Monday, March 28, 2005

Red Sox at Fenway Park

Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino announced late last week that the Sox will be remaining at their traditional homepark. There has been speculation for several years, especially when the new owners took over. Lucchino said that some renovations and improvements are planned. He said that the Red Sox will be able to celebrate their 100th anniversary at Fenway in style when 2012.

I feel bad admitting that I've never actually been to Fenway Park myself. I've seen the outside of the stadium a few times while in Boston, but have never had the opportunity to attend a Sox there. One of these days....

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

TV Party and other stuff

I've added a link to TV Party over on the right (the headline above should also bring you there) which I discovered while doing a 'net search for some kid's shows I used to watch. It's a nice site with plenty of links to pages dedicated to various old television programs and personalities. As with the cartoon sites you may find yourself going from place to place wasting valuable work hours.

My parents didn't own a set until around 1956 (according to my Mom), so I don't really have memories of anything prior to that. It's likely that I may have been allowed to watch something downstairs at my grandparents, but I can't be sure. Most likely I was probably six or seven years old before I really began sitting in front of the set letting the hypnotic b&w screen work its wonders.

Growing up in southeastern Connecticut my most vivid memories are of the four TV stations we got most clearly. This, of course, was back in the primitive days of TV antennas and the four networks (I believe that Dumont was still broadcasting at that point). I know we received two CBS stations, one NBC and an ABC affiliate. I have a memory of one of the stations switching affiliation at some point. We only picked up one station from Connecticut, that being WTIC (now WFSB) Channel 3 out of Hartford. The other stations were located in Boston & Providence, at least their IDs indicated that.

When I have a chance I'm going to talk about some of the kiddie shows I most vividly recall, but I want to point out the page at TV Party which talks about the Boston kid's shows. Most of those are the hosts I remember, especially Rex Trailer and "Big Brother" Bob Emory both on WBZ.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Review: Devil in the White City by Eric Larson

Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
By Erik Larson; published by Random House

There is something about the “Gilded Age” (the name coined by Mark Twain & Charles Dudley Warner for their novel of the period), that period ending the 19th century in America which totally fascinates me. It seems to do the same for many others, since there have been countless books, movies and television shows which take place in that period. The fact that it coincides with Britain’s Victorian Age is probably one reason for that interest, since the events of that era literally changed the political, social and cultural makeup of much the world.

The U.S. was rapidly changing in that period, with a great shift taking place as millions of native born Americans, as well as immigrants, began moving into the larger cities and making their livings by working for industries, rather than farming. It is also the era which saw a change in how the U.S. saw itself as a player in world affairs.

I think one of the most amazing things about the period, here in the U.S., was that life in the ‘civilized’ eastern portion of the nation was so vastly different from that of the still growing frontier west of the Mississippi. In fact, Larson makes note of that very thing in his section talking about “Buffalo” Bill Cody’s troop of ‘cowboys & Indians’ who were neighbors to the fair for all of its existence.

One way in which America could prove itself was to host the World’s Fair of 1893. The previous one held in Paris, including as it did the unveiling of Eiffel’s tower, was considered unsurpassable. Larson’s book takes a look at the social, political and economic pressures which were brought to bear on the men and women who set about to bring the Fair into being. He also introduces many of his readers, for most for the first time, to a most remarkable individual, who also had his own impact on hundreds of people. In his case, the effect was often deadly.

Larson’s book centers on the careers and fortunes of two very different men. One is Daniel Burnham, architect and overall planner of what was known as the Columbian Exposition. The second was named Dr. H.H. Holmes, although it became known only later, that this was only one name by which this gentleman went. It was in fact, not his name at all, but the one by which he became identified as the first American serial killer (although this term would not come into fashion until several generations after Holmes left us).

Unlike his better known British contemporary, Jack the Ripper, Holmes did not publicly flaunt his murders, but quietly went about his crimes while maintaining an air of respectability. Holmes was in fact, even after his conviction, the object of sympathy and respect. Called a ‘monster’ by the press of the day, many of those who had known Holmes personally still spoke of him highly.

It is not known exactly how many people, mostly women, Holmes killed in his ‘castle’ in Chicago. The newspapers of the period said as many as two hundred, although it was probably less then half that. Still dozens of men and women checked into Holmes’ hotel and never were seen or heard from again.

While Burnham and Holmes (born Herman Webster Mudgett) both were born hundreds of miles from Chicago; it was there they earned their fame. Burnham’s father operated a wholesale drug business, while Mudgett’s parents were farmers; from early in their lives they took very different courses. Burnham, rejected by both Harvard & Yale, yet became one of the most highly respected architects of the era. Holmes, a mediocre student at best, earned a degree in medicine and also took up the pharmaceutical trade, but on the retail level.

