Friday, May 30, 2008

Lost - Season Finale

Every Lost season finale is bittersweet, don’t you think? I get all excited for it and schedule my week around it, but the truth is I get kind of depressed. We now have to wait months to pick up where last night’s finale left off.

Still, last night’s show left us plenty to discuss over the summer.

Shall we get to it?

I think we shall.

You know the drill by now, but I will reiterate:

If you haven’t watched, yet (and if you haven’t I may have to stop talking to you) do not read any further.


What Happened: Where do we start? How about with Jeremy Bentham? Turns out he’s the one in the coffin from the end of last season. We know this because we see the continuation of last season’s conversation between Kate and Jack. Kate is so pissed at Jack she won’t even let him say Aaron’s name without a slap across the face. Still wondering how that fake beard didn’t come flying off.

Who’s Jeremy Bentham you ask? Why he’s the guy in the coffin. I just told you that. Seems pre-coffin Jeremy Bentham was a busy dude. He paid a visit to Walt, Hurley, Jack, Kate (and we assume Aaron since those two are together all the time), Sayid (possibly – it was never explicitly said, but Sayid spoke like he had) and still found time to get himself killed. Reports called it a suicide, but we all know better. Don’t we?

These visits spur on the Oceanic Six, Ben and Walt to take some action. Big Walt visits Hurley and asks why they’re lying about the rest of the survivors. ‘To protect them,’ he replies. ‘Even my dad?’ Even your stupid dad, Big Walt.

Jack tries to talk Kate in returning to the island, Ben tracks down Jack and tells him he alone cannot return to the island. It must be all of them. Including Jeremy Bentham, who, if you’ll recall, is the dead guy in the coffin. Sayid breaks into Hurley’s mental institution after gunning down some random guy in a car outside and tells Hurley they are going somewhere ‘safe’. Hurley’s biggest concern was whether they were going back to the island. He really, really is enjoying his time talking to dead people.

What we don’t know yet is whether Mr. Bentham paid a visit to Sun, but it’s becoming clear that she has her own agenda. This includes taking over her father’s company and approaching one Mr. Widmore with an offer of help. He doubts her of course, so she just gives him her fancy business card and goes her sulky (yet sexy) way.

Meanwhile there is a ton of action involving the island. After Ben’s surrender and subsequent head bashing, he is rescued from the mercenaries by Sir Richard’s band of merry men. They kick the living crap out of professional soldiers in a frighteningly efficient display of neck breaking, karate chopping, ass kicking! Richard himself kills lead mercenary dude by shooting him in the back after an entertaining fight with Sayid. Nothing like watching two professional soldiers go at it! Richard, however, has apparently never seen Kevlar vests before (hey, he’s old fashioned) and doesn’t really kill him. More on that later.

Locke and Jack face off for what is apparently the last time in the garden. Locke telling him that he is on the island for a reason and Jack telling him miracles do not happen. Locke is about to convince him other wise. ‘Wait until you see what I’m about to do’. At this point Ben comes back and helps Locke find how to move the island. (Hint: It involves blowing a hole in the back of a time traveling device. So obvious!). They are interrupted by dead – but not dead – mercenary dude who confirms that his heart rate is sending a signal back to the freighter and is hooked into 500 pounds of C4. That’s a lot of C4 for you novices out there.

Ben doesn’t care and kills him anyway. Which causes all sorts of worry lines for Michael, Jin and Desmond who are trying to figure out how to disarm the bomb on the boat. Mike freezes the battery to give them some time while Jin and Desmond try to trace back the lines. Not to spoil things, but they don’t figure it out. In fact, just as the light turns red on the bomb Jack, Sayid, Hurley, Kate and Aaron arrive on the helicopter. The chopper was running out of fuel and HAD to land. It was so dire that Sawyer threw himself out of the helicopter to save fuel and help the rest of them reach the freighter. So noble. He did manage to get one last smooch out of Kate, so it may have been worth it.

When the chopper lands and they find out there is a bomb, Kate goes to get Jin while Sun, Aaron, Hurley, Desmond, Frank (the pilot), Sayid and Jack all climb on. But not so fast, Jack grabs Kate and forces her onto the helicopter and they take off without Jin who is left waving like a fool just before the boat goes BOOM! Sun, as you can imagine ain’t too happy about that whole turn of events.

While this is all going on Ben is climbing into the arctic basement of the island to turn some cryptic, spoked wheel. The island starts making a sound like one of those Australian things and BLOOP, there goes the island. In your face, Jack! This is a problem for two reasons. First, the helicopter was heading back to the island to land and now it’s not there. You can see how that might be disconcerting. This means the chopper crashes into the ocean and everyone needs to climb into a raft and float around for a while before being picked up by a boat. Second, there just happened to be a bunch of other people on the island hoping to get off. Including Sawyer and a half drunk Juliette.

Who’s on the boat that picks up Jack et al, you may wonder? Why it’s none other than Penny. Desmond’s long lost love who have a much delayed reunion and a week’s worth of high seas romping to make up for lost time, I’m sure. Jack, after watching the island go poof realizes that what Locke told him is true. The survivors need to lie about what’s happened in order to protect themselves and the people still left on the island. He convinces the others and Penny to drop them off at a certain point so they can paddle to shore and get their official story straight.

But wait! We’re not done yet. It seems that while Ben moves the island, the consequence of the person doing the moving is that they cannot return to it! Ben seems a bit pissy that he is the one that needs to leave and kills everyone on the freighter with a shrug – ‘So?’ – and in a departure I want to discuss more in a bit, says to Locke ‘Sorry I made your life so miserable’.

Locke than leaves Ben and takes his place with the Ageless Wonders. Richard says to him ‘Welcome home’.

And we’re still not done. For when Ben and horribly bearded Jack meet up again, it’s at the coffin of Jeremy Bentham. This is where Ben tells Jack that everyone needs to return to the island. ‘Even him’ as he motions to the guy in the coffin. And as the camera finally shows Bentham we learn it’s actually John Locke.

Welcome home, indeed.

What We Learned:

Locke is now head of the island. Or at least it’s Others.

Jin and Michael both blow up with the freighter and are dead. Or as dead as people can be dead on that freaky island.

Sun is either setting up Widmore or trying to exact vengeance on someone else (Ben? Jack?) for Jin’s death.

A dead Mr Ekko isn’t very good at chess.

Ben arrives in the desert wearing his winter coat because he was booted off after he moved it. Love how things come together with this show!

Ben really is an ungrateful prick.

Jack’s father shows up at the most inopportune times.

Claire is still keeping her eye on Aaron and is a total bitch for someone that can do whatever she wants.

Kate, Hurley and Sayid are still totally opposed to going back to the island.

Jeremy Bentham is John Locke. Or maybe John Locke is Jeremy Bentham? One is the other.

Oh, and he’s dead, too. Forgot that part.

The people hired by Widmore to watch over the Oceanic Six aren’t very good. I mean really; falling for the old ‘have you got the time?’ from Sayid? That’s lame, man. No wonder you’ve been shot dead.

The island really can move! That’s a pretty cool feature for an island.

New Questions:

Why was Locke coming off the island to visit all the ones that left?

What were the ‘horrible’ things that happened on the island after the Six left?

What happened to the raft containing Physics Dan and his doomed cast of nobodies? Did anyone else think ‘Uh oh, there are no major characters in that raft!’ when he headed off the island?

Was Charlotte born on the island? Both she and PAD make some allusion to her having at least been on the island before.

If so, how does that effect the theory that no babies can be born on the island?

What did Christian mean when he said to Michael ‘You can go now’? Was he referring to an afterlife? Did he just mean that Michael was of no further use to the island and was expendable? This island (or Jacob) is cold, man. Cold.

Why do all the survivors refer to Locke as Bentham throughout this episode? Do they fear people are listening? Are Bentham and Locke actually two different people?

What was the meaning behind Sun saying to Widmore ‘We’re not the only ones that left the island?’ Was she referring to the Oceanic Six? Or does the know that Widmore was on that island at some point and returned?

When Widmore infers that he and Sun’s father are close, is that an indication that Sun’s father knows of the island, too? Is he part of the planted plane conspiracy along with Widmore?

Why is it freezing in the basement of the island and is that where the polar bears come from?

Did anyone else feel for Hurley when the copter pilot kept telling everyone there was too much weight on the craft? ‘I’d feel better if we were a few hundred pounds lighter!’

