11 December 2012
Good day, gents. Thought I would step in and pinch hit for that distinguished blogger, Rob. Rob has been busy with some other writings.
I have been a Dodger fan (True Blue) since 1972. Joe Ferguson was my first Dodger hero (yes, Joe Ferguson C/OF. He had a good year in 73, look it up).
When I first became a Dodger fan, the O’Malleys owned the team. The O’Malleys were the rock of team ownership. Steady, conservative and never flashy. For 40 years the Dodgers only had two managers. They relied on the farm system to provide the bulk of their players. Garvey, Lopes, Russell, Cey and Ferguson, to name a few, were Dodger farm hands. The O’Malleys would often get some second tier player or retread to augment the team. Jimmy Wynn and Reggie Smith come to mind. I can’t remember them ever going after a top tier player.
The O’Malleys gave LA Five World Series victories. I was fortunate to see one, 1988 (I didn’t get to see 1981 because I was in boot camp). The O’Malleys also gave LA the greatest prize of all: The Great Vin Scully. In 1998, the O’Malleys sold the Dodgers to Ruport Murdoch. Soon after the sale, the Dodgers traded Mike Piazza, who would become the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history. Then began the dark times, things went from bad to worse when the Bean Town carpetbagger bought the team on his American Express Card.
In March of 2012, Moses (in the form of Magic Johnson) came to Chavez Ravine. Now the question is whether Moses/Magic (editor's note: Mosegic?) can lead us to the Promised Land. Will that huge bankroll be enough to lift the curse? Is this what it feels to be a Yankee fan?
I watched the news conference where they introduced the new ownership. I would have watched the news conference anyway but when I heard that The Great Vin Scully would be the MC, I was there. I was a little leery about the new owners, especially when they said that they had plenty of money to spend on talent. These guys had just dropped two billion on the team, not to mention that the rape of Chavez Ravine by the Chesapeake Bay Pirate was fresh on my mind. I could have never imagined the way these guys throw money around. Not even drunken sailors spend money like this... and I’ve been out drinking with drunken sailors.
Just a day ago we got word that the Dodgers had signed top free agent pitcher Zack Greinke and a talented portly Korean named Hyun-Jin Ryu. Kim Sung-Il eat your heart out. The frosting on the cake was when The Great Vin Scully announced that he would return in 2013.
To be honest fellow Dodger fans, I’m a little troubled. The curse notwithstanding, I remember when the Dodgers would play the Yankees in a World Series. The Great Vin Scully would refer to the Yanks as the best team money could buy.
Having said that, I must admit that I am really looking forward to April 1st. I haven’t felt this way in some time. 110 days to go.
10 December 2012
30 July 2012
There's not much to say about the Dodgers that isn't better said by Moriyama, Petriello, or the noble souls over at True Blue LA. It's amazing the team's managed to stay competitive this long and I'm excited to see if they can at least keep the Giants from the postseason. A.J. Ellis has had a good season (as I predicted) and other players like his (not) inbred twin brother Mark Ellis have provided a half-decent base of support for Kemp, Ethier, and now Hanley Ramirez, who I think will flourish now that he's experienced a change of scenery away from that mess in Miami.
Colletti has been on fire so far this year, which is crazy for me to say because I'm a card-carrying member of the Fire Ned coalition. But buying low on Hanley was a tremendous move. Offseason deals with Capuano, Harang, and Hairston have paid off. The Ethier extension is pretty iffy because there's a low chance that he'll still be a middle-of-the-order bat 4-6 years from now, but it was sort of a necessary risk to take considering the dearth of talent in this year's free agent pool. Kemp, when healthy, has been the star of the squad. The pitching has been fantastic and truly the glue that keeps the whole thing sticking. Mattingly probably deserves a ton of credit for the way he's gotten the most out of this team. It's hard not to be pleased with the way 2012 has gone so far.
Coming off a revenge sweep of the Giants by the Bay certainly helps improve my demeanor.
Since I last posted I moved into the actual city of Washington D.C., just steps from the Capitol actually, and have begun feeling more confident in the role I plunged myself into last year when I decided to become a full-time playwriting fellow over at CUA. My life has consisted of a lot of writing recently, especially in the past month when I've tried to get myself back into the habit of doing it every day. I think I fell into a sort of melancholy funk my first year on the east coast. My soul was sort of lonely away from everything I knew. But in this year I've managed to take a hold of the city and make parts of it my own. With that comfort comes confidence. With that confidence comes success (not to mention a social life).
