Month: September 2008

Do You Believe In Miracles?

The Royals finish fourth! The Royals finish fourth!

Thanks to a blistering September, the mighty Kansas City Royals avoided the cellar in the American League Central. Believe it or not, this is the fourth time this decade the Royals have finished fourth. Maybe things aren’t so bad after all!

It’s funny how the length of a baseball season can color your judgement, though. This was going to be yet another desultory R’s season, another year when the rebuilding project showed no signs of progress. Yet, by ripping off 18 wins in September, including two double-header sweeps, the Royals finished with a respectable 75 wins. That’s right around where I wanted them to be this year. It’s a shame they had two epic losing streaks and they saved their best baseball for the time of the year when no one either cares or is paying attention.

Now, to find another bat or two, resign Greinke, get Gordon figured out, and move Guillen to someone else…

 

Repeat Plays

Another great list from the Onion AV Club. Naturally, it begs the question, what movies are on my list?

In no particular order:

1) Star Wars. I probably watched this 50 times between 1977 and 1984. I’ve seen it once all the way through since then.

2) Chevy’s Classics. I’ll bundle the classic work of Chevy Chase together, since watching one often meant watching another immediately after. Includes Caddyshack, Vacation, Fletch, Fletch Lives, Spies Like Us, and Three Amigos.*

3) Christmas Vacation. Separate from Chevy’s other work because I still watch it.

4) A Christmas Story. I’ll guess I’ve watched it at least twice a year for the past 20 years.

5) Swingers. The only movie not from my pre-college days that makes the list. I watched it over-and-over for the humor, how it spoke to what I – and my generation – was going through, and of course to try to absorb some of Vince Vaughn’s coolness. And we used to pop a Digiorno’s in the oven, crack open another beer, and pop this in at 2:30 after the bars closed on weekend nights when we were all still single.

  • Did Chevy have the biggest drop-off in Hollywood history? We think of his work between 1980 and 1989 as brilliant, and everything since as being putrid. Check his filmography, though. There were a number of shitty movies sprinkled in with the classics. It does confirm, however, that he hasn’t done anything remotely interesting since Christmas Vacation.

Kiss It Goodbye

If you didn’t flip by ESPN at any point on Sunday, you may not know that the final baseball game has been played at Yankee Stadium. ESPN devoted approximately 800 hours of programming to this historic event. The Yankees are missing the playoffs this year, so they had to fill their Yanks quota somehow.

Anyway, lots of people shared their memories of Yankees Stadium over the past few days. I’ve never been there, but I have watched a game or two that has been played there. That’s reason enough to share my memories.

As you might expect, these are heavily tinged by the Royals-Yankees rivalry that raged in the late 70s and early 80s. So, in roughly chronological order, here goes.

1) Coming home from school and hearing that George Brett hit three home runs in game three of the 1978 ALCS, but the Royals still managed to lose.

2) Watching the 1978 World Series, the first one I remember.

3) The Thurman Munson game.

4) We moved to Kansas City in July 1980, just in time for a Royals series in New York. Back then, it was rare for an entire series to be on TV, but the trip to the Bronx warranted extra coverage. From July 18 to July 20, the teams played a crazy three-game series that began with a massive George Brett home run into the upper deck. I spent the rest of the summer recreating that home run in our new living room. Check out some of the box scores. Willie Wilson did not suck that weekend.

5) Three months later, Brett hits another upper deck blast that quieted Yankees fans as the Royals finally beat the Yankees in the ALCS.

6) The Pine Tar game. I was visiting my grandparents and watching the game with my grandfather, who hated the Yankees more than he loved the Royals (that’s where I get it from, I guess). We both went ballistic when George Brett cranked a ninth-inning home run off of Goose Gossage, only to see it overturned because of a dumb rule. After calming down, my grandfather took his usual afternoon nap on the couch. When he woke, he looked at me, shook his head, and said, “God damn Billy Martin.”

7) The Jeffrey Maier game. By 1996, I had given up on the Royals and adopted the Baltimore Orioles as my team. This was what I got for picking the O’s to follow for a decade.

