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Caps [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Jan 20th, 2010 by Dan

Alex Ovechkin - Washington Capitals

Just got home from the Capitals vs. Red Wings game down at the Verizon Center. It was my first time down there, so here are some impressions:

-I really hate DC’s Chinatown. It’s the most Americanized Chinatown I’ve ever seen and it’s an absolutely terrible venue for ice hockey/basketball. There’s just no character to it. It’s too corporate!
-The Verizon Center is pretty mediocre. Not a lot of character because it’s shared between the Caps and Wizards, but it filled up nicely.
-The Caps came out in the first period looking pretty sluggish, but they picked it up a bit in the second and third to come back from deficits and eventually pull ahead.
-No beer once the third period starts?! Really?!
-I miss Cornell ice hockey…

In keeping with the musical theme of the week, I’d also like to say a few words about music at sporting events. Your mileage may vary, but I’m putting all my support behind ice hockey as the best sport for music. Baseball keeps it way safe with classic tunes that are family friendly, basketball plays hip hop, R&B, and rap, and football, well I don’t really know what they play, but I bet it’s a mix between baseball and basketball. Ice hockey wins because they get to play a lot of alternative and classic rock. Great stuff.

Sorry for the brief update, but that’s what I’ve got today! It’s not baseball season, so be glad I’ve got anything to say about sports.

EDIT: Proofing errors corrected.

(Pink) Masks [Game Overview]
Jan 14th, 2010 by Dan

But none of it is pink...

False Advertising

While running errands the other day I saw a girl wearing a blue pair of sweatpants that had the word “Pink” in large white print on the back. It got me thinking about the discrepancies between who we are and who we tell people we are. I can honestly say that I’ve never met a girl in a bar and opened by saying that I play approximately 20 hours of video games a week or that I run this blog. Instead I’d be far more likely to mention the movies that I like, the music I listen to, or the fact that I love baseball. It’s not really a lie, I’m not proclaiming to be pink when I’m clearly blue, but it’s not being totally honest with myself or the things that I spend most of my days doing.

It comes naturally from experience, since almost every girl I’ve ever dated or been interested in just doesn’t care much about the things that I do, which does call into question whether or not they’re suitable for me. I mean, is it really fair that she wants me to listen to the convoluted soap opera going on between her and her friends or that she wants me to take a real interest in her major or profession, but when I even start to talk about engineering, my job, or a video game I’m met with blank stares or a plain “I don’t care”? I’ve got a friend who tells me that she honestly cannot stand to listen to the things that her significant other talks about. Other girls have actually complimented me because I don’t subject them to the same boring conversations that their boyfriends or husbands would subject them to. Is this even healthy?

To a certain degree I think it’s healthy to have these partitions in place. That old stereotype about men talking about football while the women talk about shopping does play out plenty of times in groups that I’ve been a part of and nobody really worries about that. Men and women simply have different interests and tastes, but that’s not quite what I’m talking about here. I feel sometimes that even if the guys were to talk about video games they’d be way more likely to talk about Halo, Call of Duty, or Madden. Thing is, even if I did play those games, I’d still feel reluctant to talk with them about the topic because I have considerably more hardcore knowledge on the subject.

There’s nothing wrong with being familiar with a player’s career and having intimate knowledge of a team’s history. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t find it a little strange that you know Derek Jeter’s batting average for every year he’s been in the majors. I guess it’s a question of intensity. When something that you enjoy ceases to be that and becomes something that defines you, people start to frame their viewpoint about you in a different way. If I were to let my love of videogames or comic books or (back in the day) anime define me, I would always find myself pigeonholed into a certain group. Part of my high school life was spent hanging out with people who let these fringe pursuits completely define them and I found myself unhappy with the restrictive social group I found myself a part of. It turned into an us vs. them thing. They were busy loving football and being tools while we were technically ostracized just for liking things that weren’t in the mainstream.

That’s just not how I operate. When the opportunity came up to associate with and hang out around the Diversity Programs folks at Cornell, I opted not to. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with diversity groups or minority clubs, but it always seemed, to me, that these groups that hung out with each other based on unimportant qualities like ethnicity tended to be very insular and, to quote kindergarten, “not play well with others.” I guess the question I’m trying to ask is: does choosing not to let the things that define my personal life define me mean that I’m lying to the world?

I’d like to think it doesn’t and that I’m more versatile this way. By not forcing myself to hang out exclusively with like-minded individuals, I’m able to broaden my horizons and learn about way more topics than I’d otherwise be able to. Plus, I have got friends who are just as passionate about the things I privately am too, so it’s not like I’m not able to talk about the things I love (except baseball…the only person I know who is as passionate about baseball is kind of a tool). The only downside that I can see is that I end up with friend groups who are polar opposites to each other and who might not get along, but integrating friend groups isn’t really necessary for a healthy, happy life anyway.

Since this post is more emo than what I typically allow on this site, let me close by saying that my research has determined that Pink is a label of clothing by Victoria’s Secret.

I'm glad I don't have anyone to whom I'd have to explain why I was browsing the Victoria's Secret website to. I can see the conversation now: Research for my blog! Honest! Well I had to look at the bras too!

Relevant and necessary graphical explanation or desperate traffic-grab?

Amicitia sans oris [Mr. Digital]
Jan 7th, 2010 by Dan

Last month I found myself worrying about a friend of mine who was going through a tough time. Kim had just lost a friend and was headed to Louisiana for the funeral, so I wouldn’t be hearing from her for a week. I told her I was sorry and that I was there for her and then she left. Funny thing is, I’ve never met Kim. I only know her because I love to play Left 4 Dead. I’ve never even seen a picture of what she looks like and I’m only 98% sure that Kim is even her name. With all those layers of abstraction, you’d think it would be difficult for me to call her a friend, but I’ve come to realize that there can be value in the tenuous, ephemeral online friendship, so long as it doesn’t replace the ones you have in your physical life.

The first friend I ever had who I never met was back when I was about twelve. My family had moved back to Florida a year prior and I had finally overcome the intense social barriers of being the new kid and starting a new level of school at the same time. The circle of friends I had developed was, oddly enough, composed almost entirely of people who used to torment me at every turn the year prior. One of those friends, Josh, had an elementary school friend who had moved away to Connecticut right before middle school started. I don’t remember the circumstances behind it, but I somehow because friends with Abbe (that was her name) through an e-mail chain and eventually started chatting with her on a regular basis.

It wasn’t the great friendship that defined my life and I don’t think I’ve talked with her since I was 14, but for someone who I’d never actually met in the flesh, we had a pretty decent friendship. She and a friend called my house and we talked on the phone once or twice (she told me once my voice was sexy (for a 13-year-old)), but beyond that most of our conversations took place over AOL Instant Messenger. I don’t remember much about what we talked about, aside from a particularly strange health teacher she had, but I do know that she was an interesting friend in my life who I’m surprised I’ve never forgotten, considering I have no idea what she looks like anymore (I saw a picture once).

I don’t think I made any strictly online friends again until I was 20 during my junior year at Cornell. At the encouragement of my friend Chris, I started playing World of Warcraft again (I had quit the year before the first time Ashley broke up with me) on his server with the intention of hanging out with him and his roommate in-game. My character, Torvalds (named after the Master of Penguins himself), was able to power level up to level 60 during my fall semester and start attempting to join guilds not long after. I eventually managed to make my way into my guild of choice, Revelation (which, sadly, no longer exists on Cenarion Circle), and started working working on the last bit of endgame content before the expansion pack, slowly building up a group of friends on the way.

