Sunday, September 27, 2009

Favre and Vick - overreporting to the extreme

I just read this article on the first half of the Philadelphia Eagles game and was really disappointed at the lack of thoroughness in coverage by the Associated Press. They told me about the crowd's reaction to many of the plays in which Vick participated. They detailed EVERY SINGLE PLAY that Vick participated in in the first half and the formation from which they were run. They informed me that he handed his helmet to an equipment person and that he received a visor from the same person. Very important stuff. But where was the information on the consistency of his bowel movements? Or the tire pressure on his SUV? Did he not speak to anyone during this time? What was said? Did he congratulate DeSean Jackson on his touchdown, the one that merited a single sentence in this update of the first half? If so, how did he congratulate him?

And what about the inconsistencies in the details they did give. The AP tells me that the handoff to McCoy went for five yards but does not tell me how many yards Maclin got when Vick handed off to him. THIS IS A HUGE OMISSION!!!

Seriously, why does this matter? First, it's football and it has nothing to do with the USFL which has been gone for almost a quarter century. Second, is this an article on Vick or an update of the Eagles game? If the former, what did you really tell me that I can't get from the boxscore or play-by-play? He handed his helmet to the equipment guy. Huge news. Many, many NFL players will do the same thing today, none of whom will receive press for doing so because it is unimportant.

As for Favre, Great Caesar's Ghost!, has anyone's indecision ever received so much attention for so little reason? It has been enough to make me root for Aaron Rodgers. Google "Favre Packers" and look at the nonsense. Favre has a career 12-10 record in the playoffs, has thrown over an interception a game for his career, won his only championship twelve years ago. Why does he merit so much coverage? Ugh.

Rant over.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What was the world like when the Pirates last had a winning season?

Cardboard Junkie, in response to a comment I made on an entry on his blog, mentioned how old he feels since he recalls the grand day he experienced as a Braves fan when Francisco Cabrera singled home Sid Bream to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and send the Braves on to the World Series.

Since that moment (October 14, 1992), the Pirates have not only not reached the playoffs again, they have not had a winning season.

In honor of the seventeen consecutive losing seasons the Pittsburgh Pirates have had....

The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates had a winning season:

1. Each league had two divisions.
2. There were no such things as wild-card playoff spots in baseball.
3. The Rockies, Marlins, Diamondbacks and Rays did not exist (but all four have since reached the World Series).
4. The Montreal Expos were in the Pirates division.
5. The top pop song for the year was Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You.
6. Derek Jeter had just graduated from high school.
7. Microsoft released Windows 3.1.
8. People were still making fun of Dan Quayle’s inability to spell “potato”.
9. Billy Ray Cyrus won the Country Music Association award for best single – Achy Breaky Heart. His daughter Miley was born six weeks after Francisco Cabrera ended the Pirates 1992 season.
10. Arthur Ashe was still alive.
11. Johnny Carson was still hosting The Tonight Show.
12. Actress Demi Moore, having given birth to her second child with husband Bruce Willis a year before, co-starred in the movie A Few Good Men with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. Ashton Kutcher was 14.
13. Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount were still playing.
14. Pluto was still a planet.
15. ZZ Top released their greatest hits on cassette and vinyl.
16. It had only been 84 years since the Chicago Cubs had last won a World Championship.
17. Seven of the twelve National League teams played on artificial turf. Only two NL teams, the Cubs and Dodgers, still play in the same stadium they did then.

Someday this pain will be useful to you

In the media mix from a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I love Peter Cameron's City of Your Final Destination. It struck me that for as much as I enjoyed that book, I never sought out other books by Cameron. I decided to remedy that and signed out Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You, a young adult book and the only book by Cameron my library has.

It was really good. It is about an 18 year old kid who just doesn't fit in. He has been accepted to Brown but doesn't want to go to college. He would much rather buy an old house in the Midwest and just work odd jobs to eke out a living and just staying clear of people, especially his peers who he dreads having to spend time with in college. His best friend is his grandmother. Just a kid having a tough time.

That about sums up the story. There's not a whole lot of plot. It's mostly an elaborate character sketch. The ending is nice. The writing is superb. The characters are interesting. Just a good book.

Interestingly, a couple days after I returned it, I was sorting the books requested by our patrons from other libraries in the system. Someone had requested City of Your Final Destination and another Cameron book. Someone came in to pick them up and I expressed how much I liked City. Turns out the patron was picking them up for her daughter who had read Someday and loved it and wanted to read his other books. Funny how that works.

Having read another Cameron book, I'll likely try and get another in before the year is out.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A couple of rereads

Continuing with my attempts to get caught up with my book reviews, I'm going to knock out two in one review. I reread a couple of books. I was needing some motivation so hit up two of my favorite motivational/self-help texts. The Zanders' Art of Possibility I reviewed earlier this year. Being open to possibility is something I tend to be but I lose sight of it when I get stressed out. When doors seem to be closing or a path I've chosen seems to be moving in the wrong direction, it becomes easy to be doubtful. The first precept of this book is that it is all invented. All our perceptions are created by ourselves in reaction to something. It's the whole half-full/half-empty argument.

Ben Zander loves to tell the tale of two shoe salesmen who go to some remote African village to ply their trade. The first wires back "Situation hopeless, they don't wear shoes". The second, in his missive to the main office writes "Glorious opportunity, they don't have shoes". Same situation, different outlook.