Larson, writer of the bestseller Isaac’s Storm, has done an incredible job of research, which brings both men and their contemporaries to life. His examination of the cultural and economic tides which effected the fair make it all the more remarkable that Burnham and his partners were able to pull it off. On the other hand, many of these same things helped Holmes do what he did so well also, by allowing him to go undetected until dozens of people had already met their fate at his hands. Four Stars.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Tracking the elusive toon!

Back when I was a kid, during the mid-1950s to late 1960s, I loved cartoons. In my mind, of course, this was the ‘Golden Age’ of television animation. Hanna-Barbara, Ruby-Spears & Warner Bros. seemed to rule the roost, with some Terrytoons and other studios taking up the rest of the time. Early on it was the older cartoons, originally made for theatrical release, getting a second chance in weekday afternoon slots and the taking over on Saturday mornings. If you liked animation you could certainly get your fill, although you had to wait for certain times of the day.

Back then I don’t think any of us could have imagined entire television channels featuring animation almost 24/7. You get not only shorts, but entire ‘feature length’ movies, some made in other countries. Wow!!!

For me, BOOMERANG is probably the channel I most watch, when I have the chance. The channel shows most of the old H-B shows I used to love, as well as some Jay Ward and other programs. The blocks dedicated the various super-hero/adventure shows (Herculoids, Galaxy Trio, Birdman, etc.) are really the ones which I still find entertaining. Part of me never quite grew up and still loves the things which thrilled me as a kid.

The link over on the right will take you to an absolutely amazing site filled with page after page of illustrations, theme songs, information and even some actual cartoons. I’ve spent hours going from one section to another and think that you’re likely to do the same.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Mr. Selig goes to Washington

The headline above will link to a NY Daily News article on yesterday's hearings. I was home yesterday but actually had other things to do besides watching Congress. I'm sorry to have missed Mike McGwire crying and saying he didn't "want to talk about the past." Of course, why else would he have been called up there? They guy may be doing some wonderful things for abused children (and more power to him for that), but that wasn't why he was asked to appear.

Sammy Solsa's ability to speak English appears to be a problem at times, since his lawyer (and don't you love it when folks appear with one beside them?) had to tell the committee that his client never broke the lawyers of the U.S. or the Dominican Republic. Who knew that D.R. had laws on the books about rich athletes taking drugs? Pretty progressive!

On the much more pleasant front, Donna and I got confirmation that we got the seats we wanted for the Brooklyn Cyclone season. We'll be over behind the visitor's dug out in Section 15, on the aisle. Make it a bit easier to hit the concession stands between innings, as well as the bathroom when the beer takes effect.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Jason gets a pass

Looks like Jason Giambi won't have to go up to Capital Hill after all. Apparently he's going to be called before the Grand Jury again, or to testify in the upcoming Blasco trial on steroids. With Bonds and Giambi both out of the picture it will be interesting to see just who will be showing up. Lawyers for the MLB are still trying to limit the questions being asked, so the whole thing seems even more of a waste of time than it has before.

Only another couple of weeks before the actual baseball season commences, and then all this will really fade away. Unless, of course, the Blasco trial comes out and names Barry Bonds which will put a major damper on any celebration of his record later this season. There are already indications that MLB and the networks will underplay the thing. Not ignore it, since they can't do that, but they'll not be the hoopla we saw whey first McGwire and then Solsa broke the homerun records.

Mike & Mike, on ESPN, were talking about the new MLB steroid policy this morning. One thing not widely know (at least by me) was that the League has the option of NOT naming players caught during the drug testing and suspending them. The draft of the 'policy' seems to allow the League to fine the player instead, in which case his name will not be made public. I agree with them that it dilutes the strength of the policy and will let some of the big name players possibly slide, while other players will get outed. It's going to be a long interesting season, both on and off the field.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Say it ain't so, Mark!

Headline above links to yesterday's New York Daily News exclusive on Mark McGwire's use of steroids.

Even when McGwire was playing there were rumors about him using steroids. A look back at pictures of him in his rookie year you'll see a much different guy from that one who broke the home run record. Ditto, of course, for Barry Bonds and a few other players currently under suspicion.

It is still unclear if any of the MLB players called before Congress this week will show up. I know that Curt Schilling has said he has no problems talking to the Senators, but then the stories really haven't been about pitchers, have they?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Steroids, Congress and baseball

I tried to post earlier today, but either my network or Blogger was acting up.

I don't want to get political here, but aren't there more important issues both domestically and internationally that Congress should be concerned about? Apparently they've gotten tired worrying about what we see and hear, so now Senators need something else to get their names in the paper.

Like most folks, the absence of Barry Bonds in these hearings seems rather odd. The excuse that it has to do with the Grand Jury procedure may be true, but you have to wonder.

It may be of passing interest to see what sort of deal MLB can make. They find themselves in a no-win situation as I see it. If they fight this thing it will look like they have something to hide, than on the other hand they can't know exactly what the players called may say. Will they all take the Fifth or start "naming names?"