8 ) The entire 2001 World Series. Looking back, you can see how we were being manipulated by events around, but not on, the diamond. But the games still stand up as some of the best played. The night of game four, I was suffering from the flu, trying to keep my eyes open so I could watch the game. When Derek Jeter’s winning blast sailed into the stands, I’ll admit I started crying. Unlike others, though, who were crying because of what was going on in the world or because of the greatness of the game, I couldn’t believe I battled the flu until late in the night to watch Derek Freaking Jeter win the game.

9) The Aaron Freaking Boone game. A phenomenal series came down to a monumental managerial blunder and an unforgettable ending. Still hating the Yankees, I couldn’t sleep for hours after this game ended I was so pissed. And it locked me in as a big Red Sox fan for the ’04 season.

10) Game seven of the 2004 ALCS. Games four and five at Fenway are the classics that will stand up over time. But for a Yankee hater, game seven was pure bliss.

No Family Pics For Awhile

M. took a bit of a tumble the other night. We were talking with the neighbors while our kids chased each other around and heard a solid smack, followed by screaming. M. caught her toes in the sidewalk as she was running and ended up face-down on the sidewalk. Not only did she skin her knees, but also her forehead hit the ground, leaving a nice, bloody welt. Just in time for her class’ circus at school on Friday. I’m sure we’ll be getting some interesting looks from the other parents.

We are in full baby preparation mode, as S. moves into the Miserable 24 Hours A Day stage of pregnancy. The baby carseat is back in the van. S.’s hospital bag is packed. I’m making sure the dust is blown off of the camcorder and it’s fully charged.

She has five shifts left at work, and we’re both hopeful that all those hours on her feet don’t jumpstart the process. This Friday could be especially interesting, as she works the overnight shift and I’ll be away covering a football game. Fortunately, we’ll have sitters here with the girls. And I got shifted from being the main reporter for the game to assisting the main guy, so if I do get a call, I can sneak away without depriving the players their due in the morning paper.

Officially, we have two weeks left. While S. has been dealing with the discomfort of being nine months pregnant, I’ve been dealing with the intellectual aspect of bringing a new baby home.* The realization that all the routines we have going will all go to hell for awhile. That the big sisters will probably regress a bit as little sister rocks their worlds. I’m sure we’ll figure it all out, and faster than we did the last two times. It’s another moment when I’m thankful for the freedom we both have to be home and spend quality time with the entire family. I’m not sure how my brothers in fatherhood out there have managed to go back to work after a couple days or weeks and function normally when you’re getting up every few hours to feed the baby.

A couple quick funny kid sayings. Yesterday, C. kept walking around saying “Oh brother!” Not sure why, but I’m assuming she learned it on Noggin. Also, after drawing a picture, she said, matter of factly, “I’m a good artist.” “Compared to whom?” I wanted to ask. She did bring home a nice picture from school Monday. To me, it looks like a random blob of blue finger paint. To her, it’s a momma dragon and a baby dragon.

And I’m pleased the word booty continues to get good use in this house. Each time C. sits on S., baby sister starts kicking away. Today, C. laughed and said, “Baby Sister kick me in mah booty!”

M. is in a phase of talking nonsense. It maddens me when she starts speaking in tongues, but S. insists that is normal for this age. Oh, and we’ve banned a TV show because of its effects on her language. We never liked Max &amp; Ruby, but had been letting the girls watch it more lately because it was something they hadn’t already seen 1000 times and was on right around the time we were fixing dinner, so was a good way to keep them occupied for 22 minutes. However, M. started talking like Max. “Me want orange juice. Me want to go outside.” After about two weeks we reached the point where we were ready to beat her each time she used the “Me want…” phrase. So Max &amp; Ruby has been banned. Fuck you too, Jar Jar Binks. No <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars_Episode_I:_The_Phantom_Menace”>Phantom Menace</a> in this house.

Not that S. hasn’t, as well. But she’s obviously more concerned with what’s going on in her belly.

