Sunday, February 20, 2011

Listapalooza Part 3

Bringing back an old feature ...

Top 5 songs I hear all the time on satellite radio

5. Welcome to Paradise - Green Day

4. Aeroplane - Red Hot Chili Peppers

3. Thirty-three - Smashing Pumpkins

2. The Cave - Mumford & Sons

1. Howlin' for You - The Black Keys

Top 5 songs satellite radio has introduced to me

5. Sweet Disposition - Temper Trap

4. Down by the Water - The Decembrists

3. The Ghost Inside - Broken Bells

2. Helicopters - Deerhunter

1. Young Blood - Naked and Famous

Top 5 bands that sound very similar to another band

5. Naked and Famous - Passion Pit/MGMT

4. JJ72 (them again) - Smashing Pumpkins

3. Silverchair/Seether - Nirvana

2. Muse - Radiohead

1. Silversun Pickups - Smashing Pumpkins

Top 5 "That Guy!" character actors

5. J.T. Walsh (A Few Good Men, The Negotiator)

4. Dylan Baker (Disclosure, Law & Order)

3. Kurt Fuller (Ghostbusters II, Wayne's World)

2. Glenn Morshower (24, Friday Night Lights)

1. James Rehborn (Independence Day, Scent of a Woman)

Top 5 most hated words

5. SpyGate - For obvious reasons

4. Cheese - Jut don't like it.

3. Testicle - Anytime the word comes up, something like "cancer" or "ruptured" is close by.

2. Mani-pedi - Do I even need to explain?

1. Tweet - I hate when important news is grouped with this word.

Top 5 favorite words

5. Sundry

4. Rapscallion

3. Pariah

2. Schaible

1. Skulduggery

Top 5 whitest bands

5. Weezer

4. Death Cab For Cutie

3. Wilco

2. Arcade Fire

1. Vampire Weekend (I looked this up after the fact and there are articles online about this topic. So no points for originality on my part.)

Top 5 funniest shows on TV right now

5. Conan - Love Ted Turner

4. Parks & Recreation - Love Andy Dwyer and Ron Swanson

3. The Ricky Gervais Show - Must use the term "knockin' about" in my life

2. The Colbert Report - It's been better than the Daily Show lately.

1. 30 Rock - The defending champion

Top 5 favorite TV bosses

5. George Steinbrenner (Seinfeld)

4. Michael Scott (The Office)

3. Ron Swanson (Parks & Recreation)

2. David Brent (The Office)

1. Jack Donaghy (30 Rock)

Top 5 random Conan characters (excluding Triumph the Insult Comic Dog)

5. Coked-up Werewolf

4. NASCAR-driving, gun-toting Jesus

3. Vomiting Kermit

2. Jewish Turtle Riding a Mechanical Bull

1. Masturbating Bear

Top 5 favorite Rhode Island people

5. Bill Reynolds

4. James Woods

3. Buddy Cianci

2. Art Lake (R.I.P)

1. Doug White (R.I.P.) - He used to come to Phred's all the time when I worked there. Nice guy. Great hair.

Top 5 favorite New York Yankees

5. A.J. Burnett

4. Ruben Sierra

3. Kei Igawa - Are the Yankees still playing him?

2. Jose Contreras

1. Kevin Brown - A travesty he's not in the Hall of Fame

Top 5 sporting events that have been ruined by my career in journalism

5. Super Bowl

4. Postseason hockey (for games that go into four overtimes)

3. Any trade deadline

2. NFL Draft

1. NCAA tournament - Utter insanity and almost impossible to enjoy now

Top 5 athletic moments

5. Cabin X football extravaganza - Where I intercepted a pass for a touchdown, caught a touchdown and ran for a touchdown to lead my team to victory

4. Dunk you very much - We were playing on an eight-foot rim once in Cranston - I don't know why - and I was facing some kid who had his girlfriend loudly and obnoxiously rooting for him to beat me. So I took it to the rim and dunked in his face. True story. Also true ... the girl stopped talking after that.

3. Leveling R.T. - In college, the three amigos plus our roommate from Seattle were playing two-on-two touch football. As the QB, the fourth roommate with the initials R.T. kept running for big plays. This is very lame in two-on-two. So in a bit of frustration, I attacked him at a perfect angle during one of his runs along the sideline and pushed him with such force to send him flying to the ground. Message delivered

2. Deion Sanders Sears - In one flag football game for CBS, I made two interceptions on consecutive possessions and caught a touchdown. I played such shutdown defense that the guys were calling me Deion. Or anti-Asante Samuel.

1. Three-on-three touch football champions - Zach, Jeff and I played a makeshift tournament in touch football for hours. We beat all challengers and advanced to the final against some athletic European types. It was a war. I caught the game-winning touchdown on fourth down. Afterward, I've never been so exhausted in my entire life.