I've needed the change in outlook. It looked like I would have to suspend school. My calf got really messed up. Boowahs started school which caused a whole readjustment. The whole money, job, diet, loneliness struggles with which I seem to deal with regularly. I really needed to recapture my ability to view possibility and the reread helped a lot.

The other reread was Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. This book is about writing but some of it has applicability outside of writing. Actually, it is even more so about writing fiction. I enjoy it because it breaks the process of writing down into all these different parts. I've actually been plugging away at my own book and again, not viewing it as some gigantic project that is going to take forever but instead looking at it as a fun, manageable thing that I can do in steps has been helpful.

The title comes from a story about Lamott's brother. Growing up he had a school paper due on different birds. He put it off until the last minute and the night before it was due broke down into tears, wondering how on earth he would ever get it done. His father replied "Bird by bird". Breaking things down into steps can be really helpful.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Oh, I love reading about art crimes and I really enjoyed this one. Provenance, by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo is a tale of how in the art world the quality of paintings matters less than the accompanying paperwork.

The story is about a man who goes by the name John Drewe (as well as a few other names). Drewe is a great storyteller. Posing as a nuclear physicist with a rich benefactor, Drewe and his forger assistant, John Myatt, ingratiate themselves with the British art world through donations and well-documented paintings by artists such as Nicholson, Giacometti and Stephenson.

The catch, of course, is that Myatt painted all the paintings. Drewe, after making a substantial donation to the Institute of Contemporary Arts, is given access to their archives. Drewe uses that access to steal documentation, duplicate and alter it, and then replace it with his own creations. So suddenly a picture that had never existed before Myatt painted it now appears as if it has been around since the original artist created it, has been sold at auction, exhibited at galleries, etc.

Myatt is a talented forger and now makes a living selling "legitimate fakes" but some of his paintings that Drewe sold to dealers were a little iffy in terms of reflecting the style of the original artist. Worse, Myatt, who struggled with finances as an unemployed single father of two (my heart goes out to him), couldn't afford oil paints and used house paint diluted with lubricating jelly as his paint of choice.

Drewe's documents of provenance, charm, and wiles (he targeted the low to mid range price ranges of paintings to avoid too much suspicion) enabled him to pass off Myatt's works as legitimate.

In the end, though, the vast number of paintings Drewe unleashes on the art world (at least 200) catches up with him and Scotland Yard builds a case against him with the aid of some folk in the art world.

This book was surprisingly exciting with excellent, entertaining writing. As always, I had some issues, some of which could have been helped, others which could not. Most notably is the lack of depth in describing Drewe's personality. This is Drewe's fault. A man who lies so much that he believes the lies himself makes it difficult to get a grasp on him. Drewe, even after being incarcerated, maintained that he was innocent of any wrong doing and that he was set up by the government. In addition, most everything he claimed about himself was untrue and as a result, Drewe is not much more than a human shell, lacking anything that can truly be called himself.

My other complaints involve a lack of clarity in the amount of time passing. The story unfolds over a decade yet the writing makes it seem like the story is encompassed in a much shorter time. Also, for a story about art forgeries involving artists that aren't familiar to the layperson, there were no illustrations. I had to hop on the internet to get an idea of what the works of some these artists looked like.

Ultimately, it's a great tale, well-researched and very entertaining. It also has a great bibliography with many titles on art forgeries of which I was not aware. Definitely a recommended title.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My favorite synthpop

I like synthpop. I forget from time to time. Years ago I spent a lot of time on a website called Electrogarden. It shut down for a while and then came back. I really should revisit.

Thought I'd share some of my favorites with you. This is not meant to be complete in any way, shape or form.

Erasure - probably the first group I liked that could be called synthpop. Everyone was familiar with them from their album The Innocents but I think their albums after that tended to go more synthpop.

Red Flag - My first college girlfriend got me hooked on these guys and I have more of their CD's than those of any other artist (I think eighteen). Red Flag was comprised of the Reynolds brothers. When Enigma Records dropped them, they formed their own label, Plan B records and started issuing their own albums in a very prolific manner. Because they controlled the label, their albums vary in quality as they pretty much released whatever they felt like working on. For example, the album Codebreaker T133 is entirely of songs done at 133 beats per minute. I like it. A lot of folk didn't. Mark Reynolds took his own life which is easily the most distressing celebrity death of my lifetime. Chris has released new music but he calls what he does now "dark industrial" and I don't care for it as much.

Leiahdorus - this is my most favoritest synthpop group and Wake is my favoritest song. They have a new album coming out soon and I am very, VERY excited.

Wave in Head - this "group" is German Michael Pohl. I love his albums as he does some of the songs in German.

Obscenity Trial - I've only recently come across these folks but I like them. The lead singer has a Dave Gahan sound about him. I also like the A-Ha style video for Daydream.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Folks I hope are rotting in hell

I tend to be a benevolent guy. I recognize people are flawed. We all do bad and/or stupid things. There's no such thing as absolutes. As a result, it is hard for me to drum up too much animosity for people. After reading Nicholson Baker's Double Fold, I think I found the third person I hope is rotting in hell.

The first person who should be enjoying eternal damnation is Henry Ford. Mass-production of the automobile was just an awful, awful thing to do. I firmly believe that most of the bad things in the world today can be traced back to this event. I'm not going to get into the details, mostly for fear that I'll come across as insane. I'm also not one for proselytizing (unless it is to get people to listen DeVotchKa).

