A Sad Day for Friendly's
Published on October 5, 2011 by Sara Foss

I was unexpectedly saddened by the news that Friendly's has filed for bankruptcy protection and will close 63 restaurants.

I have many fond memories of Friendly's. I actually had my first date in a Friendly's. I even remember what I ordered - the peanut butter cup sundae. (I have no idea what my date ordered, though.) My friends and I used to enjoy going to Friendly's to eat, and blowing straws in each other's faces. It was a great spot for teenagers - a cozy restaurant with cheap, decent food that really felt like a step up from the Denny's, McDonalds and other fast food restaurants located on the same strip. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if you grew up in New Hampshire pre-food movement, the local Friendly's might have shaped your notion of what fine dining was all about.

I'm not the only person who feels this way about Friendly's. If you plug the terms Friendly's, sad and bankruptcy into google, you get tons of hits from mournful Friendly's fans. My guess is that many of these people are from small towns in New England. On one site, a commenter named Patriot86 wrote, "... when I went to high school in Ridgefield, Connecticut ... Friendly's was our hangout ... I would take a Jim Dandy now ... Yum." Another commenter wrote, "We enjoyed Friendly's on the Cape and in the Metro West. Always friendly service and prices you cannot beat. We miss them on the left coast."

Meanwhile, NPR wonders if nostalgia is enough to save Friendly's.


The Beer Network
Published on October 5, 2011 by Sara Foss

According to GOOD magazine, there's a new social network for beer lovers called Untappd.

Explains GOOD:

"Untappd also aggregates data on which beers are trending, categorized by microbrews or macrobrews, and organized by location. For example, trending beers near the GOOD office in Hollywood today include several Dogfish Head brews. If you’re curious about a certain beer, you can click on it to get more information, including reviews and ratings posted by other aficionados. Then you can add it to your brew wish list to help you remember which six-pack to pick up on Friday night. And if you need beer in every aspect of your life, you can easily connect Untappd to your Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare as well."

All I can say is: This sounds cool.

Click here to visit the site.

Fall Foliage
Published on October 5, 2011 by Sara Foss

Here are 50 awesome fall foliage photographs from all over the country.

Watching "Moneyball"
Published on October 5, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review "Moneyball."

Also, some interesting "Moneyball" links: Over at Deadspin, "Mobutu Sese Seko," founder of the blog "Et tu, Mr. Destructo?", takes on the movie's critics and explains what makes it so entertaining.

At ThePostGame, Jeff Passan talks about why baseball movies aren't as good as they used to be, and why he didn't really like "Moneyball" all that much.

On Slate, David Haglund discusses why "Moneyball" is a good story, but also a lot of bunk.

And in this 2007 Slate piece, Tom Scocca writes about how the Mitchell report, which documented the use of steroids in baseball, casts "Moneyball" in a different light.

Vending Machine Rage and Haikus
Published on October 4, 2011 by guest author: Tatiana Zarnowski

WARNING: Some Salty Language Below

I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling like the office vending machine is both a salvation and a curse. I mean, here we are stuck in an office, not exactly wanting to be here, and if we're hungry and don't have time or energy to leave, we have to eat this gross, over-processed stuff that 100 years ago wouldn't even have counted as food.

Still, it's helped me get through many a day and night without having a blood sugar crash and the resulting emotional meltdown.

One thing that does cause a meltdown, however, is when my item fails to drop after I've inserted the money. I feel a building rage that is a combination of disappointment that my hunger might not be satisfied, and anger that I have resorted to eating this crap to begin with.

I know others feel this too, and when I assault a vending machine I always remember news stories about people being squished to death after tilting a machine to get their food item. It's probably one of the only situations where losing a dollar (or less) will spur people to do reckless, life-threatening things.

To calm myself down after a vending incident at work, I wrote these haikus:


Driving Home
Published on October 4, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my weekend drive through New Hampshire and Vermont, and why I'm so fond of this particular drive.