Top 5 least favorite athletic moments

5. Dodge ball to face - In gym class, I was hit in the nose in dodgeball and bled profusely. Thing is, no one noticed. But that sucked.

4. The ski disaster - Already covered this

3. Fracture clavicle - We snuck into Cranston Stadium to play tackle football. I picked up a fumble and rumbled almost thirty yards down the sideline, but in a reverse of my R.T. leveling, I was speared badly. The tackler's heat met my clavicle. Fracture. I had to climb the fence with one arm to get out and I had to wear a sling for a few weeks. Intense pain.

2. One-on-one touch football standoff - I was the QB as Jeff and Zach battled in football. It was getting dark and for whatever reason, I decided I was done playing. With a dead arm, I threw terrible pass after terrible pass. I was Todd Collins. Just awful. We just had to call the game due to my suckiness.

1. Softball ejection - I will probably do a SteveCentury on this soon, even though Zach has told every living and non-living being on this planet and others this tragic story. I might as well get it down for the record.

And finally ...

To 5 names for Baby Schaible (which I am predicting to have a penis)

5. Vin Books Schaible

4. Tres Duces Schaible

3. Onion Dip Schaible

2. Tanyon Sturtze Schaible

1. Chinua Achebe Schaible - Duh.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Maybe I started the Fire

I've already gone into detail about why I hate the Grammys. This year's edition wasn't much better. The director was on crack, Bob Dylan can't sing anymore (that was painful), they screwed up the In Memorium segment and about seven awards were handed out over the span of 3-and-a-half hours.

But it did finish with a bang.

Many were shocked that Arcade Fire won Album of the Year for "The Suburbs." A Twitter meme started, asking "Who is Arcade Fire?" Dog the Bounty Hunter doesn't know. Even a few days later, people at working are talking about it. All this makes me feel like I was on the cutting edge.

But let's be honest. Arcade Fire has been on Saturday Night Live twice. They were on the Daily Show. "The Suburbs: was high on the charts. Their music has been used in movie trailers. U2 and David Bowie are big fans. They are a staple of college radio. They're no Justin Bieber, but they aren't anonymous either.

All along I thought I was shamefully late on their bandwagon only to find I got on earlier than many.

It's been nearly five months since I bought that album and I'm still listening to all the songs religiously. I think I'm addicted. Having already covered this masterpiece in excruciating detail, I will spare you further Rolling Stone analysis. I only want to say how pumped I am that an album I liked won a Grammy for Album of the Year. Hasn't happened before.

And it's a good boost of recognition for one of the best bands still going. It's nice to be on the cutting edge of music once again.

Want more proof of my cunning? I hear a band called The Strokes is about to release an album soon. I think they have a future. You heard it here first.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

FLASHBACK: The Chronicles of Mordor: Part V

NOTE: I killed my MySpace account today. But I didn't want to lose one of my proudest accomplishments ... The Chronicles of Mordor. They led to this blog and I think they're pretty good. I did not want to lose them. So I'm republishing them here, with slight editing.

Originally published August 5, 2008

This will be the final part in the epic Chronicles of Mordor series.

"Delightful," says the New York Times.

"Insouciant," says the New Yorker.

"Shallow and pedantic," says Peter Griffin.

"Three stars," says CBS' Steve Sears.

Unfortunately, the big wigs were not as pleased. The ratings were putrid. You guys really let me down. They suggested a few casting changes and I flatly refused. They wanted Paul Giamatti as me, Dame Judi Dench as Zach and Jonathan Lipnicki as Monica. I did not want such stunt casting in my little venture, so they gave me one last parting shot before banishing me to the writers' room of the Bill Engvall Show.

Let's get started. We braved some car problems in Queenstown and went out to peruse the night scene. The All-Blacks were playing the England Sillynannies in rugby and all the places were packed. We slipped into one bar, where Zach continued his Joe DiMaggio-type streak of suggesting terrible alcoholic drinks for me. He then played Monica in an epic game of pool where they got in each other's faces and danced around the table in an effort to distract the other while I tried to play as many Pearl Jam songs on the Jukebox as possible. If you're wondering, I think Cobra Kai Hosseini won the match.

We left for Christchurch on a Sunday morning as Zach profanely complained that New Zealanders ate at cafés too much. (We couldn't find a seat in any of Queenstown's 433 cafes.) You see, Q-Town was the touristiest place I saw in New Zealand. All-Blacks shirts cost about $100 dollars and everyone seemed to come out of an Old Navy commercial, with their cutesy winter clothing and smiling faces. I don't like smiling faces. But it's a cool place, and if you don't mind the 16 hour flight and you really want a $400 All-Blacks eye patch, you should go.