Finally, let’s end the season with a remark that is loaded with possibilities. When Locke and Ben part ways, Ben says to him ‘Sorry for making your life so miserable’. Three things we can take from this:

1: He was referring to his handing over control of the island to Locke, meaning with that responsibility comes much misery.

2: He was referring to the constant lies and deceit he used on Locke since they first met on the island.

3: And the more intriguing option. Ben and the island had some sort of control over Locke’s pre island life. Could it have been Ben putting Locke through his tough life? Could he have been pulling strings throughout the course of Locke’s life in order to keep him from coming to the island or realizing his true calling? In a previous episode, it was implied that Locke – not Ben – was actually the chosen one to lead the island. But Locke failed the initial test and Ben was put in charge instead. So, did Ben know he was the ‘course correction’ for the island and use his and the island’s abilities to keep Locke miserable and insecure?

As with most questions from this show, we may never have a definitive answer.

But I’ll be back next season to find out.

Won’t we all.

Today's distraction: The 8 types of annoying people you can find at Starbucks. Amen, brotha. Amen! Enjoy your weekends, all.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

NL Roundup

Yesterday the American League. Today the National League. I’m spoiling you. I really am. I hope you appreciate me and don’t realize how good you have it until I’m gone. Ingrates!

Off we go.

* All stats as of 5/29/08

NL EAST

Florida Marlins (30-21): Look how the little Marlins have all grown up. They finally sign one of their own players to a long term deal!!! Aren’t they so stinkin’ cute? Truth be told they have been signing most of their players to one year deals. Dan Uggla (.310/16/38) is making $417,000 this year and will be free to go. Nice gig if you can get it. While the lineup has been good, the pitching isn’t anything to write home about. Sure Hendrickson is 7-2, but his ERA is nearly 5 and old friend Anibel Sanchez has yet to see the light of day or….uh….night lights. He’s still hurt is what I’m trying to say. Considering they seem to be doing it with smoke and mirrors at this point, I can’t see this lasting.

Fun Fact: Between Sanchez, Lester and Buchholz pitchers emerging from the Red Sox system have accounted for 3 of the last 5 no hitters. Lesson? The Red Sox RULE!!

Philadelphia Phillies (30-24): I would think the Phillies should be happy where they are considering Ryan Howard is copying Big Papi and hitting slightly above .200. They can thank Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins for keeping up the pace. But, like last year, the starting pitching is questionable. After Hamels, they throw out Jamie Moyer (4.45 ERA), Kyle Kendrick (4.84), Adam Eaton (5.37) and Brett Myers (5.79). Yikes! If any team should have outbid the Mets for Johan, it was this one. Oh, well.

Fun Fact: While Philly is called ‘The City of Brotherly Love’ it was meant in a ‘give you a wedgie then noogie and make fun of you for crying’ kind of brotherly love.

Atlanta Braves (28-24): Hey look! Another team with a potential triple crown winner that we all know will never happen on it’s roster. In this case we’re talking about Chipper Jones who always cools off just when it starts to matter. Like every Braves team in my lifetime, this one is centered around pitching. Tim Hudson seems to be back in form, Smoltz still looks effective even though he’s been hurt, Jair Jurriens has come out of nowhere, and even Tom Glavine has been better that 4/5 of the Phillies starting pitching. Wait, that’s not saying much. Scratch that. Still, the bullpen scares all 10 Braves fans and could be a problem for the rest of the season.

Fun Fact: The city of Atlanta’s symbol is the Phoenix due to it being burned down during the Civil War. The city of Phoenix is totally pissed about that.

New York Mets (24-26): See Yankee fans, maybe Johan wasn’t the answer after all. The answer really should be to fire Willie Randolph. The Mets had the perfect opportunity last weekend and flinched. After last year’s epic collapse, not one fan would have blamed them for pulling the trigger. This team needs a shakeup in the worst way and won’t be much better until that happens.

Fun Fact: Johan Santana’s career record after July 1st is 420-2. Look it up!

Washington Nationals (22-31): Considering this team has been put together from the spare parts of every other team (did you know Aaron Boone is here?), they aren’t looking so bad. Their roster is a who’s who of players notable for their achievements on other teams. There’s Wily Mo who nearly killed a fan in the Monster Seats last season. There’s Austin Kearns who used to hit 500 foot home runs in Cincinnati but can’t even get above .200 now. There’s Elijah Dukes best known to the Tampa Police Department. Sadly, none of these players are making much of an impact. It’s still early, but it’s looking bleak.

Fun Fact: The Nationals new ballpark has a center field fence that measures 550 feet from home plate.

NL CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs (31-21): The difference between this year and last is notable in one specific area: Starting pitching. Zambrano is still here and while Lilly has had his ups and downs, he leads the team in strikeouts. Dempster is solid and even Kerry Wood seems to be healthy. For now. One thing is for sure with this team – when they are playing their best, they are nearly impossible to beat.

Fun Fact: Chicago produced the first Cracker Jacks which somehow prompted a 100 year championship drought for the Cubs.

St Louis Cardinals (30-23): Albert Pujols currently has this line: .360/12 HR/34 RBI/44 BB/19 SO and nobody is talking about him. Have we completely taken him for granted at this stage of his career? Combined with Ludwick, Ankiel, Molina, and Glaus you can see why Branden Looper’s 5.05 ERA still has earned him 6 wins. Look for them to trade for pitching very soon.

Fun Fact: Tony LaRussa has no DUI charges in almost a year. That’s a record for him.

Houston Astros (30-23): If you told me Roy Oswalt would have an ERA over 5 and the Astros would still have 30 wins I would have called you a liar. LIAR!!!! Instead we have Berkman imitating Babe Ruth, Tejada looking younger than his fake age, young gun Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee tearing up the league. This is actually a fun team to watch and I’m still waiting to see when opposing teams will begin walking Berkman. It has to happen sometime, right?

Fun Fact: There has been talk of a Roger Clemens appreciation day, but he refuses to lie down on the left field train tracks.

Milwaukee Brewers (25-27): This team shouldn’t be very upset at where they stand right now. Despite having the all steroid bullpen without benefit of steroids, they are only 6 games back with plenty of time to go. Prince Fielder is having a tough year, so far, but expect him to pick it up. In the meantime Corey Hart, Ryan Braun and Gabe Kapler (yeah him!) have picked up some of the slack. If Ben Sheets and Suppan can stay healthy, they should be in this until the end.

Fun Fact: Julian Tavarez has yet to give up a run in the National League. He’s only pitched one inning, but that’s still impressive.

Pittsburgh Pirates (24-27): With Jason Bay, Xavier Nady and Nate McLouth hitting the ball all over the park, this team is much better than anyone could have thought. If Freddy Sanchez comes around this could be a legitimately scary lineup. The problem (as with most teams) is pitching. Duke, Maholm, Snell and Marte are serviceable and nothing more. If one or two of them can figure things out, the Pirates might be surprising and frustrating a lot of teams in the coming months.

Fun Fact: The city of Pittsburgh was ranked in the top five Most Livable Cities back in 1983. This was also the last time the Pirates were any good.

Cincinnati Reds (24-28): While I haven’t been a big Dusty Baker fan, I must admit he’s doing a good job considering what he’s got to work with. Jeff Keppinger (remember that name), Ryan Freel and Adam Dunn make this a dangerous lineup even though Ken Griffey Jr is still prominently involved. The big story is Edinson Volquez and his 7-2 record, 1.31 ERA, though. Most of us have never heard of this dude but he’s been the best starter in either league. Go figure.

Fun Fact: Rumor has it that the Reds would trade Ken Griffey Jr back to Seattle for a $25 Starbucks card and a first print edition of Pearl Jam's '10'.

NL WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks (30-22): The impression of this team was their starting pitching would carry them to the playoffs (and Webb, Owings and Haren have done their part), but their lineup is much more effective than anyone thought. Orlando Hudson, Conor Jackson, Stephen Drew, Justin Upton are all having solid years. Strangely, last year’s dynamo, Eric Byrnes, is only hitting .219. If he ever gets going, this team will be scary good.

Fun Fact: Even though nobody accidentally drowned, the Diamondbacks removed the swimming pool in center field. They should have left it there and had smoking hot models lounging in teeny tiny bikinis whenever the opposing team was on the field. Idiots!

Los Angeles Dodgers (26-25): So much for the Joe Torre effect. True, they did win a bunch of games in a row (was it more than 10?), but they’ve fallen on tough times lately. I know you’ll be shocked to learn Nomar’s been hurt much of the season and Derek Lowe has an ERA over 5….again, but it’s true. Brad Penny has been subpar, Jason Schmidt has yet to be seen and Rafael Furcal went down for a bit. If this team can get healthy and obtain another solid starter, expect them to make a run.

