Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bring on the Brisket

I've done a lot this year to prepare for Pesach (Passover). I've helped Temple Sinai raise money by joining in two March Madness events (soon to be three). I've sampled Berkeley Rep plays (ugh!) while tasting three types of brisket at the other event (terrific!).

I've also cleaned my house of chametz, the leavened bread-type products that one must get rid of during Pesach. You know, flour, bread crumbs, flour. I haven't gotten rid of the bread yet. I've been eating sandwiches knowing that I can no longer eat sandwiches for eight days. I have also taken the opportunity to clean out cabinets. This is the once-a-year time when one should throw away old spices and salad dressings. I think it's a good plan.

I am all set up for two seders this year. Last year I was learning. But this year...well, I'm still learning. But some things are now familiar to me, and I will spend this weekend studying up a bit on what goes into a seder (thanks to Dawn's quick study email on that), and what historically goes into this celebration after all.

I'm all set. Except for one thing.

At the Brisket-a-thon last Monday night, the very pleasant lesbian couple told me that they were hosting a seder next Monday night. One of them happened to mention this little gem: "Yeah, and it's opening night for the A's. I guess I'll have to tivo it."

My God. It's Opening Night. I'll be at a seder. I can't watch Opening Night.

If she had known anything at all about me, this whole situation would be playing on my face and she'd know where my mind was going. At first I wondered if that was the night I had tickets for. But no, the A's are out of town, in Seattle, on opening night. I have tickets for when they come back to town on the following Monday. Still, I can't watch Opening Night. But, thankfully, she didn't know me at all, just two lesbians talking about baseball, or rather, our inability to see baseball.

Suddenly I felt like Jimmy Fallon in Fever Pitch. Thinking just a little too much about the local team.

As I hear the story of the escape from Egypt, and the Israelites quickly preparing bread without leavening agents so that they can be on the move, I will try to remember my own Egypts. And drink Manischevitz with friends and enjoy their company. And when I get home, I'll watch the first day of a long season of baseball.

Perspective. Isn't that what both of these events are all about?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Visiting my 1931

My goal this week was to clean off the floor of the office, mainly throw away the stuff I didn't intend to keep. I did that, and yet... I'd like to put the good stuff somewhere. The office closet is such that I can't even close it. I know there's a bunch of tax returns in there. If I could just clean that out, I'd have room for the rest of the stuff and maybe even stuff from the middle room. That became the second goal of the week.

Well, cleaning out 25 years of tax returns wasn't easy, it turned out. So far I have spent 10 hours going through it all and shredding most of it. I don't want to shred the last three years of returns, and I don't want to shred anything to do with the Earl Street acquisition. But I don't think I have to be careful with tax returns in the '80's.

And, boy, did I learn a lot! So much of the paperwork back then from banks, credit unions, telephone companies, credit card agencies, was amateurish-looking. I could create something like that on my computer. And the big thing is, why did I spend all that money? On what? On CDs (if that) I no longer have? What a waste!

And yet, I found something more. I discovered that, in my haste of moving, I threw my Dad's diary in with my tax files. His diary from the 1930's.

It's kind of amazing I didn't know of its existence before he died. It's only when he died and I was looking through the things he left in various drawers that I found it. It's really one of the few things he left from his Navy days.

I'll reprint a small entry, manually typed onto a small, lined sheet in an old notebook full of hundreds of sheets.

"Wednesday, June 17, 1931. The Thirteenth Day

"Nothing has happened today so this one will be very short. We had general drills this morning, Fire drill, abandon ship, etc. That took up most of the morning. I will have something more interesting later on in this trip when we get to Europe and visit Copenhagen and all those places that I have always wished to go to. I have watch this afternoon and it is very quiet. Nothing at all to do but sit here and read and write my Diary. I suppose I should be thankful that I have the time to write my Diary or else how are you all going to find out what I have done on this trip to Europe. Sometimes I have the feeling that I should join the bank but I am spurred on by the thought that maybe I am doing right to stick with my chosen profession which is radio.

"We expect to sight land tomorrow and let me tell you that there will be occasion for all hands to rejoice that this long and tedious trip is over for a time at least. We are getting all kinds of European stations on our radio that we have in here to get music on. Some Dutch, English, Danish, French and all kinds of junk that we cannot understand even if we try.