Then it was off to Christchurch, via Arthur's Pass. Arthur's Pass is a national park with tall mountains (as opposed to the short ones) and the road goes basically up to the top. We were literally driving through clouds. Christchurch was the most cosmopolitan city I saw, but the city was pretty empty. Walk around after 8 p.m. and it's as empty as …wait for it…the Rhode Island Mall!! Boarded up shops, construction sites and tumbleweeds marked the streets of that fine, British-looking city.

However, what I'll remember most about that part of the trip was an unfortunate excursion to an Indian restaurant. I like to eat normal food. I have my tastes, but even I took some leaps during the trip. I had some guacamole, a kabob and sushi. That wasn't enough. Here's how the typical food decisions went.

"What should we eat," Monica asks.

"Hmm, I've heard of this one place that serves possum testicles and nachos," Zach puffs while twirling his metrosexual scarf. (EDITOR'S NOTE: This is my favorite sentence that I have ever written.)

"That sounds gross," Steve says. "And do possums even have testicles?"

"I don't know," Zach answers. "But if I go to such a place it will add to my already noxious air of superiority because I eat adventurous foods while watching English Premier League soccer games. I'm so European." (EDITOR'S NOTE: This is my second favorite.)

And I'm helpless. So we go to this Indian place and it's basically empty and we're escorted past the tables to a couch and given a wine menu. Again, they probably do this so when it's crowded, you wait for a seat and feel inclined to order some wine. (We had already done our elitist wine drinking in Queenstown.) They were trying to bilk our money right from the start. Then the waitress comes over and describes to us what a menu is, and what an appetizer is, and that the beverage section means drinks and so forth. She failed to tell us that you put the food in your mouth and chew.

I forget what I ordered, but I asked for the rice thinking it came with the chicken. which looked like diarrhea on a plate. Once I finished, only able to eat half of what I ordered, I found that they billed me for both the plain rice and the gross chicken. That was the final straw. The Schaible Face appeared. For those who don't know, that's a stone-cold face of rage. Sure, I should have read the menu more carefully, but I was in a huff. Zach had to buy me a fine glass of wine to sooth me over, much like a mother buys a chocolate bar for a crying toddler.

We didn't spend much more than a day and a half there. Our last day contained an epic rainstorm and balls-freezing wind that makes you question your will to live. If that didn't work, then you could go to a record store and find $36 dollar CDs. Shiver.

Zach and I boarded a bus back to Dunedin, leaving Monica alone on a cold, deserted street. Actually, she went on her own way. Little did she know that she would miss the opportunity of a lifetime, a Sears discovery that rivals Columbus and Newton. The bus made a stop at a tiny restaurant/convenience store where I discovered, to my amazement, a bottle of coffee milk.

Yes, the greatest beverage known to man. The liquid of the gods. The label read "Iced Coffee" but it sure looked like coffee milk to me. And it was. Delicious. One of the highlights of the trip. I found coffee milk in fucking New Zealand yet can't find it in Florida. That has to change.

Zach and I did not do much in our last day back in Dunedin. We watched some Sopranos episodes, made pizza and dealt with more car issues. Then the time came to part as I headed back to my big-time job with while Zach faced an uncertain future living in a guys basement whose wife was about to give birth. After we said our goodbyes at the airport, he walked away and I … shot him in the back.

Dun dun DUNNNNN!

I didn't shoot him, but I could have. They don't screen for weapons at the airport. You just walk right in. (NOTE: Then I visited Dave Doyle in L.A.)

And that's that. A trip unlike any other. It was relaxing, for the most part, and memorable. I took some great pictures, met a person who lived with Zach for more than a month and retained her sanity, and saw Zach wear the same pair of gym shorts for 13 days in a row. The more things change … well, you know.

Cheers, New Zealand!

(Screen goes black, and then opens on KIM BAUER waking up from bed. She looks a bit concerned and confused. A copy of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Card Cabal lies on the nightstand. She walks into the bathroom to find STEVE SEARS, his gigantic biceps and pectorals glistening after a hot shower. He steps out and Bauer clutches on to him.)

Kim: I just had the strangest dream. You traveled all the way to New Zealand and you ate a burger made out of deer meat. And this annoying guy wouldn't shut up about his stupid basketball team and kept saying "fried cheese" and his female friend had never been to Europe. Europe! It was awful.

Steve: (embracing her) It's OK. It's OK. (He pauses and looks into the camera.) What's New Zealand?

FLASHBACK: The Chronicles of Mordor: Part IV

NOTE: I killed my MySpace account today. But I didn't want to lose one of my proudest accomplishments ... The Chronicles of Mordor. They led to this blog and I think they're pretty good. I did not want to lose them. So I'm republishing them here, with slight editing.

I think I screwed up the timeline with Franz Josef and Queenstown. But I left the mistake in ... too much work otherwise.