Anna just moved to town, she's going to GWU and getting a real degree (as opposed to my MFA - an acronym that I'm trying to modify so that it sardonically implies poverty... will get back to you on that). My dad, sister, and brother are coming this week to visit - the latter two making their first trek to D.C. (and their first trek to the east coast that isn't Florida, which doesn't really count anyway). I'm about to enter year 2 of a program I needed a full year to get used to. I'm feeling good. Things are looking up.
For August I'll be participating in 31 Plays in 31 Days, which is just as it sounds. Although I won't be writing Hedda Gabler every morning, I do intend to try and push as many 10-minute plays out of this period as possible. I'll post some of the stuff I write, as well as reflections on the experience. I go back to school the final week of August and will begin preparing for an eventful semester that will include a full (!!!) production of a new one-act play and a reading at the Kennedy Center's Page to Stage festival.
Like I said, things are looking up. Here's to a good August and happy Hanleywood!
10 April 2012
I'll have a full write-up tomorrow.
05 April 2012
1. Yes, I'm still alive. I also turned 23 since I last posted. A new year blossoms as another disappears. So it goes. To show how far behind on my updates, here's a photo of my backyard during the Autumn colors. Expect photos of Spring sometime in August.
2. For most of March I took a break from regular novels and sampled a few graphic novels. They were, in order of my enjoyment: Maus, Persepolis, Maus II, Persepolis II, V for Vendetta, & 21 (The Roberto Clemente Story). The last one was a big disappointment, a stylistic and aesthetic treat but cursed by a narrative so poorly constructed that it drags down the entire reading experience. I definitely recommend the first four, mildly recommend V for Vendetta (if you're interested in seeing the parts and themes that weren't in the movie), and don't recommend wasting your time with 21. I will say though that V for Vendetta the movie is much, much better than V for Vendetta the graphic novel and Persepolis I & II ought to be required reading for anyone who thinks they understand what life is like for modern Iranians (hint: they're not a bunch of terrorist zealots).
3. I'm off to the Steel City
4. I'm currently reading Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore. I've got a lot to say about it and about contemporary literature as a whole. I'm picking up on a number of tropes in these big, ambitious novels written in the past 20 years by folks like Murakami and Wallace. But I'll save that post until I'm done reading it. I think I'll be able to finish it on my long ass bus ride across Pennsylvania tomorrow.
5. In other news, I learned about the Korean alphabet today. Unlike Japanese or Mandarin, Korean's written language is not a confusing amalgamation of unique characters. It's actually a very simple phonetic alphabet that is very easy to pick up. This is not to say that Korean is an easy language to learn though, as Korean grammar is incredibly complicated and difficult for native English speakers to adapt to. But I don't need grammar to know that my name is 로버트 몬테네그로 in Korean. Maybe you can figure out what sounds some of the symbols represent based on just that. Or you could just look at this.
6. The Dodgers won today on Opening Day at Petco Park (Dodger Stadium South). Hearing Vin call a whole game was really nice. I hope MLB Network gets him on there as much as possible this season. Bold prediction for the Dodgers season: 1-161.
I think my postseason predictions were Yankees, Tigers, Rangers (Blue Jays over Angels in WC) & Phillies, Reds, D'Backs (Cardinals over Giants in WC). World Series is D'Backs over Rangers. I've got Bumgarner, Upton, and Mike Matheny winning Cy Young, MVP, and MotY in the NL. Sabathia, Moore, and Farrell in the AL.
7. I'm hoping the bus ride will give me a chance to do some writing. I've really lost the luster for the craft the past few months - I guess really since I moved to DC. It's taken a long time to adapt to this new life. Plenty of speed bumps along the way. And playwriting has been an adventure in both good and bad ways. I feel like a prospect drafted because I have the tools to succeed but as soon as they sent me to the rookie league I was forced to learn an entire new approach to hitting or pitching or, well, writing. Let's hope I live up to my high draft position.
I'll post photos from my Pittsburgh adventure on Monday or Tuesday.
26 February 2012
In 5th grade I read Where the Red Fern Grows and spent the entire time wondering why the author decided on that for his title. There is not one mention of fern (let alone red fern) for most of the book. It's not until the very last page where the meaning of the title is revealed. It involves dead dogs. That's a big spoiler but really, you should totally see it coming. It's a book about a boy who loves his dogs. Of course the dogs are going to get it.
I felt similar about this svelte little novel, waiting until the very last page to catch a fleeting reference to twice-ringing postmen. The result? Nothing. It's a non-sequitor, almost completely unrelated to the happenings of the story. Perhaps through a tedious form of mental gymnastics one could produce a metaphor to justify the title, but I don't quite buy it.
