Tuesday, October 30, 2007

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Since they banned enjoyment in any form at work a couple of days ago, I've taken to starting Wikipedia chains. I'll load up an article that interests me (yesterday's was Bo Jackson) and click on other links that seem interesting. From the article on Bo Jackson, I ended up reading about 2001: A Space Odyssey. Today's was pretty interesting, too.

Man, Wikipedia is fun. How did I ever pass the time without it?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

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I've been posting about the exploits of the Colorado Rockies lately. It's been tremendously fun watching their meteoric rise to the World Series - the World Series! - over the last six weeks, and I expected the trend to keep going once they got there.

For those of you unfamiliar with the world of sports, the Boston Red Sox swept the Rockies out in four games.

As colossally one-sided as that may seem, it was actually somewhat competitive. The Rockies had chances to take the lead and put games out of reach more than once, but they always seemed to fail to capitalize. For more than a month, it seemed that everything was going their way - balls barely clearing the fence, hitters barely missing pitches, everything - but once they faced up against Boston, all of that good fortune changed to ill omen. Game 1 ended in a horrific 13-1 loss that couldn't have been fun even for the most hardcore Red Sox fan. (Anyone with a soul had to hurt watching that game. Three consecutive bases loaded walks? That's not a good game, it's a slaughter. I ached during that inning.) Game 2 was close (only 2-1), which game me hope. Game 3 ended up 10-5, although it was 6-5 at one point. And tonight ended up as another one run loss, with a rally coming up just a little too short.

My beef here isn't with the Boston Red Sox. The Rockies had a tremendous run, but the Sox were just better. They consistently outplayed the Rockies, forcing them to cause errors, miss pitches, and look every bit like the World Series rookies they were. No, I'm not bitter about them. What bothers me is the smug, smirking, Beantown fans. For a team that hadn't won a World Series title for 86 years, you'd think they might show a little more class to a team that looked increasingly overmatched. Instead, I heard nothing but how much better their precious Red Sox were, how no one in the National League could possibly compete with team in the American League, and about how ridiculously overrated the Rockies were. Truth be told, the American League does have three or four clubs that are consistently better than any NL team (the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Indians, and possibly the Tigers), but hearing that rubbed in my face over and over and over went well beyond the domain of sportsmanlike rivalry. This was downright classless, and especially from a group known for having to endure season after season of heartwrenching defeat. (You want to see pain? Find any Red Sox fan and bring up Bill Buckner's error in 1986. That's pain.)

Granted, the Rockies haven't endured anything like the Sox have. They've only been in existence since 1993. They've been bad, but fourteen years is nothing compared to eighty-six. I was just surprised at how smug and unfeeling the Red Sox Nation were during this series. Congratulations, Nation. You beat a foe that was probably overmatched, yet hung in there during nearly every game. They rode a magical streak that saw them lose one game in over a month. You beat them good, and now you can rub it in our faces all you want.

(May I point out that I don't mean this about the two Sox fans I know in person? I still like both of them. I mean this more in general than anything else.)

So much for sportsmanship. And speaking of a lack of sportsmanship, another Boston-based team, the New England Patriots, beat the Washington Redskins today by a score of 52-7. Give me a break, Boston.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007

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Frustrated with your options for president? Do none of the candidates appear any more qualified than the rest? Are you looking for someone to cut through the red tape and get things accomplished?

Look no further, friends. Out of the fog comes our deliverer.

Metal Man and Knuckles the Echidna for the White House in 2008. Details to follow. Be excited.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

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Anyone who knows me to any degree (or has read this blog) knows that I've been a bit taken with the Colorado Rockies of late. Sports have always been a big deal for me - my dad, whom I respect more than I have words to tell, watched a lot of sports when I was a kid, so I started following them, too. We lived in Colorado Springs when I started paying attention to sports, so I naturally formed an insoluble bond with any and all Colorado-based team. (The Buffaloes of the University of Colorado at Boulder were first. I watched them through their epic 1994 season, in which they finished ranked third in the nation. More on that later.) In all honesty, I follow sports more for the abundance of statistics than anything else; I'm a meticulous and details-oriented person by nature, so knowing precisely how many steals or interceptions a player averages over a given span of time is not only interesting to me, but fascinating.

Sports have a pretty iconic hold over Americans, too. Clearly, it's just a game, but when a player or team pulls off a particularly impressive play, it can take on a larger-than-life aspect. That's part of what I enjoy most about following any team. The Buffs were just the first team I can remember that swept me up as part of something bigger. I remember watching Colorado playing then fourth-ranked Michigan - in Ann Arbor - in September of 1994. Colorado was down by twelve points with less than three minutes to play, and things looked grim. They were having a great season already, but even just one loss could have spelled doom for them. (In college football, you nearly always have to go undefeated to win a national championship. With over 100 teams in the running, there isn't much room for error.) And then, somehow, they scored a touchdown. And got the ball back. And with six seconds to go, quarterback Kordell Stewart, standing on his own 36-yard line, throws the ball seventy-three yards - that's all in the air, folks, none of it bouncing or anything like that - into the end zone where wide receiver Michael Westbrook snatches it up for the improbable comeback.

