Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hitting The Wall (E)

Saw WallE today. Amazing piece of work. Absolutely gorgeous-the most realistic animated film I've ever seen. Story very good-not quite as good as the Incredibles, really, but good. An unbelievable film experience. As usual, the short in the beginning is incredibly funny as well. Probably the most enjoyment I've ever gotten from a G rated film.

In Houston, Boston took a 9-6 lead into the seventh, and then a 9-8 lead into the eighth, before giving both leads back and falling to the Astros, 11-10. Metropolitan District Commission was the culprit. I tend not to worry about a game like this-after all, you can't win them all. And teams tend to have at least one weakness, I suppose. But one thinks a championship worthy team would be able to protect a 3 run lead.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Winner winner chicken dinner

Boston scored two in the ninth, and Pap shut them down in the bottom of the ninth for win #50, 6-1.

Global Thermonuclear War

Currently watching "WarGames" on AMC.

Many things are better naked, but salad?

I have never really had much of a problem with Windows Vista. Maybe I’m just a weirdo.

I am about to finish the “new” James Bond novel, “Devil May Care”. It is very good, very reminiscent of the Fleming books. It is set in the 1960s, after the events of the Fleming books, and it has all the touches-the brand names, the monologuing villain near the end, the maniacal evildoer bent on vengeance, the latent sexism-all of it. I first read the Fleming novels as a teenager, and loved them, and so I relished this one thoroughly.

I also got the second of Jeffrey Shaara’s World War II trilogy, “The Steel Tide”, and I will probably polish that off before the weekend is up.

I love the History Book Club!

On my favorite podcast segment, “Johnny, Are You Worried Yet?”, Bill Simmons and his buddy Jack O are talking about the insanity of the unbalanced schedule. That’s an excellent point. I don’t cotton to whining about the schedule-“we didn’t win because we had to play x while they got to play y”-but there are much, much more sensible ways to set up a schedule. First of all, they really have to balance the leagues-6 5 team divisions. Second, you really have to play your own division a lot. I can see playing the other divisions once each-maybe a 3 game set, home and home, and then the rest inside your own division. That way every team would get the Red Sox and Yankees once a year, and Boston, the New Yorks, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Philadelphia, could open the year playing the LAs, Seattle, Arizona, Atlanta, and Houston, so we wouldn’t have the absurd snow games when we try to play in the Northeast in early April. There isn’t a perfect system-LA would lose some summer home games-but the current system is at least as insane.

They also brought up a possible split between New York’s sports radio team, Mike and the Mad Dog. That would be a shame, because for all the bluster, they make some entertaining radio. I really appreciate a sports show that can show some respect for the past. Reminds me of a recent Sportscenter, where they began a Yankees highlight by showing Yogi Berra, and noting drily “Yogi Berra-did not play, coach’s decision.”

Bill Simmons also raises an excellent point-to very little fanfare, the World Champion Celtics were a team on which every single significant player-the top ten-were African-American. It is interesting that it happened, it is interesting that it happened in a city like Boston, with its troubled racial history, and it is most interesting, and pleasantly so, that no one thought about it, really, at all.

New York Times’ “The Ethicist” is a consistently brilliant podcast. It is intriguing, and challenging, and always potent food for thought.

For reasons I don’t, and really don’t need to, understand, I have to work in a different location tonight. Since I almost got fired from a job for not doing this, and since people did, in fact, pitch in for me when I was in need, I don’t really mind. It’s actually going to make for an easier night for me, although there are projects to be done in my regular place that I could have been finishing instead. Ah well.

They reduced Coco Crisp’s suspension for the Great Devil Ray Fracas to five games, and apparently he starts serving it tomorrow. I still think that’s too much, and not just because it puts my boys down a man for five games. First of all, he got called out-they all but told him, after the supposed hard slide, (in, IIRC, a 4 run game) that he was going down. Then, when he gets plunked the next day, how’s he supposed to react? Yes, you can’t let him charge the mound, but five is still too harsh.