Originally published July 29, 2008

On the drive to little Franz Joseph, I thought about how exactly I ended up in that little country in the middle of farkin' nowhere. Just seemed so random. At the time I was experiencing winter in June and Antarctica wasn't that far away. It's a country that played Kitchen Confidential on TV. Look the show up. Really bad.

I was there because I was pretty bored in Florida. It's nice down here and all, but antiseptic as well. So New Zealand presented a nice change of pace, and with Zach down there it made sense. What other time would make as much sense to go?

That isn't quite as interesting as how, ostensibly, Zach and Monica ended up there. Their old boss in Mariposa, California was such a treat to work with that he played a hand in driving two people to the opposite end of the earth. That takes skill. I really want to meet this guy, a small newspaper publisher, to know how he did it. If I ever end up driving someone, directly or indirectly, to Greenland or something, then I will consider my life a success.

Franz Josef is a very small town known for having a glacier. The drive there had me doing the Peter Griffin version of the Jurassic Park theme song. It looked a lot like that movie, sans Jeff Goldblum. The town center basically consists of one street with some little cafés and trinket shops surrounded by a bunch of hotels and hostels. There's not much to do at night there. Our fellow hostel-ers with their mediocre hygiene and their accents sat around and watched Simpsons re-runs, though it might have been new to them. I must thank them for making me feel better about how I spent my weekend nights during college doing the same thing.

We ended up playing pool at a nearby bar. Some of you may have seen me play pool. I'm pretty terrible, but on that night I gained a rare victory over Fats Domino Hosseini. It was Monica and me on one side and on the other, Ivan Drago Hosseini. Monica played the Eric Gagne roll on our team but I, of course, came up huge, nailing the 8-ball for the victory.

The Russian is cut! The Russian is cut!

The next game Monica hit the 8-ball in almost immediately. Damn you, Gagne! I eyed her with intense anger and then I proceeded to do the same thing in the next game. And this is what I hate about playing pool: There was a large group of people watching me suck. It happens all the time. My awfulness attracts a crowd. So I tried to cut it short right there.

We stayed in Franz Josef for one night and drove to the glacier in the morning. We hiked for an hour or so, most of it on a bed of rocks. Many, many rocks. You'd see signs like, "In 1789, the glacier was here" situated 45 minutes from the glacier's current location. Perhaps they don't know that Global Warming is a liberal myth created by Al Gore. They'll get the news eventually.

Monica, the fastest walker in the world, and Zach, who isn't, were a bit more comfortable with the hike than I was. I hadn't walked like that since my Boston days. It was worth it though, to see a glacier. Get this, it was kinda cold. And big. And there was a river flowing into an opening in the middle. And the scenery looking from the glacier to where we had just hiked from was also stunning. It makes you feel real small and insignificant, dwarfed by a glacier on one side and seemingly never-ending valley of rocks bordered by small mountains on the other. Ah, nature. She's not bad sometimes.

From there it was on to Queenstown. Zach described it as the Aspen, Colorado of New Zealand and that's an apt description. It's the thrill-seeking capital of the world, perfect for bungee-jumpers, mountain climbers, sky divers and the like. I prefer a good book, myself. I'll watch some episodes of Dexter if I'm feeling adventurous.

The hostel sat upon a steep street just minutes away from a big mountain that I don't know the name of. Anyway, it was very dark but there was a lodge up at the top of the mountain all lit up so it seemed to be floating in the air. Neat-o. Our fellow hostel-ites were like the others we encountered, except they preferred Fresh Prince of Bel Air re-runs. Almost to a person, they all had their wool caps, worn-out cargo pants and scruffy beards. Usually, I'm the lout totally under-dressed and poor-looking. But I bet they looked at me as some corporatist, Bush-loving American slimeball just waiting to shoot some innocent deer in the eyeball and carry the head around with me while emitting noxious carbon-based fumes into the atmosphere. I'm an American!

The next morning we went up that mountain. Monica was inclined to hike, but Zach and I overruled her and made the manly decision to take the gondola up. Even that gave me the yips, but just a tiny bit. The view from on top was amazing and I've got the photos to prove it. But it's not just the view and some souvenir shops at the top of this mountain. There's also two luge tracks. Our first run was on the "safer" track and it was pretty fun. The second one, however, was more important. It was a race. Like Mario Cart. Think of it this way: I'm Toadstool, Monica is Yoshi and Zach is Bowser.

Toadstool starts from behind but quickly gains on Yoshi. Once he gets close enough, Toadstool tosses the trusted banana and leaves Yoshi in his dust. He only has to pass the evil Bowser who is cheating by using boosters on his apparatus. Toadstool was right about to pass Bowser but a narrow tunnel approached and he couldn't make the pass. Bowser went on to victory.

What a jerky jerkface jerk.