After winter break, the expansion pack came out and, as one of the junior warlocks in the guild, I was assigned to the B team, which also happened to be the West Coast team. Thanks to my luck, this meant that I was raiding Karazhan twice a week starting at 2300 and going to 0300 the next morning on days when I had an 0800 class. Needless to say, I missed a lot of class that semester (and my grades suffered from it), but the crummy conditions and B-Team status combined to form a strong sense of camaraderie. We used to get yelled at for not completing the dungeon fast enough, but that’s probably because most of our nights were filled with laughter and jokes instead of serious boss planning as we cleared our way up to our weekly boss wall.

Whenever I think about going back to WoW, it’s because of these guys: Moonsbreath, a school nurse from California by day and a Tauren Resto Shaman by night, Samuwen, our Orc Hunter team leader and a copy store employee by day, and Emil, our Undead Warrior tank whose profession I did not know, but whose infant child often made nightly cameos during our raids. On nights when we were mixed in with the entire guild, you could bet that we’d still be joking around with each other either over Ventrilo (we were easily the most talkative bunch outside of the guild leader) or through the in-game whisper system. The night that our guild leader, Athen, disbanded the guild to leave WoW was a devastating blow to everyone. We all tried to hold it together for a few nights, but the loss of direction caused our merry band to disperse to the winds. More than one of us quit the game, myself included, which spelled the end for our friendships since none of us knew each other in real life.

When thinking about these virtual friendships, it becomes clear that the worst part about them are their delicate, ephemeral nature. Their very existence often relies on the medium within which they are created. Just like that, our guild disbanded and I lost three cool in-game friends. When I returned to WoW for a month or two last year, some of these guys were still around, but the construct which formed our relationship was gone and it just wasn’t the same.

When I met Kim I thought it was actually going to be kind of different. My roommate, Darek, and I liked to play Left 4 Dead online with an old friend of his from university named Eric. One day Eric invited Darek and I to join a game that Kim was in. Her general friendliness with Eric and Darek, both of whom seemed to know Kim, made me assume that she was also a former classmate. Since she was associated with real people I knew, that made her a more “real” friend than the other ones I had made online. I later found out (nearly a year later) that Kim randomly met Eric playing a different zombie video game and that they’d been playing together since.

I wouldn’t say that Kim and I were best friends or anything, but we’ve got enough of a rapport that people who play with us for the first time assume that we actually know each other in real life. We both know what the other does for a living, but beyond that, I’d say that the only two things we know about each other are our personalities and how good we are at Left 4 Dead.

Thanks to the more robust communication tools available through Steam, I don’t worry so much about losing touch with Kim if I were to stop playing Left 4 Dead, but it does worry me that, should she decide to quit games forever, I’d probably never talk to Kim again. That’s where the other boundary with online friends rears its ugly head again. I don’t even know her name, so I couldn’t just friend her on Facebook. If I were to visit Texas (where she lives) would it be normal to hang out with her?

It’s clear that the world of online, anonymous communication can be socially interesting and rewarding, but it’s also full of strange perils and confusing social conventions that seem like they could be just as paralyzingly complex to the socially inept. The lack of real life contact is perhaps the most pressing issue with online friendships. Sure, I can hear the voices of all my friends thanks to fast, cheap VoIP, but with no real way of contacting each other, we could, I dunno, die, and no one would be the wiser. We’d just assume that the other person left our online space for greener pastures.

That’s no way to have real, lasting relationships, in my book, but as the relationships with my former classmates become increasingly digital due to distance, it’s becoming clear to me that many of my relationships are facilitated primarily through 1’s and 0’s, not any kind of human contact. It’s mostly thanks to her job that I find myself seeing Kai so often, but 75% of our interaction comes from blogs, tumblr, and twitter. Some of my other friends, like Lee, Yin, and Duffy, I see far less often and talk to only through gchat. I’m kind of losing my way here with respect to any point I might have, but suffice it to say that I’m infinitely glad that technology has allowed me to make and keep all of these friendships.

My Favorite Bands/Albums/Musical Concepts of the 2000s [Feedback]
Dec 14th, 2009 by Dan

It’s really been tough coming up with the music that has most resonated with me in the 2000s. Wanting to represent the entire decade is tough, since I don’t really find the music that I used to listen to before I went to college all that good. Once I had more money and exposure beyond the mainstream acts I was familiar with in high school, I feel my tastes really changed up some. This list is definitely not representative of the actual best bands of the decade, they’re just bands that had a strong effect on me and my musical development.

I’ll start with a band who I was introduced to my sophomore year of high school, Lucky Boys Confusion.

Lucky Boys Confusion

Notable Albums: Throwing the Game (2001) and Commitment (2003)

This one came to me courtesy of my friend Kristin who brought a burnt copy of Throwing the Game up to Tampa with her for a summer visit my sophomore year of high school (2002). The band isn’t anything too special that’s about to revolutionize music or anything, they’re just a solid rock band from Chicago with a great sound. My favorite songs by the band are “Not About Debra”, a Latin-infused song about a girl in the wrong relationship, “Do You Miss Me? [Killians]”, an upbeat cover of the freestyle classic by the same name (sans the [Killians]) by Jocelyn Enriquez, “Sunday Afternoon”, a nice reggae-type break from the usual uptempo beats that LBC is known for.

The band never really saw much mainstream success. “Hey Driver” was their most popular song and actually made it into some video games, movies, and got some airtime, but they broke up only moderately more famous than they were when they were first signed.

Five Iron Frenzy

Notable Album: The End is Near/Here (2003)

As a primarily ’90s act, I was hesitant to include FIF in my list of my favorite music of the aughts, but their musical swan song had a major effect on my musical development, so I couldn’t rightly leave them out. Beyond just the CD, Five Iron Frenzy’s farewell tour, Winners Never Quit, was the first time I recognized that a live show was well worth attending. Before that I’d seen music live a few times and listened to a live CD here or there, but found them to be sub par. I was annoyed that the songs varied from the usual pace and intricacies of the album version and seemed to have lower quality. It all changed that night.

The small, intimate club atmosphere put me up close with fans for the first time (my previous concerts had been mega-stadium deals) with a band playing an emotional final tour. I also learned the best part about a live show: the new ways in which a band mixes up their music. I got to listen to the amazing FIF Medley (also on The End is Here), which, aside from it luckily being on a CD, I probably would never hear again. Ever since that night in Orlando, concerts became a part of my musical experience and the effect that FIF had on me is apparent when you realize how much of my music is upbeat, uptempo, and filled with brass sections. They may not be the best band on this list, but they’re one of the most important ones.

Rx Bandits

Notable Albums: The Resignation (2003), …And the Battle Begun (2006), Mandala (2009)

I didn’t realize what I got when my friend Daniela gave me a copy of The Resignation for Christmas back in 2004. We listened to it and she brilliantly pinpointed “Mastering the List” as my favorite track on the CD, but I didn’t get just how good the CD was for two years, a testament to how music tastes can drastically change over short periods of time. When I finally started listening in earnest in 2006, I think the best adjective to describe the experience was revelatory.

