RSS Feed

Five for the Record: 2022 Topps Heritage.

Posted on

One of the more popular things I’ve written in recent years, at least by the modest standards of Neck Pickup, was a Five for the Record entry that first criticized Topps’ famously sloppy 1973 baseball cards, then identified five good ones from the set.

I mentioned a while ago that I’d bought a nine-pack box of Topps’ 2022 Heritage set, which reuses the 1973 design on cards of current players. This set has its own issues with photography, but by and large I like the cards I got. So I decided to do a follow-up Five for the Record with five 2022 Heritage cards that make me happy.

1. Hans Crouse. Ever since I moved out of the Lehigh Valley I’ve been a lot less familiar with Phillies prospects than I used to be. I’m sure Hans Crouse, a young starting pitcher from California, would not have been a complete stranger to me if I’d pulled him from a pack in Pennsylvania.

His card makes my love-list because you just don’t see too many players named Hans in baseball these days (there are several Latino guys named Hansel, but not many Hanses.) I would like to think his teammates call him Honus, or even Dutch, though probably nah.

There’s also something jaunty about his arm-swinging, foot-flipping follow-through that reminds me of Killer Joe Piro, cheerfully lindying his way through partner after partner at some long-ago New York City ballroom.

Finally, I covet cards of people who only made brief appearances in the bigs, and Crouse’s major-league career thus far consists of seven innings across two games.

Crouse is only 23, so he quite likely has more starts ahead of him, and I wouldn’t want to jinx his future career. At the same time, if those two starts are the only ones he ever gets, I won’t like his card any less because of it.

(As a side note: The position silhouettes used on the bottom right corners of 2022 Heritage fronts are the same, or mostly the same, as those used in 1973. I think the pitcher avatar’s throwing arm looks unnaturally long, then and now. Look for yourself.)

IMG_2967

2. Ronald Acuna Jr. A significant number of 2022 Heritage cards seem to consist of posed shots taken in front of green screens and later laid atop generic baseball backgrounds — a shortcoming I’ve grumbled about before.

I was pleasantly surprised, though, to see that a significant portion of 2022 Heritage does consist of action shots. I couldn’t give you a percentage breakdown, but the set is not the complete green-screen festival I feared it might be.

As a good representative of the more successful action shots, here’s the Atlanta Braves’ gifted outfielder (and 2018 NL Rookie of the Year) Ronald Acuna Jr., rumbling around the basepaths, no doubt on his way to powering yet another freaking win for the freaking Braves (who I’ve been tired of since about 1998.) He appears to be a young man in a hurry.

This one also provides a nice contrast to 1973 cards because it allows you to see just how much the trim and fittings of a major-league uniform have changed — from Acuna’s earflap helmet, to his hand and forearm wear, to his starry socks, all the way down to his orange shoes.

IMG_2966

3. Soler’s Home Run Leaves the Building (World Series Game 6.) Topps sets from the 1960s and 1970s often included single cards dedicated to each game of the previous year’s World Series. They made for interesting variety: While player cards are devoted to a full season’s work, a World Series game card is dedicated to one solitary moment, or at least one solitary two-hour slice of time.

Alas, they phased that out not long before I started collecting. So, as I started to learn more about baseball cards, these World Series game cards seemed like a cool vestige of times past, like the cards they used to issue of the league presidents back in the Fifties.

(The 1972 World Series was one of the greats — a full seven games, and six of them decided by only one run — and the ’73 Topps set dedicates a card to each game and a wrap-up World Champions card. Some of them are cool, like this one, and this one. Of course there’s an error, too.)

Anyway, while I’m sick of the Braves’ success year after year, and while home runs are just about the most boring play in the sport in the year 2022, and while I paid no attention whatsoever to this game at the time it was being played, I was still pretty happy to pull a World Series game recap card out of a pack.

IMG_2964

4. Brian Goodwin. Topps has been known to mess with the fabric of space and time in the past through the use of file photos. For instance, there are documented instances of Topps cards as late as 1969 using photos taken at New York’s old Polo Grounds … five years after the old ballpark was torn down.

(This all-time classic marks another posthumous cardboard appearance by the Polo Grounds. The subject commands such warmth and attention that you don’t notice the backdrop unless you’re looking for it.)

Anyway, 21st-century retro/turn-back-the-clock promotions present still another way to throw different times and places together.

What we have here is Chicago outfielder Brian Goodwin wearing a throwback 1983-style White Sox uniform — the Sox uniforms of my childhood — in a photo taken in 2021, printed on a card designed to mimic 1973. What year is it again?

