Polar vortex questions? Ask Professor Doppler...

Due to some recent confusion caused by extremely cold weather, today we check in with noted meteorological advice columnist Professor Doppler. The professor — whose academic credentials include a Ph.D. in Cloud Technology from Cumulonimbus University and a master’s in Thunder from Kelvin State — has generously agreed to answer a few questions from readers. The author of “Patchy Fog,” “Life in the Frost Lane” and “Nor’Easter Bunny: Friend or Foe,” he was recently honored by the Fahrenheit Foundation for his ground-breaking environmental manifesto “Global Warming Caused by Increased Activity in Hades.” * * * Dear Professor Doppler — I heard on TV that they’re blaming this recent cold snap on something called a “polar vortex.” But Rush Limbaugh says that’s just a term the liberals made up as part of their stupid global warming scam. Please tell me the truth, professor, is there really a polar vortex? — Virginia Yes, Virginia. There is a polar vortex. In fact, weather legend Al Roker took Mr. Limbaugh to task for his gust of misinformation (video). The lovable buffoon schooled the hateful hot-air balloon on the “Today” show, blowing up an excerpt from his 1956 Weatherman 101 textbook and drawing a big circle around the term “Polar Vortex.” * * * Dear Professor Doppler — Me and the missus live about 15 feet from the ocean in a house that used to be about 75 feet from the ocean. Any major upcoming weather events we should be concerned about? — Jasper O’Dingus, Hampton Dear Jasper — Now that you mention it, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is said to be tracking a category 12 megastorm building strength down in Antarctica. If, as predicted, it slams into a back-door cold front...

One L of a Super Bowl

Share By John Breneman Ladies and gentlemen! Strap on your helmets, gobble down a bunch of steroids and gear up for America’s annual celebration of beer, trucks, sex and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It is time to get pumped up for the 50th Super Bowl – aka the Bud Miller Ford Chevy Coke Pepsi Cheetos Doritos Viagra Cialis Super Bowl. “Super Sunday” comes but once a year – that special day when the world’s only true superpower deploys its most elite, body-armored millionaires in a Roman-numeraled orgy of all-American overkill. Consumerism, commercialism and recreational violence with a VIP sideshow. As the Cavalcade of Concussions unfolds on the playing field, the annual avalanche of advertising excess provides a compelling side drama in which corporate executives shell out $5 million or more for 30-second time slots urging you to buy trucks, chips and beer, and truckloads of chips and beer. And, of course, sex pills. (SAMPLE AD: Do you suffer from post-orgasmic stress disorder? Restless hand syndrome? Adult onset celibacy? Ask your doctor about Fornica!) TV officials say elevendy billion people worldwide will jam the virtual coliseum and CBS promises several full minutes of action packed into the 18-hour super telecast. Betting on the game is, of course, illegal – to the tune of an estimated $4.2 billion, enough cash to provide health care for … ha-ha, just kidding. During the game itself, popular conversation topics will include speculation about whether Denver quarterback Peyton Manning’s freakishly gigantic forehead has grown even larger now that he has become the national spokesman for Human Growth Hormone. But before you tune in, the NFL – in partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Chicken Wings – offers these important safety tips. If you should...

Bicycle time travel

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Dateline 1889. One thing I adore about this little burg we call Portsmouth is that we love to blur the lines between present and past. And what better way to time travel on a warm November day than perched atop a contraption whose front wheel stands no less than 4 feet tall and whose back wheel is a sporty 17 inches? Oh, did I mention my old-fashioned high-wheeler no brakes? The social cycling event of the season, this was the inaugural Portsmouth Tweed Ride. Hosted by the Swell Society and Old as Adam — the folks who brought you the Gatsby on the Isles gathering this summer — the ride attracted several dozen distinguished gentlemen clad in tweed jackets, caps and knickers and stylish ladies dazzling onlookers in their Gatsby-era garb. The two-state spree started at Papa Wheelies bike shop on Islington Street and featured hospitality stops along the way at White Heron Tea & Coffee and the Book & Bar in Market Square before a scheduled wrap-up at the Press Room, with proceeds benefiting the Portsmouth Historical Society and the John Paul Jones House. We pushed off from Papa Wheelies, stopping traffic with the utmost courtesy and ringing of handlebar bells. Ah, nothing like rolling through time on an old-fashioned high-wheel bike — gasoline-powered horseless carriages whizzing by as we traversed the cracked, gray macadam of Islington Street. Camaraderie was the order of the day, as our procession caused much turning of heads and encouraging exhortations from the periphery. Down to Strawbery Banke and the South End, across the new Memorial Bridge into Kittery, Maine, and back to gather for a team daguerreotype at the North Church. Unfortunately, I had to return to the present...