Of all the bands on this list, I think I’ve gone on and on about the Bandits the most on this blog and for good reason. They are talented, their music is rich and full, their lyrics are pretty solid, if not a little too hippie, and their dedication to an organic sound seems unparalleled in today’s overproduced soundscape. If there’s one album on this post that you choose to listen to, it should be …And the Battle Begun. It’s my favorite album of all time (as of 2009) and I don’t think there’s a single stinker on the whole disc.

Their best songs are “Mastering the List”, “Never Slept So Soundly”, “Decrescendo”, “In Her Drawer”, “Only for the Night” (my favorite on the list), “Tainted Wheat”, “White Lies”, and “Mientras la Veo Soñar.”

If there was one criticism I’d have for the band, it’s that they got rid of their horn section between …And the Battle Begun and Mandala. It doesn’t mean there’s no more brass in their newer work, it just means that it’s no longer a regular part of the band. Shame that they’re losing it, but they claim it has allowed them to open up and improve their song complexity.

Green Day

Notable Album: American Idiot (2004)

Another band that hails primarily from the previous decade, but whose 2004 release marked a huge turning point for the band. Yeah, Dookie is probably their most famous album, but American Idiot went and upped their pop relevance to eleven. The rock opera heralded in the “new” Green Day and turned the band into something far beyond its punk rock roots singing about weed and bumming around. For me, it was a great concept album whose lyrics seemed bold (I’m pretty sure they were early on the Bush backlash train) and far deeper than “Longview.” I don’t listen to the album much today, since I played it out my freshman year, but I’ll still let “Give Me Novacaine” or “Extraordinary Girl” play any time they come up on shuffle.

Relient K

Notable Album: Mmhmm (2004)

When I think of my freshman year at Cornell, American Idiot and Mmhmm are the soundtrack that plays in the background. I listened to both CDs many times on my way too and from the townhouses and the engineering quad, not to mention through my computer’s speakers. Mmhmm represents the transition from Relient K from a slightly niche, Christian music band to a more popular, mainstream act with its understated message (it seems that they returned to their more obvious Christian references with Five Score and Seven Years Ago) and their sound had matured to the best I’d heard since their debut album.

The album is full of some great songs, but my personal favorites are “High of 75″, because it cheered me up in the miserable Ithaca weather, “My Girl’s Ex-Boyfriend”, because I love sappy love songs, and “Which To Bury, Us or the Hatchet?”, because it resonated with my seriously rocky and messed up relationship at the time. Beyond that, the rest of the album is also great, but I can’t just list all the tracks now, can I?

The Zutons

Notable Albums: Who Killed…… The Zutons? (2004), You Can Do Anything (2008)

This one comes straight from my old high school friend Michelle. A fan of the quirky, indie scene, she recommended that I check out this band of Liverpudlians and I was not disappointed. You almost can’t go wrong with me if you’ve got brass or a saxophone in your band and The Zutons have one saxophonist adding her own distinct flavor to their already distinct rock grooves. Their music is unique and just great to listen to, especially when you get Abi Harding’s voice harmonizing with Dave McCabe’s on a lot of their numbers and the band’s sound has improved greatly from Who Killed on to You Can Do Anything. Their best songs, “Pressure Point”, “Havana Gang Brawl”, “Valerie”, “You Could Make The Four Walls Cry”, “Put A Little Aside”, and “Freak” are all so different, but all so much fun to listen to, even if they’ll probably never get any airtime stateside.

OK Go

Notable Album: Oh No (2005)

There’s a reason the phrase “sophomore slump” is part of the vernacular and it’s not often that a band not only releases a far superior second album, but does so with a significant change in sound. At a live show I saw them play at Cornell, OK Go outright stated that they were going for a safe, pop sound on their first album to try and appeal to the masses. Listening to it yields some decent tracks, but otherwise, I’d be inclined to agree. It’s cautious and it probably got them a record deal, but it’s not great. In three years, they turned around, completely matured their sound, and launched one of my favorite albums of the decade, Oh No. Almost everyone has heard “Here It Goes Again” or seen the treadmill video and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a person who would rather listen to “Get Over It.” They got that much better.

While I’m mentioning the videos, it’s also worth mentioning that Oh No also represents a creative turn for the band with it’s quirky, interesting, low-budget, high awesomeness music videos. “Do What You Want” has a more typical look, but “Here It Goes Again” and “A Million Ways” have hilariously awesome and indie videos a tradition they’ve melded with budget to create their newest video for “WTF”, which you already know I love. I don’t think that the viral video approach to music videos will take over the industry, but I don’t think you can say that they didn’t start something big with their Youtube-released video.

The whole album is pretty solid, but I’d also like to point out “Oh Lately It’s So Quiet” and “Let It Rain” as great tracks (beyond the ones I’ve already mentioned). They’re two of the slower, more contemplative ones, but they just feel right to listen to.

Fall Out Boy

Notable Albums: From Under the Cork Tree (2005), Folie à Deux (2008)

Yeah, they’re not the greatest band in history, but they’ve got some seriously catchy songs that I can’t help but enjoy. If their songs don’t make your toes tap, I’d seriously question whether or not you have a soul. FOB finally managed to break mainstream with their sophomore album, a CD filled with a neat take on pop and rock that’s just complex and different enough to pique my interests and just safe enough to be ok with the average Joe. Since then FOB continues to push into strange boundaries with its music borrowing from tons of genres and recording some solid tracks. I may not agree with their single selection (:cough: “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” SUCKS :cough:), but I’d say that 80-90% of their albums are filled with great tracks.

My favorites: “The Take Over, the Breaks Over”, “Hum Hallelujah”, “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, a Little More “Touch Me””, “7 Minutes in Heaven (Atavan Halen)”, “She’s My Winona”, “Headfirst Slide into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet”, and “20 Dollar Nose Bleed”.

Matisyahu

Notable Album: Live at Stubb’s (2005)

I had the chance to see Matisyahu my freshman year at Cornell, but I had no idea who he was. The posters were up one day advertising a Hasidic Jew singing reggae and so I chuckled and went on with my day. Little did I know that a year later I’d hear a track from his live album in my ex’s brother Bobby’s car and fall in love with his brand of religious reggae. That’s the catch, of course, if Jewish-themed music offends you, Matisyahu is not for you. Then again, aside from allusions to scripture, isn’t reggae really all about peace and love? Matisyahu’s music may be about the Old Testament God, but its a celebration of love, life, and peace that will undoubtedly make you smile. My favorite songs by Matisyahu are “King Without a Crown”, “Aish Tamid”, and “Chop ‘Em Down”

Wolfmother

Notable Album: Wolfmother (2006)

Ever feel like the days of classic rock are gone? You must not be listening to Wolfmother. We’re talking straight up 1970s, Satan’s music here. From their ridiculous throwback album covers to the solid guitar solos, these guys clearly never gave up on the past and they want to bring it to the youth of today. They sound so classic that I didn’t notice for months after playing their songs in Guitar Hero II and Rock Band that the year was post 2000. If you’re ever craving a true hard rock sound, look these guys up. They’ll rock your socks off.

Best songs: “Woman”, “Joker & the Thief”

Incubus

Notable Album: Light Grenades (2006)

I know what you’re thinking. Incubus, really? Yes, really. Light Grenades was a solid album. Their best work in the decade, really. I happen to really love “Dig”, “Light Grenades”, “Anna Molly”, and “Paper Shoes”. It’s my list, leave me alone.

