Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Disturbing FanNation Ads

Sports Illustrated's website links to a site called FanNation, a site for sports news, rumors, and discussion. Small, unobtrusive ads, mainly just text, are generated between stories on the "Truth & Rumors" section.

Today, the following ads showed up while I read.

Opposite a piece about Warren Sapp:
Get more from Canon Camcorders
Many styles and features to choose from. Official site

Accompanying the Rams' possible return to Los Angeles:
Canon VIXIA Camcorders
Compact camcorders with advanced technology &
easy-to-use features

Next to personal seat licenses for the Giants' new digs:
Claritin Products
24-Hour, Non-Drowsy Relief From Your Allergies with

Alongside legal information about the Broncos' Brandon Marshall:
Claritin Products
24-Hour, Non-Drowsy Relief From Your Allergies with

And finally, the disturbing one. Next to a piece about the Comcast company, this gem:
Find a local liquor store
Enter your zip code and get your fix. Free business

How messed up is that??? Essentially, "Welcome to CNN and Sports Illustrated's FanNation. Use the internet to get conveniently 'faced. Free business directory." Seriously, "Get your fix?!" Are crack dealers listed on Zipweb? Or meth labs, or poorly-secured toolsheds with inhalable solvents?

C N freaking N owns this website. Come on, guys. Set a standard.

(Besides, who doesn't know where the nearest liquor store is? I'm just saying...)


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Curt Schilling: Hall-of-Famer?

I had been planning to write about this, but ESPN's Jayson Stark makes all the arguments I would have made much better. Here's Stark's essay; click on the link to read some great debate between Stark and emailers afterward.

Monday's topic, courtesy of Nelson from Portland:

"There's only one logical question for this week. Is Curt Schilling a Hall of Famer? I am a huge Sox fan and big Schill supporter. However, I have to say no. The numbers just are not there."

On a November morning five years from now, the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot will show up in my mailbox. And on that ballot, I'll find the kind of name that makes Hall voting so rewarding--and so impossible:

Curt Schilling.

Nelson from Portland says he isn't Hall of Fame worthy. Me? I'm not so sure of that. So let's take a look at Schilling's fascinating Hall of Fame credentials.


If you base your Hall decisions just on the old wins column, you won't vote for this man. That seems obvious. His 216 wins are 72 fewer than Tommy John, 71 fewer than Bert Blyleven and 38 fewer than Jack Morris. And none of those guys had a plaque last time I checked.

For that matter, if Schilling has thrown his last pitch, he'll also wind up with fewer wins than Joe Niekro (221) or Dennis Martinez (245). And neither of those guys even made it to a second year on the ballot. So clearly, that's what Nelson is referring to when he says "The numbers just are not there."


Ah, but it depends which numbers you're looking at. And I looked at bunch of other numbers--numbers that rank all righthanded starters from 1992, the year Schilling first moved into the starting rotation in Philadelphia, through 2007, the year he apparently threw his final pitch in Boston. Here's what I found:

Schilling not only led all of them in complete games (with 83), but only one other righthander in the whole sport (Greg Maddux) was closer than 25 CGs away. Just Pedro Martinez had a better strikeout ratio than Schilling (8.59 K/9). Only Pedro and Roger Clemens had more strikeouts than Schilling (3,116) , period. Just Pedro and Maddux had a better WHIP than Schilling (1.137). And nobody had a better strikeout-walk ratio. In fact, Schilling's K/BB ratio (4.38 whiffs for every walk) ranks No. 1 among ALL PITCHERS IN THE MODERN ERA.

So how compelling are those numbers? And I haven't even mentioned October yet--the month in which he did his finest work of all.

Schill has been my favorite active baseball player for 15 years (my fave all-time being Mike Schmidt), and the fact that his marvelous career might have ended with a whimper of shoulder surgery breaks my heart. Today's news on that front is good; the surgery went well and he may be able to start throwing by winter. But even if he's thrown his last pitch he can have no regrets.

I wonder if he's thought about which cap his Hall of Fame bust should wear.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

'Rick Gray on McCain and Obama

Style Weekly printed a really interesting piece by 'Rick Gray today. Despite being a passionate liberal, he's voting for John McCain.