Here's an excerpt:

"Over the weekend I visited friends in New Hampshire, and so I spent a fair amount of time driving on scenic roads that brought me over hills and mountains, past farmland, woods, covered bridges, ponds and rivers. This is a drive I’ve always enjoyed, because so little of it involves the interstate, and because it really is quite pretty — the sort of drive leaf-peeping tourists take for fun. (Because it was raining and overcast for most of my trip, I saw very few leaf-peeping tourists wandering around with cameras and snapping foliage photos.) I enjoy looking at the pretty leaves as much as anyone, but I’ve always gotten a kick out of leaf-peepers, who approach the natural changing of the seasons with the sort of anthropological curiosity I might reserve for a trip overseas.

This particular drive to New England was a little more interesting than usual, because it brought me over roads that were recently submerged by flood waters and offered an up-close glimpse of flood damage. I saw foundations where entire homes once stood, and homes that were still standing, but so badly damaged they will have to be rebuilt or demolished. The rivers had changed, too. They were wider, and some had carved new channels. There were new sandbars, and piles of debris were still visible on the shore. The water was a brown, chocolaty color that will be familiar to anyone who has taken a good look at the Mohawk or the Hudson recently, and it moved swiftly, as if in a hurry."

31 Days of Horror
Published on October 4, 2011 by Sara Foss

The excellent film blog Not Coming to a Theater Near You has started running a monthlong series titled "31 Days of Horror," in which short reviews of horror movies are posted regularly. The choices are eclectic and unconventional; for instance, one of the reviews takes a look at "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," which is often classified (mistakenly, in my opinion) as a family film. I didn't see "Willy Wonka" until I was in college, but my college roommate saw it as a child and found it absolutely terrifying.

Click here to check out the series.

Embracing Biblical Womanhood
Published on October 4, 2011 by Sara Foss

In "The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible As Literally As Possible," writer A.J. Jacobs spent a year trying to follow all of the rules and guidelines he could find in the Bible - more than 700, it turned out.

Now an evangelical Christian and writer named Rachel Held Evans has attempted something similar. In her year-long Womanhood Project, she tries to follow all of the Biblical rules and guidelines for woman - foregoing haircuts, making her own clothes and camping in her front yard when she had her period. Her project has attracted attention and proven controversial, and this week the Public Religion Research Institute provided an interesting summary of her thoughts, feelings and the reactions to the project thus far.

To visit the Womanhood Project, click here.

Tom Brady's Hair
Published on October 4, 2011 by Sara Foss

I like Wesley Morris as a film critic, but I have no idea why he decided writing about Tom Brady's hair for Grantland was a good idea.

Nevertheless, I'm posting a link to his piece because, well, because it's about Tom Brady.

Visiting Las Vegas
Published on October 4, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about her recent trip to Las Vegas in her weekly column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"The week it was flooding around here, I was in the driest part of the country, visiting my sister in Las Vegas.

People get a funny look in their eyes when you tell them you’re going to Las Vegas for a week. They make a lot of assumptions about why you’re going and what you’ll be doing. And so I found myself over-explaining my trip before I left: 'I’m visiting my sister because she’s been ill,' I’d say, when a well wisher would wish me a diverting holiday. 'A friend gave me a free plane ticket with her frequent flyer miles,' I’d add, for no particular reason. 'And I haven’t seen my niece and nephews in seven years.'

Like you need an excuse to spend time with family.

But then, it was Las Vegas, and I rarely travel anywhere, and never by myself. And so when I got back, and friends kept saying 'I HAVE to hear about your trip!' I just started to make things up. 'Yeah, I had an affair and lost $10,000 at blackjack,' I’d say, and for some reason no one believed me.

So just for the record, on my wild west trip I read books and played ninja stuffed animals with the youngest nephew, the 4-year-old I’d never met before. I walked the middle-schooler to school, watched his martial arts class, and talked to him about my son, who is one week younger than he is. I went grocery shopping and cooked dinner with my sister, took the kids swimming and generally did the things you do when hanging out with family — laughed, told stories, baked cookies.

All in a climate as dissimilar as possible to the one I’m used to. I may as well have been on the moon.

The day after the Mohawk River and Schoharie Creek overran their banks, moving trees, roads and buildings out of the way, I was flying away. From the air I could see the chocolate brown water, spreading out into all the wrong places. But soon enough I was over midwestern farm land, over Great Lakes that look like oceans, over the western expanses.