"It rained last night -- the first night that it has rained since our trip started twelve days ago. This is an exceptional record for a sea-voyage. Now don't get the impression that it has not rained at all, on the contrary, it has rained some in the daytime but the nights have always cleared off so we could have the movies on schedule. They are getting ready for chow and I am quite hungry after a long day with nothing to do. I am reading an awfully lot. One has to relieve the monotony of the voyage. Now you will excuse me as I want to go to sleep for a little while......So-long ------"

Every page is nicely kept. Every page is neatly typed. There are some typos but few spelling errors. That tells so much about him.

I really should remove the sheets and put them in a better notebook. The book itself stuck to the envelope I placed it in, and the metal parts are badly rusted. I'm afraid the rust will stick to the pages and make them illegible.

I'm wondering when I'll get back to the shredding and clearing out of my office. The diary is a magnet. A portrait of the artist as a young man. He was only 19 years old. I'm fascinated.

Friday, March 23, 2007


I have discovered podcasts! They’re wonderful, they’re free, but sometimes you get what you pay for.

Having stuff on my iPod was initially a way to get me walking, a way not to be bored during exercise. I used to listen to cassette or CD audiobooks, but I had a few problems with that, namely losing cassettes and having to carry around a big ‘ol Walkman.

But with my iPod mini, it’s sheer pleasure. And the sound on most of these podcasts is superb. In fact today, while I was walking at the San Leandro Marina, I kept looking around to see where the helicopters were. They weren’t. They were on a Disney World podcast.

I find iTunes a little difficult to work with. I don’t know what podcasts are out there, and so I try various word searches to see what could be there that I might like. What got me started was going to a comic podcast panel at WonderCon last month, purely by accident. I liked what I heard, mostly a rant about how comic book women have large chests – yes, both hilarious and tragic -- and subscribed to Lene Taylor's I Read Comics podcast. Very well done, well written, humorous even though I no longer read comics.

My favorite podcast so far is the Battlestar Galactica one put out by Ronald D. Moore, creater and executive producer on the show. For each podcast, Ron finds some time late at night, sips some Scotch and lights a cigarette, and just tells us what decisions went into making that last episode. It’s just terrific content, and he doesn’t waste time getting down to it (except to tell us where he got that Scotch). When I realized, though, that I was listening to spoilers, notes about shows I haven’t viewed on my DVR yet, I decided not to listen to them until later.

I really enjoyed the Ebert & Roeper podcast. I find that when I DVR the program, I never have time to watch it. The podcast is just the sound, and it’s very entertaining.

However, one that was really stupid and almost disgusting was a podcast about Harry Potter (called Pottercast). I love reading the books and seeing the movies, but this podcast is three young people stepping on each other orally with apparently no real place to go and only opinion, no real information. And if they're not all talking at once, they're giggling. It’s chaotic to say the least. So I deleted them.

One other that I’ve listened to is a Disney podcast called Disgruntled Disney Dweeb, and I enjoy it for the most part except that it took a good 5 minutes of introductions and music before I got to any content. Another Disney podcast that is so much more professional and full of interesting content, though, is Inside the Magic. ITM’s broadcast that I listened to today covered a couple of things that really interested me: the closing of the Italian restaurant at Epcot, and a tour of one of the hotels attached to Disney World. One of the most delightful sequences I’ve heard was an interview with a Brasilian guy who worked as a janitor for two months in the Magic Kingdom (WDW) circa 1998; he told how he liked to cheer kids up when they discovered, for example, that Ariel had a different voice from the movie.

Most of the Disney podcasts, I think, talk about WDW; I guess it has more things than Disneyland. I really didn’t think I’d be interested in the intricacies of Disneyland and Disney World, but a lot of the content concerns memories, my memories, of the two theme parks. And that’s fun. The ITM broadcast was over an hour, not a lot of theme music (except in the background as they talk), and involves at least 3 speakers. It’s a real professional job.

One podcast I tried out was called Indies, and I was really mad that they put all this weird music in it. I finally discovered that the podcast was about Indie Music and not Independent Movies. Ah, no wonder.

When I first discovered podcasts, I hooked onto several food shows. However, not all of these are great. If the recipe involved things I don’t like – like squash – I wouldn’t listen to the podcast. And one of them involved how to get your kids to help you cook, and that wasn’t only boring, it was horrible in that both kids talked over our host. Constantly.

The Bon Appetit and Food Network podcasts, however, can be a lot of fun if they’re not too specific. The last Bon Appetit one I listened to involved wine. Too boring. And if they involve squash or eggplant in their recipes, it's all over.

Anyway, this is an exciting new world for me. I hope to find more new worlds to explore. And walk more.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Spring Training 2007 - Home at Last

It took me almost 13 hours, but I got home without incident. Yeah, yeah, looks like flying is less time, if not easier, than driving. But I had a good time driving, and I enjoyed the scenery.

