Thursday, May 31, 2007

Everything I Consume: Baseball Before We Knew It

This book had some good stuff about how Abner Doubleday was credited with the invention of baseball-- apparantly it was a Theosophist Conspiracy--but I wasn't particularly interested in its exhaustive, and I mean exhaustive, history of the games that evolved into baseball. Useful if you want to start up a game of rounders or Old Two Cat.

Ducks up 2-0

Now it's on to Ottawa and let's win there!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bad Writing Meets Bad Baseball

Yankees fans are can't seem to grasp their birthright of losing in the playoffs each of the last six years dominating the planet is over. Enjoy some terrible writing from the Daily News and The New York Times.

Even if you're not a sports fan this writing has gone from bad to good to back to bad again.

Stanley Cup: 1 Down, 3 To Go

The Ducks won last night so they're only three games from my Fearless Prediction they would win the Stanley Cup.

I can't wait to embrace the hollow feeling when a team I've rooted for a month wins a championship.

Reading, Reading, Reading

I'm very anal about my reading. When we rejiggered the apartment for my son Owen's arrival one of the things I demanded was a shelf in the bedroom with a To Be Read pile. Every few days I fiddle with it and move a few books around or think about reading a book that's way in the back. Like most people's To Be Read pile it's larger than I'd like it to be and I'm always coming up with systems to whittle it down, if only to make my wife happy. It's also spread to another shelf. Last month, I was reading short books so I could finish off a higher quantity. This month I'm going with larger books to make more space.

I don't read the next book in my pile, that would be way too simple. I pick five books based on theme, what I've read recently or whatever crosses my mind and then find an order to read them. An important caveat is to include two books from the Hard Case Crime Club. Since these are pretty much the only books I buy retail (the rest are from Amazon Marketplace, and gifts) I feel an obligation to read them and sell or swap them as soon as possible.

I believe none of this makes me a crazy person.

Anyway, here are the next five books I'm reading and a brief explanation of why:

Baseball Before We Knew It by David Block. I've always been obsessed by the Abner Doubleday myth and this book is supposed to have the inside story.

Lucky At Cards by Lawrence Block. I suspect this book is going to suck and don't want it to lie on my shelf forever so I might as well get it over with.

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. My wife said it was amazing.

The Vengeful Virgin by Gil Brewer. The day I stop wanting to read books with titles like the The Vengeful Virgin drop me off at the mall and drive away.

The Shroud of the Thwacker by Chris Elliott. I like Chris Elliott.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Everything I Consume: The Peddler

If you know Richard Prather at all it is from his Shell Scott novels and stories written in the fifties and sixties. They're about a hepper-than-hep Hollywood private eye who you have the feeling the Rat Pack would have hired when they needed some help. Though mostly forgotten today they were enormously successful -- only Mickey Spillane and God outsold Prather in the fifties -- and still a lot of fun.

The Peddler is a Hard Case Crime Club re-release of an earlier non-Shell Scott Prather book from 1952. It's the story of a man's rise in the San Francisco prostitution racket. The tone is dark and the book is very dialog heavy. Like much of Hard Case, it's good but not great and enjoyable but a little unsatisfying. There is a great scene in the middle when a raid on a rival brothel goes bad and an ending curiously reminiscent of Out but I doubt it inspired Natsuo Kirino.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Subway Series

In honor of this weekend's Subway Series between the Mets and Yankees check out this podcast of Game 3 of the 1936 World Series. The quality is excellent.

Joe Torre, if you're reading, hope this helps.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thursday Morning

Woke up at 5:15 for my run and started week 6 of my Couch Potato to 5K Running Plan. I recommend it and it's easy to follow using this podcast. I tend to start too fast and burn out so the podcast has been a huge help. There's lots of cheesy dance music in the background but I've gotten kind of numb to that at this point.

Saw a lot of storm damage from last night and I'm sorry I didn't bring my camera. According to NY1 there were 70 MPH winds in Brooklyn Heights. My entire running route was littered with leaves and twigs. At one spot on the Brooklyn Promenade a 10-foot branch had fallen and a 15-footer was almost blocking the Clark Street entrance.

Later this morning I walked my daughter to pre-school and Eagle Eye Gwendolyn saw a snail on the ground. Eventually we found four! Check them out:

I think this guy was dead.