IMG_2965

5. 2021 Rookie Pitchers. Multi-player rookie cards are always great — and especially so when they represent a team at the bottom of the standings, because the natural tendency is to look at them and think, “who are the scrubs they’re rolling out this year?”

Zac Lowther, Spenser Watkins and Mike Baumann combined to make 30 appearances for an Orioles team that went 52-110 — yet another in a stream of sad tanked seasons for what used to be major league baseball’s pre-eminent franchise. Together they compiled a 4-11 record and a 7.82 earned-run average.

Perhaps one or all of them will develop into successful major-league pitchers. (The first cardboard appearances of Pete Rose, Tom Seaver, and Mike Schmidt were on this type of multi-player rookie card, after all. Once upon a time, people pulled those cards and said, “who’s that?”)

Or, maybe none of them will ever pan out, and this card will remain a curio of … well, of the scrubs the Orioles rolled out in 2021.

IMG_2968

Buried in semiquavers.

Posted on

Time to come out and say it: Between CDs, digital recordings, and vinyl (which I haven’t spun in months — heck, I haven’t even plugged in my stereo in months), I possess way too damned much music.

Given that music is not disposable and is meant to be repeatedly revisited and savored, I could acquire nothing I don’t already own now and have more than enough to chew on for the rest of my life. The combined musicians of the world could down tools tonight and never come back and I’d still have more music than I could ever truly appreciate.

(This reckoning might or might not include the other audio ephemera I’ve collected — like radio airchecks, audio of old news broadcasts, and radio broadcasts of baseball games.)

But I’m not here to tell you I’ve gotten rid of any. No, I’m here to tell you I just loaded up on more.

Two weeks ago the library in the next town over held its annual booksale. The CD tables were considerably hipper and more interesting than they usually are at these things. I picked up a bunch of CDs — 13 for $13. Some were two-CD sets but it made no difference to the checkout guy.

This weekend it got even sillier, as the library held a $5-a-bag everything-must-go sale. My $5 bag probably had 30 more CDs in it (as well as three token books — gotta feed the eyes as well as the ears).

I knew I was just dooming my tiny house to swell with more crap. But … music. Cheap music, as in less than 25 cents a throw. Who could deny the appeal?

The first time around, I focused on stuff I had not previously owned or heard. The second time, I bought some stuff I already love on vinyl but wanted to have for the car, as well as additional new friends.

I intentionally left a few CDs there the first time (like Horsesin hopes that some 15-year-old would come along, make a new discovery, and have their mind blown. It seemed greedy to keep the pleasures of these albums to myself. The second time around I gave in and bought one or two of them, leaving some others on the shelves.

It occurs to me now that today’s 15-year-olds probably don’t even have CD players, and so a secondhand copy of Horses, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, or Kick Out the Jams would do them no good anyway. Well, what the hell. It was a nice thought.

Anyway, here’s some of the the stuff that’s new. Most of it I haven’t gotten to yet. So it’s too early to say how much of this stuff is better than Night in the Ruts, and how much isn’t.

(The car is still my principal place of listening, and I’m only in it three days a week, plus I generally favor propulsive rock over atmospherics when I am going to and from work.)

Anyhow, I might not list every last new acquisition here, but I’ll list a whole bunch of them:

Utopia, Anthology 1974-1985: What Todd Rundgren was up to for a while. I’ve listened to a lot of this and it pains me to say I really don’t like it all that much. There might be grounds for further comment somewhere down the line.

Can, Soon Over Babaluma and Landed: The kings of hypnotic German space jams carry on after the departure of vocalist Damo Suzuki. The first one is OK, not as good at first listen as their best, but I’m not done evaluating it yet.

Mike Oldfield, Tubular Bells: I know nothing about this one except four foreboding bars of music. Let’s see what the rest sounds like.

King Crimson, Red, USA and Three of a Perfect Pair: The first two I own on vinyl and really like; the last one comes from another period of the band’s evolution I recall fondly.

Roxy Music, Manifesto: One of two records by this marvelous band that I wanted to hear but haven’t yet; I was pretty jazzed to find it on the first day in the final bin I looked through. All I need now is Country Life and, the way things are going, that will find its way into the Destination for All Music (read: my basement) one of these months. Oh, yeah, I listened to this, and it’s def better than Night in the Ruts.

Sun Ra, Space is the Place: I have one of Ra’s voluminous output of albums and rather like it (or liked it when last I listened, which was a little while ago.) Sure, I’ll take some more.

