Friday, September 28, 2007

Baseball Finals: Day 4

9 Wins 1 Loss

Thursday's heroes were David Ortiz who went 4 for 4 with a homer and Brett Myers who got a big save. Does it bother me I'm capitalizing on the Mets' bad fortunes with a wifebeater to win a pennant? A little, but David Ortiz seems like a good guy.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Everything I Consume: Platypus: The Extraordinary Story of How a Curious Creature Baffled the World

A few weeks ago I was at the Museum of Natural History gift shop with Gwendolyn. I told her I wanted to get something for myself and she agreed that I needed something, too. We went up the stairs to the grown-up section of the gift shop and she picked this book by Ann Moyal. It was a good choice.

I'm a big fan of books that take an in-depth look at one thing and through that shows you so much more about the world. Two of my favorites are Calendar by David Duncan and Cod by Mark Kurlansky. I think everyone should read those books. Seriously, read them now! Dava Sobel's Longitude was pretty good, too. Platypus is a notch below those but it's still a good book.

After the platypus was discovered first seen by white people in 1799 it caused a huge dilemma into exactly what it was. A mammal? A reptile? A bird? Did it lay eggs? Could its young nurse? And if so, why didn't it have nipples? And how do you nurse with such a large bill?
(I've tried it, it's not easy.) This all happened in the great age of scientific classification when Linnaeus and others were trying to classify all animals and decide where they fit in the Great Chain Of Being. The platypus challenged scientists belief in a neat, orderly animal kingdom and they struggled to classify it. Later, on his worldwide voyage Charles Darwin (maybe you've heard of him) saw a platypus and it greatly influenced him. Ironically, these debates were taking place among Europeans thousands of miles away and not Australians. The role of Australians was mainly to kill many, many, platypuses and send them back to England.

Baseball Finals: Day 3

Manny's Grill are up 10-0-0! Yesterday's heroes were Mike Lowell with 5 RBI and B.J. Upton who went 2 for 3 with a steal.

One more good day and I can pour fantasy champagne and tear up my imaginary stadium.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Baseball Finals: Day 2

ESPN seems to be a bit funked up so no scoring update but last night was a good one for the boys thanks to two Prince Fielder homers (keep stickin' it to your old man, Prince) and wins from Schilling and Burnett. More info as it becomes available, fans.

The Safari is Over

Back in 2003 I worked for a really, shitty company and our IT support was I guy I'll call Crazy Chris. He was such an Apple apologist that the day after it was released he told someone we'd soon be switching to Safari! I don't think he'd even used it yet. He was also convinced that everyone in the company was on LimeWire and that was what was causing all our computer problems. Moron.

Anyway, today was the day I finally gave up on Safari. Maybe I should have done it when I realized I had to do my banking in Firefox or maybe I should have done it when I realized Safari couldn't display my fantasy football team right but I'm doing it today because all that stuff in Blogger actually works in Firefox. I thought it was just decoration or an early beta test! I can spell check! I can add links,

block quotes
  • and lists!
In honor of the occasion I've written a short rap:

I'm off Safari
Like a mapinguary
Cause I got my ass kicked
like Jerry Quarry

I love Firefox
This motherflipper rocks
like bagels and lox.
So gimme a schmear,
that'll last all year
My new browser is here!

I promise I'll never do that again.

Everything I Consume: Trapped in a Closet, Chapters 1–12

…and the midget faints again…

What can possibly said about Trapped in the Closet that hasn't been said before? It's like finding something new to say about the Bible or Pulp Fiction. I've been trying to write this post since the weekend and it's the hardest one I've ever done.

So, I'll just say I love this gloriously over-the-top movie/video/hip-hopera or whatever you want to call it.

There's some controversy over whether this is intentionally crazy or so bad it's good but I have to go with intentionally crazy. R.Kelly just took his ideas and ran with them. Of course it's ridiculous but that's all right.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Baseball Finals: Day 1

3 Wins 0 Losses 7 Ties

Not a lot of action but a modest lead thanks to a fine day from Prince Fielder. I think I caught a break from A.J. Burnett skipping his Yankee start for "personal reasons" to go against Baltimore. Six days to go.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Everything I Consume: A Deadly Shade of Gold

