Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Shortstop

I was at the Mets game last night with my homeboy Wallace and he wondered aloud what was the etymology of the term "shortstop" in baseball. I didn't know, and I was still wondering this morning, so I did some research.

I'm still not sure the answer is all that clear to me, but as best as I understand it it's a term that's left over from when baseball evolved from cricket. All the other positions are self explanatory. The cather catches, the outfielders cover the outer field, and so on. Pitching has become a verb, so the picher is the one who pitches. This evolved from the area in cricket between the wickets being known as the "pitch" and so it's just a small logical leap from being on the pitch to becoming the pitcher.

But shortstop doesn't make any sense. It doesn't really fit, nor does it really explain itself well. In cricket the guys are all over the field and have position names that don't really match any in baseball. The one exception is that in cricket there is a guy called a "long stop" who seems to play behind the batter to catch the equivalent of foul balls, though there is no foul territory in cricket. There is also a spot on the field called the "short" position, which is closer to the batter than the long position. It seems like there could be a position called "short stop" who just plays closer to the batter than the "long stop", but as best as I can tell, the guy who plays that position is called a "slip". Look at this picture, and it might make more sense to you.

Anyhow, I guess there is conceivably a position called "short stop" in cricket, and I assume that's where the term comes from, but the evidence is shaky at best. Anyone else want to weigh in on this?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Well said, sir

In lieu of some repetetive Mets rule/yankees suck crap, I think this picture says it all.

Friday Classic Video: We're back, baby

Thanks to Chuck for putting up those two (lame-ass) videos the previous two weeks. I just hadn't seen anything new that blew my skirt up.

This one is an oldie but a goodie.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Halcyon

First of all, halcyon has about 5 different definitions. It can really mean anything you want. It can alternately mean calm, prosperous, carefree, joyful, or refer to a mythical bird. Anyway, I decided on a whim this morning to listen to "Crash" by Dave Matthews Band. I haven't listened to that whole album in years and when I put it on I had a literal visceral reaction. I don't recall having that type of reaction to music since I was 17 and this album came out. It was strange in an unexpected way. It wasn't like hearing a song you love and thinking, "Wow, I love this song" (like when I hear "Don't Stop Believing" the Journey classic. I know what you're asking yourself, Side Bar, and the answer is no, I will never let this go.) Anyway, this post isn't about a Dave Matthews album that none of you like, just about the feeling.

I was immediately brought back to my senior year of high school and I was just thinking about how awesome that year was. It wasn't quite nostalgia, but I guess that's the best word for it. I guess another piece of the puzzle is that all the seniors at my school are graduating and I've been signing lots of yearbooks recently and asking them what they're going to be in life and such (for the record they're all going to Queens College or Queensboro Community College or LaGuardia Community College).

So the question really is, why do all of us generally look back at those times as the best of our lives? This is hardly a deep thought, nor is it a hard answer, but I never really thought about it until just now. The reason my senior year of high school was one of the times I look back on with such joy is because the ratio of freedom to responsibility was enormously high. The combination of having a drivers license, access to a car, a minimal amount of school work and essentially no responsibility at home (even though I had more than most at that point) leads to being able to do anything I wanted within minutes of thinking of it. Add to that the fact that I'm not hard to please, and it's a recipe for happiness. Today I wouldn't be able to attend every single varsity basketball game at all corners of the state, but in 1996 I did. Today I wouldn't be able to decide to see a 9pm movie at 8:50, but I did a lot of that back then.

And I don't think that was the best year of my life, or the most fulfilling, it was just the most freedom I've had. So it was fun.

Anyway, I don't have a point. Sorry for wasting your time.

Mets Rant

Ok, so I know I have been accused of a little too much Mets focus on this blog. That's a fair point. We didn't start this blog merely to chronicle the Mets (side note: if we had, we would at best be worthy of a bronze; check out http://www.metsblog.com/, and http://www.yankees2000.com/ for solid Mets "e-zines"), but I can't help it . . . I've got to rant.

What the f*ck? I mean, WHAT THE F*CK?!?!?!

The Mets have lost 5 in a row, 9 of 10, and are simply god awful in June.

I blame everyone.

I can't possibly identify everything wrong with the Mets at this point, so I will focus on the few things that are particularly troublesome right now:

1. Delgado. I warned you. I F*CKING warned you . . . Flag Day is today motherf*cker. I know you've had a few big home runs in the last few weeks, but give me a f*cking break. You're supposed to be a hall of famer. Hey a**hole . . . Dallas called, they want their area code back (side note: sigh . . . I hate that I have to explain this one, but here goes: one of the primary area codes in the Dallas area is (214); the humor is in the fact that Delgado -- who f*cking sucks -- is hardly batting better than .214. Hence, he stole the .214 from Dallas, and they want it back).

2. Beltran. F*ck you. I have been so patient with you and that f*cking mole orbiting your left ear. What? Sorry, I couldn't hear you because I don't speak scrub. What? You feel like you are only at 75%? F*ck you. Kiss my a**. Derek Jeter wouldn't miss a game if he had been in Iraq the day before and had his leg blown off by a motherf*cking IED. You need a day off when you stub your toe. P*ssy. How much are we paying you again? F*ck you. Hit one home run before Gemini sets and Cancer rises and we might talk.