Lightnin’ Hopkins, Smokes Like Lightning: I love how this guy would just make up songs on the spot, while throwing off his rhythm section like a bucking horse. If it didn’t feel a little too much like cultural appropriation I’d do a Bandcamp album that way sometime.

Great Lake Swimmers, New Wild Everywhere: I heard of ’em someplace (Wiki?) and they sounded simpatico so I took a flyer. I got the bonus edition with a second disc of all the songs done acoustically. Sure, why not? I didn’t have enough to listen to. The liner notes thanks the Canadian government for financial support.

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Cold Roses: I bought this b/c I’ve never heard much Ryan Adams, and b/c I thought my old favorite Neal Casal (a former sideman of Adams) might be on it. He isn’t. I’ll check it out anyway.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood, If You Lived Here You Would Be Home By Now: Neal Casal’s on this one. Do I still love the CRB now that I know they’ll never come back?

Crosby and Nash, Wind on the Wire: I expect this to be full of charming harmonizing with the occasional decent hook, and that’s all I require for 25 cents. Crosby is quoted in the liner notes talking about what a “total goddamn joy” Nash is to work with; notably, Nash does not return the favor.

Stephen Stills, Illegal Stills: I was kinda hoping for Stills’ disco album, Thoroughfare Gap, but I’ll take this for cheap instead. My first firsthand attempt to understand this most famous and yet so ultimately uninteresting of performers. Features guitar and vocals by Donnie Dacus, who two years later gamely tackled the ill-starred task of replacing Terry Kath in Chicago.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Weld: Completing the CSNY foursome with the wildest, raggedest outing of any of them. I thought some portion of this was recorded at the show I attended in Buffalo on Neil and the Horse’s 1991 tour, but Wiki doesn’t have show-by-show recording credits for the album, so maybe not.

Yes, Progeny: Highlights from Seventy-Two: In 2015 Yes released a box set of seven full shows recorded in October and November 1972. This is a trimmed-down accompanying piece — a two-CD set of highlights. I listened to this in the car going to Hartford the other day and it sounded sweet; Steve Howe’s guitar, in particular, is a constant revelation (no Chuck Berry licks for him.)

Van der Graaf Generator, H to He, Who Am the Only One

Belle & Sebastian, The Boy with the Arab Strap: I have gotten two or three B&S recordings out of libraries and have a quiet soft spot for their brainy, pale, literary brand of British pop.

Ursula Deutschler, William Byrd/Harpsichord Works: This one was a library CD; it has a stamp-card on the back with checkout dates as far back as January 13, 1993. I’m always game for the tinkly sounds of a harpsichord.

Jerry Garcia, Legion of Mary Vol. 1: A chronicle of the funk and soul band in which JJG participated in late ’74/early ’75. Other members included Elvis Presley’s drummer, Ron Tutt.

John Coltrane, Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album: Trane and his classic quartet from ’63. Unreleased, until it wasn’t. Can’t possibly be all bad.

REM, Document and Accelerate: Statements from the early and late periods of a band I didn’t figure out how to like until far too late. The wife has some early REM on CD but Document is not among them, I’m fairly sure. (If it is I have wasted a quarter.)

Tower of Power, Back to Oakland: An old Blumenau family favorite.

Nuggets: Yup, the definitive garage-punk Sixties collection, assembled by Lenny Kaye, who of course played guitar on Horses.

Jeff Buckley, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk: Demos and early takes from the work-in-progress Buckley left behind at the time of his untimely death. Grace at its best is a remarkable record (a former college newspaper colleague tried to tell me at the time but I never listened then — sorry, Tricia) so I’m willing to check this out.

Mahavishnu Orchestra, Birds of Fire and Visions of the Emerald Beyond: I should be past Seventies fusion by now, but I’m not.

Bob Dylan, Slow Train Coming: I left a bunch of Zimmerman on the shelves, including several of his worst albums, but took this one. If nothing else I can put “Gotta Serve Somebody” on repeat.

Small Faces, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake: Legendary concept album by British Mod popsters. Always heard about it, never heard it – until now.

Boards of Canada, Twoism: We’ll see if I still like these flaky-retro Scottish brothers, or if Music Has the Right to Children is all the BOC I need.

Fairport Convention, Unhalfbricking: I left Liege and Lief there but picked up this one, a landmark in Limey folk-rock. Liner notes and packaging minimal; I hope that doesn’t herald poor sound.

Grand Funk Hits: Owned this on vinyl years ago; traded it in; got a weird feeling that it would more than make up for the 25 cents I was spending on it. I can see this getting more car airplay than I care to confess.