The second inductee into the Hell Hall of Fame is Floyd Dominy. He certainly doesn't have the name recognition that Ford does which says something about how wrong he was in terms of his self-importance.

"I have no apologies. I was a crusader for the development of water. I was the Messiah. I was the evangelist who went out and argued persuasively for the harness of water for the benefit of people."

Mr. Messiah did a lot for ruining the environment throughout the Western United States. He recklessly sought to have dam projects built relying on the flawed message that dams would provide water for more people. I first became exposed to Dominy when a professor in an urban affairs class I was taking showed the documentary Cadillac Desert. If you have any interest in the environment, this movie (and presumably the book it is based on) is something you should watch (read). The more I learn about Dominy, the more I believe that the man was full of himself and was more interested in the power he wielded than any concern over providing water for others. He certainly had no concern over the effects of his projects on ecosystems.

The newest selection for damnation roasting for doing horrible, horrible things is similar to Dominy and my learning about him was similar as well. For one of my classes, I had to read a chapter of Double Fold. It was so good, I signed out the book and read the whole thing. This book is about the misguided plan to "preserve" newspaper through microfilming. Verner Clapp was the chief assistant librarian at the Library of Congress when he began touting microfilm as a way to preserve newspaper that was supposedly becoming brittle due to the acids in the print.

The concept is noble. Preserving the historical record contained in newspapers is a very good idea. Unfortunately Clapp pushed for the disposal of newspapers after they were microfilmed. One, these papers were supposedly disintegrating (which was and is false). Two, microfilm is much more convenient to store and eliminating newspapers would give libraries more space for other materials. Lastly, Clapp was so jazzed about microfilm that once he left the LOC to become head of the Council of Library Resources he pushed the microfilming of old books. Do you know the quickest way to microfilm a book? Cut the spine off, get rid of the covers and copy the unattached pages. Once a book has been torn apart like that, few people want it. Plus, now its on microfilm, so who cares, right?

I've been using microfilm for almost half of my life. As a baseball historian whose primary interest is baseball before 1920, I don't have too many options for newspaper access. As a veteran user I can tell you the quality of microfilm copies aren't always real high. The copies may be too light, they may be incomplete, the film may have been stored improperly and has broken down, the film may have been torn. Lots of things could go wrong when the film was made and quality control apparently was not too much of an issue. With so many original materials being discarded after microfilming, there's no way to make better copies.

Sadly, lessons weren't learned as we're seeing similar things as we move to digitization. I interned at a college library this summer where they digitized all student transcripts. Fortunately, someone had the sense to give the originals to the archives department in the library. It turns out the digitization process was done poorly and many transcripts are unreadable. How would you feel if you needed your official transcript for a job or graduate school and you're given an unreadable pdf?

Double Fold is an extremely biased account of the microfilm issue and has been debated among librarians for the last decade. Baker is very passionate about keeping original newspapers and started a non-profit to acquire old newspapers and preserve them. He eventually donated all the newspapers and they are now kept at Duke University.

I hope that people realize that there is no such thing as an ideal media for preservation. Just like those who thought microfilm was a panacea, there have been supporters of Beta, VHS, laser discs, floppy discs, etc. New isn't always the answer and keeping the original historic record isn't always a bad thing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Personal news, no media mix and a book review

The good news is that I am able to continue my library science degree. Nothing like waiting to the last minute. A bank came through with a loan to cover my previous semesters and while the rates are only a little better than I could have gotten from my nearby Amish mob connections, at least if I have trouble repaying it I don't have to worry whether the clip-clop in front of the house is a potential drive-by hit.

The money is to make its way to my account Friday and school starts Monday. Nice. I've been scrambling today contacting professors because none of this has been smooth and it will be a minor miracle if I have registered before Monday morning.

Doesn't look like Kelly is posting a media mix for this week. Shucks.

In lieu of that, though, I'll post a review of a book I initially forgot to put on my reading list. I need to get more reviews up. After this book I still have nine books unreviewed and I'm almost done reading two more. Yikes.

The book for today is Michael Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef. I was familiar with Ruhlman's name from my general interest in cooking. Back in July someone, I forgot who, linked to the review on Ruhlman's blog of Cheesecake Factory. As someone who despises chain restaurants, I was impressed by his openness, his acceptance of the quality of the food, but mostly the sadness that he feels that a chain can make this sort of food. Naturally I had to read a book of his.

The Making of a Chef is supposed to be a book about the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). The CIA opened their doors to Ruhlman who took many of the same classes aspiring chefs take. Ruhlman writes about his experiences but finds along the way that he really enjoys cooking and wants to be a chef.

Like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love, Ruhlman is very open with his emotions and the personal struggles he experiences as he finds himself torn between wanting to be more like his classmates but not willing to make the sacrifices they do. I feel like he finds the right balance in the book between being a writer and a chef and he seems to have continued to balance his two passions since the book was published. A revised edition of the book was issued this past March. I'm not sure what the differences are between it and the edition I read.

For anyone who aspired to attend the CIA. This is an absolute must-read. Ruhlman not only details the classwork, assignments and teachers but really conveys the attitudes and ways of thinking under which the school operates. Even those with a passing interest in food should find this to be an enjoyable book. Ruhlman is a really good writer and everyone eats. It's interesting to learn about what dedicated chefs go through to become masters of their craft.

I'm definitely going to read Ruhlman's newest book Ratio and one of his older ones, House.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Leona

Knocked out another book from the postmodern reads library. Umberto Eco'sThe Mysterious Flame of Queen Leona. Quite the unusual book.

