Archive | July, 2008

The Stompers’ Time Machine

28 Jul

The Hangover first saw The Stompers back in 1979 when they played a concert at “the small prestigious liberal arts college” (not exactly my own terminology) I attended.  We hadn’t heard of them, but the fliers distributed around the dining hall claimed the Boston band was known for passionate, high-energy live shows.  It was a $5 gamble we were willing to take.  Well, The Stompers blew the roof off the gym and we were instant converts.  The Hangover followed the band through the years, and the shows always lived up to the standard set that first night.   When a friend suggested we see their reunion concert this summer at the Casino Ballroom in Hampton Beach, it was easy to imagine a good time.  That the Stompers would blow any pangs of nostaglia to smithereens wasn’t even considered.   

Being professional musicians, it would have been easy for Sal Baglio, Dave Friedman, Steve Gilligan, and Lenny Shea to get on stage, have some fun, and go through the motions.  Instead, the Stompers revved up, dug down, and played one of the best sets in the long history of The Hangover’s concert experience.    With a horn section and back-up singers behind them, the Stompers ruled from the first notes of “This is Rock and Roll” through the closing “Rock and Roll.”   As young men, we had considered Sal Baglio a rock god; it was good to see our original assessment was on the money.

The Hangover and associates were hooting, hollering, singing, and raising our bottles in tribute throughout the night.  We screamed “Sal” just as we had at countless shows back in the ’80’s.  It should have been pathetic:  2000 middle-agers acting as they had 25 years earlier, when they were young and foolish and drunk–and didn’t care if they acted like a bunch of idiots.  But The Stompers July 26th set was a time machine.  The Hangover wasn’t concerned about the kids back home with the babysitter or the hangover (the real thing) staring me down the barrel of Sunday morning.  The Stompers transported myself and countless others back to a time when we didn’t worry and the music really mattered.  It was as close to The Fountain of Youth as we will ever get. 

Few bands can do what the Stompers did on Saturday night.  Three days later, I’m still feeling good about it.  The Hangover is grateful.

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John Edwards Sex Scandal Good News

24 Jul

It was bad enough when The Hangover’s endorsement of John Edwards scuttled his 2008 presidential bid.  Now the National Enquirer is reporting that the former Senator is involved in a sex scandal.  As always, the Hangover is ready to examine the facts.  

The first step is to consider the source.  Exactly when did the National Enquirer become a reputable member of the media?  Perhaps it was when their correspondents started appearing on the Howard Stern show.  It could have been when the NE got its own TV show, Uncovered, in 1999, only to see it get cancelled in 2001.  However, The Hangover has determined the NE became credible when actual newspapers actually started citing the tabloid as a source in their own pathetic attempts to cover Lindsay Lohan’s binge drinking–the single most important and compelling news story of the current century. 

The Facts:  The Enquirer reported that at 9:45 on July 21st Edwards appeared at the Beverly Hilton.  Hmmm.  NE Reporter Alan Butterfield deduced that “he (Edwards) wasn’t carrying anything.”  Suspicious, indeed.  The Enquirer gang then hounded Edwards like a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Jacques Clouseau, and Deputy Dawg.  They reported that when cornered, Edwards looked like a “deer in caught in headlights!”  Not only can the NE reporters investigate, they are brilliant and original writers, too.  How could one not believe them?

And so what if Edwards was having an affair?  He is simply following in the footsteps of all the great Democractic political thinkers of the modern era:  John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Gary Hart, and William J. Clinton.  (Additionally, the incident differentiates Edwards from those Republicans caught in sex scandals, which generally operate under same-sex scenarios; not that there’s anything wrong with that.)  Mr. Obama, The Hangover urges you to heed this fine Democratic lineage and give Mr. Edwards a position in your cabinet.  Make the man your Attorney General. 

The Enquirer’s reporting of the scandal means that the Republicans view him as a threat.  In an Obama administration, Edwards could potentially be the first AG since Robert Kennedy to actually care about working class and poor Americans.  Maybe then the 95% of us who aren’t enjoying George W. Bush’s tax cuts could stop getting screwed.  How ironic.

Budweiser: The Great Belgian-American Beer

18 Jul

The business world has been saturated like a rug at a keg party with the news of Belgian brewing giant InBev acquiring all-American Anheuser-Busch.  While this brings us that much closer to a “Rollerball world  where society is dominated and run by a few behemoth corporations, the real question lies in what this means to American Bud drinkers, of which The Hangover is one.

Will Bud taste the same as it does now?  Yes.  Will we still get to watch commercials of Clydesdales playing football in the fall?  Yes.  Will Bud and Bud Light still be brewed regionally? Likely.  Will Bud still be marketed as “The Great American Lager?”  Yes, even though it will be owned by Belgians.