Flying into Nevada was an eye-opener. I had not expected those desert mountains, all dust brown and craggy, that surround Las Vegas, or the huge lakes created by the Hoover Dam. Or the blast of heat when I stepped out of the airport into 108 degree air.

'It was 111 earlier today,' my sister told me. 'And it’s 6 percent humidity.'

Mommy Making It Work
How Does She Do It? In-Laws!
Published on October 3, 2011 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

As editor of a major business news publication in Birmingham, Ala., I do a lot of public speaking, mostly about the newspaper itself or about the economy.

Occasionally – if an audience member actually reads my bio and sees the ages of my kids (4 and 22 months) - I get some work/life balance questions. Like Sarah Jessica Parker in the movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” they want some secret to working 60-70 hours a week and raising two small children, who are both, as my buddy and fellow blogger Sara Foss would call them “spirited.”

My answer: In-laws.

I couldn’t do the demanding hours of journalism and management and TV and radio appearances without the help of my husband and his banker hours and his parents who don’t work.

Now, including the in-laws this heavily in the parenting schedule comes with its ups and downs. When William, my almost five-year-old, passed the sweet phase and hit the demonic-talk-back phase at 3, my retired-Marine father-in-law threatened to pull out the belt. Turns out threatening is all it takes with William. We now swing by the nursing home near our neighborhood and pull through the drive-up entrance and say we’re dropping him off there to live. This has worked wonders, since he’s been to my grandfather’s assisted living home and it gives him the creeps.

Since we’re all in this together, we often pow-wow with the in-laws to discuss which techniques are OK and which aren’t, and figure out which work and which don’t. Time out is essentially useless with William. He isn’t all that embarrassed or put off by being made to sit in a corner and usually entertains himself with something around him or sweet-talks his poor 22-month-old sister into joining him there. So we switched to taking away things he likes to do, like read before bed his “Weird Creatures” and “Most Venomous Animals” books that give me the willies.

As for Alli, the 22-month old girlie girl, we’re tackling the terrible 2 tantrums. William never threw himself to the floor in the middle of the main aisle of Target, but Alli does – for all of us. I’ve been told to ignore it, but it’s hard to do when people are staring at you, saying with their eyes, “Make it stop!” I’ve actually tried (at home, mind you) getting on the floor and throwing a tantrum alongside her – which is supposed to make her laugh and see how silly it is, but just enrages her even more and sends the fit into oblivion. It’s a communication barrier, so I’m secretly hoping the tubes we got inserted surgically in her eardrums last week will clear out her head and help her hear my demands to stop more clearly, but I may be setting myself up for disappointment.

Parenting is challenging, whether you work or not, whether you have family help or not.

 I figure blogging about my experiences might help you feel like you’re not alone – and give me a place to vent – so come along with me and share your thoughts, too.

Cindy F. Crawford is the editor of a news publication in Birmingham, Ala., and the proud parent of two spirited young children.


Primus at the Palace
Published on October 3, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review Primus' concert at the Palace Theatre in Albany last week.

Here's an excerpt:

Primus, I’m happy to report, puts on an excellent show. You don’t need to be familiar with their entire catalog (i.e., the non-hits) to appreciate what they can do on stage — they are a tight, musically adventurous yet disciplined band, with a sense of humor and weirdness that makes their stage show more memorable than most. A pair of giant astronauts with bland, creepy expressions stood onstage throughout the show, and every song was accompanied by an array of odd and eye-catching videos (my favorite: the elephant on the trampoline); at intermission, the audience was treated to several vintage Popeye cartoons. To those familiar with Primus, the band’s unrelenting strangeness won’t come as a surprise at all: The band rose to promise during the alternative music boom of the early 1990s, but instead of emerging from Seattle or Chicago or any other recognizable place, appeared to come from its own planet.