I was looking forward to reading this one because like the writings of F. Scott Fitzgerald, I had a feeling I would enjoy Eco's writings more now that I was a little older. When I was a teenager I tried to read In the Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum and could not get through either of them.

In Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book The Black Swan, Taleb opens the book talking about Umberto Eco and his vast personal library.

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and non dull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with 'Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?' and the others - a very small minority - who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

As someone with a vast collection of baseball books (largely unread), I love and appreciate the idea. Many people think that with my love for baseball history, I should be able to rattle off all sorts of trivial minutia. It is precisely because I have no wish to remember (or necessarily learn) everything about baseball that I maintain my library.

So that's why I was looking forward to this book. I ended up enjoying it. It is really the same story told twice. The main character and narrator, Yambo, is a rare book dealer. The story begins with him emerging from a coma and finding that he has no personal memory. He can remember virtually everything he has read but cannot recollect anything about himself or his life.

His wife suggests he go to his boyhood home (which has been cared for by a tenant farmer) to relearn his life. Yambo goes through piles and piles of comics, magazines, records and other media and from these materials he attempts to build memories of his previous life. When he discovers some poetry he wrote in high school, he talks to his best friend and Yambo finds that he longed for a girl in high school. Piecing together other evidence he begin to believe that his entire life was spent trying to find or find a substitute for this girl, who, it turns out, died right after high school. Yambo, shaken at this revelation, comes completely undone when he discovers a First Folio of Shakespeare which puts him into another coma.

In this second coma, Yambo actually is able to recall his memories and so the story is told again, correctly this time. Many of the assumptions Yambo had made were wrong and connections he failed to make now become clear to him in his comatose state. The truth about his feelings for the girl also become clear.

What makes this postmodern, I guess, are a couple of things. First, the story is essentially told twice. Once incorrectly, once correctly. Second, Eco has dozens and dozens of illustrations depicting the materials that Yambo discovers in his childhood home. Covers of books and records, lyrics to songs, cartoons. All of it reproduced in full color. It gives the novel a sort of academic feel to it, as if one was studying Italian Pop Culture of World War II. All of this is pretty neat.

I can see a lot of people being unsatisfied or even confused by the ending. It's not exactly clear. It can also be a little frustrating to have read half the book and then find that very little of it is true but hey, now that you're here, let's tell you what the truth is. I liked it but I don't know that I can really recommend it on a general basis.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hiatus over - Browsing my library again

I'm done with my pity party. Things aren't going like I planned. Oh well. If there's anything exciting to report on my personal life, maybe I'll make mention of it. No sense in me not doing what I do most of the time with this blog anyway - write about books!

Decided to randomly generate a book from my library and came up with an excellent choice. Dick McBane's Glory Days: The Akron Yankees of the Middle Atlantic League 1935-1941.

This book epitomizes what my library strives to be. McBane's book was published by the Summit County Historical Society Press. As such, it doesn't likely have a very large print run. It does not show in the Baseball Hall of Fame's catalog. As a matter of fact, only seven libraries show it in WorldCat. Three universities in Ohio, two public libraries in Ohio, a historical society in Ohio and the Library of Congress.

Especially when it comes to the minor leagues, I try to obtain regional publications that are hopefully of high quality. They tend to be small print runs because of interest being regionally limited (witnessed by the fact that the LOC is the only non-Ohio library carrying it). I love these books because they are a work of passion. They aren't always good. They aren't always exciting. But it interested the author enough to delve into it. McBane's book is both good and exciting.

One of the things that sets this book apart is the citations. McBane does an excellent job referencing his sources. The narrative is well done, too - something that is often lacking in tomes of this nature. Concise, the text only runs 74 pages and then has boxscores, statistics and an index for the remaining thirty pages. It looks nice, has good photos, a nice stat section. It's really a great book all around and an excellent book for anyone interested in the minors.

Amazingly, in seven years of play, 44 members of the Akron Yankees played in the majors. Walt Judnich, Frank Kelleher, Karl Drews, Mel Queen, Steve Souchock and Gus Niarhos are a few of the more notable members of the Akron squads.

McBane also wrote a book on Akron's 1881 team which was published by McFarland. I continue to hunt for a reasonably priced copy of that one.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Beginning now.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Media mix of September 9th

[Listen] What is the most comforting album that you have?

Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory. Just kidding. I'm hard pressed to name an album. I find more comfort in songs. Here's some candidates, though. Jai Uttal's Beggars and Saints. Ray Lynch's The Best of Ray Lynch, Volume 1.

I have a CD of the Philadelphia Orchestra doing Moussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition which is piece that I find oddly comforting.

I think my problem is that I don't look for comfort in music (opting for food instead. Hmmmm, perhaps a rewiring of the brain in that regard might be useful). I use music to inspire me to overcome whatever negativity might need soothing. If I'm angry or tense I'll listen to something fast and driving and try to exercise it out. If I'm feeling sad I'll look for something happy to lift my spirits. I don't equate that with comfort for whatever reason.

[Watch] Which movie(s) gives you the best kind of warm fuzzies inside?

I started to type an answer about how I like happy ending movies where the guy gets the girl and they live happily ever after. That's a nice kind of fuzzy but the best kind is the overcoming adversity just because of the buildup to it. There are two specific movie moments that do that for me and they combine an underdog character you root for, adversity, a great moment and, of course, an awesome musical moment.