3. The Bench. Willie, I have tried. I swear to f*cking G-d I have tried to keep you out of this. But are you kidding me? Are you f*cking kidding me? Here is what we have to offer off of the bench: Ruben Gotay (puke), Ramon Castro (who isn't that bad, but who we never use on the off chance that the game goes 37 innnings and you need a backup catcher; idiot), Julio Franco (the lunacy of Julio Franco being on this team is worthy of its own post, nay, its own blog, but suffice it to say that Father Time is not the answer in a big spot), Carlos Gomez (too easy), and -- wait, is David Newhan really still in the big leagues? Ugh. F*ck them all. There simply must be -- has to be -- a better pinch hitter available than Julio Franco. Someone call Mike Gray.

Look, the Mets have been fortunate. The Braves have been mailing it in for two weeks, and the Phillies, Nats and Marlins are a joke (interesting run out of the Phils, though). The Mets could be 3 or 4 games out of first, rather than 2 games up, given how they have played this month. Fine. Great. If the Mets clinch the division in September and play ball in October, I will be first in line to cheer them on. But this is bullsh*t, and if they aren't careful, they are going to dig a hole out of which they shouldn't have to, or worse, can't, escape.

Oh and by the way: Easley, Green, LoDuca, Wagner, Heilman, Sosa, Feliciano, Sele, Horowitz, that guy who sells beer in section 12 of the Mezzanine, Wilpon, Milledge, El Duque . . . you all suck too.

God, I hope that's the sun coming

As far as bland first sentences go, "We all get a little depressed sometimes" is pretty damn bland. But ultimately, we all do get down at times, and often due to things others might call "bland." Right now, I'm a bit down, as I'm sure Side Bar is as well, along with the rest of us who bleed orange-and-blue. Chuck probably feels down half the time, and LJT? Well, he'll tell us all about it in the next podcast.

But there are certain things that can always perk me up, no matter what. One of those is a well-known Beatles song, which is sung by George. LJT gave me a lot of shit a few years back after I failed to properly identify George as the singer, but nevertheless, the song still has some ineffable quality that, no matter how bad I feel, it always puts a smile on my face. It's probably my favorite Beatles song, and it's called "Here Comes the Sun."

(Please start this video, but just use it to listen as you read the rest. No need to watch.)



Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
And I say it’s all right.
Little darling it’s been a long cold lonely winter,
Little darling it feels like years since it’s been here.
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
And I say it’s all right.

So the Mets have now lost 9 of 10. And it's not like they've been robbed or deserved to win any of them. They fucking suck right now. And as a die-hard fan, it's tough to watch. It can get, well, depressing. And on top of that, the (hellbound) yankees have won like fifty games in a row. The combination makes me really fucking sick.

Little darling the smiles returning to their faces,
Little darling it seems like it’s years since it’s been here,
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
And I say it’s all right.

Our bullpen, which was the best in baseball last year and was untouchable this year -- prior to this losing streak -- now sucks a giant horse-cock. Our starting pitching, which was questionable entering the season but turned out to be a real strength -- prior to this losing streak -- now sucks a giant walrus-cock. Our lineup, which was the best in the N.L. this year and last -- prior to this losing streak -- now sucks a giant giant-dick. Our defense had recently gone 12 games in a row without an error and was a huge help whenever pitchers got in trouble -- prior to this losing streak -- now sucks a giant... Oh, fuck it. We suck. Everything sucks. Willie Randolph can fall down a fucking well with baby Jessica.

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.

Oh, God. The Mets. The war in Iraq. These morons running for president. The 2 train took forever this morning and made me late. There's at least one (five) mouse (mice) in my apartment. I'm out of beer. I'm OUT OF BEER.

Little darling I feel that ice is slowly melting,
Little darling it seems like years since it’s been clear,
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
It’s all right, it’s all right.

You know what? Maybe things aren't that bad.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Things That Are Overrated: The Bill Buckner Play

The Bill Buckner play is grossly overrated as the symbol of the Red Sox futility. That was certainly the straw that broke the camels back, but it was just the end of the worst half-inning in baseball history.

Let's remember, the Red Sox scored two runs in the top of the tenth inning, and then opened the bottom of the tenth by getting the first two batters out (Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez). They were on the verge of winning the World Series and breaking the curse, and then all hell broke loose.

Gary Carter singled, Kevin Mitchell singled, Ray Knight singled and Carter scored, now the Mets are down 5-4 with Kevin Mitchell on 3rd and Ray Knight on first. Then the Red Sox replace their pitcher Schiraldi with a guy named Stanley who, and here's the crux of the post, promptly throws a wild pitch and allows Mitchell to score and Ray Knight to get to second. This was the boneheaded play of the game. This was the turning point. After the wild pitch that tied the game, the Red Sox had no chance of winning that game. They had no momentum, they had lost their spirit, and it wasn't going to happen. Immediately following the wild pitch Mookie Wilson hit the grounder to Buckner and the rest is history, but the game was already tied, and the Mets were definitely going to win that game at that point.