First Album Update

Going back to the first album I purchased with my own money for a moment, I’ll admit thinking about Def Leppard’s <em>Pyromania</em> made me a little nostalgic. So I fired up the iTunes Music Store. No <em>Pyromania</em> available there. Jump over to the Amazon MP3 Store. Not there either. So one of the biggest selling albums of the 80s – one of the top 100 selling albums of all-time for that matter – still isn’t available on either of the two biggest, legal, online music stores.

Dumb. I was prepared to drop at last $3 to pick up my three favorite songs off the album

In a mildly related story, I took our Volkswagen in for some maintenance last week. As the guy was writing it up, he noted that the radio was blasting The Scorpions’ “Rock You Like A Hurricane.”

“Nothing like listening to some German rock while you work on a German car,” he said.

I said it was weird, because that was the second time that week I had heard that song.

He struck a lead guitarist pose, working both sets of fingers on an air guitar as if he was Eddie Van Halen. “It’s on one of those Guitar Hero games,” he said as he continued to work the imaginary fret board. “I think it’s had a little resurgence in popularity because of that.”

Interesting news but I appreciated his air guitar example.

Hello Again

I don’t know how to feel about <a href=”http://sports.yahoo.com/sc/news;_ylt=AjdyquKWBkZ9qF.8l_W_dpk5nYcB?slug=ap-armstrong-comeback&amp;prov=ap&amp;type=lgns”>Lance Armstrong’s return</a>. I tend to want my retired athletic heroes to stay retired. Call me old fashioned. But, I read an article during this summer’s Brett Favre drama that convinced me that the whole idea of legacy and pleasing the fans is a little silly. Each athlete should do what makes him or her happy, not what keeps our mental image of them intact. So if Lance wants to hop on a bike again and attempt to prove that he’s got it, more power to him. I’ll follow the story, but I won’t have nearly the interest in it, or make the investment in time and emotion, that I did during the era when he dominated the Tour de France.

Accepting that does not clear him from criticism, though. He’s become a bit of a gossip page regular over the past years, and some have argued that his playboy ways have come to overshadow both the memory of his career as a biker and his efforts with the Livestrong foundation. I don’t know about that. When I hear his name, I still think of him riding up the Alps in a yellow jersey, no matter who he’s dating.

However, I do think it is a bit, I don’t know, sad, disappointing, frustrating that he is yet another supreme competitor that can’t turn those energies off. He seemed like someone who would make a good transition because of his focus on cancer research. Clearly that hasn’t been able to fill the void. While I admire him for his drive, determination, and epic commitment, I also feel a little sorry for people like him, Michael Jordan, etc. that are so driven that they can’t give up the thing that best quenched that thirst. Remember when Jordan seemed like the coolest, most together guy in the world? Since his final retirement, we’ve learned that he’s a bit of a freak, and probably not someone you want your kids to emulate. I fear Lance is heading down that same path, where a life of doing good and making a difference isn’t enough, and instead he becomes the sad, old guy who is hanging out with people half his age in an effort to prove he’s still got it.

And then there’s the whole doping angle. I still buy into his argument that he was tested time and again and never tested positive. But I’m not naive enough not to understand the best athletes are always ahead of the testing curve. The Tour has probably made the biggest and best strides in all of sports at nabbing offenders, and they damn near wiped out last year’s race they were so efficient in catching people. Maybe Lance is going to continue to pass every test and performance baseline they can throw at him. Maybe he always was and always will be clean. But I dread the headlines and resulting drama if he does ever fail a test.

So welcome back, Lance. I guess.

And They’re Off

Four hours of sweet freedom. That’s what we got today with the girls both going off to school. What a strange thing to have a completely quiet house in the middle of the day. I had to shut off my music junkie switch for awhile so I could enjoy this rare time of no noise.

C. did great at school. S. had a meeting this morning, so I dropped C. off by myself. She walked right in, picked up a crayon, and started coloring. She barely gave me a nod as I walked out. Easy. When S. and I picked her up four hours later, while she was happy to see us, she acted like we had only been gone for a couple minutes and it was no big deal. She was far more interested in showing us how she had soaked herself in the water table moments early.

“Ah wet, mom. Ah a wittle wet. Ah got wet.” She kept telling us how she was wet all the way to the car. The fact her hair was plastered to her face and her jeans and shirt were covered in water wasn’t hint enough, I guess.