XTC, The Compact XTC: The Singles 1978-1985: I should really just buy the full records, and indeed have in two or three cases.

Herbie Hancock, River: The Joni Letters: Nothing wrong with catching up with big famous acclaimed records years after everyone else has forgotten them.

Opeth, Ghost Reveries, Heritage, and In Cauda Venenum: My brother likes (and recently went to see) this Swedish band, which started out doom-metal and then went prog. I hope these CDs fall into the latter bag, rather than the former.

Jefferson Starship, Freedom at Point Zero and Winds of Change: A weird, weird piece, here. It’s a twofer set of two Starship albums, but they’re not consecutive, as 1981’s Modern Times came between Freedom at Point Zero (1979) and Winds of Change (1982). The liner notes are short, fawning, and apparently translated from German. The music, I’m sure, sucks; the very first song is the dreadful “Jane.” And yet … two albums together for 25 cents is 12.5 cents! That’s, like, less than gumballs cost nowadays.

I should probably also mention here that I’ve also been burning some stuff onto CD that I only own as digital files, and have listened to a tiny tip of the iceberg there. These albums include Sparks’ Terminal Jive (trying to decide if it works better as performance art than as actual music) and Leonard Cohen’s Death of a Ladies’ Man (dreadful).

I’ve got some listening to do … more than I already had, then.

It’ll end in yawns.

Posted on

Sometimes the only way to kill a creative idea is to complete it.

The idea of writing a declarative ’70s Top Forty — like, the best 40 songs Casey Kasem played that decade, with a separate blog post for each song — has been knocking around my head long enough that I’ve realized I can’t wish it away. So, despite my general nagging nostalgia fatigue, I’ve been taking steps to make it real.

In the past week or so, I’ve re-read the song lists from every AT40 countdown of the ’70s (except the countdown of June 29, 1974, which any fan knows is b0rked) and compiled a list of every song that pressed my mental “like” button when I read its title. Songs that pressed the happy button two times or more were listed in bold. I started in December 1979 and worked my way backward to the launch of AT40 in July 1970.

(Yes, I could have just confined myself to compiling a list of bold favorites — the real golden gassers — since I have many more than 40 of them. I guess I wanted the full list. Its purpose will reveal itself to me with time, no doubt. When the listener is ready, the radio shall appear.)

For the weeks between January and mid-July 1970, when there was no AT40 yet, I looked up the countdowns in Billboard magazine. For the weeks when Casey was playing a special instead of the regular countdown — like “Biggest Female Stars of the Rock Era” — I did absolutely nothing, because my commitment to this entire stupid construct only goes so far.

An interesting thing happened:

In 1979 I wrote down 40 song titles, including eight bolds. I thought there would be fewer as the years went on, if for no other reason than I would get tired of staring at charts and typing. Instead, the opposite happened: The 1979 and 1978 lists were the shortest, and the ones between 1971 and 1974 the longest. The 1972 list is almost three times as long as 1979’s.

By the end, I was wondering whether I hadn’t applied a different set of criteria to the 1979 and 1978 charts. But I’m not going back to review them. My prior comment about this entire stupid construct remains operative.

(And anyway, the exact number for any specific year is a little wiggly. Remember, I worked backward. So a song whose chart run spanned, say, 1974 and ’75 will be listed in ’75 — because that’s where I first encountered it, fading off the chart in February ’75 — rather than 1974, when it might have reached its chart peak.)

The total playlist for my mythical ’70s jukebox: 715 songs, 291 bolds. Clearly, if I’m gonna do this thang, some threshing is in order. The questions that face me include:

Should I try to model my dream countdown after the mix of a real AT40 — i.e., moderately eclectic, with a little country here and a little R&B there, and a novelty record here and something catchy from Australia there, and a credible representation of ballads?

Or should I simply make it the 40 songs I feel I like best — in which case it will probably be 25 funk/Philly Soul jams, 10 hard rock/prog rock songs, and five Chicago songs?

Should I make any mock-mathematical attempt to quantify or calculate the respective glories of each song? Should I try to award points and demerits? Or should each judgment be purely subjective, the product of extended meditation on the universe?

How much does camp count for? This decision will determine whether “Heartbeat, It’s A Lovebeat” comes in at No. 38 or No. 289.

How much does backstory count for? “Love Is The Drug” would have been bolded anyway; but the fact that I’m on a long-running Roxy jag, and this was Roxy’s only venture into the Forty, adds something to my appreciation of the song.

Given that I’ve probably written about my 40 favorites before, what new can I possibly say about them when their turn comes up? This will not be the first bridge we come to.

