Saturday, May 31, 2008

The American Idol Party

The Maine Democrat Party (aka, The American Idol Party) Convention is apparently running in typically f*cked up Democrat fashion, as the Obama delegates caused a major traffic jam with their late arrival at the Augusta Civic Center.

While check-in was to be completed by 9:00 am, the Millennial Kool-Aid Kids (affectionately known as Obama delegates) had trouble getting out of bed at such an early hour. Hence, check-in was extended to enable America's future leaders the chance to roll at their leisure.

Then, Michelle Obama's limo caused another major traffic snarl, further pushing back the essentials of the convention, namely, the caucusing.

[Michelle Obama whipping her husband's supporters into a frenzy]

America's future first diva made an unexpected, surprise appearance. The mercurial wife of Democrat front-runner, Barack "Barry" Obama, gave a spirited performance, ripping off Obama campaign standards, "Hillary Don't Sho' No Respect," "Back to the USSR," and the show-stopping, "Barack Is Just Alright Wit' Me." Several Obama delegates reportedly had to be taken out on stretchers, after they were slain in the spirit.

My wife texts that "the Androscoggin County delegates suck," so she's been adopted by the York County contingent.

It appears our Saturday evening dinner date is in jeopardy, a victim of Democratic politics.

Ad hominem radio

My wife is off to Augusta, waging battle with her fellow Democrats at their state convention. She'll have her hands full, as she is supporting Hillary, and the Obama-rama crowd will do all they can to push forward their American Idol candidate.

I've cooled on the presidential race, as all three candidates have become more and more disappointing, as the race has progressed. If the presidential election occurred today, I'd probably sit it out for the very first time in my life.

Beng a political junkie, it's very tough for me to ignore politics entirely, however. As I was out and about, running Saturday morning errands, I managed to listen to much of John McDonald's show, on WGAN-560. I even managed to place a call and shamelessly work in a plug for Moxietown. John's a gentleman, and a storyteller supreme. Most of the time, he manages to promote some reasonable debate, and respects his listeners.

The follow-up program, Inside Maine, with Phil Harriman (who is always absent, requiring a weekly guest host) and Barbara Merrill followed. This week's fill-in was Mike Violette, who is part of the left-right morning team of Ken (Altshuler) and Mike.

[Violette (R), plays Mutt, to Ken Altshuler's (L) Jeff]

Weekdays, Violette plays Altshuler's right-wing foil, regularly resorting to personal attacks, and ideological blathering on issues that more times than not, would benefit from a more nuanced approach. That's not part of WGAN's programming, as nuanced would be at the bottom of a list of characterisations befitting a lineup the likes of Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh (who at least has some entertainment value), and Bill O'Reilly, with few exceptions.

This morning, Violette took shots at credible Second District Congressman, Mike Michaud (calling him a "moonbat"), as well as 1st District Senate candidate, Laurie Dobson (can't remember the term used for another personal attack), and besmirched 75-year old psychologist, Dr. Herbert J. Hoffman, also running against the status quo candidates, Susan Collins, and Tom Allen. Hoffman's crime? He dared support Dennis Kucinich, which in Violette's book, is the equivalent of a political scarlet letter. Sadly, Kucinich was a candidate with integrity, and someone still in touch with his less than stellar origins, and people facing the economic challenges that he's managed to conquer.

WGAN is free to staff their programming with anyone they want. The market obviously supports their choice of hosts, like Violette, who cling desperately to ideology, rather than offering the kind of pragmatic solutions that Maine, and beyond, require. But then again, all he has to do is talk, and spew his attacks. He doesn't have to actually contribute something tangible towards making Maine a better place to live.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The arc of history

In today’s sound bite-obsessed culture, no one pays much attention to the ebb and flow of history. Last week is ancient history to most, and historical literacy is knowing what last night’s sports scores were.