“WallE” comes out today. I will be sure to go see it, because I am positive it will be brilliant. I will feel a teensy bit silly, because my only child is quite above the Pixar target demographic. Studio 360 had on the Sound Designer from Wall E this week.

Their next feature is about the new Batman film, which I will certainly see. I have always been drawn to the darkness of the Batman stories, and I have enjoyed, to some degree, all of the modern films. (Though, like James Bond fans with Connery, you have to give it up for Michael Keaton, who was extraordinary.) Christian Bale, like Daniel Craig as Bond, is fine, but the original is still the best.

My brother bought a number of Batman novels and comics back in the day, and I used to guiltily devour them. Not exactly Pushkin. But neither is James Bond.

Dan Carlin (brilliant, as is disappointed in Obama for dropping public financing. Personally, I agree with him-I wish Obama could run a publicly financed race, based on differences on the issues. In 2008, after living through 2004 and 2000, he can’t do that. The need to expel Bush/Cheney/McCain supercedes any dreams of a better world.

In Houston, Boston currently leads, 4-0, in the 8th.

Whoops. Almost before I finished typing that, Reggie Abercrombie homered to left and Miguel Tejada singled, bringing on Papelbon to face Lance Berkman with two out in the 8th. Tricky territory. Pap can get a four out save, but they're not easy.

I wonder what's wrong with Okajima? He's been giving up runs nearly every time out? Since he doesn't blow guys away, his game is based on deception and timing, and maybe the league is figuring him out.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

I had a thought about my brother this morning as I drove in to work. If I had his life, I’d do drugs too.

My brother never really fit. The youngest of three, he tried college, but it never really took. He came home with a girlfriend who was not entirely well, had a baby with her, and has been working at more or less dead end, manual labor jobs ever since.

Now, I fully admit he’s made some lousy choices.

But part of his story makes me guilty. Is there something I could have done or said to put him on a different path?

And part of it makes me angry. There just isn’t room in our society for people like him any more-room for people who aren’t the sharpest crayon in the box, but want to give you 8 hours work for a decent paycheck?

Maybe I’m romanticizing it. Maybe he’s a lousy employee. Maybe he’s a lazy good for nothing. I don’t know-as an adult, I really don’t know him.

It just seems deeply wrong to me that a single, stupid mistake, or a couple of them, can be this life changing. Is it possible that we doom people to a life of senseless toil because of one error? Is it fair? Is it just?

Half of my brain says, “Yeah, so what? That’s what it is. Shut up and grab your helmet.” Then the other half says, “No. Life can’t be this hard. It just CANT be.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Game 81: Knuckled

As of tonight, the Boston Red Sox have reached the halfway point of the regular season. After today, there are fewer games to play than have been played. Boston stands at 49-32 after shutting out Arizona in the series finale. Tim Wakefield threw 7 innings of 2 hit baseball, and Boston managed two runs off of Randy Johnson. The pitchers' combined age was the largest combined age of two starting pitchers since Satchel Paige faced Bill Monbouquette in 1965.

Always cool to have a Satchel Paige reference.

My brother is in deep trouble. Serious, real, big time, going to go away trouble. This has my family distraught, obviously. I know, intellectually, he's sick. But that doesn't make it any easier to take.



The display from umpire Brian Runge in last night's Mariners-Mets game was shameful.

Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran was bitching about a called strike. (He was right, according to the replay, by the by.) This is something that happens pretty regularly in baseball. The accepted etiquette is that the hitter (or catcher, if the argument is the opposite kind) may make a mild beef, as long as he doesn't turn his head or in any way indicate to the crowd that he is unhappy.

Runge decides he urgently needs to dust off home plate at this moment, thus giving him a chance to take off his mask and berate Beltran. Beltran, who, along with David Wright, is probably arguably the only major league hitter on the New York Mets at this time, continues bitching, which he admittedly shouldn't have done. But I can understand him being a little peeved. Umpires arent supposed to argue with players.

The Mets' manager, Jerry Manuel, comes out when he sees that Beltran is still arguing, tries to intervene and prevent his star outfielder from being tossed. Runge BUMPS Manuel and then ejects him, then throws out Beltran for good measure.