On the next edition of the endless Chronicles of Mordor, our three adventurers finish their stay in Aspen, New Zealand and end in Christchurch, where a sneaky Indian restaurant gives Steve the vaunted Schaible-face.

FLASHBACK: The Chronicles of Mordor: Part III

NOTE: I killed my MySpace account today. But I didn't want to lose one of my proudest accomplishments ... The Chronicles of Mordor. They led to this blog and I think they're pretty good. I did not want to lose them. So I'm republishing them here, with slight editing.

Originally published July 15, 2008

Previously on the Chronicles of Mordor …

I forgot to tell all y'all about my discovery of the dumbest sport known to man. It's called Netball and it's the bastard child of basketball. It's all female and the rim has no backboard. No one's allowed to dribble and once the ball goes into the post (or whatever it's called in the decrepit universe of netball) the defender can't defend. Yup, no defense allowed, so whoever has the shot gets to measure the shot for a while and then shoot, followed by polite applause. It's like throwing the ball down to Garnett and Pau Gasol has to back off and not play defense. Wait, that's how the Lakers played in Game 6. Score!

Here begins the journey within the journey where the three of us loaded into Monica's car destined for the beautiful sights that the South Island can provide. First, we had to stop at Starbucks. Now Zach might be able to eat a scone, work the iPod and drink a coffee while driving, but he can't read the paper as well, so I held his coffee for him. Of course at the slightest bump it splashed all over my pants, the pair I wore when I took the tumble near Tunnel Beach. While I tried to clean the stains off, someone mentioned the word passport.

Uh oh.

Before this moment of realization, I knew I had lost a book. But it was just a book. Well, it used to be just a book. In the Auckland airport, where I walked through checkpoint after checkpoint, I had my passport sticking outside my book for convenience. Once I finally landed in Dunedin, I went into a bathroom, put the book down and never picked it up. "Who puts their passport in a book?" Monica asked in disgust. This guy!

We took a slight detour to the airport, which was on the way to Te Anau. I felt sick the entire way. How could I misplace that? How on earth could I be so stupid? Thankfully, the airport police had the book and passport stored away in a safe place, even with my bookmark in place, to Zach's amusement. In Boston, I always busted his chops about losing his Husky Card, his wallet, his credit cards, his phone, or his keys. Karma can be a fickle beast.

Note: My cell phone died during this trip so I could not retrieve any messages until I got a new one, which was just last week. One of the many messages I had missed was a call from the airport telling me they had my passport. That would have been nice to know at the time.

Having been bailed out by those nice New Zealand folk, we began our adventure, driving past 3.5 million sheep (I counted) until we reached Te Anau, quiet little place close to Milford Sound. We checked in to our hostel, where I stared lustily at the computers since it had been a week since I last used the internet and not once since the Celtics trounced the Lakers to win the title. I made a note to return to those machines later.

Then we went to a park where we did our best to fit in … by playing catch with a baseball. Imagine, for a second, if you're walking innocently down an American street and you see people playing cricket. That's what it must have been like for the locals to see us. I brought out The Talon (yeah, I named my glove. Wanna fight about it?) and I warmed up the ol' cannon. Now, Zach might tell you Monica can throw faster and he might be right, but I have a better splitter. I brought that out later as Zach and I tossed some innings. He had his curve working and I had my David Bowie (Ch...Ch...Change up) working. My elbow would be killing me later that night and the next day, but damn it, it was still fun.

Te Anau, while a nice place, shuts down at 8 p.m. I would soon find out that's the norm in New Zealand. We found one of the two or three places open that night, a little Italian place. We sat there a long time, running through a litany of Northeastern stories that Zach had already shared with the entire Mariposa/Dunedin populations. I'm known as the "not like this" guy in each city, all my other grand achievements unfortunately thrown by the wayside.

The next morning, Commander Hosseini steered us to what has been called the top tourist attraction in the world – Milford Sound. Once you see it, you can understand why it earns such praise. The clouds were out in full force that day, which made for a spooky atmosphere. It reminded me of Pirates of the Caribbean movie, the mountains popping out of the waters and right into a big swath of gray clouds. Very much like a fantasy land. Mordor, perhaps.

This place is usually jam-packed with tourists, especially in the summer months. On that day, however, it was the three of us and maybe seven others on a boat that sailed out into the water, between the mountains and right next to a few waterfalls. Words won't do the place justice. Check my pictures! And to see what it looks like during the warm months, you can find a million photos on Google. All I can say about it is this: I can't imagine another place like it in the world.

I've gone on long enough so this entry must come to a close. The networks want me to add some sex appeal and violence, so I'll make a few more mentions of Zach's girl-magnet All-Blacks scarf and perhaps I'll kill off a character or two.