Fun Fact: Unconfirmed rumors abound that Nomar injured himself filming that Gatorade commercial with his wife, Mia Hamm. Not bowling, however, but just sitting on that couch while talking to the camera.

San Francisco Giants (21-31): What are they doing in third place, you ask? Well, take a look at the two teams below them first. Then take into account Tim Linecum came back better than ever, Matt Cain holding his own (temporarily, at least), Aaron Rowand, Bengie Molina, and Randy Winn having solid seasons and you can see why they snuck in here. If either of the teams below can get their shit together, don’t expect the Giants to be here very long.

Fun Fact: The tides in San Francisco Bay have been strangely mild since Barry Bonds’ huge head left the city.

Colorado Rockies (20-32): The World Series hangover is kicking this team’s ass. Caught lightning in a bottle last year, but doesn’t seem to be carrying over. Holliday, Atkins and Helton are all having good years but under them there isn’t much to talk about. On the pitching side, the Mark Redman experiment is not going well and except for Aaron Cook and their bullpen there isn’t much help to be seen. If they can trade for or find another good starter in their farm system they might hang in, but it’s not looking good.

Fun Fact: Just because it’s called Coors Field doesn’t mean you get free beer at the ballpark. Bummer.

San Diego Padres (20-33): Last season’s pathetic offense somehow got downgraded to awful. It was so bad, they took a chance on Jim Edmonds who wound up hitting a whopping .186 before being released back into the wild. Jake Peavy currently has a better average than Giles, Gonzalez, Greene and Iguchi. That’s bad. What’s worse is the pitching that kept them afloat last year hasn’t been nearly as good. Peavy is still in top form, but Maddux, Young (on the DL now) and Wolf aren’t nearly as effective as they have been in the past. Oh, and Mark Prior is hurt again. Completely unexpected, I know.

Fun Fact: San Diego’s Zoo claims it could totally kick the Cincinnati Zoo’s ass with one hand tied behind it’s back.

Today’s distraction: Ten things once thought to be impossible. I would like to point out the bottom one as my dream. Imagine being able to go anywhere in the world by stepping through a door. Sure you’d have to be taken apart at a molecular level and carefully pieced back together, but think of the possibilities.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

AL Roundup

You know what? I need some cheering up and nothing makes me happier than checking in on the state of baseball. Let’s start with American League and run it down old school. Boo Yeah!!!

AL EAST

* All stats as of 5/27/08

Tampa Bay Rays (31-20): NOTE: This is not a typo. The Rays really are in first place. Put away the guns and come out of the fallout shelter. While we all suspected they would be better than usual, this is still surprising. Pena is keeping up his power numbers from last year, Upton is proving he belongs, Crawford is Crawford. But the biggest difference has been the pitching. 4th in ERA, 5th in quality starts and 5th in saves. FIFTH!! That’s like one below fourth! The Rays! Tampa Bay! Holy shit, this might become a regular place for them if this keeps up. Who knew dropping part of their name would have this much effect.

Fun Fact: Carl Crawford has been on the Devil Rays/Just Rays for six years and he has already won more games this year than all the other years combined.

Boston Red Sox (32-22): While they’ve still been killer at home, Red Sox Nation is a bit worried about their lackluster road record. After dropping an entire series in Oakland, they now stand at 11-17 away from Fenway. Granted they’ve had one of the toughest opening schedules, it’s still not comforting.

Fun Fact: I still haven’t been to a game this year. Wait, that isn’t fun at all.

Toronto Blue Jays (28-25): After cutting ties with Frank Thomas, they’ve sort of come together. Still have stellar pitching with Halladay, Marcum and now Jesse Litsch (who should level off at some point). Throw in Ryan as closer and this is a tough team to score runs on. Fortunately their lineup has been bordering on anemic. The Rolen trade has been a wash, Wells still hasn’t figured out what made 2006 so spectacular and Overbay at .280 something is their most reliable hitter. I suppose if they get healthy a run is possible, but look for this team to trade for hitting if things don’t straighten out soon.

Fun Fact: With Frank Thomas and the Jays having words last month, Toronto has now had two ugly parting of ways with their players. That said, Shea Hillenbrand getting into a fist fight with the manager then calling the GM gay will never be topped.

Baltimore Orioles (25-25): It says a lot about a team that being at .500 at the end of May is considered a pleasant surprise. Take a look at their batting stats and wonder how they’re even at this spot. Ugly! They don’t have one regular hitting above .260. No really! LOOK! How the hell has this team won 25 games? Look for a crash to earth real soon.

Fun Fact: Kevin Millar still thinks he’s playing for the 2004 Red Sox.

New York Yankees (25-26): Once again the Yankees have their entire fan base freaked out by a slow start. Sure they’ve been here before, but this year feels different. Their lineup is creaky and aging; the young pitchers they were hoping would transition smoothly are shitting the bed in dramatic fashion; their loud, crazy owner is pressuring management to put their one reliable setup guy into the starting rotation and it seems like nobody talks to any other guy on the team. Just a weird vibe with this team. Which of course means they’ll win 12 games in a row very shortly.

Fun Fact: Jason Giambi has now gone 282 straight days without washing his hair.

AL CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox (28-22): When you think of the White Sox, what do you think about? Right, their borderline insane manager. But after that, you think of their potent lineup. But this year it’s been their pitching getting them through. They lead the league in quality starts and fewest runs given up. The lineup has been decent (Thome, Swisher and Konerko all hitting below .210 is a MAJOR concern) except for one Carlos Quentin who has been nothing short of spectacular. How does .302/14 HR/44 RBI sound? Before friggin’ June? Sounds like a potential MVP season in the making is what it sounds like.

Fun Fact: Unbeknownst to the White Sox, Jim Thome is trying to hit nothing but home runs this year.

Minnesota Twins (25-25): There is a lesson here. I’m not sure I know what it is, but when a certain team is constantly in the pennant race every year despite having one of the cheapest owners in history, then other teams need to take notice. My guess is the difference is scouting. And not just young players, but other team’s players. I’ve lost count of how many prospects they’ve acquired from other teams that – after a year or two of minor league seasoning – start making an impact at the pro level. If you need an example, watch Carlos Gomez play. 22 years old, came over in the Johan trade and is only replacing Torii Hunter.

Fun Fact: Downtown Minneapolis is connected by over seven miles of skywalks which are held together by bubblebum and string.

Cleveland Indians (23-28): Here’s the thing. Cliff Lee is 7-1 with a ridiculously low 1.50 ERA and we all know he can’t keep pitching this well. CC Sabathia is 3-6 with a 4.74 ERA and we all know he can’t keep pitching this badly. So do those two even themselves out? I say yes. But the bigger problem is this lineup which seems to be regressing before our eyes. Hafner and Sizemore seem like impostors, Jhonny Peralta leads the team with 10 homers but is hitting a paltry .218. At what point does Cleveland fire their hitting instructor?

Fun Fact: Eric Wedge costarred with Cher in ‘Mask’.

Kansas City Royals (21-30): Just when they look like they’re pulling themselves out, they lose 8 straight (and counting). Unlike the Twins, this team can’t seem to get any home grown talent to blossom. They keep calling up young ‘uns with great promise only to watch them flame out. I actually root for this team to do well, because I remember their glory years with Brett back in the 80s. It’s sad to see a franchise with this kind of history dwindle to insignificance.

Fun Fact: George Brett and Brett Michaels are not related, despite Michaels’ claim.

Detroit Lions (21-30): On the other hand, they aren’t the Tigers. Holy shit what is going on here? They’ve got one of the highest payrolls in baseball and a manager everyone respects and they still suck. And I mean that in the worst way possible. The lineup is still decent, but not nearly as scary as it looks on paper. The starting pitching has been awful with the bullpen downgrading to abysmal. It’s a horror show whenever this team gets into the later innings. Needless to say, I’ve been highly entertained by this team. I love when a team rolls the dice with an blockbuster trade (is Dontrelle Willis still on the team?) and massive contract to a star player only to go blind when things blow up in their face like a prank cigar. Good times!

Fun Fact: Jim Leyland burns himself with a cigarette every time his bullpen blows a game.