I find myself listening to more right-wing talk radio lately than I ever thought I possible; certainly more than I care to admit to. Given the state of the FM dial, one can only take the same five songs in rotation for so long, however, and I’m sick of my CD collection, and I continue to resist the marketing hype of Apple, and its iPod (I miss my tape player, in my old car, and its mix tape possibilities). In the strange landscape that is presidential politics in America, it is one of the only places where you catch occasional glimpses of lucidity. For many who’ve drunk the Kool-Aid offered by those on the left that statement probably causes you to think I’ve taken leave of my senses. As they say, politics makes for strange bedfellows. Hell, Rush Limbaugh, as well as Michael Savage are making more sense than the Obama’s minions on the left, the likes of Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and all the rest of the Obama-rama sycophants.

Speaking of right-wing talk show hosts, one of that pantheon’s chattering heads was commenting on McLellan’s shilling of his new book, What Happened (an amazingly lame title of a book that is bound to sell far too many copies than it deserves to), and mentioned how history will ultimately contextualize the presidency of George Bush.

Let me first say that I always thought Scotty McLellan was a lying weasel. Everytime I’d see that sack of shit up at the mike, taking questions, I knew this administration’s HR people had burned through their stack of resumes of qualified candidates. The less said about McLellan, the better, in my opinion. I’ll just say that regardless of how you feel about Mr. Bush, McLellan is turncoat personified. I can’t say I’m surprised, however, given the state of manhood in America. Turn on your friends, your pastor, your family, and even your fucking dog. That’s what loyalty’s become in our time. As Harry Truman once said, “You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.” Just have the good sense not to turn him out for political purposes.

Back to my right-wing talk show host. He was making the point that Harry Truman, who is lionized today, by both the right, and the left, when he left office in 1953, with an approval rating of 23 percent, was forced (along with Bess) to pack up his things into his car, and make the long drive back to Missouri, alone, without any secret service entourage. Making that trek, back before the advent of the interstate highway system, was probably a long, painful sojourn. I can see the Trumans, stopping off at one of the many roadside cabins common in the 50s, built for America’s first wave of car travelers.

This host’s point, and I think, mine, is that history provides a much better lens for adjudicating a president’s legacy, than our current stick a wet finger in the air, and decide who you’re for today, way of doing things.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tend my garden

There have been a number of features about gardening on the local 6 o’clock news programs. After listening to a few of these, I've come to the conclusion that the average viewer knows little, or nothing about growing their own food. It’s not surprising, really. I think most Americans believe that their food originates in some big warehouse, and gets trucked to their local supermarket.

While my wife and I have been keeping a modest 30 X 20 plot the past six years, or so, growing a small variety of vegetables, we’ve regularly added new elements, and variety to our spring planting. In 2007, Mary added an herb garden, and also planted tomatoes on our hill, which I had discontinued mowing, and had let go wild. The sandy soil, and abundant sun on the northeastern side of our property, helped them do quite well.

[Prep the soil, and then gather your favorite seed packets]

Given the price of food this year, we’ve decided to double the garden plot, adding additional greens, like mesclun, some extra kale (which we fell in love with, last year}, a hearty root vegetable, like beets, as well as two varieties of beans, squash, zucchini, and another salad mix.

[Miss Mary's own personal herb garden]

While having a small garden requires some initial work, preparing the soil, and the actual sowing process, the effort is well worth the yield, and mid-summer bounty that will be forthcoming. Noted writer, economic and cultural critic, and first and foremost, a farmer, Wendell Berry wrote about this in his essay, “The Pleasures of Eating” (from What Are People For?), urging readers to get involved in their own food production. Berry advocated participating “in food production to the extent that you can. If you have a yard or even just a porch box or a pot in a sunny window, grow something to eat in it. Make a little compost of your kitchen scraps and use it for fertilizer, Only by growing some food for yourself can you become acquainted with the beautiful energy cycle that revolves from soil to seed to flower to fruit to food to offal to decay, and around again. You will he fully responsible for any food that you grow for yourself, and you will know all about it. You will appreciate it fully, having known it all its life.”