I skipped the last game at Phoenix Muni, but I don't regret it. Yes, I miss those great seats, but I didn't miss the 100-degree heat. Or rather, I did miss the heat.

So, this is kind of, what do I think about the A's now that I've seen spring training?

First of all, the heat made all the difference this year. Unfortunately, I hit a week where the projected average was 95 -- but the mercury hit 99 or 100 each day I was there. Not pleasant, and couldn't have been pleasant for the players, who start working out an hour and a half prior to game time. It's a huge consideration, and one I'll have to think more about in future years. In other words: Do I really want to subject myself to that misery?

As for the A's, I think you have to realize that spring training isn't going to total everything up for you nicely. You automatically know that the roster players will play the first few innnings, usually, with the fill-ins at the very end. But sometimes that's not true. Piazza could come up to hit in the 7th inning, for instance. Or, as in the case of the A's on Sunday, they could have a split squad and you don't know who you're gonna get.

A note about that last: spring training is no cheaper than the regular games. It cost me $24 a ticket on a group rate for my seats. And $5 for a lemonade that almost tasted lemony. They charge you, but they don't guarantee you players worth your money. It's big business.

Okay, down to our business here. Let's break it down into the (obvious) three categories.

The relief corps looks genuine. In fact, the A's have so much treasure in the form of relievers that they really could afford to part with one or two or more if a good deal comes up. I'm not worried about long- or short-relief. I'm worried about the starters.

Rich Harden (if he stays healthy) could be dominant, no doubt. Every time he goes out there, we could possibly see a no-hitter. Dan Haren, I'm predicting, will have a break-out year; the guy has four pitches, and several versions of each. After that, we're less sure. Esteban Loiza is a very decent starter, but has had some questions raised about his health in spring training. Joe Blanton has had nothing but trouble in March. Joe Kennedy at this point is, I'm afraid, a joke. We'll see how it all plays out.

There are a few holes in the line-up when it comes to hitting. First baseman Dan Johnson will make the squad, or at least have a couple of months to see what he can do. Surely since he solved his vision problems, he should have a higher average, but that's not saying much. His spring training results are pretty good (read: better) in the hitting department, but I think he also lacks something defensively. (Nick Swisher on first, however, looks even better than last year, and his bat is solid. I hope to see more from Nick when runners are in scoring position - RISP.) I look at Johnson as trade bait, not real-solid-roster type. And let's not forget Erubiel Durazo, who is still a great hitter (now that he's solved his elbow problems); defensively, however, he is less than Johnson. Much less.

Mike Piazza was a genuine, rather cheap find. He's 38, so relieving him of his catching mask is going to help him tremendously. (Curious, isn't it, how he hung onto that mask until he finally had to let go...) Let me just say that he's a hitting machine. Seriously. The guy can hit any pitch, any time he wants to. Don't expect Frank Thomas numbers in homeruns, but do expect hits, many for multi-bases, and RBI's. And Milton Bradley is just about to reach his prime -- if he can stay healthy (not a small thing since the guy throws his body around with abandonment); expect great things from this guy.

Shannon Stewart, another Billy Beane acquisition during the off-season, and another brilliant move. Nobody would touch him when he had plantar fascitis, but now he looks terrific as a hitter in the 2nd or 3rd slot.

Eric Chavez, unfortunately, is less sure. He had a brilliant spring in 2006 and then went and injured, well, everything. Now his spring is less inspiring. And shortstop Bobby Crosby hasn't even stepped up to the plate, recovering from injuries he sustained last year.

DEFENSE. The thing that's going to hurt the A's the most in the defensive category is the loss of coach Ron Washington, who became the Texas Rangers manager. However, that loss won't be felt for, maybe, another year. Defensively the A's look really good, with six-time Gold Glover Eric Chavez at 3rd and shoulda-been-gold-glover Mark Ellis at 2nd. Catcher Jason Kendall is redefining the position on a daily basis. Shortstop Bobby Crosby isn't playing a real game yet, but we believe he'll be ready in April and perform well. Super sub Marco Scutaro fills in nicely, too, for Crosby or Ellis. Depth-wise, however, that's it; once you get to Antonio Perez, you're dipping into adequate but not awe-inspiring defense. And we'll be curious to see if others like Lou Merloni make the squad.

