Thursday, December 30, 2021

Sean's Ramblings 2021 Year In Review

In my early days of blogging, I found someone who made an end of the year blog post where they took the first few lines of the first entry of each month to create a random and interesting summary of the year. I liked the idea, and this is now the 17th time I've done this.

January: 25 years ago last month, the film Sudden Death starring Jean-Claude Van Damme was released in American theaters. I'm sure that some people may disagree with this, but the film is basically Die Hard at a hockey game/arena. 

February: In February 2009, I created the first of four annual Best Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tournaments. This was a time when the blog scene exploded, and the goal of the tournament was to highlight the outstanding writing and work by so many people.

March: I feel like I'm spending much of my time in the bathroom these days. No, I'm not bringing back any TMI Thursday posts about bathroom stories from my younger days. This is about potty training three year old Luigi.

April: With the 2021 baseball season starting today, I asked people to share their predictions for the Pittsburgh Pirates. While I’ve done similar predictions posts over the years about the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, the 2020 elections, and even the entire 2020s decade, this might be my favorite group of participants yet. 

May: Sure, Trevor Lawrence was selected #1 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars at the recent NFL draft, but can he throw two footballs perfectly at the exact same time like three year old Luigi?

June: I thought I would share some pictures from the last month or so. I'm not sure if I mentioned this earlier, but The Moose and Pedro Tulo have been back to in-person school four days a week for about two months now. Therefore, it's just me and Luigi (and Ziggy) at home between the time we drop the older kids off at school in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon. 

July: I recently purchased a subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio since I expect to be in the car a lot more than I have been over the last year plus. 

August: My wife and I celebrated our anniversary by getting an extremely rare night away from the kids. We stayed at a very nice hotel, and when they saw it was our anniversary, the front desk staff said they would send something to our room.

September: The 20th anniversary of 9/11 is this Saturday, and there will probably be many TV shows, videos, and articles to commemorate this tragedy. I realized that I never really shared where I was on 9/11, so I thought I would do that now.

October: I'm going to share something that only a few people know. It's something that I never discuss and thought went away completely. I was reminded a few weeks ago about this though when I got a letter in the mail.

November: Today is election day in Virginia, and I think that I speak for Virginians and those in the DC area in that we’re looking forward to not seeing anymore political advertisements.

December: Our cat Ziggy turned 13 several months ago. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers as a kitten but has largely stayed out of the spotlight since his retirement. Now, he's going big. He's running for president of France!

That's my year in review. Have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2021

Sean's Best and Worst of 2021

Since 2021 is almost over, it's time for my annual best of and worst of the year in pop culture and more. Enjoy!

Best Movie: Sound of Metal

Way back in January, I watched Sound of Metal about a heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing. Riz Ahmed was amazing in the film. You really feel his anger and vulnerability. The sound (or lack thereof at times) was also incredible. 

Honorable Mention: Godfather and Godfather II. It took until 2021 for me to finally watch these movies, and I have no idea why it took so long. I didn't recognize Robert Duvall or Diane Keaton at all. Promising Young Woman was also a fascinating movie that really stuck with me. 

Best TV Show: Bluey

I watched a lot of TV in 2021, and even with that, there are still so many shows that I want to see. While I should probably pick Succession, Ted Lasso, or Mare of Easttown for the best show of 2021, I'm going off the board here and picking Bluey.* This is an Australian cartoon that I first learned about in 2021 and is really sweet. The dad dog reminds me of a smarter and more caring Homer Simpson. Best of all, the episodes are only about 10 minutes long, so you can watch one quickly before getting the kids ready for bed!

Honorable mention: The Other Two. I really enjoyed the first season on Comedy Central about the older siblings of a famous teenage singer. The second season on HBO Max was just as good as the older siblings manage varying degrees of success and recognition. It's consistently funny with an amazing cast (Molly Shannon is perfect as the mom and now daytime TV host) and all of the guest stars fit in remarkably well. 

