9 Great Ideas for Filling the Filene’s Hole in Boston

Once upon a time, before the magic box fixed/ruined everything, people shopped in large stores full of all different kinds of merchandise. The goods were helpfully organized into departments, hence the name “department stores”.

Historically, department store were good for exactly three things: 1) for women to get their makeup done for free before a fancy party; 2) for taking a poo in foreign neighborhoods where there wasn’t a hotel (fancy hotels obviously have the best public toilets); and 3) for paying $150 for a Mr. Coffee machine that cost $30 at Target.

One of the greatest of the classic department stores was Filene’s. The flagship store was located on the corner of Summer & Washington Streets in the Downtown Crossing section of Boston. Tourists from all over would come to shop at Filene’s Basement. (The real Filene’s Basement, not the crappy place at the loser mall that sells dated football jerseys, stale candy and executive desk toys.)

Ultimately Macy’s bought Filene’s and shut down the store. Some jerk from New York bought the building, tore it down and ran out of money before putting up a new building. And now we’re left with a giant, ugly hole in the middle of a giant, ugly part of Boston. Thanks a lot, jerk.

But I am not here to point fingers. My mission in life is to offer solutions. Poorly thought-out, ridiculous solutions. So let’s go!

9 Great Ideas for Filling the Filene’s Hole in Boston

1) DINOLAND BOSTON: Two things I’m certain of is that kids like dinosaurs and kids are stupid. Let’s turn the hole into the largest urban archaeological dig site in the world. Take down the fence, bury some fake dinosaur bones and charge kids and their parents $60 to excavate.

2) SEXHOLE BOSTON: Downtown Crossing used to be famous for two things: shopping and porn. The old combat zone was zoned out of existence years ago and half of the (non-porn) stores are now closed. Let’s get back to our roots and put all of the strip clubs, porn shops and whatnot in the hole with a retractable latex roof. Think of how many more free agents we’ll be able to sign if there was more porn in town! No more tipsy drives to Providence!!

3) HALF-PIPE BOSTON: I’m never quite sure whether to be intimidated by skateboarder kids or not. On the one hand, they wear all that scary clothing and make-up. On the other hand, they’re all skinny and weak from the drugs and the ennui. Either way, let’s clear those kids out of Copley by giving them a huge half-pipe to play on.

4) SPOOKYWORLD/ENCHANTED VILLAGE: Admittedly this is only a good idea for like 3 months a year, but it seems like Spookyworld and the Enchanted Christmas Village are always moving from venue to venue. Why not give them a permanent home?

5) FOODTRUCK DEMOLITION DERBY: I love this idea. We combine the super-hot trend of food trucks with the eternal appeal of demolition derbys. First, we eat. Then, we smash.

6) KEEP DIGGING: Okay, this is a radical idea. How about instead of putting up a new building we just keep digging and see what happens. Will we find the morlocks? Maybe Al Capone’s vault? Monsters at the center of the earth? China?!? Now I kind of want to know for real.

7) GIVE IT TO HARVARD: easy answer: we give the hole to Harvard. Then they can move Allston in to the hole, accomplishing their evil master plan decades ahead of schedule.

8) PAINT CAN “STORAGE”: If you’re like me, you have a lot of empty paint cans in the garage that you can’t get rid of. The trash men won’t take them, the recycling guys won’t take them, and the trash pickers don’t want them. But seriously, does anyone care if I just throwing my old paint cans in the fucking hole? I really want to get rid of them.

9) “PHANTOM” GOURMET: Okay, here’s the plan. First, we tell all of the Andelman brothers that there’s free food and potential advertisers in the hole. Then we murder* them when they’re not looking.

(*Please note that I am merely joking when I suggest that we murder the Andelman brothers. I greatly prefer Phantom Gourmet over TV Diner and I like that they take seriously reviewing regular food. I always liked Eddie on the radio and think he’s a real mensch. In fact, if you are an Andelman brother, I would very much like to be best friends and/or do some voice-over work for you.)

Well, there you have it. 9 great ideas for filling the hole. And to be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t really spend a lot of time or effort thinking them up. Imagine what I could come up with if I actually tried!