FLASHBACK: The Chronicles of Mordor: Part II

NOTE: I killed my MySpace account today. But I didn't want to lose one of my proudest accomplishments ... The Chronicles of Mordor. They led to this blog and I think they're pretty good. I did not want to lose them. So I'm republishing them here, with slight editing.

Originally published July 2, 2008

Loyal reader(s) of my blog may remember a flood, occurring several months ago, of strangers saying they recognized me from somewhere. A few British lads even sent me Facebook messages to this affect. New Zealand is much like I would imagine Great Britain to be, save for the sunlight. I hoped I could find this doppelganger there, this evil twin, but no such luck. Maybe there is no evil twin and they got me confused with this guy.

My second day in Dunedin started at a Starbucks. Yeah, yeah. I know. I sat there leafing through the Sunday paper and buried way in the back was the news of Tim Russert's shocking death. Definitely a blow to the gut there. The big news in the country at that time? The police were being armed. Other big news? A liquor store clerk was murdered. Later in the week a woman was killed in a hit and run. As tragic as these stories are, it was odd to see all the fuss since these events constitute a Tuesday afternoon in South Florida.

During the next few days my humble hosts took me on a tour of the Greater Dunedin area, my favorite place being Tunnel Beach. To reach the beach you have to walk downhill and it just so happened to be pretty muddy that particular morning. At one point I made the mistake of rushing down said hill and you can guess what happened next.

The crowd had a hearty laugh at my expense. The biggest victim was not my bruised ego but my nice cargo pants. Mud stains all over. Nonetheless, the place was Bauer-tastic. The tunnel leading to the rocky beach, the cliffs, the seemingly endless expanse of water all made for a pretty cool sight, just 10-15 minutes away from the city.

I have to admit my mind, as well as Zach's I would venture to guess, focused on something else those days. Our Boston Celtics, last year starting Gerald Green and Sebastian Telfair while trying to lose games intentionally, were on the cusp of a championship against the dastardly Lakers. We watched Game 5 at the Terrace, the place mostly to ourselves on that Monday afternoon. The group: Zach, his friend Mike (a Boston fan) and a lad named Marcus. The most memorable part of the game, which the Celtics went on to lose, was Zach cussing intensely in my face as K.G. missed late free throws. He's a bit insane. Zach, I mean.

The next game the four of us did the same thing, and the Celtics went into halftime with a huge lead. I wasn't counting to No. 17 until midway through the third when it was clear the Lakers had no intention of trying to win. The game became so lopsided (as Ray Allen swished about a million wide-open 3s) that Zach and I could only laugh. That's when you know you have it in the bag. To my chagrin, there was no rioting in Dunedin that day. Apparently, the NBA is their Arena Football or Pro Bowling tour. The people were aware but didn't care. But I was happy! So was Paul Pierce, who deserved that trophy more than anyone else.

With the Celtics as champions, the time came to hit the road with clear minds, stale Twizzlers and a shaky iPod radio converter. The beautiful landscape of the South Island awaited and I was determined to show New Zealanders a true obnoxious American. I would kill as many endangered species as I could. I would insult the New Zealand way of life and walk around with a general air of entitlement. USA! USA! USA!

Next on the Chronicles of Mordor … how many innocent seals can Steve strangle with his bare hands? How many Northeastern stories can Zach and Steve recount until Monica runs away to Antarctica? Will Shannon Doherty make a guest appearance? Don't forget to tune in. Reruns of Mad About You are killing us so we're on the chopping block. Kinda like this guy.

FLASHBACK: The Chronicles of Mordor: Part I

NOTE: I killed my MySpace account today. But I didn't want to lose one of my proudest accomplishments ... The Chronicles of Mordor. They led to this blog and I think they're pretty good. I did not want to lose them. So I'm republishing them here, with slight editing.

Originally published July 1, 2008

Not many people think of New Zealand and they know little about it. I didn't. It served as the setting for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Russell Crowe and Anna Paquin are natives. They have a big rugby team named the All-Blacks. That was the extent of my knowledge about two weeks ago.

With that in my mind, I will recount my little excursion to that far away land here on my blog on MySpace, the Rhode Island mall of social networking sites. This way, when people ask me how the trip was, I can refer them to my blog and continue on my way.

I arrived at LAX at around noon Pacific time with some nine hours to kill before my flight to Auchland, New Zealand. My cell phone was dead and I had not slept much in the past 24 hours. So I spent most of the time finding an open power outlet so I could watch my 24 DVD. You'd think that would be easy but it took me 20 minutes. Once I finally succeeded I had something to distract me until Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

The game did not start too well for the Green Machine. The Lakers were making everything and little ol' me, standing and watching the game outside a restaurant with 50 other Lakers fans, could barely stand it. I had to go sit down, being so tired and moody that I'd see cute little kids running around the airport and cuss at them in my head. While I sat and tried to nap just a little, the crowd would roar in approval because some douchebag Laker had made a nice play.