I scared him back into his very nice shell.

You can see the head on this one!

Gwendolyn was all excited to tell her teacher, Zoe, about the snails. Zoe told me she'd been telling the class to look for snails but no one had seen any yet.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Makin' It Better: Advertising

As I fast forwarded through the commericals on Veronica Mars last night, my wife and I mocked the poor suckers who have to wade through the commericals every week. It takes them an hour to watch an hour-long show! However, the numbers of these poor suckers is rapidly dwindling and this has produced a real or perceived crisis in the world of advertising. Increasingly, television networks are turning to older solutions like having single-sponsors of the evening news (I can't wait for Prilosec to bring us the next terrorist attack or presidential assassination) or product placement. On a recent Office a paper baler was the featured product and as soon as I can figure out how to child-proof one I'm definitely getting one for my warehouse.

But anyway, I was listening to an old Burns & Allen show on my iPod when I came across a novel solution in the person of Bill Goodwin. Now we all know about George Burns and if you know anything about comedy you know Gracie Allen but Bill Goodwin is forgotten. I suspect he wasn't very famous in the thirties and forties. Goodwin was the show's announcer and part of his job was the commercials. But he wouldn't just read the commericals, it was his dialogue. He was a character on the show and would turn any conversation into an excuse to talk about the virtues of Swan Soap or Maxwell House coffee. It was a running gag. Here is some sample dialogue to show you what I'm talking about:

Tootsie: Bill why do you like her (Veronica Lake)?
Bill: I tell ya, Tootsie whenever I think of a lake I think of a swan. And Swan is the new floating white soap, purer than the finest Castille. A regular sudsing whiz.

Gracie: What about Mad Man Muntz?
Bill: No, besides he's not mad any more.
Gracie: Why?
Bill: I told him about Maxwell House coffee. (Bill goes on to extoll the virtues of Maxwell House)

Maybe we need that today. Why not have Mac bust out in the virtues of Apple Computers whenever Veronica Mars asks her for help. Hell, most Mac users do that already. Or on Scrubs J.D. could date a pharmacist who tells the doctors about the latest from Pfizer every week. "A breath of fresh air, J.D.? For patients suffering from COPD Spiriva is real breath of fresh air!"

Sports Night? Sports Not!

I had a brief chance to watch some sports last night and it was a total washout. The Mets were getting schnickerdoodled, the Yankees were rained out and the basketball and hockey games were blowouts. Monday night was a classic with Delgado's walk-off walk and Vince Carter dribbling the ball off his freaking foot. I switched between channels so much my HD jammed up and I had to watch in regular D like I was Henry Hill at the end of Goodfellas.

I'm sticking with my prediction the Ducks will win it all despite the 1-2 hole.

And let's try and use "schnickerdoodled" more. I'm hoping to get in on SportsCenter by August.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

That's What She Said Day

Probably won't be posting today because Tuesday is a That's What She Said Day. TWSS is Matt Summer and Ian Casselbury's podcast about NBC's The Office. It's an hour plus of commentary, sound clips of the show including deleted scenes and everything you might possibly wonder about what the Office cast is up to. With the season about to end this is your next-to-last chance to catch it for the year.

If you have any interest in The Office you have to check this podcast out.

See you on the other side.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Everything I Consume: Charlie Chan in London

Sometimes, I pass the time wondering which fictional detective I'd want to clear me of murder if it ever came to that. I'm down to a final four of Miss Marple, Columbo, Perry Mason and Charlie Chan.

I love Charlie Chan. I mean, I can see how some people might find a Swede spouting pidgen English while pretending to be Chinese offensive but I love the guy. I don't think he's ever in a fist fight or uses a gun but he seems absolutely fearless. He's classy but sarcastic and also a good dad. Of course, he's a brilliant detective. I kind of think I'm the Charlie Chan of of direct mail production artists.

For Christmas last year my mother-in-law got me Volumes 1 & 2 of the new Fox DVD box set. I told her I'd rather just get Vol. 2 -- the ones with Keye Luke as Number 1 Son -- but she insisted I had to start at the beginning.

