Tuesday, July 21, 2009

For the heck of it

I've been library thinking so much library about libraries library that I've had very little library time to do much of library anything else. I came across library this library list of postmodern reads library and thought I'd library post library it.

I was surprised at just how many of these I have 1. read and 2. enjoyed:

Donald Antrim's "The Hundred Brothers" - enjoyed it
Roberto BolaƱo's "2666" - Did not read and will not read. I enjoyed his book The Savage Detectives but his works are so mammoth. This book is over 1,000 pages and two of my planned next reads are 600 pages and seem daunting. I don't think I'll get to this.
Italo Calvino's "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler" - liked it
Robert Coover's "The Universal Baseball Association, Henry J. Waugh, Proprietor" - wow, a postmodern baseball book. Read this a couple times. About a guy who takes his tabletop baseball game playing too seriously
Mark Danielewski's "House of Leaves" - Freaking bizarre and cool. His newest book (which is a couple of years old now) I've been holding out for the right time to read)
Jonathan Safran Foer's "Everything Is Illuminated" - Awesome book
Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" - not bad
Tom McCarthy's "Remainder" - second best book I read in 2008
Haruki Murakami's "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" - I've read a lot of Murakami but have been saving this one, too.
Flann O'Brien's "At Swim-Two-Birds" - Could not finish. Too confusing.
William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" - good stuff

So eight out of 61 I have finished. Two that I will never read. Two I will definitely read and a handful of others that I probably will.

Been making huge strides in my schoolwork so I might post again sooner rather than later.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mets acquire Francoeur, expected to go after Ripken and Scott next

Mets GM Omar Minaya on the recent acquisition of Jeff Francoeur - One thing we like about Francoeur is the amount of games that he plays."

In related news, the Mets are expected to try and acquire Cal Ripken, Jr. and Everett Scott before the trading deadline.

Minaya reportedly rejected an offer the Dodgers made for Church saying "Manny Ramirez for Ryan Church?!?! That guy has only played about thirty games this year! No way are we giving up a 60+ game guy like Ryan Church!".

This is why baseball people mock the sabrmetric crowd. As Francoeur has pointed out, if on base percentage is so important, why isn't it on the scoreboard. Minaya recognized Francoeur's savvy. Games played is probably on the scoreboard. If not, it obviously should be.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

July 1st Media Mix

[Listen] Is there a genre of music you never pictured yourself liking, but have become fond of nonetheless? Are there any genres you still steer away from?

Not so much a genre as an artist. Somewhere along the line I really have grown to like Johnny Cash. I don't much care for country in general and that was confirmed when I went out to my aunt and uncle's anniversary party. I rode with my brother-in-law who played country in the car ride up and back the entire time. Yuck.

[Watch] Do you ever throw any social events based on viewing something—like movie night, a show-themed party, or a sports-themed party?

I try to have a Kentucky Derby party every year. My sister and my former neighbor ruined it on consecutive years by getting married on Derby Day. My friend Eric had enough sense to have his wedding the weekend following the Derby. Haven't had one the past couple of years because of a lack of stability in my finances/living situation. I hope to have one next year.

I also still plan on having a Day of the Dead Extreme Croquet Tournament and Cranberry Festival, not that that involves viewing anything.

[Read] Where do you acquire most of your books—used from friends, Amazon, going to bookstores, etc.?

I rarely buy books unless they are baseball books. Those come almost entirely from eBay nowadays. Most of the books I read come from the library. When I must buy something new, I tend to go with Amazon.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Some different books

Sometimes I amaze myself with my reading. I'm doing my usually juggling; work, boowahs, house, four classes. Yet somehow I keep reading away. There are times I wish reading was more "productive" but then I wonder what that even means. It's largely enjoyable. Isn't that enough?

I mention this because I somehow managed to wrap up three books this week. The one took me a while because I had a difficult time getting into the author's writing. It had a sort of VH1 Behind the Music feel to it. This would be Karl Johnson's biography of the magician Dai Vernon, The Magician and the Cardsharp. Johnson made everything unnecessarily overdramatic.

