Wednesday, December 23, 2009

London here I come (Old Man Winter willing)

I have completed enough of my tasks at work that I am finally able to think about Saturday, the day I am scheduled to leave for LONDON.
I say "scheduled," because MOTHER NATURE, OLD MAN WINTER and any other anthropomorphic names for savage weather you can recall might have other designs.
I'm getting ready, though.
I have a wee bit of money (too wee, if you ask me, but such is life in recessionary times), I have read the books and studied the maps and I am even beginning to pack.
I am also about to transfer my blog posts -- at least temporarily -- to ERIK'S JOLLY OLD ALBION -- a blog I created expressly for this purpose.
You can find it by clicking on the top link on the right of this page.
I'll try my best to update it regularly while I am gone.
ROUTE 1 normal service will resume after the new year.
In the meantime, HAPPY HOLIDAYS and pray for dry runways!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I still believe there will be justice for Kirsty

I've been listening to a lot of KIRSTY MACCOLL songs the past couple days, as I prepare for a trip to LONDON.
This week, MacColl supporters announced plans to abandon efforts to more fully investigate the controversial Mexican boating accident that caused her death in 2000.
On Dec. 18, 2000, MacColl was in Cozumel, Mexico with her sons and partner James Knight. The group went diving in a specific area where boats were prohibited from entering.
A speedboat entered these restricted waters, just as the group was coming up from a dive.
MacColl saw the boat coming at top speed and pushed her son to safety but the boat struck and killed her.
The boat belonged to Guillermo Gonzalez Nova, one of Mexico's richest men. He was on board with several members of his family.
Although an employee claimed to have been driving the boat at the time, witnesses claimed Nova himself steered the craft into the group of the divers at high speed.
The employee was convicted of the crime and received a fine of $90 in lieu of a prison sentence.
The "JUSTICE FOR KIRSTY" effort aimed to have the case reopened, but Mexican authorities never fulfilled promises to do so.
MacColl's mother, Jean, said in a statement:
"I would like to thank everybody for their letters of support and understanding since we decided, sadly, to close the campaign. As the Mexicans were closing the case we had no alternative."
Few witnesses would step forward to testify against Nova.
"Wealth and power is a formidable weapon," Jean MacColl wrote.
As I listen to MacColl's great songs, I will continue to believe there will be justice done. If not on this world, then in the one beyond.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

How a rugby match changed this Grinch

This CHRISTMAS period is different and special for me, because I leave for LONDON on BOXING DAY. I am traditionally (and notoriously) late getting into the Christmas spirit.
"Aren't you going to wear any of your Christmas ties," JILL asked me before work one day last week.

Ahhh... I had forgotten all about them.

Several incidents helped stoke my yuletide fires this weekend.

1. I picked up the last of the Christmas presents during a rare Friday off work. The relief of having that chore finished helped get me into the spirit of Christmas.

2. I heard three of my favorite Christmas tunes on BBC LONDON 94.9 online. I heard Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody" yesterday and today on the same station I heard both "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl and Band-Aid's "Do They Know it's Christmas." These three songs *always* get me in the Christmas spirit.

3. I watched a remarkable RUGBY UNION match on television last night.

How did that get me into the Christmas spirit?

Here's how:

A blinding snowstorm struck the Murrayfield stadium in EDINBURGH during the first half of the host's HEINEKEN CUP match with BATH.

Players were knocking on the ball, slipping about and dropping passes.

At every stoppage of play, the Murrayfield PA would play Christmas tunes.

A viewer had "Jingle Bells" still ringing in the ears while watching Edinburgh's Chris Paterson (pictured) or Bath's Fijian Nicky Little kicking penalties.

Paterson out-kicked Little, three penalties to two, and Edinburgh won the match, 9-6.

By the conclusion of the match, I was well and truly in the Christmas spirit.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Slade nearly sends me dancing to London

With a week to go before my flight, I nearly DANCED my way to LONDON this morning. Here's what happened.
I logged onto the Web site for BBC LONDON 94.9 for a listen before watching a Premier League match, and the first song I heard was the brilliant "Stay With Me" by THE FACES.

The news came next -- hundreds of people spent 12 hours in the Channel Tunnel last night when EUROSTAR broke down because of wintry weather -- then the station played "Cuz I Luv You" by SLADE.

The mighty Slade!

I danced around the kitchen!

Turns out, NODDY HOLDER (Slade's lead singer and lyricist) was the guest of GARY CROWLEY on the radio.

