Monday, September 29, 2008

Goodbye Shea

Shea Stadium closed yesterday (in horrific fashion) but I have lots of great memories of the place. Dwight Gooden striking out 16 Giants, the group trip in high school on Flip-Flop Night (those were good shoes), a Jets game where I was so high up I was scared, heckling Sid Fernandez's abysmal hustle at a 1986 doubleheader and a glorious come-from-behind win from 1984 that was the best time I've ever had at a ballpark. Good times. I also remember the Dodgers winning a big game with a late home run and watching an entire game through a freezing misty rain to see John Rocker get a save. Anyway, here's a story from Deadspin's Shea memories page:

Bat Day. We were at a packed Friday night game in the late '80s, in just about the worst possible seats — upper deck, all the way out by the left field foul pole. The section was filled mostly with after-work drunks, but a few rows in front of us was a family, and in the first inning this little girl, maybe five or six years old, stands up and holds over her head a tiny piece of notebook paper on which she's written "Go Darryl!" or something like that. It was cute, but also kind of comical because the seats were about three miles from home plate and there was no way Darryl could have seen this sign without a telescope. So there's some laughter behind her, and then this one guy, just as a joke for his buddies, shouts "Down in front!" — as if this little girl and her miniature sign were obstructing his view of the action. But the girl hears him. She turns around, and cringes, and sits back down. The whole section starts unloading on this guy, which just makes it worse, because the little girl thinks they're booing her. Her dad puts his arm around her and says something, whereupon she bursts into tears. The abuse of this guy increases by a factor of about ten. Then a chant starts building in the section, and it takes me a minute to figure out what they're saying: "BUY HER SOMETHING! BUY HER SOMETHING!" So the guy leaves his seat, and an inning or two later he reappears behind the box where the family is sitting and taps the little girl on the shoulder. She turns around and with great ceremony he hands her one of those gigantic inflatable bats, probably twice as tall as she is. Her face totally lights up, we see her mouth the words "thank you," and the whole section just explodes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Everything I Consume: Tropic Thunder

Many years ago there was a great show on PBS called Sneak Previews. There were two movie critics talking about movies and it was really good. The knew their shit and loved talking about it. The two guys were a little annoying on their own and didn't seem to like each other but boy, did they have chemistry together. Like Astaire and Rogers or Lemmon and Matthau or one part hydrogen and two parts oxygen. Of course, I'm talking about Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.

They did the show for a long time and became famous. The name changed to At The Movies and moved to commercial television. Everyone in the world knew what "Two Thumbs Up" meant. They taught a lot of people, like me and my brother, about movies and gave time to everything from My Dinner with Andre to Friday the 13th. They really cared. When the last Star Wars movie came out Roger Ebert watched two days in a row from the same seat, once in in digital video, once in film to judge how the special effects looked. When the re-edited the ending of Jade before it was released, Roger went to see it again.

My favorite memory was the Worst Movies of 1995 episode. That was a year I saw a lot of movies. Gene Siskel picked Jade as the absolute worst movie of 1995, a choice I totally agreed with. When it was Roger's turn he said, "Just for the record Jade was my worst movie too but Gene won the coin toss and I had to pick something else."

The show was frequently imitated but nobody came close. Still, it was always nice to hear two people who loved movies talking about them even if one of them was Rex Reed. At the Movies lasted for about twenty years until Gene Siskel got sick and died.

He is buried in the white suit from Saturday Night Fever. Really, look it up on his Wikipedia page.

Roger Ebert continued the show with a variety of hosts before settling on a decent guy called Richard Roeper. It wasn't bad. But Roger got sick a few years ago and even though he's healthy he can't talk any more. He's still going strong. They tried some guest critics but the people in charge of the show decided to chuck Roeper and try something new.

The new At the Movies has five critics who spend about five seconds apiece telling you whether you should "See It", "Wait for the DVD" or "Skip It". Here's a math problem, if two people you've never heard of tell you see a movie, two people you never heard of tell you to rent the DVD and one person you've never heard of tell you to skip it what do you do?

The only person I recognized in Ben Mankiewicz from TCM who is supposed to be the snarky kid but comes off as a burned-out art director who will never get the promotion to head creative and realized it years ago but is too lazy to quit. Sadly, At the Movies now just reminds me of the political shoutfests that have destroyed American democracy. There's no depth and no kids are going to learn anything about movies, or anything, watching this show.

Anyway, Tropic Thunder was great and everyone should see it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Some Unfortunate Recent Old-Time Radio

I've had a bit of a bad luck streak on my old-time radio podcasts.

The other morning I was out running and listened to a show about a husband who needed money for an operation on his wife. There is only one doctor who can perform the operation. He hooks up with a burglar and they rob a safe. They are interrupted by the homeowner and have to kill him. The husband escapes blame for the murder and has the money for the operation but it turns out the guy he killed…was the only doctor who could perform the operation! The irony!

The I listened to a show about the first trip to the moon, you know in 2000. On the way back everyone is happy except for the wise, old ship's doctor (what is is with ship's doctors?). It seems he was alive in 1945 and saw the first atomic explosion and the craters on the moon look exactly like the crater from the first A-Bomb! (This is not true. Crater from the Trinity test. Moon crater.) He theorizes that there was a civilization on the moon but it was destroyed by an atomic war that left all those craters and burned up all the atmosphere. The rest of the crew begs to differ but the matter is soon settled because just as they are about to land on Earth there is an atomic war that leaves Moon-esque craters and then burns up all the atmosphere.

I'm serious, that was the story.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thanks for the Qualifier

From an article on San Diego Charger RB LaDainian Tomlinson:

This is the guy you picked #1 in the draft. He starts every week, no matter what (unless he's on bye or is out).
I dunno, he is a heck of a football player, he may rise to the occasion.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


As I often say, God Bless Football! Not only do we get football but we get fantasy football, videogame football and the endlessly fascinating NFL TV Distribution Maps website. This year they've upgraded to Google Maps which are a bit poky right now but are still endlessly fascinating. Why is San Diego getting Kansas City at New England while the rest of the west is getting Jets at Miami? Is Los Angeles getting the Saints game because of Reggie Bush? And when did Brian Billick start announcing games. Who knows? It's all about the question not the answer.

You also get a forum with post comments like "On another note, the last time Cincinnati got the Bills on FOX was Week #3 of 2003 vs Philadelphia." and "What game did Cincinnati get in Week 7 of 2003 at 4:15, CHI-SEA or TB-SF, since it wasn't WSH-BUF?"

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Everything I Consume: No Country For Old Men

If I were David Spade I'd say I liked this movie better when they set it in Minnesota and called it Fargo.

Really, that's all I got. This was well-acted and looked fantastic but it was pretty soulless. These lifetime achievemnt Best Picture winners (The Departed, Return of the King)just remind me that all the best people are working in television these days.

Monday, September 1, 2008

In New York Even the Racists are Politically Correct

One morning recently a man got on my subway train and asked if anyone could spare some change and he'd especially like to get money from "some Asians." As he made his way through the train he said, "Asians never give me a damn thing."

Nice guy.