Streetlight Manifesto

Notable Albums: Keasbey Nights (2006), Somewhere in the Between (2007)

Probably my favorite ska act and one with kind of an ugly history. If you’ve ever heard of Catch-22, you’ve probably heard their most famous album, Keasbey Nights (1998) and the vocals of Tomas Kalnoky. At some point Kalnoky and the rest of the members had a major falling out and the band mostly split up. Kalnoky started up Streetlight Manifesto and the band gained notoriety quickly while Catch-22 morphed into a new band, but still played Kalnoky’s old songs from Keasbey Nights. Things were pretty dicey and ugly for a time too, because the bands traded lyrical jabs on their subsequent albums and, eventually, it seems that Kalnoky decided it was worth re-recording one of the seminal albums of third-wave ska, hence the Streetlight Manifesto edition of Keasbey Nights. As the owner of both editions of the album, let’s just say that the extra time and money made an already good album great. Kalnoky’s music work in Streetlight is sharp, the horns are solid and the guitars are great, creating a sound that you can’t help jamming to. Their best work comes out in “Riding the Fourth Wave”, “Keasbey Nights”, “Would You Be Impressed”, and “Somewhere in the Between”. Ska can be hit and miss, I know that most people don’t like it, but you’ve gotta check these guys out, they’ve refined the genre to its best.

The Fratellis

Notable Album: Costello Music (2006)

The UK makes the list again with Scottish rock band The Fratellis. Their music is so full of energy and that unique, intangible British music quality that I couldn’t help but fall in love with the band after playing their songs in Rock Band for the first time. “Henrietta”, “Chelsea Dagger”, and “Ole Black ‘n’ Blue Eyes” are my favorites from the disc, but there are plenty more where that came from with a mix of wild rock and slower, British-sounding songs to break up the beat and calm the heartbeat. A band definitely worth checking out.

Jarabe de Palo

Notable Album: Adelantando (2007)

I’ve listened to a lot of Spanish music in my lifetime. It’s a byproduct of my heritage, but most of what got airtime when I was a kid was salsa, merengue, the occasional bachata, and (nowadays) reggaeton. While they’re all plenty fun genres to listen to, there’s not a whole lot of innovation to be found in the strict confines of their musical definitions. Then Daniela went and introduced me to yet another great band, Jarabe de Palo. They’re not what you’d call typical Latin music, in fact because they’ve gone and formed a rock band and it’s actually not half bad. It’s actually pretty common to see other countries try and adopt American musical styles, but the results are usually pretty ghastly. Thankfully, Jarabe de Palo avoids this common shortcoming of foreign rock and is actually some pretty great music. His best tracks (that I know) are “Me gusta como eres”, “Dejame vivir”, and “Estamos prohibidos”.

Jonathan Coulton

Notable Albums: Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow (2004), Thing-a-Week 1-4 (2006)

In 2007 I played a game by Valve called Portal. Aside from being one of the best games in the history of gaming, it also featured one of the greatest songs in gaming at the end, “Still Alive”. That same Christmas, my ex-girlfriend’s brother (he makes a reappearance) showed me a youtube video of Coulton playing “RE: Your Brains”. Both were great, but in the hustle of the season, I failed to take notice of Coulton until about April or May of 2008. On a whim, I decided to check out Coulton’s work and bought his entire collection off of his website without listening to most of it. That day I took notice of the greatest Internet folk sensation to ever grace the web. Coulton’s music is mostly nerdy love songs and he himself has claimed that he needs to make an effort to write fewer melancholic love songs, but he’s also got songs about completely random things, like a tall tale about baseball’s first commissioner and how he dealt with the Black Sox Scandal, Kenesaw Mountain Landis (in a song appropriately titled “Kenesaw Mountain Landis”) or one about the trials and tribulations of being a clown (“Bozo’s Lament”). Perhaps his greatest undertaking was his Thing-a-Week challenge, where he took it upon himself to write and produce one song every week, which actually produced some of his most famous songs like “RE: Your Brains” and “Code Monkey”.

Other than the songs I’ve already mentioned, my favorites include “Screwed”, “Skullcrusher Mountain”, “Madelaine”, “Mandelbrot Set”, and “When You Go”, but I could list 10 or 20 more songs that are just as fantastic. Even better is that Coulton is all about Creative Commons and he understands the internet. He’s got an option to pay him some cash if you’ve already stolen his music and he’s more than happy to let you remix it or use it however you want, so long as you credit him. He’s truly a product of the Internet and a great musician to boot.

2007/2008 also brought two big concepts that changed the way I dealt with music and time. One thing, podcasting, is arguably not music, but it’s audio-related, so it’s worth mentioning. Before I had an iPod, I occasionally walked around campus with a CD player, but I mostly didn’t listen to much at all. After I got one and started getting podcasts, the way that information was relayed to me made a fundamental change and now I was learning about all of my hobbies and passions during my dead time walking around campus (and driving to work once I graduated). It’s pretty amazing to see that in a few short years which podcasts I’ve settled on and which ones I’ve moved on from as I struck a balance between too much (and a diminished ability to listen to anything but podcasts) and too little.

The other major musical revolution of the decade was the rise of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. I first played Guitar Hero back in the summer of 2007 and I immediately fell in love. When word started to trickle in about Rock Band, I was initially skeptical, since I believed it to be a knockoff (I later learned that it was the true evolution of the series put forward by the true innovators behind the magic, Harmonix), but I eventually came around and pre-ordered the special edition for my xbox. That game meant a lot to me and it even changed some fundamental things about me. It’s also been one of the best ways for me to gain access to new music and has widened my musical tastes considerably.

Back to bands!

Anamanaguchi

Notable Album: Dawn Metropolis (2009)

I get why people might be skeptical about chiptunes. It’s 8-bit music coming out of retro sound chips and nine times out of ten, people use it to just remix video game music. Imagine my surprise when I read an article about Anamanaguchi on Kotaku by Leigh Alexander detailing how this Brooklyn band was making great strides. Their music is top notch and stands out from the crowd because they don’t just play a 1985 NES, they’ve also got a drummer, guitarist, and bassist thrown in there. The music may take its cues from some of the conventions set forth by the game composers of the 1980s, but their music is completely original and super catchy.

My favorites: “Jetpack Blues, Sunset Hues”, “Tempest, Teamwork, Triumph (at Sea)”

Sambomaster (サンボマスター)

Notable Albums: サンボマスターは君に語りかける (Sambomaster is Talking to You) (2005), 僕と君の全てをロックンロールと呼べ (Call everything that we (you and I) are ‘Rock n’ Roll’) (2006)

What’s an article on this blog without some sort of tim rogers mention? It was this year that I read “changing the world in japanese” on his blog LargePrimeNumbers, a treatise on rock music, Japan, and, most importantly, how Sambomaster was one of the most important bands playing in Japan. Listening to the track he had posted on that article, Romanized as “Sono Nukumori ni Yō ga Aru”, I saw precisely what he was saying and became an instant Sambomaster fan. From that sandpaper, gravely voice to the emotion that is so obviously apparent through the language barrier, Sambomaster’s music speaks to a deep part of me. The guitars are stellar and interesting, the drumlines are solid, and Takashi Yamaguchi’s vocals just resonate and feel so right.