AL WEST

Los Angeles Angels (31-22): Considering the makeup of this team in both pitching and hitting, you would think they would be running away with this division. That’s the thing about the AL this year. There are no stand out teams, yet. We’re two months into the season and most of the teams are solidly average. Anyway, with a starting rotation consisting of Santana, Garland, Weaver (Jered, not Jeff - sorry Mariner fans), and Lackey, this team should be building a mountain of wins and hiding until October. Instead they’ve only built a 2 game lead on Oakland, a team nobody expected anything out of. If they don’t start piling on things could get dicey after July.

Fun Fact: Even though they are called the LA Angels, they play at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. OK, maybe that wasn’t such a fun fact.

Oakland Athletics (28-23): Once again the A’s have pulled young pitching out of some bottomless pit of an organizational ass. Where do they come from? Do they have a pitching cloning contraption in the basement or something? This year’s ‘Who the fuck are they’ award goes to Dana Eveland who, despite sounding like the latest Vivid Video star, has an ERA of 2.90 and Justin Duchscherer who nearly no hit the Red Sox last weekend. How does this keep happening? Is Satan scouting for them? I demand an investigation.

Fun Fact: Of all the teams in the AL, the Athletics are the team most likely to sign Barry Bonds then prance him around San Fran hoping to run into ex-fans of his.

Texas Rangers (26-27): Meet Josh Hamilton. Perhaps you’re familiar with his work. He’s currently hitting .327 with 12 homers, 53 RBIs and has everyone talking about our beloved Yaz. Why? Well, Mr. Hamilton is in the running for the triple crown at the moment. We know it won’t last, but let Hamilton enjoy his time in the limelight. Like Chipper Jones hitting .400, we know it won’t last, but it’s fun to talk about. The team itself is surprisingly competent, although that will probably go to shit once they sell Michael Young off to the highest bidder.

Fun Fact: David Murphy is hitting .286/6 HR/35 RBI. Wonder what happened to Eric Gagne?

Seattle Mariners (18-34): Here’s all you need to know about this team. King Felix is 2-5 with a 3.60 ERA. The rest of their starters are as follows. Silva (5.14 ERA), Bedard when healthy (4.60), Batista (6.09), and Washburn (6.54). Basically the Mariners have to score at least 7 runs every game in order to have a chance at winning. In a completely related note, they are currently hitting .250 as a team. Alrighty then.

Fun Fact: Richie Sexon is currently hitting .200 which makes that one point in his batting average per million dollars he’s being paid.

That’s it folks. I just saw that Dice K is hurt and the Sox lost to the Mariners last night. Fingers crossed that he won’t be out long.

Today's distraction: Bush's old spokesman is releasing a book in which he thinks...uh...he's pretty sure he lied for the President when defending the Iraq war and the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. That he hasn't said anything until it came time to promote his book is questionable, at best, but does this really surprise anyone?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Insanity Times Ten

Days like this can kiss my ass.

There. I feel better. This morning has been insanity to the tenth power. I didn’t even sign into my computer until 11:30 this morning which is blasphemy in my book. Unholy!

Anyway, things have calmed down so I can now share my weekend with you. Calm down, I know you’re super excited about it. Try not to wet your pants in anticipation.

- Speaking of wetting one’s pants, we once again tried to get three year old off diapers and failed miserably. He will go on the toilet, but once he’s outside running around, he’ll just wet his pants rather than come inside. I think he’s just lazy! No idea where he got that trait.

- On a related note, I wound up doing about 400 loads of laundry this weekend. No clue how we got so many clothes, but I can say with pride that I did not use my dryer for any of them. They were hung out on our clothes line to dry and – thanks to sun and 50 mile an hour winds – they were dry in about 30 minutes. I figure it’s time to start doing my share to save energy even if it means my long term goal of having beach front property suffers.

- Besides helping the environment, it was fun to see wifey’s reaction when she came outside and noticed her panties flapping in the breeze.

- Last Tuesday my seven year old came to me close to tears. He said he didn’t want to play baseball anymore because ‘I stink! I can’t get a hit!’ This is his first year of minors and I told him he’s going through a transition phase. ‘All kids go through this,’ I told him, ‘Here is what I want you to do for the rest of this season. Just swing at good pitches and don’t swing at bad ones. I don’t care if you strike out every time. Besides you’re very good in the field, so you’re still helping out your team by playing.’ (You think Julio Lugo gets encouragement like this?)

So Saturday’s game arrives and his first at bat comes with the bases loaded. Walk.

Next at bat comes with the bases loaded. Single past the first baseman.

Next at bat comes with the bases loaded. Another walk.

He struck out his last at bat, but by that point it would have been gravy. To top it all off, he made three killer stops at third base prompting his coach to give him the game ball. After the game I made fun of his previous whining with a mocking ‘Yeah, I can’t play baseball. I stink!’ which made him laugh. He was in a great mood the rest of the weekend.

- I don’t get this Celtics team. When they need to win, they are focused and intense. This is the playoffs, guys. You should be focused and intense every game. Get your shit together or you’ll be golfing in two weeks instead of trying to alter your legacy.

- This is simply a question, so don’t get all pissy with me. Is the price of gas going up a bad thing?

- If you missed it, Sydney Pollack died yesterday. I bring this up because Pollack directed what I consider to be one of the most under appreciated movies of our generation. Well, ok, my generation. The movie is ‘Absence of Malice’ starring Paul Newman and Sally Field. All his tributes will mention ‘Tootsie’ (as they should), but this thriller/drama was far ahead of it’s time. A cynical, grumpy, cautionary tale about the responsibilities of the media. I just rewatched it recently and it’s still as relevant as ever. Plus it’s intelligent and entertaining when Newman’s character gets pissed off. Highly recommended if you haven’t seen it. Or even if you have.

- Reason the internet is the greatest invention ever #432: Sitting at the bar Saturday night, two guys ask me who the Celtics traded Chauncey Billups for. Neither they nor my buddy could think of it. So I pulled out my BlackBerry and Googled it. Answer: Kenny Anderson. They actually traded Billups to Toronto for Kenny Anderson. This happened during the dark ages in Celtics lore known as The Rick Pitino Era. I just got the shivers remembering it.

- For those who sneak naps during the work day, I have good news! Snooze in peace, my fellow slackers.

- If I’m a Titans fan, there is no way this story is making me feel confident in my young quarterback. This is the guy that’s suppose to be making the tough decisions and helping his teammates maintain their composure in the heat of battle. And he almost quits after one season? Let’s hope this is just the maturation process and not something more telling.

- An East Carolina biologist has decided to name a new species of spider after Neil Young. While I can only assume this idea originated from too much time spent listening to his iPod on ‘Repeat’ and/or too much recreational drug use, this dude said about Young: ‘I really enjoy his music and have had a great appreciation of him as an activist for peace and justice’. What he didn’t admit was having an obsession for model trains. Believe it, man. Word is the new spider rode one around the lab in celebration of his new name.

- OK, busy today. One more thing. I’m beginning my new workout routine in the attempt to get my lazy ass back in shape. Over a year ago I did my own personal March Madness and lost 14 pounds in 31 days. Going to try something similar. Will weigh myself tonight and keep you all up to date on my progress. That is if the gym is open like I expect. More to follow.

Today’s distraction: The top ten newly discovered species. Luckily for us these include one of the most venomous snakes ever found and a jellyfish that is named after the dude it killed. There is also a freaky looking millipede for your viewing pleasure. Can’t wait to find that thing in my bed.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Man Rules

There are some unwritten rules all men are supposed to follow during their lives. I would not only like to get them in writing, but re-examine a few of them. Keep in mind, too, that all rules have exceptions. We’ll address those, as well.

If I miss any it’s because they are unwritten. Why is it left to me to write down unwritten rules? What the hell? Like I have nothing better to do?

Oh, right.

Let’s get to it.

1: NEVER HAVE SEX WITH YOUR FRIEND’S SISTER.

Validity: (on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being most valid) 9

Considerations: First, exactly how hot is this sister? For example, if she’s so hot that even her brother realizes it, that’s pretty damn hot (like Jessica Biel hot) and you may want to risk the friendship.

Second, how close are you to this friend? If he’s your best friend then it doesn’t matter how hot she is. You don’t go near her without expressed written approval of best friend. And even then it might be a test and you should stay away.

Lastly, is sister really, REALLY into you? If there is definite chemistry there, it might be worth exploring, but only after taking the first two into account.

Bottom Line: Let’s use this equation - Hotness of sister minus strength of male bond plus how much sister likes you.