Holder discussed the band's formation and sudden, stratospheric rise to fame, while Crowley played two more of the band's classics -- "Cum on Feel the Noize" (quite possibly the greatest of all rock songs, Quiet Riot's version is so pale in comparison, it's simply laughable) and the holiday classic, "Merry Xmas Everybody."

Hearing those great tunes, I was so excited I probably could have danced across the Atlantic to reach London.

Instead, I must wait a week and hop on a plane.
I'll hum some Slade tunes all the way.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Question with a little editor's note at the end

I have today off work and I planned to sleep late, but the dog woke me up 10 minutes before my alarm regularly sounds.
That's a little strange (and more than a little sad), but ROUTE 1 readers can come up with stranger tales than that.

Well, we hope they can.

Let's find out, by reading their answers to this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:

"What is the strangest thing you've seen this week?"

STACEY B. -- The strangest thing I saw this week was a snowwoman complete with a super scary mannequin head and long hair on top of two giant snowballs with large snow breasts. Two long sticks with mittens at the end jutted out as arms.


RICK T. -- Kids wearing shorts when it was 5 below zero outside. (They think it's cool to look like that.) My momma would have whooped me if I tried that, when I was a kid.

BRIAN C. -- John Stiles walking upright.

DAVE B. -- I started putting my top 100 songs of all time together. The list keeps getting stranger and stranger.

JIM S. -- The "Redneck Playstation." My brother sent me an e-mail link to a game that included a flyswatter and about 10 flies buzzing around a table littered with old French fries and packs of sugar. The object was to see how fast you could swat all of the flies and then hang up the flyswatter. When I finished, my score was called "sucky."

MIKE M. -- A person told me after 30 years of research she's determined computer technology comes from space aliens.

ERIK H. -- Not for the first time, mind you, I walked in to our living room and discovered one of the cats was chewing on the dog's bone. We have some definite species identification issues in my house. Just ask the dog curled up asleep on top of the cat castle.

Well folks, thank you so much. It's been another great year for FRIDAY QUESTION.
The popular feature returns next year after a brief hiatus.

1. It's going to be CHRISTIMAS.

2. ROUTE 1 leaves for LONDON and an important reconnaissance mission.

Until then, keep reading -- you never know what obscure thing I am going to jabber on about next.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's unanimous in Congress: "Kind of Blue" is best

CONGRESS finally found something everybody could agree upon!
Tuesday, lawmakers approved House Resolution 894, by a 409-0 vote.

The measure garnering the unanimous support honors "KIND OF BLUE" by MILES DAVIS, 50 years after the release of the landmark album.

U.S. REP. JOHN CONYERS (D-Michigan) sponsored the measure and said Davis "made musical history and changed the artistic landscape of this country and in some ways the world."

The Columbia Records album featured an all-star cast of sidemen for Davis, including saxophonists John Coltrane and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb.

The album’s relatively short duration – a mere 37 minutes – belies its impact.

It turned a lot of people – yours truly included – into jazz fans for life. I listened to "Kind of Blue" while driving around today. It sounds fresh every time I play it.

No wonder it gained the unanimous support of a deeply divided Congress!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A good night for the team in red and gold -- and its fans

The SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS were terrible when I was a little kid, but I supported them because my DAD loved them so much.
As I grew older, the Niners grew better, under the masterful, guiding hand of Bill Walsh and with a roster filled by future hall of famers.

Before I knew it, my favorite NFL team started winning. They won five Super Bowls and made winning look so easy that it became easy for the fans to take victories for granted.

I know this for a fact, because as my adulthood has continued, the Niners became terrible again. A succession of coaches and quarterbacks came and went. The losses piled up and the fear and admiration opposing teams had for those red and gold uniforms faded.

The victories of the previous decades began to seem like another team's wins.

That's why last night's game was so much fun to watch on TV.

Unable to compensate for San Francisco's relentless defensive pressure and their own shockingly inept play, the ARIZONA CARDINALS turned the ball over seven times -- including five times in the first half -- and the Niners won, 24-9, on MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL.

San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith still looked a little lost, but he managed to throw a pair of touchdown passes -- one to the exciting rookie receiver, Michael Crabtree.

Frank Gore seemed like his usual, bullish self for the Niners, rushing for 167 yards and another score.

The team in red and gold earned the right to swagger a bit by game's end -- for the first in ages.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bad news for Buju

I admit it: I'm like a CLASSIC ROCK SNOB when it comes to REGGAE -- very few current artists live up to my expectations, which have been built on the reputation of the musical gems of the 1960s-70s.
The 1995 album "'TIL SHILOH" by BUJU BANTON is an exception.