This is classic John D. MacDonald. Our hero, Travis McGee, sleeps with three women, gets shot twice and there are about a dozen corpses. In between detective work and gunplay there's a lot of philosophizing and critical observations of American culture, circa 1965. Travis is every man's fantasy; he's great with the ladies and a gun, more sharp than smart, doesn't take crap from anyone and lives on a houseboat. He sleeps with women but never takes advantage of them. Here's a good description of McGee from an article by Doug Bassett: "McGee is an odd duck, no doubt about it – to use Ed Gorman’s memorable phrase, he was 'a Rotarian’s fantasy of the Cool Guy.' And at his worst, mostly in the early books, he’s quite contrived, an odd bundle of Fifties morality paired with Sixties ratpack 'coolness.' "

I like MacDonald but his writing and plots are often too complicated for my taste. He's definitely a link between the spare style and shorter books of early hardboiled writers like Chandler, Hammett and Ross MacDonald and the more modern style with more characterization and longer stories of writers like Robert Parker and Robert Crais.

One of my favorite parts of the book, and something that tells you a lot about the kind of writer MacDonald is, is when he Travis asks his lady friend if she is Catholic. She give a page-long response about how she had faith as a child and it meant so much to her but lost it when her brother died young, and now she clings to it as nostalgic link to her past. It turns out he wants her to ask the priest a few questions about some people they're looking for. Here's how a few other writers would handle the situation.

Arthur Conan Doyle: "A papist such as yourself should have no trouble asking the priest a few questions"
"I…I will do it , Mr. Holmes," Nora said bravely.
"Holmes, how did you know the woman was a Catholic?"
"It is simple Watson, the vast majority of Italians are Catholic, I merely took an educated guess and was proven correct."

Mickey Spillane: "Listen, Padre, the last time I saw my friend he was lying in a pool of gore in a motel room. Are you gonna tell me what I want to know?"

Dashiell Hammett: "Luckily, Nora was Catholic and after hearing too much of her life story agreed to talk to the priest. She found out plenty."

Ross MacDonald: Lew Archer would just ask the priest himself who would answer all his questions and tell Archer the entire backstory.

Baseball Playoffs: Round 1 Roundup

Well, the Bayonne Bombers made it close but I managed to win the week 6-4 thanks to a 2-1 edge in saves and a 34-33 lead in runs. My batting average lead dwindled to .299-.292, that's about four hits either way. It can be that close. Now it's on to the finals where I'm playing Eric's New York Superbas squad. I feel confident because I saw Eric on Saturday and he didn't even know he was in the playoffs.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

OTR Live Blog

I've always wanted to do one of those live blog so I thought I'd live blog the old time radio I'm listening to today.
11:18: The Fat Man. "Muder Wins The Draw" I've never been a big fan of this show. It was based on a character created by Dashiell Hammett and I think all he did was come up with the name. Anyway, this is literally the third OTR detective show I heard in the past six months that starts with an unknown woman approaching the hero in public and pretending she knows him so she can escape some bad guys.
11:42: The Fat Man. The Fat Man was sponsored by Pepto-Bismol.
11:46: The Fat Man. A thumbs down to The Fat Man. Not that interesting or colorful. This episode was filled with Central Americans with cringe-inducing accents. I'm going to give this show a pass from here on. I wish the OTR podcasts had more Broadway Is My Beat. That's a great old show with some great writing. Of course if I wasn't so lazy I could just go here.
12:01: You Are There. "Columbus Discovers America". What could be better than an epsiode of You Are there? "All things are as they were then except for one thing — when CBS is there, you are there." Major historical events as if they were covered by radio. Last week they played the assasination of Lincoln and the suspense was so great during Our American Cousin I could barely listen to it. After the radio shows there was a TV version with Walter Cronkite and I must have been the only eight-year old who watched it. It's October 12, 1492 and Don Hollenbeck is in London…
12:48: You Are There. Wow, one of the reasons Columbus was looking for the Indies was to gain treasure to fund another crusade to liberate Jerusalem. That's depressing.
1:08: You Are There. Great sound effects on this show. I really feel like I'm listening to a storm on a ship while on The Fat Man I just felt like I was listening to a radio show.
1:21: You Are There. I like how this show captured the misconceptions of their times uncritically. Americo Vespucci just gave his reaction that Columbus has found"the legendary island of Japan" right in front of Cahtay where people eat on gold plates and walk on gold floors. The episode on the first voyage of the Tom Thumb was great for goofy theories on speed and the future of railroads.
1:45: You Are There. Wow. Excellent work by John Daly covering the actual landing in St. Sebastian. This guy would have been a great actor if he hadn't of been a reporter. I feel the confusion and sense of wonder of a live news event and the experience of the unknown. Who are these people we're meeting? Why don't they speak the languages we think they'll speak? Where are their horses? Great stuff. As always, the broacast fades out in mid-report and the announcer says, "October 12, 1492. Columbus discovers America." with all the reverb allowable by law.
2:34: Space Patrol. "Captain Hacket's Planetoid". Don't know anything about this show but it seems the voice of the Lost In Space robot is the announcer.
2:42: Space Patrol. I guess there are gruff but lovable prospectors in the future. This is a kids show and kids shows sucked in 1954.
2:47: Space Patrol. The narrator just said the action was taking place at a small "Space Hotel" on Saturn 6. I don't know if the have Space Room Service or Space Mints on the Space Pillow.3:05: Space Patrol. Ha Ha. The bad guy (Prince Baccarratti) stole Space Patrol's space ship.
3:10: Space Patrol. Well, it's over. Lots of ads for Quik and a "cosmic rocket launcher". This show is just a cosmic rocket launcher delivery device.
3:25: That Hammer Guy. "The Fenton Case". I don't know if I have the wherewithal and perpicasity to live blog another show (I have work, y'know) but I need to point out this show is sponsored by Kix cereal, Camel cigarettes and Esquire magazine.
3:33: That Hammer Guy. Another dead body found in a hotel room.
3:38: That Hammer Guy. Another murder. The count is two murders and a flesh wound to Mike Hammer. And we're off to a cereal commercial.
4:08: That Hammer Guy. The drunk woman giving Hammer information loves the song "Sophisticated Lady". That's ironic!
4:20: That Hammer Guy. The killer gets killed herself. OK, I'm OTR'd out. That'll do it for today. Hope you had fun.