An example. A friend of yours that you really only see during your monthly poker games has a sister that looks like a 23 year old Michelle Pfeiffer and she really likes you. You would calculate it this way:

Hotness of sister = 9

Strength of bond = 5

How much sister likes you = 8

9 – 5 = 4 + 8 = 12. This means you should go for it. Friendship be damned.

You’ll notice that if any variance of the factors could sway things one way or the other. As another example let’s say this guy is one of your five closet friends. That would push the male bonding factor to at least an 8. And if the sister was not showing any sort of interest in you, that would drop to around 3 (mainly because most guys are deluded when considering how much a girl likes them. In reality it would be zero and she’s just being civil).

That would make this equation 9 – 8 + 3 = 4. I say the sum should be more than 8 to even entertain the idea. This is a touchy one, so the consideration number needs to be high.

Agreed?

2: NEVER DATE/HAVE SEX WITH YOUR FRIEND’S EX GIRLFRIEND.

Validity: 8. I never did this because I would have felt weird and all my buddy’s girlfriends were annoying as hell. Still….

Considerations: Please refer to Rule # 1, but let’s add two more variables.

Length of time since breakup. If the friend of yours dated this girl three or more years ago.

Intensity of previous relationship. Let’s face it, sometimes people date for a bit, realize they’re not right for each other and move on. No hard feelings.

Bottom Line: Basically the same equation as the sister, but let’s add in the two new considerations.

Hotness of girl – male bond + how much girl likes you + time since breakup – intensity of previous relationship.

Example. A buddy of yours that rates on a 7 scale dated a girl that is an 8 and seems to like you. But he broke up with her 4 years ago and really wasn’t that into her. The equation would look something like this:

8 – 7 + 5 + 4 – 5 (I give a five for the relationship just because it’s safe. Chances are the friend will downgrade the seriousness of it just to save face).

This equals a 5. Not enough to take a chance. Of course if any of the variables changes, then you need to recalculate.

Let’s agree that this needs to be at least a 6 to proceed. Is that too low? I can be talked into 7 here.

3: NO SEX WITH SAME GIRL YOUR BROTHER HAD SEX WITH

Validity:
10

Considerations: Absolutely none. Unless you are a vindictive scumbag that wants to show up your brother for the wedgie he gave you back in second grade, this one is inexcusable.

Bottom line: Don’t. Under any circumstances. You’ll cause a life long grudge between you and your brother and possibly splinter the family into warring factions for eternity. I don’t care if your brother’s girlfriend looks like Jessica Alba and she is lying naked in your bed.

Wait……

Bad example.


4: PERFORM BACKUP DUTIES FOR FRIEND HOOKING UP WITH HOTTIE (AKA: BEING WINGMAN).

Validity: 7

Considerations: Several here.

How hot is girl the friend is trying to score?

How nasty is the girl you need to cover?

How long has it been since friend has been laid?

How ‘in debt’ are you to this friend? In other words, has he backed you up at some point? This is highly relevant in this situation.

The strength of the male bond.

Bottom Line: This needs it’s own equation.

Hotness of girl – hotness of friend + sex drought + dept to friend + male bond.

So, if the girl was an 8, her friend a 6 but you’re friend just got laid last weekend and he bailed on you last month in a similar situation, then here’s what you’d have.

7 – 4 (you have to reverse the friend hotness in this case. In other words if she’s a 6, then enter in 4 here) + 1 + 0 + 7 would equal 10. You’re performing wing man duties, my friend.

One other note on this equation. I’ve tipped this towards having to be the backup. In other words it’s weighted towards almost always having to be the wing man. I figure it’s an important role and, unless there is some outstanding issue, you shouldn’t bail on your friend if it means he could score a hottie. Priorities!


5: NEVER FOOL AROUND WITH ANOTHER MAN’S GIRLFRIEND/FINACEE.

Validity: 6, but this will differ depending on the status of the relationship. Please see below.

Considerations: This is a tricky one because of the varying degrees of relationship here. Originally I had wife in here, as well, but figured that needs to have it’s own section. So let’s just focus on serious relationships that are still pre-marriage.

Severity of relationship

Hotness of girl (as always)

Relationship of you and other man


Bottom Line: The biggest factor here would be the severity of the girl’s relationship. Any relationship over a year needs to be - at the lowest - ranked at 5. If they are living together, add 2 points. So a year and they are living together would rank at a 7.

The next biggest factor would be the relationship between you and the other guy. If you don’t know him at all, then it’s a non factor. If you met him a couple of times, maybe a 2. If you met and hung out with him it depends on whether you liked him or not. If you did, then it’s got to at least be a 6. If not, then a 4.

Example: You and a girl you work with get along great and there is some flirtation. Let’s put the girl at a 7, she’s been dating her boyfriend for two years but they are not living together. You have only met her boyfriend once at a company outing and he was a complete tool. We could rank things like this –

Hotness of girl = 7

Relationship – let’s put it at 6. Two years is a long time, but not living together by now could mean something is up.

Male bonding factor = 0

You know what? I’m adding another factor in here. Physical comparison between you and the boyfriend. If you’ve met him and he’s 160 pounds soaking wet and looks like a heroin addict, then chances are he won’t try to take you on in a fight. Let’s say this boyfriend and you are evenly matched. We’ll put it at a 5.

The equation would then look like this:

6 – 7 + 0 + 5 = 4. See? Still might not be worth messing around with her.

By the way, if girlfriend is currently a fiancée the relationship ranking is at least a 9. Possibly a 10. This means you stay away.

OK, now that I’ve put that out there, I need to disclose that during my college years I was the other guy for a while. I never met the guy so the equation actually stands up. Plus she was easily an 8 and we had a really good time together.

Also, I did mess around with another guy’s fiancée, BUT she had called it off temporarily and even given back the ring. At least, that’s what she told me and I chose to believe her. I should note that this girl was a 9 and would have believe her if she told me the earth was a triangle.


6: NEVER FOOL AROUND WITH ANOTHER MAN’S WIFE.

Validity: 9

Considerations: None here, really. Unless you know the wife is truly unhappy and the guy is already cheating on her, don’t even go there. You know what? If you did know all that then you are too close to the situation and you are in no spot to be the rebound guy.

Bottom Line: Unless there is a legal separation between the two and divorce is imminent, stay the fuck away from this. No woman is worth having some dude take a baseball bat to your car or, even more importantly, your head. There are plenty of other women out there and if you really do like this girl, then have her deal with the husband first.

That’s it for now. Men, did I miss anything? I’m sure I have, but let’s compile those for the next edition of man rules.

Today’s distraction: More body art, only this is more like it! Not safe for work, if you happen to be there, but it's actually very cool. That this artist managed to get smoking hot models to not only pose for him (assuming this is a guy) but let themselves be painted is a testament to this guy. He really belongs in the guy Hall of Fame. Wow, I just thought of another post.....

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bloody Sock Syndrome

We’ve all been there. Or you who get your asses off the couch, anyway. We’re out playing basketball or working in the yard or moving a friend. Nothing seems out of the ordinary until you get home after an exhaustingly long day.

You take your sneakers or boots or shoes off when suddenly…’Oh…shit..’

Nothing feels wrong, yet your sock is soaked with blood. This happened to me yesterday when the bandage from my nasty blister somehow jarred loose and my sneaker wound up rubbing against the raw skin on my walk home. It didn’t hurt at all. In fact, I didn’t even know anything was wrong until I took my sneakers off.

It was minor, but launched a train of thought that led to the creation of my ‘Bloody Sock Syndrome’. It’s that ‘Oh shit!’ moment where something might be wrong but you’re not sure what or something is happening that you're convinced will end horribly. Ninety percent of the time there is nothing to be concerned about. Regardless, you get that fidgety worm of anxiety in the pit of your stomach; the start of that cold bubble of dread that spreads to your blood stream and gets the heart pumping a bit faster.

Here, in all their glory, are those moments in which you are most likely to experience Bloody Sock Syndrome.

Emergency Vehicles: This is the worst. When you turn onto your street and find police cars, ambulances, fire trucks or any combo thereof clustered in the general area of your house. The ultimate ‘Oh, shit’ moment of anyone’s life. You imagination runs wild with ‘Did somebody die?’, ‘Was there a fire?’, ‘Did someone kidnap my child?’, or any other worst case scenario. Usually it doesn’t even involve your own family, but a neighbor that over cooked the Jiffy Pop or forgot to disarm their own alarm system.