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The Classic Album Project: The Flying Burrito Bros (1971)

The Classic Album Project: The Flying Burrito Bros (1971)


Standing in the shadow of Gram

 

 

“The Flying Burrito Bros” (a.k.a. the blue album) is one of those albums that just appeared in my collection; I have no recollection of buying or receiving the album and yet it’s always been there. It’s the third Burritos album and the first without band co-founder Gram Parsons (my ode to Gram is here).

Chris Hillman must have felt a lot of pressure to deliver a solid album without Gram’s substantial presence. While the Burritos were never a “successful” band they had a lot of buzz after their first album and the legend of Parsons was already growing. Rather than shoulder the burden alone Hillman brought in the unknown Rick Roberts (later of Firefall) to help with guitar, vocals, and most importantly, songwriting.

The blue album marks a departure from the “Cosmic American” music that defined the first two Burritos albums. Cosmic American music, as envisioned by Gram, was a mélange of country, rock, soul, rhythm & blues and psychedelia. This album is straight-forward country-rock, with a sound dominated by Sneaky Pete Kleinow’s pedal steel guitar. Unlike some country-rock albums, the blue album is a true blend of the two styles, rather than sounding like rock songs with a fiddle or country songs with a heavy backbeat.

Listening to this album is the aural equivalent of sitting in front of a warm fire on a chilly, rainy day. The mournful songs of lost love and road fatigue are buoyed by Jim Dickson’s clean production. While derided as sounding “too slick” back in the day, 40 years later the album sounds warm and polished, with a nice mix between the instruments and the vocals.

Side A opens with a great cover of Merle Haggard’s “White Line Fever”, setting the thematic and musical tone for the album. Next up comes the staggeringly beautiful Roberts tune “Colorado”, which is one of the best Burritos songs ever recorded. Roberts’ vocals are pushed to the limit, showing flashes of the heart-rending honesty that defined Parsons’ vocal approach. “Hand to Mouth” at first seems to be another mellow tune until taking an unexpected turn into mid-tempo jam territory. Befitting a Gene Clark cover “Tried So Hard” features some nice vocal harmonies. The first side closes out with another Roberts-Hillman composition “Just Can’t Be”, which (with a little more fuzz box) would fit perfectly on The Gilded Palace of Sin.

Side B starts off with an absolutely perfect rendition of Dylan’s “To Ramona”, where the lushness of the arrangement seems to heighten the intensity of the lyrics. “Four Days of Rain” is another stand-out Roberts tune, lending itself to a tight performance by the band, with some great drumming by Michael Clarke. “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” is a decent, but not spectacular, honky tonk rave-up. “All Alone” is yet another wonderful Hillman-Roberts collaboration that ebbs and flows nicely. The album finishes with the killer track “Why Are You Crying?” which posits music as the solution to all of the loneliness, longing, tears and broken hearts expressed over the preceding 30 minutes. (Of course, it also begs the eternal question of why he offers to bring his guitar to sing her a song and then delivers a banjo.) Bernie Leadon’s banjo playing is invigorating and makes you wish, like love itself, that the song would last forever.

When I first heard this album I knew nothing about Gram Parsons or the Burrito Brothers. While I’d later come to know and love those first two albums, to me, this album defined the Burritos – a weird Byrds spin-off band that somehow made country music cool to a kid in New Jersey. (It didn’t hurt that they all sported great jewfros on the cover.) “The Flying Burrito Brothers” is a definitive and essential country-rock album that should be in everyone’s collection.

Ratings:

White Line Fever: 3
Colorado: 4
Hand to Mouth: 3
Tried So Hard: 3
Just Can’t Be: 3

To Ramona: 4
Four Days of Rain: 4
Can’t You Hear Me Calling: 2
All Alone: 4
Why Are You Crying: 4

“The Flying Burrito Brothers” (1971): 3.4

Previously: The Classic Album Project: Introduction

Next: Peter Gabriel “So” (1986)

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In Defense of (Shitty) American Beer

“Thank you, microbreweries, for making my alcoholism seem like a neat hobby.” – Jimmy Fallon

The fact that there is such a thing as “beer snobs” is both oxymoronic and deeply disturbing.