I thought the book would be pretty interesting. Vernon was a mentor to many magicians, including my favorite, Ricky Jay (which is why I chose to read it). The book focuses on Vernon's quest in the 1930's to find a gambler in the midwest who supposedly knew how to deal from the middle of the deck. Such a skill would be extremely useful to magicians and Vernon wanted to possess the knowledge. In a way the book is a dual biography about the gambler, Allan Kennedy, who was able to deal cards from the middle.

Mostly, though, the book is about Vernon. Johnson originally wrote about Vernon for American Heritage magazine and the book emerged from that. The drama and the aspects of Kennedy's life often feel like they're there to flesh the article out to book size. It really shouldn't take hundreds of pages to detail a trip from New York City to Kansas City which, ultimately, is the extent of the story.

The writing was much more enjoyable in Jim Lynch's Border Songs. Lynch creates a really quirky main character, a 6'9" dyslexic/possibly autistic man in his 20's named Brandon Vanderkool. Vanderkool lives on his parents' farm on the border between Washington State and British Columbia where he is a fanatical bird watcher. Brandon becomes a border patrol officer and his unusual sense of observation and his familiarity with the area gives him an uncanny ability to find/stumble upon illegal activity.

Although the border patrol is to be primarily focused on preventing terrorists from entering the United States via Canada, they soon discover that there is a rampant marijuana trade going on across the borders and seemingly everyone in the community, on both sides of the border, has some involvement.

Lynch creates very memorable characters, some, like Brandon, teetering on outlandish, while others are more "normal" yet are far from dull or stereotypical. The story itself lacks power and the ending was a little blah for me but the writing and characters make it well worth reading. This was on the new book shelf at the library and caught my eye.

The final book of the post was part of Keith Law's KLAW100. I've enjoyed many of the books on his list based on his recommendation (Master and Margarita, Lucky Jim, Tender is the Night) and many, many more that I had read without knowing he thought highly of them (Confederacy of Dunces, Fathers and Sons, Crime and Punishment, etc. etc.). In fact, the only clunker on the list that I have come across was At-Swim Two Birds. I could not finish it. For the most part, though, if Law likes it, I expect I will.

Our Man in Havana met the expectation. The only Graham Greene book I had read previously (and bizarrely so since I have reread it many times because I think it's so good) is The Power and the Glory. The two books are incredibly different. The Power and the Glory is a very serious novel while Our Man in Havana is very light and entertaining.

Our Man in Havana is a bit of a satire and is about the conversion of Wormold, a British vacuum cleaner salesman in Cuba, into a secret agent. Wormold is unwilling but needs the money to buy things for his daughter. Wormold raises his daughter alone after his wife had left him. Not really knowing how to go about being a secret agent, Wormold files fictitious reports which surprisingly become very real.

I don't know that I would consider this book one of my top one hundred of all time. It's outlandishness is a little much at times and a lot of it is predictable. It is funny even in minor details (such as the head of the British secret agency wearing a monocle over a glass eye. I did enjoy it a lot, though.

Monday, July 6, 2009


Mostly just writing to get some thoughts down.

Past few weeks have been odd. Went out to visit my only aunt and uncle to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. This was odd for at least three reasons. One, I hadn't seen them in five years. Two, it was really depressing because most of the guests were older and you heard so much of the "You have to live long to be married fifty years". My own mother even said to my uncle she doesn't think she and my Dad will make it because one of them will probably die between now and eight years from now. Real positive.

And lastly, I just don't fit in with my family. I don't know if it's because I'm adopted. I am very different from everyone else (which I think exemplifies nature is more of a factor than the nurturing) in the fam. So gatherings like this always feel awkward to me. So what do I do July 4th? Spend it with my parents. The boowahs were with me which was nice.

Been without hot water for most of the week. The hot water heater, which is nineteen years old, sprung a leak. If you have to lose hot water, the dead of summer is better than the dead of winter. Cold showers aren't too bad except they leave me looking like Michaelangelo's David. Hopefully I'll have that remedied by the end of the week. The fourth of July weekend is not a good time to try and get someone to put in a hot water heater.

Freaked myself out this morning. I was out lifting and doing shoulder presses. My shoulders are definitely my weakest area. I've rehabbed my left shoulder twice during my lifetime because of rotator cuff tendinitis. Had surgery on my right shoulder in 2007 to remove bone spurs and because of shoulder impingement syndrome. Good times. So I'm lifting, add some weight for my next set, go to lift and it was like my left arm went dead. Could not get the bar off the rack at all (because of the weight I start off the squat rack. I can't clean the weight to my shoulders).