In the outfield, centerfielder Mark Kotsay is out until mid-season, replaced by Milton Bradley, who loves playing the position, and Nick Swisher, who is improving every game in right. Stewart will play left -- his arm isn't great, but he's a veteran player who can read the carom. Again, depth-wise, we're in trouble, however. Except for Bobby Kielty, there's no one else.

So, if I were going purely by numbers, I'd place the Angels first, with the Rangers second. The A's would only come in third. But baseball is everything but a series of numbers slung together. The Athletics will take the American League West again....but, again, it won't be easy.

Obviously you can tell I'm really looking forward to the games really starting in April. Like my friend George says, spring brings optimism about relationships and baseball. We think great things are just around the corner. I believe that.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Spring Training 2007: Watch Out for Pitchers Named Joe

Today's weather at Phoenix Muni was a record-breaking 99 degrees, but we lucked out when a large cloud formation came and sat above us, taking in about four or five innings.

Just enough to watch the second starting pitcher in a row, Joe Kennedy, have a bad outing and, in his case, increase his ERA to a football game-like 20.48. He's had 31 hits against him in his last 9 innings. Thank God this is spring training and not April. And this performance followed one by Joe Blanton last night, who allowed 4 runs in the first inning. The entire crowd was chanting, "We don't need no Joe's!" And these are the A's fans!

A's management decided to only play two regulars today, at least in the first few innings. So we saw Mike Piazza DH (who made the team's first 3 RBI's in this game, including his first homerun as an A player), and we saw Nick Swisher play center field. Oh, and Dan Johnson started at first. But the rest of the infield looked like a line-up you wouldn't recognize. But that's a cool thing about spring training: many of these players are the future stars. And most of the fans knew their names. Travis Buck, in particular, looks like he's ready for that step up, but he won't see it in the first few months. Others, like the Rule 5's Jay Marshall and Lou Merloni, will be costly if they're not kept on the roster. And we got a chance to see most of them in one game.

Joe Kennedy's start, however, gave us a rather large hole to crawl out of, and, like last night, they never managed to do just that. The final was Brewers 11, Athletics 4. But the final score is never the idea behind spring training.

Jay Marshall replaced a battered Kennedy, and promptly got the next two outs to end this sad 3rd inning. He then went on to pitch well over the next inning, prompting some fans to yell, "He's our fifth starter!" Jay's submarine approach was a reminder of previous A's player Chad Bradford, except that Jay is a leftie.

And since the weather wasn't too horrible, I was able to sit there for a good six innings, quite pleased with the game in spite of the final score.

On my way out, I spotted Lew Wolff, the new owner, come down out of his suite. I smiled at him. He smiled back. We agree that we have the best team in baseball.

Spring Training 2007 - We'll Stop Applauding in the 3rd Inning

I'm about ready to go out to Phoenix Muni, a day game after a night game. (As one of our Booster ladies said, "It's a marathon!" I think she meant for us, not the players.) After last night's really pleasant weather at night, I'm about to dive into a steam bath. It's supposed to be 98 today, and my regular box seat doesn't have any shade.

Talking to some of the A's fans at breakfast, I discerned that everybody was really happy to see the A's play after a day off on Wednesday and a Tucson game on Thursday. It was interesting to see the crowd's reaction to Eric Byrnes last night. "We clapped for him for the first two innings," Joy told me, "but not after that. He was on his own." Eric hasn't been on the A's squad in two years, but he is well remembered as being one of the fans' favorites. Eric just got a big one-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and is a real play-maker on the squad.

The crowd here, mostly A's Booster Club members, are interesting on their own. I was sitting at a table during the banquet consisting of all women. And many of the other tables were like that as well. They were all very friendly, and also very assertive: they know what they like, and they want it now. And that goes for all things, not just baseball. And they're real fans.

"When my husband and I divorced, I told him, you can have everything else. I just want our A's tickets." This came from Ellen, who sat next to me. It's probably important to note that they didn't have any minor children in the household. She works full-time in Walnut Creek, so this one-week vacation at spring training was very important for her to de-stress.

And I found that the conversations weren't just interesting, they were sometimes rather strange. For instance, I was asked some weird questions. "Are you Italian?" one lady wanted to know. She told me I looked like someone she knew who was obviously Italian. Another woman asked me in what month I was born? I guess she's into astrology. When I told her I was a Libra, she nodded her head solemnly, but never told me why she asked, or what it means about my personality or future.

Interesting that more women than ever are coming to the ballpark. It's interesting that more women than ever are coming to Spring Training. They don't need a man to chauffeur them around. They come by themselves, usually with friends, sometimes with a group. They know every player, and even their stats.

