Sunday, February 28, 2010

Angels Soar

I recently created a list of some hard-to-find baseball books that I wanted to track down at reasonable prices to add to my library. Incredibly, almost immediately after forming the list, I came across a copy of the one at an estate auction. It was in a lot with another book and a glove ad. Landed the whole thing for five bucks:

The book? Split Doubleheader, a history of the Minnesota Twins.

The other one sort of intrigued me more, though, and I sat down and read it last night.

Angels Soar is almost like a glorified, expanded yearbook of the 1985 Angels, written and published before the 1985 season ended. For those of you who don't remember, the 1985 Angels finished one game behind the Kansas City Royals for the AL West title despite having the lowest team batting average in the American League. The Angels did finally win the West the following year before losing the AL pennant to the Red Sox.

Getting back to the book, it is almost laughable to read how things have changed in the last quarter-century of baseball:

"In 1984, Moore had led the Atlanta Braves with 16 saves".

"He can be a super player hitting .260".

That's mild, though, to the incredible homerism:

"All of this might lead to the conclusion that Pettis, indeed, is the next Willie Mays, that the officials of the Hall of Fame should be preparing his plaque".

Why not? At the end of the 1985 season Pettis would have been well on his way to Mays' career home run total of 660. He hit one in 1985, giving him seven for his career to that point. At that pace, he would have tied Mays right around the time Terminator robots took over the world.

There's a good bit on the amazing relief pitching of Stu Cliburn. Some tributes to Rod Carew and Reggie Jackson. Bobby Grich? Mentioned in a list of veterans and shown in one picture. Has there ever been a more underrated player than Grich?

Nothing really to recommend about it except that it makes one recall the mid-80's Angels.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Law and Pride TTM

I received two TTM requests back very quickly this past week, both of former players who are now coaching collegiately.

Vance Law is the baseball coach at Brigham Young University. He was named the head coach back in 1999 and has led BYU to a conference title and two tournament titles since then.

Curtis Pride is in his second year as head coach at Gallaudet University, the noted school for the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington, D.C. I have a friend who is an audiologist and we have often talked about writing something for publication on deaf ballplayers in professional baseball. Mr. Pride agreed for us to interview him and I am planning on catching the Bisons play against York College at the end of March.

The Bison are looking to overcome a difficult season last year which saw them go 1-18 in the Capital Athletic Conference. The snow that has plagued the region has not helped with Gallaudet's preparation for the upcoming season. Five games have been snowed out already but the team heads for Florida in a couple of weeks.

Thanks to both Mr. Pride and Mr. Law!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Belarusian gold!!!

Alexei Grishin took gold in the Men's Aerials, an event that had three Belarusians (Timofei Slivets and Dmitri Dashinski also) qualify for the dozen entrants in the finals.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jumping on the Muse bandwagon

I don't know what it is. Maybe I'm just old and can't break the habit but I have a really hard time buying single songs. I'm an album guy. If I hear a song I like by an artist, I'm going to explore other songs by that artist and see how much I like them. If I like them, I'll buy the album (and maybe older ones if they've been around). I think there are two reasons I still do this.

The first reason is a minor one. I still think that artists sometimes create albums with a structure - that the songs on an album are in the order they are for a reason. I like listening to how the songs run into one another as much as I like the individuals songs. I think this reason is vanishing as people are buying single songs more frequently. I may be wrong.

But the main reason is because, almost always, my favorite song on an album is not one that gets play time or becomes popular.

Some examples:

I especially dig the fact it is in 7/8 or 7/4 time.

I could make a several page post with examples. But I won't.

Getting back to the point of the post, I finally broke down and picked up a copy of Muse's new album. I really enjoyed Uprising.

For some reason it reminds me of the Dr. Who theme song:

So I started exploring Muse's other work. Liked a lot of it. Had seen the Knights of Cydonia video before:

Oddball, enjoyable sci-fi/western/martial arts video. Song reminds me a bit of Queen.

Kept listening. Didn't find anything I didn't like but their newest pushed me over:

I dig the electronic pizzicato strings. The song reminds me of another group but I can't place it.