This is shameful. Managers and players get long suspensions for bumping umpires, as well they should. One hundred and ten years ago, umpires would be physically assaulted, at times, if their calls went unappreciated.

There is no excuse for an umpire arguing with a player, and there is especially no excuse for an umpire bumping a player, when the player has no recourse and the umpire knows it.

Runge lost control of the situation, and if the umpires' union and MLB have any integrity, he will be disciplined for it.

And Runge, whose father and GRANDFATHER were MLB umpires, should have known better.

And you thought YOU had a bad day...

Old friend Bronson Arroyo, against Toronto yesterday:

First inning:
M Scutaro reached on infield single to second. 0 0
J Inglett walked, M Scutaro to second. 0 0
A Rios singled to left, M Scutaro to third, J Inglett to second. 0 0
V Wells struck out swinging. 0 0
M Stairs hit sacrifice fly to left, M Scutaro scored. 0 1
S Rolen homered to center, J Inglett and A Rios scored. 0 4
L Overbay doubled to right. 0 4
G Zaun homered to right, L Overbay scored. 0 6
A Lind singled to center. 0 6
M Scutaro singled to center, A Lind to second. 0 6
J Inglett grounded into fielder's choice to third, M Scutaro out at second.
Second inning:
A Rios homered to left. 1 7
V Wells reached on infield single to third. 1 7
M Stairs doubled to deep right center, V Wells scored. 1 8
M Stairs to third on wild pitch by B Arroyo. 1 8
S Rolen doubled to left, M Stairs scored. 1 9
G Majewski relieved B Arroyo. 1 9
L Overbay singled to center, S Rolen to third. 1 9
G Zaun fouled out to catcher. 1 9
A Lind singled to left center, S Rolen scored, L Overbay to second. 1 10
M Scutaro singled to left center, L Overbay to third, A Lind to second. 1 10
J Inglett grounded out to first, L Overbay scored, A Lind to third, M Scutaro to second. 1 11
A Rios struck out looking.

1 inning pitched, 11 hits allowed, 10 runs allowed.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Back In Black (Game 80)

Charlie Black, McCain aide, says that terrorist attacks on America give McCain a “big advantage”. Nice. Do these people have no shame whatsoever? Seriously.

If this were an Obama advisor, there would be screaming from every editorial page, and vehement calls for him to withdraw from the race. Typical double standard. If John McCain has any decency left, he fires Black. Tomorrow.

How is it that the people who claim to be oh so very serious about terrorism talk about it so cavalierly?

Monica Crowley, a conservative writer who obviously can’t be bothered to check facts, apparently said that Obama’s half brother claimed to the Jerusalem Post that Obama is a Muslim. Problem is, well, he didn’t. He was interviewed on Israeli radio, and never said anything of the kind. But why should facts get in the way?

I don’t think I directly addressed it here, and God knows you all have been dying to hear what I think, but Curt Schilling underwent shoulder surgery and is out for the season, and quite possibly done forever. That brings up an interesting question-Is Curt Schilling a Hall of Famer?

Baseball types can get into a tizzy about stuff like this, but I, though a baseball type, typically don’t get too excited about it. Like many baseball fans, I have my own personal list of eligible players that I feel belong in the Hall, not always for the most rational of reasons. That would include Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris, Jim Rice, and Andre Dawson, off the top of my head.

Assuming for the moment that Schilling is done, he enters Hall eligibility at approximately the same time as a bunch of others-Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine. By many measures, Schilling is the worst pitcher in this group-fewer seasons, fewer wins, fewer strikeouts, etc.

The things arguing in Schilling’s favor are his two World Series wins, and especially the heroic/hagiographic 2004 postseason, when he pitched critical wins against the Yankees and Cardinals on one leg, with the now legendary blood leaking through the sock. The Hall is what the Hall says it is, as Bill James points out, so it’s hard to talk much about it without winding yourself in circles.

The Hall does say specifically that a single event or achievement is not criteria for admission. But Schilling’s somewhat thin resume, combined with his postseason dominance and the bloody sock game, to my mind, puts him in.