My favorite spaceman

Long, long ago, in a galaxy that now seems very far away, I got a chance to interview a future astronaut. The year was 1987 — long before my career as an internationally obscure writer had achieved liftoff — and the future spaceman was a fellow York (Maine) High School kid named Chris Cassidy. Now, the chance to interview an astronaut doesn’t come along every day. And looking back, I gotta say, I kinda blew it. Sure, I was only at York High School that day to cover a home football game against whoever (probably Marshwood) and Chris was there in his capacity as the Wildcats’ senior quarterback. So afterward, I approached him for the usual sports-type interview with a couple of softball questions about football. You might say, “Hey, there’s no way I could have known this kid would go on to a decorated military career as a Navy SEAL (heading to Afghanistan two weeks after 9/11, according to his NASA bio) and then literally launch himself into the stratosphere as a genuine astronaut.” But there were tell-tale signs — the ramrod straight posture, the clear-eyed, straight-arrow demeanor, his singular focus on the mission of the team. Plus, he loved wearing a helmet. And the kid sure loved his Tang, couldn’t get enough of it. OK, I’m only kidding about the Tang, but the rest is all true. Also true is that not only has he been living up in the International Space Station since March, he also just helped rescue an Italian colleague when water began leaking into the man’s helmet during a spacewalk. (I hate it when that happens.) Yes, the two were just an hour into a planned six-hour spacewalk to perform what has been...

My dad’s advice was ‘write stuff’...

My dad died a few days before Christmas in 2005. And, boy, did he love to laugh. He also, as parents do, possessed profound insight into the lives of his children. When I graduated from college, I knew that I loved to write but had little idea about what type of career to pursue. But my dad did. He told me to go see the woman ran who our hometown York Weekly — guiding me directly into what has become a deeply fulfilling 30-year career in journalism. Yet another “light-bulb moment” from a man who used to bring home the bacon creating advertising campaigns in a Pittsburgh skyscraper with the firm Ketchum, MacLeod & Grove. Yes, my dad was an ad man like those guys on “Mad Men.” Over the years, I have thanked him in print for nudging me into the newspaper world — a field with limitless possibilities for creativity and personal discovery. June 1999, in this newspaper, I roasted him with a rollicking Father’s Day salute under the headline (borrowed again today): Father’s advice to son was “write stuff.” It began: “I’m in the newspaper business today thanks to the nurturing influence of a very wise gentleman. Nelson Mandela.” No secret that my ever-present impulse to blend humor and humanity comes from my dad — self-described “Depression baby” turned dashing young Air Force pilot, advertising exec, mid-life adventurer, small business co-creator — and from my mom. I am also joking when I say that his words of wisdom included: “Keep your eye on the ball to prevent ghastly facial injuries” and “Wait at least 30 minutes after eating lemon meringue pie before scuba diving for pirate treasure in the York River.” June 1991, in this newspaper,...

Ozzie Sweet: photographer...

