Sunday, October 30, 2011

Family Adventures: Halloween Weekend

There was nothing to do except to give the weekend over to Halloween. We had three parties in total: two kid-only affairs and one for all of us. Our Girl had one party through her after-school program and one at her dance school. We were all invited for a shindig at Blue Liner's house. Our Girl is a black spider this year. We went along as two bugs caught in her web.

Photo via George Takei's Facebook page

A friend shared this photo and it's only right I should pass it onward. Our Girl and I just finished "Riddles in the Dark" this weekend, the Hobbit chapter in which Bilbo finds the ring. I'll do a full review once we finish the book but what an outstanding chapter! If Gollum isn't the greatest character in fantasy literature, he's in very exclusive company.

Mock predicted an epic broomball game this weekend and it was... for the other team. We got hammered, 8-0. After the blood bath, four of us headed to a local watering hole and had a bit of a chalk talk with napkins, salt shakers and so forth. We have three games left. Surely, we can manage at least one win.

My Tennis Fantasy: Cilic

Current Overall Standing: 12th
My MVP for the Week: Marin Cilic (Croatia) with $113,600, defeating Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia) to win the title at the St. Petersburg Open

Photo via Celebrities

Whatever happened to Cilic? At the 2010 Australian Open, the 6'6" Croat looked to be tennis's next superstar. Since then, he's been relatively quiet. This is his first title since February 2010, though he has made four other finals in the interim. He's only 23 so there's plenty of time for him to make more noise.

I'm with the Band: Iowa

Band: Hawkeye Marching Band
University: University of Iowa
Founded: 1881
Current Director: Kevin Kastens
Fight Songs: "On Iowa," "Iowa Fight Song" and "Roll Along Iowa"

The lyrics to "On Iowa" were written by W.R. Law. The lyrics to "Iowa Fight Song" were written by none other than Meredith Wilson, author of The Music Man. The lyrics to "Roll Along Iowa" were written by John Woodman.

Next week, I'll get started with the programs to which I have a more personal connection.

All This and Football, Too

My Picks for the Week: 14/20 (1st place out of 3 players)
My Picks for the Season: 114/180 (3rd out of 3)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Let's Talk Baseball: It's All Over but the Crying

Photo via Sound Check Music Blog

On NPR yesterday morning, they referred to the Cardinals as a baseball Rasputin, the team that just wouldn't die. For all of the heartache that has been felt by fans in Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, Milwaukee and so on, it's gotta be pretty rough to be a Rangers loyalist right now.

With the Cardinals' victory, the run of six different teams winning the past six World Series is over. The number is now reduced to five: Red Sox, Phillies, Yankees, Giants and Cardinals. As you may recall from last year, in my ideal universe, St. Louis would now be preparing for a baseball Champions League with the best from Japan, Cuba, South Korea, Taiwan and whomever else could claim to have a viable national baseball league.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Football Fantasy: Torrence

College League: won, 58.42-53.74 (3-4 overall, 11th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: lost, 137.44-85.22 (4-3, 4th out of 12)
My Player of the Week: Leigh Torrence (Cornerback, Saints)

Photo via

The Saints are my team defense in the college league (7 points allowed, 1 sack, 1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries and 1 touchdown). Torrence himself was responsible for the interception and the touchdown. He was Academic All-Pac 10 at Stanford.

This week was a lesson in ignoring Yahoo!'s projected points. According to those obviously meaningless numbers, I should have had blowout victories in both leagues. Clearly, that didn't happen. Despite the results, my league standing in both stayed the same.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Family Adventures: Montpelier

Montpelier is, of course, our state capitol. It is the smallest state capitol in the country by population and the only one without a McDonald's. Ever since we first moved to Vermont, Montpelier has been one of our favorite day trip spots. Among other charms, it has a couple of great independent bookstores and the best Thai restaurant in the state: The Royal Thai Orchid. It seemed the perfect place to spend a gray, rainy autumn Saturday.

Much to our disappointment, the Thai restaurant was closed and will be until November 17th (lesson learned: should have called ahead). But seriously, if you're in the area and hankering for Thai cuisine, you can do no better in the Green Mountain state. We've looked. If the crispy duck special is on the menu, order it!

It was but a minor setback. Naturally, there are other options in town. We settled on The Skinny Pancake: a fine choice, as luck would have it. The company also has a location in Burlington plus a cart on Church Street, Burlington. The restaurant bills itself as "a unique creperie and coffee shop committed to nourishing localvore values in Vermont." It was tempting to sit around eating crepes all afternoon but they were a little too pricy for that. We each ordered savory classics. I had the Deja Vu which was pleasantly breakfasty. My Wife had the Lumber Jack which had a wonderful barbecue sauce on the side. I got a great whiff of it as soon as our server put the plate down on the table.