In Boston, the deeply slumping Captain Jason Varitek came up with an RBI single in the 4 run 8th to key a 5-4 win.

Monday, June 23, 2008

DeFanged (Game 79)

Very interesting interview with Lawrence Lessig on this week’s “Sound Opinions”, talking about copyright as it relates to music. Some artists and labels get it-Metallica got me to preorder their album by giving me access to archived performances that were only gathering dust anyway. The others? Well, the term “creative destruction” comes to mind.

My wife is pretty damn funny. I was concentrating at work , and didn’t see her walk up to me. She threw a package of prophylactics in front of me, and in a high, cartoonish voice, asked, “Excuse me, sir, can you tell me if these are any good?” I turned to answer, only to see it was her, and busted a gut laughing about it.

The Red Sox are on TV, today and Wednesday, against the NL West leading, reeling Arizona Fang Boys. I, of course, will miss most of both games. I suck.

I got home in time to see Boston load the bases in the 8th, trailing 2-0. We got one run home on a Drew sacrifice, and a Manny rocket with two out and two on that Fang Boy third baseman Mark Reynolds gloved. Oh, grumble grumble grumble. 3 up three down in the 9th, and its over-so game 79 is an L.

Apparently the Democrats rolled over on telecom immunity. That's sad, but not atypical.

The one thing I've never seen about that is why this is necessary. Defenders always say, "Well, the government needs to wiretap in order to prevent terrorism."

No one ever advocates the government not wiretapping. All we ask is that you go to a judge and follow the law. Why is that so hard?

RIP George Carlin

I just learned from Twitter that comedian George Carlin had passed away.

While not my favorite comedian, he was clearly a genius of the form, and I, like many people, probably wouldn't have the same sense of humor without him. His influence is legendary and his opinions and perspective will be missed.

He was truly an original.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Game 78: That's brisk, baby.

After two quick rabbit punches, we got back on the winning track today. After Pap blew a 9th inning save, Kevin Youkilis stroked a homer in the 13th to seal a 5-3 win.

Lester pitched well, as did Okajima, but blowing a save is never a good thing.

Stuck in a moment....

On “To The Best of our Knowledge” this week, there was a story about the rituals the 16 year old Amish go through. It has a name, but I can’t even imagine how to spell it. They send these kids, who have barely, if at all, seen television, movies, or the Internet, into the world to do what they will. The kicker is, most of them come back to the church, supposedly. They do point out that it is a little bit of a stacked deck-with no marketable skills, there isn’t that much they can do outside of the community. But still-to experience the hedonism of the modern world at 16-when you’re most willing to partake in it and least able to throttle back your own desires-and voluntarily step away from it? Wow.

Thinking about it a little more, though-the Amish life has its pluses. I can see the appeal of belonging to a group that needs you, needs your skills and talents to contribute to the world. Can the Amish read novels, though? I would think not. That would be a deal breaker.

A second TTBOOK is on atheism. Pound for pound, this might be the most consistently informing, interesting, listenable podcast I have.

My IPod is starting to make disturbing noises. I hope not, but I earnestly suspect that it is not long for this world. I haven’t looked, but I am fairly positive it is outside of its warranty. I bought the Applecare extended warranty, but I’m pretty sure even that has run out.

Richard Dawkins, of course, is on the program, and typically terrific. Controversial, stimulating, and brilliant. You may not agree with him, but you can’t ignore him.

Alistair Dawkins is his interlocutor, and he is also charming and intelligent. I tend towards Dawkins, instinctively, and his notion that there isn’t anything really transcendent -just a few things science hasn’t learned yet.

I have been behind on podcasts, pretty much since I got out of the hospital. Now I’m finally caught up, so it’s music for the rest of the day.

“This Land Is Your Land”(Live), Bruce Springsteen

Next to “Born in the USA” as one of the most misunderstood songs ever. Not a hymn to American greatness, but instead a bitter complaint about rampant consumerism and corporatism. This version is actually from “Live 1975-85”, which was my first exposure to Bruce other than the songs from “Born in the USA” and “Born To Run”.