These are the new fans: middle-aged women. Watch them roar.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Spring Training 2007 - Barry Bonds & Global Warming

I left at 10:30 this morning to make sure I got to Scottsdale Stadium in plenty of time. My worry is always parking.

Since I was there two years ago, they seem to have shifted the parking around. There is no longer a general lot on grass right across from the stadium; it's now reserved for pass holders (season ticket holders, I presume). So I had to go around the block...and discovered a parking building, for free, right next to the stadium. Going more than two hours early got me a parking space on the top of the building. Within 15 minutes, I'm sure, all the spaces were gone.

It was a very hot day today. News reports have the high at 93 degrees, but I swear it was closer to 100. (News reports later put the temp at 98.) I could take three innings of sitting in my seat, but no more. I spent a lot of time in the tunnel where some of the concession stands are, just to keep cool. I discovered that if I can hear the blood rushing to my head, I should seek shade right away....and so I did.

But I got to watch a hitting fest. There were 5 homeruns by the Giants and the Rockies, including a very high one by Barry Bonds in right center, and he didn't even get all of it. Matt Cain certainly looked like he needed more time in spring training.

There was some autographing on the sides of the stadium. The only nice thing, I think, about Scottsdale is that the fences are lower on both the right and left field sides. Phoenix Muni, on the other hand, is not as accessible, meaning, it's harder to get an autograph because you can't reach the player.

This was my 3rd day here, and I had yet to see the A's play. But that was about to change. I got to my second game of the day a few hours early, and most of the field was in the shade -- it was still warm, but pleasantly so.

Ten minutes before game time, the A's players ran onto the field, one by one, and then suddenly a spurt of rookies and veterans. Those who expected to play did wind sprints in front of us: Nick Swisher, Milton Bradley, Shannon Stewart. Triple A players who were asked to come to spring training -- the likes of Daric Barton, Travis Buck, and Kurt Suzuki, talked with each other on the side and laughed a lot, pleased to be here.

A night game! I didn't think I'd like a night spring training game (because what do you do in the daytime?), but I loved it! The weather was balmy, and I actually enjoyed sitting there, watching plays develop. It didn't hurt that Candi gave me cool box seats, right off 1st base and Dan Johnson. Nice.

Joe Blanton had a tough time of it. He gave up 4 runs in the 1st inning alone, did well in the 2nd, but never fully found his command. On the other side, Diamondback Enrique Gonzalez only allowed one hit in four innings -- the hit went to Piazza.

Mike Piazza showed up after everyone else, and quickly sauntered over to my side of the fence (the only low spot in the complex) and signed an autograph or two. Then he went back to producing -- I swear, the man is a hitting machine. The adjustment to the American League will not be difficult for this future hall-of-famer.

Nick Swisher looked ready for prime time, offensively as well as defensively. But if there's anyone who looked like he was clueless, it was Eric Chavez. Let's hope he finds his stroke. He still has his defensive powers, as he led the guys into a much-needed double play early in the game.

Seeing the veteran and new talent this close up is a real thrill, a real hint at what's to come in 2007. I can't wait.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spring Training 2007 - Better Not Run Out of Food

Thursday night was the big Oakland A's Booster Club buffet. The buffets are always a lot of fun, and the end is always a raffle for lots of terrific A's stuff. There are so many prizes that most tables have one winner, and if that's not happenin', there are a lot of mournful faces. Like tonight.

We were delighted when Marty Lurie and Ken Korach showed up as soon as we sat down (actually, after the delicious appetizers), just back from the rugged Tucson trip where ace pitcher Rich Harden reportedly mowed down 9 out of 11 batters. We were very happy to hear this.

Marty Lurie has the pregame show (on 1550 am) before every game, and Ken Korach took over as the head announcer when Bill King passed away. Marty's show is always entertaining, even when it's not necessarily about A's baseball, and I try to listen to it whenever I can. And if I miss it, I listen to the downloaded version from his website. Ken Korach is my favorite baseball broadcaster, and he gets better every year. I always love to lobby a question their way when they open it up; I'm always prepared with one to get things going. My question tonight was regarding the 5th pitching slot, since neither Kennedy nor Halsey is showing us much. Korach's reply was that Kennedy will get it regardless of how he performs in spring training. He's right, of course.

They didn't run out of food in this year's buffet. We have stories of such things in recent past. Last year at the buffet, they ran out of desserts when the first few tables took more than one dessert and left none for the last few tables. And the 2006 party on the field at Phoenix Muni is still a laugher (well, I think it's funny...) when they ran out of food halfway through the line. The people at the stadium told Candi that they never knew seniors could eat that much.