Broken Window: Either on your car or your house. With the car you can be pretty damn sure something’s been stolen, but with the house it could have been some stupid bird that decided to attack it’s own reflection or some kid who threw a rock through it. Damn kids! The first indicator of this is the glass on the ground. But BSS kicks in when you finally figure out that glass used to be intact and on something you own.

Bizarre Vehicle Sounds: Any strange sound that seems to be emanating from your car. This will include high pitched screeching or a disturbing grinding. Even a low grumble will do, but this can only qualify as BSS if one of the following conditions are in place:

1: You are in the middle of nowhere and miles from any man made source of light. Like the desert.

2: You are trying to get to a life altering event. Like a wedding in which you play a prominent part or funeral of a close friend or family member.

Most of the time the noises are street related. Like driving over a rumble strip you didn’t notice or a homeless person.

NOTE: Due to the invention and prevalence of cell phones, this one is occurring less and less frequently.

Near Car Accident: I’ve had more of these than I care to admit. There is that horrible moment of anticipation where you think ‘there is no way this is going to end well’ before both vehicles miraculously avoid each other. My most memorable came when I was in the passenger seat of a friend’s car. It was snowing out and we thought it would be fun to do donuts in the back parking lot of school. Admittedly it was fun, but during our last run my friend lost complete control. The car did a lazy half spin and slid towards a huge boulder by the side of the lot. We kept getting closer and closer; the boulder getting larger and larger in the passenger window while showing no signs of slowing down. Convinced we were going to slam into it hard, I braced myself and leaned away from the door. Somehow, we stopped inches short of the rock. All I could see in my window was rock. Nothing but rock and the inside of my door.

Phew!

Did I Shut Off The…..?: You are away at someone’s house or on vacation and the thought strikes you. ‘Did I turn off the…?’ To qualify for BSS this can only apply to some appliance that has the potential to burn your house to the ground. Usually the iron, oven, or stove top. Thankfully, I never cook unless it’s in a Toast R Oven or Microwave and those turn off automatically. In fact, most irons will turn off after a certain amount of time now, too so this BSS situation is becoming scarce.

Missing Tickets: I know you have all had this moment. You get to the airport or train station and suddenly can’t find your tickets. You KNOW you packed them but after 10 minutes of digging can’t find them. They usually turn up in some hidden side pouch or…ahem…your back pocket, but you are in full fledged BSS mode for at least five minutes.

NOTE (again): Yet another BSS moment that’s going the way of the DoDo. I noticed that those self serve kiosks now have an option to reprint your boarding pass. So now instead of freaking out, you simply walk to a kiosk, swipe your credit card and ask for a new boarding pass. Ain’t technology grand?

Lost wallet: This has happened to me twice and I never want it to happen again. Luckily both times I’ve found it and haven’t had to replace every credit card and drivers license I had. That would have sucked.

Subsection A: Realizing you’ve lost or had stolen a shit load of money.

Locking Keys In House/Car: I’ve done both more than once. There is that moment as the door is closing that you realize the keys are sitting on the passenger seat. I had this happen to me with a car I just bought and nearly caught the door as it was closing. Missed it by centimeters. Fortunately, I was quite adept with a wire hanger and managed to get it unlocked within a half hour. By the way, this happened to me the same week as nearly smashing into the big rock so you have a glimpse of what my high school life was like.

Oddly, locking yourself out of your house is less of a hassle. Both times I did this I could climb in through some unlocked window. Sorry, potential burglars, I ain’t telling you where I live.

Birth Control Failure: The most common being a broken condom. Ladies and gents of all ages have had this horrible BSS moment. It’s a universal source of dismay and weeks worth of hand wringing until the lovely lady’s monthly visitor arrives. And it better fucking arrive!!

Losing a Child in a Large Crowd: This can be downright terrifying. Any parent can tell you this usually turns out fine, but on the BSS scale it’s right at the top.

That’s all I’ve got this morning. In my defense I only slept 4 hours last night and have yet to have coffee. That’s right, I even put off my morning coffee so I can entertain and distract you from doing any real work.

I know, I know. I do rule!

Today’s distraction: 15 ways to relax at work. I already do numbers 8, 9, on occasion 10, 11 and 14. I'd like to add number 16: Get people you like involved in an office beer o'clock! Promotes camaraderie, alcoholism and reduces stress. If you do it early enough you can have several people doing a number 10 on company time.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Goosebump Nation

Last week I just happened to throw out what I thought the definition of a ‘goosebump’ moment in sports should constitute. To expand on that a bit, I maintain a true goosebump moment should have three criteria:

1: It needs to be completely unexpected or spontaneous. The moment that still gives me chills is when Mike Eruzione summoned up the entire 1980 US Hockey Team to the podium during the gold medal presentation.

2: It should have some historic significance. Ted Williams being carted out in at the beginning of the 1999 All Star Game in Fenway. Even while you were watching the players congregate around Williams for an impromptu baseball chat, you knew you would remember it forever.

3: There is an emotional undercurrent that stresses the importance of what is happening. The 2004 Red Sox World Series being the most prominent in my memories. Nearly a century of frustration, bitterness and longing wiped out in 8 glorious games.

I mentioned a few of my favorite goosebump moments as being Bird’s 60 point game, Jordan’s Flu Game against Utah, Joe Carter’s World Series winning home run, the aforementioned ’99 All Star Game, and Henderson’s steal of Magic Johnson’s lazy pass in 1984.

I have a new one now. One that, quite possibly, could top the list.

Last night Jon Lester threw a no hitter for the Red Sox. Yes, I know Clay Buchholz just did the same thing last season, but this one has more significance. Just writing the first sentence of this section gave me chills. Buchholz’ was exciting and his dazzling array of pitches awe inspiring, but I don’t get goosebumps thinking about his no hitter. It was only his second major league start and we didn't know him that well. We do now, of course, but at the time it was like watching the kid that just moved in down the street pitch a no hitter.

Lester looked phenomenal last night. His fastball was in the mid to upper 90s most of the night. His irritating habit of getting behind batters was only seen a few times and his knee buckling curve ball was in perfect form. He put the ball right where Varitek wanted it all night and – except for two walks and a horrible pick off attempt – he was nearly flawless.

Yet, it’s more than that. Just a year ago Lester was going through radiation and chemotherapy for Lymphoma. While I can only imagine the toll that takes on a person’s body (the body is basically being poisoned to kill off the cancer), one of the few people I like and respect in my office had the exact same cancer and the exact same treatment. I talked to her nearly two years after she was diagnosed and a little over a year since she had ended her chemo. She told me that she was just then feeling back to normal; that she had awaken one morning and for the first time she could remember felt ‘ok’. Not great or good or healthy, but just ok. To her that was a significant moment.

We actually talked about Lester for a bit during our chat because I told her I always think of her when I watch him pitch. The two of them will always be intertwined in my mind. Just last month I asked when she would know if she was completely free of cancer. ‘Seven years’, she said. It will take seven years of constant blood testing and monthly doctor visits to know whether she is finally free of the disease. ‘One down, six to go’, she replied, then laughed and continued on her way. Yeah, she’s like that.

Now imagine going through that and having to come back and pitch professional baseball for a living. It was emotional enough last season watching his first start since being diagnosed; his parents in the stands holding their breath for every pitch. The classy standing ovation he received from the Cleveland crowd when he departed the game. The stamina, persistence and stubbornness this kid must possess I doubt could be measured.

Yet, it’s more than that. This is another testament to how well the Red Sox organization is drafting, grooming and prepping their young players to succeed at a major league level. First Buchholz, now Lester. But look to center field where Ellsbury is thriving. Or look to first base where Youk is having another Gold Glove season. Just to his left is Pedroia aka Rookie of the Year 2007. Or look to third or shortstop where Jed Lowry already has people excited about a possible Lugo trade. Or Brandon Moss winning the first game of the season with a ninth inning homer. In Japan.

Yet, it’s more than that. By all accounts, Lester is one of the best people in baseball. Humble, gracious, professional, well liked by his peers, hard working and down to earth. The tearful hug by Francona last night; the joyful presentation of the ball by Varitek; the giddy celebration by his teammates on the field said it all.

Yet, it’s more than that. This wasn’t just another Red Sox pitcher throwing a no hitter, it was one of our sons. A member of our family. Someone we watched grow up in front of us. A kid who matured from shaky and erratic to solid starter on a world championship team to historic. We weathered the cancer like concerned friends and choked up a bit when he won the clinching game of last year’s series. While he has never been spectacular, we knew he had it in him and rooted for him. In a lot of ways, we rooted for him more than others. We had more invested in him. When rumors swirled that he may be included in a Santana trade, I was torn. Sure Johan is one of the best pitchers of our generation, but Lester is my main emotional connection to this team.