[Our borrowed 3 HP friend helps save our backs]

There is something magic that happens when you get your fingers in the soil, and get some of the earth under your nails. A closer connection to the natural world keeps us human, and that is always a good thing.

[The garden genie will keep watch over the crops]

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Let's hear it for the little guys!

For most baseball fans, particularly those that only know the professional variety, chemically-enhanced, and overrun by WWF histrionics, this weekend's D3 College World Series, in Appleton, Wisconsin, is probably not on your "badar" (baseball radar).

[Fox Cities Stadium, host of the D3 WS, and home of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers]

I got to experience this great community (along with Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss, and cheese curds), and my very own D3 World Series in person, in 2006, when my son Mark, a senior on Wheaton (MA) College's baseball team, was a participant. That was a magic spring, and one I won't soon forget. The Lyons secured their first ever trip to the World Series, by winning the Northeast Regional. I got to witness the one of the more dramatic home runs I've seen during my baseball life, courtesy of Pat O'Connor's bat, and Wheaton finished number two in the country, losing to Marietta, and 7th round Major League draft pick, Mike Eisenberg.

[The Fox Cities' playing surface is on par with any Major League park]

I'll be following the exploits of the Trinity Bantams over the weekend. This club, the Northeast representative in Appleton, beat Cortland State on Friday, 2-1, their 42nd consecutive win. It was fitting that the Bantams had an opportunity to avenge their last loss, which came a year ago, to Cortland State, when the Red Dragons eliminated Trinity, during the 2007 New York Regional, ending their season.

[The view from center field (put me in coach, I'm ready to play...)]

Just like their big brother, the Division I World Series, in Omaha, Nebraska, the D3 equivalent has plenty of compelling stories. Trinity's foe, this evening, will be Linfield College, from Oregon. The Wildcats are making their first D3 WS appearance, and are coached by none other than Scott Brosius, the former Yankee that Red Sox fans came to hate. Brosius, a Wildcat alumnist, led the team to a 34-11 season in his first year at the helm.

While there won't be live video until the last two days of the tourney, audio feeds, as well as live stats will keep fans updated.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Careful what you wish for

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague today. The topic was the escalation in the price of oil, and what that portends for the future.

It’s hard to argue that the continued parabolic rise in oil prices will have a chilling effect on any real economic growth, at least in the near term. While the wealthy among us aren’t affected by this exponential rise in price, at least initially, those of us in the middle class, and certainly, the working poor, already have had to start making some hard choices regarding household budgets.

The conversation I alluded to centered on transportation, logistics, and distribution (TDL)—basically that sector that ensures that everything we consume—food, gasoline, electricity, etc., gets delivered, intact, and on time. Medical services, entertainment, our technology, is all dependent on delivery, and oil affects everything we do. It is the literal lubricant that greases the gears of our civilization.

At some price indicator, we will reach a tipping point where our current way of doing things will no longer be sustainable. Then what?

Interestingly, since I started blogging here back in 2004, and prior to that on my first blog, a consistent theme of mine has been community, at least the kind that I remembered from my youth, growing up in Lisbon Falls. Even better, much of the past five months has found me writing about that time period, working on the topic of Moxie, for my upcoming book, but even beyond that, focusing on aspects of small town life that were meaningful to me that will be part of a full-length book, due late in the fall.

The person I spoke to happens to work in the TDL field. Her take on where we are headed is back to the 1940s, and 1950s. What? At that time, commerce, industry, and the focus of life, was on the local community, and then outward, to the region that you were part of. In the U.S., each region—the South, New England, the Midwest, the Southwest, etc.—all had unique characteristics; cuisine, dialect, heritage, and even politics.