On it, Banton shrugged off a reputation for homophobic lyrics and sensationalism for a resolutely religious collection of songs.

That's what disappointed me most, when I learned Banton faces 20 years in an American jail, suspected of plotting to sell cocaine.

Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents say Banton, 36, will be charged with conspiracy to possess more than 11 pounds of cocaine with intent to deliver.

Banton, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, was arrested last week.

He made such a comeback with "'Til Shiloh." Now, his career appears in ruins.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

London's streets, The Alarm's tunes and the Scarlets' despair

After watching visiting LEINSTER trounce SCARLETS yesterday, 32-7, in a televised HEINEKEN CUP match from Parc Y Scarlets in LLANELLI, I felt sorry for WALES in general.
That's why I next listened to Welsh legends THE ALARM while thumbing through Michael Middleditch's "LONDON MAPGUIDE."

As I sang along to songs such as "Strength" and "Spirit of 76," I studied maps of streets I will be walking down two weeks from today.

"Somewhere tonight out on the street, somewhere beneath this city’s heat. In the eyes of strangers who pass me by, life is cruel and so unkind. Oh, oh the spirit of ’76."
I work today, and I actually have a stressful, busy time ahead of me at work the next week and a half.
I keep telling myself, though, that London is coming soon.

As for the poor Scarlets, with the way Leinster were playing, not many rugby union sides were going to defeat the reigning European champions, who benefited from four tries, scored by Shane Horgan, Isa Nacewa, Shaun Berne and Sean O'Brien.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Winter prompts memories, even though it hasn't officially begun!

We don't know about where you live, but winter seems to have been here forever -- even though the season doesn't officially begin for another 10 days.
ROUTE 1 readers recall winter past by answering this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:

"What is your most vivid winter memory?"

JIM S. -- Driving through Yellowstone Park on the second day it was open one day as winter was nearing its end in the early 1980s. There was still snow drifts on the side of the road higher than my car at some points. Signs warned of snow avalanches. During the entire 90-minute or more drive, I encountered two other cars. It was an awesome experience. I was on my way to a newspaper interview from Gillette, Wyo. to Idaho Falls, Idaho.

MARY N.-P. -- Cross-country skiing with my whole family on my brother's ranch in the Colorado mountains. We took our aging parents around on snowmobiles while the rest of us skied down hills, through timber and along creek beds behind them. As usual in Colorado (where I lived many years), although there was snow, the weather was mild and beautiful. I will never happen again as various family members are now dead, damaged or too old (like me) to do that again...

RICK T. -- Making snowmen in the heavy snow, when I was a kid. Long time ago!

KERSTIN H. -- I hate the snow, so my most vivid memory is begging to move to a warmer place!

KERI M. -- The blizzard of 2007, of course. And Christmas, of course.

ANNIKA H. -- Skating on the ice in the field at Marshall.

MIKE D. -- Growing up with Bunker Hill Golf Course as our back yard, we did plenty of sledding (we called it sleigh-riding), tobogganing and tubing. We created ramps for getting maximum air time and tried to outdo each other for the best wipe-out. Another favorite memory was shoveling out a huge maze of paths on the 6th fairway, then playing tag in the labyrinth.

ERIK H. -- My sister visited us in Oregon one year. We traveled to a lake to look for wildlife and we found some: We spied a deer chasing a fox across the iced-over lake.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mays brings a ray of summer to my snowy world

I continue to read "WILLIE MAYS: THE LIFE, THE LEGEND" by James S. Hirsch, and the book's vignettes provide scenes in stark contrast to SNOWBOUND DUBUQUE.
"On one occasion, with the Braves' Hank Aaron at first base, the hitter drove a ball into deep right center," Hirsch wrote. "Mays caught it with his back to the infield, forcing Aaron, who had already passed second base, to make a hasty retreat. A strong throw to first might have doubled him off, but Mays wheeled around and threw to second instead, where Tito Fuentes was standing. Mays motioned for him to step on the bag, and the umpire called Aaron out. Aaron had failed to touch second base again on his way back to first, and the double play was completed. After the game, Mays was asked how he could have possibly seen Aaron miss the base when he was in the deepest part of right center and his back was to the play. He shrugged. 'I know the way he runs,' he said."