So we're happy to report that the food was good as well as plentiful. And lots of iced tea, which pleased me.

There was lots of grumbling, though, when the raffle tickets were called. Someone suggested that having a young child pick the tickets often means that the tickets aren't necessarily shuffled. I think you also have to consider that some people buy a lot of raffle tickets. Regardless, there were two tables that kept winning all the prizes (it seemed), and some people, most people, weren't happy. Our table was among those who were unhappy until the last several prizes were announced. There were three large prizes, and our table won two of those: A ticket to the A's opening night game, and an A's jacket. (The other prize -- won by the same table as most of the other prizes -- was two tickets at the Diamond Level, those fabulous seats right behind home plate where you can eat all you want and yell at the players as they run by on their way to the locker room.)

So, I didn't win any prizes. However, when I heard Shirley say that she didn't want the opening day ticket because it was only one, I offered to buy it from her. She handed me the piece of paper, just gave it to me. (It had the phone number of the guy who has the ticket back in Oakland.) One ticket is just enough for me. That was very nice of Shirley.

Tomorrow is the start of the weekend A's games, where Ken and Marty said we'll probably see the likes of Bobby Crosby (injured until now), and up-and-comers Travis Buck and others. The banquet was kind of an ice-breaker for me; now I can say hello to some people when I cheer on the green and gold.

Spring Training 2007 - Another 2 Hours to the Park

This is my first full day here. I arrived yesterday afternoon in what should have been, at most, a six-hour trip from San Diego. Instead, it took eight. But who knew that (1) Border Patrol would have stops, (2) workers would completely shut down I-8 except for a narrow passageway, and (3) I hit Phoenix commuter traffic at 3 pm. Damn.

And on top of that, it's damn hot as well. The highs are expected to range around 95 this week.

Today I went to Maryvale Park to watch the Milwaukee Brewers battle the Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim in Maryvale. I left two-and-a-half hours before the game, and I arrived half an hour after the game started. (It's tough navigating for yourself. And this grid is, indeed, a grid, but it's got south, north, east and west attached to street names, and, well, I'll not bore you with the time-consuming details.)

Parking took half an hour because there was a lot of traffic. I'm guessing that they're just used to showing up at gametime here. We were shunted off to Lot B to park, but it wasn't all that far away. I got my first "taste" of the heat, though, walking in. Hey, this isn't that bad!

When I got to security, I was ready with my bag open. He took my water, though, telling me that you can't bring in opened containers of liquid. Last time you couldn't bring in full containers. "They changed it," he offered helpfully.

Bad design at Maryvale. I'm surprised I didn't mention that two years ago, but walking in at 11 am is quite different from walking in at 1:30 pm. The line to get in the park is in right field, so you have to make your way past all the people in line for concessions. I finally found my section, 100, but that isn't too hard. When I got down to my seat, which was in the middle of the row, I found I had a dandy spot right behind home plate and only a few rows up. The problem was, I was in the sun. Many of the seats above me were in the shade, so I sat it out for two innings and then moved to the shade.

You're interested in the score? Okay, here goes. I arrived in the 3rd inning. I watched the game for the next two innings. Then, innings 5 through 7 I spent in line for a hot dog. (There was a guy so angry at all the baseball he wasn't watching, that he yelled at everybody behind him, "Don't stand in this line! You'll kill yourself!") I ate my hot dog through the sausage races at the seventh-inning stretch. I watched another half inning, then I raced for the exit.

The actual game was poorly played for the most part. The Angels must have sent their C players. I did see Prince Fielder for the Brewers go 2-for-3, and it looks like he's having sheer fun batting. But there were 4 errors scored in the game, and the Angels only had 2 hits to the Brewers' 11.

I did feel a little queasy after I ate that hog dog and went into the sun. I had better watch that in the future. And drink more water.

More fun tomorrow as I go to Scottsdale Stadium at 1 pm and Phoenix Muni at 7 pm. I should have better luck finding these places.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Yesterday Was a Lie

I went back to WonderCon on Sunday for just one reason: to see the cast of Yesterday Was a Lie.

On the panel were writer/director James Kerwin, composer Kristopher Carter, and actors Kipleigh Brown, John Newton, and Peter Mayhew.

If you're a Star Wars fan, you'll quickly recognize that last name. Yes, Chewbacca was in this film. As a dead guy. "No lines," Peter said proudly in his clipped British accent. "Not a word." He said he enjoyed the fact that it was his face being shown, not a character. And Chase Masterson had made the call to him.