Primus played two sets: the first featured the band’s classic songs, such as 'Jerry was a Racecar Driver,' while the second showcased their new album, 'Green Naugahyde.' The songs often blended together, with the trio of musicians turning the show into an extended jam session. For the most part, I can’t stand jam bands, which made me wonder why I enjoyed Primus’ sonic detours and exploration so much. 'I like a band that pummels me,' my friend Bruce observed at one point, and perhaps this was the key difference: Jam-bands often seem self-indulgent and aimless, the members (mostly dudes) seemingly more interested in noodling around on their instruments than playing good, well-constructed music. Primus, on the other hand, was aggressive and focused; they jammed, but you never got the sense that they were showing off, or that they were so enamored with their instruments that they had forgotten about the audience, or their purpose on the stage."

I Love the Post Office
Published on October 3, 2011 by Sara Foss

Am I the only person who's disturbed by all this talk of gutting the U.S. Postal Service?

I love the post office! I can see where certain changes might make sense - perhaps we don't really need Saturday mail service anymore. And I think it's safe to say that the Internet has changed how people correspond, and made it possible to pay all your bills without affixing a stamp to an envelope. But there are still people without broadband Internet in this country, and the post office provides a valuable link to the rest of the world.

Also, the Post Office is just a cool place. When I was little, it was a community hub, and I greatly enjoyed going to check our post office box at the little red post office on School Street. I almost saw someone I knew there, and I prided myself on knowing the combination to the box and being able to check the mail myself. In college, the mailroom served a similar function. I often ran into my friends there, and when our house hosted a party, we taped our invitations to our friends' mailboxes. I'm sure today's students simply email their party invitations, but I have a hard time believing that the college mailroom no longer serves a purpose. Parents still send birthday cards. Don't they?

Rumors of the U.S. Postal Service's demise disturb me. The post office is a good thing. Stamps are cool. Although I was also a little disturbed by the Postal Service's recent decision allowing living people to be pictured on stamps. I don't know why this bothered me so much - maybe because I used to collect stamps? My fear is that the first living person to be pictured on a stamp would end up getting indicted for some sort of crime the very next day. Why do I think this? BECAUSE YOU JUST NEVER KNOW ABOUT PEOPLE. That's why. Better to wait until they're dead, and you're fairly certain that they haven't committed some great act of evil.

But I digress.

All I know is that every time I mail something, I'm much more appreciative for what we have. Let's not do anything rash.

In a lengthy essay, David Morris makes the case for saving the Post Office in On the Commons.


Lucky Jukebox Brigade
Published on October 3, 2011 by Sara Foss

The band I saw tonight.

Albany's answer to DeVotchKa and the Gogol Bordello?

Alexander Hamilton and Me
Published on October 3, 2011 by Sara Foss

On her blog Virgin Islands Traveller, my friend Susanna Henighan Potter writes about Alexander Hamilton's Caribbean roots, and her visit to his home in New York City.

Here's an excerpt:

"Alexander Hamilton and I are friends. Or so it seems. The founding father and first Treasury Secretary of the United States was famously killed in a duel by Aaron Burr in 1804. Most schoolchildren also learn that Hamilton was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, a series of essays which established the moral rationale for the system of government which grew into modern American democracy.

But fewer people know that Alexander Hamilton was born in Nevis in the West Indies and spent approximately eight formative childhood years on St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands (then the Danish West Indies). ...

Visitors to St. Croix encounter Hamilton at Fort Christiansvaern in Christiansted, where there is a display about Hamilton’s life on St. Croix and that of his mother, Rachel Faucett, whose tragic story you could not invent if you tried. On a walking tour of the town you can also pass buildings where Hamilton once worked, worshiped and lived as a child and young man.

It’s not often that I have common ground with a person of such historic stature, and I have developed feelings of kinship for Hamilton over the years.  So when I was in New York recently and noticed in the paper that Hamilton’s New York home had recently re-opened to the public, I decided to pay the site a visit. Hamilton Grange, as the home is called, has been moved twice: once in 1889 and once in 2008 to its current home at St Nicholas Park on the upper west side of Manhattan. In Hamilton’s day it took about two hours by carriage to get from Wall Street to the Grange, a pastoral retreat which Hamilton and his family occupied primarily during the summer months. On the A train from Wall Street on a recent Saturday morning it took about 45 minutes to make the journey uptown."

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