If gas were to go to $10/gallon, then this might create a demand for a local grocery store, where people would drive five miles, rather than 25 miles to do their shopping. Local hardware stores, lumberyards, and other retailers might once again become central, rather than Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and others. Because everything we do revolves around transportation, particularly trucking, it may no longer make sense to truck food, manufactured goods, and other products thousands of miles. Rather, regional economies, such as northern New England, might forge partnerships to begin supplying the products being imported from overseas, or even, the west coast.

Many people that live in Maine don’t know that Aroostook County has the capacity to grow wheat, and in fact currently produces organic wheat for Borealis Breads. Facing a global shortage of wheat, Maine may once again find itself re-emerging as an agrarian center for particular crops, like wheat.

Here is an interesting article from 2006 that alludes to that potential.

The invisible hand always creates winners, as well as losers. That has always been the calling card of capitalism.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I've been on a bit of a run of late, meeting fellow bloggers that I've watched from afar. The latest one being Mark LaFlamme, of Sun Journal crime beat notoriety, as well as the popular blog, The Screaming Room.

I actually met LaFlamme back in 1996, while working one of the worst gigs of my working life, up to that point. He was already creating a signature style of reporting that he's continued to hone over the subsequent years. I was just looking to get the hell out of my position. In all fairness, I met some great people at the paper, I just had a crappy job, overseeing delivery of the newspaper, which is a thankless job.

As a member of the Empower Lewiston board, I had been thinking of ways to engage residents of downtown Lewiston. Since I view blogging as a great way to get your writing, and ideas to an audience, without alot of outside control, I thought this might be a way to give voice to a group of people that often don't have one. Hence, the idea for a blog-a-thon was hatched.

The attendance was a bit disappointing, but all was not lost. LaFlamme and I got to chat about blogging, baseball (found out he's a KC Royals fan), and the role of newspapers in the digital age. I was pleased that he took the time to come out and help support our efforts.

Mayor Gilbert, of Lewiston, also was in the house, providing opening remarks. Gilbert also has a blog, and he informed us that his two daughters are behind the popular Rumor Girls podcasts.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Get your Jones on!

You ‘gotta love a soda company that has flavors like Blue Bubble Gum, and an energy drink called WhoopAss. They once had a flavor (now retired) they named Bug Juice.

Since I’ve been living in the alternative drink universe for several months, I continue to be on the lookout for interesting drink products in the vein of Moxie. I’m becoming aware that these products are everywhere, depending on where you live in the U.S., and probably in other countries. I remain partial to Moxie, however.

Not sure if you can find Jones products here in New England, although Shaws Supermarkets are listed as a location for Maine, as well as Panera Bread.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Talk is cheap; action entails costs

The past six years have been a remarkable period of reinvention, as well as self-discovery for me. Prior to that I was stuck in a pattern of working in jobs that sucked the soul out of me, crushing my spirit, and causing me to dispair that I'd ever find a place where I belonged.

For me, life truly began at the age of forty, as I am the classic late bloomer that you occasionally read about, or listen to interviewed on a talk show.

I remember vividly, beginning a quest to find myself while assembling contracts at Unum-Provident, in 2001. Beginning with Gregg Levoy's book, Callings, and setting my face towards developing a career focused on writing, I've made steady progress toward my goals, some of them written down on a piece of scrap paper, during my solitary lunches outside of the gray, glass and cement corporate prison I was forced to endure.

Book #2 is now in the can and at my designer, waiting to be prepared for printing. This is my second book that I've put together (with a third on the way, in October). Additionally, I published someone else's book last summer, which helped me to realize that I'd rather focus on my own writing/publishing. I have plans to begin a forth book, in the fall. This is all taking place while working a demanding daytime job that is fulfilling and helping me to keep my writing financed and viable.

I don't spend as much time as I used to, being irritated that other writers get recognized, or featured by Maine's literary community. Occasionally, I do feel irritation when I peruse the list of featured writers at events like the upcoming Maine Festival of the Book, and see names of people that routinely sell a fraction of what my first book sold. While this event has some stellar talent, there are many local authors that would make for a more realistic sense, in my opinion, of who is writing about Maine, and what that writing looks like.