I'm going to follow this somewhat, but I really just want to enjoy the season.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Grand Comic Book Database

For several reasons I'm not reading comics as much as I once did. Formerly, I picked up about dozen books each week and followed several dozen titles on a regular basis. Now I hardly ever go into a comic shop and have no clue as to what is going on in the industry. I sort of feel bad about that, and hope to eventually start in again.

I've added a link to the Grand Comic Book Database over to the side. The folks there are going a remarkable job of trying to index all over the comics published in the United States. It has an amazing amount of information and like the Internet Movie Database, I find myself using the site quite often. Also, like the IMDB the GCD is just a fun place to waste some time and discovering titles you'd never known existed.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Jason Giambi

Well, it was probably smart for Joe Torre & his staff to send Jason Giambi out to face Red Sox Nation. In a split squad game in Florida the NY Yankees went up against the Red Sox and beat them. Jason hit a home run, despite some booing, shouts of "Steroids!" and a few signs mentioning the whole thing. Naturally, the New York media is making this out to be the end of the situation, but playing in an exhibition game in front of a mixed crowd of fans is not the same thing as being at Fenway Park. Nor is the situation going to go away at any of the MLB parks around the country, at least not for a few months. Each time Giambi and the Yankees go out on 'enemy' turf they are going to hear it.

I almost feel bad for Giambi, even though he brought this on himself. It will be far more interesting to see how Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and some other players mentioned in Canseco's book deal with similar situations. I think the first major event will be when one of the players (and it's only a matter of time even with the half-hearted drug policy) gets caught using.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Red Sox win their pre-season opener

The Boston Red Sox won their first pre-season game yesterday, beating the Minnesota Twins by one run. The final score of the “Grapefruit League” game was 4-3, with new pitcher Matt Clement allowing one of the Twin’s runs during his two innings of work.
Today the team will have a couple of split squad games against some college teams.

I don’t expect to be doing this day-by-day, but will try to get in a few times a week with Sox news, good or bad. Like most Boston fans, I’m moderately confident that the Red Sox can prove themselves not to be one-time wonders.

The Yankees tied their opening game with the Pirates, with a final score of 2-2. Randy Johnson was originally slated to pitch, but given a minor problem with his left leg Joe Torre wisely replaced him. Why push it this early? I'm sure that the Big Unit will have more than enough chances to prove he's worth the money George S. shelled out.

The other New York team got rained out, so the Mets will have their first game today against the Cardinals with new acquisition Pedro Martinez on the mound. I understand Pedro played for some other team last season.

I haven't been this excited about the baseball season since I was a kid. Fingers crossed that my enthusiasm is rewarded!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Animation and other fun stuff

Since I was a kid I've been a fan of cartoons (or animation, since that is probably more accurate). I have fond memories of sitting in the living room of my parents house watching hours of POPEYE, FARMER ALFALFA and other b&w cartoons originally made for theatres. Eventually, these were pushed aside by material made for the emerging TV market. Stuff like RUFF & READY, CRUSADER RABBIT and the numerous creations of Hanna & Babara (like HUCKLEBERRY HOUND & YOGI BEAR).

Even as I grew older I never lost my love of the art form, but found that it actually expanded to include material found only in animation festivals or at conventions. I've added two links over on the right to sites which cover some of this stuff, both of them by folks known and respected for the knowledge. I actually had the opportunity to meet both of these gentleman, back in another life.

Leonard Maltin, long before he began popping up on ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT, was teaching courses on the history of animation at the New School in Manhattan. The very first time I ever met Elayne Riggs (then Wechsler) we attended one of these classes. The class was interesting, although I don't remember now which cartoons he showed. It was on St. Patrick's Day, I believe, and I think we went out for Chinese later, but that's another story.

I also know that it was Elayne who introduced me to Jerry Beck. This was at an animation festival held at the old Thalia uptown. I believe that Jerry and his partner Will Friedwald were both in attendance.

Jerry's site, CARTOON RESEARCH is of course dedicated to animation and the history of the art form. Leonard's is much more diverse, but still has links to animation history (including Jerry's site), as well as film history in general. I probably check out the Maltin site on a more regular basis, but both have aided me in looking up references I'd never have found on my own.

Jose Canseco's book

Jose Canseco' book, JUICED, came into the library yesterday and I skimmed it briefly. I don't know that I'm interested enough to read the whole thing, but will probably read some sections to see what he has to say about certain players, teams and league officials.

He appears to have some nice things to say about Joe Torre, although he wasn't too happy with his brief stint with the Yankees. The team picked him up basically to prevent him from playing with some other teams and hitting against the Yankee pitching staff. He ended up spending most of his time sitting on the bench and actually felt guilty about taking part in the World Series celebration that year.

Regarding Sammy Sosa, I didn't read what he had to say about any steroid use by Sammy, but Canseco did feel that Sosa was singled out during the 'corking' incidend. He felt that the umpire made a big deal out ot the situation, while many other times such things are swept under the rug when discovered with different players. Who knows if this is true or not? I wouldn't be surprised if it was.