My favorite story about the band is that I’d actually heard their music back in 2005 as the fifth opening to the Naruto anime. I had no idea what the band was called or what the song was, but when I heard it, I immediately called it my favorite opening of the series and filed it in the back of my mind. Imagine the joy that returned to me when I was reading about Sambomaster on tim’s site and I downloaded and listened to “Sono Nukumori ni Yō ga Aru”. As I recognized Yamaguchi’s distinct vocals and guitar style, I immediately began researching whether or not the same group was responsible. I was right and I’ve been smiling about the band ever since.

Super Ichiban Travel Blog W Jersey Special [II]
Nov 13th, 2009 by Dan

The pride of my trip to Japan no doubt has to be the 12 jersey collection I brought home with me. Here is a quick rundown of each of the jerseys, a little background behind each, and what I think of it. I’m gonna cover them in the order that I got them, so that puts the Giants jersey a little later, even though that was the first game I went to.

Jersey #1 – Orix Buffaloes

The genesis of the Jersey Project began on a ridiculously sunny day outside Skymark Stadium. As you may or may not remember, I collect fitted, official baseball caps at each of the MLB stadiums I go to, so I was looking for something similar to collect at the Japanese parks. Unfortunately, neither of the two teams I’d seen had fitted caps. I had initially ruled out jerseys in the states because I knew how expensive they ran, but then I noticed that the Buffaloes jerseys they had for sale in their outdoor stalls were only ¥3500 (about $40 at the exchange rate I suffered). That was only $10 more than I was used to spending on caps in America!

My first NPB jersey!

My first NPB jersey!

It’s a pretty nice jersey and after I tossed it on in the ballpark I was certain that I’d made a good souvenir choice. The B’s on the front and the Orix patch on the left are both legitimate, sewn on patches. It’s a pretty sharp color scheme too. The white contrasts very nicely with the dark blue and the red/yellow trim around the sleeves and patches looks pretty good. All that said, it’s still kind of a generic jersey. There’s no team name, no city name, no prominent company name. I like it, but the other, more creative jerseys just look better.

Rank: 8 of 12. Solid, but just too generic.

Jersey #2 – Hiroshima Toyo Carp

Hiroshima is a city that’s really dear to my heart. Of all the places I visited in Japan, it left the most lasting effect on me, both from the team spirit and the indomitable spirit of the people who rebuilt the city with vigor. Beyond all that, the team’s most prominent color is red and, to quote Andy Bernard, my blood runs Big Red. Housed in Mazda Stadium, a brand new ballpark with all the amenities, the Carp had one of the more robust team stores filled to the brim with red from boxer shorts (complete with catcher signs over the crotch) to the all-important jerseys and caps.

One of my favorite jerseys.

One of my favorite jerseys.

This time the jersey fetched a heftier fee, ringing up at around ¥5500, if I remember right, with the premium version selling for ¥6500. Concerned with saving money, I’m pretty sure I went with the cheaper edition of the jersey, which is kind of a shame now that I think about it. I’m not sure if the more expensive one actually had sewn on names (or even if the real jerseys do), but the names on the jersey are printed on and it lacks the ridges on the premium jersey. Despite all of that, the Carp jersey gets extra points from me for being red, quite fetching to look at, distinctly Japanese with Hiroshima printed across the front, and it features my favorite Japanese ballplayer, Akihiro Higashide.

This guy hit his 1000th hit with me in the stadium watching. I love this guy.

This guy hit his 1000th hit with me in the stadium watching. I love this guy.

With all of these things going for it (and it being the jersey of my favorite team), one would expect it to top the bill, but I have to take some points away for its cheaper design and printed text. If it weren’t for those things, it would definitely rate higher.

Rank: 3 of 12. Ok, it doesn’t rank all that low, but still, it’s not #1!

Jersey #3 – Saitama Seibu Lions

You all remember how this jersey believes lions, right?

Makes me laugh every time...

Makes me laugh every time...

There’s one thing that the brand-conscious among you will notice right away upon viewing a picture of the jersey. I’ll give you a second to check it out…

Kind of plain, but made with nice material. Whats up with the armpits though?

Kind of plain, but made with nice material. What's up with the armpits though?

That’s right, the Lions are sponsored by none other than Nike, no doubt a deal that was penned (if it wasn’t already in place) following their victory in the Japan Series last year and, wouldn’t you know it, a brand-name jersey costs a lot more than the regular Joe editions pushed by the other teams. Already not a fan of the Lions because they play in the Pacific League in a strange quasi-dome, here I had to pay something like ¥7200 for this jersey. My little quest was starting to get quite expensive and I wasn’t happy about it.

Beyond that, there’s nothing really wrong with the jersey. It’s got a solid, old-school baseball look, but there’s not much to it beyond that. Grey is a terribly bland color (I suppose I could have bought white, but those were even plainer. There weren’t even blue highlights, if I remember correctly. The Saitama patch on the right arm and the Lions-ball-grasped-in-a-paw patch are both pretty generic looking too. The best feature is the “i believe lions,” but you can’t see that if the jersey is buttoned up or even in normal wear. All of that pales in comparison to the bizarre underarm of the jersey. For some godforsaken reason, the jersey does not have full armpits. Instead there are these vents, I guess to help get air to the underarm. I always wear an undershirt, but with these little vents exposing my armpits to the world, this jersey kind of forces the point.

Rank: 7 of 12. What’s up with the armpits on this thing?

Jersey #4 – Tokyo Yakult Swallows

By the time I showed up at Meiji Jingu for the Swallows game, I’d already seen the team play once. Counting that day, I was to see them play three more games. If you’ve been reading the blog, you know that I’m not a fan of this team, but they’ve actually got one of the nicer jerseys that I picked up.

That top red button really sells it for me.

That top red button really sells it for me.

The Swallows have a jersey that’s just different enough from the MLB sets that it really sells the whole “Hey, we play baseball in Japan, not America” thing. From the red accents on the side (can you tell I love red?) to the great patches on both the arms and above the team name, to the coup de grace, the red top button, it’s just a well-designed jersey. I don’t have the other buttons done, but they’re white, not red, which would normally annoy someone so obsessed with symmetry and patterns, but I love it in this case. It’s like the rising sun sits right at the top of the jersey. Best of all, the jersey returned to a more reasonable price. I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but it was definitely between ¥4000 and ¥5000. I still can’t believe how much I paid for a Lions jersey that doesn’t even have a marketable player’s name on the back.

Rank: 5 of 12. It’s the Rising Sun on my jersey!

Jersey #5 – Yomiuri Giants

The Yankees of Japan. What team do I hate (fourth) most in the states? Which jersey do I loathe from my collection?

This one hurt to buy.

This one hurt to buy.

I’ll admit, this is a jersey I hate for completely non-aesthetic reasons. Aside from being rather plain, I am a fan of the orange and black on the jersey. Beyond that, there is one major reason why I hate this jersey. Make that 12000 reasons. That’s right, I had to pay ¥12000 to get this thing. Why?

1. They’re the Giants. The most popular team in Japan
2. It’s another name brand. Adidas

I dont even know who this guy is...but he does have a great number.

I don't even know who this guy is...but he does have a great number.

