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,...

John Breneman portfolio page...

My career in communications dates back to high school when my first article for the York High newspaper, a whimsical piece about wombats, prompted my classmates on the production team to name our paper The Wombat Weekly. After securing a bachelor’s degree in philosophy up the road at Colby College, it was time to get to work. I knew I loved to write but had little clue about what career to pursue. But my dad knew. He nudged me to the newsroom of our hometown York (Maine) Weekly – opening the door on a deeply fulfilling life in print and electronic journalism. When my career path led me across the Piscataqua River to the Portsmouth Herald in late 1988, I was almost immediately sent out to Pease Air Force Base to cover the press conference where we learned the shocking news that Pease would close. My consistently outstanding work in Portsmouth created an opportunity in Cambridge, Mass., as the editor of the Cambridge Chronicle. Highlights of my time there include meeting the amazing Miss Ruth Jones on her 100th birthday, covering the exploits of Bill Walsh, a city councilor who went on the lam after being indicted for bank fraud, and crafting the award-winning 150th anniversary edition of the Chronicle. I returned to the Portsmouth Herald as Sunday editor in 1998. And when I reflect on the coverage we did in the aftermath of 9/11, I still feel a solemn sense of pride. I was not scheduled to be in the newsroom on Sept. 11, 2001, but when I got there our city editor asked me to write this essay to lead the next day’s front page. Boston beckoned once more in 2005, when I began a seven-year stint...

Remembering Gramma Jo

Editor’s Note: My grandmother died on Thanksgiving Day 2004 at age 94. She was feisty and funny and sweet. Below is a piece I wrote for her on her 90th birthday. By John Breneman This is about a few things — a million-dollar baseball card, a 64-cent pocket watch and a $1.75 rocking chair, as seen in the 1909 Sears Roebuck catalog. But mostly it’s about my grandmother. She’ll be 90 on Tuesday, but you could easily mistake her for a lot younger. She made me lunch the other day, and I think I was more impressed than she with the nifty birthday card she received from the White House. She was born in 1910, so I’ve always had that date in my head. William Howard Taft was president. Good man, Taft. Huge man. He weighed 325 pounds during his White House days, maybe even more by the time he made chief justice of the Supreme Court. On April 14, 1910, Taft was the first president to throw out the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game. Well back in those days, there was no finer ballplayer than Honus Wagner, the future Hall of Fame shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Honus had won seven of his eight batting titles by that time and his Pirates were the defending world champs, having beaten Ty Cobb’s Detroit Tigers in a seven-game series the previous October. (Purely by coincidence, a friend recently gave me a 1909 Sears Roebuck & Co. catalog. So I thought I’d sprinkle in an occasional reference to what things cost back then. For example: baseballs started at 5 cents, bats a dime, mitts at 18 cents for a boy’s). Anyway, I guess when little Josephine Findora Hooper...

Slick-fielding feline robs A-Rod by a whisker...

  Amazing! I just learned that my cat, Elwood, played center field for the Tigers back in 2007. Here he is robbing Alex Rodriguez of a game-winning home run in a 2-1 win over the Yankees.  (AP PHOTO)   Share   Related story: Hub fans bid curse adieu More graphic design by Triple Action...

The Heineken Maneuver

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42 thoughts about lists

Welcome to the Information Age, aka the Internet Age — where the information on the Internet is served up in bite-sized nuggets with provocatively formulaic headlines for you to click on. Yes, along with countless modern advancements, efficiencies and pleasures, few could deny that the Digital Revolution has also given rise to the Golden Age of Lists. In fact, a recent survey revealed that “lists” now make up somewhere between 11 and 85 percent of all “content” on the Internet. You literally can’t miss this tsunami of lists: 7 Baby Elephant Videos That’ll Make You Want to Be a Better Person. 15 Signs Your Cat May Be Obsessed with Kim Kardashian. 11 Ways to Spice Up Your Sex Life (No. 9: Jalapeno what?!?). Why lists? Leading Internet experts theorize that we humans have evolved shorter spans to help us cope with the extraordinary amount of useful and useless information that now bombards our brains nearly every minute of every day. Never in the history of human consciousness has there been so much information chopped up and dished out in lists. 10 Top Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Fingerprint. 14 Ancient Cultures That Worshipped Chrysanthemums. 8 Hilarious Videos of Morons Getting Roughed Up by Wild Animals. To advance my understanding of this super-hot Internet trend of presenting everything in lists, I started making a list of these lists. 18 Signs That You’re a Child Trapped in a Grown-Up’s Body. 54 Outrageous Facts About the Sex Lives of Animals. 21 Reasons Plants Are More Pleasant Than People. And then things got a little out of control. Afflicted as I am with adult onset satire, my mind began to involuntarily churn out pretend list headlines that struck me as comical for one...