The one is Roy Hobbs hitting the home run into the lights to clinch the pennant in The Natural. I have literally watched that in excess of one hundred times and it still gets me. Randy Newman's music is awesome in this movie.

The other is Dave Stohler clinching the Little 500 for The Cutters in Breaking Away. This is one of the most brilliant musical choices for a movie I've ever encountered. All the bike scenes use Mendelssohn's Fourth Symphony which is such a fantastic selection. It really adds to the movie.

Oh, I forgot another one. Gets me every time. The "O Captain, my Captain" scene at the end of Dead Poet's Society. That probably gets the nod over the two sports moments.

[Read] Which books have given you a sense of comfort while reading them? (If you want, explain why.

Peter Cameron's City of Your Final Destination. The main character is a lost and confused graduate student who goes to South America to research an obscure author for his thesis/dissertation. He falls in love with the author's widow and they live happily ever. I'm summarizing it immensely. I find it comforting for a number of reasons. One, I associate with the main character's lack of sense of home. He finds it which I find comforting. Two, he finds love. Again, comforting. Three, he finds happiness. Comforting. But four, Cameron's writing is really great at capturing the essence he wants to capture. The book is set in Uruguay but from what I've read, Uruguay is nothing like the Uruguay about which Cameron writes. Wherever it is, Cameron captures it. You feel the weather, the heat, the humidity, the changing of temperatures from day to night. You smell the smells and hear the sounds. It all fits. Even if it isn't my idea of ideal, it is still comforting. So I like it for that.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Paganini biography

Way back when I started this blog, I wrote about my fondness for Paganini and bemoaned the lack of recordings of his compositions. Since then, I have tracked down a few and have really enjoyed them. I also recently finished a biography on him. John Sugden's (presumably) self-published biography, Paganini, His Life and Times is an updated version of his more compellingly titled bio Niccolo Paganini: Supreme Violinist or Devil's Fiddler. It has been republished since then under a different title.

The updated version includes illustrations which is about the sole thing that makes this book good. It is a nice little overview, not very well-written, that relies primarily on other resources, especially Geraldine de Courcey's biography which is regarded as the biography on Paganini's life.

The majority of the illustrations are sketches of Paganini. There are also pictures of places and peers of Paganini's. There are also some New Yorker style cartoons which Sugden apparently commissioned for the book. The one cartoon I really like a lot which depicts Paganini playing in a cemetery - a free concert for the dead.

The text is greatly lacking. Sugden jumps around, talks about something and then says he'll get into it in later chapters, and does not delve very deeply into any aspect of Paganini's life. He also is overly sympathetic with Paganini, defending his wrongdoings or portraying him as a victim.

It still is a nice little primer on Paganini's life. It really makes me want to buy a copy of de Courcey's biography (there's a nice copy on eBay right not for a reasonable price (for one with a reasonable income (of which I am not))) because Paganini was a very fascinating musician. It does seem, though, that his greatness really was a result of his technical skill and showmanship. Compared to other violinists of the era, his tone was lacking (many critics labeled it thin (and this on a nice Guarneri violin)). He moved violin playing to an entirely new level, though, with his talents with double stops, pizzacatos, etc.

Time warp

There is someone outside who has the music in their car turned up way, WAY too loud (especially since it is 7:23 AM). They're listening to The Monkees' Last Train to Clarksville.

Monday, September 7, 2009

30 days to changing my life - Day 7: Ah, maturity

So I took yesterday off, listening to my mind and body which didn't want to do anything. What happened today? I rowed four miles. Haven't rowed that far this year. That is very, very sad and I blame Crossfit Endurance in part (my own laziness is the other part). CE relies on very short, high intensity workouts and for a while that was what I was following. Perhaps if you're already fit, it is a good plan to follow. But for someone like me who is rounding themselves into shape and trying to drop weight, I think you need to put in longer workouts.

Then did the Crossfit Total workout. My shoulder press has stayed the same. I almost set a personal best on the squat but when I started up my injured calf did something really painful and I lost my balance and dropped the bar. Thank goodness for the squat rack or else my head would have been crushed.

I did set a personal best on the deadlift, though. Progress!!!

My calf is swollen. I iced it earlier which helped but I think any more running is out for a while.

Ate very well today. Worked on the patio off of my bedroom. Little on the hallway. Going to spend the rest of the evening on my book. Good day all around.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

30 days to changing my life - Day 6: Blah

Literally nothing to report. I hardly did a thing today. Just did not feel up to it.

Browsing my library

I take a lot of pride in my collection of baseball books. I've tried to develop a solid research library and feel like I have done so. I've got a lot of breadth (my biggest holes are umpires and women in baseball) and a lot of depth (minor leagues, Negro Leagues and Deadball Era are pretty strong). But since I keep it as a research library, I don't necessarily read everything and thus do not share it.

I decided that I'm going to try and feature a book from my collection. Maybe every week, we'll have to see. Part of this comes as a result of a research collection development course I just took as part of my degree. I learned a lot about developing a collection and determining the strength of a collection. Because we were to keep our assignments manageable, I did not do my assignments on baseball (because the literature is too vast and the cataloging of baseball books is so inane as to make identifying subgroups difficult). Nonetheless, for my final assignment, I wrote about my library and took a look at some of my favorite books. Granted, baseball is not a "scholarly" field to a lot of libraries and so they don't develop vast baseball collections but for a huge number of the books in my library, you'd find only 4-5 libraries in the world possessing these books (the Hall of Fame Library of course being one of them, although they didn't have some of the books I do). I just thought that was cool and would make sharing what I have sort of interesting.