I think that's what I like most about Muse. There's a comforting familiarity to what they do but it's their own sound.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wild Child

For most of this book, I thought this might be the most perfectly written book I've ever read. This, despite the fact that it is a collection of short stories and despite the fact that I just finished reading a book of his, breaking my policy of not reading two books by the same author in a short period of time.

Sadly, if you look at the ratings on Amazon, this book is getting hammered because five morons have given it a low rating because of the cost of the Kindle version.

So what do I mean by the most perfectly written book? The first thirteen stories are crisp, detailed, have evolved characters, interesting plots and conclude in a satisfactory manner - you're not really left wanting more or feeling like there is a gaping void (see Alice Munro's short stories). Typical beautiful Boyle writing. Mostly third person omniscient perspective with a couple written in first person.

What are the stories about? People. Some of the plots are unorthodox. There's one story about a couple who spend a quarter of a million dollars to clone their dead dog. In an effort to try to replicate the original dog, they hire the woman who dogsat the original dog years before. Another story involves a man who buys a python to keep himself company after his wife passes away but finds himself drawn more to the rats that he is supposed to feed the python.

Not all pet stories by any means. A tale of a Venezuelan pitcher whose mother gets kidnapped. Another about a professional driver who gets caught in an LA mudslide while trying to deliver an organ to a hospital and becomes involved in trying to rescue a woman's husband. There's the woman who falls for her plastic surgeon. The man who unexpectedly gets involved in his town's debate over creationism being taught in schools.

All of the stories involve relationships of some kind or another and what they will do to have or maintain those relationships.

Why is this not perfect? The 14th story which also happens to be the title of the book. Wild Child is an anomaly in the book. It is much longer than the rest (65 pages. None of the others top 25 pages). A little cruder. A tad repetitive. Interestingly, in Talk Talk, the main character is writing a book about the same topic as Wild Child and the book is entitled Wild Child. The story is about a young boy whose throat is slit and is left abandoned in the woods of France in the late 1700's. He survives and grows up in the wild. Eventually, he is captured and attempts are made to "civilize" him. This story is the only one, too, that I felt ended in an empty fashion. Boyle suddenly fast forwards the story, a story that has largely plodded, to an ending that is probably the only part of the book that lacks detail.

I was struck again by how I remained ignorant of T.C. Boyle for so long. Every one of these stories has been printed elsewhere before but I have never seen them. Unreal.

If you haven't already gone out and read T.C. Boyle on my recommendation already, what the heck are you waiting for? Even if you aren't a big reader, this is a great book for you to read because of the length of the stories. Definitely get a copy and enjoy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Belarusian medals!!!!

Darya Domyacheva took bronze in the 15K women's biathlon!

Sergey Novikov tied for the silver medal in the 20K biathlon!

Woohoo! Go Belarus!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Robert Downey, Jr. Ouevre #9 - Only You

I've been to Europe once. I spent a couple of weeks in the Netherlands about five years ago and loved it. I can't say, though, that I've had a tremendous urge to see other parts of Europe. Would love to return to the Netherlands but the rest of the

Or so I thought until I watched this movie. The majority of the film takes place in Italy and my oh my is it beautiful. Of course, cynical ol' me cannot help but think what fifteen years of growth and tourism has done to ruin the beauty but the scenes of both the countryside and architecture made me think it just might be nice to head over there some day.

In the meantime, I watched a tale of Destiny and Faith. Or Faith's Destiny. Faith is the main character and is played by Marisa Tomei. When she is 11, she and her brother are playing on an Oujia board where she finds that her soul mate is one Damon Bradley (oh, the spookiness if it had been Damon Rutherford). Years later, she goes to a fair and asks a fortune teller about her future and the fortune teller tells her that her soul mate is Damon Bradley.

Fourteen years pass and we find Faith is engaged to....a podiatrist named Dwayne. She's as excited about marrying a podiatrist as most people are about seeing one. But he's nice, wealthy, stable. Why not? It's just marriage.