Since I didn’t know that I was collecting jerseys on this trip when we saw the Giants the first night, this one comes from the day Dave left and I went to Tokyo Disney Sea. I will say that I saw the jerseys in the store that night and thought they were far too expensive, but here I was, stuck buying the premium jersey. Why? I hear you ask. It’s because there are no non-premium jerseys. Pay less than ¥12000 and you can get a t-shirt that looks like a jersey, but you will never get a jersey. I bit the bullet and bought the thing, but I still get mad thinking about it.

Rank: 11 of 12. Sure, I’m being petty, but it’s my list and my criteria.

Jersey #6 – Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

After paying so much for my Giants jersey, prices became mostly trivial, so my dislike of the Hawks jersey comes not from paying between ¥6000 and ¥7000 for the thing, but more from an aesthetic dislike.

White jersey with yellow armbands. Way to break the creativity bank guys...

White jersey with yellow armbands. Way to break the creativity bank guys...

Uninspired and lazy is what I think when I see this jersey. The most creative part of it is the goofy-looking Hawk mascot on the right sleeve and we all know how I feel about that bird and his kin. Two yellow stripes? That’s the best you can come up with?

Worse, the Hawks are thinking of changing their jersey next year to be more like the BayStars. Just you wait until I get to that abomination…

Rank: 9 of 12. Stupid mascot and yellow bands.

Jersey #7 – Chunichi Dragons

It’s probably time to call me inconsistent, but I rather like the Dragons jersey. Maybe it’s the old-school look with the linked ‘C’ and ‘D’ or maybe it’s the delicious shade of blue that the team uses (it’s the closest to Cubs blue that I saw in Japan and I love me some Cubs blue), but I really like it.

Its all about letter design.

It's all about letter design.

The player is pretty forgettable, but they don’t really sell Fukudome jerseys in the stadium anymore. I hear he’s a veteran who’s been playing a long time and he had a decent game, but he didn’t call out to me like Higashide or Toritani.

Araki is getting close to the end of his career, but I love his number and the fact that he plays second base.

Araki is getting close to the end of his career, but I love his number and the fact that he plays second base.

Beyond that, I like the wedge-shaped highlights on the sleeves and up the sides, but it’s a shame that the jersey doesn’t really have any patches.

Rank: 6 of 12. A solid effort, but the ones above it either have more sentimental value or sharper designs..

Jersey #8 – Hanshin Tigers

This is a jersey done right. Everything about it just exudes tight design. Pinstripes are a staple of baseball while the black and yellow interact fantastically everywhere they’re paired together.

Sharp.

Sharp.

Even the textures are nice on this sucker, with everything sewn on and a ridged surface, it’s also really nice to feel. Check out that fierce Tiger patch. Scary.

Toritani! My second favorite Japanese baseball player.

Toritani! My second favorite Japanese baseball player.

I almost unintentionally ended up falling in love with numbers and players that were part of the middle infield. While I’ve got a few pitchers thrown in there (and a first baseman), I’m pretty sure most of the jerseys I own with names belong to the middle infield. If that’s not supported by the data, then my favorite ones do, so can it. Takeshi Toritani is a fine shortstop and he was a clutch performer in the games that I saw.

Rank: 2 of 12. The highest ranked “traditional” jersey, this guy just gets it in all the right places. Pinstripes, black accents, yellow trim, and a badass tiger.

Jersey #9 – Hokkaidō Nippon-Ham Fighters

Back-to-back superstar jerseys. The Nippon-Ham I bought has everything going for it that you’d want in a Japanese jersey. How’s about a quick peek before we go over all the highlights.

Worth it just to see the faces as they read Nippon-Ham

Worth it just to see the faces as they read Nippon-Ham

Sure, Fighters jerseys fetch about ¥9000, but you really get what you pay for in this case. When the Fighters moved to Sapporo (they used to play in Tokyo and share the Dome with the Giants) they totally revamped their image and went with this completely non-traditional look. The most glaring difference is the left sleeve. Beyond the nifty, sewn-on patch, it’s an entirely different color from the rest of the jersey (this is the case for the home, away, and interleague versions of the jersey too). That bold accent, coupled with the hilarious Nippon-Ham adorning the front already seal the deal on this being my favorite jersey, but the best part is the player I got.

I was so close to seeing Darvish pitch...

I was so close to seeing Darvish pitch...

Yu Darvish is a superstar. No other pitcher in Japan approaches how great this guy is right now. He was hurt for most of the season, but he even came out to pitch in Game 2 of the Japan Series while hurt. Instead of pitching to his usual velocity, the guy just relied on curveballs and other tricky pitches and still only gave up two runs on one home run. The guy’s a stud on the mound. I really hope he comes to pitch in the states one day.

Rank: 1 of 12. Darvish + the off-color arm = win

Jersey #10 – Yokohama Baystars

From first to absolute worst. I don’t even know where to start with this guy…

Worst. Jersey. Ever.

Worst. Jersey. Ever.

Oh wait, how about the fact that its NOT EVEN A JERSEY! The traditional jersey has buttons. There are no buttons on this jersey. Everything on it is printed, even the cheesy stars on the shoulders that, I kid you not, I did not notice until two minutes before I wrote this sentence. Everything about this jersey screams forgettable.

Is he any good? Who would know on this team.

Is he any good? Who would know on this team.

At the very least Uchikawa is pretty good. He led the league in 2008 in batting average, but, beyond that, I couldn’t care less. He plays for a garbage team.

Rank 12 of 12. I’m so glad I only had to pay ¥4000 for this thing. It’s not even a jersey!

Jersey #10 – Chiba Lotte Marines

When I first saw these jerseys I thought they looked kind of cool. The different colors and zig-zag of the sleeves look kind of cool from far away, but something about this jersey soured me to the idea not long after I got it.

What kind of a jersey sponsor is The Hartford?

What kind of a jersey sponsor is The Hartford?

When you look closely at the jersey, the most bizarre thing pops out at you. They prominently display the logo of The Hartford. An investment firm on a baseball jersey? Just doesn’t feel right.

I think I have more corner infielders than middle. Oh well, I still like the middle fielders more.

I think I have more corner infielders than middle. Oh well, I still like the middle fielders more.

I know I’m being nitpicky here, but I don’t really like the design they chose for the numbers on the jersey. I also don’t like that it cost me ¥11000 and it doesn’t fit all that well.

Rank: 10 of 12. I can’t explain precisely why I don’t like it, but it’s not that great.

Jersey #12 – Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles

I was really pulling for the Eagles to make it to the Japan series this year. After seeing them battle back and beat the Hawks with a grand slam and watching Masahiro Tanaka turn in a stellar pitching performance, the team became my favorite in the Pacific League.

Check out the wings on the team name!

Check out the wings on the team name!

Beyond that, just look at what they did with a fairly simple jersey design. There are no fancy patches or color swatches, but they did do something neat with the logo on the jersey. Instead of going with the regal, refined look, they put freaking wings on the thing. It’s sweet.

Tanaka - my second favorite Japanese pitcher.

Tanaka - my second favorite Japanese pitcher.

The plentiful red is always appreciated and so is Tanaka’s name. A fine jersey and one of the better teams I saw on the trip.

Rank: 4 of 12. Wingtips! On the name!

What do you think of the designs? Would you arrange them differently?

