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Archive for October, 2008

Philadelphia Phillies 5, Tampa Bay Rays 4

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If the Phillies win this World Series, this is surely the game that everyone will remember.  After an afternoon of heavy rain, last night’s game started an hour-and-a-half late and it didn’t end until nearly 2 a.m.  By then, I was damp and chilled to the bone.  It didn’t matter.  The Phillies kept it together, winning thrillingly in the bottom of the ninth to take a 2-1 lead in the series.  Jubilation!

I don’t have any special insights into the play of the game.  MLB.com’s coverage of the game is very good, and it details the crazy ninth inning—in which Eric Bruntlett (who relieved leftfielder Pat Burrell late in the game when the Phils had a good lead) was hit by a pitch, then stole second on a wild pitch, then immediately stole third when catcher Dioner Navarro’s throw to second was itself wild.  After the Rays intentionally walked two Phillies to load the bases, Phils catcher Carlos Ruiz came to the plate and hit the first walk-off infield single in World Series history.  (This single occurred despite the Rays’ use of five infielders.  In the stands, it took me a minute to figure out why one of the outfielders was running to the dugout.  He needed an infielder’s glove.)  It was quite an end to a game that saw the Phillies take an early lead, only to let the Rays tie it in the eighth.  (The New York Times coverage of the game is good, too, and I read it as soon as I got home.  Also, check out the NYT‘s cool slide show.)

Earlier, as the rain came, in excess, in the afternoon, I wondered how I’d even get to the game.  A few minutes before I need to leave my apartment for the train station, I realized that service on the train line was suspended (thanks to some downed trees).  My seatmate was in Wilmington, having moved early in the day to a new house.  He wasn’t, I knew, figuring on going out of his way to pick me up.  There was no doubt I was going to get to the ballpark, though, even if I had to take a cab from the burbs.  My seatmate rescued me, anyway, and our drive to the ballpark took us through torrential rain.  It seemed absurd to be going to a baseball game.

When we got to the park, we immediately got wet from the ankles down, as the parking lot was flooded.  I’d stay damp throughout the night.  At the ballpark, we eventually found a rail to lean on in the second tier (we were sitting in Section 204) and waited.  And waited.  An hour later, it was still pouring.  I started to hope the game would get rained out so I could come back on Sunday, which had a sweet weather forecast.  About 75 minutes after the game should’ve started, though, when it was still raining hard, the groundskeepers started taking the tarp off.  It seemed nuts.  But they knew what was about to happen: The rain was going to stop, and the game was going to start.  A little after 10 p.m., 45-year-old Jamie Moyer took the mound, and the game was on.

I can’t say I enjoyed every minute of the game.  I enjoyed it when the Phils took the early lead, of course.  But after the rain left (and it did leave for good, before the first pitch), it was replaced by a strong, chilly wind.  I’d worn layers, but I guess I should’ve worn gloves.  My fingers, and the tip of my nose, started to hurt.  I kept warm by jumping up (a lot), clapping (a lot), and high-fiving my neighbors (a lot).  When the Rays tied the game in the eighth, though, I wondered how I’d survive too many extra innings.  I would’ve stayed as long as necessary, but it would’ve hurt.  Thanks to Eric Bruntlett and Carlos Ruiz, I didn’t have to find out how much it actually would’ve hurt.

It was nearly 3:25 a.m. when I rolled back into the apartment.  I was still smiling.

Go Phillies!

P.S. The video is of Taylor Swift’s rendition of the national anthem.  I didn’t actually see her last night, because my seatmate and I were struggling to get to our section at the time.  I heard her performance, though, and I thought Swift did an amazing job.

Written by Jay

October 26th, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Posted in Philly,Sports

CRISS ANGEL Believe

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Hey, long time no blog.

For once, there’s a good reason, too.  Last Friday, I realized that—through the combination of Columbus Day and a couple of leave days—I had five free days ahead of me.  And no plans.  So I jumped on Travelocity, looking for someplace to go, someplace I could get to both cheaply and easily.  One destination stood out: Las Vegas.

I’ve been to Vegas at least once a year for several years in a row (and I’m headed there again in December for the National Finals Rodeo).  I’m comfortable there; there’s always something to do; I know I’ll have fun.  So I booked the trip.  Woo hoo!

That’s how I found myself, on Sunday night at 10 p.m., at the Luxor for Cirque du Soleil’s new show, CRISS ANGEL Believe.

(Yes, that’s how Cirque spells it.  Creative capitalization and boldface, huh?  [Insert eyeroll here.])