In the never-ending battle between snobs and slobs, us slobs were fortunate to claim some of the most awesome things that our society has to offer. Things like beer and Doritos and pants that are neither jeans nor pajamas.

You, detestable snobs, got snooty country clubs and crappy wine and stupid truffles (the gross mushrooms, not the delicious chocolates).

It was a fair deal.

But now the snobs want to muscle into our territory with their fancy, expensive, micro-brewed, overpriced craft beer.

Thanks anyway.

I am here today to sing the praises of mass-produced American-style lager. And I’m not talking about the ironic hipster love for PBR. I’m talking about genuine appreciation for regular beer.

In my nineteen years of above-the-legal-drinking-age, responsible, moderate-consumption-with-a-designated-driver drinking of beer I’ve tried just about every style and brand of beer. I’ve got nothing against stouts, pale ales, India pale ales or wheat beers.

(I do have something against those horribly overrated beers from Belgium. Whoever said that monks could brew good beer anyway? And what exactly are you trapping? Are there gerbils in my Chimay?)

But given the opportunity, I’d rather just drink a High Life or a Bud or a Coors Banquet (Molson and Labatt’s are fine too, my dear Canucks).

“But they’re brewed with adjunct grains like rice and corn,” you say smugly.

Guess what? I’m not a farmer. I’m not Michael Pollan. I don’t give a shit which grain they use to make my beer. And let’s be honest – both corn and rice are much better grains than barley anyway. Barley is gross. It’s on the bottom-tier with quinoa and the other loser hippy grains.

“But they’re made by giant, evil corporations,” you say conspiratorially.

Listen up, Ralph Nader. When you’re living off the grid and writing your manifesto you can rail about evil corporations. But a wise man once said that corporations are people. And while that wise man is kind of a douche, the truth is that corporations, like most things in life, are both good and bad. They make stuff. They employ people. They help build cities (e.g. St. Louis) and they help the government to overthrow peaceful island nations (e.g. United Fruit & Hawaii). Just because a corporation is big doesn’t mean that it’s evil or that it makes a bad product.

“But they’re lower in alcohol content,” you say drunkenly.

Exactly. What’s wrong with that? I’m not saying that I want to drink that weak-ass Mormon beer, but 5% alcohol is fine by me. I mean, it IS morning and I AM at work – just how drunk do you want me to get?

“But it tastes like piss,” you say superciliously.

First off: how would you know what piss tastes like, pee drinker? Har har!

But seriously, American lager is a distinct style that is rooted in European pilsners. And while it certainly has a lighter, milder flavor than ale, it’s crisp and clean and drinkable.

I don’t know about you, but I like drinks that are drinkable. It’s kind of in the job description.

I like to conduct a little experiment whenever we throw a party. I offer both expensive craft beers and cheap American beers. I put out fancy truffle-infused hors d’oeuvers and pigs in a blanket. And then I observe what people do (with the help of the videos cameras secreted throughout our house). Inevitably, the Miller Lite and the pigs in a blanket are big sellers. And as the night wears on more and more people extol the virtues of living the high life, because deep down inside all people love cheap American beer and tiny hot dogs.

Be proud. Be confident. Admit the truth: you, just like me, love shitty American beer.

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Planning Ahead For My Mug Shot

Unlike the damn kids of today when I was a youngster we were taught important life skills.

Like how to pose for a picture.

Coquettish half turn, eyes on the lens, no tension, warm smile – these are the techniques that you learn early and have to master before the Bar Mitzvah portrait goes on the wall.

And master them I did.

But the one thing my parents never taught me was how to approach the mug shot. Perhaps they thought that by not addressing the mug shot they would prevent me from ending up in the joint.

That’s obviously just bad parenting.

And now, all these years later, I’m kind of lost. I have no idea how to handle the mug shot and I don’t want to make a bad creative choice under duress – especially if I’m all cracked-out and internally bleeding. Jail sentences may only last a few years, but mug shots are forever.

So work with me here, people. Let’s think about the best approach for posing for a great mug shot.