So she and her best friend (who is also her sister-in-law) are at home when the phone rings calling for Dwayne. It is a former college classmate of his who is calling from the airport just before he leaves for Italy. The classmate is Damon Bradley. Faith and friend race to the airport and fly to Italy (the sister-in-law suspects Faith's brother is cheating on her and needs to get away). They run around trying to track down the elusive Bradley and finally stumble across him and it is none other than our hero, Robert Downey (this is about forty minutes in).

Downey falls for Faith, Faith falls for Downey (this after just a few hours of knowing one another). Faith wants to call home and cancel the engagement and Downey breaks the news that he is really named Peter Wright. Faith freaks out, gives Downey the heave and plans to go home and get married. Her sister-in-law, meanwhile, is fooling around with a guy named Giovanni.

The next day, Downey shows up, tells Faith that he has found the real Damon and they trek further south in Italy where they find that the real Damon Bradley is a hunk of burning love played by Billy Zane.

I need to interrupt the review here to say that I may have gone with the wrong actor with this film project. Billy Zane is a hoot. I thought he was great in The Phantom. He became an icon in Zoolander.

In this flick, he's a riot. Sort of a dim pretty boy. But if you look at the credits, you find that Zane is credited as "The False Damon Bradley" (which has to be one of the neatest credits going). Yes, Zane is not the real Damon Bradley either.

Faith heads home despondently but as she's about to catch her plane, she hears an announcement for Damon Bradley to report to the information desk. She races there and finally finds her true love.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this movie. The opening dialogue (when Faith is a kid) is extremely stilted. There are some sequences which are really cheesy. Bonnie Hunt plays the sister-in-law friend. You may recognize her from when she reprised the role as the man-hating wet blanket in Jerry Maguire. Mostly, though, it's a cute story with a lot of laugh out loud moments (some of which don't involve Billy Zane).

Downey does all right. He comes off as creepy and clingy at times when professing his love for this woman he hardly knows. But she's racing all over Italy looking for a name so who is crazier? Downey also is charming and gentlemanly and extremely tolerant. He shows a nice bit of range and is humorous.

Lastly, I thought the airport scenes were pretty entertaining. Back when this was released in 1994, the terrorists had not already won and you could race through airports to try and catch the man of your dreams before he boards the plane. The first time Tomei does this, in America, she is too late, wants to get on the plane before it takes off, but the TWA (was it really that long ago that that airline existed?) guy at the gate calls security on her.

Later, in Italy, Tomei does the same thing but this time, the full of amore Italians halt the plane and get her on it.

Fun movie, worth watching. Probably better with female companionship on a sofa and some popcorn.



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I'm a sucker - Topps Million Card Giveaway

So I've been reading all these posts about the Topps Million Card Giveaway and I thought "Ooh, this looks like fun". I had to get a new printer cartridge today anyway so I went to Walmart and picked up five packs in hope of getting a code. Well, I did. Entered the code and my card was:

Just horrible. On top of it all, I don't like anything about the Topps 2010 set. First, they smell funny and the cards I bought have a slight warping to them. There's too many multiple player cards, which I hate. I got four doubles out of my 60 cards. The base set is ugly, with too much clashing color on a lot of the cards. The position the guy plays is in 2 point font in the bottom left corner. Outside of the Turkey Red inserts, I don't like the inserts either.

Here's the breakout in case you want to trade for something:
42 base (+3 doubles)
2 Turkey Red (Pujols and Ethier)
5 Toppstown (Howard, Pujols, Longoria, Greinke (x2))
1 Million Card giveaway promo
2 Tales of the Game (Boggs and Banks)
2 of the mini throwback game card (Walter Johnson and Roy Halladay)
3 Cards My Mom Threw Out (79 Ozzie Smith, 2004 Alfonso Soriano (WTF?), 1960 Yaz Rookie Star)

At least I know I won't be spending any more money on these.

Rain of Error - Your source for Belarusian Olympics coverage

The Belarusians are off to a slow start in the Olympics. I have yet to find a source online to track results easily by country so I'm going to do it for the Belarusians. They're my team after all. Below are complete results and incomplete schedule.