Still, it’s even more than that. Two years ago I had tickets to a Sox game and promised my then 5 year old we would go. Unfortunately, it was down pouring all night and into the following game day. The Friday night game was rained out and there was confusion about make up dates. Our game was scheduled for a 12:30 start, so we headed into Boston around 11 am with no idea whether the game would even be played. We sat and had lunch in the McDonalds around the corner from Fenway and talked about what we would do if the game was called.

I would call home to get updates from wifey and ask vendors on the street what they had heard. All news pointed to our game being played at some point. So we stayed in Boston. We walked around and checked out the shops. Five year old was a trooper and a couple of friends were kind enough to let us hang out in their apartment for a few hours while we waited for news. By 4pm, it was clear that if either of the games were to be played it would be ours. The sun was peaking through and all the weather reports were looking good.

We headed to Fenway, found our spectacular seats right by Pesky’s Pole, had to get a bunch of napkins to wipe dry the seats and hunkered in for the duration. Game time was about an hour and half away, but five year old was in his glory. We watched the outfielders warm up. Five year old was right down by the field when Trot Nixon jogged past and got a ‘Hey, kid’ and chuckle from him when my son yelled ‘Hi Trot Nixon!’ to him. I still think it’s the highlight of his young life.

While we sat watching the beautiful, blue sky emerge over the Green Monster, five year old pointed over in front of the Boston bullpen. ‘Dad, who’s that?’ I looked over and didn’t recognize the number on the jersey. ‘Not sure,’ I replied, ‘could be one of the bullpen pitchers warming up’.

Ten minutes later, he looks up at the Fenway scoreboard and asks ‘Who’s Jon Lester?’. I follow his gaze and realize Lester is the game’s starting pitcher. Injuries, delayed and postponed games forced the Sox to call him up at the last minute. I had heard of him, but never seen him before. I said ‘Hey, we get to see Jon Lester’s first professional start.’

My son mulls this over for a minute. ‘Does that mean he’s never pitched before?’. ‘No, it means he has never pitched in the Major Leagues before. He’s been pitching for Pawtucket all year’.

Another minute goes by. ‘Sooooo, this is the first time he’s pitched for the Red Sox? The first time he’s pitched in Fenway?’ Yes to both, I tell him.

Another moment of child contemplation and a grin spreads across his face. ‘Cool…’

Today’s distraction: Ways to donate to cancer charities. This is just one option and while people will point out we are no closer to a cure, Jon Lester proves we are much more capable of not just surviving, but thriving.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Weekend Updates

Some events from the weekend that was. Let’s break it down by categories today.

It’s A Small World

Spent Friday night at my buddy’s place. Met his new dog (or his substitute child in this case), watched the wedding video of his wedding and basically just hung out. We had to watch the video because I gave the best man speech. Therefore, I had to avoid watching myself on television for 10 minutes. Not sure why, but I can’t stand watching myself. It’s almost pathological. I survived fine thanks to Mr. Beer.

Anyway, we were shooting the shit and buddy of mine mentioned that he’s back working in Boston. He’s a carpenter/construction worker so he bounces around a lot. He tells me what building he was working in and says ‘They have a great Starbucks there!’. I say ‘Dude, that’s my building’. He pauses. ‘It is?’ ‘Where were you working?’ I ask, already knowing the answer. ‘The 17th floor.’

Of course. All last week there was working going on directly above my office. I could hear drilling, pounding and even them running cables just above my ceiling. I’m on 16 and my best friend was working about 50 feet from me all week. Go figure.

Cheater, cheater, never beater

My brothers and I took our 17 year old nephew paint balling for his birthday and got into a pissing match with those guys that take everything in their lives too seriously. We do this recreationally (maybe twice a year), but these douchebags are the type that spend two grand on their own guns and dress like ninjas. I’m betting they don’t have girlfriends and have read ‘The Art of War’ repeatedly.

Anyway, somehow we wound up with two groups and ours was hopelessly outnumbered. We were getting slaughtered nearly every time, but it wasn’t until the fourth go round that we figured out why. First, one group had 38 people in it. Our group had 17. You can see how that might be a problem. Me and my bros were the last of our group and we were taking out large numbers of people and yet they still kept coming. At one point I ran out of ammo and did a suicide run to see if I could get to the flag. I wound up taking two in the leg and one right behind my ear that left a huge welt. Still it was fun.

Up until we discovered reason number 2: The dicks we started referring to as ‘The Green Berets’ were cheating. In ‘The Village’ battle I hit one square in the face mask. Now in these games, when you are hit you are out. Not so with these guys. I saw him duck down, then come right back up again with his face mask wiped clear and he kept firing away. What the fuck? So not only were we fighting double our numbers it was more like triple our numbers as a third of their army wouldn’t leave the game.

On one of the capture the flag games, one of the guys that had the flag had his visor covered in paint. He had obviously been hit, but kept playing anyway. When someone spoke up between games one of the Green Berets told us to ‘Quit whining!’. That’s when I said ‘I see. It’s ok for you to cheat but when we say something it’s whining?’. He opened his mouth to say something, gave me the once over and shut up. I was bigger than him by at least six inches and was ready to shoot him in the face if he said one more obnoxious thing. I think he caught that vibe.

There is a happy ending to this. Eventually the refs evened out the teams and guess who joined us? Yeah! The Green Berets! I don’t need to tell you I ‘accidentally’ shot one of them in the back. It’s easy to get confused in the heat of battle.

Game 7

While I thoroughly enjoyed the Pierce/Lebron duel yesterday, can we please cease and desist with the Bird/Dominique parallels. Half of both their points came from the free throw line. While the B/D duel was jumper, followed by driving dunk, followed by three point bomb the P/L duel (especially in the fourth quarter) was Pierce at the free throw line, Lebron fouled again, Pierce fouled again. Sure the numbers looked great at the end of the game, but the only real excitement came when Lebron hit two three pointers in a row.

And while we’re here; I was ready to string Doc Rivers up by his short hairs the entire second half. Lebron’s having his way with the game, keeping his team in a season ending game and he never double teams him. Not once! It was only the most effective strategy of the first two games and he doesn’t employ it once in a game seven when the one player from either team that can single handedly win the game for his team is going off for 45 points.

Ladies and gentleman, Doc Rivers. I’m now convinced the Celtics will not win the championship this year. Not with this guy making the decisions.

Sox Nation

The Red Sox looked good this weekend. Despite the Friday night rainout, they swept the Brewers and looked like their old self for the first time in weeks. Papi hit two homers yesterday and is looking like his old self. Dice K is quietly have a solid season. Manny is his usual self. Even Pedoria, Youk, and Ellsbury are hitting.

Even better, the Yankees got killed by the Mets this weekend. Overall, a fun baseball weekend.

Injury Report

I emerged from paintball with very few injuries to report which, considering my advanced age, is a major success. I have a huge bump behind my left ear, a few bruises on my shins and knees and a nice scrape on my hand, but it’s all good.

What isn’t good is a massive blister on my left heel. I wore my old boots and thought they were broken in, but when I got home I noticed a big flap of skin hanging off my foot. I pulled it off and didn’t think too much of it until I stepped into the shower.

YEEEE OUCH! When I got out I noticed a huge circular hole where the skin used to be. Only now it’s red raw and sore as a bastard! Even better was how it would ooze the rest of the weekend and soak through band aids and socks. Good times!!

Still, it was worth it. Got in a work out, shot some douchebags in the back and face, and reasserted my manhood.

Just what the Celtics need to do in this series against Detroit. Reassert your manhood!

Today’s distraction: Using body parts to make some creative art designs. Not nearly as erotic as it sounds. I noticed a lot of these use the hands and it made me wonder what these artists do in their free time. Like create a 'date' that they completely take advantage of with some hand lotion and tissues? What? I'm just sayin'....

Friday, May 16, 2008

Lost - Part 12

While ‘Lost’ could technically be labeled a science fiction show, anyone who has watched this from the beginning will freely admit it’s the human element that keeps us coming back. Sure, there are science and fantasy elements to the island’s existence (as far as we know) but it’s the survivors themselves to whom we are drawn.