So I'm really concerned. I have a high degree of ambidexterity but that wasn't always the case and my left hand is my preferred hand for things. So I rerack it and start pacing and muttering confusedly. There was no pain. It was just dead. I couldn't get the weight up at all. Right arm, no problem. So I'm pacing back and forth, back and forth and I look at the rack. Oops. When I added the weight for that set, I must have been thinking about something else because I put both plates on the left side. That might make it a little hard to move. I'm relieved that my arm is functioning fine.

I will be picking up the Group of 79(80) Project this week. I had become a little dejected when a card I sent out to be autographed came back as outright rejected by the player to whom I had sent it. Yesterday I discovered why. That player passed away two weeks after the card was returned to me. I would expect he was probably in bad health. But I received another one in the mail today so we'll get Jim King up this week and go from there.

Guess that's about it. Three books to review this week and another baseball related idea, too.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Yu Darvish and Josh Prince updates

So what's going on with Yu Darvish and Josh Prince, two of my favorite baseball players?

Darvish has continued to pitch well since my last post. Well is probably too light a word. Darvish continues to dominate the Pacific League. He currently leads the league in starts, wins, innings, earned run average and strikeouts.

Picking up where I left off, in his May 30th start, Darvish had his third 10+ strikeout game of the season as he defeated the Hanshin Tigers. He allowed four hits, two walks and one run in seven innings.
74 IP, 45 H, 16 BB, 68 K, 7-1, 1.09 ERA

The Yomiuri Giants dealt Darvish his second loss of the season on June 6th, stringing together most of their six hits in the sixth inning to take a 3-2 lead which they would not relinquish.
82 IP, 51 H, 17 BB, 74 K, 7-2, 1.32 ERA

How did Yu handle the setback of a "bad" start? Eight innings of shutout ball (wouldn't want to see that ERA approach 1.50) against the Chunichi Dragons and his fourth 10+ strikeout performance.
90 IP, 56 H, 19 BB, 84 K, 8-2, 1.20 ERA

His next outing was a little more pedestrian. Seven innings of three hit ball. One run, no walks, five strikeouts in a victory over the Carp.
97 IP, 59 H, 19 BB, 89 K, 9-2, 1.21 ERA

Lastly, his most recent start against the Chiba Lotte Marines gave Darvish his tenth victory of the season. Eight innings of shutout ball with just two hits, two walks and seven K.
105 IP, 61 H, 21 BB, 96 K, 10-2, 1.11 ERA

No home runs allowed in any of the most recent games.

Just for fun, let's prorate Darvish's stats over 34 starts and put up some numbers for comparison:
275 IP, 160 H, 55 BB, 251 K, 26-5, 1.11 ERA (Darvish)
305 IP, 198 H, 62 BB, 268 K, 22-9, 1.12 ERA (Bob Gibson's 1968 season)

That's just insane. when you consider that the tenth best pitcher in the National League that year had a 2.44 ERA and the tenth best pitcher in the Pacific League has a 4.10 ERA, Darvish's season becomes even more mind-blowing.

Josh Prince's career is far less developed than Darvish's but has also been enjoyable to follow. He has an eight game hitting streak (he's only played in nine games) and has 13 steals (leads league), a .333 batting average and a .478 OBP (5th in the league). He also leads the Pioneer League in runs and walks. I am a tad concerned about his .389 slugging - don't want to see him become the next Jason Tyner but otherwise he is looking really good as a professional.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Media mix of June 24th

[Listen] What is your favorite song about summer, or a song that gives you good summer vibes?

I wish I had one. Good and summer are two words I don't link together. Miserable and summer are. Hate the heat.

This song comes to mind, though:

[Watch] Do you have any current guilty pleasure shows that you watch? If so, which ones?

I watch the Colbert Report on Hulu.com and that's the extent of my television watching.

[Read] Do your favorite writers tend to be those who publish tons of books/series, or those who have 1 or 2 gems?

The latter. I think that the more prolific writers tend to be formulaic and once you read one or two of their books, you've read the oeuvre. I don't think I've read a "series" of books since high school (Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat books and Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. I stopped reading the Vampire Chronicles after Queen of the Damned which was just awful).