Then on to the bookstores, first Bear Pond Books for new books. My ladies sought and found a sewing book for kids, a new, sudden interest of Our Girl's. Then Rivendell Books, the second-hand shop. I got to point out the Tolkien connection for Our Girl, which was fun.

We lost in broomball on Friday but we played well and fought hard, a well-earned 2-1 result. We had few subs so I was exhausted by the end but we played real positions for the first time in my tenure, I on defense for most of the game with my partner in crime, whom we shall call Blue Liner. My mind has been working on schemes for our next game. In watching the other team, one of our number discovered the secret to harder shots on goal, too: hitting the ball with the edge of the blade. We need to work on that one, I think.

My Tennis Fantasy: Tipsarevic, Part 3

Current Overall Standing: 12th
My MVP for the Week: Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia) with $181,750, defeating Viktor Troicki (Serbia) at the Kremlin Cup

Photo via Live Tennis Guide

Sunday's Moscow final was the first-ever ATP final between two Serbs and Djokovic wasn't even one of them. Tipsarevic is on a tear this fall, picking up his second title in four weeks, albeit with two first round exits in between.

I am not too happy with Fantasy Tennis Tour at the moment. Their site is very slow-loading, at least on Firefox - and I'm not switching to Internet Explorer just to appease them. I hope they'll have this sorted out by the beginning of next season. It's almost like they don't want me to crack the top 10 for the year.

I'm with the Band: Kansas

Band: University of Kansas Marching Band
University: University of Kansas
Founded: 1887
Current Director: Paul Popiel

The band is known unofficially as the Marching Jayhawks at a school understandably better known for basketball than football (won't be the last of those in this series). The clip below is pretty impressive. The musical arrangements are admittedly stilted but the marching formations are quite dazzling.

All This and Football, Too

My Picks for the Week: 11/20 (3rd place out of 3 players)
My Picks for the Season: 100/160 (3rd out of 3)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

12 Books in 12 Months: Your Mom/Dad/Sister/Brother's Favorite Book

Title: Anne of Green Gables
Author: L. M. Montgomery

Image via

Anne Shirley is my kind of people. To be sure, her wit, eloquence, creativity and joie de vivre are enough to charm nearly any reader of L. M. Montgomery's classic. But when Anne told off Mrs Lynde for calling her homely, I was sold! I was entirely prepared for the girl to internalize her pain when she let the town busy body have it. Then again, how could one not love a chapter entitled "Mrs Rachel Lynde Is Properly Horrified"?

Anne of Green Gables is my sister's favorite book. I had never read it before. Now I look back, thinking of all the women I've known for whom this story was important and seeing something of Anne in each of them. Indeed, it would seem the precocious red head has been a part of my life all along. I love her as I love the many disciples who have shaped my life from birth.

I already know one book of Anne will not be enough for me. I know something of the broader story. We watched the Anne of Avonlea TV mini-series as a family once upon a time, on my sister's initiative, of course. I know, for instance, that the Gilbert Blythe saga is just getting started.

My sister wisely married her own Gilbert Blythe and they're busy raising a lovely family of their own, their son just a month younger than Our Girl. Sadly, they live far away in California so we don't get to see them very often. We do have plans for a vacation together next summer, though: a pilgrimage to Prince Edward Island. In preparation, My Wife is reading Anne to Our Girl - the first time for both of them.


I hope that you, too, will join the 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. Details are here. My own list and books read by others shall be maintained on the pages list on my sidebar. Other blogs currently participating:

My Wife - Wikes! Hikes on the Long Trail
Mrs. Mock - Exclamation Point (!)

Two friends of My Wife are also participating: TonTon via Facebook and The Hermitess via Goodreads.

If you'd care to join the challenge, please let me know by commenting below or e-mailing me at Also, please tell me how and where I can follow your posts. Don't be shy about suggesting other categories, either. It is my intention to compile a new list of 12 once this one is completed. My only parameter is that no one should have to buy anything in order to complete the challenge - nothing beyond a library card required.

My Football Fantasy: Stafford Again

College League: lost, 82.31-52.83 (2-4 overall, 11th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: won, 95.42-91.36 (4-2 overall, 4th out of 12)
My Player of the Week: Matthew Stafford (Quarterback, Lions) with 293 yards passing and 2 touchdowns plus 9 yards rushing

Photo via Daily Joust

I came back to win on Monday night in the Vermont league, and yet I slipped one place in the standings. I got hammered in the college league, yet my overall standing remains the same. Parity reigns in the college league. I'm only one game out of the playoffs and only two out of first place. We have five teams at 3-3 and four of them will play each other this week.