I sneaked back into the crowd for the second half and wouldn't you know it, the Celtics rallied. And rallied. Until they took the lead. The crowd was stunned silent as I performed my Derek Jeter fist bump.

When Ray Allen scored the decisive layup you could feel the spirit sink out my fellow travelers and airport staff. I jumped onto that plane in a much better mood, giddy that the Celtics were actually one game away from a title.

Once on the plane I enjoyed a nice meal, watched Vantage Point, Semi-Pro, listened to the newest White Stripes album and tried to sleep. That took six hours. Five more to go. I went in and out of sleep, uncomfortably tossing and turning in my seat while feeling like I hadn't slept in almost two days -- which was the case -- until they served breakfast. I watched Rattle and Hum and just prayed for the flight to end ... until it finally did.

Seventeen hours of flying done but I was far from out of the woods. Once in Auchland I crossed through roughly 55 checkpoints, all checking my passport and luggage. To make it easier, I put my passport in the book I was holding. This will be important later. After finally escaping the international terminal, I dragged my bags on a ten-minute walk to the domestic terminal knowing my third flight was set to take off in about 25 minutes. Sweating like Jason Giambi in the first inning, I arrived, swallowed a banana (NOTE: Unintended sexual reference here) and changed my drenched shirt and found the gate five minutes before boarding.

Just two hours away. The flight was a breeze in comparison. I looked out the window during the descent and saw nothing but rolling pastures and mountains. Dunedin, a mid-sized city, was my destination, and the images outside the window looked nothing like a metropolis. The plane literally landed in the middle of a cow pasture. The airport was smaller than the Cranston East main building.

In that building I would lose -- no, misplace -- my book with my passport in it but would not realize this fact until several days later.

Blissfully ignorant I met the most successful assistant basketball coach in all Otago, Z. Cole Hosseini. He drove my tired ass on the wrong side of the road to his place in Dunedin. Yes, they drive the British way in New Zealand. I can't explain in words how disorienting this proved to be throughout the trip.

He lives with his friend/reluctant story listener Monica in a little house that overlooks the city. And yeah, it wasn't all cows. Just sheep. Well, it was more than sheep, too. Think a more Gothic Providence to give you an idea. Or just check my photos!

Zach though I'd be a grumpy, sleepy, miserable buzzkill upon my arrival, but one only underestimates a Sears at his or her own peril. Since I work such upsidedown hours in Florida, I came prepared for the vicious time shift. I left my apartment at about 4:30 A.M. on Thursday morning, June 12th and arrived in Dunedin at 9 A.M. Saturday, June 14th. Crazy, eh?

Knowing I was jet-lagged, Zach challenged me to some one on one basketball thinking this was the only way he could beat me. The first game went badly for the good guy, but the second game was a tight battle of behemoths. He did not respect my jumper so I drained a few. When he challenged, I burned his ass on my way for a layup or drained a J in his face. I was on fire!

I lost.

The three of us ate at a nice Italian place that night, recounting glorious stories of Northeastern past, all which Monica already knew. The news has already hit New Zealand -- I was a loser in college who did not think twice about watching 15 Sopranos episodes in one day.

From there we went to a bar called The Terrace. This place will always hold a special place in my heart, but not because of that night. The big to-do in all New Zealand that night was the big All-Blacks vs. England rugby test. It was crowded and rowdy -- think a Boston bar during a Patriots playoff game. The All-Blacks won easy and everyone went home happy, but by the closing minutes I was ready to pass out. We cut the night a bit short and I slept like a rock.

In Part II of the Chronicles of Mordor ... Does Steve remember he lost his passport? Will Zach torture his friends with insufferable Morrissey music? Will Jack Bauer find the bomb? Tune in and please visit us again at the Rhode Island Mall of Social Networking Websites.

Kill Rabbit

Harry Angstrom is a scumbag.

If you don't know who that is, you've never read "Rabbit, Run" by John Updike. I just finished it, and it motivated me enough to vent in this forlorn space of Internet about the main character.

Never before have I detested a protagonist in a book quite like Rabbit. Let's begin with a spoiler warning -- if you plan on ever reading this book, then read no further. We're venturing into spoiler waters.

In 2011, the theme of dull suburban stasis slowly suffocating life has been duly established again and again and again. This novel was published in 1960, when the topic was still fresh. It chronicles young Mr. Angstrom, a former high school basketball star with a young son and pregnant wife. He hates his job and his marriage and one night tries to drive off in the middle of the night.

He wants to run away from his life, but he has no idea what to run toward. However, this isn't a discussion of the themes in this book. Let me just list all the douchey things this character does throughout the book.

  • Sent to pick up his son, he instead takes his car south in an effort to abscond from all his responsibilities literally in the middle of the night. And he can't even do that right, getting lost in West Virginia and driving back to Pennsylvania.