These seasons of frustration and the sense of being ignored for what I've accomplished grow wider in duration, however. One book doesn't make for a writing career, so I'm using that major-league chip on my shoulder to motivate me, and keep me outworking my competition. (Shhhh! Don't tell anyone my secret.)

As I grow in experience, I'm learning that I have much greater control over my own direction and success. Working a full-time job has given me a freedom to no longer worry about outside forces that I have little, or no control over, anyway.

As I continue down life's corridor, having passed the halfway marker, I'm confident that in another decade, I'll have a substantial catalog of books, both varied, and successful in whatever niche that I choose to target, festival invites, or not.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Interviews with authors and dreams of ice cream trucks

I'm a sucker for interviews, particularly with authors and rock stars. Well, maybe not rock stars, but musicians that are more adept than my three-chord contributions to the rock pantheon.

I happened to be visiting the website of Mr. Everyday Yeah and stumbled upon his amazing interview with an amazingly unique writer, Mark Danielewski. I say this, having never ever read any of his books, but based upon this interview alone, I'm going to immediately seek out a Danielewski novel today (I won't find it today, as none of my local bookstores have it, so I'll be forced to wait until I hit the big city of Portland). That's what great interviews do.

Speaking of interviews, I heard etown for the first time, Sunday night, while working on Moxietown. Nick Forster, a great interviewer in his own right, was speaking with Todd Park Mohr, of Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Mohr is a provocative thinker--articulate and able to craft his interesting ideas in a compelling way--a real change from so many empty-headed "stars" that dominate much of our pop culture.

Back to Mr. EDY, he doesn't know it, but a city council member in Portland, Kevin Donoghue, is going after ice cream trucks. Maybe someday, ice cream trucks will be relegated to junkyards, on the edge of town, with bums living in them, dreaming of Rainbow Pop-ups. Then, all we'll have left is Ice Cream Truck Days, No More!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Writing with the Kings

I’ve written about it before, but one of my writing influences is Stephen King, and more specifically, his book for aspiring writers, On Writing. Hence, it was with interest that I noted BookTV’s programming notes, mentioning that Stephen King, along with wife Tabitha, and son, Owen, would be featured last night. Given my long day of book prep, as well as wanting to try to hit the week running, I decided to tape the 10 PM segment.

I was up early this morning (4 AM) and decided to watch the 90 minute program, while going through my morning workout of exercises, interspersed with free weights.

The program was taped from April 4th, when the three Kings were featured at The Center for the Book, at the Library of Congress, DC’s oldest cultural institution. The program was part of an effort to promote reading, and was sponsored by PEN Faulkner’s Writers in Schools Program.

It was interesting to see the faces of the students, from four area DC high schools, as John Cole, who is the director of the Library of Congress, spoke about some of the history behind the Library. The gulf between most of the students, and a 70-ish white male, steeped in a culture that’s changed in the past 30, or 40 years, was apparent. History, as appreciated by Cole, and people of my generation, is often lost on high school age students, even more so with inner-city students like these.

Each one of the Kings spoke about their writing and read a piece of their own work. Tabitha spoke about how she came to be asked by the family of the late writer, Michael McDowell, to finish his manuscript for a horror novel called, Candles Burning. She was given McDowell's manuscript and asked to complete the work. King spoke about what that process was like, the liberties she took, and why, in finishing a novel that has a strong southern gothic orientation.

When King asked her audience, if anyone had read books that would fall into the southern gothic genre, one, or two hands, out of an audience of 60-70 went up. Not a charismatic speaker, like her husband, or even son, her segment, which was much longer than son, Owen’s, plodded at times.

Owen King spoke about his work, We’re All In This Together, which is four short stories, and a novella. He spoke about one of his characters, a superhero, based in Cleveland that is part meerkat. He has his father’s odd sense of humor, and seems at home in front of an audience.