Detroit lost for the first time this season but Stafford still did me proud. Conventional wisdom says that quarterbacks tend to come into their own in their third or fourth pro season. That certainly seems to be the case for the Lions' man under center.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Let's Talk Baseball: Jumping on the Rangers' Bandwagon

The Brewers are out of the playoffs which means my bold proposal survives another year. The Rangers are my team for the Series. I can't help but root for a team which has never won before. Besides, they would be the seventh team in seven years to win the title, definitely an argument for relative parity, despite the sport's gaping economic disparities. In the interest of devoting time to the opposing view, I offer this AP story via Apparently, not everyone is happy with the European football relegation system, either. The American and Asian team owners, not surprisingly, are the ones making a stink.

My Wife keeps asking when the playoffs are over - I think she's had enough. She wouldn't even look up at the screen to appreciate John Axford's mustache! Now it's down to hibernate for the winter.

Photo via Wahl Home Products

Follow Up: Yankee Bullies

Mock applied the bully tag to the Yankees in commenting on a recent post. I'm afraid I must agree. However, I haven't always felt that way about the Bronx Bombers. I had a reluctant admiration for the teams of the late '90s, especially the '98 team. In interviews, the players were always respectful of teammates and opponents alike. The hitters were patient. They'd appear to struggle against a pitcher all game and then, the third or fourth time through the order, they'd rip him to shreds. One got the feeling the opposition could put an ambidextrous Bob Gibson/Sandy Koufax hybrid on the mound and the '98 Yanks would have found a way to beat him. They were really good. They knew it. Everybody else knew it. There was no reason to be obnoxious about it. When they signed A-Rod - an apparent checkmate move at the time - all of that changed. Talent isn't everything. Team chemistry really does matter.

Follow Up: The GM Carousel

So, MacPhail is gone as O's GM. That was expected. It will be very interesting to see who they pick to replace him. I chuckle at reports that they're looking for someone who's strong with scouting and player development. Umm, yeah. And commitment to Catholicism is high on the list of priorities for the next Pope, too. What else, exactly, would they be looking for a GM to do?!!

In all seriousness, the Birds' approach to both the draft and the farm system is in desperate need of overhaul. As you may have gathered from previous posts, I'm deeply in love with sabermetrics so a Billy Beane disciple such as J.P. Ricciardi holds great appeal for me. I am increasingly convinced, however, that the Tampa Bay Rays are the model to follow so someone associated with that organization might be a good choice. Regardless, hiring someone with traditional thinking is not the way to go. Heck, MacPhail himself won two World Series as GM for the Twins but a lot has changed in baseball since 1991, to say the least. It's long past time for fresh ideas.

While we're on the subject, what a monster move for the Cubs in hiring Theo Epstein! His only problem will be that unreasonable expectations in Chicago will be higher than ever. Mock commented in my last Orioles post about the mystery of some teams never doing much to improve. That was the Cubs for decades. The team was highly marketable as lovable losers so why invest in winning? Such was the thinking of Cubs owners for a very long time. Thomas S. Ricketts, team owner since 2009, has sent a very clear message by hiring Epstein: he wants to win. Hallelujah!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Family Adventures: The Dismembered Green Panda

We are in search of a new standby toy store. Our default store to this point has recently moved to a new, smaller space and I was highly disappointed in our quest for a birthday present for one of Our Girl's friends. I won't name the store, partly because I still hope they'll turn things around and partly because I can't afford the bad karma. Our Girl has always been a huge fan of stuffed animals and this store had the most dependable variety. Want a grey cat? They'd have five to choose from and be sure to have just the right one. No longer.

So, when she came to me on Saturday morning distraught over a wounded Iwako eraser toy and eager for a replacement, it seemed an appropriate time to take a closer look at another of our local shops.

We already knew Sewing Corner & Gifts (66 Vt. Rte. 15, Jericho, VT) was the best place for Iwako erasers. They specialize in Melissa & Doug toys, a very dependable brand. They're good for little trinkets, too. For a small shop, their stuffed animal assortment is impressive. And yes, they can handle your tailoring needs as well.

The wounded warrior:

The replacement (though we've encouraged her to keep the old one - a disability doesn't mean your life is over):

All of her new treasures, including, of course, the grey kitty she's been seeking:

After getting our weekly pick up from the CSA, we stopped by the Underhill Country Store (1 Pleasant Valley Rd., Underhill Center, VT) for deli sandwiches. I typically get their Moab sandwich (turkey, bacon, avocado, etc.) but this time I got the Captain Phillips hero (roast beef, swiss, loads of red onions, etc.).

All in all, a very productive outing.