It's thirteen years later, and even just reading about it makes me giddy. For one moment there, I was part of that team. I was lined up with my heroes, wearing a black jersey and a gold helmet. I stood tall in the pocket, looking down the field at my target. I was running down the field, trying to get away from the Michigan defenders and get into that end zone to give my team the chance to win.

And you'd better believe that I reenacted that play about a thousand times in my back yard.

While they are just games, they allow you to become someone else for a moment. They allow you to become part of something big. They tie you together. The American culture is mostly one of shared references, and sports are no exception. I can meet a total stranger and become an instant friend if we both remember John Elway diving headfirst for that first down in Super Bowl XXXII against the Green Bay Packers. (That's another moment that gives me tingles. Elway's determination was amazing.) Ask any member of the Red Sox Nation. You think there wasn't a feeling of brotherhood in Boston during October 2004 when they came back in the ALCS after losing the first three to the Yankees, the bane of their collective existence? I wouldn't be surprised if there was singing and dancing in the streets.

And this is why the Rockies have meant so much to me over the last month. For those of you unaware, they've now won 21 of their last 22 games, which is nearly unheard of. They've swept two teams out of the playoffs, which has only happened once before in the history of baseball. And it's the Colorado Rockies, a team that didn't even exist fifteen years ago. Denver hasn't had a particularly impressive sports history (with the notable exception of the 1998 Broncos), so for a team that most people considered out of playoff contention six weeks ago to be completely dominating everyone they face, it's a pretty big deal. Big enough, in fact, that the mayor of Denver and the governor of Colorado temporarily renamed the street in front of Coors Field "Rockies Road" last night.

They're calling it "Rocktober."

This team finds a new way to win every night, and every time they play, I'm right there with them. I feel like I'm part of them. It completely energizes me whenever I think about them. (Even as I sit here writing this now, I'm excited. Giddy. I have an urge to jump and make bat-swinging motions.) I can deal with unpleasant calls at work because I have Matt Holliday in front of me hitting a three-run homer in the fourth inning to put the Rockies up for good. I can manage annoying people around me when I've got Troy Tulowitzki at my side turning an unassisted triple play - something that only eleven other people in history have done. I can survive just about anything that comes my way knowing I have Todd Helton - the incredibly long-suffering Todd Helton - at my back making that final out and shouting in elation to the heavens after slogging through eleven years of mediocrity in Denver.

I'm part of something bigger. For a little while, I can be part of the Colorado Rockies and share in this wild ride, even if I'm just watching from my swivel chair at work. That's what the Rockies mean to me. That's why I'm so excited about them.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

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Two points of order:

1. The Rockies look to be absolutely invincible this year. They completely dismantled Philadelphia, and they did the exact same thing to Arizona (and 2006 Cy Young winner Brandon Webb) tonight. I know all good things must come to an end sometime, but it doesn't look like it's going to be anytime soon for them. At this rate, they could go 11-0 in the playoffs.

Also, this is the most rational I've been while talking about them since they pulled off that 13th inning dramatic comeback against the Padres to get into the playoffs.

2. If anything, In Rainbows sounds even better now than it did when I first listened to it that exciting night it came out. I'm falling in love with songs I barely noticed that night, like "Faust ARP" and "Jigsaw Falling Into Place." Radiohead's music - especially when they hit on all cylinders like this - brings a joy to my soul that little else can.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

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It's a momentous day here in indie musicdom; Radiohead have just released their long-anticipated seventh LP, In Rainbows. Since I was serving as a missionary when their previous album, Hail to the Thief came out in 2003, I didn't get to listen to it until July 2004, which means I've only had to wait for three years for this new record to come out.

I'm here to tell you that it was absolutely worth waiting for.

Ever since the advent of OK Computer, their third CD (and arguably their magnum opus, depending on how you feel about the next LP, Kid A) every one of their albums have been designed as a whole, rather than merely a collection of songs. That's part of what makes Radiohead's music so rewarding to me; each album becomes something bigger than 12 or 13 snatches of song. With In Rainbows, Radiohead breaks the trend. The new release doesn't have the same cohesion as any of its predecessors had; you could easily listen to this album on shuffle without missing anything, something that couldn't be said of any of their other albums (with the exception of their debut, Pablo Honey).