But Americans have no reason to fear Belgian ownership.  Here’s why:  Belgians are great people.  Twenty years ago, The Hangover and one of his associates spent a few nights in a Biarritz casino that could have been a James Bond set.  Our first evening there we cleaned up playing blackjack, winning hand after hand, hooping and hollering and guzzling beer.  While most of the clientele was in suits, we were dressed in jeans and leather jackets; we felt like the Cartwrights cutting loose in Virginia city. 

However, on the following night, our luck wasn’t so great.  Despite the bartenders having our first round arrive at our table just as we did, we started losing.  It got to the point that we were playing hand-to-hand.  A few more bad cards and we were done. 

An older gentleman was seated next to us.  He’d also been at our table the previous evening.   

     “You guys aren’t doing so great tonight,” he said.

     “No, it’s a rough one,” I replied.  We lost a hand just as one of the bartenders came over to see if we needed another round.  We didn’t have the money.

     “Let me buy you guys a beer,” the gentleman said.  “You know, you really got everyone all upset last night.”

     “We were just having a good time,” my associate said.

     “I enjoyed it,” the gentleman said.  “Whenever you can piss off these French assholes, go ahead and do it.”

      “I take it you’re not French,” I said.

     “The hell with that,” he said, smiling.  “I’m from Belgium.”

As soon as the beer the Belgian bought us arrived at the table, our luck changed.  We went on a winning streak that recouped our losses and then surpassed our winnings of the night before.  We owed it all to the kindness of the Belgian spirit. 

The Hangover will continue to support and enjoy Budweiser.  And when the InBev-Anheuser Busch deal is finalized, The Hangover fully expects his first “Belgian” Budweiser will bring him more than just a buzz.

[Editors note:  Rollerball, as a movie, is a good one with compelling characters, action, and suspense.  It was filmed in 1975 based on a storyby William Harrison.  However, if viewed today, the movie reveals itself to be eerily prescient social commentary.  You’d have to be stone drunk on American-Belgian Budweiser to miss the connections between the sci-fi world of the film and the one you actually live in.]

Red Sox Nation at Rest: All-Star Break ’08

14 Jul

The Hangover’s musings on the ’08 baseball season.

  • There should be no panic-worry-complaining from  Sox nation.  The team plays hard every night.  The lineup is good and the pitching is there.  Exciting young players are coming up through the system and contributing.  But it’s the pitching that means the Sox will be in the mix in October. Oh yeah, and they won the Series again last year.  Anyone bitching about this year’s model should be given 1950’s style shock therapy.
  • Give Jason Varitek a break.  He’s not a young man anymore but he’s being played like one.  He’s hitting .218 and throwing out less than 20% of base runner’s attempting to steal.  Hey, he’s 36–and he’s not Carlton Fisk (a freak of nature who played effectively into his 40’s).  The Sox will figure out that they need to cut his workload and give him two out of every five days off.  When they do, his numbers will rise.
  • Is there a Heidi Watney fan club?  If there is, The Hangover would like to join.  The Red Sox Insider report with Heidi and Amalie Benjamin is the no-doubt highlight of the NESN pre-game show.  In fact, The Hangover would  be glad to join the Amalie Benjamin fan club, too. 
  • Occasionally, the Hangover listens to a game on the radio.  While Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien do a good job describing the action, they can be tedious.  

          > When Castiglione is doing the play-by-play, every Sox out is imparted with the “I just found out    my mother-in-law is coming for the weekend” voice.  The “my dog just got hit by a car” tone pops up for bases loaded failures and the final out of the game.  Relax, Joe.  A loss isn’t the end of the world.

           > O’Brien, on the other hand, seems to know what’s going on in every player and manager’s head.  He’s constantly stating, “There’s nothing that Terry Francona wants more than…” or “Dustin Pedroia would really like to…”  Hey, stick to the action.  The Amazing Kreskin should have retired with Johnny Carson.

            >  Dale Arnold, on his nights, is fine.  He gives the details and describes the game without the pathetic tones or a know-it-all attitude.  And he can be humorous while doing so.  A real bonus, considering.

  • Give Hank Steinbrenner some credit.  It was a no-brainer to turn Joba Chamberlain into a starter.  He’s big, strong, and has more than two good pitches.  By the end of the year, he’ll be the Yankees #1 starter.  And if the owner has to stick his nose in to get things done, hey, it’s his team.
  • We all know about how the Sox need to extract every dollar from their ballpark and broadcasts so that they can compete with the dreaded, rich Yankees.  But enough with the sponsorships and marketing.  How long will it be before Remy and Orsillo are discussing the Papelbon “Fed Ex” fastball for strike three?  Or the Wakefield “Isotoner” knuckleball?  Can the “Jiffy Lube” slider be far off?  This will be a certain boon for Wendy’s who can sponsor every single, double, and triple.
  • The Hangover closes this post by taking a look at the American League all-star infield.  On the left, there are the Yankees Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.  On the right, the Sox Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis.  Let’s go over the stats:

Jeter and A-Fraud:  Combined Production:  .296, 24 HR, 95 RBI; Combined Salaries:  49.6 Million dollars.