We’ll see. Maybe the process of exposing this idea to light and thought will wash it away like Lysol. I need to reach a sorting method I like and agree with if I am to proceed.

More to come, maybe.

An emendation.

Posted on

In the seemingly long-ago posts here where I used to review ’70s American Top 40 broadcasts, I used to regularly make fun of Linda Ronstadt.

In a hit-radio setting, it always seemed like she was tackling songs (“Heat Wave,” “Back in the U.S.A.,” “Tumbling Dice”) that had been more than adequately served in the hands of their originators.

Well, I had to do some work-related interstate driving yesterday, and Ms. Ronstadt’s 1974 album Heart Like a Wheel was among my musical companions.

And I feel obliged to publicly state: That’s a really, really good record.

The country is good honest country, not bad cloying country. The big pop hits are probably the two I liked most of hers anyway — “You’re No Good” and “When Will I Be Loved” (the latter of which improves on the original with a good dose of spit and fire, and gets in and out in two minutes).

She also does the cheatin’ soul anthem “Dark End of the Street,” which seems to me to be a singer’s song — one of those tunes that gives a really good singer an opportunity to go to town, no matter their gender or home genre. It’s like a gorgeous country house available to anyone who’s earned the keys.

Suffice to say that Ms. Ronstadt earns the keys. (That marvelous falling-all-over-itself guitar solo doesn’t hurt matters either.)

I wonder what other wonders lurk amidst Ronstadt’s Seventies body of work. I might have to look into that before my next car trip.

Counter-countertake.

Posted on

I owe some clerk, juggins, or dogsbody at the Supreme Court a heartfelt thanks.

As I attempt to wean myself off social media, the recently leaked draft decision (you know which one) has helped me immensely. I’ve barely been on Twitter at all the last two days, because I’m 100 percent not interested in getting smacked over the head with people’s takes and countertakes.

(Is the erosion of personal freedom and individual rights worth getting strident over? Sure it is. I just don’t feel like being hosed down with it.)

I stay in touch with an old friend via Twitter messaging and that’s the hook in my mouth that keeps me there. I feel like I’m getting more and more comfortable with not sharing any of my own useless commentary in 240-character chunks with the world at large. I’m at the post-rarely, delete-mostly stage.

Will it keep up? I can only hope.

# # # # #

If you were to discover two bookmarks in the same book, would that tell you that the book in question must be well-loved? Or would it tell you the opposite, given that the book had clearly been put down half-read at some point and never resumed?

(This is the sort of worthless observation I would post on social media. And yes, it is inspired by actual events.)

# # # # #

The ceaseless Internet nostalgia factory today coughed out a revisit of The NFL Fun Book II, which I bought at a Scholastic book fair in 1981 and read numerous times. It was an interesting forty-five seconds to browse through it again. The NFL was fun, once. Or maybe I was just a kid attracted by the bright colors and creative wordmarks and didn’t know better.

# # # # #

CD of the nonce: Chick Corea’s 1968 Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, which I bought for my dad many years ago and then ended up with when he ditched his CDs.

Been there, said that.

Posted on

Another of those little stopoffs that used to make the Internet fun slipped away at some point a few years ago while I wasn’t looking.

I’m thinking of Says-It dot com, the website where you could drop any text you wanted onto a church sign, a McDonalds marquee, a lobby letterboard or a concert ticket, and get a small watermarked photo in return. (A site called Says-It dot org promises the same functionality, but doesn’t actually produce the pictures.)

Of course you could always crop the watermark off, at least most of the time. This left you an outside chance of momentarily convincing an unhip or inattentive social media follower that there really was a KFC sign somewhere that said ” ‘CARRY ON WAYWARD SON‘ ROCKS! ROCKS! ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!”

(Remember when deepfakes were fun? I guess these were more like shallowfakes. They were still fun.)

4298214835_baa416298a_o

I haven’t been to Says-It in years. Something brought it to mind the other day, and I thought I’d go see if it was still hanging out in cyberspace. It wasn’t.

I remember going there well over a decade ago with my then-young (and not-really-wayward) son. We spent a sustained amount of time over several sessions churning out absurd, meaningless signs to make each other laugh. I probably shoulda been teaching him some useful life skill, instead. Ah well.

Anyway: Some of these are mine; some of these are his; they bring back fond memories; some of them still make me laugh, and that’s more welcome than ever.

I hear the voices when I’m dreaming … I can hear them say:

4298214441_c8ae4c8900_o

4298960088_051574c628_o

4298960560_82892369e0_o

4298960346_da47b591d9_o

4298959406_3e757c7e4c_o

To this day, one of our Saturday-night dinners of choice is sometimes referred to as “puzza.”