We had a broomball game on Friday, another loss: 2-0. Even though we are in great need of refinement, I felt we all played pretty hard this time. I was happier with my own play but I could do better if I know more about where I'm supposed to be when. There's talk of getting out the floor hockey sticks in our school gym sometime soon. Practice would be good, or at least a good chalk talk.

My Tennis Fantasy: Ferrer, Part 2

Current Overall Standing: 13th
My MVP for the Week: David Ferrer (Spain) with $302,000, losing to Andy Murray (UK) in the finals of the Shanghai Rolex Masters

Photo via Sky Sports

A fantastic result for Ferrer in the same week that he qualified for the year-end tournament in London - his third time in the final showcase.

I'm with the Band: Michigan State

Band: Spartan Marching Band
University: Michigan State University
Founded: 1870
Current Director: John T. Madden
Fight Song: "MSU Fight Song"

The Spartan Marching Band is an all brass and sax band - no flutes or clarinets. The group started in 1870 with 10 members and has since grown to 300. The "MSU Fight Song" was created in 1915 by Francis Irving Lankey and Arthur Sayles by setting new lyrics to the hymn, "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus."

All This and Football, Too

My Picks for the Week: 12/20 (3rd place out of 3 players)
My Picks for the Season: 89/140 (3rd out of 3)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Family Adventures: Chicken Pie Dinner

As promised, the link to My Wife's post regarding our lovely dinner on Saturday night:

On Church Suppers

My Football Fantasy: Peterson

College League: lost, 88.11-87.43 (2-3 overall, 11th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: won, 109.26-80.30 (3-2 overall, 3rd out of 12)
My Player of the Week: Adrian Peterson (Running Back, Vikings) with 122 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns

Photo via

Losing by less than a point in the college league was brutal. Going into MNF, I had Jay Cutler (QB) and Roppongi Moose had Matt Forte (RB), both of the Chicago Bears. I thought I had a shot on the final desperation drive with Cutler throwing on every snap. But dagnabbit, if he didn't keep throwing to Forte! Grr...

If I were to build an NFL franchise around a single player, I'd pick Adrian Peterson. Big things have been expected from Peterson since he first attained national prominence in high school. And yet, his success at each new level has always been shocking. Everyone knew he'd be a great tailback at Oklahoma but no one expected him to finish second in the Heisman voting as a freshman. Everyone knew he'd be a great pro but no one expected him to break the single-game rushing record as a rookie. In my opinion, Jim Brown and Barry Sanders are in a class by themselves as the all-time greats. But if Peterson keeps it up, he's sure to join them. Through the miracle of auto draft, I was able to grab him in the first round of the Vermont league draft.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Family Adventures: Mocks and a Letterbox

We had a fairly busy weekend. We spent late afternoon/early evening with the Mocks on Saturday. They came over to our place for board games before we all headed out for a chicken pie church dinner. My Wife has blogging rights on dinner but I'll post a link. We've gotten together for games a few times now. Our favorites are "Ticket to Ride" and "Hey! That's My Fish!" I'm a game enthusiast for life and I'm always excited to find friends who like to join in the fun.

We went letterboxing on Sunday, another quest in Mills Riverside Park. The weather is absolutely glorious right now: stunning fall colors with Indian Summer temperatures. We encountered fellow letterboxers for the first time, or at least former letterboxers. We got to the bench and sat as instructed. A couple came along and he said, "Oh, I know why you guys are here. We'll leave you alone so you can figure it out."

"It is here, though, right?"

"Yes, or at least it was a few years ago."

We did find the box - two stamps this time! The box was in excellent shape, though we did bring extra ziplocs this time, just in case.

My Tennis Fantasy: Berdych, Part 4

Current Overall Standing: 13th
My MVP for the Week: Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) with $500,000, defeating Marin Cilic (Croatia) for the title at the China Open

Photo via Fanpop

We haven't discussed Berdych in a while. After a strong spring, he had a lackluster summer Slam season. This is his sixth career title, but his first in two years.

I'm with the Band: Oklahoma

Band: The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band
University: The University of Oklahoma
Founded: 1878
Current Director: Prof. Brian Britt
Fight Song: "Boomer Sooner"

The Pride of Oklahoma is an interesting case in that the band predates the university, which was founded in 1890. For reasons I shall explain, I'm not even remotely an Oklahoma fan. But this is awesome:

Back when I was doing my 30 Songs in 30 Days, "Boomer Sooner" was a strong candidate for my least favorite song. In college football, I am a devoted Nebraska fan. To love the Huskers is to hate the Sooners. Once upon a time, Nebraska-Oklahoma was the greatest rivalry in the college game. The winner of their annual late season matchup went to the Orange Bowl as Big 8 champs nearly every year for decades. Those days are long past. When Texas joined the conference, the Texas-Oklahoma rivalry intensified at the expense of Nebraska-Oklahoma. And, in truth, it's been many years since the Sooners and Huskers were national contenders at the same time. Nebraska put the nail in the coffin when they bolted for the Big Ten. Still, Oklahoma will always be my choice for least favorite program. "Boomer Sooner" means Oklahoma touchdowns - never a pleasing development. The song itself is a plagiarized hybrid of Yale's "Boola Boola" and North Carolina's "I'm a Tar Heel Born."