“Invisible Touch” (Live), Genesis

Another band whose back catalog I didn’t learn until long after the height of their powers. The first Genesis song I remember clearly is “Land of Confusion”, because of that remarkable video with the caricature puppets.

Maybe that’s not right. I think I have to have heard “No Reply At All” on the radio back then, too. If that is a Genesis song. Does anybody else have trouble remembering which songs are Genesis and which are Phil Collins? Other than the obvious ones, like “Susudio” and “Against All Odds”.

“Against All Odds” has a very clear memory for me, watching a girl I liked slow dancing with someone else. 8th grade, new town. Middle School cafeteria.
Probably spring, though I can’t be totally sure. It was 25 odd years ago. And boy, were they ever odd.

I don’t have that trouble with Don Henley and the Eagles, though. I guess because Don Henley had a lot fewer really memorable songs. “End Of The Innocence” and “New York Minute”, really, and that’s it.

“Harvester of Sorrow”(Live), Metallica.

Probably, if you held a gun to my head, my very favorite Metallica song. That and “Frayed Ends of Sanity”.

“Only Living Boy In New York”, Simon and Garfunkel

They kind of have a Led Zeppelin problem-their hits are so enormously huge that you tend to forget how many other very good songs they have.

“Limelight”, Rush

“Each another’s audience/outside the gilded cage”

Other people are just playing bit parts in the movie of your life. Of course, you’re just playing bit parts in theirs.

Get me rewrite!

“Masters of War”(Live), Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready

A harrowing reading of a song that, at the time it (this version) was recorded (mid 1990s) , we had no idea how prescient it would be. Of course, the original was relevant, too. Just a bit.

“For threatening my babies/
Unborn and unnamed/
You aint worth the blood/
That runs in your veins.”

“Shoot Me Again”, Metallica
“Sound of Silence”(Live), Paul Simon

A guy I am definitely ashamed to say I’ve never seen in concert. I am positive I would love it, as I know his material really well.

“Wonderwall”, Oasis

A group I never really understood the appeal of. They were always supposed to be so unbelievably fantastic, but they never did much in this country. As if we’re the arbiter of world taste or something.
Good song, though.

I only bought this after Noel Gallagher (or the other one, I don’t remember) appeared on all those documentaries I was watching on VH1 for a while. In all the disappointment over their not being the Next Big Thing, I kind of forgot how good they were. Kind of a so-overrated-that-they’re underrated thing. Like Kobe Bryant. Or sex.

“ I Can’t Tell You Why”(Live), The Eagles

I can actually sing this song and sound pretty good. Doesn’t say much for Timothy B. Schmidt.

Something just occurred to me. If I put my Ipod on “Mike’s Playlist”, it will shuffle within my actual music, and not skip into my Henry Rollins or Lewis Black audiobooks. Sweet.

“Bleeding Me” (Live), Metallica

The source of my single favorite Metallica line, “I am the beast that feeds the beast.” Aren’t we, though? Aren’t we, on some level, the cause of at least some of what ails us?

From “S+M”, their album with the San Francisco Symphony, which was a phenomenal way to present their music.

Tastykakes has another limited edition flavor, Pancake- butter flavored filling, and maple syrup flavored icing. Life isn’t fair.

I am the beast that feeds the beast.

For those of you who aren’t Philadelphians, Tastykakes are a local snack cake company. Think Twinkies, but a little less artificial tasting, and with demonic people thinking of new flavors to tempt you with.

Though it’s not like anybody forced me to buy them.

“Finding My Way”, Rush

From Rush’s very early days, when they still thought they were a heavy metal band. Actually sounds almost Skynyrdish in places.

“Imitation of Life”, REM

From “Vancouver Rehearsal Tapes”, an ITunes creation that is something I’ve been crying about for years. If you’ve got stuff like this laying about, why not let ITunes sell it to the fanboys?

“Stardust”, Billie Holliday

Some singers need no explanation, introduction, or interference by me.

“Auctioneer(Another Engine)”, REM

They had a gift for titles, didn’t they?