The star, of course, was Daddy King. He spoke of how pleased he was to be at the Library, as this was the first time that he’d been there with Tabitha, and Owen, together. He connected with his audience by engaging in some banter about the crime drama, The Wire (which has been highly recommended to me by my son, Mr. Everyday Yeah), which takes place on the nearby mean streets of Baltimore. King was quite upset about the killing off of one of the characters, and mentioned that he was so put out by this that he called the writer, Dennis Lehane, to voice his disapproval.

King talked about why he writes—he likes to write, and he wants people who read his writing to like it—it wasn’t anymore complex than that, according to this writing superstar.

“I want people to be late for appointments because they’re reading a book of mine,” said King.

I feel connected to King in many ways, yet, I also recognize the huge chasm that exists between us.

We are similar in that we both went to Lisbon High School, graduating from the school, although a decade apart. I live about a mile from his childhood home. On Writing was a seminal influence in launching my own writing career, especially developing the habit of writing.

I think King instilled in me the understanding that the difference between a poser that calls themselves a writer, and someone who actually feels called to write, is that the poser writes when he/she feels motivated to write, which will be very infrequent, and sporadic. The writer who develops a body of work is characterized by doggedness, possessed by the need to write, early in the morning, late at night, and often are distracted at family gatherings, with ideas for a story, an essay, or the outline of a future book.

I have always wanted to meet King, and spend an hour talking about Lisbon Falls, life in the area, the Red Sox, and his wonderful essay about his son, Owen, and the Bangor Little League All-Star team he was part of, as a 12-year-old. The essay, which appeared in the New Yorker, and titled, "Head Down," is considered by King to be his best piece of non-fiction writing.

Unfortunately, King isn’t accessible, like a Tess Gerritsen, for a variety of good reasons, I suppose. The closest I’ve ever come to meeting him was in 1981, when he came back to speak at a LHS graduation. I was home from my first year of college, and a group of alumni sat on the bleachers, in center field, at the baseball diamond where I had pitched many of my high school gems. He gave a talk about his writing and ideas and I thought, “this dude’s weird.” I had no clue that 20 years later, his book about the writing process would help me find my life’s calling, after two decades of unrealized potential.

King looked good, and seemed to be in really good spirits. I know that after he was hit, and nearly killed a few years back, while walking near his summer home, the injuries took a toll on the author. But he seemed energized, and excited about his latest novel, which he said would be one of the longest ones he’s written.

While others might get a charge out of watching a bunch of Hollywood types via reality TV, I enjoyed seeing writing royalty, and his family, interact with a group of high school students. Hopefully a few of them were sparked by something that one of these three very different and immensely talented authors had to share.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The devil's in the details

For years (11, to be exact), the Tampa Bay Rays (sans "Devil") were the bottom feeders of the American League East Division. Season, after season, the Red Sox padded their own post-90 win totals, as well as batting averages, against a team that considered 70 wins, a pyrrhic victory. Apparently, kicking the devil to the curve is all it takes to turn things around.

There is little to trumpet when it comes to the club’s history, since joining the AL, in 1998. Playing in a woeful indoor stadium, with ground rules that remind me of childhood WIFFLE® Ball games, rather than big league baseball, the Rays became the post-modern equivalent of the old Kansas City A’s clubs. Where else could a home run get swallowed up by a catwalk and become a harmless single, but in Tampa Bay and Tropicana Field?

[the former "evil" logo]

During most of their existence, the club regularly signed former stars, years after their best days were behind them. Names like Boggs, Canseco, Castilla, Vaughn (as in Greg), and McGriff, graced the back of their various uniform color schemes.

In 2003, the Rays began a youth movement, introducing a 21-year-old speedster, Carl Crawford, to the everyday lineup. He stole 54 bases his rookie year and has been patrolling left field in Tampa, ever since. Alongside Crawford, in center, was can’t-miss prospect, Rocco Baldelli, the former pride of Warwick, Rhode Island. Is there a better name to pronounce for PR announcers than, “Roc-co Bal-delee!”? Baldelli’s athleticism and Italian-American heritage illicited comparisons to a young Joe DiMaggio.