One of the profound honors of working as a journalist is the privilege of peeking into the lives of fascinating human beings. Showing up with a pen and some paper. Sharing a conversation. Then telling their story. I spent about three hours with Ozzie Sweet at his home in York Harbor back in 2001. I had never heard of him, but I understood I would be meeting a man who, in addition to his legacy as a pioneering sports photographer, also created images from private moments shared with such 20th century icons as Grace Kelly, Jimmy Durante, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Albert Einstein. Ozzie was famous for putting his famous subjects at ease — getting them to relax so, in an age peopled with stiffly posed portraits, a true-life image would emerge. Now my job was to create a picture of him. A black and white. Made up of words. I was a little nervous. But, just as he did with his sports heroes and movie stars, Ozzie instantly put me at ease. He was old as hell even back then (almost 83), exuding the white-haired wisdom of an ancient master, but his spirit … seemed to me almost preternaturally youthful. His smile, ever-present, suggested a love of life and people. His eyes exuded warmth and invited intimacy. And though I was “working,” when Oscar Cowan Corbo started telling his story, I was enchanted — feeling a bit like an awestruck audience member at a real-life matinee. A certified dreamer born in 1918 and raised on a farm in New Russia, N.Y., he ran off to Hollywood as a young man. Charmed his way into a role in a movie starring John Wayne! Drafted into the military during World...

Hub fans bid curse adieu...

(Note: I’m blessed to be at Opening Day at Fenway today. I wrote this tribute to the 2004 World Champion Red Sox, and snapped this photo, on Opening Day 2005, as the Fenway faithful celebrated the team’s first championship since 1918.) By John Breneman Diamond rings the size of a baby’s fist. Fighter jets tearing across the sky and soldiers in wheelchairs rolling across the Fenway grass. A Red Sox championship banner billowing from the Green Monster. All of a sudden, 1918 doesn’t seem so long ago. Not when Johnny Pesky (circa 1942 Sox) is standing right there soaking it all in with Dom DiMaggio, Dewey and Yaz – and the rest of us 35,000 lucky stiffs, all crammed into this hallowed baseball artifact – the one John Updike called that “lyric little bandbox of a ballpark” – swept up in the emotion of a shared dream. Everything is new this spring. The 2004 Sox made history, choked the Yankees, broke the curse, swept the Cards and made grown men cry. World champs. And now the Yankees are back in town. Now that another New England winter has frozen the exhilarating memories of last October into Red Sox lore, it’s time to come out and play once more. But first we have a couple of small matters to attend to. You know, handing out gaudy chunks of etched white gold. Singing songs to honor the glory of Red Sox past and present. Unfurling gigantic World Series banners … in their smug Yankee faces. Or cheering like idiots when the announcer calls out “Mariano Rivera.” You didn’t have to be at the park to hear Fenway erupt with a standing O honoring the monster closer’s autumn misery. We were almost done saluting our...

Oyster poetry and raw pleasures at Row 34...

Just had one of those once-in-a-lifetime dining experiences. You know, the kind where one of your best friends from childhood is a lobsterman whose cousin is an amazing chef slash restaurant entrepreneur who happens to be opening a cool new oyster bar down in the section of town where new brick buildings have been springing up right and left? Row 34 is the sister restaurant of Row 34 in Boston, and brother is it good. Chef/co-owner Jeremy Sewall and his partners describe the original Row 34 as a “workingman’s oyster bar.” And co-owner Garrett Harker has been quoted as saying, “When we were digging out the foundation of the building, it was all oyster shells underneath.” The new one is an upscale, street-corner pearl nestled in Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s swanky new Hotel District. Shiny but not too fancy (fans of brushed stainless steel will love their rugged, construction worker condiment basket), it is an oysters and beer bar with ties to Island Creek Oysters (mission statement: “Grow the world’s finest oysters and have the best possible time doing it”). At the May 22 soft opening, we were invited to grab a pen and write some numbers into the circles next to the names of an array of raw bar delights. Amid the sensory overload that ensued – half-shelled delicacies, succulent shrimp cocktail and scallop ceviche – my taste buds raced ahead of my mind’s ability to remember the description of the mmmm-licious smoked salmon. Fresh-shucked mollusks from Duxbury and Great Bay made my companion’s first true oyster experience a memorable one. Love those Fat Dogs. Oysters have the most wonderful names, don’t they? Peeking at Row 34’s raw bar menu today, you find these verbal morsels – Rocky Nooks,...