February 13th
I was right, Darya was the best bet for the medal and she did very well:
Darya Domracheva - 7.5 km biathlon sprint, 8/89
Liudmila Kalinchik - 7.5 km biathlon sprint, 17/89
Nadezhda Skardino - 7.5 km biathlon sprint, 28/89
Olga Nazarova - 7.5 km biathlon sprint, 74/89

February 14th
Alexandr Syman - 10.0 km biathlon sprint, 20/88
Sergey Novikov - 10.0 km biathlon sprint, 40/88
Rustam Valiullin - 10.0 km biathlon sprint, 43/88
Evgeny Abramenko - 10.0 km biathlon sprint, 49/88

February 15th
Sergei Dolidovich - 15.0 km Free cross-country skiing, 35/96
Aliaksei Ivanou - 15.0 km Free cross-country skiing, 60/96
Leanid Karneyenka - 15.0 km Free cross-country skiing, 63/96
Alena Sannikova - 10.0 km Ladies' Free cross-country skiing, 44/78
Olga Vasiljonok - 10.0 km Ladies' Free cross-country skiing, 56/78
Ekaterina Rudakova - 10.0 km Ladies' Free cross-country skiing, 59/78

February 16th
Evgeny Abramenko - 12.5 km biathlon pursuit
Sergey Novikov - 12.5 km biathlon pursuit
Alexandr Syman - 12.5 km biathlon pursuit
Rustam Valiullin - 12.5 km biathlon pursuit
Darya Domracheva - 10.0 km biathlon pursuit
Liudmila Kalinchik - 10.0 km biathlon pursuit
Nadezhda Skardino - 10.0 km biathlon pursuit
Svetlana Radkevich - 500m Ladies' speedskating

February 17th
Mens' Ice Hockey - Finland 5 Belarus 1
Nastassia Dubarezava - Ladies' Individual Sprint Classic Cross-Country Skiing - Did Not Qualify

February 18th
Lizaveta Kuzmenka - Ladies' Super Combined
Maria Shkanova - Ladies' Super Combined
Svetlana Radkevich - 1000m Ladies' speedskating

February 19th
Mens' Ice Hockey vs. Sweden

February 20th
Anna Huskova - Ladies' Aerials
Assoli Slivets - Ladies' Aerials
Alla Tsuper - Ladies' Aerials
Lizaveta Kuzmenka - Ladies' Super G
Maria Shkanova - Ladies' Super G

February 22nd
Dmitri Dashinski - Men's Aerials
Alexei Grishin - Men's Aerials
Anton Kushnir - Men's Aerials
Timofei Slivets - Men's Aerials

February 24th
Lizaveta Kuzmenka - Ladies' Giant Slalom
Maria Shkanova - Ladies' Giant Slalom

February 26th
Lizaveta Kuzmenka - Ladies' Slalom
Maria Shkanova - Ladies' Slalom

Monday, February 15, 2010

Zane Smith TTM

Sarah got to meet Zane Smith in person. So I was inspired to send Mr. Smith a TTM request. I'm doing a crummy job of keeping this organized despite doing it on a very limited basis so I have no idea how long it took to respond but it was really quick, about a week.

Smith is one of those guys I think of when I hear the phrase "crafty lefty". He never had a lot of stuff and as he aged, his control became better. It also helped that he left the Atlanta Braves (right as their run of futility ended and Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz came aboard) and started pitching for some good teams. His record with the Braves was 39-58. He went 61-57 for the other teams for which he pitched. Smith threw 16 shutouts in his career including a pair of one-hitters for the Pirates.

He spent parts of two seasons with the Expos, enough to get him on some cards as an Expo. He was then traded to the Pirates in a deal most interesting because of the player to be named later; a young outfielder by the name of Moises Alou.

Thanks again to Mr. Smith.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I actually beat the rush of women to this book at the library. I was in my account last week before the snowstorm and saw there were already a dozen holds on the book. Gilbert herself says in the introduction of her book that somehow, after Eat, Pray, Love, she became chick-lit author despite having written almost exclusively about and for manly-men up to that point. She continued on in the into that Committed was largely re-written because she didn't feel like she had an audience in mind the first time she wrote it and so wrote it for a couple dozen of her female friends the second time.