Dr. Feelgood: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Social Gaming [GO]
Jul 16th, 2009 by Dan

This was a piece I wrote for Gamers With Jobs to try and score a writing gig. They ended up going with two other writers, so I figured I’d post what I wrote here. Enjoy.

It was last month when I realized that something had gone terribly wrong . There were fifteen people in my apartment, maybe a tenth of them lifelong gamers, and they were all here to play video games. Most strange of all: there I was, microphone in hand, belting out “Don’t Stop Believing” in front of my friends. As my voice cracked on the high notes I wondered how I reached this point. Wasn’t I the same guy who refused to go to karaoke bars to avoid singing in public? Weren’t these people the same ones who scoffed at Final Fantasy and Halo?

I still remember what social gaming used to be, back when I was a kid. A mere ten years ago it was some combination of me, my brothers, my cousins, and my buddies all crowded around our tiny television set playing Goldeneye. If we weren’t cackling at our proximity mine craftiness, we were smashing in dunks while setting the net on fire, boom-chaka-laka. There was one constant and it was that we were all boys of various ages playing simulations of things that boys love. Shooting spies, hitting home runs, killing monsters, hand-to-hand combat, all of the social gaming conventions out there catered explicitly to teenage males.

Those times are over. The success of the Nintendo Wii has all but erased the teenage boy stereotype from general gaming. All Nintendo had to do was keep toeing that same party line that dated all the way back the days of the Famicom: make gaming fun and uncomplicated and they will come. In droves, apparently. The Wii went and did what we all thought impossible. All of a sudden grandma was playing. Wives, girlfriends, kids, old men, they were all playing and it was more than socially acceptable, it was cool. I didn’t have to force my girlfriend to pick up a controller, she wanted to come over and play tennis. It’s still kind of crazy, when I think about it.

Ignoring the power of the Wii when considering other social gaming phenomena like Rock Band is naïve, at best, so we must consider that the Wii created the culture of social gaming that enabled the success of Harmonix’s band simulator. After Nintendo convinced everyone that swinging a remote around and pretending it was a golf club was cool, getting them to jam to music they already loved on fake, plastic instruments seemed trivial. So it came to pass that I pre-ordered a copy of Rock Band and threw the first of many Rock Band parties the day it arrived in the mailroom of my dorm.

A former electrical engineering student like myself is easily able to cultivate a large group of friends who love video gaming in general, so rounding up gamers to try out the latest video game was a trivial ordeal for me. The real trick was rounding up the non-gamers. Word of mouth spread slowly at first, but it wasn’t too long before the people who had last played a video game in 1991 started to outnumber those who could recite the Konami Code on command. The moment it should have dawned on me came that January.

I had returned for my final semester, classes had yet to start, and I had rounded up two of my buddies who were similarly in town early to play some of the DLC that had come out over the long winter break. As the three of us rocked out, a very confused face peeked into the open doorway, clearly wondering what all the commotion was all about. Her name was Allison, she was a transfer that semester, and she was super cute.

“You wanna play?” I asked

“I don’t really know how to play…” she protested, clearly not wanting to embarrass herself.

“It’s easy, all you have to do is sing the words.” I was doing my best, but I was losing her. Singing in front of people she hardly knew was not on the agenda for the day.

“Come on, it’s house rules, everyone has to sing. We’ll all go too,” my friend Lee chimed in. We had no house rules, but he was a genius because she picked up the microphone and a friendship was struck up with a pretty girl. It later turned out that Allison had transferred to Cornell to be closer to her boyfriend, but the point was that my gaming that day was social.

I think it’s perfectly fair to say that Rock Band is responsible for me growing out of my shell that last semester at school. My guitar skills developed to an expert level and I soon stopped worrying about failing in front of the weekly attendees of Rock Band night. When I picked up the guitar I started thinking of myself as a performer and I began singing and dancing. Whenever I picked up the microphone and embarrassed myself, I laughed it off and developed confidence in front of my friends. The only thing I feared more than singing in front of people was dancing, but thanks to those parties, I found myself cutting loose on the dance floor more and more, even sans alcohol. Still, the revelation had yet to sink in.

We’re back to last month and I’m belting out “Don’t Stop Believing” on expert, my voice cracking on the high notes. I can’t believe that I’m singing in front of a girl I’m actually trying to impress, that it’s not even crossing my mind to be embarrassed, and that I’m actually passing the song.

A lot of criticism is levied against Nintendo for diluting the player base and creating the hard/softcore schism. After E3, the Wii Vitality Sensor was trumpeted as proof that Nintendo had lost sight of the goal, but, as someone who has grown as a person due to social gaming, I can’t stress enough that they’re among the few who have got it right. Gaming should be allowed to be social too. Who knows, you might end up someone.

-Dan Mesa is just a city boy, born and raised nowhere near south Detroit.

Domo at Cornell [Photographic Memory]
May 5th, 2009 by Dan

The famous McGraw Tower. A Cornell icon…

Cornell Domo

…About to be consumed by Domo-kun

Hungry Domo

25 Random BASEBALL Things About Me
Feb 22nd, 2009 by Dan

When Schneider tagged me in her version of this I almost pulled a Linus Torvalds (http://torvalds-family.blogspot.com/2009/02/25-things-about-me.html), but instead I decided not to do one at all.

Then I came across two “25 Random Baseball Things” articles and fell in love with the idea as a way to release pent up excitement about the upcoming baseball season. Hope you enjoy it..

1. Baseball was the first team sport I ever played. To this day I don’t really understand what motivated my father to sign me up for the game. My grandfather is afraid of playing catch due to an incident where he got beaned, my dad is mostly apathetic toward sports in general, including baseball, and my older brother hated little league baseball. My best guess is that we were living in the mostly Cuban (at the time) Hialeah where little league baseball is the predominant sport.

2. I always wanted to play catcher as a kid, but I never got the chance to. I wasn’t ever going to be a pitcher, but I figured that catching involved the second most amount of action on the field. Instead most of my time was spent in the outfield, where I did a pretty good job, and one glorious season at second base. Whenever I play softball or baseball, I will usually play catcher or second base, unless the team needs me to play outfield.

3. My favorite team is the Florida Marlins and I still remember going to a game at Joe Robbie Stadium, as it was called then, to see them play in April of 1993. This was the first professional baseball game I ever attended and was the coolest thing that had ever happened to me before then until I actually walked on the field some years later.

4. I very quickly developed an intense hatred for the Atlanta Braves that still sticks with me to this day. It’s no coincidence that I also despise the Florida State Seminoles who share the absurdly racist and obnoxious tomahawk chop chant. Last year I found out that my uncle used to be a Braves fan since they were the closest team to Florida before 1993. I still feel deeply betrayed by this fact, even though he is now a Marlins fan.

5. When my family moved to Oregon sometime in 1995, I experienced something of a baseball Dark Ages that I didn’t really kick until 2003 and didn’t fully kick until last year, despite moving back to South Florida in 1997. Between 1995 to 2003 I went to one AAA baseball game (Portland Rockies), two pro baseball games (Seattle Mariners and Florida Marlins), one spring training game (Tigers at Yankees) and watched almost no baseball on tv.

6. I’m very ashamed to say that I maybe watched one or two of the games of the 1997 World Series, neither of which were Game 7. To this day I still root against the Cleveland Indians, partly because of that World Series, partly because they remind me of the Braves, and partly because living with Ohio-native Dean Strelau in 2007 allowed me to gloat about snatching two National Championships away from Ohio State, which led to a general dislike of any team from Ohio.