I just think it's a nice sounding title.
The book itself is a fun, quick read - a classic of the 1930's hard-boiled crime genre. A wily drifter enters into a fiery love affair with a femme fatale who co-owns a rural California rest stop with her jolly Greek husband. The two form a plot to kill the Greek, but things quickly go awry and what ensues is a winding tale of violence, sex, and (perhaps most gruesome) lawyers.
Two things pop out to me. First, I think back to The Natural, which I read earlier last month. My biggest gripe with that book was the fact that I could never get behind the protagonist, Roy Hobbs. I was too focused on all the many things I didn't like about him to support his struggles. At times when I was supposed to feel empathy, I only felt frustration. In Postman, we've got a classically awful human being as our protagonist but I never found myself struggling to be interested in his conflicts. Perhaps the fact that I was reading the story as told by him in the first person provided a more personal connection than was felt in The Natural, which featured a third-person narrator. Perhaps there is just a certain charisma in his words that was not evident in the very, very uncharismatic Hobbs. Either way, I found it interesting that I was so invested in the plight of such a reprehensible figure. Call it the Lolita effect.
The other thing that hit me about Postman was the swiftness and ease of Cain's storytelling. When I finished the book I felt like I had gone through 200 pages worth of twists and turns. Postman packs that kind of punch in only half that amount of pages. Cain is very economical with his words, opting for terse images and descriptions and supporting his story with a steel narrative skeleton.
Postman was banned in Boston at one time because of its "obscene" content, but the definition of that word has evolved enough since the 1930's that this book's notorious subject matter is nothing more than PG-13 stuff by 2012 standards. I recommend this sexy little crime novel with the non-sequitor title for anyone who digs compelling crime stories and anyone who likes The Maltese Falcon but wishes the characters would just talk less and act more.
It's a good novel -- nothing I'd ever elevate to must-read status, but certainly worth a glance if you're allured by the famous title and you've got 115 pages to kill.
22 February 2012
As much as I'd love to delve into the Dostoevsky burning a hole in my to-read bookshelf, I've been extremely busy lately and the arduous task of having to actually critically think while reading is terrifying to me. I've currently got 10,000 things flying through my head at once -- dense themes and motifs simply have no room at this moment.
That's why I picked up this book. It's a fairly easy read (though at 400+ pages, certainly not a quick one) but it's also goofy, irreverent, and supremely entertaining. When yo live in D.C. everything around you seems to be in do-or-die mode. Everyone drives like they're escorting a politician. Everyone boards the subway like they're off to meet a politician. Everyone acts like a dick like... well... like they're a politician. It was nice to take a few hours out of my everyday routine to get lost in something silly and absurd, namely the zany Gospel of Levi bar Alphaeus who is called Biff.
Lamb runs on a simple premise. During the 20-30 year span of Jesus' life unaccounted for in the four biblical Gospels, he embarked on a grand journey that took him as far as the east coast of India, immersing himself in the teachings of eastern philosophy while trying to understand how to be the Messiah and deliver his people to freedom. The whole entire time, walking right next to him, was his wise-cracking best friend Biff.
Author Christopher Moore, who spent years researching first century Israel in order to accurately portray his comedy's backdrop, paints an imaginative saga filled with characters often thought of as the stuff of legends (Simon-Paul, Judas, Jesus himself - though accurately called Joshua in the book) in the most human way possible. Moore gives Jesus/Joshua something hugely lacking in any of the Gospels - a personality. He is passionate, emotional, and loving just like the Jesus of Luke, John, Mark, and Matthew, but also self-effacing, jocular, and even existentially distressed at times with the humongous weight on his shoulders.
The Jesus of the Gospels performs miracles like they were going out of style, and conducted himself in a manner that basically said, "of course I can raise the dead, I'm freaking Jesus - this shouldn't shock you." Moore's Joshua struggles with mastering his amazing abilities during his teen years, then ponders the philosophical implications that go along with being the one man on Earth who can conquer nature. He is often plagued with guilt at his inability to save people, almost like Batman reading through the newspaper in the morning and seeing reports of all the muggings he could have prevented if only he had not been handicapped by being a mortal.
Joshua, Messiah and all, is still just a man and subject to all the torments and conflicts men face in their lives. Faced with an angel's command that he must never know women, the thirteen year-old Joshua struggles with his teenage body's urge for sex. Teenage Joshua also deals with other real life problems: issues with bullies, family struggles, and social injustice, among them. And despite being the Son of Man, Joshua ends up needing his buddy Biff to help him through tough times and dire straits.