So this is probably her first book which is really intended for women. I had a lot of hopes for it but some doubts as well. I hoped it would be two-star worthy like EPL and The Last American Man but knew also that it would be tough to match.

It did come close. Committed is sort of an extension of EPL. At the conclusion of that book, Gilbert falls in love with a Brazilian man. Both of them have been divorced and aren't keen about the whole institution of marriage. This book begins with the two of them having to look into marriage as heightened Homeland Security prevents her love from being able to ever re-enter the United States again.

Being forced to marry in order to be able to be in the United States as a couple launches Gilbert into an investigation of the history of marriage and what the concept means to her. Like her other books, it is well-written with clear, entertaining prose. She continues to write with self-awareness although at times it feels the openness is for show. A "Look at me" sort of sense. Gilbert explores different ideas of marriage and how it came to be, why it exists, why people make it out to be so important and the personal/legal ramifications. In all this it is an excellent book. It is never dull and rarely redundant.

The book falls short of two-star status for me for two reasons. The first is that she references a wealth of histories and documents about marriage that she has examined. Yet the book contains exactly one footnote and the footnote even comments on it being the only footnote. The footnote is an aside. There is also no bibliography. In the afterword, Gilbert mentions the importance of these materials and mentions the authors (whether or not she got them all, I don't know) but there is no way to follow up on what she wrote and in most cases, it is impossible to even know what source she referenced. If this were just a memoir, I'd have no problem with the lack of citations but as this book is a third to half history/research, I think it should have been a given that there were some indication of her sources.

The second reason the book falls short is an excruciating, whiny, sexist chapter which also happens to be the longest chapter in the book. The chapter is entitled Marriage and Women and is wrought with stereotypes and generalizations about men mixed with complaints about how women are unjustly treated. As someone who has been and continues to be the primary caregiver for my sons and who maintains a household by myself which includes all the "womanly" duties of cooking, cleaning, etc. in addition to all the "manly" ones, it really bothers me whenever I read about "gender roles" and how the burden is only on one side. I hate this sort of rigmarole in any situation. Yes, groups have been repressed over time. That repression stemmed largely from stereotypes and generalizations which is the exact same thing you're doing! Drives me nuts.

It drove me nuts even more because as Gilbert is generalizing her way to a point, she then turns around and complains about her uniqueness and how she and her betrothed to be are so much different from everyone else who has ever considered marriage. While the circumstances surrounding their marriage may be unusual, everyone has their own sets of problems and situations which make their potential marriage "unique". It doesn't mean that they don't experience pain, heartache, difficulties, etc. They just might be different. They are by no means less important. Again, just drove me nuts.

Remove that one chapter and add citations and this is another fabulous book. As it is, it is still very good. If you have an interest in an examination of love and marriage, I recommend it. If you like Elizabeth Gilbert, I recommend it. If you haven't read Gilbert, read one of the other two below.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rooting for Belarus in the Olympics

If I didn't have so much schoolwork to avoid, I'd work on my Russian again so that I could cheer on the Belarusians that are competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Why Belarus? Why not? Other than that, though, it's because they are the team that will be representing me in JD's Wild Cardz' competition. I had Madagascar but they opted not to send any athletes so the Belarusians will be leading the charge for ol' Mad Guru!!!

I like my chances. Belarus is sending a dozen biathletes, an ice hockey team, and fourteen skiers. The fun begins for me tomorrow when the women's sprint biathlon takes place. Youngster Darya Domracheva is probably the best chance for a medal. She finished fourth in two World Cup sprint events this past season, the only Belarusian to finish in the Top 5 in any of the five sprint events.

To think I might actually follow the games for once.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

There will be Bipping!

Who better to Bip (especially on a large scale) than the one who spawned the whole phenomenon?

I enjoyed how Thorzul displayed the Bipping. The juxtaposition of a tranquil domestic life with the overwhelming, crushing, cloying presence of too many Dave Gallagher cards. Great film but so many questions - did Thorzul just keep on going out the door, never returning to his home? Did his wife have to clean up the cards? What was the loud noise after he drank the beer? Did Dave Gallagher drive him to drink? What was the symbolism of 8:55? I look forward to seeing how this fares at the Sundance Festival.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Casey v. Dunn. It's a nice-off!