'Rick is no more than an acquaintance of mine, but the piece really hits home for me; I'm in the interesting place right now of leaning more liberal than I ever have, but simultaneously believing in the Obamessiah (and in fact the Democratic party) less and less.

Here's a chunk from the middle (thus encouraging you to read the beginning and end in the paper or on their website):

First, I like [McCain]. The very qualities that drive conservative Republicans nuts are those I like best. McCain’s a true maverick. He hasn’t sold out to Washington, D.C. He’s his own man.

I’m also uneasy about Sen. Barack Obama for reasons that haven’t really been explored by the lemmings of the mainstream media.

For one thing, Obama reminds me of a lot of smart guys I’ve known — fellow Echols Scholars at the University of Virginia and classmates at the U.Va. School of Law — brilliant young guys who believed that academic success and intellectual prowess automatically made them leaders. That all they needed was power and they could solve all the problems that confound older, less brilliant minds.

There’s a subtle arrogance about Obama that I’ve seen before, and it troubles me.

Moreover, Obama’s promise of “changing the way Washington does business” reminds me of recent history. Americans — especially young Americans — have short memories, but as I recall, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also ran as young, personable outsiders who were going to change Washington.

Instead, Washington slowly changed Clinton, while Bush promptly surrounded himself with insiders and set out to consolidate power like no one since Richard Nixon.

Obama may seem a fresh face to others. To me, he looks like the third consecutive iteration of the same mistake.

But none of that gets to the hardpan. My fundamental reason for supporting McCain involves timing. I long for progressive government — but I want progressive policies over the long term — not the short-term satisfaction of electing a progressive in 2008, only to revert to right-wing government in 2012.

Mainstream pundits assure us that an Obama administration would be transformational. Frankly, I suspect that — whoever we elect — the next administration will be more janitorial than transformational.

I highly recommend reading the whole piece; it's very strong. I still don't think I can vote for either Obama or McCain, though...

'Rick may not feel the same way, but I am reminded of South Park creator Matt Stone's famous quote: "I hate conservatives, but I really ####ing hate liberals."

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cyd Charisse: 1922-2008

From the New York Times:

Published: June 18, 2008

Filed at 8:14 a.m. ET

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Cyd Charisse, the long-legged Texas beauty who danced with the Ballet Russe as a teenager and starred in MGM musicals with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, has died. She was 86.

Charisse was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Monday after suffering an apparent heart attack, said her publicist, Gene Schwam. She died Tuesday.

Charisse appeared in dramatic films, but her fame came from the Technicolor musicals of the 1940s and 1950s.

Classically trained, she could dance anything, from a pas de deux in 1946's ''Ziegfeld Follies'' to the lowdown Mickey Spillane satire of 1956's ''The Band Wagon'' (with Astaire).

She also forged a popular song-and-dance partnership on television and in nightclub appearances with her husband, singer Tony Martin.

Her height was 5 feet, 6 inches, but in high heels and full-length stockings, she seemed serenely tall, and she moved with extraordinary grace. Her flawless beauty and jet-black hair contributed to an aura of perfection that Astaire described in his 1959 memoir, ''Steps in Time,'' as ''beautiful dynamite.''

Her name was Tula Ellice Finklea when she was born in Amarillo, Texas, on March 8, 1922. From her earliest years she was called Sid, because her older brother couldn't say ''sister.'' She was a sickly girl who started dancing lessons to build up her strength after a bout with polio.

Oh, sweet, sweet Cyd Charisse. Arguably the greatest dance in the history of the movie musical, and one of the sexiest women to ever grace the silver screen. Green dress. Singin' in the Rain. "Broadway melody." Yowza.

Charisse kind of fills the same category as Marni Nixon for me: just under a household name in movie musical history, but a singular talent that defined the genre, beloved by aficionados and performers alike. She didn't just sparkle, she somehow managed to draw focus and make the others on screen with her look better at the same time.

There is dancing in Heaven today.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hank Steinbrenner Is a Jackass.