I was thinking of the reunion scene last night while watching my seven year old wolf down eight Eggo mini waffles and a bowl of Frosted Flakes for breakfast. I wasn’t thinking that it would be horrible to be separated from him for months (although it would be) or that having your family think you’re dead only to come back to life would be traumatizing on a level we couldn’t even fathom (although that is inconceivable – say it like the guy from ‘Princess Bride’).

I was thinking the producers and writers of this show are evil! EVIL!

By showing us the outcome of the Oceanic Six last night, they have cast a cloud of dread over everything that is currently happening on the island. We know who makes it off but not how and by so doing, had me on the edge of my seat as the pieces were being put in place. Only we still can’t figure out how the pieces fit into the puzzle or even what the puzzle is supposed to look like.

EVIL!!!

You know the drill by now.

What Happened: The opening scene was classic Lost. The freshly scrubbed Oceanic Six (Jack, Kate, Aaron, Sayid, Sun and Hurley) are being freighted back to the mainland. There they have a goosebump inducing reunion with their families, but not before Jack gives everyone the run down again about keeping their stories straight. Obviously something has happened and not everyone seems happy about keeping their game faces on.

The six meet with the media where some legitimate questions are raised ‘You all look healthy for having spent months on a deserted island’, ‘Kate, will you marry me?’ (Note: this may have only happened in my head), ‘So you were six months pregnant when the Marshal arrested you?’

This last was directed to Kate who is passing off Aaron as her own son and gave birth while stranded on an island. We also learn how the survivors got off the island. While they were stranded the most well timed typhoon in history washed up debris. Debris that happened to include an inflatable boat, outboard engine, and a bunch of gas. What luck!

We all know that’s complete B.S., of course, and it gives the writers of this show credit that not every media member is buying it. Some seem downright skeptical. Let’s see if anything comes of that.

After the press conference, Sayid has an emotional lip locking session with long lost Nadia. Again, the writers are evil (EVILLL!) as we have already been told that Nadia and Sayid’s happiness isn’t long to last. We know she’s gunned down very soon after they get married which prompts Sayid and Ben to join murderous forces.

Hurley – still sane and not talking to Charlie – disowns his lottery winnings, telling the media that the money is cursed. He then spends time in his mansion, has a surprise party sprung on him, freaks out when the odometer on his refurbished Camaro has THOSE NUMBERS on it (which I admit was pretty freaky), then runs, apparently for the first time in his life, down the street.

Jack has very, very delayed wake for his father and meets a strange, Australian woman who lets slip that he and his sister were on the same plane with each other and probably never met. Jack and the other five have agreed to the story that only they and two others made it off the plane. Two died on the island (although they haven’t said who, yet) and the rest died in the initial crash. ‘Her name was Claire’ says mom to a staggered Jack.

Kate, for her part, holds Aaron and hangs around the fringes of this episode. We already know what happens to her anyway.

Sun, on the other hand, has a new found confidence and vengeance on her mind. She uses the Oceanic settlement money to buy a controlling share of her father’s business. In one of my favorite scenes of this season, she literally crushes her father’s will to live by coldly telling him that she is now in charge and they will talk about the best interests of the company after the baby is born. ‘You will respect me, now’.

Meanwhile, on the island we had three things going on at once.

1: Post op Jack and Kate head for the helicopter using the sat phone. Halfway there they run into Psychic Asian Dude (Oh! Hi again!) and a baby carrying Sawyer. Jack tells everyone to go back to the beach and heads off by himself. Sawyer goes after him (Son of a bitch is stubborn) and they reach the helicopter with the pilot hand cuffed to it. They help him get free only to learn that Locke, Hurley and Ben are walking into a death trap. When Jack learns Hurley is with them he steals Sawyer’s ‘son of a bitch’ line right from under him. Both he and Sawyer head out to save Hurley, leaving the pilot to fend for himself.

2: Sayid arrives with the boat and starts getting people into the boat. But Kate arrives with Aaron and tells him what’s going on, so he and Kate head out after Sawyer and Jack only to run into the Ageless Wonder Richard and his band of island lunatics. Physics Dan – who seems to know what the mercenaries have planned when he learns that they went to the Orchid station – takes the helm and starts ferrying people to the freighter. He successfully got Sun, Jin, Aaron, and some others I don’t remember (which means they’re as good as dead) on to the freighter. Sun and Jin have a lovely, tearful reunion with Michael (not really) only to have things broken up when Desmond finds a room full of explosives. And I mean full.

3: Ben, Locke, and Hurley are heading to the Orchid station, too. On the walk Ben shares that it really is possible to move the island but they only do it as a last resort as it’s ‘extremely dangerous and unpredictable’. Ben uncovers a stash full of stuff that includes a mirror he uses to signal to somebody up on the mountain, a 15 year old bag of crackers (that Hurley tears into) and binoculars. Of course, by the time they get there the mercenaries are already in place. Ben instructs Locke on what to do (it involves the greenhouse, walking 20 paces left and a hidden elevator – forget the details) then proceeds to give himself up to the mercenaries. ‘I believe you’re looking for me’ he says calmly before getting bashed in the head, which is what every person watching this show has wanted to do for 2 years now.

What We Learned:

- Something has happened that the Oceanic Six don’t want the outside world knowing about.

- We know Sun and Aaron survive and they are on the freighter.

- We know Jack and Hurley survive and they most likely meet up at the Orchid.

- We know Kate and Sayid survive but they are currently prisoners of Richard.

- Sun blames her father for Jin’s death and is paying him back in spades. She also looks fantastic with her hair up. Or down. Either way she looks great.

- Someone – but not Michael as far as we know – has rigged the freighter to explode. We can assume it’s the mercenaries, but we really don’t know for sure.

- Jack does know that Aaron is his nephew.

- Ben always has a plan.

- Sawyer is still a wise ass. ‘Want me to grab y’all some lemonade while I’m at it!’

- Aaron’s head grows astronomically between 5 weeks and 3 years of age. Let’s hope it doesn’t disturb the earth’s gravitational field.

- The freighter can’t get close to the island because something is broadcasting from it and is disturbing their course heading. That something is apparently whatever head mercenary has strapped to his arm and a wall full of explosives in one of the boat’s rooms. It’s always something with these guys.

- Locke is learning to get his shots in on Ben. When Ben said ‘I haven’t been entirely truthful’, Locke jumps on it with ‘When have you ever been entirely truthful?’ Gotcha, Ben!!! BA-ZING! Ben’s lack of response, by the way, spoke volumes.

- Hurley is still haunted by the numbers even after he returns from the island and his father did a sweet job fixing up the car, if not getting a better hair piece.

- There is something going on between Physics Dan and Charlotte. Their quick wave and the look on her face when he was taking the first group to the freighter implied deeper feelings than we have been let in on so far.

New Questions:

- What happens that the Oceanic Six wind up together and on a boat?

- How does Sun get separated from Jin?

- Does Jin really, truly, die or does he just get left behind?

- Why does nobody ask how Kate looks so great after having a baby on a deserted island?

- Is the armband on the mercenary tied to his life? In other words, if his heart stops beating does freighter go boom?

- How does Ben get out of this one? We know he does due to his teaming with Sayid in the future, but how? HOW??!!!! CLAIRE!!! Oh, sorry, lost my bearings.

- How does Aaron stay fed when Claire isn’t around? Sawyer says they looked for Claire for a full day so what have they been feeding the baby. Do psychic babies not need as much nourishment?

- How, exactly, are they going to move the island?

- Does Sun somehow blame herself for Jin’s death? She tells her father two people are responsible for the loss of Sun’s life, but doesn’t mention the other one. Maybe she blames Widmore? Or Jack?

- How does Physics Dan know about the Orchid station?

- More importantly, does Dan have a problem with his memory? He uses that notebook as constant reference and we caught a glimpse of a memory game being played between him and Charlotte a few weeks back. Has he time traveled at some point and it’s effected his memory? Anyone remember when the show first introduced him? He was crying while watching the coverage of the ‘discovery’ of Oceanic 815 on the ocean floor. When asked why he said he didn’t know. Something tells me this will come into play very soon.

- Does the knowledge that Claire is his sister create the beginnings of the need for Jack to get back to the island?

That’s all I’ve got. I’m sure I’ve missed something so feel free to chime in.

No show next week, but we have a two hour season finale to look forward to. I, for one, can’t wait. No literally. I can’t friggin’ wait. I want to watch it now!

Stupid writer’s strike.

Today's distraction: 17 enduring mysteries of Lost. Something tells me we may never get all of these answered.