She was a running commentary on the way home of all the things she did. “Ah play basketball. Ah ride bike. Dere a green bike, and a chocolate bike.” Yes, black and brown things are still chocolate. “Ah paint picture of mariposa!” And butterflies are only referenced in Spanish.

Since they’re in different buildings, the routine is to pick up your two-year-old then go get in the pick-up line for your older kids. So when we got M., C. was already strapped into her seat. As soon as she saw her little sister, M. was wound up. “Hi C.! You’re here! How was your first day at school? How were your friends?” It was very cute.

C. looked completely wiped out when we got home, so hopefully this will be a long nap day.

Kid Talk

In honor of M. starting school Wednesday, here are some stories about the kids.

As promised, I will now reveal the curse word that C. has been using from time-to-time.

When I drop something, knock something over, etc. my default curse is “Dammit.” I’ve learned to more mutter it than exclaim it since becoming a father, so I say it in a low voice, often through clenched teeth.

Not too long ago, I noticed when C. would drop something, knock something over, etc., she would make a strange growling noise. When I paid more attention, I could tell she was saying, “Dammit.” Not only repeating my words, but mimicking my delivery. Impressive, and also kind of funny.

M. prefers to take Jesus’ name in vain, again mimicking her old man. One day I caught C. doing something stupid like standing on tupperware to try to get something off the kitchen counter she wasn’t supposed to have. As I rescued her just as she was tipping over, I dropped a J-bomb. For the next few minutes M. hopped around saying, “Oh C., Jesus! Jesus, C.! C., Jesus!”

As long as neither one is dropping f-bombs I can handle it.

C. has undergone a bit of a personality change recently. She’s started throwing more fits, is suddenly afraid of things that didn’t used to bother her, and occasionally bursts into tears for no apparent reason. It’s like she’s 16 or something.

But, she’s also become quite bossy. One night a couple weeks back, after I had put the girls to bed, I heard commotion and craziness on the monitor, so I headed upstairs to settle them down. I opened the door and was greeted by the stench of a loaded diaper. C., who was running around the room like a maniac, raced to the door and shouted, “Dad, I have poopy diaper!” Then, very dramatically, she rotated her hips so her bottom was facing me, stuck it out, pointed at it, and shouted, “Change it!”

Well ok then.

She’s also commanded me to “Get it!” when she wants certain toys or something from the fridge, and to “Read it!” when she’s brought me a book. I may start telling her to “Shut it!”

A couple Fridays back, we took the girls to the city pool in the late afternoon. After school starts here, they don’t open the pool until 4:30 since so many of the lifeguards are students. The late opening time and a Friday combined to leave the pool as sparsely populated as we’ve ever seen it. So M. was amazingly confident and adventurous. We got her to go down the toddler slide over-and-over, and even go down the bigger slide a few times with S.. We got her a flotation suit that she was excited to use. We strapped it on, and I took her into the biggest, deepest pool. After about three minutes, she proudly told me that she wasn’t afraid of water anymore. I told her that was great and the first step to learning how to swim. She then insisted that we take a lap in the lazy river, something she’s hated all summer. Then, just before we left, S. sent her down the big slide alone. She wasn’t thrilled with the turn of events, and there were some loud protests. But we thought it was a great way to end the summer.

Until we got home and put the girls to bed.

She had nightmares almost all night. We’d hear her screaming things like, “Mom, don’t push me!” and “I don’t want to get wet!” She screamed at least five times that night. So perhaps she wasn’t as cool and comfortable as we had thought. She also yelled at C. not to take her duck at one point that night, so it wasn’t all about the pool. Most of my worst dreams involve being in deep water, so I guess it’s genetic.

Any parent that had Disney DVDs knows the familiar opening sequence where Tinkerbell flies around the Magic Kingdom. For some reason, M. calls her Dinglebell. “Dad, is Dinglebell coming up? There she is! There’s Dinglebell, Dad!”

S. took M. in for her four-year-old check-up last week. The doc explained that he was going to look inside her underwear for a second and asked her to bend her knees like a frog. When she got home, she told me, “Dr. Tom said I have frogs in my booty.” I’m glad I hadn’t just taken a drink of something, because it would have been expelled immediately.