Mock asked in regards to my Florida A&M post whether or not college band director is the sort of job I'd actually want. In music education, one learns pretty quickly that teaching choirs and teaching bands are two very different matters. Sure, it's all music and they're all musicians but, at least traditionally, band programs are more regimented, left-brain operations than are choral programs. As such, they tend to draw very different people to the profession. For a variety of reasons, I've become more involved in the instrumental program at our school this year and I find I rather enjoy the more task-oriented approach at this stage of my life. But I also like that someone else is ultimately the guy in charge. So, I think the answer to the question is no. I'd rather be doing what I do now: general music with a dash of chorus here, a pinch of band there, musical theater as garnish. Variety is good.

All This and Football, Too

My Picks for the Week: 15/20 (1st place out of 3 players)
My Picks for the Season: 77/120 (3rd out of 3)

It was a good week. I was alone in 1st for the week so I got to make up some ground against the other 2 guys. I'm still 6 behind the lead for the season with 8 weeks to go.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Let's Talk Baseball: The Demise of the Payroll Teams

This is nothing short of huge. There are three big money teams in baseball and all three are already done for the year. The Red Sox didn't even make the playoffs. The Yankees and Phillies both lost in the first round. It is always reassuring to know that money isn't everything.

Photo via

Meanwhile, I was 3-for-4 with my rooting interests for the division series. Believe me, that hardly ever happens! Only the Cardinals spoiled perfection. The NLCS holds greater interest for me going forward. It's pretty simple, really. If the Brew Crew win, I'll root for them in the World Series. If the Cards win, I'll root against them.

Mock commented on my last playoff post that he only had a team to root against and we all know he means the Yankees. In truth, I feel the same. If I had to choose whether I love the Orioles or hate the Yankees more, it would be a tough call. It's hard following a sport only to root against someone, though. I went into the 2003 US Open with an anyone-but-Roddick mentality. I just couldn't bring myself to like the guy - still can't. Every round he won was like a jab in the stomach. But the Yankees lost. Well done, Tigers!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Football Fantasy: Graham

College League: lost, 90.62-68.75 (2-2 overall, 7th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: lost, 119.94-89.30 (2-2 overall, 5th out of 12)
My Player of the Week: Jimmy Graham (Tight End, Saints) with 132 yards and 1 touchdown

Photo via

Graham was a four-year basketball player at Miami (FL). He graduated with a double-major, stuck around for one year of grad school and squeezed in a year of football eligibility. It was more than enough for the NFL to take notice. He was drafted in the third round by the Saints in 2010.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Family Adventures: Brooms and Hobbits

It's been a long time since I was last a member of an athletic team, not since college intramural basketball, I think. That was nearly 17 years ago. I haven't done the team sport thing as an adult much at all, and much to my own regret. While my athletic talents are modest at best, I enjoy playing anyway.

Photo (not us) via Madison on the Cheap

In my experience, it's relatively easy to get adolescent-to-young-adults on the same page in an athletic contest whereas it gets more complicated as we get older. On our broomball team, for instance, I'd say there's quite a range not only in talent and experience but also in competitive inclination. Some are eager to win in that way many children (okay, boys) are taught to seek some ill-defined sense of superiority. Others are just in it to have a good time. To my mind, both attitudes are just fine as long as you're willing to embrace them. If you want to win, learn to play, invest, be purposeful. If you don't really care about winning and just want to enjoy the affair as a social activity, make the most of that aspect. The trouble is when you have people of both inclinations on the same team or, perhaps even more complicating, when individuals are torn between the two desires.

Personally, I'm prepared to go in either direction. How's that for a cop out? It's the tweener state that drives me nuts. Forced to choose, I guess I'd rather invest in winning. More to the point, I think I'd genuinely enjoy learning to play well, win or lose. I did a little bit of research on the ol' Web and found this. I think it's as good a place as any to start.

Oh, we lost again: 5ish-1. We have a bye this coming weekend.

Image via WhatCulture!

On the home front, Our Girl and I got started on The Hobbit this past week. So far, we're averaging about four pages a night so we should be able to knock it out in a few months. We've done longer chapter books before - the first three Narnia books, for instance. She seems to be enjoying it so far.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The New 52: Final Thoughts...for Now

Image via What Is Techno Again?