But I can't just pick a book. I have to do it randomly. Sort of. I randomly selected five books from my database and then chose the one of the five I feel like featuring.

For the first one we'll look at Gene Fehler's poetry collection, Center Field Grasses. I actually have tried to develop a decent collection of baseball poetry. Fehler's book is one of them. Doodle even used this book for a 3rd grade assignment last year when he needed to bring in a poem for class.

Fehler writes some good stuff. Some of it is original but in some of it he likes to take well-known poems and convert them to baseball. For example, here is a modified version of Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (one of my favorite poems) entitled Grabbing an Illegal Bat at Yankee Stadium.

Whose bat this is I think I know.
It's caked with pine tar high and low.
The Goose is shivering with fear
To think how far the ball might go.

I'll wait until defeat is near
And then I'll suddenly appear
To make those foolish umpires take
Away the win K.C. earned here.

So what if George Brett's heart will break?
The pennant race is still at stake.
And though my tactics might seem cheap,
I'm out to win, make no mistake.

The pine tar's lovely, dark and deep
Enough to make the Royals weep.
This victory is ours to keep,
This victory is ours to keep.

That, of course, was EXACTLY what was going through Billy Martin's head during the infamous Pine Tar Game.

Fun book of baseball poetry in the old style cloth hardbound books with no dust jacket McFarland's used to put out. How I miss them. It pains me to see them charge $45 for a softcover book now. C'mon McFarland, go retro!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

30 days to changing my life - Day 5: Firing on all cylinders

What a fantastic day! Nice weather and the progress I'm making just helped me move right into more successes. Started the morning by recruiting the boowahs to put primer on the barn. I didn't have to resort to Tom Sawyer strategies even. Just got them out there. While they did that I weeded and cut branches around the barn. Once they finished Gaga climbed a tree and worked on a branch above the barn. He tired out an so I climbed up and finished it. I was pleased with upper body strength. I just reached up, grabbed a branch and pulled myself right up using just my arms. Very cool.

From there Gaga and I went to the inside. Tore out some rotten boards and I sliced up some more of the rotten carpet that is out there.

Had lunch and started working on the inside. Gave the kitchen the best cleaning it has had in a long time. Then I rowed and Gaga and I went outside and did the Crossfit workout. That was the low point of the day for me personally as I still cannot get the clean technique right. Gaga has it and did very well. I was immensely impressed. I then did some pullups because I was still giddy from the whole tree thing.

We then cleaned up and went shopping. Got the rest of the paint and primer we need for the barn and hallway. Bought a scale and school supplies at Target. STILL did not get a camera battery. Insane. My camera must really be ancient as much trouble as I'm having. But now I can measure progress with the scale. I weigh 271 right now. My lean weight is around 210 normally (haven't had it measured lately) so that puts me in the low 20's for body fat percentage. Breaking the 250 point would be nice as that would put me at worst, fifteen percent body fat, and it would put me at deadlifting twice my body weight when I get that 500 pound bar up.

The boowahs and I got another pair of games of Catan in. Then this evening I'm been doing research for my book and have been so engrossed, I forgot about posting.

Good day all around.

Friday, September 4, 2009

30 days to changing my life - Day 4: Roller coaster day

It surprises me sometimes how previous life lessons learned come back to me and how I have matured over the years. Let me give you a couple of examples. We'll start with my run yesterday. In the past I would have judged how I did compared with my heyday as a runner when I was a young, thinner cross country runner in high school or biathlete in college. Such comparisons would have resulted in me being angry and disappointed with myself. Why? Because I wasn't as "good" as I once was. This would have led to self-doubt and wondering why I was bothering to run and then not running altogether. Excellent way to improve, huh?

Another example. I laid out a rather ambitious workout schedule for myself when I started this. I knew full well that it would be difficult to live up to and I am not. Oh well. It's not like I'm not working out. Again, in the past I probably would have bullied myself into shutting down because I wasn't "meeting expectations".

It's amazing what you can accomplish when you just let yourself be accepting. Not lowering your bar but just being able to realize that hey, I'm human, I'm imperfect, I'm doing my best.

I still get down on myself too easily. I did not work out today and it was hard to not feel like I was being a quitter. I know I did a smart thing. I know that the caliber of workout I do requires rest days for the body to recover and build muscle. That's why Crossfit has the built in days of rest. My calf is better but still hurts and the extra day will help. It was still tough to do nothing.

On the flipside my Mom came up and helped me out with the hallway. Tremendous progress. I told her how helpful it is for me right now. Sometimes I get feeling overwhelmed and just making progress is a great feeling. Once again, a life lesson lost but refound. The journey is as important as the destination.

I keep meaning to get a new battery for my camera. Get some before pictures of myself and the house. Alas, pictures have never been a big thing for me.

So to sum up, got some good stuff done (and fixed a surprsingly yummy salad from a cookbook I have called Fresh Food Fast: fennel, cabbage, apple and raisins tossed in lemon juice and EVOO. I was a little skeptical about raw fennel but it was good. I digress. Good stuff accomplished but fought the self-doubt and guilt.