One last thing about C.. We’ve been impressed by her big imagination, no doubt the product of having a big sister and having parents that let her watch TV. Sunday morning, she came running into the kitchen with a shopping bag over one arm. It was crammed full of stuffed animals and toys. She got my attention and said, “Dad, I going on field trip. I going to a farm. I going to see animals!” Then she ran into the dining room and called for me. “Dad, dere id iz! Dere da farm! I see horseys and cows and piggies!” She was pointing at our dining room chairs as she identified the animals. No idea how she came up with field trip.

Holiday Perfection

Admit it, you were glued to VH1 Classic’s 80 Hours of the ’80s this weekend (That is if you have VH1 Classic). Lord knows I was. I thought about e-mailing each of you individually to make sure you knew it was on.

In between shows for the kids and doing things outside, I tried to check in on the A-Z run-through of some of the decade’s best videos all weekend. Most nights, while I was reading, I used it as my background music instead of my usual iTunes library. Good stuff.

Five years ago was the great Labor Day flood of 2003, in which we got like 800 inches of rain in about 12 hours (or eight inches, whatever). S. worked a 24 hour shift that weekend. I remember watching a lot of I Love the 80s that weekend. Had it been 80 Hours of the ’80s back then, I might have watched 24 straight hours!

Had that been the case, you would have expected about 5000 words out of me. So it makes sense that I scribbled down a few notes this weekend.
Worst video of the weekend? <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4bgjXPdczw”>The Jackson’s “Torture.”</a> Neither Jermaine or Michael bothered to show up. One of the other Jackson brothers had a single dance move he repeated over-and-over. And then there was some strange witch, demon, spider, skeleton thing going on. Apparently there wasn’t a lot of collaboration on the actual album. I know I have a few readers who saw the first show of the Victory Tour at Arrowhead in KC.

Also shitty was the video for <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-mw1HGJjdA”>REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Lovin’ You.”</a> Just go watch. It’s a short song. As if the beginning and end aren’t bad enough, note the 10” TV they “invested” in for the vid.

Long time readers will recall that I loved that song back in the day. I never really noticed until this weekend, though, how they totally copped out. There’s no second verse! Some songs truncate the second verse, cutting it to only two lines. But REO went straight to the guitar solo then back into the chorus. I wonder if Kevin Cronin tried and tried to put something decent together for the second verse, kept getting crap, but realizing he had pure FM radio gold in the first verse and chorus, decided to cut to the chase. It hit #1 for a week and kept me up for hours one night in 1981 to try to record it, so I guess it worked.

Continuing the shitty theme, pretty much all hip-hop videos. Most of them had the feel of, “Well, the label says we have to put a video together, so let’s call up all our boys, get some ladies to come on down, and we’ll figure something out. Oh, and our budget is $500.” I still love the music, but it was hard to justify how excited I was when Yo! MTV Raps started.

Another bad one was a Black Sabbath video from the Dio years. Filmed before a live audience, there is all kinds of bad camera work and audio through the entire piece. But, at the end, the music abruptly fades out, there’s a split second of silence, then the fake crowd noise fades in. Did they even try?

Eurythmics songs have aged very well. Annie Lennox is awesome.

On the positive side, I’ve decided Jane’s Addiction is one of the most underrated bands ever. I had no idea that Nothing’s Shocking came out in 1988. That’s a year before Nirvana’s Bleach came out. (And then Ritual De Lo Habitual came out a year before Nevermind.) I always thought <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgF7yxIjY8E”>”Mountain Song”</a> was brilliant, but knowing it came out when hair metal still ruled makes it even more amazing. And “Jane Says” was from ’88, too. Those guys were geniuses and deserve more credit for changing music. Nothing’s Shocking is the perfect mix of showing us exactly where rock music was in 1988 and where it was going from there. Weird that the video for “Jane Says” was actually from the mid-90s reunion.

And could Mark Goodman have taken his sunglasses off for his little between songs moments?

I hope they do this again over Thanksgiving are around the end of the year.

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