From the Associated Press:

NEW YORK -- Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang is expected to be sidelined until at least September after injuring his foot running the bases, prompting club co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner to chastise the National League for playing without a designated hitter

An examination in New York on Monday showed Wang partially tore a tendon and sprained his right foot Sunday during the Yankees' 13-0 interleague win at Houston. He will be on crutches and wear a protective boot for a minimum of six weeks, the latest blow to the team's banged-up pitching staff.

"My only message is simple. The National League needs to join the 21st century," Steinbrenner said in Tampa, Fla. "They need to grow up and join the 21st century.

"Am I [mad] about it? Yes," Steinbrenner added. "I've got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He's going to be out. I don't like that, and it's about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s."

Making a rare appearance on the bases at an NL park, Wang pulled up rounding third and hobbled home on Derek Jeter's
single. Wang doubled over after scoring, pointed toward his right foot and was helped off the field.

"This is always a concern of American League teams when their pitchers have to run the bases and they're not used to doing it," Steinbrenner said. "It's not just us. It's everybody. It probably should be a concern for National League owners, general managers and managers when their pitchers run the bases. Pitchers have enough to do without having to do that."

So let me get this straight, Hank, you incompetent imitation of your idiot father. It's the National League's fault for your pitcher stepping awkwardly and injuring himself freakishly. Wang hurt his foot because the National League plays real DH-less baseball, not because he wasn't properly trained to run bases in Spring Training. Maybe you should also blame Houston's pitching staff for giving up a hit to a freaking American League hitter. Or Wang himself for actually swinging.

Maybe, just maybe, pitchers should be expected to be baseball players, too, Hank. Maybe they should have to develop some version of all five baseball tools, instead of just throwing and occasionally covering first base. You know, like ALL PITCHERS had to do until late in the 20th century. Moron.

All I can say about Hank Steinbrenner is that it's a really good time to be a Red Sox fan.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tim Russert: 1950-2008

We lost one of the last great old news men this week, and well before his time.

Tim Russert has died at 58 years old, and the hole he leaves may be impossible to fill. In a world where "Fair and Balanced" is a tacit omission on one side of TV news and an advertising slogan on the other, Russert was a genuine journalist. I never knew what side of the political fence he sat on, and I never felt that he was pushing an agenda, unlike, oh, pretty much everyone else on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. Russert didn't just keep equanimity, he insisted on it, going so far as to refuse to work on-air with Keith Olbermann.

But Russert's own words provide a better tribute than any of my own. In an interview for the New Yorker shortly before his death, Russert said, “What cable emphasizes, more and more, is opinion, or even advocacy. Whether it’s Bill O’Reilly or Keith Olbermann or Lou Dobbs, that’s what that particular platform or venue does. It’s not what I do. What I do is different. I try very, very hard not to come up and say to people, ‘This is what I believe,’ or ‘This is good,’ or ‘This is bad.’ But, rather, ‘This is what I’m learning in my reporting,’ or ‘This is what my analysis shows based on my reporting.’ And as long as I can do that I’m very, very comfortable. And nobody has asked me to do anything but that.”

All of us, journalists and actors and realtors and steelworkers, can learn from that.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Musical Christmas for Andrew

New albums come out this week by both T-Bone Burnett and Sam Phillips, probably my two favorite songwriters not named Joe Jackson. I'm headed out to Plan 9 to get both Burnett's The Tooth of Crime and Phillips' Don't Do Anything today. Reviews soon.

On the subject of music, Karen and I went to the Progressive Nation 2008 show at the National last Tuesday. Dang, is that a great place to see a concert! Dream Theater headlined and were amazing, and Between the Buried and Me and Opeth were big hits (though I didn't much care for them), but the discovery of the night was Three, the band that started the whole shebang. Prog music fans should look them up; they are something special.

QUICK EDIT: The new Sam is magnificent. She just gets better and better.

I'm having a harder time getting into T-Bone's new joint; there's a lot of spoken-word, which I like from him, but I like his melodies a lot too. After one spin, I found myself digging out The Talking Animals for a listen. Theatre fans: you may recognize Tooth of Crime as the title of a Sam Shepard play. This album is indeed the score from a 1996 production of the play, and Shepard co-writes the album's final track.

Bigger reviews soon.