Baseball Playoff: Day 3

Up 6-3-1.
Another banner day for Matt Holliday (2/3, 2 HRs) who is looking like a latter-day Goose Goslin or Reggie Jackson for his post-season heroics.

Today is an off day for a few of my guys so I picked up James Loney to give me some one-day pop. I'm tied in HR and only up by one in RBI. I could really use a save tonight to tie that category and cut into John's enormous lead in ERA and WHIP.

Time will tell if I stand the test of time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Baseball Playoff: Day 2

The head wearing the crown is lying a little easier today. Manny's Grill is beating Bayonne 7-2-1. If not for a foolish decison to start John Maine (one that like Willie Randolph, I shan't make again) I'd be running the table. My boys are hitting a freakish .465 over the last two days led by Matt Holliday's (late-season trade) 8/10 and Garret Anderson's (Free Agent pickup for the playoffs) 6/7.

Things are going my way on the other side of field. Ben Sheets got hurt after one inning and Vlad Guerrero is slumping. I'm starting to feel it.

No starters going tonight. I'm hoping for some relief pitching to give me the save lead and trim down my 6.10 ERA and 1.65 WHIP. We must destroy our enemies on all fronts.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Baseball Playoff Update

The baseball playoffs are here. Not the real-life baseball playoffs but the League of Fun 07 playoffs. It started so long ago, when my team name, Manny's Grill, was topical gag. Now I hardly remember the joke. My team has dominated the regular season. We've won nine straight weeks, took our division by 15 games, lead the league in four categories and came in second in two others. I drafted Hanley Ramirez and David Ortiz. I picked up Russell Martin, Brandon Phillips and John Maine off the waiver wire. But I fear it's all going to fall apart. Like my beloved Brooklyn Cyclones I've gotten close many times but never won it all. In 2001 I had a team so good I was in ESPN's top 25. Then you-know-what-happened, then Phil Garner benched Roger Cedeno and finally I got out coached in the finals.

I didn't even get a t-shirt.

But I feel this could be my year (fingers crossed, fingers crossed). My first playoff opponent is the Bayonne Bombers owned by my buddy John O'Hara. John once beat me for a fantasy football title on a defensive touchdown with 91 seconds to play IN THE SEASON! His Bombers are led by Jimmy Rollins, Vlad Guerrero, Carlos Lee, Ben Sheets and Roger Clemens. But my secret weapon may be that I don't think John is still changing his lineup. They have an early 5-4-1 lead but there's a lot of ball to be played. Right?