But Chase wasn't there. She finally appeared in the last minutes of the panel to explain how she became the producer of the project. The producer had dropped out and they needed another. And since she had produced a few other projects, she volunteered. Lead actress Kipleigh Brown said Chase was wearing seven different hats at once, it seemed.

The film seems quite interesting. Shot entirely digitally in black and white (which presents its own challenges), it seems to tie quantum physics to film noir. Or at least that's what writer/director Kerwin would have us believe.

I think it's going to be tough to see the film, as it's obviously low budget and not appearing at my local cinema. But, with three years in preparation, the project was obviously well thought-out, and the trailer shows it's well-shot. But I might have to journey to an independent film festival to see Yesterday Was a Lie.

I told Chase at her booth before the panel that someone stuck a little ad for the panel and the film in our WonderCon bags. I thought it was very clever and effective advertising.

The other panels at WonderCon were interesting. I truly enjoyed seeing Hilary Swank appear to promote her new film. I really have to hand it to stars, big and not-so-big, who appear in front of the geekiest geeks of them all. You never know what kinds of questions you're going to get. One actress (Ali Larter from Heroes) from Resident Evil (the 3rd edition, Extinction) was greeted by one guy with: "Well, I guess you're a semi-okay actress." And Hilary was asked out to lunch by another guy. She was quite sweet about it, saying that she had a date with the press. Her movie, The Reaping, however good the special effects are, seems to be headed for B-movie-ville. At least I won't be seeing it.

One I will probably be seeing, however, is 300, Frank Miller's graphic novel brought to life by director Zack Snyder. The trailer was magnificent! And Gerard Butler was really the funniest thing out there on Saturday. He was hilarious once you got used to his normal Scottish accent. But what else can you be with the fans everywhere?

One project I knew nothing about but now I have the greatest interest in is the new Pixar film, Ratatouille. (I had to look at the booklet to figure out how to spell the thing.) It's all about a rat who can cook, a garbage boy who can't, and how they team up. Brad Bird and actor Patton Oswalt (the voice of the rat, Remy) were terribly entertaining. I had never heard of Oswalt before, but now I'll look for his name; the guy could've written his own stuff! But Brad is right: story is everything. They don't make a move without the story in place. A few Hollywood producers could well take note.

The highly touted presentation of Spider-Man 3 was a big ho-hum except for one thing: Sam Raimi and Avi Arad sent the trailer. No people, no director, no actors. But they did send an expanded trailer, just for us, that shows us the face of Venom. Ick.

Wonder-Con wasn't quite as wonder-con-wonderful as in the past, but it did have some severely bright moments. You just had to be patient and wait for them.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Wondercon - Battlestar Galactica's Richard Hatch

I wasn't going in to WonderCon today. But then I found out that Richard Hatch was going to be there on Friday, talking about his new series, Battlestar Galactica.

They allotted a small room for Richard's talk. But soon after he started, the little room filled with more than 100 fans, all wanting to hear about Battlestar. Of course, Richard Hatch was the original "Apollo" in the 1978 series that only lasted one year. Since then, he has tried everything imaginable to get a new Battlestar off the ground. He managed to get a small but recurring and powerful role on the new series. And he's reveling in it.

I can't count the number of times I've seen Richard. He has come to many conventions over the past 25 years, selling his autograph, selling his motivational tapes, offering himself to companies as a speaker. He is always upbeat, always believing in the power of yourself to get something done. I took note that he wasn't wearing that same old outsized football shirt he seemed to wear to all conventions; he was in an old sweater, old jeans and running shoes. He might be in the money, but he wasn't wearing it.

The first thing he said to us was, "What, you have nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon? No school? No job?" and laughed. He then asked one spectator what he did, and upon finding out he was an art student, he told the rest of us: "If there's one thing you need to know, marry your art to business. You need to learn about business as much as you need to know about your art. Otherwise, you'll get screwed. Believe me, I know."

There were some technical difficulties setting up his DVDs. He wanted to show us some scenes from Battlestar, most of which was on a 20-minute short about the BSG composer. So in the meantime, he answered questions about the series.

It was kind of amazing. He obviously didn't know the answer to many of the questions, but answered the questions anyway. I was the first to venture a question: why only 13 episodes for 2007? He said it was obviously a money thing. It's an expensive show. They produced 13 for the first season, 20 for the second (which they released in two DVDs), and now they've obligated for 13 more. There is no guarantee that Battlestar will continue on, as executives don't "get" science fiction, Richard said with disdain. If they had patience, he continued, they would realize that they'd make up whatever money they had spent on the DVDs in the future. "Science fiction movies have long legs," he stated.