Pedroia and Youkilis:  Combined Production:  .314, 24 HR, 110 RBI; Combined Salaries:  3.45 Million dollars.

Yikes.  At 7% of the cost, the Sox pair exceeds the production of the Yankees starters.  And we all know what happens to A-Fraud in October. 

When evaluating players, one must consider the all-important (and Hangover original) RPY (Rings per Year) stat.  Jeter and A-Fraud have a combined 27 years in the league with 4 Series victories between them for a RPY  of .148.   Pedroia and Youkilis have a combined 5 years in the league with three Series victories between them for a RPY of .600, an enormous edge for the Sox pair.  This Saxony Stat of the Season is brought to you by Saxony Imports of Kennebunkport, Maine, the place to shop in Kennebunkport, located just over the bridge in Dock Square. 

(Sorry, but expanding revenue streams works for the Sox, and The Hangover must compete with the dreaded, rich ESPN.com, MSNBC.com, The Onion, etc..,.  )

Enron Strikes Again: The Loophole Chronicles

8 Jul

If you haven’t heard of the Enron Loophole, you’ve at least felt it–in your wallet, while pumping gas or paying your oil bill.   Described in its simplest terms, it’s legislation passed in December of 2000 ( Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000) which deregulated electronic trading of energy futures. Why is this important?  It’s the speculation and future trading of energy that is driving US gas prices toward $5.00 a gallon.   Why is it called the Enron Loophole?  Embedded Enron officials (there is no other way to describe them) in the government pushed through the legislation, strengthened it, benefited from it, and now protect it.

To gain a greater understanding of the Loophole, its creation, and the resulting it’s-the-people-who-always-get-screwed fallout, please watch the following video from Keith Olbermann’s Countdown (If you are a conservative and just reading “Olbermann” sends you into a heaving boil, please suck it up and take deep breaths for the duration.  The bet here is you’ll be glad you saw it.) 

The Hangover has been extremely critical of Republican policies and somewhat critical of the Democrats.  But there is plenty of blame to be dished out for both parties in this instance.  The seeds of deregulation were planted in the waning days of the Clinton administration.  Deregulation was commissioned and intensified in the blatantly corrupt Bush administration.  But as the Countdown report reveals, Congress was fully aware of the effect that the Enron Loophole had on gas and oil prices:  Big oil and Enron cronies make money; the rest of us get screwed.  And for the most part, Congress sits on its collective ass.  As The Hangover has asked before:  Where’s the outrage?   

This scheme has continued and thrived for eight years now.  As Olbermann reports, gas prices have more than doubled, as have heating oil costs.  It’s interesting (not to mention ‘hideous’)  to note that there are  Democrats (aren’t they the ones who are supposed to look out for us regular folk?) in both the Senate and House of Representatives.  However, it cannot be substantiated that more than a few them (Go Dennis Kucinich!) have integrity, conviction, or backbones.  

Although many experts believe an end to this unregulated speculation would drop gas prices to near $2.00 a gallon, Congress has been slow to act.   It is only recently that legislators tried to increase regulation and eliminate the loophole that has its heel on our gas-buying throats.  There was an amendment placed in the Farm Act (HR 2419) that increased energy commodity trading transparency but did not eliminate the loophole.  Companion 2007 “Close the Enron Loophole” bills languish in Senate and House committees.  Tom Allen (D) of Maine and Bart Stupak (D) of Michigan will be introducing the PUMP Act (Prevent Unfair Manipulation of Prices) later this month.  Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine will be co-sponsoring a companion bill in the Senate.    

But why has it taken so long for our elected representatives to act?  If eliminating the loophole will instantly ease the energy burden on Americans, legislation doing so should have been pushed through Congress with focus and ferocity.  It’s not hyperbole or out-of-the-box thinking to suggest that most Americans would greatly benefit from lower gas and energy costs.

Apparently The Hangover has made another foolish mistake.  It’s not “the people” who run our government.  It’s the corporate lobbyists and policy foundations who dish out the dollars and wield influence in our nation’s capitol.  For the most part, they’re the ones who control legislation, and they’re only looking out for the interests they represent.  If you doubt it, look at the receipt from your last fill-up and consider the following: 

And one more thing:  Former Enron executives hover like buzzards over Washington.  They and their ilk talk to your Senators and Congressmen everyday.  Do you?