Worst TV Show: Robot Trains

My kids watched part of the first two episodes recently. In the first episode, one robot train tried to kill another robot train. Either later in the first episode or the next one, a train has amnesia. It was awful.

Honorable mention: La Brea

I watched all ten episodes of NBC's attempt to recreate Lost, and I really don't know why. The premise seems cool. A giant sinkhole opens in Los Angeles and everyone who fell into it gets transported back millions of years. From there, it just gets ridiculous. The "dad" who is in present-day LA has visions so he can see what's going on in the past. Some people manage to go back and forth between the past and present. Oh, and then there's a Back to the Future story line where the kids will disappear if something doesn't happen. Even with all of this, I still plan on watching the show when it comes back.

Best Song: good 4 u by Olivia Rodrigo

Once again, my rule is that the best song must be featured in a blog post from earlier in the year. This year's best song was easy for me. I love good 4 u (even if the title should be Good For You) and I'm still not sick of it.

Worst Song: Hurricane by Cheat Codes featuring Grey and Tyson Ritter

We drove thousands of miles this summer, so I listened to a lot of pop music. Hurricane isn't a bad song, and I like hearing Tyson Ritter of The All-American Rejects again. The problem is the chorus:

Three cheers to the ones that don't grow up
24 forever till we self destruct
Lifestyles of the broke and dangerous
Maybe they'll name a hurricane after us.

The World Meteorological Organization is responsible for naming hurricanes. All of the names are singular. There's no such thing as a hurricane named Tom and Jerry or Thelma and Louise. Therefore, they aren't naming a hurricane Cheat Codes, Gray, and Tyson. NO ONE IS NAMING A HURRICANE AFTER YOU!

Worst Sports Moment: Many

2021 was an awful sports year. We started in January with the Steelers losing in the playoffs to the, I can't believe I'm typing this, Cleveland Browns. Wow, that actually happened. In May, Sheffield Wednesday tied Derby 3-3 in the final match of the season. A draw doesn't seem bad, but the result caused Wednesday to get relegated to League One, the third division of English soccer. In hindsight, it's been kind of nice seeing Wednesday win matches and do well in League One over the last few months, but at the time, seeing that Wednesday would have to play teams like MK Dons, Crewe Alexandra, and Accrington Stanley seemed devastating. A few weeks later, the Penguins got knocked out of the first round of the playoffs by the New York Islanders. Pens goalie Tristan Jarry just had a terrible series basically giving game 5 away. Then, the Pirates went 61-101. Overall, not a great sports year for teams I support.

Best Sports Moment: Little League Baseball

Not counting a coach-pitch league three years ago, The Moose played baseball for the first time this fall. The coaches were fantastic in teaching the game and making sure that the kids played multiple positions. The Moose pitched and played every position in the infield and outfield. In the playoffs, his team trailed 4-0 after the top of the first inning and 6-0 in the middle of the 4th. Then, The Moose stepped up to the plate and did this:

He started the rally leading to the team scoring 4 runs in the half inning. The team battled back all the way to 6-5 and had two runners on base before the opposing team got the final out. It was such an exciting game, and we were all proud of The Moose's team. After the game, instead of feeling sorry for themselves for the loss, the coaches gave each of the players a baseball, and they all signed autographs for each other. It was fantastic.

Best New Podcast: Bit Season

One of my first ever blog posts in January 2005 was my disappointment of waking up and finding out that The Sports Junkies were no longer on the radio thanks to a station format change. While they generally go by The Junkies, 17 years later, I still listen to their morning radio show when I can. The show's producers created a podcast called Bit Season several months ago with a behind-the-scenes look at the show as well as things about their lives. It's a fun listen.

Best Book: How Lucky by Will Leitch

I've pretty much stopped reading during the pandemic. For years, I read on my bus and Metro rides to and from work. I worked from home for well over a year, and when I started working from the office again, I drove. While I've found it difficult to focus on reading at home, I managed to make it through a handful of books in 2021. My favorite has been How Lucky by Will Leitch. It's a fictional story about a wheelchair-bound protagonist with a neuromuscular disorder, his life in Athens, Georgia, and a missing college student. I'll let this review explain more, but it's an enjoyable read.