Hirsch makes the point, throughout this fine book, that Mays thrived not just on pure physical ability, but also on one of the greatest "baseball minds" the game has ever produced.

Sadly, the book also details how my favorite team, the SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS, consistently failed to play to their championship potential, because of myriad injuries, racial strife, a poorly designed home park and plain bad luck.

It's great reading for a WINTER DAY, however. It makes me think of fun in the sun.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Extinction of the music geek in the Valley of the Sun

I guess it makes sense: I dreamed about my high school-era home of PHOENIX, ARIZ., on the eve of a predicted MAJOR SNOWSTORM.
I often dream about Phoenix when the weather gets cold here. I think it is my mind reminding itself that it left perpetual warm weather for IOWA.
What was unusual about the overnight dream was the setting in time. Although it looked like the Phoenix I knew, I walked into three RECORD STORES and discovered they were either closed or converted.
By converted, I mean there were computer stations where people could plug in their iPods and pay to download songs and albums. There were no compact discs on shelves, and I didn't even notice any sales staff.
Was this a vision of the future?
If so, think of the implications -- including no more geeky but knowledgeable record-store staff (as in "High Fidelity") and with no more CDs (let alone albums) no more need for detailed liner notes.
If that was a vision of the future, then the MUSIC GEEK could become an endangered species.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Let it snow -- I have The Clash

It feels ominously inevitable -- this waiting around for a BLIZZARD.
The forecast maps on television show the storm gathering strength and speed far to the west, with no other place to go than here.
I could have winced throughout the day, but I decided to listen to THE CLASH instead.
It's hard not singing along to the early singles. I love how the pop leanings of MICK JONES were wed to the strident politics of JOE STRUMMER.
In fact, the sound of The Clash is so familiar now, it's sometimes difficult to recall its true pioneering place in rock history.
"Like a punk Marquis Of Queensbury," the NME once wrote, "The Clash set the rules by which all indie/alt bands since have played by."
Even the songs I had forgotten are brilliant -- case in point: "Hate & War" off the self-titled debut.
Yeah, let it snow and let the winds blow their hardest. I've got The Clash.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Dragons roar past Leinster

I enjoyed watching a MAGNERS LEAGUE rugby union match live on SETANTA SPORTS today.
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS scored four first-half tries to defeat visiting LEINSTER, 30-14, at RODNEY PARADE.

The victory enabled the Dragons to move up to fourth place in the Magners League, a collection of regional sides from WALES, IRELAND and SCOTLAND.
Aled Brew (pictured), James Arlidge, Wayne Evans and Richard Fussell scored tries for the Dragons.
Arlidge is an interesting case: Born in New Zealand, he represents JAPAN internationally. He debuted for the Cherry Blossoms, as Japan's rugby union team is known, in an 82-0 drubbing of South Korea.

Dublin-based Leinster managed a late try through Simon Keogh, but the Irish commentators were rather savage in their criticism of the team -- particularly the poor tackling of the visitors.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Antidote for a nightmare

I woke up out of a NIGHTMARE this morning that included a foot of snow on the ground and an old car slipping out of park, sliding down a street (although, it wasn't on a hill -- that should have tipped me off that it was a dream), crashing into a tree and then speeding, driverless, down a roadway full of traffic.
Suitably shaken in the predawn darkness, I decided to calm my nerves with "LUSH LIFE" by LOU DONALDSON.

One of the great anomalies of jazz, this album -- recorded in 1967 but unreleased until 1980 -- was completely out of its time.

Instead of his usual (and usually terrific) soulfully bouncy bop, Donaldson gathered such jazz luminaries as Pepper Adams, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter and McCoy Tyner for a set of gentle ballads.

It was "old school" before the term was invented.

The sax players, writer Jeff Stockton notes, "seem to be harking back to styles they left behind several years earlier."

"Each of the sax players sounds as if he is doing his impression of Ben Webster: Adams on the brawny low end, Donaldson sweetly fluttering on top, Shorter wrapping his arms around the midrange," Stockton wrote.

As I learn more about jazz, I learn there's a style for every mood and occasion.

"Lush Life," with its luxurious, retro feel, seems perfect for post-nightmare comfort.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Not elementary, not high school -- Let's call them "the awkward years"

ROUTE 1 can barely remember the details of last night's stressful CIVIL WAR GAME, so it'll be a wonder if we can remember anything from the more distant past.
It's good, then, that readers tap into their memory banks to answer the following FRIDAY QUESTION:

"What do you remember most about middle school/junior high?"