I wrote recently about how I feel that Sean Casey, regularly regarded as the nicest guy in baseball, may be just sort of average nice but took advantage of his field position and playing for crappy pitching staffs to make himself seem excessively nice.

My theory had the potential to be proven this season with my favorite player, Adam Dunn, playing first for the Washington Nationals (who, actually should have decent pitching, but I'll ignore it because that would affect the theory). The Washington Post ran this article today about how Dunn is looking forward to socializing at first. Sean Casey, he is not:

"I've got my buddies, and we've got a lot of things to talk about. Other people, I have no idea what to talk about. For instance, say Brian McCann was over there, I would probably make some sort of fat joke, something like that. I would talk to David Wright about how he can't hit homers any more. It depends."

You know that Casey would be telling McCann how svelte he is and talking up Wright's Ruthian power. I'm sure he told Alex Rodriguez that he was every bit as talented, handsome and classy as Derek Jeter.

I'm beginning to think that Sean Casey may have been nice after all.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Robert Downey, Jr. Ouevre #8 - Iron Man

This was one of the movies that made me want to do this whole project. I had heard a lot about this movie and how it was two parts, the fun Robert Downey as Tony Stark part and the overdone special effect laden Iron Man part. I was disappointed with both parts.

There's not a lot to say about the special effects. Even someone like me, who isn't big into movies, especially the blockbuster CGI action flicks, has become jaded by them. As for the acting, Downey had has moments, maybe even was a bit better than that. I just thought the dialogue was weak, the wit too forced. Give me a David Mamet or Guy Ritchie script for this and the movie is a zillion times better.

Plot is pretty simple. Tony Stark co-runs a gigantic weapons manufacturing outfit. Stark is demonstrating a new weapon in the Middle East when he is kidnapped by a militant group that wants him to make them some rocketses. During the kidnapping, Stark is seriously wounded but is given some electromagnetic device to keep the shrapnel in him away from his heart.

Instead of building the rocketses, Stark builds the Iron Man suit and escapes. He returns to the states with a mission of ridding the world of the weapons. His co-partner disagrees. Battles ensue.

The movie is mighty predictable. It was entertaining enough. And even though my expectations were high for Downey, he did a nice job carrying the flick, the first movie in this project where he has had to do so.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Trade me your poor, your tired, your 2008 Upper Deck X

If you're snowed in today, not feeling like watching the Super Bowl, or just want to help out a fellow card collector, I have posted my 2008 Upper Deck X want list (Bip-free link).

The areas where I'm really in need are Exponentials and Exponential 2, Gold Diecut, game used and signatures. If you have anything, drop me a line or leave a note in the comments. Thanks.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Talk Talk

No reviews for eight days and the run of foreign authors comes to an end. My focus has been off a bit as of late as some personal issues and scholastic issues served to distract me. I'm sure this played a part in my inability to finish a trio of books.

I started a collection of essays by Umberto Eco called How to Travel with a Salmon and Other Essays. They were all parody and satire. The funny ones seemed to last about three pages. The unfunny ones dragged on and on and just abused the same humor points until what was only moderately funny to begin with, became completely void of entertainment. Think the "Banana/Orange" knock-knock joke taken way too far. So I stopped in the midst of some 20-30 page essay that was going nowhere except where it had already been.

I then turned to Nick Harkaway's novel, The Gone-Away World which takes place in post-apocalyptic Australia. Had read good reviews of it but I have trouble getting into futuristic novels and so I quit after a little while.

Thinking maybe I needed a change of pace, I went with American Robert Hellenga's book, The Sixteen Pleasures. This book adds credence to the theory that men cannot write decent books from a first person female perspective. Jay McInerney still is the only author I have found who can pull it off. One of my co-workers and I like to talk books and she reads a lot of female authors and thinks the reverse is true, too. Women can't write as men. Seems reasonable to me.

What to do, what to do? I decided I had to go with someone I knew I would enjoy. So I went with T.C. Boyle's novel, Talk Talk. I read two books by Boyle last year; his novel The Women and his short story collection The Human Fly and Other Stories. These were my first experiences with Boyle but were plenty enough to make me enjoy his writing style.

