Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Baseball Is A Wonderful Thing

Going to Tuesday's Bat For BAT (Baseball Assistance Team) benefit dinner was a dream for a Mets fan. The organization's objective is to aid those members of the "baseball family" most in need. They were celebrating 50 years of the Mets.
That's Ed Kranpool with the mic.

It's all about timing and luck. That's me talking about getting Sandy Koufax's autograph, not a player talking about winning a World Series. I was standing at the table and had just gotten Ron Swoboda and Ed Kranpool's autographs, when Sandy Koufax sat down at the end of the table. I handed him my ball and he signed it. Any player will tell you it's all about the timing.

Loved talking to the Glider, Ed Charles. He was the Mets third baseball in '69. We talked about how wonderful that team was and how it was all about pitching and defense. He also told me how much he loved Joan Payson. How many players can say they love their owner? He's a regular at Citi Field.

I seemed to have had a few culinary conversations last night. Keith Hernandez and I talked about Armand's Restaurant and Rusty Staub described the transportation to and from Shea in the 80's, which was the meat van that was used for his restaurant. Players who wanted a ride to Shea met at the restaurant at a designated time. If a player was late, he was on his own to get to the stadium. After about two years of traveling in the "meat van", Le Grand Orange bought a new van with a TV.

Other highlights were talking to Steve Garvey, Jim Palmer, Davey Johnson, Tim Teufel and seeing Randy Myers in a camouflage sports jacket.

Photos courtesy of Al Sartorius

Friday, January 20, 2012

Etta James R.I.P.

Etta James died from leukemia. Best known for the song At Last, James was 73 years old.

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The New Goo Goo Dolls

Daniel and the Scandals are from outside of Brighton England. Their first single, I Love You (There You Go I Said It) is reminiscent of The Goo Dolls: great hook, lots of jangly guitars and pop vocals with a touch of rasp. I listened to the song before watching the video.

After watching the video, the song became much more of pop song and reminded me more of a song by PoP, the Hugh Grant fronted band in Music and Lyrics.

Who says visuals don't alter the audio?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Has Bruce Been Listening To New Order?

Maybe I'm crazy, but listening to Springsteen's latest We Take Care of Our Own, I kept hearing the chorus of New Order's Love Vigilantes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Say No To Congress and Put An End To SOPA

Google, Craigslist,, Wordpress, Wikipedia, Peter Gabriel, Reddit and have been blacked out to protest the censorship bill known as SOPA. Google as have other sites, make it easy. Click on their blacked out logo and it leads to a petition to sign. I did it. I've also written many times to my lawmakers, even though the senators from New York were endorsing the bill.

A few months ago, it looked like the entertainment moguls had this one in their pocket. The web and people like us have fought back. It looks like our President has reconsidered, as have others in Congress. They could revisit it and I'm sure they will, but what looked insurmountable could now be a reality.

A Modern Marriage Plot

College wasn’t like the real world. In the real world people dropped names based on their renown. In college, people dropped names based on their obscurity.

That sums up my college years. I graduated a year after the characters in this book. Instead of dropping the names of obscure authors as they do (probably my only criticism of the book), we were citing bands like Protex and The Beat. To further that, Jeffrey Eugenides doesn’t mention much music, but when he does it’s obscure: there was a guy wearing a Plasmatics T-shirt.

The marriage plot was the framework for the novels of Jane Austen and writers of her time. In most cases it would involve a very smart woman, usually too smart for most men, a love interest who maybe all wrong for the character although he/she is in love with that person, madness, the search for spirituality and some family secret that changes a person(s).

Eugenides hits the mark on his modern Marriage Plot. In this case the heroine is actually Mitchell. He’s the one with the most sense, whose heart is longing for Madeleine. She of course is in love with Leonard, the womanizing member of her semiotics class. Leonard has a past that haunts him. Jane would be proud.

The Marriage Plot is a joy as it’s so well written. I don’t know first hand what it’s like to deal with a manic-depressive person but Eugenides uses language that put me in the head and heart of his character.

The solitude was extreme because it wasn’t physical. It was extreme because you felt it while in the company of the person you loved. It was extreme because it was in your head, that most solitary of places.

After reading that I felt a sense of isolation and the struggle of swimming against the tide. The author gets you there. Authors of most of the current fiction I have been reading do not take the time to develop their characters. Plots are lacking and novels are more situation driven. I was thrilled that this book did not go there.

As much as I wanted to shake some sense into Madeleine at times, Leonard is not a complete bad guy. In an interview with Leonard Lopate, Eugenides said originally Leonard Bankhead was the bad boy and then he started sympathizing with him.

It’s amazing to me how well Eugenides got the early 80’s college experience so right. There is a lot of searching and a lot of questioning. For me there was a lot more music, good friends and trips off campus also.