7. I quit playing baseball and started swimming competitively in 1998, a decision that I regret to this day. Sure, I wasn’t a very good ball player at that point, considering I did it mostly for fun, but I wish I had stuck with it. In case you were wondering, I wasn’t a very good swimmer either.

8. In that final season, my team played in a tournament against a team that traveled over to the states from Japan. We held our own for the first two or three innings, but eventually they got the best of us. I still remember that we had to use Japanese-style balls, but we didn’t have Japanese bats, which had some sort of rough coating on them that made them a bit different. I have a sneaking suspicion that we might have played a little better with access to their special equipment or if we used the standard American baseballs and bats instead.

9. The event that led to my baseball renaissance was the Steve Bartman incident in the 2003 postseason. Bartman will always be a hero of mine thanks to his paving the way for the Marlins 2003 World Series victory. I will gleefully ask any Cubs fan about how devastated they felt back in 2003 to be robbed of a pennant.

10. When the Marlins made it to the World Series in 2003 I wore a Marlins jersey that I’ve owned since the mid-90s to school. I’ll never forget that day, because in first period AP Statistics, Dan Gollins called me a front runner because he’d never seen me wear any Marlins paraphernalia before. I stand by the fact that I’ve been a Marlins fan since their inaugural year and I still get mad thinking about him calling me that, but I also kind of understand where he’s coming from and begrudgingly admit he’s got something of a point.

11. Speaking of the 2003 World Series, I have distinct memories of watching two of the seven games at Cornell during a campus visit that DPE flew me up for. I watched one of the games in the now-destroyed Class of ’26 with two Yankees fans. The other I watched in my brother’s apartment down on Gunn Hill.

12. This is a complicated one: I attended middle school and one year of high school down in South Florida at Cooper City High and the rest of them up in Central Florida at Sickles High. After prom at Sickles, I was invited down to Cooper City for prom with my old friends as my ex-girlfriend’s date, much to the ire of my current girlfriend. I still remember being quite insensitive as I called my girlfriend from their prom and told her that I wanted so badly to stay an extra day so that I could go with Josh Kushner to see the Marlins play the Diamondbacks that Sunday (23 May 2004 – http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/FLO/FLO200405230.shtml) because Dontrelle Willis was pitching against Randy Johnson. Better sense prevailed and I ended up going home as scheduled. The Marlins lost 4-3 that day and I’ve still yet to see Randy Johnson or Dontrelle Willis pitch in person.

13. The first Orioles game I went to was on 27 July 2005 against the Texas Rangers (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL200507270.shtml). I’m pretty sure it was Sammy Sosa Bobblehead Night, although I could be wrong. It was a Wednesday, so I was worried about how long it would take me to get home cause I had work in the morning, but I figured it wouldn’t be that bad. After a 97-minute rain delay, the game FINALLY got underway. The Os and Rangers tied up the game in the 9th and the game ended in the 11th with the Rangers winning 11-8. I got home at 0200AM, but that baseball game is one of the best I’ve ever experienced.

14. One of my goals in life is to see a baseball game played in every ballpark. So far I’ve seen games in Joe Robbie Stadium/Pro Player Stadium/Dolphin Stadium (Marlins), the Kingdome (Mariners), Tropicana Field (Rays), Camden Yards (Orioles), RFK Stadium (Nationals), and Shea Stadium (Mets). Of these stadiums, the Kingdome, Shea, and RFK no longer house their respective teams, the Marlins will be leaving Dolphin Stadium by 2010ish, and the Rays are trying to get a new stadium approved leaving me with one solid stadium visited out of thirty. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

15. Once I’ve visited all the MLB stadiums, barring further stadium moves, I have decided to undertake the much more ambitious and difficult goal of seeing a game in all 13 Nippon Professional Baseball stadiums. I’ve only been to Japan once and Okinawa doesn’t have a baseball team, but I will get this done some day. Koshien Stadium here I come!

16. I am absolutely opposed to the DH rule in baseball. To me, it makes sense that any player who takes the field should have to bat for himself. Sure, it allows aging players or players with poor defense to have a spot on the roster, but I just think it takes away from the spirit of the game to have a guy whose only job is to bat while you have a whole group of guys whose only job it is to pitch. You could argue that pinch hitters serve that role in the NL, but the rules state that those guys have to step onto the field after they hit, unless there’s another substitution. Lack of a DH promotes greater strategy in baseball, period.

17. Rookie of the Year was the first baseball movie I ever saw. I’ve also seen Little Big League, A League of Their Own, Major League, Mr. Baseball, Hardball, and The Sandlot. My Netflix queue includes Field of Dreams, Mr. 3000, The Bad News Bears, and Fever Pitch. I think A League of Their Own and Little Big League are my two favorites.

18. I have a man-crush on 2008 Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria.

19. I’ve been to two games at Tropicana Field, one when the team was known as the Devil Rays and one after the name change. I was initially totally opposed to the name change, but it’s amazing what a name change, color scheme change, and a winning season will do for a team and their venue. The Trop is still one of the worst stadiums I’ve ever been to, but it was a lot more fun to go this past year.

20. I boo Darek Jeter when he comes up to bat for absolutely no reason. In retrospect, I should have been booing A-Rod this whole time.

21. There’s something about eating a hot dog in a ballpark that makes it taste infinitely better.

22. I always semi-rooted for the Devil Rays, but I definitely jumped on the Rays bandwagon this year and I fully intend to continue to root for them as my AL team. My NL team is, of course, the Marlins. I will actively root against the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Braves, and Indians. In the All-Star game, a non-Braves/Phillies game, or any Interleague game, I will root for the National League team. I don’t mind rooting for the Cubs unless they are in the postseason. I think it’s funny that they haven’t won a World Series in 100 years and I want the streak to continue.

23. My favorite ballplayers through the years: Benito Santiago, Chuck Carr, Cris Carpenter, Brian Harvey, Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis, Hanley Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Mike Lowell, and Evan Longoria

24. I have never caught a foul ball, ground rule double, or home run in the stands. It’s a selfish thing to do as a grown man, but I’m not sure I’d be able to give any ball I caught in the future to a kid at a game. Wouldn’t it be enough to give the second or third away?

25. Once they are old enough to enjoy it, I plan to take my recently adopted little brothers and sister to a ball game in the hopes that it will inspire the same love for the game that I have in them.

Embedded Reporter: Maya Angelou
May 26th, 2008 by Dan

Deep from the trenches, it’s time for your Monday video feature: Embedded Reporter.

Graduation has come and gone for me this past weekend, which is why I haven’t had any posts since Friday. Our Convocation speaker was the amazing Dr. Maya Angelou, who gave a very cool speech on Saturday. You can watch the speech (in Realplayer only at the moment, WTF?) here.

She’s definitely a great speaker and funny when she wants to be. I hate to brag, but she beat the pants off of my brother’s convocation speaker four years ago, General (Ret.) Wesley Clark. To be fair, the president back then, Jeffrey Lehman, knocked the socks off of the dull speech by our president, David Skorton. He’s just so boring I can’t stand it.

Anyway, enjoy the convocation video while you can, it’s supposedly going to be removed from the website at some point due to copyright concerns.

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