If you know me well, you already know I’m a big, big fan of Cirque du Soleil.  In fact, after this visit to Las Vegas, I’ve seen all six Cirque shows currently playing there (and I think I’ve seen five of Cirque’s traveling shows).  I don’t have to be sold on Cirque shows.  I go into them convinced, already, that I’m going to have fun, be entertained, see something different.

But CRISS ANGEL Believe let me down.

I guess I should issue some disclaimers.  First, and most importantly, I got bird poop on me—on my face!—at the show.  Really. Now, I don’t think I would’ve liked the show even if I’d gotten through it bird poop-free, but let me be clear: Getting bird poop on your face, at a fancy show, at a fancy show you paid $100+ to see, is absolutely unacceptable.  It’s disgusting.  It’s something you never forget.  Hmph.  Cirque du Soleil, you owe me a refund—at a minimum.

And I can’t believe that Cirque hasn’t figured out the problem of the bird poop on its own.  It must’ve occurred to someone that if the show has dozens of birds fly over the audience, every single night, there are going to be some, well, waste issues from time to time.  These birds are well-fed, I’m sure.  They’re probably stressed, too—or, at least, not thrilled to be indoors with hundreds of people.  And, well, even if they weren’t stressed, they’d still have to poop once in awhile, wouldn’t they?

And when the birds flew over the audience on Sunday night, about 15 minutes into the show, I got slammed in the face, on my left cheek right below my eyeglasses, with a little chunk of nasty detritus.  Ewww.  Ewww city.  It stung, and it was foul.  I couldn’t believe it.  What if it had hit me in the eye?  Won’t it eventually hit someone in the eye?  Can you imagine having to leave CRISS ANGEL Believe because you’ve gotten bird crap in your eye?  If these birds fly over enough audiences, it’s bound to happen, right?  Maybe it has already happened….  Gee.

Anyway, there I sat, in the middle of a row, in a dark theater, wondering how the hell I was going to get bird poop off my face, wondering if I could get some bird disease right there at the Luxor, wondering how Cirque du Soleil let something this stupid happen.  For a minute, I was stunned.  I didn’t see how I could get out of my seat without disrupting the show for a dozen people….  I calculated, reevaluated.  When I looked around, I realized that I already had what I needed.  I had a napkin and a special $12 Cirque du Soleil mixed drink, apple-y and tasty.  I hated to sacrifice the drink, but, of course, I hated having bird poop on my face even more.  So I dipped my napkin into the drink and got to work on my face.  The drink had alcohol in it, right?  And it was wet.  It would get my face clean and, I hoped, kill any bird germs on my face.

As I said, I don’t think I would’ve liked CRISS ANGEL Believe even if I’d had a poop-free evening.  And maybe my second disclaimer helps explain why: I just don’t know Criss Angel’s work.  I gather he’s a well-regarded magician, with a TV show…but I’ve never seen his work, and I didn’t even know about his TV show until I was sitting in the theater.  He seemed to have a lot of fans in the audience.  Maybe they were prepared to like the show, despite the incoherent plot, despite the lack of any impressive illusions, despite the lack of any Cirque-quality acrobatics or spectacle.  Maybe all they needed to see was Angel’s innocent face.  Maybe they just needed to get close to his rock’n’roll vibe.

But that wasn’t enough for me.

Truthfully—and this is my final disclaimer—I’m not even particularly interested in magic.  Or illusions.  Or whatever it is exactly that Criss Angel trades in.  But I absolutely think I could’ve enjoyed some good magic, especially if it had been integrated into a high-quality Cirque spectacle.  Instead, my audience got some birds produced out of thin air, Criss Angel (er, should that be CRISS ANGEL?) suddenly appearing ten feet from where he seemed to be, and Criss Angel split in two (temporarily, of course).  That’s not enough magic for a magic show.

We also got a ridiculous plot line (why did there have to be a plot at all?), some good—but not great—dancing, and plenty of exposure to Criss Angel’s impressive pecs and hair.

Oh, and I got the bird poop on my face.

No thank you, Cirque du Soleil.

Written by Jay

October 21st, 2008 at 10:12 pm

Posted in Art,Travel

Philadelphia Phillies 8, Los Angeles Dodgers 5

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What will I remember about this afternoon’s game, which gave the Phils a 2-0 in the National League Championship Series?