MARY N.-P. -- The difference in body sizes among the same age kids -- some girls shot up like giraffes (me for instance) and some boys stayed really short until much later -- made for really awkward line-ups and get-togethers...

MIKE M. -- Reading out loud from a science textbook in front of the whole class, I misread "living organism" as "living orgasm." I was shocked and horrified, but then felt even worse after realizing that no one had noticed. I continue to experience variations of this theme to this very day.

RICK T. -- I flunked music class in Junior High. Now look after 37 years playing music, I sure showed that teacher!

MIKE D. -- We had a teacher who really made a difference. Mr. Besler taught English, biology and history at Holy Trinity. He was tough, no doubt, but if you worked hard, he would offer praise in the form of an O++++. ("O" -- for outstanding -- was the equivalent of an "A.") Mr. B recognized the artistic talent that another student and I possessed, so we often were given special projects that allowed us to brandish our skills. He also allowed us to house all kinds of critters -- from praying mantises to lizards -- in the classroom terrarium.

ANNIKA H. -- Nothing, because I am only in fifth grade.

ELLEN B. -- Splitting out time between my grade school and Jones Jr. High! It was a blast.
KERSTIN H. -- Seventh-grade language arts. It was fun.
BEKAH P. -- This is so embarrassing, but it is too funny to keep just to myself. I didn't grow into my prominent nose until... well... still really haven't, but for the point of argument, let's just say my snauzer didn't seem as awkward once I reached college. In junior high, I was dating this really cute boy. On Valentine's Day, he wrote me a poem -- "Roses are red, violets are blue, you have the nose of a B-52." So sweet, right?
KERI M. -- Looking like a boy and being a total loser.

JIM S. -- I remember teachers being very tough in "the day" -- the early 1970s. I saw at least two or three different boys get slapped hard in the face by teachers, a couple for just talking in study hall. A few others got "swatted" on the butt by teachers using wooden paddles. But this "encouraged" 90 percent of us to behave, and we were never touched.
ERIK H. -- When an earthquake struck in eighth grade, I was in my wood shop class and the tables had cabinets built into them -- we had nothing to cower under in case the roof began to fall. The earthquake was short-lived, and not only did we all survive, we were sent home early.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

This one was for you, Uncle Roger

The CIVIL WAR game should come with a surgeon general's warning.
I have never been so worried before watching a football game, and I have never felt so uncomfortably stressed while watching a football game.

Three TDs from LaMichael James helped give MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS a 37-33 over the DANGED OL' BEAVERS tonight, sending Oregon to the ROSE BOWL for the first time since 1995.

I always cheer for Oregon, but this season I cheered with greater intensity. It felt like I willed them to win some of those games, in honor of my late U of O-grad UNCLE ROGER, who passed away earlier this year.

I like to call Oregon State the "Danged Ol' Beavers" to tease my OSU-supporting friends, but I actually -- secretly -- hope they win all their games -- except the Civil War contest with Oregon.

Oregon heads to the Rose Bowl, and it will be an absolute travesty if the HOLIDAY BOWL selects the University of Southern California instead of OSU.

These not-so-DANGED OL' BEAVERS are a much better team than the overrated Trojans.

Again, this one's for you, Uncle Roger.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Middle school yearbook: All of the future celebrities... and me

A lot can happen in 30 years.
I recently thumbed through my eighth-grade YEARBOOK from OAK GROVE MIDDLE SCHOOL in CONCORD, CALIF., and used FACEBOOK, GOOGLE and some other Web sites to track down some of my forgotten classmates.
Perhaps predictably, *Erik Hogstrom* appears to have become the forgotten classmate.
Everybody else is famous.
Matt Chessé, the smiling kid on Page 13? Yeah, he's now an Oscar-nominated film editor.
His films include "Monster's Ball," "Finding Neverland" and "The Kite Runner."
Chessé didn't sign my yearbook 30 years ago.
Rick Winer signed my yearbook. He was the kid who looked a little mischievous on Page 20.
"It's nice having someone like you around, because you make me look better," he wrote.
What's he doing now?
He's Rabbi Rick Winer at Congregation Beth Emek Synagogue in Pleasanton, Calif.
Winer has extensively traveled the world, according to his Web site (find it here).
I'm sure the remainder of the people in the yearbook grew up to become doctors and lawyers, or astronauts or football stars or presidents.
That rather frightened-looking, red-haired kid with the freckles on Page 15?
It's still early, though. I might yet make a name for myself in the next 30 years.