I never understood paranoia or Watergate until the first time I was in first-place in a fantasy league. Now, everyone was gunning for me and I had so much to lose. Success, it is a curse.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Everything I Consume: Il Tabarro (The Cloak)

This was quite a treat. A staging of a Puccini opera on a ship docked in Brooklyn with the New York skyline in the background.

Any date night with The Wife is special but this was a unique experience. How can you resist opera in your neighborhood on a barge? I can't. To get to the opera we strolled over to the entrance of American Stevedore's dock on Van Brunt Street. From there, we had to pass through a corridor of shipping containers to the dock. While waiting for the show to start we enjoyed a Steve's Key Lime Pies, the same pies we had for our Red Hook wedding. It's not an event in Brooklyn without Steve's pies. The Wife got a glass of wine and was stuck behind a woman who insisted on tasting all the wines. Tasting the wine, at an event! Anyway, it was a beautiful sunset and we sat and watched the skyline and the boats in the harbor.

Before the opera started there were lots of people in costume walking around, singing and talking to the crowd. The opera as written is set in 1910 on a barge on the Seine but this production was staged in 1940s Red Hook. Most of the action and the orchestra was on the ship itself and the audience sat on the dock in folding chairs.

I'm not expert enough to judge the opera (this was my second) but I enjoyed it and could follow the story since I read the plot summary in the program before. One thing I like about the two operas I've seen is is it just ends. The last person dies, there's a moment of grief and that's it. I hate stuff that just lingers on and on after the story is over.

It was a great night. We need more opera on barges and more dates with The Wife!

Here's an article about the opera from the Daily News.

Everything I Consume: Blades of Glory

I won't lie to you, I fell asleep about twenty minutes into this one and never woke up. If I had to rank Blade related items I would place it behind Blades of Steel, Mach 3 razor blades and Blade Runner but ahead of the Toledo Blade and the movie Blade.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Everything I Consume: Slayground

I had to read this one fast and finished it in two days but it was a doozy. Donald Westlake (here writing as Richard Stark) never disappoints. This book is part of his series about the master thief, Parker. In Slayground, Parker is in a heist gone bad and must flee into closed for the winter amusement park where he is pursued by mobsters and corrupt cops. That's all you need for a great book. Brilliant killing machine trapped in an amusement park, it writes itself! I liked that this this book got straight into the action. Only a few pages are spent on the robbery and blown escape before Parker is trapped in the park.

Westlake's great at writing description. This book has long passages where Parker explores the amusement park, thinks about his situation or gets into fights and it's always easy to see what Westlake is trying to show and is never dull. You always feel the cold. I think this is about the toughest kind of writing and it always impresses me.

Parker is not the main character's real name and the action takes place in a fictional, never identified city. This gives the story a feeling it could be happening someplace we know, just not quite here. I wish more writers used fictional locations, I think they can make books more interesting than spewing out information to get the feel of an actual location. That was another problem with my book so maybe that's why I like Donald Westlake so much, he has the solution for all my problems.

An interesting sidelight is the opening chapter was recycled for another Stark/Westlake book called The Blackbird. In it we find out what happens to Grofield, another member of Parker's gang involved in the heist. Grofield is also the main character in Lemons Never Lie, a Westlake recently republished by Hard Case.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

From the 23rd Street Post Office

That's a dedicated Netflix slot! When I was in high school, if I had suggested something like this (as if anyone in 1983 could have comprehended DVDs, the web and reliable postal service) my teachers would have said it was wrong to use public resources for the good of a single corporation. Now it seems like a great idea as long as I get my Trapped in a Closet and Disney Princess videos faster.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I Am Reading Three Books

In one of the many iterations of The Odd Couple Oscar Madison tells the story of Felix Unger introducing himself by saying, "I have two colds."

Only slightly less annoying is the fact that I am reading three books at the same time. I've been reading Steve Coll's Ghost Wars, an excellent account of the Afghan Wars from the seventies to September 10, 2001. It's a great book but very long so I've been taking breaks to read other things. Partially for myself and partially so I can keep up the insatiable demand for Everything I Consume posts. What's with you people?

