about that same car, which led me to their web site. The story of their "Blues Mobile", and a link to several pages of photos, is here. I'll have to take a drive down there sometime once I get mine all finished, always fun to meet kindred spirits!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Bluesmobile, Phase II

Another quick look at the Bluesmobile, now that Phase II has been completed....

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Watch Out!

Oy - For the next few months (as many as four) I'll be doing much of the work of three supervisors at my office, as we look to replace a weekend supervisor and as our day shift supervisor is on maternity leave. This is keeping me mighty mighty busy and this week has been particularly tough! So forgive me if my blogging drops off again... not that I've been particularly reliable the past couple of months anyway.

But two things I'll mention tonight - first, C made me promise to write about last Monday on my blog. Last summer C started taking tae kwon do lessons, but they never really grabbed him and after his first 10-week trial he asked if he had to keep them up. We had no problem with giving it up so long as he agreed to find another activity, and that eventually led us to swimming lessons at the Y. This has been a big success... he loves swimming and is taking to it greatly. He has a lesson every Monday, late afternoon, which is followed by an open swim time when The Momma joins him in the pool. He's been after me to join them since he started in the fall.

I always work Monday evenings and it's one of the tougher days for me to take off, but last week I had Monday off as it was our company's New Year's holiday so I was able to go swimming with them at last. We had a great time, followed by a nice dinner at Pizzeria Uno's. Next week I also expect to get Martin Luther King Day off so if he has class that day I'll be able to go again; we'll also look to find some weekend open swims he and I can go to occasionally.

The other interesting topic I wanted to mention is the "Watch Out!" movie.

C watched part of "The Island" with me a couple of weeks ago, which it likely doesn't spoil much to say involves the ethical concerns of cloning. C kept asking me if this was a "Watch out!" movie... I kept saying I wasn't sure what he meant, but he finally was able to explain it to me.

"You know how some movies are telling us to watch out what we do in the future?"

Ahhh, Bach!! I love it, I think this is a great name for this type of movie... the cautionary tale, such as it is. So on the one hand we have the classic "What if?" science fiction movie, like "War of the Worlds", "The Abyss", or "Logan's Run"... on the other we have the "Watch out!" science fiction movies like "War Games", "Blade Runner" and "The Island". Of course, many movies will fit both categories!

Way to go, kid, I love it!