I don't know what overall sales have been like but if I am a microcosm of the comic-buying public, The New 52 was definitely a success. I bought 12 comic books this month, by far my lifetime high. All of them were DC titles, too, so score one for brand marketing. It was never my intention to read all 52 books so mine was far from an exhaustive study but I'm delighted to have found a few titles to inspire further exploration.

Of the 12 books I read, 6 passed my curiosity test (Am I genuinely interested in issue #2?) and 6 did not. Of the 6 that passed, I would rank them as follows:

1. Green Lantern
2. Green Lantern Corps
3. Green Lantern: New Guardians
4. Red Lanterns
5. Teen Titans
6. Justice League

Obviously, the Green Lantern storyline was the big winner for me. This is particularly remarkable in light of the fact that I wasn't expecting to like it at all. If I were to start subscribing to DC comic books tomorrow (not my plan), the GL titles would be my top choices. The Green Lantern world is definitely the hot spot of the DC universe right now.

The 6 that didn't pass were still quality books and a couple of them came close to meeting my standard. I would rank them as follows:

1. Static Shock
2. Batman
3. Justice League International
4. Action Comics
5. Stormwatch
6. Justice League Dark

Static Shock
is one I might even check in with a few months down the line. I really like the character. The story fell just short of my hopes.

I feel that DC's strength, and the main advantage it holds over Marvel, is its artwork. From that perspective, my favorite book was actually Stormwatch. Miguel Sepulveda is definitely a name I'll watch for in the future.

The New 52 did not succeed in contradicting a suspicion I've held for a while now: given the choice, I'm a Marvel man at heart. While DC generally has stronger artwork, I feel that Marvel is far superior in the more important category of character development. Comic books are a character-driven industry and to my mind, Marvel's best are far more interesting than anything DC has to offer. Someday, I'll devote a post to Wolverine and why I consider him to be by far the most fascinating character I have encountered in comics. Even with my new found interest in the Green Lantern world, none of the individuals I have seen within that storyline comes even close.

That is not to say that DC characters don't have the potential for greater development. Static, Batman and Atrocitus are all fantastic. Even so, I'll take Marvel's best over DC's best anytime. Do you think Marvel will be inspired to do a mass re-launch of their own at some point?

If you've been reading the New 52 and would like to share your thoughts with DC Comics, follow the link here. Thanks to Mock for sharing it with me.

My Tennis Fantasy: Tipsarevic, Part 2

Current Overall Standing: 14th
My MVP for the Week: Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia) with $153,500, defeating Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus) for the title at the Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur 2011

Photo via TopNews

Tipsarevic won his first ATP title in his fifth final. This was the first week of a three-week Asian swing for the men's tour. Tokyo and Beijing this coming week, with the Shanghai Masters tournament to follow.

The New 52: Red Lanterns

Title: Red Lanterns
Issue: #1
Release: September 2011
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artists: Ed Benes and Rob Hunter

Image via Digital Spy

I liked Red Lanterns #1 a lot more the second time through, definitely a sign of quality. In light of my enjoyment of the three Green Lantern titles I've read thus far, it seemed only right to go back and try this September 14th release. The first time through it, I was put off by what I still consider gratuitous violence and gore. I also wasn't particularly excited by the idea of a storyline built around the emotion of rage. I don't identify very well with anger in general. I'm sure I could spend many hours on a therapist's couch working that one out but I don't think the pages of a comic book are the place to do it.

But in my second reading, I was able to see past the blood and appreciate the nuances of the story. The book went from failing my curiosity test on the first read to passing it on the second. In fact, I'm hoping DC will initiate series for each of the other colors in the Emotional Spectrum as well. I don't see anything in their upcoming releases as yet but I'll keep my eye out for them.

Part of the appeal for me is, admittedly, the color scheme. My college's school colors are scarlet and black and I developed a great fondness for that combo in my time there. It would almost have been worth playing a varsity sport just for the letter jacket. There are other reasons I like it, of course, but they are best addressed after the...


I like the fact that the lead character, Atrocitus, is not an Earthling. He's clearly got some issues to work out, too - always a bonus for us, the readers. As I said in my first post, there should be at least one poster-worthy image in a comic book beyond the cover and Atrocitus's entrance is awesome:

Image via Zona Negativa

Within context, the "What are you doing to my cat?" line is truly inspired.

In fact, it would seem that Earth doesn't have a Red Lantern at all yet. It's a good bet that John and Ray are the likely candidates. But which one? At least for the moment, Ray is the one who identifies more readily with rage. However, we the readers are encouraged to be more sympathetic toward John. This is just the sort of question that makes for great storytelling in a serial format.