August Prince and Darvish updates

Josh Prince has not had an easy time of it since being promoted to Wisconsin but he's had flashes of success. He is still walking at a pretty good clip but has gone six straight games without a stolen base, the longest stretch of his brief pro career. He did his first professional home run against Burlington on August 24th and continues to play well in the field. It is not uncommon to take some time to adjust after a promotion and I expect he'll come around in the latter parts of the season. Despite not having played there in several weeks, Josh is still the Pioneer League leader in stolen bases. Brian Ruggiano of the Ogden Raptors needs four steals in the final eight games to tie Prince.

Yu Darvish had his struggles in August as well. Here's the game by game look.

Darvish loses to Rakuten 3-1 despite 12 strikeouts and just five hits because of five walks allowed.

153 IP, 95 H, 36 BB, 144 K, 13-4, 1.41 ERA

The following week he posts almost the same exact stats, 12 K's, 5 H in 8 IP. With just one walk, though, he holds Seibu to two runs and gets the victory.

161 IP, 100 H, 37 BB, 156 K, 14-4, 1.45 ERA

Darvish gets crushed by the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks as third baseman Jose Ortiz goes deep off of Darvish twice. Darvish throws the complete game, however.

169 IP, 110 H, 38 BB, 161 K, 14-5, 1.70 ERA

You have to love Japanese baseball. Darvish leads the league in ERA and victories and is second in strikeouts. Without question he is the best pitcher in the league. So what do the Fighters do? They have Darvish skip his next start so that he can go to their practice facility and work on his form.

Of course, it may have been to protect him, too. Five members of the Fighters had contracted swine flu so depending on the location of the practice facility, they may also have been trying to keep him healthy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

30 days to changing my life - Day 3: I did what?

For the first time in almost five years (the last time was September 26, 2004), I ran 5K today. You have a better chance of finding a nice Oktoberfest in Puerto Rico than you do seeing me run. Man, I hate running. But I vowed when I set myself this challenge that I would finally do Crossfit as recommended. Normally I substitute rowing for running because running is a miserable thing to do and rowing is very, very fun. Not today. I hit up, plotted out a nice route and hit the road.

The last time I ran this distance was the Living with Lupus 5K in Delaware.

I paid the price. My right calf feels like someone shot it. I'm glad tomorrow is a rest day for Crossfit.

Worked on the bathroom and it looks as nice as it has since I moved in.

Eating is going pretty well. Made a marinade of mint from my herb garden, garlic, lemon juice, crushed red pepper and EVOO, marinated zucchini and chicken in it and had that for dinner. Very nice.

The boowahs and I had an awesome game of Settlers of Catan tonight, one of our most enjoyable ever. Just felt like mentioning it.

All to report for today. Feeling good.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

30 days to changing my life - Day 2: Hello, Obstacles!

Oh my. When I decided I was going to do this, I knew I was picking a heck of a time to do it. End of semester, followed by my weird schedule day (Wednesdays), followed by a holiday. Not the best time but when is, right? If we wait for the perfect time to do something, it doesn't get done.

I knew I would not get a lot done today. My work schedule is goofy on Wednesdays and add in the boowahs, I'm not left with a lot of time to get stuff done.

As such, I won't break down by category. I worked out, warming up with a 5K row. I got started and my head started hurting. It continued to hurt after I finished and went out back to do the Crossfit workout. Today's workout is one of my least favorites. I hate cleans. My technique is miserable. And historically ring dips have been a challenge. But I made it through the first set of both all right. As I moved into the second set of cleans, I really started feeling unwell. I was sweating, but it felt like a fever sweat. I was clammy, my muscles suddenly felt weak, my head was pounding. So I stopped and sat down on my neighbors lawn furniture.

I'm sitting there saying "Great Caesar's Ghost, what's wrong with me", and assessing my symptoms. All of a sudden I say to myself, "This is how I feel when I'm dehydrated". Ding! Give me a prize. I am a smart one. I hadn't had anything to drink since about 7 that morning. Dumb. I ended up stopping the workout and going in and drinking lots of water. The headache went away about half a hour later and everything was fine.

I didn't feel hungry much today. Ate very lightly but was disappointed with the cuts of meat I had for lunch and dinner. Don't know that it's worth citing everything I eat. I'm keeping it simple. Meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, berries. Water when I remember.

Got in touch with a professor who gave me a lead on a potential job.

That's it as far as the life changes go. I'm turning in early for a change after I was up late again last night wrapping up the semester. A good night's sleep will help.

Had Mark Danielowski's book Only Revolutions sent to me at the library and tried to read it. Not going to happen. I do not get it in the least. As an objet d'art it is very cool. The book is told by a guy and a girl. The book is 360 pages. The guy tells the story from one end of the book. Flip the book upside down and you get the girl's story. There are two bookmarks built into the book to mark your place in each person's story. The page numbers are marked with a circle with each page being a degree in that circle so the page numbers rotate as you progress through the book. The font starts really big so that on page 0 of the guy's story, he takes up maybe 90% of the page while the upside down version of the girl's story on page 360 takes up ten percent. As you continue, the fonts change and shrink until on page 360 of the guy's story he is at 10% of the page and the girl's page 0 takes up the rest. Each page is dated and has events that occur on those dates. The story does not seem to correspond with those dates. The stories are written in a type of poetry. Not exactly sure what to call it. A lot of it rhymes, some of it doesn't. Lots of made up words. Lots of animals which are bold-faced text and the letter O and number 0 are all colored differently. From a visual standpoint, it's pretty neat. I just wasn't getting the story. Tried the guy. Tried the girl. Skipped to different parts. Just seemed like a lot of nonsense. Alas. I don't think I'll continue trying to get it.