“Nobody’s Child”, Traveling Wilburys

Possibly the greatest single amount of musical talent in one room in the history of man.

Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Roy Orbison.

Not bad.

OK, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Maybe.

“Get Back”(Live), Paul McCartney
“It’s Your World Now”, The Eagles
“Before My Eyes”(Live) , Tesla

For a while, my favorite album by my favorite band. There was a time, long ago, when everybody in my social circle championed a favorite band. It went unspoken, but you were expected to know nearly everything about them, have all their albums, including bootlegs, and just generally be a know it all. There was the Judas Priest guy, the Iron Maiden guy, the Metallica guy. I was the Tesla guy.

“Michelle”, The Beatles

“C’est les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble.”

“Man”, Elton John
“Break On Through” (Live), The Doors
“A Poem on the Underground Wall”, Simon and Garfunkel

“River of Dreams”, Billy Joel

A really good song, that is bordering on “sick of it” territory. Like “Piano Man” or “Just The Way You Are” or “We Didn’t Start The Fire”, a hit song by my favorite artist that I hear so often that I’m actually sick of it.

“Where I Want To Be”, Chess
“The Memory Remains”, Metallica
“Kiss The Bride”, Elton John

I’ve said it before. There is a story in me, and this song is somehow involved.

“Happy Jack”, The Who
“Boat Drinks”, Jimmy Buffett
“Seven Bridges Road”(Live), The Eagles
“Miami 2017(Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)” (Live), Billy Joel

Criminally underrated song. I always thought it would have been a great song to play on the Concert for New York, a nice angry song, wistful, but powerful. But “New York State of Mind” was the obvious choice.

“Hoodoo Man”(Live), Eric Clapton
“Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”, Johnny Cash
“Hey Joe”(Live), Jimi Hendrix

Breaks my heart to think what he could have done if he lived longer.

“Ultraviolet(Light My Way)”, U2

Hey what’s with (all these parentheses in song titles)?

“Burn Down The Mission”, Elton John

The studio version is way inferior to any live version, for some reason.

“Sick Again,” Led Zeppelin
“Am I Evil?”(Live), Metallica
“That Would Be Something” (Live), Paul McCartney
“Welcome to the Jungle”, Guns N Roses

Easy to forget what a shock to the system this song was when it came out. Guns N Roses was everything your parents told you was bad about rock n roll, only more so.

I still remember a Spin magazine caption about Axl that began, “Reeking of sex, drugs, and unspeakable acts…”

“Soul Kitchen”(Live), The Doors
“Let It Be”(Live), Paul McCartney

Reminds me of the Sesame Street parody with a group of Beetles singing “Letter B”.

“Let Me Share The Ride”(Live), The Black Crowes
“Better Than You”, Metallica
“Wilbury Twist”, Traveling Wilburys
“Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”(Live), Billy Joel

I probably have 6 or seven versions of this song, and I love every dadblamed one. The best one I no longer have, though, a cassette taping of the Leningrad concert where the saxophone solo was absolutely blazing.

“Storm Front”(Live), Billy Joel
“The Long Run”, The Eagles
“Achilles’ Last Stand”, Led Zeppelin

I remember reading somewhere that it took Jimmy Page months to get the overdubs on this song right.

“Heart’s Done Time”, Aerosmith

I still remember listening to this album, fresh off store shelves, with my friend Jim. Reading the liner notes obsessively. I’m pretty sure this was the first song on the first side, though, of course, that concept is increasingly irrelevant.

“Low Man’s Lyric”, Metallica
“Peaceful Easy Feeling,” The Eagles

This song always reminds me of one particular woman, who I had a crush on in college. Huge Eagles fan. Never got anywhere with her, though. Nicole, her name was.

“Emotional Rescue”, The Rolling Stones
“Crazy Mary”(Live), Pearl Jam

“That which you fear the most/
Could meet you halfway…”

“Down By The Seaside”, Led Zeppelin

A pretty un-Led Zeppelin song. I always used to surprise my Mom with that song. “You know who sings that? Led Zeppelin.” My Mom pretty much gave up on pop music when the Beatles broke up.