Buckner did let the winning in, but Schiraldi being unable to close the game out after retiring the first two batters, and Stanley throwing a wild pitch allowing in the tying run after geting the opportunity to close the game out were what lost the game for Boston. Buckner really was just the tail end of that shit storm.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different

Giving something a little different a shot, it will work better with more than one person: check it out.

Thoughts On The Finale: Part 2

I'm intercepting part 2 from Side Bar just because I wanted to put some thoughts out there. I have the advantage of reading the David Chase interview in the Star Ledger and a couple more days of marination.

First, this finale reminds me of the first time I saw Pulp Fiction. I hated Pulp Fiction the first time I saw it. I realized that I hated it mainly because I had no idea when it would end. The plotline goes forward and backward in time, and the last scene of the movie actually takes place roughly ten minutes after the first scene in the movie. How many of us even remember than Vincent Vega actually dies during the course of the film without having to think about it for a second? Anyway, the first time I saw this movie, all I wanted was for it to end. And it's not about the plot so much as the individual scenes which really are only tangentially related. After having seen it and thinking back on it, I would think, "well, that part was great. And so was that part. And that part was great even though I hated it. Maybe I didn't really hate it all that much." And today it's one of my favorites.

I think The Sopranos finale is kindof like that. Everyone was wondering how it would end, what the resolution would be, and so on, and we didn't get one. They told the story and then basically kept the camera running a little longer after that. There was no deus ex machina, as Side Bar put it (raining frogs, anyone?). So that left us all pissed off, but then in retrospect it wasn't actually that bad. Actually it was pretty good. Wait a minute, that was pretty goddamned great.

Now I can understand the argument that David Chase is just a cocktease. And part of me feels that way. I mean, if you're going to tell a story, then you should tell it. There's something to be said for leaving things up to the viewer, but this isn't a choose your own adventure story. I could have written a script for the last episode, so could anyone who's watched the show, but you created it and it's your story. Tell me your fucking story. So I agree with the people who feel that way, and this was absolutely a cop out by Chase. At the same time, after letting it sit for a minute, I kindof like the last scene.

(Side Note: What's the chance that David Chase feels like Good Will Hunting regarding this series. Everyone is calling him this genius and everything. Is he sitting around his house thinking, "Do you know how easy this is for me? I wish you could do this, because then I wouldn't have to watch you fumble around and fuck it up."?)

As I was watching it what I fully expected was for each member of the family to walk in, Meadow to sit down at the table and join the conversation and for the camera to pan back and the credits to roll. It was going to be the biggest anti-climax of all time and I thought it would have been pretty fitting. And given how many times Tony has escaped death and arrest, that is probably what did happen. This was entirely different, though. It wasn't an anti-climax, instead it was a premature climax (heh) or something to that effect. Leaving it open on the one hand is a bitchy thing to do (and David Chase can say whatever he wants, part of this ending really was just to fuck with the fans), but on the other was pretty exciting.

The theory that Tony was killed is definitely an interesting one, and not implausible. I think we were supposed to get the idea that we were watching the scene play out from Tony's perspective, where he's hyperconscious of everything going on around him and reading into everyone's motives whether they exist or not. The idea that everyone in the diner had a reson to kill him has essentially been debunked, but the fact that the people in the diner even remind us of those people from the show's past says that Tony always has these things on his mind and might be making that same connection, even if it isn't really there. So anyway, if we're watching from his perspective, then the going black is Tony's death. I can see that. And this ending allows for you to believe that and for me to believe something different (and from the tone of this post, you probably gather that I'm kindof ambivalent about the ending's ambivalence).

Let's talk about Journey. First of all, how many times has "Don't Stop Believing Lyrics" been Googled since Sunday? I would bet billions. I love that song. I L-O-V-E that song (and I'm not gonna let you co-opt it Side Bar). That song says to me that nothing happened at the diner. I interpret the song (how much "interpretation" of Journey lyrics has ever taken place before this?) to mean that two people essentially find themselves in the same place at the same time, they shared a moment, life kinda sucks, but it still goes on. It's clearly fitting that they're on a train going anywhere, obviously a metaphor for life. And the important line for me, in relation to the Sopranos, is "well the movie never ends, it goes on and on and on and on." So if you want to make a one to one correlation with the lyrics and the scene, then the people in the diner are not related in any way, they find themselves together in the same place, and afterwards they'll all go home and keep on trucking. The fact that the series ended on the lyric "Don't stop..." is rife with meaning. If you're into the "Tony dies" ending, then it's ironic. If you're into the "nothing happened" ending, then this reinforces that. And another interpretation of the song could be that it's an entreaty to the viewer not to forget the series. To "hold on to that feeling", if you will.

So all that space for the last scene. The rest of the episode in conjunction with the rest of the series is worth discussing as well. First, the idea that nothing got resolved is ludicrous. See Side Bar's post regarding that issue, he covered it all. They tied up every story line relative to this singular season. Viewers were looking for a meta-ending, which I suppose we did not get, though you can interpret it as you like. I think the main idea in this finale is that Tony has essentially gotten nowhere. And I think that's different from him coming full circle and ending up where he began, he really never even budged (and Chase says as much in the interview, "he's the same old Tony").