4298214685_1a07a32400_o

4298960206_5e7a515f93_o

4298214273_a107983992_o

4298214763_513899e587_o

4298214327_7e1c2a1ecc_o

4298214089_a147da157f_o

Let the record show.

Posted on

My younger son will graduate high school with something I never had: A copy — indeed, the original copy — of his Permanent Record.

I was just now reading one of several letters from his high school, outlining the pomp, circumstance, requirements and fun-days that will occupy him between now and graduation in early June.

It included the following paragraph:

Student Health & Permanent Records
With the exception of the Official Transcript, all Student Records (including Health
records, and Student Permanent Records) will be signed for and given to the seniors
at graduation rehearsal. These records may contain immunization information
required by many colleges. Please note that [name of high school redacted] does NOT keep copies
of these records, or of your diploma; giving these records to you will serve as their
“destruction.” The only record we keep on file is your Official Transcript.

I can remember wondering for quite a while what was in my Permanent Record; how long my school district retained it; and whether I could just stroll in to district headquarters after turning 18 and ask for a copy. I was never quite roused enough to actually try, back in the day. Thirty-some years after my graduation, whatever was in my particular manila folder is long gone now.

For years the Permanent Record seemed like it had to be a fascinating document. When a K-12 public education is all you have achieved — and for that matter, when you’re still working to achieve it — your Permanent Record looms large in the imagination.

But when I look back on it now, I realize it was probably blank, or close to it.

Other than a trip or two to the principal’s office in elementary school, I toed the line; there were no individual trips to Detention I can remember, and certainly no suspensions. And no one was writing down the little items of everyday life — “fell down in gym class and totally embarrassed himself” or reeked horribly of Drakkar Noiror whatever.

So really, my Permanent Record — if pursued — would probably have consisted of 12 years’ worth of quarterly report cards and a note saying, “Congrats, kid. Now get outta town.”

I dunno — maybe my Presidential Physical Fitness Exams results were in there (doubtful) or the results of the in-school hearing tests I took every fall (more likely). Nothing I would really want to see again.

My son doesn’t have a disciplinary record either … not that I’m aware of.

(It occurs to me as I type this that giving away student records at graduation gives the school district a clean pass out of ever commenting on former students’ disciplinary histories. If the next Charles Manson graduates from this high school, and reporters in 2045 are probing the roots of his antisocial behavior as he waits to stand trial, the district will shrug: “We don’t keep disciplinary records. We give them to the student at graduation as a form of ‘destruction.'” And the reporters will sigh and start looking up the names of surviving faculty members, to see if they remember anything untoward. This whole scenario assumes there are still news reporters in 2045.)

Anyway, back to my son. He moved into this district after his freshman year as part of the Great Family Resettlement. His current district has only been keeping notes on him for three years. I assume his old district in PA and his new one didn’t exchange notes — that seems unlikely to me. So, his Permanent Record is probably the slimmest of documents.

I might enjoy seeing it anyway, just to see what one looks like.

The same clouds.

Posted on

Am eight days into a moratorium on Twitter posting and it feels good. I’m paying correspondingly less attention to other people’s Twitter posts and that feels good too. I miss the news-aggregation value of the bird-site so I’ll have to solve for that at some point.

(Does my attempt to stop sharing my thoughts and opinions there have some relevance to my lack of interest in sharing my thoughts and opinions here? Yeah, probably. The world needs less of me, or less of my hot air anyway.)

# # # # #

Went to the season’s first pro baseball game a few nights ago, and my first since June 2021. Somebody called the Lehigh Valley IronPigs came to Worcester to play the Worcester Red Sox, so my wife and I packed off to Worcester’s Polar Park for the first time. (I think I mentioned a goal of seeing at least one game this season in a new-to-me ballpark. Ding!)

I had a good time and Polar Park is a nice enough place — it seems built into the side of a hill (Worcester has a bunch of hills) so there are a couple of different levels and angles and landings. Makes things interesting.

The parking spot was expensive; I need to put some time into doping out the best balance of distance from ballpark vs. cost. Once I figure that out, I imagine I’ll go back, at least once in a while.

52004579101_1b91902d95_k

# # # # #

Haven’t run in probably a week-and-a-half — got overexuberant with a 10-mile run two weekends ago, and shortly afterward, I did something that felt like pulling a muscle behind my right kneecap. Been all walking since.

I might try a light jog tomorrow and see how it goes.

# # # # #

Been reading a little, too.