I love the cat:

Image via dadsbigplan

However, as a longtime cat owner, I might argue that rage is not the best emotional choice for a feline. Avarice might be more appropriate (Orange Lantern Corps). Laziness would be most accurate - perhaps a new Beige Lantern Corps?

Finally, it seems only appropriate that Atrocitus should be worried about the viability of the Corps he himself has created. Rage is certainly a volatile, diffuse and often fleeting emotion. The Red Lantern Corps should reflect that.

The New 52: Static Shock

Title: Static Shock
Issue: #1
Release: September 2011
Writer: Scott McDaniel and John Rozum
Artists: Jonathan Glapion and LeBeau Underwood

Image via Artrick Playground

Given that this was the last week of the New 52 #1 releases, it seemed appropriate to go back and check out a couple of the titles from previous weeks. The success of Teen Titans #1 encouraged me to try others in the adolescent hero vein. Static Shock #1 was released on September 7th.

I like Static a lot. In fact, I'd say Static is my favorite individual character so far in the DC universe. He talks to himself, cracking stupid jokes. He hovers over the streets of New York doing good deeds and calls his mom on the way home. He's essentially Spider-Man!

And yet, the book didn't pass my curiosity test. I'll explain more about why in the spoilers section but this is a perfect example of what I wrote about in my Green Lantern: New Guardians post. My affection for the character is less important to me than hitting the story at the right moment. I might check in to see what Static's up to a few months down the road but I have no immediate yearning for issue #2.


I was cruising along with the story up until the very last frame. Then my brain went clunk. Dismemberment? Really? That's where you're going with this? In issue #1?!!!

Where do you go from there? His power over electricity allows for immediate healing? He gets some cool prosthetic? I'm not even sure why it bothers me so much. Maybe it's just too much, too soon. I wish the book had ended one frame earlier as Virule lines up Static in his sights, or as the shot is fired, or you know he's been hit but don't know exactly what happened. Something that allows for some suspense, not the end result. It just didn't work for me.

A few other nit picks. I am more interested in Virgil Hawkins than I am in Static. He's a genuine teenager, struggling to make friends at a new school and, even with his cool flying surfboard thing, forever begging his father for a car. While it's not necessarily a bad thing to prefer the alias to the superhero, it is a bit cart-before-the-horse. Superpowers are the whole point of this medium, aren't they? (Side note: yes, I know there are comics beyond the superhero genre but I hope you'll take my point here) It's far from a fatal flaw. My interest in Virgil was almost enough to pique my interest in issue #2 but not quite. I was pleased to see Static's brief appearance in Teen Titans #1, suggesting that he may occasionally pop up in that storyline.

Quite a lot of exposition was devoted to explaining Static's powers and the physics behind them. While it's interesting to a point and certainly appropriate for a relaunch issue, the techno text was a bit cumbersome after a while. One hopes they'll find a more palatable balance in future installments.

I'm with the Band: Texas

Band: The University of Texas Longhorn Band
University: The University of Texas at Austin
Founded: 1900
Current Director: Dr. Robert Cornochan

The Longhorn Band has played in seven different presidential inaugural parades. UT is the home of Big Bertha, reputedly the world's largest bass drum: 8 feet in diameter.

Photo via Bleacher Report

All This and Football, Too

My Picks for the Week: 10/20 (2nd place out of 3 players)
My Picks for the Season: 62/100 (3rd out of 3)

This was the first week in which I did better with my picks than I would have just going with all favorites. I picked three underdogs: Rutgers, Washington State and Florida. Only Florida lost. I guess it shouldn't be surprising that the house usually manages to stack the deck in its own favor. Otherwise, the house would never make any money. After all, the Vegas odds makers do this for a living. They wouldn't keep their jobs if they weren't right far more often than not.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My Baseball Fantasy: 2011 Season Wrap Up

Private League: won final, 5-4-1 (finished 1st out of 10 teams)
Public League: 2nd out of 12 teams, 1 point back

It was a pretty exciting finish in both leagues, coming down to the final day of the season in each. Alas, I fell just a tiny bit short in the public league. Nonetheless, I am further convinced my strategy is a sound one.

I am sold on head-to-head leagues. Individual games become a lot more meaningful. As such, I think I'll do a head-to-head public league next year rather than rotisserie. I heard no gripes from my private league-mates so I assume they preferred it, too.

Season MVP

Player: Matt Kemp
Position: Center Fielder
Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
2011 Totals: 39 home runs, 126 RBI, 115 runs, 40 stolen bases, .324 batting average

Photo via Locker Smash

Last year, Kemp was my first round pick and he had a very disappointing campaign. As such, he was still available this year when my third round pick came around in the private league. He was the top player in fantasy baseball in 2011. Conventional wisdom says he'll lose the National League MVP vote to either Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder but if the Brewers duo split the vote, Kemp could grab the award.