His family hasn't had a catharsis, they haven't grown. They're bad people, even Meadow. Objectively, how could a mob boss raise kids that aren't all fucked up? A.J. lived his life in denial, had about a month's worth of clarity, and then went back into his routine. (For those of you who are really into the symbolism, draw a huge red line from Christopher being obsessed with filmmaking for the entirety of the series, and A.J. going into filmmaking as soon as he's dead.) People were upset about the time spent on the A.J. storyline, but this is really the crux of the series, as I see it. Heading into this season I thought really the most interesting storyline would be whether or not A.J. mobs up by season's end. He got into it right into the time of his breakdown, and was repulsed by it. But can you honestly believe that Anthony Soprano, Jr. can work for one of his father's captains, open a night club with his father's money, and never finish college without staying on the up and up?

Meadow is a tragic hero, in a sense. She's Oedipus, or Hamlet. She never had a chance. She's intelligent when no one else in her family is (you can argue that Tony is intelligent, but I would say he's a great tactician and not much else), she's pretty, she's driven, but she couldn't escape her family. They sucked her back in. She talked about going to college in California or in Maine, but instead went to Columbia. She was going to marry Finn and move to California, but she didn't. She talked about being a doctor or some other such thing, and instead is going to take the easy path. Being a lawyer is not the worst thing in the world, but you get the feeling that her boyfriend is going to be one of those corrupt mob lawyer types and that Meadow is definitely just settling instead of doing what inspires her. And the conversation she had with Tony, (paraphrasing) "I'm going to be a lawyer because of the way Italian-Americans are treated, like you dad" and "The state can crush the individual" are just jaded excuses from an otherwise intelligent person. Take a step back and realize that her father is not being pigeonholed into a stereotype, he actually is a mob boss who has killed people and dumped asbestos and controlled union and state money. He's actually an example of an individual crushing the state. So she lost. I thnk the parallel parking was a symbol of her repeated efforts to strive for something better or at least different, but her family getting in the way. She's the daughter of a mobster. She's engaged to the son of a mobster. It's no coincidence that she arrived last to the diner. And you can make some interesting assertions if you want to about her going to change her birth control on the way over there. Why would Carmela even bring that up?

The show was billed in the beginning as a mobster seeing a psychologist. The two were basically given equal time. That is to say Tony going out and doing gangster shit, and then trying to justify it in his appointments. The show got away from the psychology aspect and it was toned down a lot. But if we take the start of the show as a mobster trying for redemption, then clearly there was no redemption. We're lead to believe that Tony made absolutely no progress in therapy. Literally zero, and was actually reinforced in his deviant behavior through being able to justify it to someone who would listen without judging. I think it was enormously unrealistic the way that all went down, and I think it was donw that wy intentionally. Peter Bogdanovich (don't know his character's name, sorry) would never, ever have revealed that kind of secret of one of his patients, let alone when she was in the room, and let alone in a room full of psychologists. It basically served to highlight, underline, and italicize the idea that Tony had gotten nothing out of therapy. And a therapist who had a 7 year relationship with a client would, under no circumstances, simply close the door on him in that way. It's a not-so subtle punch in the face to show us how bad a guy Tony is. That's something that Chase wanted us to remember throughout the course of the series.

And Tony's fucked. His lawyer said that he's got a 90% chance of being indicted. We, the viewers, know that he's guilty of whatever they're charging him with, and with Carlo corroborating the evidence, he would have a hell of a time escaping a guilty verdict. At the same time he's got Paulie as his #2 two guy now. You can make a lot of Paulie's reluctance to take on the roll. If you're in the "Paulie's an informant for the feds" camp, then he was wrestling with the idea that he would suddenly be privy to a lot more shit that would take down his friend. And maybe he was struggling with knowing that he would bring him down. At the same time, Paulie is an idiot. He's got this blind loyalty without rationality that doesn't help him get by (see devotion to Tony and devotion to his "ma"). This is a guy who had a vision of the Virgin Mary while in a strip club, for fuck's sake. And that shit with the cat doesn't make him look like any more of a leader.

Of course we can choose to "don't stop believing" in Tony, but that would also require us to be routing for something along the lines of them getting to Carlo and killing him. That's the brilliance of the series, if you ask me. In the end, let's not forget that these are all bad guys. Tony killed Christopher, after all, the guy he viewed as his son and his replacement.

I'm not quite sure what to make of Sylvio not being dead yet, nor of that one scene in the hospital with no words. They mentioned several times how Tony had not visited Syl and kept on coming up with excuses. It's all pretty interesting.

And Junior. Junior got what was coming to him. He was, again, one of the bad guys. And Tony didn't give a fuck about him, don't try to convince yourself otherwise. And we're lead to believe that Junior's got a stash of money somewhere that could keep him out of the shithole he's in but can't remember where he put it. If you want to draw an analogy of someone having the means to redeem himself, but having lost it somewhere, I guess you could do that. I think Tony may have had a glimpse of his future when visiting Junior and got a bit welled up. Also the fact that Junior didn't even remember being a mob boss is interesting. Maybe it highlights the futility of what Tony is doing. At the same time, he wasn't crushed or anything to receive that news. If I remember right he said, "Well, that's pretty good," when told he was in charge of all of North Jersey. There's certainly some weight in that line.