Talk Talk is just as exquisite from a writing standpoint. Awesome, descriptive prose. In fact, it is so much so I have to complain. More than the other two books (at least that I recall), Boyle goes into smells a lot in this book. I just don't know that I need to know what everything smells like. Worse, he goes into armpit smell way, way too much. After awhile it felt almost fetishist.

Way, way too much is the other complaint. Like The Women, the book seemed overly long. Unlike The Women, I think it could have been edited down without losing something.

Talk Talk begins with a deaf woman, Dana Halter, running late to a dentist appointment. She runs a stop sign and a cop pulls her over. Next thing you know, she's arrested and put in jail as there are warrants her for her arrest all over the country.

It turns out that her identity has been stolen. Dana and her boyfriend Bridger, a computer graphics specialist in the movie business, are able to get some information on the thief who stole her identity and begin to track him down.

The story goes from coast to coast and jumps back and forth from Dana and Bridger to the thief. It is a very stressful story not only from the standpoint of the identity theft but also the treatment of Dana in a world of those who can hear. The police in this story are unhelpful and often cruel which is why Dana and Bridger go after the criminal themselves.

The bad guy is made human but is never likable. He has a fiancee and he cares for her child. He has a daughter of his own but has not seen her since he was put in prison. He wants to have a good life but goes about it the wrong way.

Boyle's level of detail is really good. I've not been around the deaf much but it seems Boyle's depiction of life and the difficulties in communicating are on target. He certainly did his research on identity theft.

A very good book and certainly worthy of a star. The high levels of stress, the unsatisfying ending, and the obsession with smells (and it has nothing to do with Dana having acute olfactory abilities to compensate for her lack of hearing. Everyone in the story smells stuff) prevents if from being a two-star book for me.

The writing is good enough that I certainly feel comfortable putting Boyle in the top echelon of my favorite writers.

Apocalyptic weather

Looking out the window, it is easy to see we have snow. A couple feet of it. It's the weather report that freaks me out, though:

Freezing fog?!?!?! Is that like a wall of ice? And what about the fact that the windchill is warmer than the air temperature? This despite the fact that there is no wind! Is this the result of some supernatural apocalpytic essence from the Hellmouth that opened up? What's next? The Saints in a Super Bowl?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Winners of the Damon Rutherford Card Design Contest

Well, Robert Coover's birthday came and went and I had two entries into the contest to design a card of the character Damon Rutherford in Coover's novel The Universal Baseball Association.

There are a few explanations for why I had only two entries:
1. No one wanted to be bothered to read a book and find out about Rutherford.
2. I have far less traffic than I thought.
3. The cards designed by Mark and Matt were so good, everyone else was frightened off.
4. Sean Casey, jerk that he is, organized a boycott of the site.

I'm going with reason #3. I liked both designs. They each had their merits. So Mark and Matt will be getting a baseball novel or two and some baseball cards. Congratulations and good work!

Tim Wallach TTM

I always liked Tim Wallach. And as such I probably overrated him. In my mind, the best third basemen of the 1980's were clearly George Brett and Mike Schmidt. Right behind them was Wade Boggs. But then you had some solid third basemen of which I think Wallach was the best: Wallach, Lansford, DeCinces, Bell, Gaetti. You had some guys who peaked in their seventies and still played in the eighties like Nettles and Cey but over that decade, Wallach was one of the top guys at the hot corner.

As a matter of fact, no one played more games at third base in the 1980's than Wallach. Three Gold Gloves, Five time all-star. And yet only received one vote for the Hall of Fame.

Wallach, after a lengthy career with the Expos, wrapped up his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and is now a manager in their farm system. Last season, he managed the Albuquerque Isotopes to a divisional title and he will manage them again in 2010.

Thanks to Mr. Wallach for signing some cards, responding politely to a couple of inane questions (really, I embarrassed myself and need to be a little more conscientious in my requests) and doing so quickly (10 days).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I Bipped a girl

Yes, I Bipped a girl. I'm not sure if there are any gender considerations with Bipping. Is it wrong to Bip a girl as it is to hit a girl? Is talking about how you Bipped a female the baseball card equivalent of conquest banter in the locker room? My own feeling is this is the 21st Century and we're all about equality. There are no gender differences in card collecting. So there.