Contrite: the classic mug shot pose is one of contrition. It says to the world “I’m sorry for what I’ve done” or at the very least “I’m sorry for getting caught for what I’ve done.” It’s a good play if you’re planning on getting out quickly and need to hit the family up for some cash. The only downside to the big ol’ puppy eyes is that other convicts tend to think you’re soft (or “fresh fish” in prison vernacular.)

Crazy Eyes: The opposite of contrite is crazy eyes. Nothing says “don’t fuck with me” quite like a crazy eyes mug shot. When you add crazy hair to crazy eyes we call it a “Nolte”. When you add a v-neck undershirt to a “Nolte” we call it a “Saddam”. Any of the three will be very effective in getting you into the most prestigious gang in prison, but the downside is that you’ll never be able to convince people that you’re not crazy ever again. (We call that a “Gibson”.)

Headshot: One of the hardest shots to pull off, the headshot is when you literally pretend the mug shot is your Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah portrait and you work that camera hard. You make love to that camera, which isn’t easy because you’re not exactly working with Dave LaChappelle in the booking office. When people say that Lindsay Lohan isn’t the greatest actress of our generation I remind them of her 2010 mug shot work. She looks radiant in that shot, even with the outdated orange jumper.

Smirk: I’m not a fan of smirking mug shots because they are fundamentally disrespectful. Look, you may think this is all a big joke, mister, but taking portraits is not a game. I always knew that Samantha Ronson was the weak half of the Lohan-Ronson coupling, but my suspicions were confirmed when she put on that Billy Idol-sneer for her mug shot. Bad choice, Sam.

Beatific: This one is my favorite. The trick is to project an entirely blank expression that allows the viewer to see what they want to see in you. Family members will view it as sad; fellow inmates will read it as resolute; and weird women that have conjugal visits with random prisoners will see it as sexy.

I think we have a winner!

Thanks for helping me out with this one.

See you on the inside.

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A Visual Guide to Cable TV Character Actors

In many ways we are currently living in the golden age of television. Over the last decade, original cable television dramas have delivered great stories, excellent acting and numerous innovations in the form.

One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that a lot of the same actors seem to pop up on many different shows. In particular, FX’s Justified seems to be the epicenter of the cable television character actor universe.

For your benefit, I’ve the created the definitive visual guide that shows the many connections between JustifiedDeadwood, Breaking Bad, True Blood and Burn Notice. Memorize this chart and impress your friends!

Click to enlarge

A Visual Guide to Cable TV Character Actors

Hubway Bicycles: Urban Transportation Miracle or the Devil’s Plaything?

Recently I had my first opportunity to test out the new Hubway bicycle rental system and answer the question that’s been on everybody’s mind: are these bikes an urban transportation miracle or the devil’s playthings?

For those of you that don’t know what I’m talking about, bicycles are wheeled transportation devices that are manually powered by pedaling and some kind of kooky system involving chains and gears. Hubway is the name of the fancy bicycle rental stations that mysteriously appeared throughout Boston some time after the pay toilet kiosks and some time before the food trucks.

(By comparison, the good news is that they’re not used as hobo heroin dispensaries like the pay toilets. The bad news is that they don’t serve delicious Redbones ribs like the food trucks.)

Actually, I tried to rent a bicycle a few weeks ago but couldn’t get the kiosk to accept my credit card. You might scoff, but my platinum Discovery card saves me 3% on all Sears portraits and I’m going to keep using it wherever and whenever I can.

After so many days of rain I thought that it would be nice to bypass the orange line and bike from North Station to Back Bay, where I knew there was a drop-off station near my office.

The rental process was fairly simple: swipe your credit card, enter your phone number and zip code, pick either 24 hour or 3 day rental, quickly read and approve the 176 page agreement, and print out a rental code. The bike easily unlocked and I was on my way.

My first revelation was that the ride from Causeway Street to Huntington Avenue is almost entirely uphill. My second realization was that chubby, out-of-shape guys biking up Beacon Hill are excellent candidates for having a heart attack, or at a minimum, breaking the sweat shield before work.