I'm reserving the right to post more later, same as Side Bar. If you read all this, then, well, I've got you fooled as bad as David Chase does. Read into that shit.

All right, stoners, explain this, part 3

Monday, June 11, 2007

Peter Nguyen is a great writer

A few weeks ago, LJT put up a post about kids being smart-asses on tests when they don't know the answer. A young man named Peter Nguyen took this a step further and chose to write some rather offbeat essays. Enjoy!

Click on each image to view its full size.

(Originally seen here.)

Reflections on the Finale: Part I

At the end of the Sopranos finale last night, we all agreed that it would be a good idea to let the episode "marinate" and think about it for a while before forming a final opinion. Having done that for about 12 hours, I have a few thoughts. I just want to reserve all rights to completely change my mind after watching the episode again and/or thinking about it some more. That's why this post is labeled Part I, b/c I expect to re-visit it in a few days.

Rather than a summary, I just want to make a few specific observations. Of course, it should go without saying that if you haven't yet watched the finale, and you don't want to know what happens, then stop reading here.

Initially, I think we all (by "we" I mean both the small group with whom I watched the episode, as well as the collectively Sopranos-watching population) were pretty disappointed ("not satisfied") with the finale, especially the finale's finale (i.e., the last five minutes). As I've reflected on it, though, the ending is growing on me. Here are my thoughts (some, though not all, inspired by David Seppinwall's quality (though I thought less so than usual) column on NJ.com):

"Nothing Happened"

Open Bar was practically apoplectic at the end of the episode, thoroughly unsatisfied with the show. Others were equally unhappy (side note: the line of the night may go to my brother, who remarked as the credits rolled: "Well there's 86 hours of my life I'm never getting back"), and one criticism I heard a few times was that "nothing happened." That's not really fair:
  • The war with New York was resolved (via an agreed cessation of hostilities between NJ and NY, and the tacit permission of the NY group that NJ could whack Phil, which they subsequently handled). That story line tied in nicely with the thread about the FBI agent, who helps Tony find Phil as a quid pro quo for Tony's tip about suspected terrorists.
  • AJ seems to have come out of his depression, with the destruction of his Xterra as a sort of cathartic, shock-therapy. He is then able to be lured away from the army, which had been the focal point of his depression (i.e., "the world is so fucked up," his tirade at Bobby's funeral, etc.,) by his parents who basically used the promise of a night club to get him back on track.
  • Meadow is getting married and going to law school, and would probably be a doctor but for Tony's criminal past (i.e., his involvement with the FBI motivated her to go into law).
  • Tony has a new second in charge in Paulie who -- albeit reluctantly -- takes over a major operation in light of the vacuum left by Phil's assault on NJ in the penultimate episode.
  • Tony goes to see Junior, and while perhaps not forgiving him, clearly has some resolution to his feud with him (query whether Tony is tearing up at the end of that scene because he feels badly for Junior, or because he feels badly for himself, recognizing that he might one day get to the same place as Junior).
Now, I can totally understand that an interested viewer might have wanted to see different resolutions to the NY-NJ feud, and some could (and have) argued that the focus on Tony's kids (especially AJ) was less compelling than a focus on other characters. Nevertheless, there were a number of threads that were concluded as much as one could have expected them to be, so I think it is just wrong to say that nothing happened or that too much was left unresolved.

Resolution

The question of closure of various threads leads to the next (and I think main) point of the episode: Tony doesn't get closure. I think it may have been satisfying, but ultimately inconsistent with the entire premise of the show, for everything to be wrapped up in a neat little package.

There are a lot of unanswered questions for Tony: he clearly still seeks therapeutic guidance on all of his "issues" (talking to AJ's shrink about his mom when it was supposed to be about AJ), he may be on the verge of getting indicted, his nutty sister is likely to ruin the lives of Bobby's kids, etc. But the Sopranos has never treated its viewers to any dramatic closure, or global resolution, and it may have been naive for us to expect that here. Some issues were closed, some left unopened, and some new ones were raised (Carlo flipping and posing an indictment risk was a brand new issue for Tony in this last episode). Arguably, this was the most true to life (or at least true to the show) conclusion that the characters could have experienced: life goes on for the family (and "the Family"), and because of who Tony is and what he does, there are always things up in the air for him.

The Last 5 Minutes

Finally, the finale of the finale, the last five minutes of the episode were staged in Holsten's, a diner-style restaurant (apparently in Bloomfield).