As I mentioned yesterday, I oh so badly wanted to Bip people. So I had to make trade partners. I stumbled across Sarah at Rookie Card Collector. She, too, is collecting the 2008 Upper Deck X set so we exchanged want lists and we are both much closer to completion. I also had to Bip her, of course.

Along with the UDX cards, Sarah sent me a couple of Dunns for the collection.

I'd scan the X cards but I put them in the binder as soon as I opened them and I'm not taking them out again.

They were very much appreciated. Thanks, Sarah!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

You Bipped my father. Prepare to die!

I have to hand it to Thorzul. He's brought some new ideas to the online baseball card community, the best (in my opinion) being the idea of Bipping.

My only problem, though, was that as a new member to the community, I had few addresses (well, one), for Bipping folk. So I had to make some trade partners.

Roy at A Paper Chase made a lot of sense. I've read his blog. Seemed like a nice guy. Fan of Troy Tulowitzki. I had recently acquired a Tulo jersey card. Roy had a Adam Dunn jersey card. We made the swap and included some other cards. And in my case, some of the cards I included involved a Bipping.

I think we both were happy with the trade, though. I got a bunch of Dunn cards I need:

But that Dunn jersey card is a bit of a pranking of its own. Check it out:

It says jersey on the side but do you see a jersey swatch? Me either. That's because it's hidden (since no one really likes looking at the jersey parts, right?):

That's one of the craziest cards I've seen. I like it, though, since it's a Dunn card. Thanks a lot for the trade, Roy!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Robert Downey, Jr. Ouevre #7 - Wonder Boys

Had to watch something to get the bad taste of In Dreams out of my eyes so I went with one of my all-time favorite films, Wonder Boys. Based on the Michael Chabon book (which I reviewed in October), it is about a writer/professor in Pittsburgh and one of his students.

The professor, Grady (Michael Douglas), published a critically acclaimed book, The Arsonist's Daughter, but has spent the seven years since trying to bring his second novel to completion. Now in excess of 2000 pages with no end in sight, Grady is overwhelmed and seeks solace in marijuana. On top of that, he is in love with the college's chancellor (Frances McDormand) despite both of them being married.

The student (Tobey Maguire), James, is a talented, despondent, strange lad with quite an imagination. Grady becomes an unlikely role model for the kid.

Having watched this movie several times in my lifetime, I tried to watch it this time with a very critical eye and I had a hard time coming up with much of which to be critical. There is a lack of consistency with the weather, especially in the final scenes. Drug use in the form of marijuana and pharmaceuticals is prevalent (along with language is why it is rated R) of which I'm never a fan.

The scene in the chancellor's bedroom with Grady and James is a little off (how does James get Marilyn Monroe's jacket from the closet and why is there so little blood when the dog is shot (how's that for a teaser?)?). And unlike other movies which I enjoy immensely, I don't feel the soundtrack adds anything. It's decent but doesn't stand out.

Other than those things, I like everything about the movie. It's well-acted. The dialogue is great. The characters are all flawed but likable. Terrific ending with all the loose ends tied up.

As for our hero, Downey plays Grady's editor Crabtree. He comes into town, supposedly for the school's annual literary celebration, but mostly to see how the book is doing. Downey is not well-regarded in the publishing community and is considered a washout. He makes his appearance early in the movie when Grady goes to pick him up at the airport. Crabtree arrives with a transvestite with whom he is very flirtatious until Crabtree sees James and becomes enamored with him.

Downey's character is quirky, funny, a tad on the conniving and despicable side. There's a lot of depth to him. He obviously could be a good writer (witness the bar scene) and despite being washed up, manages to hold onto a job. His sexual preferences aren't clear outside of variable. There's a lot to him that makes you wonder more about his past. The only reason I'm not giving Downey five stars for the role is because he's not a main character and is not on screen enough.

I just love this movie. I will be shocked if any other work Downey does approaches this.