Although the ride was quite trafficky, I almost died only once. Now in fairness to the guy that nearly hit me I might have been running a slightly red light. Then again, he was also running the same light and I went for it first. Then again, he was in a car. Then again, if I yield in that situation I’d never get my right-of-way powers back again.

Riding the bike was not the big time saver I’d hoped for. It turns out that there are a ton of lights between North Station and Back Bay and you can only run so many of them. The ride took about the same time as walking and more time than the orange line, plus I couldn’t play iPhone backgammon (which is okay because the computer is a total cheater, constantly rolling doubles).

On the way home I picked up another bike near the Christian Science Center and found out (after unsuccessfully entering my code 17 times) that you need to get a new code even if you’re within the 24 hour window. Sure, it said that on the kiosk, but my plan was to rent a bicycle, not read a lot of stupid words.

The little basket on the bike is generously sized but not large enough to hold the 180 gram vinyl copy of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” that I bought at Newbury Comics during lunch. Obviously my record purchase has nothing to do with the bicycles, but I wanted to make sure that you knew that I won the hipster douchebag badge for the day by both renting an urban bike AND buying a classic LP.

The ride back was more of the same: traffic, lights, sweat and the realization that I would miss my train. When I arrived at North Station all of the drop-off racks were full and I was stuck with a bike that I couldn’t get rid of. Luckily, 2 other guys were in the same predicament and we made a great team: they were up for reading about what to do in such a situation (answer: find another kiosk with empty racks, duh) and I knew where Staniford Street was located.

Bike returned, crisis averted, second train made, and the metal taste in mouth and tingly arm sensation eventually dissipated.

The bikes are quite nice, with fat tires and 3 gears. They’re girl frame bikes which obviously made me feel slightly sexier. It cost me about $6.70 ($5 for the bike, $1.70 for the water at North Station) and I didn’t save any time.

Bottom line: the bikes are pretty cool but you’ll get sweaty on the way to work and you might miss your train on the way home due to the empty rack issue.

One thumb up for Hubway bike rentals.

Two thumbs up for Redbones ribs.

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America vs. Canada Part 1: Canobie Lake Park vs. La Ronde

Background

My friend Ryan, upon learning that we would be vacationing in Montreal, suggested that I compare and contrast the American amusement park experience with the French-Canadian amusement park experience. This is obviously a brilliant idea, reflecting what famous French guy Baudelaire wrote in his treatise “L’existence N’a Pas de Condition de Hauteur”: “A nation’s soul is revealed in its amusements.”

Introduction

Entering this challenge I naively assumed that La Ronde would be just like Canobie Lake because the amusement park experience is such a specific and consistent experience that it wouldn’t seem to matter where you are physically located. I’ve been to lots of amusement parks in my day and it’s always the same: long lines, trashy patrons, crap food and mild sunstroke. And in most ways La Ronde delivered. But the differences were obvious – and in some cases – deeply unsettling.

Cuisine

The first noticeable difference was the food. There were multiple signs promoting fresh fruit AS A SNACK, as if fruit was something that normal people willingly ate as a snack. Worse still, the Dole people were selling grilled bananas. Not deep-fried banana candy, not plantain chips, but regular bananas grilled in the peel. Now I know that the Dole Corporation has quarterly earnings expectations to meet and there aren’t any more Hawaiis to invade, but BBQ bananas? Someone better be taking the fall for that one at HQ.

There was no delicious Kayem hot dog kiosk, but they did have a Slush Puppy stand – which was comforting. Sadly, the Puppys tasted terrible. And guess what the worst flavor was? That’s right – banana.

Advantage: Canobie Lake

Clientele

Heretofore, I always thought that Canobie Lake was the whitest place on Earth.

That was, of course, until I went to Montreal. There are 2 types of people in Montreal: white people that speak French and white people that speak English. I thought I saw a black person at one point, but it turned out just to be a shadow.

And what’s with all of the French? Waiting in line is infinitely worse when everyone is yammering away in a weird language that isn’t as pretty sounding as people claim it to be. To me, a true romance language involves a mouthy girl from Revere loudly plotting to kick some bitch’s ass for talking to her boyfriend.