As in a good marriage plot, his characters flirt, fall in love, are in denial and then there’s a revelation. That’s why I liked them so much.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Adele Has A Soul Half-Sister

The production is pulling from those wonderful records by British singers such as Dusty Springfield, Lulu, Petula Clark and Sandie Shaw. Aside: What great names! Interestingly, there wasn't much crossover use of producers for these musicians. The one thing the singers did have in common is recording a Bacharach/David song. Who could resist?

Jessie Baylin's new record Little Spark comes out next week. It will play right alongside Adele. The songs are solid, great vocals and the production as I said lends itself to 1960's pop-soul. Jessie is not British. She's originally from NJ and now makes her home in Nashville (Could Jessie in Memphis be next?). It was produced by Kevin Augunas.

According to Record of the Day, Jessie negotiated her way out of her Verve contract (From my experience in working with them, it was probably a career saving move. They can be a great label, but not for a singer-songwriter.) and made this record with an inheritance from her grandmother. Her label's name, Blonde Rat Records is a tribute to her grandmother. It was her nickname.

The first single Hurry Hurry is so darn catchy. You'll be humming it.

The title track's music invokes the open road. It's the perfect soundtrack for a long drive. Mix that with Guster's Jesus On The Radio and Glenn Campbell's Gentle On My Mind and you are cruising.

A line per track:
I Feel That Too is country tinted.
Love Is Wasted On Lovers has the sway of Hot Fun In the Summertime.
Star Cannon is the closest to a Dusty record.
Dancer is the most upbeat song on the collection.

The album is nicely paced and easy to listen to. It isn't a rock out record, but you could listen to it anywhere and turn it up loud.

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Abbey Goes To War

The much anticipated return of Downton Abbey brought along the tides of war. When we last left off, Lord Grantham had announced at a family party that war had been declared. The show fast forwards 2 years. Most of the players are now immersed in helping England's cause.

As stated in last night's episode, life at Downton Abbey will never be the same again. To exemplify this, there is a mixing of the commoners with the anointed. Edith has taken to farm life. She and her sister Mary are still at odds, but Edith finally has something to occupy her time. I would not have guessed it would be riding a tractor (or the married farmer). Commandeering a tractor has not squelched her dubious side.

Matriarch Violet is still as saucy as ever. She has great banter with Sir Richard, Mary's suitor. She seems to be softening to Isobel, Matthew's mother and distant relative. Isobel is currently one of my favorite characters. You can't underestimate her. She sees a problem and knows how to fix it. She voices her opinion whether it will be popular or not. Who else could convince Lord Grantham to turn the Abbey into a convalescence home for returning soldiers?

We finally meet Mr. Bates wife. The evil looking/thinking Vera. He served time in jail for a crime she committed. He is now serving a life sentence with Vera, which leaves poor Anna without her man. Anna is strong, but unfortunately has to ward off the insipid Molesley.

I'm going out on a limb here to say that Mary and Matthew will be equally hurt by their perspective love interests. It's plain to the audience that they love each other, but Mary's stubbornness may have cost the relationship (for the time being). Both Lavinia (Matthew's fiancee) and Sir Richard have something up their sleeves. Is there no way that Sir Richard, being a shady newspaper man (think 1917's Rupert Murdoch), doesn't have knowledge of her one night with the Turk? These yet-to-be-revealed mysteries will bring Matthew and Mary together.

Have some fun and take a poll on what you think of each character. Just move the character's head to the liked or loathed position.

Here's how I voted:
Favorite dis in the show: When Carson is told they have a visitor and it's Thomas he replies "I've seen him." He doesn't even glace at Thomas and goes about his work.

Favorite Wuthering Heights-like line: Sir Richard in his reasoning as to why he is proposing to Mary, "Because I think very highly of you." Ouch.

Favorite observation on the episode: It comes from the Guardian (don't snoop too much on UK sites or it will spoil it).
The Countess of Grantham's shriek says it all: "Thomas? The footman? Managing Downton Abbey?" The family seat is turned into a convalescent home as Thomas reinvents himself as a sort of first world war male version of Kerry Weaver in ER (complete with "sexual outsider" back story and physical disability).

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Quote of the Week

I've long believed that piracy is largely a business model problem not a human behavior problem.

-Fred Wilson

I couldn't have put it better. Fred was complaining that he couldn't get Knicks games on Time Warner Cable as it no longer provides the MSG network. He gives TWC plenty of money for their services and it's not like he's getting rid of his cable. Cable got rid of the Knicks. Can't watch the Knicks through the NBA's pass as they block out New York. In his frustration, he tweeted. He immediately got back replies on where to watch it. He became a reluctant pirate, hence the above quote. If you give consumers what they want and price it fairly, they will pay.

If you're on Twitter, here's his hashtag #screwcable