While waiting for the techies to figure out why the DVD player wasn't working, Richard made a shadow puppet on the giant screen, shouting, "Here's a viper!" which made us all laugh.

They finally got the DVD player to work, but most of his time was up. We watched about five minutes of incredible scenes of Starbuck and Apollo in their vipers, with wonderful music created just for this series in the background.

I came out of the room inspired to watch more Battlestar when I can get a chance. I ducked into the bathroom in preparation for my long trip home to Oakland.

I heard a voice coming from the next stall. "Hey, I'm sorry, I'm calling you from the bathroom. I wanted this call to be private."

I had to laugh. I recognized that voice. As I was getting up from the seat and pulling myself together, I took a look at the shoes. Yep. Black pumps, 3-inch heels. Now, who else would wear heels to WonderCon.

As I left, I watched Chase Masterson come out of the stall, still on her phone, conducting business. Chase is the hardest-working actor I have ever met. And I'm in her fan club. She was in a recurring role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and currently she's in a new movie called, "Yesterday Was a Lie," some sort of film noir with perhaps a sci fi bent. She will be appearing on a panel on Sunday to promote the movie.

I'll wait to say hello to her on Sunday. She's obviously busy today.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Novocain is my Friend, Novocain is my Friend...

I was on my way to the dentist's office on a blustery afternoon when a woman stopped me. She asked me how to work the parking meter at which she was futilely staring.

For an instant I wondered if she was an alien, just coming to visit for the first time, but then I told her it took quarters, dimes or nickels. "How much does a quarter buy?" she asked, and I said, "12 minutes." She gave me a face. "Yeah, I know," I replied sympathetically, "and it used to be 15 minutes." She scowled again.

I tried to inch away, but she kept asking me questions. I finally said, "You know, if you park down there," pointing to under the Webster Street overhang a half a block away, "it's free." It's the best-kept secret on doctor's row, but you have to get there before 10 a.m.

I finally got away from her and went up to the dentist's office. Today, after two other appointments where he didn't have time to fix it, I was going to have the silver removed on one tooth that was bothering me, and a porcelain crown put in.

Dr. Cheung came in to give me the novocain shot. He asked me how I was. "I'm retired and it's baseball season!" I said with great enthusiasm. "Baseball, yes! Which team do you like, A's or Giants?" Dr. Cheung and I used to have these talks over 15 years ago in the early '90's when I first started coming to see him, but I could tell he didn't remember that. As his fingers were pulling my mouth open, I burped out "A's." Dr. Cheung went on for a few minutes about how arrogant the Giants were, always embroiled in controversy like steroids, and occasionally asked me questions I couldn't reply to because either his hands or a needle was in my mouth. Why do dentists do that?

He left me alone to read my paper, to let the novocain take effect. I knew it wasn't enough. It never is.

He came back after 20 minutes and started drilling the silver off the tooth. After just a few seconds, I felt a sharp pain and raised my hand. He drilled some more and I again raised my left hand. And I added a moan this time. He finally stopped and said, "Okay, we'll give you some more." He gave me three short shots of the stuff, but instead of waiting to let it take effect, went right back to drilling.

After moaning some more every few seconds, he put his hand on my shoulder and said there was a little spot where the novocain missed, but it'll be over soon. My mind flashed on the Dustin Hoffmann movie, The Marathon Man, where dental torture is the most notable scene. I never saw the movie, but felt I was living it now.

He was right, though. The torture didn't last long. Linda, the young dental assistant who warned me when something was about to happen ("I'm raising your chair..."), took an impression of my teeth with that soft gummy stuff that makes you want to gag. Actually, it wasn't an impression this time, but a new technique to put a temporary filling on the tooth -- at least it was new to me. She had to leave it in there for two minutes. She went to check on another patient, so I went back to my newspaper. I soon felt drops of drool gathering on my clean and perfect purple bib, so I grabbed the kleenex she had left for me to stop the rush of water. I couldn't feel my lips on the right side, so I didn't know it was happening until I saw the result.

My temporary filling in place, they freed me, and I stumbled to the counter so that I could pay the bill and make an appointment in two weeks for the new porcelain crown to be put on.

This particular appointment was the most painful I've felt in over 15 years of going to see Dr. Cheung. When I saw the bill for the porcelain tooth, I felt some additional pain.