Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day!

How awesome was that Nationals-Braves game last night? If you're the type of baseball fan who doesn't enjoy a pitching duel then this game wasn't for you and you would have done well to watch only the first and the ninth innings. What an ending. In case you missed it here's my rambling, stream-of-consciousness recap: Cristian Guzman led off the bottom of the first with a broken bat single -- the first ever hit at the new Nationals' Park. He was followed with a broken bat double (there were a lot of broken bats in this game) by Nick Johnson hitting third (I forget who hit second, whether it was the new guy from Tampa Bay or Lastings Milledge). This is great news for Nats fans because Guzman went out for the season early last year and Nick Johnson didn't play at all. In case you only remember the Cristian Guzman of 2005, he was actually having a decent year last year when he went down. Christina didn't believe me when I told her yesterday afternoon that I expected him to have a good year. While the Nick Johnson return is good news it's not necessarily going to be an improvement at first base over last year because Dmitri Young took his spot, had an OPS of .869, and was an all-star (Ken Tremendous would murder me for even mentioning that he was an all-star, but I'm mentioning it anyway). They will have a boost at pinch hitter, however. Anyway, back to the game. Johnson was then driven in by Austin Kearns. The only other scoring before the ninth inning was in the top of the fourth when Chipper Jones lined one over the left center wall for the first home run in Nationals' Park history. It probably would not have gone out in RFK and I get the feeling that I'll be thinking that to myself a lot this year. The guy who ended up with the home run ball looked as happy as a clam and all the while I was thinking to myself (maybe I was even saying it out loud) that he should throw it back like they do at Wrigley. Alas, he kept the ball. I probably would have done the same. I guess we'll have to come up with our own traditions. So it stood at 2-1 until the top of the ninth. The Braves got someone to third and I have no recollection of how. Jon Rauch threw a wild pitch -- or maybe it was a passed ball by new catcher/alleged steroid user Paul Lo Duca -- and the runner scored. Disappointing. Then with two outs in the bottom of the ninth the Legend of Ryan Zimmerman added a new chapter when he lined one just over the wall in left center. What a start, what a finish.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Some of My Favorite Podcasts

I have a pretty long commute to school so I've spent a lot of time listening to podcasts the last few years. These are some of my favorites:

EconTalk. This is hands down my favorite podcast. It's a free trade/free market/libertarian oriented podcast hosted by George Mason University economics professor Russ Roberts. I'm no economist but for the most part Roberts keeps the language and concepts simple for people like me to understand. This podcast is part of a trend I see of economists trying to make their field more accessible to the layman.

A Way With Words. I've been listening to this one for a couple years now. It's a language and word oriented call-in show hosted by two linguists/etymologists/"word nerds." I've always been interested in language so I find it entertaining but I think it would also appeal to anyone across the spectrum of interest in language. It's kind of like car talk without the cars.

Fresh Air
. If you're a huge fan of Bill O'Reilly or Fox News you're probably not going to like the fact that I love Fresh Air with Terry Gross. There's just something I love about a great interviewer, and Terry Gross is a great interviewer. Now if Charlie Rose would only make his shows available for free download.

Eric D. Snider's "In the Dark"
. This is a short weekly podcast in which Eric D. Snider basically reads his reviews of the week's major movie releases. He also points out which films are "Hollywood's Shameful Secrets": those movies that the studios don't screen for critics in order to avoid negative opening day reviews. If you enjoy reading his reviews you'll probably enjoy his podcast too.

Friday, March 07, 2008

This Tuesday's post about U2 inspired Christina to surprise me with tickets to the IMAX theater at the Smithsonian to see the new U23D, a movie about Bono and his many sweaty jackets.

I went in not expecting much -- I wasn't highly impressed with the Elevation Tour concert DVD -- but this really was an awesome show. The 3D was brilliant and it was a great concert to make into a film, the last one of the tour in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I believe.

Watching U2 perform is a lot like watching the Stockton-to-Malone Jazz perform: they've been doing it so long together that they instinctively know what the others are doing before they do it. And like Stockton and Malone, it just wouldn't be right to see them playing without each other. If they were ever to separate, say if The Edge left to play guitar for the Shins, he'd probably break his hand and never really make it, kind of like Karl Malone with the Lakers. It's just not meant to be any other way.

The highlight of the show for me was when they played Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own. As they played the song a sort of faceless cartoon man in a suit was shown on the giant screen behind the stage walking toward Bono (shown on another screen) to the beat of the music. It helps to know that he wrote the song for his father and even sang it at his funeral. It was pretty cool.

There's a lot to say about this movie but I'll just keep this short. If you're a U2 fan you'll probably love the movie. If you're not a fan you'll probably still appreciate it and at least enjoy feeling like you're in the the stadium at the show. Like most of what U2 does it was a bit pretentious and preachy and probably too melodramatic at times but it was easy to look past that.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

New York, London, Paris, Wiener Neustadt...Everybody Talk About Pop Music

Anyone who set foot in a bank in Austria during the first half of 1997 should recognize this image. There were stacks and stacks of these fliers for several months. It's an advertisement for the U2 concert which took place on August 16, 1997, in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. Let me back up a moment to explain why this is important to me.

I was a huge U2 fan in high school (still am but they're not really doing it for me lately) and looked forward to the day when I could see them live. I was too young when they went on their Zoo tour and the closest place to Orem, Utah that they played was Las Vegas. There was a rumor circulating in Utah that they refused to play in Salt Lake because of some incident that happened to them there in the early 1980s. I'm sure other people out there know more about this than I do but I've also heard that this story is a bunch of hogwash. So I never had a chance to see U2 live because they never came to Utah on their tours, whatever the reason was. That changed with their Pop tour in 1997. I was getting ready to go on my mission when they announced their tour dates and this time they were finally coming to Salt Lake. Our long, state-wide nightmare was over. A lot of good it did me though because I was going to be in the MTC. But as I looked at their tour schedule I saw a silver lining -- they had also scheduled a date in Austria (where I just so happened to be going on my mission).

The U2 mania in Austria was palpable. Posters and fliers plastered every city and articles in the Krone Zeitung with headlines of Bono declaring "Ich bin Monster und Poet" abounded. Women and girls wept openly at the sight of the charismatic front-man in the media (I'm actually not sure if that's because they were so happy he was coming or if they were sad about his bad haircut). And then the fateful day: Meh, it turns out that I was nowhere near Wiener Neustadt, which is about 40 kilometers south of Vienna (don't ask me what that is in miles). I was in a city in southern Austria called Klagenfurt looking at the world's largest statute of a dragon. It's called the Lindwurm. You should check it out if you ever get the chance. (I should also point out that missionaries aren't allowed to go to concerts so I wouldn't have seen them anyway.)
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