Advantage: Canobie Lake

Couture

The patrons of the park definitely looked different in other ways, too: jorts were extremely popular for both genders. Someone might want to tell Canada that America has decided that girls are allowed to wear Daisy Dukes but boys aren’t allowed to wear jean shorts anymore. They’re really not up to speed on jean short etiquette up North.

Tattoos, such a common sight at Canobie Lake, were in short supply in Montreal. There were a few inked up people at the park, but by and large most people were tattoo-free. Surprisingly, I missed all of the tattoos. I mean, sure, I usually remember to look at your cleavage spilling out of your too-tight wife-beater, but that giant boob butterfly is always a welcome reminder.

On a related note, ALL of the men were wearing their shirts at La Ronde. I’d estimate male shirtlessness at Canobie at approximately 40% so it was weird to see so many men dressed up all fancy-like. I suspect that the lack of tattoos is related to the lack of shirtless men, but more research will be required. (Ed. note: submit thesis topic: “Tattoos and their Relationships to Male Shirtlessness” to phD advisory board.)

Even with all of the shirt wearing, I did not see any Ed Hardy shirts, which is obviously terrible news for Ed Hardy and Christian Audigier if they can’t crack the Canadian amusement park demographic. On the other hand, Sarah Palin will be happy to know that rectangular glasses are still very popular in Montreal.

Also in short supply were band tee shirts. I was expecting to see a few Blink-182 shirts (they were in town) but saw none. I got one Beatles shirt, one Wu Tang shirt, one baby in an AC/DC shirt (ironically cute) and an Alice Cooper shirt. Not represented were Canadian legends Celine Dion, Justin Bieber, Neil Young, or Bryan Adams.

I saw two Red Sox tee shirts, but no Blue Jays or throwback Expos shirts.

Facial piercing were pretty popular, with random lip stud and painful eyebrow thing seeming to be the most popular. I noticed a few grommet ears but no gold teeth or grills.

And only one rat tail.

Advantage: La Ronde

Behavior

Another big difference is that Canadian children seem to be worse behaved than American children, but Canadian teenagers seem to be better behaved than American teenagers. I’m not sure what this actually means, but it gives Canada more of a “Lord of the Flies” vibe while America has more of an “Outsiders” vibe.

I also learned a lot by conducting a simple experiment: wearing a Bruins hats. Now, if some Frenchy got off a plane at Logan wearing a Habs chapeau they would be pleasantly harassed early and often. At La Ronde my hat went unnoticed. No one yelled anything. No one pointed or mumbled insults in French. No one dumped a beer on me. One guy actually said “nice Cup” and talked about being a Montreal-native Bruins fan.

This obviously confirms our long-held suspicion that Canadians are pussies. (Just kidding – it confirms that Canadians are super-nice people absent of any massholic tendencies – and they just get nicer as they get older.)

Advantage: La Ronde

Rides and Other Stuff

The good point for La Ronde is that they have many more roller coasters than Canobie and far fewer barfy spinny rides. That suits me well now that I’m an old man who hates spinny rides but still loves coasters.

Instead of the traditional 48” height requirement kids needed to be 52” tall to ride the good coasters, which sounds like bullshit until your 48” tall son almost falls out of the Yankee Cannonball (don’t ask), so I guess they take their safety seriously at La Ronde.

Also for your safety they restrict smoking to designated smoking zones. These zones are conveniently located every 10 feet (smoking is very popular in Montreal) so everybody is happy.

Unfortunately, the lines at La Ronde were outrageously long. Even second tier rides had waits of over 45 minutes. That’s a lot of line time with a bunch of unruly kids (and surprisingly well behaved teens.)

La Ronde also cost $190 for a family of four, which is a lot more than Canobie Lake (not even counting the coupons available at your local McDonald’s, Market Basket, or Tedeschi.)

Canobie Lake is a quick and pleasant 45 minute drive from Boston, but La Ronde is actually located in Montreal, so good for them for having an amusement park in the city.

Advantage: Tie

Conclusion

Isn’t the true measure of an amusement park the happiness it brings to children? The joy it creates and the love it spreads in the community? Isn’t it enough to appreciate the magic and the merriment? Doesn’t it cheapen the experience by judging one park against another?