That said, it doesn't detract from the album in the slightest. These ten songs are fantastic, each of them. Things take off right from the get-go with "15 Step" - a weird sort of electronic crunch accompanies Thom Yorke singing, "How come I end up where I started/How come I end up where I went wrong?" in his trademark falsetto voice. This album has some serious energy, continuing the trend we saw in Hail to the Thief. It moves. It has swagger. "Bodysnatchers" delivers the same high-octane thrills. Yet lest you think this whole album is a series of rockers, "Nude" slows things down. Originally written during the Bends/OK Computer era, it's reminiscent of past quasi-ballads like "Exit Music (for a film)" and "How to Disappear Completely."

And then they pick it right back up with "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi". This album has something for everyone. It has the weird, ethereal sounds that hardcore fans are looking for, soft, sweet chords for neophytes, and general rocking out songs for a casual listener. It's solid. It's also 2.45 AM and I'm only on my third listen, so I'm in no place to tell you this is the best Radiohead album of all time, but I will say it's one of their best. Certainly the best since Kid A.

Man, I still can't get enough of "Arpeggi". Or "Reckoner". And it's all available for download right now. Pay whatever you want for it. The band doesn't care. It's all up to you. I can't recommend it highly enough. Do yourself a favor, shell out a few bucks, and pick up this album. It's easily the album of the year, which isn't to say that there's been much competition. What else has come out? Okkervil River's The Stage Names? Andrew Bird's Armchair Apocrypha?

Seriously. Stop reading this and download the album right now.

Friday, October 05, 2007

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A series of short vignettes.

I was driving home from work the other day when a tumbleweed made its way across the road. Having lived in urban areas my entire life (the smallest city I've lived in - Yonezawa, Japan - had a population of 100,000), I'd never actually seen a tumbleweed before. It felt a little like being in an old Western film, except I was in a car. The tumbleweed was soundly defeated.

I'm really good at my job. Not the best, but probably in the top three. I secretly think that I work much harder than my co-workers, which may or may not actually be true. I resent them for it just the same, though, and often find myself ignoring calls late at night so I can play Kingdom of Loathing while forcing them to pick up the phone for once.

I sold my soul today. I ate food from McDonalds, although I'll be quick to point out that I didn't actually buy it. It was provided for me. Hopefully that negates the evil of what I've done. (I went back for a second burger, too. Crap.)


I'm really happy, for once, with the position my life is in. Absolutely no complaints.

Monday, October 01, 2007

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Ordinarily, this is a fairly erudite blog, discussing matters political, musical, and otherwise introspective.

Allow me to take a brief moment to reflect on something else.


Ahem. As you were.

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Our apartment is a social one, although, frankly, that's more of a survival mechanism than a choice of free will. Being on the very end of the complex (and out of the view of the courtyard, a veritable wellspring of social interaction), we need to go out of our way to be social if we want people to remember that we exist. Since our door opens out to the stairs to the parking lot, we kept it open through most of September, bidding passers-by hello. It brought friends and well-wishers into the apartment, but with them, an unforeseen foe - flies. Initially, it was only one, which didn't amount to a plague so much as a minor nuisance. What we didn't know is that flies, while certainly not possessing as intricate a social networking system as Facebook, do still possess some sort of primitive fly wireless radio, allowing them to tell others that our apartment was open and accepting new tenants. It seemed like we had four or five new visitors every day. Swatting, shooting them down, and other war tactics had little effect.

It was time to kick it up a notch.

Two of my roommates found a box of strike-anywhere matches and set to work. Tiny torches aloft, they stalked through the kitchen, hunting down our common enemy. The air had a strange smell of sulfur and smoke before I realized what they were doing. "They just sort of...pop," one of them said to me. I imagined a scene of greenish slime coating the walls of the apartment, followed by one of tiny pieces of popcorn littering the floor. When I looked into the kitchen, I saw neither, but rather a clean, fly-free room. It was beautiful. At last, the war had been won.

The flies, however, were not amused.

When I walked into my kitchen this morning, the flies had regrouped. Not only were there more of them, but they were smaller. (I can only assume that some of the flies that had been "popped" last night merely burst into six or seven smaller, more annoying flies.) They hovered erratically around the sink, as though they were protecting something. The dish soap, perhaps? I left the apartment for an hour or so, all the while worrying about what I would find when I got back. I imagined myself entering the apartment to find an eight-foot tall behemoth to dispatch. I would quickly slam the door shut, putting the apartment on lockdown. Spinning around the wall divider, I would pull out the shotgun from its place on the wall, load it with an insecticide dart, and pull back the bolt. It's go time.

In reality, life is a lot less interesting. That said, I might be proven wrong when my roommates come up with a new way of retaliating against our enemies. Setting them on fire could prove to be mere child's play.