  • He refuses to even contact his wife or parents and instead goes to his former basketball coach. Through the coach he meets a part-time prostitute. Mindful of my own 21st century sensibilities, I tried to overlook his caveman-ish treatment of this new woman he meets. Rabbit orders her around from the first second, and this being the 50s, the woman (named Ruth) only fights back slightly

  • He gets angry when he finds out she's slept with a former high school teammate of his. She's a prostitute. It comes with the territory.

  • Their first night together, he orders her to clean the make-up off her face. She doesn't do it enough to his satisfaction so he wipes it off for her.

  • He gets angry that she wants to use contraception.

  • He befriends an Episcopal minister, Jack Eccles. His first time in the house of man of God, he slaps the man's wife on the ass. She doesn't slap him in the face. She acts surprised, almost flattered. Oh, the 50s must have been fun.

  • So Rabbit has left his wife to take care of their young son. This would be embarrassing enough in 1958. But he doesn't even have the decency to run away to Florida or Minnesota. He stays right in town, living with a prostitute and cavorting around town. Intentionally or not, he rubs it in his wife's face and brings a heaping pile of shame on her and her family.

  • In a rage that his prostitute girlfriend has slept with other men, he forces her to fellate him, coaxing and prodding her like a five-year-old who wants candy in a supermarket. He gets his way.

  • His pregnant wife goes into labor. So our main character undergoes a revelation. He wants to be back with his wife. So he leaves Ruth in the middle of the night without a word. Oh, and she's pregnant, too.

  • Just days after the birth of his infant daughter, he's still preening at the minister's wife and hitting on her.

  • Again, just days after his wife has given birth, he desperately wants sex. She's not quite in the mood. He urges her to drink whiskey, saying it would help lessen her stress while in reality he just wants her drunk so she'd be more open to sex. Did I forget to mention his wife has a drinking problem?

  • He's lying in bed with his wife trying to make his moves. She resists. So while she's got his back to him, he tries some sodomy. She rightfully objects. He runs away, comes back and now wants sex right after birth? After months of cheating on her and rubbing it in her face? Of course, he doesn't like a woman talking to him like this. So what does he do? He walks out in the middle of the night and doesn't come home.

  • So now he's left his wife twice, and this time with a young son and an infant daughter, knowing the wife has a drinking problem. He never comes home that night, so the wife goes nutty. She has a few too many and ends up drowning the baby.

  • We find Rabbit was trying to get back with Ruth that night, but could not find her. So he just farts around all night. He finds out from Eccles what's happened. So he comes back, rightfully chastened.

  • If I was the wife's father, I'd fucking kill him. Instead, the family welcomes him to their home. He's heartbroken and feeling guilty. As he should. He accepts blame ...

  • ... Until the actual burial. Out of nowhere, he tells the gathered mourners that it's not his fault. He wasn't there. It was an accident and he knows his wife didn't mean it. Of course the wife is the one who killed the child, but he set her on the course. Anyway, he just starts running away from the funeral into the woods by the cemetery.

  • He shows up at Ruth's and tries to get back with her. She actually cusses him out real good, but even she allows an opening for them to get together if he divorces his wife. He says he will and tells her he'll go to the deli and get her a sandwich. What does he do instead? He runs away. Book ends.

I don't know if Updike wanted the reader to like Rabbit. He doesn't shy from showing how his actions affect others around him, but throughout the novel, Harry Angstrom's inner dreams and desire for freedom, for an elusive liberation, are fostered upon us. In most novels, the reader should empathize with the protagonist in some way.

Many literary critics hail this character as a fighter against the sterility of modern life. As a man of inspiration, courageous enough to chase a true, fulfilling life.

But any logical reading of this character's actions should only include the words "world-class asshole" and "piece of rodent excrement."

I really hated him. The indignant way he hoists himself upon everyone. His narcissism. He self-centered-ness. His complete, earth-consuming cowardice. I hate him so much I blogged about a book written 50 years ago. He's not fighting suburbia. Unless you're a single billionaire, you will lead a rather monotonous life. That's how it goes. You will do tomorrow what you did yesterday, for the most part. Your "new and improved" life will grow to resemble your old one, and then what happens? Run away again and start the whole process again?

And I'm supposed to root this guy on? He shamed his wife, abandoned his son and infant daughter, abandoned his new girlfriend, abandoned his wife again and played a big hand in the death of a child. A protagonist for sure. A hero, not a chance.

There are more books in the Rabbit series. The second one is "Rabbit Redux." I probably won't read it. Tough to read a series on a man of no redeeming value whatsoever. I can't even hate him as a great villain because he's not written in that manner. But in a perfect world, the series would have ended at book No. 2 -- "Rabbit, Run Over by a Car."