Nah, Canobie Lake is better.

But La Ronde is certainly worth the visit if you’re in Montreal.

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I’m Glad Shark Week is Over

I’m glad shark week is over because shark week is the stupidest, most boring thing ever and I don’t understand why people get so excited about it.

Once you’ve seen one shark angrily (yet unsuccessfully) attack a diver in a cage you’ve seen all sharks angrily (yet unsuccessfully) attack a diver in a cage. It’s entertaining for about 20 seconds. Unfortunately, shark week lasts a lot longer than 20 seconds. In fact, it lasts a whole week longer than 20 seconds.

What do we learn (or re-learn) each Shark Week?

1) Sharks love blood. Do you know who else loves blood? Vampires. Sexy vampires and their sexy human frenemies on pay cable TV shows. What would you rather watch: boring sharks being taunted or Anna Paquin inexplicably falling in love with a murderous vampire within 3 days – even after her dead grandmother told her not to – just because he’s sexy and has amnesia? Exactly.

2) Sharks have a lot of pointy teeth. You know who else has pointy teeth? Those crazy people who get the snake tattoos all over their bodies and split their tongues and file their teeth into points. Those people are awesome. I will watch them on basic cable anytime. My only question is: why are the fake snake people always British? And my other only question is: why the fuck are you trying to turn yourself into a snake? It looks stupid, it’s expensive, it’s painful and you still don’t actually look like a snake. You just look like a person with scale tattoos, a broken tongue and pointy teeth. Talk about bad life decisions. That said, Human Snake Guy Week still sounds way more appealing than Shark Week.

3) People that taunt sharks on TV are jerks and deserve to get eaten. Didn’t we learn anything from the sad Steve Irwin (man taunts animals for a living, one day man get poisonous stinger in heart and dies) incident?

Seriously, what did sharks ever do to anyone to deserve such treatment? Kill lots of people, you say? Well let’s debate this all legal-like. You be the prosecutor and I’ll be the shark defense lawyer:

Prosecution: Sharks are murderous creatures and deserve whatever they get. They’re killing machines by nature and cannot be rehabilitated or integrated into polite society.

Defense: Sharks rule the kingdom of the sea. Humans enter the sea at their own peril.

Prosecution: But you attack people at the beach all the time!

Defense: Humans can have the beach, but once you enter the water, you’re fair game.

Prosecution: But that’s not fair! Humans like swimming at the beach.

Defense: No, what’s not fair is fat 50 year old men in Hawaiian shirts making shark fins on their heads at Jimmy Buffett concerts. Those men deserve to die.

Prosecution: Agreed. Case closed.

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In Defense of Scrappy Doo

I have a confession to make.

I know that you’re not going to like this, but I need to get it off my chest: I hate Scooby Doo. I honestly believe that Scooby Doo (both the dog and the show) is the worst popular cartoon in existence. The mysteries are stupid. The characters are boring. It’s not even slightly funny, hence the need for a laugh track. I can’t fathom why people like the show. I really can’t fathom why I married someone who likes the show.

I have a worse confession to make.

I know that you’re really not going to like this, but I’m tired of living a lie: I love Scrappy Doo. He is, by far, the best and most interesting character in the Scooby Doo universe. I don’t understand why people dislike him.

Actually, I do know why people hate Scrappy Doo. They think that he’s the “Cousin Oliver” of Scooby Doo and his carefully calculated addition to the cast ruined the show. Counter-point: Unlike pre-Oliver Brady Bunch, Scooby Doo was already a terrible show and the addition of Scrappy made the show marginally better. Rather than thinking of him as a Cousin Oliver type, I prefer to think of him as a (less-gay) Steve Perry type, who saved a floundering Journey and drove them to their greatest artistic achievements.

Things I like about Scrappy Doo:

1) He’s not an addict. Unlike the two cowards Scooby and Shaggy, Scrappy doesn’t need the promise of a quick hit to solve a mystery or enter a foreboding locale. Scrappy is tough without the junk.