Ah, Biff. Biff is the real star of the show here. It is, after all, his Gospel and he's a vital player in all the action. His narration is filled with clever insights and wisecracks (and profanity, including from the mouth of the Messiah himself!) as well as details of his bountiful (though not necessarily respectable) romantic conquests. He is Joshua's best friend and has Christ's back throughout the tale, following him from Nazareth to Antioch to Kabul to China to Calcutta and back. Biff comes through in the clutch multiple times, his bluntness and ingenuity a perfect compliment to Joshua's whimsical naivety. Their chemistry together forms the backbone of the novel and reinforces the most enjoyable elements.
The story is quite absurd (that's the point after all), with plot points ranging from a love triangle between the two friends and Mary Magdalene (another childhood friend and not a prostitute, that's a common misconception, affectionately called Maggie) to Joshua's friendship with the last of the yetis (I couldn't make that up).
Along the way, Joshua and Biff learn from the mythical three magi about the Buddha, the Divine Spark (which later becomes the Holy Ghost per a recommendation from John the Baptist), and kung fu, of all things.
The novel falters in places. You can tell that Moore was more keen on writing some parts than others as detail wanes in certain sections of the book (most notably in India). The entire ending of the book is kind of a train wreck, as if perhaps the author ran out of time on a deadline or hit his page quota too soon or quite simply didn't know a better way to end the damn thing (though I could probably offer ten-thousand better suggestions). Lamb could certainly have been better edited and the text put through an additional rewrite to reconstruct portions of the book that become stale. This is my biggest gripe with the novel; there's an imbalance between vision (phenomenal idea) and execution (lackluster delivery at times).
Aside from those qualms, I still really enjoyed Lamb and feel it more than served its purpose as a fun, entertaining diversion to counter the rigorous academic stuff grad school shoves down my throat. I'd definitely recommend it if you like off-beat comic writing, the works of Vonnegut or Douglas Adams, or the portions of The Master & Margarita involving Yeshua Ha-Nozri and Pontius Pilate.
One last point that should be covered: Moore had every opportunity here to bash Christianity and Judaism or blasphemously make a mockery of the Jesus story. He masterfully avoided that route and wrote Lamb as a light absurdist satire that is actually pro-religion in more ways than it is anti-religion. The tone is good-natured and Jesus/Joshua is portrayed positively. I think this is a phenomenally fascinating read for those who appreciate religious mythology but don't necessarily buy into all the caveats of organized faith. I can't get behind a god that for some odd reason hates gay people, but I most certainly can get behind a Christ who knows kung fu. -RM-
07 February 2012
The name Red Stripe Radio doesn't mean anything. I just like the way those words sound together.
"Tearin' Up My Heart" was, I'm not embarrassed to say, my first "favorite song" back when I about 8 years old. It's got this bad stigma attached to it now because of the way we look back at the boy band era, but the song itself has legs and great potential for experimentation. The late 90s to the mid 00s hold a lot of cherished memories of my childhood and adolescence. I think this cover bridges the gap between what made me happy once as a kid and what fuels my passions today at 22.
If you check out this page, you can listen to/download some rough recordings of other songs as well: http://www.last.fm/music/Red+Stripe+Radio
31 January 2012
First and foremost among those flaws is our protagonist, Roy Hobbs, and his unfortunate lack of likable traits. Roy is stubborn, shallow, and selfish; everyone and everything in his life seems to only serve the purpose of appeasing his voracious appetite.
For what does he hunger? For greatness, on the surface. To be the best at what he does. To fulfill his potential. To have it all. Certainly fine and noble goals for a fine and noble hero, but Roy Hobbs, as written, isn't that fine and noble hero. Maybe Robert Redford's sly grin brings about the best in Roy on the silver screen, but on the pages we only see him consistently act like a fool unworthy of our compassion.
I struggled at times to get behind the New York Knights' 34 year old rookie, the mysterious stranger who bursts onto the scene out of nowhere to become the league's best player.
The readers are privy to exposition unknown to anyone else but Roy and we are supposed to feel sorry for him as a victim of unfortunate circumstances, his career having been postponed by a tragic event detailed in the book's introductory chapter. But to truly join Roy's team, we need to see a little bit of good from him to counter the crummy things he does, the poor way he treats people, and the bitter loner attitude he portrays to the world. I often found myself frustrated with Roy when I felt I should feel sorry for him. We as readers want a hero who redeems himself, a man who overcomes his troubles to retain his humanity. Throughout the entire book (and even before the early incident that nearly derails Roy's career), we are forced to settle for an arrogant protagonist who never quite learns to ease off his cockiness.