Best Live Concert: Green Day, Fall Out Boy, and Weezer

Ah, August. A simpler time. This was well before omicron and even delta.  Warm weather meant more time outside. Sure, I still wore a mask indoors and limited time in crowds, but I made an exception for this concert where I purchased tickets in 2019. Of course, COVID-19 was still around as evidenced by the fact that one of the members of Fall Out Boy (or their crew) contracted the virus causing the band not to perform, but it was fun doing something that seemed completely normal. 

Best Blog Post: NHL Outdoor Game Ideas

The NHL hosted an outdoor game on the banks of Lake Tahoe. The pictures and views were absolutely stunning. I had fun coming up with ideas for future outdoor games.  

Honorable mention: My immediate reaction to the January 6th attack on The Capitol Building. It's amazing how many people (particularly many House Republicans) are trying to minimize this attack and are actively against any investigation. 

Worst Blog Post: Honey Nut Cheerios with Blueberries

I successfully wrote 30 blog posts in just over 30 days. One of them was sharing my excitement about adding blueberries to my morning cereal. While this continues to be a tasty edition, this was probably not blog worthy.

Please feel free to share some of your best and worst of 2021 in the comments section. 

* After I finished drafting this post, I listened to The Watch podcast where Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald were joined by Sam Esmail in discussing the best TV shows of 2021. Greenwald mentioned that Bluey would have been his number one show except that there were no new episodes in 2021. I guess my out of the box pick wasn't out of the box! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Found in My Brother's Basement: NHL All Stars

In January 1990, the National Hockey League hosted its all-star game and activities in Pittsburgh. Although we didn't have tickets to any events at the Civic Arena, my dad took me, my brother, and my best friend to the hotel (probably the Marriott City Center) across the street on the Saturday before the game. I'm not sure what exactly we expected being at the hotel. I guess our hope was that players would go to and from the arena through the hotel. We weren't alone as there were dozens if not hundreds of people joining us in the lobby. I'm sure that the hotel staff was thrilled!

Sure enough, we did see players. While I'll always choose Mario Lemieux over Wayne Gretzky, Wayne was gracious in signing autographs for at least an hour. Meanwhile, Mario ran through the lobby as quickly as possible, signing only a handful of autographs. My brother was one of the few of the lucky ones. We got autographs from several other players too, so today, I'm happy to share a brand new found in my brother's basement!

I guess we thought that we might forget who signed the autograph or were unsure if we could read the signature. That's why you see the hand-written names near the autographs.

Thanks to Wayne, Mario (sort of), Mark Messier, Al Iafrate, Joe Nieuwendyk, and others for taking time to sign autographs for kids.

I should also mention that the Gary Anderson autograph was from a different event. Plus, I'm pretty sure the Will Clark autograph was part of the card.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

LeBron James Wearing A Penguins Jersey

Fenway Sports Group, one of the world's largest sports ownership groups and owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club, recently purchased the Pittsburgh Penguins. Basketball superstar LeBron James is a partner of Fenway Sports Group (or FSG), so that makes him an owner of the Penguins. Therefore, it wasn't a surprise to see James wearing a Mario Lemieux jersey on Wednesday. (This sounds like some type of math problem like if A=B and B=C, then A=C only that we're replacing A with FSG, B with LeBron, and C with the Pens. Clearly, you can see why I don't teach math!)

During the time of "The Decision," when James chose to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, I suggested that James should come to Pittsburgh. Looks like he finally took my message to heart! 

I'm also happy to have a brand new Celebrities in Pittsburgh Gear post!

Friday, December 10, 2021

Friday Video: Lil Nas X

In 2019, Lil Nas X had a monster song "Old Town Road" which featured a remix with Billy Ray Cyrus and included a video featuring Chris Rock. I feel like many people became fans of Lil Nas X simply based on his visit to Lander Elementary School in Cleveland and the reaction by the kids. It's a cool video.