As an initial note, one thing that I have not heard anyone discuss is that the decision to go to Holsten's was a last-minute decision (when Carmela tells AJ that they are going out, he says he thought she was making dinner, and she tells him she had changed her mind). I think this could be meaningful for two reasons. First, it may be suggesting that even the smallest decisions for Tony (eat in or go out?) can have major ramifications, but since nothing happened, I think that might not be it. Rather, it could be that the dialogue between AJ and Carmela signals to the viewer that this was not a planned meal, or a weekly thing, and thus not part of Tony's routine that a would-be whacker could have exploited. It could also be a meaningless time-filler that had no plot significance at all (like Tony's visit with Sil in the hospital, which was perhaps the most pointless scene in the entire episode).

I think it is also worth observing that the scene was, without a doubt, one of the most intense, suspenseful scenes that we've ever watched on TV. The rapid cuts between the family at the table and Meadow trying to parallel park (as ChuckJerry observed, perhaps a bit too blatantly symbolizing her difficulty making up her mind, and finding something she's comfortable with; Meadow, always stopping and starting, etc.), the dissonance created by the scene and the music (side note: anyone who knows me knew that Meg and I would love the reliance on Journey, though I worry that the song is tainted for me now), and the cuts to strangers, all of whom we are lead to believe may be there to do harm to Tony and family. All of us were literally on the edge of our seats waiting for the climax . . . . and then nothing. The door jingles, Tony looks up, we expect to see Meadow, and we get nothing.

Left holding our collective breath, Chase decided to let it end there, leaving the viewer to wonder who entered (it's most reasonable, I think, to assume it was Meadow), and what would come next. It was initially frustrating (a "dry hump," as one viewer observed), but what would have been more satisfying? If, in an homage to the Godfather, the stranger came out of the bathroom and blew Tony away? That would have been stupid . . . and left way more questions than we have (and some complain about) this morning. If Meadow had walked in, sat down, and they had started eating, and the camera pulls back to reveal a happy Soprano family sitting at the diner enjoying a nice dinner together, would that have been so different? It would have provided more closure, but it also would have lost some of the suspense, and some of the uncertainty as to what comes next.

As with the closure point, above, I think that was the point. Even a routine dinner for Tony is fraught with the potential for problems -- both work and family related (AJ begins to slide back into being a whiny little bitch at the outset of dinner, but agrees to focus on the good times, quoting his father from Season 1). The risk of getting whacked, arrested, or other is always following him around, and there is no point in time when everything pauses, or when everything is at equilibrium. There was no natural stopping point, the argument would go, so the show had to stop almost literally in mid-sentence, because there was no other way to bring it to a close.

A deus ex machina by which the whole family dies, or 100 federal agents come in and arrest Tony would have been temporarily pleasing in that it would provide a resolution to the dramatic climax, but it would have been inconsistent with the point of the show.

I'd love to get other people's thoughts (especially people who can point out where I am being too easy on Chase, et al.), but the more I think about it, the more I am starting to think that the last episode was actually quite good, even if not "satisfying."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday Video. Again?

I don't think this is a classic video, but since Open Bar is clearly a slacker, I'm posting this week's video for the second week in a row. It's just two people dancing outside the Cottage Bar in Teaneck.

Things That Are Overrated: Beer

I know, I know, this is blasphemy. At least read all the way through before you tell me how bad I suck.

Beer is a carbonated alcoholic beverage. If you want a carbonated beverage, then you should drink coke or sprite, both of which taste better than beer. If you want an alcoholic beverage, then you should drink whiskey or rum or vodka or you get the idea, all of which have more alcohol content and leave you with less of a hangover. If you need an alcoholic carbonated beverage, then combine the two into something like rum and coke or jack and coke.

Beer tastes like shit. There is no one among us who didn't cringe the first time he or she drank beer because it tastes bad. You're gonig to argue that the first beer we had was most likely a shitty beer, and it probably was, but there is no beer that tastes much better than your average shitty beer. And most of us just continue to drink shitty beer anyway, rather than spend real money on marginally better tasting swill.

I'll speak for myself i saying that I've only gotten sick from drinking when I've had too much beer. Almost all beer, unless you're drinking German beer for some reason (purity law), has various preservatives and so forth in it that just make you sick in abundance when combined with the alcohol. And if you're just trying to get shtfaced, really it's a catch-22 because the alcohol content in beer is so low relative to liquor that you have to drink far more beer to reach that level. (I was tempted to coin a phrase like "TestaBerskaGuiney Threshold", but decided against it.) So then by the time you drink al this beer you have all that carbonation in your gut and you know that ain't helping matters.

And it's not just that I personally don't care for beer. It's that a lot of people get really extra fired up about beer. There are festivals and contests and what not. People spend a lot fo time thinking about what makes a good beer versus what doesn't and it's really just unwarranted in my opinion. If you like beer, then that's fine, but just pick a beer and drink it and wallow in your misery in the corner like a good drunk. I don't need to hear about barley and tannins and what not. If I see the Sam Adams guy in a commercial one more time testing beer and talking about high standards and quality while he walks around his brewery in a lab coat when I know in my heart that Sam Adams tastes like absolute shit then I don't know what I'm going to do with myself. (You know a lot of people, and I mean a lot, will start the "If I see x one more time..." without having a reasonable conclusion in mind, that it's something that really should just be stricken from the lexicon. It seems blatantly inappropriate to set up that whole scenario just to say "...then I don't know what I'm going to do".)