Despite these character issues, Malamud's poetic language and magical realism redeems the book and paints a vivid backdrop for Roy's saga. Pitchers and batters huff and puff like steam engines while the Knights run the basepaths like Mississippi steamboats. The team's reclusive owner sits in the darkness, the ash at the end of his cigar the only thing lighting the room. These images come alive in the reader's mind, a testament to the author's ability.
Roy's legendary bat Wonderboy exists as an entity of its own, its magic clearly understood by the characters but never fully acknowledged. It's a tremendous conceit and goes well with a number of story elements seemingly beyond the realm of reality yet accepted by the story's universe as 'just there.'
There's a lot of great stuff about heroes, manhood, retribution and fulfilling one's destiny in The Natural, and it's a pleasant, vibrant read for most of its 215 pages. The one thing that keeps it from being truly great is Roy Hobbs, the hero we wish we could have liked just a little bit more.
I managed to snag the copy of this book for $1.50 at the Montgomery Country Friends of the Library Bookstore in Rockville, MD. I also came away with a copies of Candide, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and The Stranger. The entire purchase cost me $5. I'd recommend if you're out book hunting to peruse your local used bookstore before ordering off of Amazon or trudging into a dying supergiant like Barnes & Noble. You never know what you might just happen upon at a small bookstore and there's something special about getting your hands on something that's been shared throughout its shelf life.
28 January 2012
Also, Indiana, Pennsylvania is the hometown of Jimmy Stewart. There are crosswalks in town that feature his voice telling you how much more time you've got to cross the street.
Here's a video of that:
I recommend starting at about 0:25.
Get the feel for the town? Now imagine it snowing and 17 degrees.
16 January 2012
10. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
One of those classics in the canon of essential reads, it's basic Hemingway.
9. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
I read all three of these books over winter break last year. Although the series dipped a bit in the 2nd and 3rd books, I was still hooked and devoured Hornet's Nest with excitement.
8. Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
A fun little novel in the vein of Cannery Row, one of my favorite books.
7. Starman: The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony
A fascinating biography that tells the story of the first man in space and the Soviet space program that screwed over him and dozens of other cosmonauts.
6. The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs
A fascinating and funny memoir about a writer's attempt to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica cover to cover.
5. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Perhaps the most famous novel by a writer out of Africa, it certainly deserves its spot in the canon of great 20th century literature.
4. Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
Part memoir, part novel, pure Vonnegut.
3. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I was surprised that I loved this book as much as I did considering its reputation. I felt such empathy for Esther and was hooked to the beautiful language throughout.
2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
This was a re-read so it may not count, but Kesey's great novel is one of my top 5 favorite books of all time.
1. Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut again, this time a historical spy novel dwelling on themes of guilt and culpability.
Honorable mentions include Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, and The Call of the Wild by Jack London.
One quick disclaimer, when you're doing as much reading education-wise as I've been doing, it's hard to quantify what constitutes a "book read." For example, I read a ton of Shakespeare plays out of an anthology. I read Othello out of a book. I included Othello but not the others. I only included books I read cover to cover.
The Boy of Summer by Roger Kahn
Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
Play it as it Lays by Joan Didion
Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger Jr.
Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Female Marine by "Lucy Brewer" (Nathaniel Hill Wright)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
Holy Land by D.J. Waldie
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman
Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella
The Hidden Hand by E.D.E.N. Southworth
The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chboksy
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
The Heroic Slave by Frederick Douglass
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
The Land of Little Rain by Mary Austin
McTeague by Frank Norris
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Take Ten II: More Ten Minute Plays, edited by Eric Lane and Nina Shengold
A More Perfect 10 by Gary Garrison
Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Take Ten, edited by Eric Lane and Nina Shengold
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Starman: The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony
Our Sunshine by Robert Drewe
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs
Otherwise Engaged and Other Plays by Simon Gray
Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut
Five Great Short Stories by Anton Chekhov
The Visitor by Maeve Brennan
The Prince by Niccoló Machiavelli
Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches by Tony Kushner
The American Dream and the Zoo Story by Edward Albee
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
Playwriting: Brief & Brilliant by Julie Jensen
Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika by Tony Kushner
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Proof by David Auburn
Hedda Gabler by Henrick Ibsen
Iphigenia in Tauris by Euripides
The Shoemaker's Holiday by Thomas Dekker
Othello by William Shakespeare
The Art and Craft of Playwriting by Jeffrey Hatcher
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
Secrets of Acting Shakespeare by Patrick Tucker
The Player's Passion by Joseph R. Roach
Good Brother, Bad Brother by James Cross Giblin
Naked Lunch by William Burroughs