End of summer

Ah, Labor Day. Traditional end of summer. And if you’re a kid you know what it also means… back to school. In New York we always gave ourselves an extra day and started Wednesday, but around these parts it’s on tomorrow. Yikes.
One wonders, though, how much of a shift, really, we see today from summer vacation to the start of school in the lives of America’s youth. What with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, ubiquitous sports and science camps, and non-stop parental event planning, do we really see much of a difference between the two? When I was a kid most of my classmates disappeared for a few months every summer. Now the biggest change kids probably see is a shift from the mere avatars of summer back to the real-life people of school. Who turn quickly back into avatars when back home at their computers.
Without rendering a judgment as to which approach is better I will certainly say times have changed since people were people and twitter was something done by summertime birds. And when did I get so old?

Final Treme doesn’t do series justice

I finally got around to seeing the final season of Treme this past week. Treme aired on HBO from 2010 until December 2013 but the show covered the time period from 2005-2009. (So we’re all a bit behind the times here.)

I don’t think Treme ever caught on or was even meant to catch on as The Wire or The Sopranos did from the same station (indeed, much of the cast and crew was taken from previous HBO efforts). I think Treme played to a niche market from day one. Luckily, I was in that niche. I’ve never seen a show before that illustrated the real life of a real musician. Jazz, in fact, or really, New Orleans. Most of the characters on the show were musicians of some ability or another (it varied greatly), and indeed, many of the guests on the show were real-life and/or famous musicians. More than the life of a musician it showed the life of a hustler, as The Wire did with pushers and The Sopranos with mobsters. This was real-life New Orleans, just after Katrina when the place wasn’t necessarily too pretty.

Thirty-five episodes in I was ready for some big news from the finale. Well, I’m still waiting. The end didn’t do it justice. By the end of the series I guess there was just too much going on, too many characters, from musicians to real estate developers to cops to restaurateurs… too much to sew together nicely. The end was more or less a continuation of what everyone was doing previously. At least it didn’t cut to black in the middle of a Journey song.

I recommend highly Treme if you’re looking for some quality TV this fall and you haven’t seen it. Or if you have, watch it again. At least you won’t be disappointed by the final episode.

Four years

As of yesterday I have been happily married for the past four years. They truly have been great years and I look forward to many more.

This past year has been especially good, as my wife and I finally decided to bring another man into our lives. A much younger man, in fact, 30 years younger than I. He does cry and poop a lot, but he brings such joy to our house, giving us a beautiful place to call home.

Thanks, Mrs. O’Connell. Cheers!

Fame and notoriety

By now you have seen the major press coverage bestowed upon my old hometown, the one and only Binghamton, New York, who received a bit of ink in this month’s issue of Esquire. In a lengthy piece on the American sandwich, the Triple Cities (of which Binghamton is one) in general and Sharkey’s (a Binghamton landmark) in particular are noted for the Binghamton area’s gift to the world: the spiedie.

On the cover of the mag, of course, is Hollywood’s new idol, Chris Pratt. Formerly an overweight funnyman, now a hunky lead (so they tell me), this guy’s in every movie coming out this summer (recent credits: MoneyballZero Dark ThirtyHerThe Lego MovieGuardians of the Galaxy), and a big one forthcoming: Jurassic World, fourth installment in the Jurassic Park series. Married to Anna Faris and star of a hit TV series (Parks and Recreation), this guy is money, even when playing a buffoon (see Parks and Rec). Not bad for a guy who a few years ago lived in a pit.

Well, on TV that is.

My Mondays

Ah, Monday. Dreaded date of the Western world.

One of the nice things about working every day and recognizing very little difference among spots on a calendar is that Mondays for me hold no sensation of gloom. No worries, no ruin, no fear. Just another day at the office.

Ha!

Baseball’s next inning

baseball

I’ve been following baseball for 25 years, most of it while the game was under the watchful eye of Allan “Bud” Selig, acting come actual commissioner since 1992. Bud’s retiring as of January, and as of yesterday his replacement has been named: MLB’s current chief operating officer Rob Manfred. Not exactly “new sheriff in town,” but a new sheriff nonetheless.

It’s no secret that Major League Baseball has been on a bit of a decline over the past, well, any amount of time you’d like to choose. I’ve been thinking this week not about the game’s new commissioner, but of what occurred 20 years ago this week: the players’ strike which cancelled the remainder of the regular season and, for the first time in 90 years, the World Series. In 2014, if the rest of the season were called off today, would as many people care? Those who did would certainly be older, as we hear constantly about baseball’s aging fan base. Aging and whiting, somehow, too. How many more articles do I need to read this summer about how few blacks there are in the game and how such a small number of black kids (I refuse to say African American) play the game today? Oh, but don’t worry, baseball has hired Bill Bean as its Ambassador for Inculsion “to assure all MLB stakeholders of an inclusive and equitable workplace and provide awareness and educational resources that help mandate the league’s workplace code of conduct.” Bean, a former player and current homosexual, “will focus not just on sexual orientation, but also intersections of race, gender and other issues of diversity.” Yes, baseball is saved.

If baseball has some real fundamental changes to make, I doubt Manfred (Selig the Second) is the man to do it. But I’m biased; I already like the game. There’s only one rule change that really would make the game more accessible and enjoyable for the average fan, and that’s to shorten the game to seven innings. Let’s face it, most people leave after the seventh inning stretch anyway. But with 140 years of playing nine, that’s just not going to happen any time soon. And what do I care about pleasing the “average fan”?

In the era of Twitter, Facebook, iPads, and movies and music on demand, maybe a pastoral 19th century game just doesn’t play anymore for the tech savvy and violent. I really don’t know what the future holds for the national pastime. The black eye of the strike was healed by Cal Ripken Jr. The black eye of steroids, still somewhat lingering, was healed in part by a national movement behind the post-9/11 New York Yankees and the benefit of a few good World Series matchups in a row. The slow bleed of today’s maladies? Football, soccer, too many online distractions? No immediate remedy in sight.

The game still works for me as is.

Legends will fall

Unless you’ve been on the planet Ork for the past 48 hours you have no doubt heard of the passing of comic legend Robin Williams. Robin Williams thrilled audiences for decades, spanning generations and, indeed, often several generations simultaneously (see Aladdin or Hook), with a style uniquely his. I use the word unique with purpose, as in one of a kind, not merely unusual. He truly was a unique talent, and by all indications, a genuinely nice person as well.

That Robin Williams was only 63 when he passed is tragic. That he died by his own hand even more so. The last time I heard the name Robin Williams was a few days before his death, when I read that his estate in Napa Valley was listed for nearly $30 million. Thirty million dollar estate. I guess you never know about someone’s inner demons until it’s too late.

Sad news last night as well to hear of the passing of the great Lauren Bacall. Ms. Bacall was 89. Fifty-seven years after her movie star husband, Humphrey Bogart, left us much too soon, Bacall’s death shows that at any age, legends will fall, and it will always seem too soon.

I guess one should be thankful for the legends themselves.