The summer of 2004 was the Rays high water mark, with 70 wins. The Lou Pinella-led club was in contention until just after the All-Star break, with a 42-41 record, but a late season swoon left them 21 games under .500.

The luster of young Baldelli, however, began to fade. The future upside of this young star, whom the club had built their hopes around, seemed to disappear before fan’s eyes, as he first tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee while playing baseball with his brother in the offseason. Expected back by the All-Star break, he injured his elbow during rehab and required Tommy John surgery, forcing him to miss all of 2005.

Then, as if he’d never been gone for nearly a season and a half, Baldelli returned on June 7, 2006. Playing nearly every night, Baldelli finished with a .302 average, with 16 homers and 57 RBI, in only 364 at bats.

Spring training in 2007 had him pulling a hamstring that never got better and limited him to only 35 games. Then, in 2008, Baldelli underwent extensive medical testing to determine the reasons for his muscle problems and extreme fatigue after even brief workouts. Doctors discovered some "metabolic and/or mitochondrial abnormalities" but were unable to provide an exact diagnosis. At present, Baldelli’s career is stalled and some aren’t sure that he’ll return.

[New logo=wins]

On November 8, 2007, the team unveiled new uniforms and announced they were dropping the “Devil” from their name.

In the original press release, principal owner Stuart Sternberg said "We are now the 'Rays' - a beacon that radiates throughout Tampa Bay and across the entire state of Florida."

"We Are One Team," the pitch for the 2008 season was announced February 22, 2008. The phrase, as president Matt Silverman says, refers to the idea of an improved and talented team allied with the fan base across the Tampa Bay area.

November 9 was when the Rays announced that they were in negotiations to potentially build a new $450-million, 34,000 seat, open-air baseball stadium at the site of Progress Energy Park/Al Lang Field, their current spring training facility on the St. Petersburg waterfront, to open by 2012. Stu Sternberg would provide $150 million and sign a long-term lease, and much of the remaining money would be covered by the sale of redevelopment rights to Tropicana Field and the state of Florida's 30-year, $60-million sales tax rebate for new venues. Any final plans would have to be approved by voters in St. Petersburg since all new construction on public property must be put to a referendum, regardless of whether or not the project uses taxpayer money.

The Rays ended spring training with a club record, 18 wins. They kept on winning during April and finished with their best opening month ever, posting a 15-12 mark, including a six-game winning streak and seven wins in their final eight games during the month.

Last weekend, the Rays swept the Red Sox, their first ever sweep of Boston. Their young arms of Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, and James Shields, shut down Boston’s potent bats and bested their veteran arms, including ace, Josh Beckett.

Heading into tonight’s series, the Rays lifetime mark at fabled Fenway is a dismal 23-61. It's a long, grueling season and 29 games don't make a season. However, if the Rays keep things rolling, then we know that there might be something to sending the devil packing.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Juice above the fold

Mark LaFlamme cut his journalistic teeth on the mean streets of Lewiston, Maine. Later, he directed his considerable writing talent towards fiction, penning his horror novel, The Pink Room, about "a physicist's attempts to use the science of string theory to bring his daughter back from the dead. Government agents and a bestselling author race to find out if he was succesful."

LaFlamme also maintains a blog, while continuing his duties with the Sun Journal, prowling the side streets and alleyways of Maine's grittiest community, mining for stories and dealing with "dumb crooks, hard cases and vile editors." He also writes a weekly column, Street Talk. Some might call him prolific. I won't mention what others say about him.

We hear so much about the mega-selling authors and celebrity writers, which tend to skewer the realities that most writers live with. There are countless others, like LaFamme that actually churn out more and arguably, better material; they just don't get obscene advances for the work that they produce.