2) He’s a bad ass. Scrappy brings the ruckus. He’s neither afraid of supernatural creatures nor handymen that dress up as supernatural creatures. Scrappy will kick your ass without thinking twice. One of his catchphrases is: “Lemme at ‘em! I’ll splat ‘em!” No equivocation there: Scrappy is always ready to rumble and he’s confident that he’s going to win.

3) He’s an empowering role model for children. Even as the smallest member of the Mystery, Inc. gang he’s still the strongest, the bravest and the second smartest (behind Velma). Most important of all, he teaches our children the valuable life lesson that all of your problems can be solved through violence.

4) He’s got great catchphrases. In addition to the aforementioned “Lemme at ‘em! I’ll splat ‘em!” Scrappy is perhaps best known for his rousing battle cry “Ta dadada ta daaa! Puppy power!” Compare that to Scooby’s pathetic “Rut-Roh!” or Velma’s “Jinkies!” Actually, don’t compare them because Scrappy’s catchphrases are awesome and the rest are terrible.

5) I went to college with a guy named Scrappy. He was a good guy and we had some fun times together, although apparently not enough fun times for me to remember his real name. And he might have been an addict. But I’m not here to judge.

So there you have it. Scrappy Doo = Real. American. Hero.

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What Your Train Says About You (Boston Edition)

As an amateur phrenologist I can tell a lot about you just by analyzing your skull. Oh sure, you can wear a hat in a futile attempt to throw me off the scent but I have other methods, too.

The bottom line is that I don’t need to know you to really know you. When you’ve been in the human-watching game as long as I have, you pick up a few tricks along the way.

For example, I could probably write a book about you (or at least a modestly priced e-book) just by studying what time train you take to work in the morning.

“Whaaaaat?” you inquire nervously, “you follow strangers around just to see what time train they take? That’s creepy.”

“Of course not,” I reply defensively, “I only stalk strangers on the Newbury/Rockport line in Boston. I have associates that handle other territories.”

What Your Train Says About You

You Take a Train in the 5 o’clock (a.m.) hour:

You wear an old suit. You carry your belongings in a bindle. Your favorite food is mulligan stew. You will burglar if necessary, but you avoid violence whenever possible. You are respectful to women and children but definitely not to Johnny Lawman. Your favorite drink is tokay wine. Your drug of choice is opium. You are, obviously, a hobo, because no regular person takes a train before 6 in the morning.

You Take a Train in the 6 o’clock (a.m.) hour:

You wear a custom-tailored suit. You read the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times. You have a large diamond in your pinky ring. You are still peeved that the nanny’s quarters are too close to the kitchen in the house you rented in Newport. You are nervous that your wife will find out that you got the nanny pregnant, but then you tell yourself that captains of industry just weren’t meant to be monogamous.

You Take a Train in the 7 o’clock (a.m.) hour:

You wear business casual clothes to work. You have already consumed 6 cups of coffee. You are feverishly typing e-mails while yelling at people on the phone. You are late for a meeting, actually 2 meetings, because you are always double booked. You are peeved because someone had the nerve to plop down in the middle seat next to you. You can actually feel your arteries clogging from all of the stress and kind of hope for a heart attack just so you can get a few days off. (Helpful tip: slackers should avoid the 7 o’clock train at all costs.)

You Take a Train in the 8 o’clock (a.m.) hour:

You wear jeans or shorts to work. You are sweating from running late for your train, even though you’re not getting to work until 9:30-ish anyway. You are still a little hung-over from last night. You are playing one of your kid’s games on your ipod. You forgot your wallet again and have to give a sob story to the conductor. You’re living the American dream! (Helpful tip: slackers are always welcome on the 8 o’clock train.)

You Take a Train in the 9 o’clock (a.m.) hour:

You are wearing pyjamas and pretending that they are sweatpants. You are drinking peppermint schnapps out of your travel mug and pretending that it’s coffee. You are reading ads looking for medical experiment volunteers and pretending that you have lupus. You are considering eating the half of bagel that you found on the floor. Oh, who are you kidding? You know that you’re going to eat the bagel. Trains aren’t that dirty.

Weird, huh? It’s like looking in a mirror! Next week: something else.

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Oh yeah, I also wrote this thing you might like: Riding the Rails, Boston-style.

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