Let's Talk Baseball: Bold Proposal Final 2011 Standings

Season 2 of my grand experiment is over, or at least the regular season portion thereof. For those new to the program, here is my original post for the idea and here is how things shook out at the end of last season, setting up the two divisions I used for the 2011 season.

The final standings are as follows:

First Division

1. Phillies (unchanged from September)
Yankees (unchanged)
3. Rangers (+2)
4. Tigers (+2)
Rays (+2)
Red Sox (-3)
6. Cardinals (+3)
8. Braves (-4)
9. Angels (-1)
9. Giants (+1)
11. White Sox (unchanged)
11. Reds (+1)
13. Rockies (unchanged)
14. Marlins (unchanged)
15. Padres (unchanged)
16. Twins (unchanged)

Second Division

1. Brewers (unchanged)
2. Diamondbacks (unchanged)
3. Dodgers (+2)
4. Blue Jays (unchanged)

5. Nationals (+2)
6. Indians
7. Mets (-1)
8. A's (+1)
9. Pirates (-1)
10. Cubs (unchanged)
11. Royals (+1)
12. Orioles (+1)
13. Mariners (-2)
14. Astros (unchanged)

Biggest rises: Cardinals
Biggest falls: Braves

The teams in italics are the six different teams to win the past six World Series titles. I am hoping that trend will continue and yet a different team will win this year.

So, in my better world, the top eight first division teams would make the playoffs. Please note, Sox and Braves fans, your teams would still be in it despite all of their efforts to start vacation early. The bottom three in the first division would be relegated to the second for 2011. Alas, the Padres only lasted one season in the top flight.

The Brewers and Diamondbacks would both be promoted automatically. The next four teams in the second division would enter playoffs to determine the third promotion. I'll give the Dodgers the benefit of the doubt. How about that? With all of their troubles this year, their strong finish would have brought a meaningful result.

As I have said all along, my hope is to be proven wrong. I want to believe that more than a handful of teams have a chance to win the World Series each year. Thus I am hopeful that either the Brewers or the D-backs will win it all. Since they play each other, we know at least one will reach the next round.

Checking in with the Orioles: The Art of Loving a Bad Team

Image via SeatGeek

Last night after broomball, as we were hanging out in the parking lot, one of my sour graping, Red Sox fan friends complained about the over-exuberance of the Orioles' celebration of knocking their beloved team out of the post season. Sox fans have been spoiled over the past decade. They've forgotten what it's like to go for years without being at the center of the broader baseball conversation. The Orioles had a putrid season. Yet for two glorious weeks, they got to play the central role in the dismantling of a powerhouse. Even as they face an off-season with many questions to answer in their seemingly endless quest for respectability, the wounds of 2011 are soothed by the joys of a strong finish and the thrill of being part of the story. Along the way, they even managed to improve upon last year's record: 69 wins as opposed to 66 in 2010.

Andy MacPhail, the Orioles' president of baseball operations, is likely finished. There are those who believe manager Buck Showalter will be promoted to take his place. Regardless, big changes are in store in Baltimore and I think it's long past time for a new direction.

I, for one, am tired of the talk claiming that the O's will never be able to dig themselves out of their hole as long as they're in the brutal AL East. Fact is, they stink when they play anybody. They were, in fact, the only AL East team which had a losing record against teams outside of the division. So in truth, they are a bad team and they are in baseball's toughest division. They are not a bad team because they are in baseball's toughest division. The AL East used to be a two-team race until the Rays battled their way out of the cellar to make it three. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are by far the best fourth-place team in the game, finishing 2011 with a .500 record. There's no reason - none at all - why the Orioles couldn't at least be good enough to keep things interesting for everybody else.

Trying to follow the Yankee or Red Sox model of team building would be a huge mistake. If the press are to be believed, the O's will target Prince Fielder in the off-season. While Fielder would most certainly improve the team significantly and bring excitement to a desperate fan base, I think such a move would not be the best use of resources. It's not as if the Birds are one, two or even three players away from contention. A systemic overhaul is in order.

Basically, the Orioles need to become the Rays. They need to draft well and develop players who will be coveted by other teams. The Rays lost big name free agents and made the playoffs anyway. The Red Sox gained big name free agents and they didn't. In losing players, the Rays received an unprecedented number of compensation picks in the draft which will fuel their franchise for years to come. This is how you beat the big boys in the current baseball economy. Baltimore needs to hire someone who will lead the way.

The ball's in your court, Mr. Angelos. What is this team going to be, one which might make incremental improvements from year to year or one that builds for sustained success? I know which one I'd prefer.