Craig Calcaterra’s Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat The Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game appealed to my general sports burnout.

The first half, though, consisted of a recitation of the many jerky things professional sports owners have done in the past 15 or 20 years. I guess it’s part of the writer’s brief to lay out a case … but everything in that first half was familiar to me, and I couldn’t help thinking that anyone else burned-out enough to pick up a book called Rethinking Fandom probably knows all the stories too.

The second half offered some common-sense strategies for thumbing one’s nose at the structure of professional sports while retaining one’s fandom. The basic concept involves breaking the framework of loyalty to a team, and replacing it with a framework of support for something else instead.

The one that sticks most in my mind is a concept called “meta-fandom,” which — if I understand it correctly — basically means isolating the thing or things you really like about the sport, and becoming a fan of those.

An example (not from the book): If you’re a football fan, and you think interceptions returned for touchdowns are the most thrilling play imaginable, you can become a fan of interceptions returned for touchdowns. The Internet will bring you plenty of clips each week; you can wallow in pick-sixes by everyone from the Atlanta Falcons to Framingham State University. You need not buy tickets or replica jerseys, or devote your soul and spirit to any one team, to get what thrills you most.

I’m going to have to think about that.

Also read Paul Ferris’s Dylan Thomas: A Biography and Kay Redfield Jemison’s Robert Lowell: Setting the River on Fire. The latter has an interesting concept: The author, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins and co-author of the standard medical text on manic-depressive illness, examines Lowell’s life, poetry and achievements through the lens of his recurring manic-depressive or bipolar mental illness.

The only thing I didn’t like about the latter was the way that certain references and snatches of poetry seemed to recur, even three or four times, over the course of the book. I have the newspaperman’s mindset that you say something once. (I have had this same sense of annoyance in one or two other books in recent months: “You already told me this.”)

It’s also possible that various factors, including Twitter, have eroded my understanding of books and my ability to read at length.

# # # # #

I have opened all my Japanese baseball cards. Got some interesting ones that have almost, but not quite, turned into a blog post. Probably won’t at this point.

In the meantime, I’ve turned my attention to a set that attracts and repels me in equal amounts: 2022 Topps Heritage. Heritage, you might remember, is an annual set in which Topps reuses a card design from a long-gone year to make cards of current players.

This year reuses the 1973 design — a look originally tied to one of Topps’ weirdest, sloppiest sets of its era. I happen to quite like the look, so I quite like the cards … enough to shell out for a nine-pack of them just a few days ago.

At the same time, I am deeply disappointed in them, thanks to a blog post written by a SABR colleague named Nick Vossbrink. Nick is one of the people whose Twitter posts I regret not seeing any more; he’s quite knowledgeable about cards, the printing aspects in particular, and I’ve learned a fair amount from reading him.

Nick’s blog post pointed out something I should have realized: At least in Heritage, and perhaps in other sets as well, Topps has been making extensive use of green-screening. That is, they’re not taking player photos live in ballparks: They’re using “photo day” poses that were taken in front of green screens, and layering baseball backgrounds in behind them.

Nick collected the 15 San Francisco Giants cards in 2022 Heritage and noticed that 12 of them feature the exact same background — to the extent of having the same clouds! He built a GIF file of the cards, and it’s worth reading the post just to watch the GIF go around and around.

(And wouldn’t you know it: I’ve opened one pack of Heritage so far and the first two cards at the top were two Giants, Logan Webb and Austin Slater. Knowing what to look for, I spotted the same cloud pattern immediately.)

Somehow this concept offends me; it seems cheap and dirty and lazy and disloyal to some unwritten rule of baseball cards. If Topps has to do this, they could at least go to the Giants’ spring training ballpark and take background photos from a bunch of vistas, so there’s a greater degree of both reality and variety.

Conversely, they could go the other way and put the players against a backdrop that’s clearly and totally unrealistic. Have these bearded guys in pajama-bottom pants with Braves Field or Ebbets Field in the background. Or, match the 1973 design by using backgrounds from a park that was around in 1973 and isn’t now — there are many to choose from.

I also got a few packs of 2022 Topps, which I haven’t gotten my fingers into yet. On a computer screen they look dreadful. They will probably look dreadful in real life too, by my old-man standards, but then again it does me no good not to challenge my old-man standards with something new once in a while. The cards didn’t cost that much; and if I come across another situation where a little kid has lost his/her collection to a wildfire and is looking for donations, maybe I’ll chip in some of those.

Or, who knows? Maybe I’ll like ’em.

Number 3 for the Bulldogs.