If you see me tonight and I'm drinking beer, I don't want to hear shit from you. I didn't say I hate beer, I just said it's overrated. I still listen to U2 songs, it's just that they're overrated. If you can honestly tell me that there's a discernable difference between Coors Light, Bud Light, Miller Light, Original Bud, MGD, Amstel, Heineken, and whatever else, then I think you're just fooling yourself. I do like Blue Moon, though.

OK, let the mild raping begin.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Pun-Qualified

Not to re-stir the Imus pot or anything, but MSNBC's attempts at filling the void created by Imus are absolutely god-awful (side note: can someone devote a post to the phrase "god awful"? How can that possibly have entered the casual American lexicon? Isn't god awesome and all powerful? If something is awful, why does prefixing "god" make it more so? Wait. Maybe that's the answer? Whatever, sorry).

I think it was Geraldo for a minute, and I know Keith Olberman has been in and out of the morning slot. For the last few mornings it has been Joe Scarborough (formerly of the evening 6 or 7 p.m. slot). The tag line for his show? "Morning Joe." (get it?). Cute, right? Puke.

I guess it isn't so much how bad these other people are (they have political guests, talk about current events, etc.) but they are (a) not funny, and (b) not Imus.

Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Every time I glance up at the TV in the morning while getting ready to go work or at the gym, I am reminded of how absolutely ludicrous the fallout from the Imus fiasco was, and how quickly it evaporated from the public spotlight. At least you Stern fans can buy the satellite radio if you want. I got nothing other than those old tapes of Manuel Noriega and Wilford Brimley on the Imus show that my bro used to keep. Damn.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The best roller coaster ever, period.

First of all, I'm a bitch for being totally absent lately, especially after I ripped my cohorts (and myself, kinda) for not posting enough. But I wanted my next post to be something different from a random-thoughts (a la Jack Handey) or a status-of-the-Mets post. So I went out and did something fun, and for the last two days, I've been doing some real actual "research" to beef things up. There are gonna be lots of links and pictures! Yay! Blogging is hard goddamn work! I hope it was worth it.

As good New Jerseyans ("San Diego-ans? San Diego-ites?" "San Diegans," quoth Ron Burgundy), you have all probably been to Great Adventure in the last two years. However, prior to Monday, I hadn't been there since the summer of 2003.

But if you have been there recently, you are certainly familiar with the world's greatest amusement park ride: Kingda Ka.

That tall thing in the back? That's it. I'm giving you a
nice long-distance shot to create a sense of anticipation!

How to describe this ride -- that is the difficulty. Remember how you felt after you first had sex? No, forget that. If you're like me, it probably was awkward at best, more likely a troublesome failure, or possibly worse. But wait -- remember when you first had good sex? Anyway, if you've ridden Kingda Ka, you know. For the rest of you, let me start by giving you a few of Kingda Ka's vital statistics:
  • It lasts a mere 28 seconds, which doesn't sound like much, but believe me -- those 28 seconds are worth the price of admission ($64 now, unless you go Mon-Fri and bring a Coke can -- half price! Score!).
  • Whereas many coasters slowly crawl up to the peak so they can drop you that much faster, Kingda Ka's hydraulic launch mechanism propels you on an initial straightaway that's about 400 yards from 0-128 m.p.h. in 3.5 seconds. (Go engineers!)
  • It then turns upwards, launching you 456 feet into the air. To give you some perspective, the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet at its height, which is barely 2/3 as tall. The Eiffel Tower is 324 feet tall. Kingda Ka's 456-foot height means you go up 45 stories. And then back down again. (There are many states, let alone countries, that don't have a building nearly that tall.) This all takes less than 30 seconds.
  • After the initial straightaway, where you reach 128 m.per-fucking.h., Kingda Ka turns upwards at a 90-degree angle (i.e., STRAIGHT UP), maintaining its speed until the apex, where you immediately drop straight down, and in a corkscrew fashion.
  • What kind of power does this take? The world's fastest car runs 0-100 m.p.h. in 5.3 seconds, boasting 730 horsepower. What kind of power does it take to go 0-128 m.p.h. in just 3.5 seconds? 20,800 horsepower. Yeah.
Oooh, a new angle! And a bit closer. Look at how short the
trees
are compared to the tower. And those are real trees, man!
We're slowly getting some perspective, right?

When it comes to roller coasters, I think two things matter most: speed and height. Way back in 1992, when I was in 8th grade, I went on the class trip to Great Adventure, three years after the Great American Scream Machine opened.

The Great American Scream Machine has three cars -- one red, one white,
and one blue. This ride is fucking patriotic and totally approves of torturing
any evil-doers by applying absurd levels of centrifugal force.


It was my first roller coaster, and I will always love it because it directly created my love of roller coasters. When it opened in 1989, it was the tallest and fastest coaster in the world. At 173 feet tall and 68 m.p.h., it's child's play now, even compared to many non-Kingda Ka coasters. I went on it again on Monday, but the only joy I really got was a nostalgic sense-memory of back in '92. Great Adventure now has many others far better: Medusa (awesome; 142 feet high, 61 m.p.h.), Batman and Robin: The Chiller (outstanding; 200 feet, 70 m.p.h.), and Nitro (unbelievably great, a solid Silvio to Kingda Ka's Tony; 230 feet, 80 m.p.h.).