Media mix of September 2nd

[Listen] What is the music scene like in your area? Are you happy with it?

As much as I like music, I've never been able to get into the "scene". I think it has to do with my dislike of crowds. From what I know from others in the area, it seems to be pretty good here. Some decent clubs. A couple nearby larger venues. Haven't heard too much about the quality of the classical music and opera scenes. Of course, Philly isn't too far away if you really want some options.

[Watch] Which show have you found yourself the most emotionally attached to the characters and scenarios?

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. I was furious with how they ended that show and boycotted television for a little while (that really impacted the networks, let me tell you). Brisco, Bowler and Socrates were all great characters. The stories were entertaining. And it only lasted two seasons. The final episode had Brisco and Bowler being shot. What a horrible, horrible way to end a series.

[Read] Have you ever waited in line to get your book signed by a beloved writer? If so, who?

I've not. I have a copy of Leonard Koppett's The New Thinking Fan's Guide to Baseball that I got Rod McCall and Pete Rose, Jr. to sign when I ran into them at Burger King (story in a previous post). From there I tried to get more members of the Kinston Indians team whenever I saw Kinston playing around North Carolina. Unfortunately, that book is in the stack of general baseball books that are not shelved (an additional bookcase is first among the purchases to be made when I'm employed again) so I can't see how many I ended up getting. I think I have 11. Oh wait, my database might have that. Let me check.....Why yes, yes it does. It is signed by eight players and the manager. I think that's the only book I've ever had signed in person and it wasn't by the writer.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

30 days to changing my life - Day 1: A good start

I plan on posting in the evening after the boowahs have gone to bed. But tonight I must wrap up my final assignment of the semester and I just need to truck right through that and get it done.

The first day was pretty good. Let's address the six areas of focus, shall we?

1. Improved fitness - Did the Crossfit workout and some extra rowing. It amazes me sometimes how much I forget about myself. When I bicycled regularly, it would take me forever to loosen up - close to an hour to really feel like my muscles were working at 100%. As a matter of fact, it was always tough for me to ride with a group or do long rides because inevitably you have a long food stop and then I would have to re-loosen up after the stop.

It seems that although I like to warmup with a row, it isn't quite enough. As my workout progressed, I was performing better and was less tired. Pullups are still difficult for me but the second and third sets of thrusters I knocked out with ease. My rowing was very strong and at the fastest pace I've rowed since the last day of March. My final 500 meters was smoking. Incidentally, I did not row a single day in April. All about consistency.

2. Improved dietary consumption leading to weight loss. It will take some time to get adjusted to this. I got tired in the early afternoon and took a brief nap which could be due to in part to blood sugar levels (or waking up at 5 after going to sleep at midnight, one or the other). I've been fighting the urge to have some processed sugar.

My meals were good. Steak and eggs and peaches for breakfast. Ground turkey and tomatoes and almonds for lunch. Steak, Brussel sprouts and almonds for dinner. I also made my own jerky for the first time and had that for a snack. I'm planning on hitting the grocery store on Thursday and will get some diversity in the fruit and veggies department which will be of immense help.

It was a challenge avoiding processed stuff. Drank water with lemon all day which wasn't bad at all.

3. Work on my book. Looked over a lot of notes I've taken in the past to see where I stand and where I want to pick up.

4. Get a job. Put together a list of jobs and contacts I want to get in touch with over the next couple of days.

5. Work on the house. Took up a little bit of the floor tile in the hallway to see how easy it will be. Easy. Since it was garbage day I hacked off and threw out a large section of carpet that had been sitting in the top floor of the barn rotting. Feels good to open up space in the top floor.

6. Go on a date. I didn't go anywhere today except to get Gaga at practice and if there's one thing I've learned, your child's soccer practices are not a haven of available single women. Unless you count his classmates. Ew.

Now I'm off to finish the semester. HUZZAH!!!!

Short stories

I'm going to try and get caught up with my book reviews in the near future. I've written for everything I've read. I just need to post it.

As I wrote back in my review of T.C. Boyle's The Human Fly and Other Stories, I went on a run of short stories there for a little while. Not sure how exactly it happened. No, wait, I do. Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. I wanted to read some more of Boyle's works. My library had the short story collection and two novels, one of which was out, the other I had read. No brainer.

I had recommended Susanna Clarke's wonderful, wonderful, wonderful novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, to my illiterate friend Transfixed Ingress which made me long for something else by her. To my knowledge, she had not published anything else. Lo and behold, once I did some looking, I found that she had a collection of short stories called The Ladies of Grace Adieu. There was a single copy in our system so I requested and read it. It was pretty good, especially if you like Jane Austen crossed with faeries. I can't say I do. There was one story where Jonathan Strange makes an appearance but the short story format just does not enable Clarke to paint a masterpiece like Jonathan Strange. Clarke's depth in that book is a big part of what makes it so fabulous. Grace Adieu was good, just not my cup of tea.

The last one was a book I bought when someone donated it to the library book sale collection. I did not realize that F. Scott Fitzgerald had written a short story that was used as the inspiration for the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. But he did and the publishers used that to market a collection of his short stories they pulled together.

I did not care for Fitzgerald in high school and avoided him until the last couple of years. Now he is one of my favorite authors. These short stories are very typical for him and as such, are just a pleasure to read. They all wrap up very nicely and the prose is just excellent. I love how he captures the era and how the characters are a simultaneous blend of shallow and deep. Good stuff.