Posted on

That damn tweet about Lou Reed and the free hot dogs is still getting discovered and retweeted. I still don’t know whether it’s quite that fabulous, but the masses will decide.

That’s not what I came here to write about, anyway. I came here to leave a quick written and visual record of the latest college baseball game.

The two teams I saw today entered the day with a combined record of 3-26. The home-team Dean College Bulldogs were 2-12, and the visiting Rivier University Raiders were 1-14.

(Rivier, incidentally, is in Nashua, New Hampshire. The Raiders play their home games in historic Holman Stadium, where Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella played and Walter Alston managed when Nashua hosted a Brooklyn Dodgers farm club in the late 1940s. Unfortunately, that’s not where I saw them today.)

Rivier also has a female player listed on its roster. According to their website, she has not played this season and did not appear in a game last season either, but made seven appearances the year before. She was present today but did not play in the first game, and I left early in the second. Ah, well.

IMG_2093

Dean scored two early runs and never trailed, although they got into a bit of a jam in the seventh and final inning when their starting pitcher began to tire.

Rivier loaded the bases in the ninth, helped by an odd play in which a batted ball rolled under the left-field fence for a ground-rule double. (They thought it was a homer; they were wrong.) But Dean’s pitcher got the last out, on a ground ball if I recall correctly, and jumped off the mound pounding his chest

I feel at the moment as if the college baseball itch has been scratched for the year. I like to get to at least two games a year, but anything more than that is negotiable.

(Apparently the pandemic did not create a raging urge. There were probably points in the past two years when I would have given my left arm for a ballgame. If there were, they have passed.)

So: Yay, the baseball thing got did today.

IMG_2154

IMG_5441

IMG_5429

IMG_2133

Off the list.

Posted on

I wrote some time ago (not gonna look up the link) about whether my days attending live music concerts are over, or whether I will someday overcome my advancing age and the legacy of the pandemic and go see performances again.

This question got put to the test a few days ago … and sloth won.

I’ve gotten pretty deeply into Roxy Music in the past couple of years, so I was quite excited when the artsy Britishers announced their 50th anniversary tour — including a stop in Boston in September, one of just 10 concerts they’ve announced in the U.S. so far.

I signed up for Roxy email updates (God knows what that will bring me in the long term) so I could get presale info. And when the presale began at 10 a.m. a day or two ago, I clicked the link in the email, determined to brave whatever queue it dropped me into …

… and then, before I could even enter the online waiting room, I was required to either log in to an existing Ticketmaster account or create a new one …

… and at that point I said, “To hell with it.”

I should have known, and maybe did, that Ticketmaster would be involved. They run the show as far as big-name tickets are involved. But my stomach just did an unplanned loop-de-loop of revulsion upon seeing the Ticketmaster name again, and I decided then and there that Ticketmaster has joined Facebook and the NFL on my personal shit-list of enterprises that my life is better off without.

Will I give in in the long run? We’ll see. I realize that I’ll have to deal with Ticketmaster if I want to go see any event in a room seating more than 100 people.

At the same time, it just feels like life’s too short. I don’t want to go through their hoops and pay their fees. The pre-pandemic knowledge that Ticketmaster is lame and corrupt, a malignant middleman, has now mixed with an extended period of life-experience in which I didn’t have to deal with them at all. So, it’s hard to go back.

The cheap seats will be filled when Roxy plays Boston, even without me, I’m sure.

# # # # #

Meanwhile, the tweet about Lou Reed and free hot dogs got another burst of activity yesterday; I assume someone hip and well-positioned retweeted it. As of now we’re up to 34,831 impressions, 123 retweets and 451 likes. Things seem to have calmed down.

I find much more interesting a subsequent tweet, based on an August 1975 story in which the Boston Phoenix corralled six local celebrities and asked them for a guided/photographed tour of their fridges and freezers. (This was the cover story to a Food/Drink special section.)

food1

The story included coverboy Governor Michael Dukakis, singer Livingston Taylor, and novelist John Updike, as well as regional auto dealer extraordinaire Ernie Boch and two TV hostesses of the nonce.

It’s a fine line between creativity and vacuity … but I miss the cheerful anything-goes spirit that inspired alternative weeklies to tackle stories like this.

(I remember a story in the 2012 Presidential campaign about which type of cuisine each candidate preferred, and that was annoying as hell, because there was a major national political decision in the balance. But in a setting like this — where the what-do-you-eat question is not yoked to any larger characterization of personality or policy — it’s pretty entertaining.)

For what it’s worth, the flat egg-space in the door of my fridge is filled with other things.