(The Superman ride blows, in my opinion. I only say this because it gets a lot of bullshit hype. Yeah, once you strap in, it pulls you up into a horizontal position so you'll feel like you're "flying." But you can't even look forward during the ride because the "head rest" prevents it, so you're stuck staring down at the ground for the whole ride, totally unaware of where you're headed, which takes away a significant percentage of the enjoyment of a roller coaster. And it maxes out at 51 m.p.h., which only occurs during the initial drop. And its height? 106 feet. All of that adds up to this judgment: Fucking Weak. My neck and back hurt afterwards too. That ride sucks.)

You can't quite see the initial straightaway here, but that camel-hump there
in the middle rises 129 feet, higher than most roller coasters ever reach.
The best part? You're going so fast at that point that at the summit,
you get a sense of weightlessness. Good for you if that sense
outweighs the sense of sheer fucking terror you've just felt.


For those of you have been on these rides, do you disagree that the most significant aspects of a roller coaster are speed and height?

There are several ways you can be seated on a ride -- standing (the way-old-school Shockwave), "flying" (Superman), hanging in your seat from above (Batman: The Ride) -- but the best always seem to be the most basic: sitting down. (The Chiller and Nitro both do this, and double points to them for having no shoulder harnesses whatsoever.) Other characteristics of roller coasters, such as loops or overall length, pale in comparison to the big two. The point of a coaster is to thrill you, to give you a sense of genuine exhilaration. At their best, they can actually scare the crap out of you. Regardless if it's some superhero-inspired ride or makes you sit in some strange position, what matters most in terms of truly thrilling you is how high it goes and how fast it goes. Everything else is bells and whistles.

And as far as speed and height go, Kingda Ka rules.

Since its inception in 2005, Kingda Ka has retained the title of Fastest and Tallest roller coaster in the world. The guy who designed it, Werner Stengel, seems to know what coaster junkies want. Prior to Kingda Ka, the titles of Tallest (420 feet; "420, smoke!") and Fastest (120 m.p.h.) were owned by the Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Werner, God bless him, designed that one too. He also designed the first coaster with loops (Revolution, sorry, can't find a link), way back in 1975. This man deserves some kind of Nobel Prize.


All right, here's a half-decent shot of the straightaway. See that car there?
And see that big tower thing? They're about 400 yards apart. And see the
third horizontal beam up from the ground? That's about as high as the
tallest roller coasters at Great Adventure and other parks get.

Exhilaration has recently become something commercial, meaning that nowadays you can find numerous ways to pay for an adrenaline rush. Bungee jumping, BASE jumping, sky-diving, para-sailing -- these are all relatively recent economic innovations. (As an extension, how about the X-Games?) I've never done any of these things, but I love roller coasters. I wish I could go across the country, testing various amusement parks. But my experience is basically limited to the little slice of heaven that is Great Adventure. Three years ago, Nitro blew me away. And it's still a helluva ride. But until engineers and physicists come up with some way to rocket me on a tiny little cart going upwards of 900 m.p.h. from the earth to the moon, I'll stand by the feeling of true terror and exhilaration that Kingda Ka gave me. Feelings like that are literally impossible to fake, and I urge everyone to try it.

Here's another look at that first straightaway. You start there. Then some
scientists figured out how to propel you 400 yards in about 7 seconds.
They did this by figuring out how to make your cart go from 0-128 m.p.h.
in 3.5 seconds. Sitting in the front row? Get ready to eat some bugs.


Maybe we can arrange a trip down (or up, for our millions of readers south of Jackson, NJ) to Great Adventure, where everyone can see for themselves.

Though it's clearly impossible to properly describe the physical experience of what Kingda Ka gives you, I thought it appropriate to show you a front-row view of it. Watching this, you can't actually feel your eyelids peeling off or taste the drool streaming out of your mouth or hear the people in the back cars begging for their lives as you accelerate at an absurd level, but for God's sake, use your imagination!

The first 50 or so seconds are build-up. But please turn up your volume.



(For the record: I actually bought a picture of how I looked on Kingda Ka -- you know those brutally expensive pics they sell of you on rides, right? -- and I think it may be the best image of pure terror/exhilaration I've ever seen (of me, I guess). As soon as I can scan it and post it, I will update this.)

Monday, June 4, 2007

He Judged You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

A 20 year old guy from Montana, Andrew McCormack was recently convicted of felony burglary.

In what seems like a bit of an odd practice, the judge, Gregory Todd, has the newly convicted felon fill out a form which asked to him for his 'recommendation as to what you think the Court should do."

Apparently a bit of a wise-ass (and a poor speller) McCormack wrote, "Like the Beetles say, 'Let It Be'".

Todd, a 56 year old, Beatles fan was not amused. He first corrected the spelling of the convict and then sentenced him to three years probation, community service and a fine while, at the same time, schooling McCormack on the Beatles catalogue (you probably have to click on the pictures to read them):