  • I’ll remember that Brett Myers pitched just well enough but, startlingly, had three hits (and three RBIs) of his own.
  • I’ll remember how the Phillies, with two outs, managed in the second inning to score four runs on five hits (without a home run).
  • I’ll remember a helluva catch by centerfielder Shane Victorino to end a two-out threat by the Dodgers in the seventh inning.
  • I’ll remember Manny Ramirez’s three-run, fourth-inning homer, which closed a six-run lead to three.  I’ll remember that the hometown fans, who’d relaxed just a bit, tensed up.
  • I’ll remember that it was unseasonably warm, like a June day—and almost too sunny for the first hour.
  • I’ll remember how Brad Lidge got in a little bit of a jam, again, in the ninth inning, only to end the game with a strikeout of Nomar Garciaparra.
  • But, mostly, I’ll probably remember the two guys sitting next to us (in Section 105, in the outfield)—how they fretted and yelled; how they hugged whenever anything good happened; how they spilled four (four!) beers, causing me to smell like hops; how one studiously ignored me, while the other slapped me (hard!) on the back and good-naturedly tried to high-five me; how one yelled at a Dodgers-jersey-wearing fan “not to dress like a fag,” when he had gay men sitting on both his right and his left; how they were horrifying, and yet intriguing, to me.

What will I regret about this afternoon’s game?

  • I’ll regret that I didn’t high-five enough strangers, or even the buddy who joined me.
  • I’ll regret that I didn’t start the game with a roast pork sandwich from Tony Luke’s.
  • I’ll regret that I didn’t wear shorts.  (How many more chances will I get this year, anyway?)
  • But, mostly, I’ll probably regret that I didn’t purposely spill beer back on my crazy neighbors, apologizing for being a “clumsy fag.”  Or slip one, or both, of them my phone number.

Final score: 8-5.

Written by Jay

October 11th, 2008 at 12:24 am

Posted in Sports

Weekend Reading, Volume 15

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I haven’t posted a collection of links in awhile.  I’ve just been too fixated on the Phillies, I guess.  No—wait!—it’s not even possible to be too fixated on the Phillies.  Anyway, I haven’t stopped wasting spending time on the web, so there’s quite a backlog.

  • What’s the best thing in this week’s New York Times Magazine?  I think it has to be this piece on doughnuts, which, among other things, has Washington Irving saying that a New Amsterdam table “was always sure to boast an enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat and called dough nuts.”  Be sure to check out Stephen Lewis’s accompanying photographs, too.  They’re amazing.  (That’s not one of Lewis’s above.  Sadly, I can’t afford food porn of that quality.)
  • I’m becoming a big fan of “The Wild Side,” evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson’s NYT blog.  A few weeks ago, Judson blogged about a gene variation in men that was associated, in a Swedish study, with an inability to maintain long-term monogamous relationships.  The very next week, she wrote about the evolution of male-only asexual reproduction in a few unusual species.  It’s good to be reminded just how freaky nature truly is.
  • It’s certainly been a long time—too long—since my last date, but I’m not ready to resort to a cuddle party to get some basic human contact.  Bizarrely, the local paper, The Inky, devoted many, many column inches to the topic.  The article just made me want to buy gallon after gallon of Lysol, hand sanitizer, and various other cootie-killers.  Ewwww.
  • Americans can get married nearly anywhere they want—the backyard, Las Vegas, the halftime of an Oklahoma City Thunder game.  It seems like a basic human right, doesn’t it?  (For straight people only.  Hmmm.)  It’s not that way everywhere, of course.  In England, the rules have loosened up just a little bit, but there’s a long way to go.
  • Pop or soda?  Or just coke? As I’m sure you know, what we Americans call our, um, soft drinks varies pretty dramatically from region to region.  In the Midwest, it’s pop.  In the northeast and California, it’s soda.  In the South, it’s coke.  Strange Maps recently featured a great map that shows off this regional variation.  I grew up in Oklahoma, which, as you’ll see, is one of the places where pop and coke collide.  I grew up with “pop,” in one of those counties in northeastern Oklahoma where 50-80% of the population prefers that term.  But it’s not what I say anymore.  After a decade-plus in Philly, I’ve converted to “soda.”  I’m a traitor.
  • Speaking of great maps, I enjoyed the NYT‘s interactive map showing how well nations have done at the Summer Olympics over the years.  Now is a good time, of course, to get a good view of how the Beijing Games played out.
  • Like any good devotee of Belgian beer, I’ve been closely following the political upheaval between the country’s Flemish and Walloon populations—and just hoping it doesn’t mess up the beer.  If you haven’t been following the steady slide toward devolution, here’s a good primer from BBC News as well as an article on political unhappiness in Flanders.
  • Etan Horowitz, who writes for the Orlando Sentinel and who happens to be one of my “buddies” on Twitter, explains how to change your email address as painlessly as possible.  This is something I need to get my parents—who insist on sharing an email address provided by their small-town ISP—to read.  Horowitz, by the way, is a fan of Gmail.  Me, too.

Written by Jay

October 4th, 2008 at 8:39 pm