Anyway,That's when I started John D. MacDonald's A Deadly Shade of Gold. This is a fun read. I never seek out John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee books but I always enjoy them when I stumble onto them. I was about four chapters in when I got an e-mail saying my copy of Donald Westlake's Slayground had sold on Amazon. This was great news except I'd never read Slayground. I had posted it on Amazon for $13.99 and was astonished when it sold so fast or at all. But I really wanted to read Slayground (Donald Westlake is one of the three people I consider America's greatest living author) so I had to put down the MacDonald and am now trying to read the Westlake as fast as I can.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Curious Book Tale

Here's an interesting self-publishing story from my man, Fender Tucker. Fender runs Ramble House, publishers of Harry Stephen Keeler and loads of other great out-of-print authors. Every once in awhile, I get the Ramble House Rambler, a newsletter about Fender and his company. The story below is from today's Rambler:

I was browsing the web the other day when I found a site listing all of the extraneous things one of my favorite authors, Philip Jose Farmer, has written. Essays, articles, introductions, etc. One of them was an afterword for the 13th Doc Savage Omnibus from Bantam, published in the 70s. I was interested and had the book -- indeed, I have all 181 of the Bantam Doc Savages -- so I got it down from my shelf and read the afterword. Farmer says the final Doc Savage novel, UP FROM THE EARTH's CENTER, is especially good and I'd never read it so I started to.

So far so good, but I found that the book, which is in pristine shape, has the text printed deep into the gutter and I knew that before I finished the story I would have probably cracked the spine a little. Dammit! The book sells for $50 - $100 on eBay and I hated to make it less "valuable" by simply reading it. I was also having trouble with the small font that Bantam used. Double dammit! I'm getting old.

So I did what any normal Ramble House Grand Exalted Mojo would do and checked to see if I had the text in a file on my computer. I did! Luckily I had downloaded all the Doc Savage ZIP files from the site of Black Mask before Bantam sued the hell out the guy who ran it and made him take all the Doc Savage texts down. All I had to do was unZIP the file, paste all the text into WORD and format it for Ramble House. That took about a half hour. Then I printed the PDF out and bound it (fifteen minutes) and was able to enjoy the story in a large font in a book with a wide gutter that I didn't have to treat like a $50 book.

The moral to my story is that once you become a Grand Exalted Mojo at Ramble House, it may be cheaper and easier (at least on the eyes) to MAKE a book than it is to get in my car and go out and buy it. Or even order the book online and wait for it to come in the mail. Or maybe the moral is that the big publishers ought not to print so deep into the gutter so that merely reading a book all but destroys it. Whatever, I can assure you that Ramble House always uses a one inch margin in the gutter so that you don't have to bend the books unnaturally to read the text.

Now this was a special case. I had the text already ZIPped in WORD format. If I hadn't, I would have had to scan the book and OCR it and the scanning probably would have been more damaging to the book than reading it. But more and more texts
of great old books are available online from and other places. Maybe one of these days the copyright laws will become less insane and even the texts of great old books of the 30s and 40s will become available online.

I used to consider people who needed large-print books as wimps but time has a way of making wimps out of all of us -- see Congress and the White House for examples of this -- and I sure do enjoy a book more when I don't have to squint. Don't you? If there are any Ramble House books you want in a large print format, let me know and I'll format and make them available from Lulu. Warning: because Lulu charges by the page, a large-print book will cost about 20% more than a regular book. I should probably charge for the time it takes me to do the reformatting, but I do that all day anyway, so it's no big deal.

Fender is so cool.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Everything I Consume: The Bronx Is Burning

About twenty-five years ago my father was a writer and editor for Penthouse magazine. One of his fellow writers was Reggie Jackson who wrote a column about cars. Well, Reggie didn't actually write the column, he would call in every few weeks and talk about whatever car was on his mind and one of the editors would "translate it into English" as my Dad would say.

My Dad and his fellow editors hated Reggie. They mocked him and his column endlessly and some of his descriptions of cars became catch phrases. My favorite was, "opulent but concise". One day, one of the editors called up Reggie to talk about his column and asked how he was. "Great," Reggie said. "I hit a home run last night." This was hilarious to my Dad and his friends. Reggie was like a little kid! Reggie was a show off! Reggie's self-worth was caught up in a child's game! And bear in mind, my Dad, rest in piece and a wonderful man, was a huge baseball fan. "I hit a home run last night." Who talks like that?

Well, you know what? None of those people ever hit a major league home run.

This was a great mini series and I recommend it to everyone even if you're not a baseball fan or a Yankees fan or read the excellent book it's based on. I put up with Oliver Platt and John Turturro for a summer and so can you. Daniel Sunjata was opulent but concise as Reggie Jackson.