His next song (Panini), arguably most notable for his sample of Nirvana, didn't do nearly as well (which is natural since I believe Old Town Road held the #1 spot on the Billboard chart for longer than any other song all time). Still, how does Lil Nas X follow this? Was he basically a one-hit wonder (or 2-hit wonder if you count Panini) and done? The answer is a clear no. I listened to a lot of pop songs this year (more on that in my best of 2021 which I'll write hopefully before the end of January 2022) and his songs Montero, Industry Baby, and now That's What I Want are all really good and smash hits. Enjoy That's What I Want though not at work since the video is a little racy and has some bad language near the end. 

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

My Trip To Nashville

If you've checked out my blog recently, you might remember that I visited Nashville where I spent time with Robert Plant and attended a show at the Grand Ole Opry. There was more to the trip though, but first I want to go way back to 2016 when I made my first visit to Nashville as part of our annual-ish hockey road trip. In looking through previous posts, while I wrote about the St. Louis and Metropolis (yes Metropolis) portions of that year's trip, I never shared a thorough post about Nashville. The short version is that I loved it. Nashville's Bridgestone Arena is right on Broadway, a multi-block party filled with bars, restaurants, and live music, particularly country music. Five years later, the place seems even more insane.

My hotel during this trip is about 1.5 miles away from the heart of Broadway, and I walked downtown from there twice. One of those occasions was on Sunday just before noon and the street was already rocking. Here is a picture of a party bus featuring a woman wearing the jersey of everyone's favorite "immunized," though not vaccinated, NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

If you have poor eyesight like me, you'll have to really zoom in to see it. Actually, since Rodgers was unable to play football due to contracting COVID-19, maybe it actually was him!

Many of the bars on Broadway are owned or at least named for musicians. There's one for Luke Bryan, another for Florida Georgia Line, one for Jason Aldean, Kid Rock, etc. Dierks Bentley also has a bar. I mention this because an Uber driver told us that two people died there in the last few months from fights. (I only found a story about one death in an online search.) This isn't part of the advertising campaign for the bar on the sign at the Nashville Airport.

While I'm not sure if Nashville is considered a foodie town, Hattie B's Hot Chicken is well known. I went with a mild chicken sandwich because I like to taste and enjoy food rather than spending an entire meal with my mouth on fire. 
I also ate at Pancake Pantry, which I highly recommend. I'm all for restaurants that serve delicious breakfast food all day long or at least through lunch. By the way, Taco Bell deserves major credit for having likely its coolest sign in their downtown Nashville restaurant. I did not eat at Taco Bell.

One of the oddest Nashville attractions is The Parthenon. It just seems so random and out of place. People in the 1890s just decided to recreate the original structure in Athens, Greece and place it in Nashville. While I didn't go inside, it's an art museum in the middle of a park. There was a flag football game going on just steps away from the building!

Oh, I saw the house that Jay Cutler built.

Finally, at least two of my Uber drivers are musicians, because why not? I didn't get the name of one, but the other has a bunch of videos on YouTube. She's really talented, so I hope that Autumn Knight makes it big, and I can share that she gave me a ride to the airport!

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Vive La Ziggy

Our cat Ziggy turned 13 several months ago. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers as a kitten but has largely stayed out of the spotlight since his retirement. Now, he's going big. He's running for president of France!

Based on the three years of French I took in high school (and using Google Translate), this says:

In 2022, French Cats Vote Ziggy.
Work Less, To Eat More

This seems to be Ziggy's platform:

+ Ziggy wants health, committed and French food for all.
+ A 100% transparent composition, no more political blah-blah!
+ A veterinary formulation for our croquettes and pates
+ Sustainable food and recyclable packaging

As you can probably guess, Ziggy is a French cat food company. Nevertheless, I completely support the name and campaign and with apologies to current French President Emmanuel Macron, Ziggy has my vote!

Thanks to my friend T for letting me know about this campaign!