The plot of Charlie Chan in London is the hardy perennial of an English country house where one of the guests has committed murder most foul. There's lots of interviews, eavesdropping and sneaking around in the dark. I enjoyed it even if it took me three viewings to see the entire 79 minutes of the movie. It's tough to find movie time with two kids and a wife who thinks Charlie Chan movies "all suck".

Charlie Chan in London was released in 1934 and starts Warner Oland. One of the supporting actors, the male romantic lead actually, is Ray Milland who we pretend is best known for The Lost Weekend but is really most famous for The Thing With Two Heads. He also starred in X, The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (with the underrated Don Rickles) and Panic in Year Zero (with Frankie Avalon who I feel who gets the proper amount of recognition).

Dubious Wikipedia Entries #1

Ed. Note: I've been going through my old, furtive attepts at blogs and found this doozy. I'm sure fans of Rosebud Henri Withmustard will remember it well.

From the entry for 19th century heavyweight champion Gentleman Jim Corbett.

Corbett's great, great, great, nephew was a Texas heavyweight from San Antonio named Dan Corbett who won an amateur national title at Ft. Bragg and two pro titles (USBF & IBO) before retiring in the mid 1990's. Dan Corbett left the sport with a 12-0 record (11 KO's) despite enjoying the beginning of an incredibly successful & lucrative career. At his retirement, Dan Corbett stated it was time to get out of boxing while his brains were still intact. Many boxing historians viewed Dan Corbett at the time as the answer to the Jerry Quarry's of the 1970's, the Gerry Cooney's of the 1980's, and the Tommy Morrison's of the early 1990's who failed to capture the heavyweight title. Many boxing experts felt that Dan Corbett retired at a time when he could have defeated the likes of Mike Tyson and Evandor Hoyfield and become the first "Billion-Dollar" heavyweight champion in the boxing history.

Emphasis added.

Yeah, Dan Corbett would have beaten Evandor Hoyfield but Evander Holyfield would have kicked his ass. Anyway, I guess "many" is San Antonio slang for "myself".

Upon further review the above has turned out to be an archived page. This is the current entry.

Corbett is the subject of Gentleman Jim, a personal favorite and one of the finest boxing films ever made. I have fond memories of watching it late one night on TV with my brother when we were both kids.

Don't Get Me Started

Molly Shannon hosted Saturday Night Live this weekend and brought her finest recurring character, Jeannie Darcy. Jeannie is a gloriously unfunny stand-up comic who tells jokes with utter joylessness. She performs with the enthusiasm of a civil service worker on the cusp of retirement. She always wears a mullet, clothes from 1987 and performs in front of a brick wall. In one sketch workers brought in a brick wall for her performance at an old-age home. Molly Shannon only started doing Jeannie Darcy late in her SNL career so there are only a few appearences before she quit the show for tv guest appearences, movie cameos and colorless best friend roles.

Here's a link for people who think Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is funnier than Molly Shannon.

Don't get me started. Don't even get me started.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Haven't They Ever Seen Goodfellas?

Why does everyone use the same art for this story? It's like the Grammys. Scarlett Johansson just gets her claws in and there's no hope.

Everything I Consume: The Manchurian Candidate

For the first hundred pages or so of this book I felt it belonged to the subgroup of books that are inferior to their movies. However, it picked up markedly once Marco comes back into the story. By the end I was totally engrossed even though I had seen the movie many times and knew the ending. Author Richard Condon has a weakness for five-dollar words when none are needed like in the opening paragraph:

It was sunny in San Francisco; a fabulous condition. Raymond Shaw was not unaware of the beauty outside the hotel window, across from a mansion on the top of a hill, but he clutched the telephone like an osculatorium and did not allow himself to think about what lay beyond that instant: in a saloon someplace, in a different bed or anywhere.

Osculatorium is medieval Latin for a tablet that is clutched during Mass. Medievel Latin! I don't know why we care about Raymond Shaw so much. In the original film I'd say it was the acting on Laurence Harvey but this sympathy comes through in the book as well. He even provokes sympathy in his Chinese captors who take pity on him every time they force him to kill someone.

Finally, an issue with the cover. The Manchurian Candidate is not a film with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep. It is a film with Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury.

My Time is Very Valuable

Hi everybody! I'm not from Hollywood, my time is very valuable and I'm not here to fuck your mouth.