Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Five takes an artistic turn

I almost didn't get in.

After waiting months for the double-bill of Switchfoot and Anberlin at Calvin College, I walked up to the ticket booth as the student worker was setting things up.

“You've got tickets, right?” I asked. I wasn't worried. Once I attended a concert at Calvin, and it was a gathering of John Reuben and about 50 friends.

“We've got two.”

I smiled.

“No, I'm serious. We have two tickets, and that's only because someone turned them in. Don't move from that spot."

So after purchasing half of the available tickets I enjoyed an awesome concert featuring two of my favorite bands – and met some new friends, too.

Many miles on treadmill and trail have been logged to the sound of Switchfoot's “Hello Hurricane” since it was released in 2009.

Anberlin was a more recent discovery, true to my practice of being about 5 years behind the times musically.

The show was the highlight of an arts-centric Deezo Friday Five.


Calvin's Hoogeboom Arena was set up with wooden bleachers on the sides and standing room on the floor. I opted for the bleachers near the side because I am too old for the mosh pit.

Lead singer Jon Foreman was interacting with the crowd a lot, leaning over the stage, leaning in to the out-stretched hands. But during “The War Inside” he jumped off the stage and into the crowd and walked along the beachers, then turned and started stepping up – right toward me.

Foreman looked up and extended his hand, then used mine to pull himself up into the row and sang the rest of the song two spaces away. Cool!


Anberlin's sound was pretty muddy until the acoustic songs – including “The Unwinding Cable Car” was a great surprise.

Andrew likes to collect set lists after the show, and we've begged roadies of many groups for the paper, which usually is duct-taped to the stage floor.

But this time I was walking past the sound board and saw the Amberlin set list just sitting there. The guy working behind the board said I could have it. Sweet!

Atomic Tom

It's not easy being the opening act. Usually the best thing people will say is “They didn't suck,” and the biggest applause typically comes after the singer says, “We've got one more song for you.”

But I liked Atomic Tom. Sure, they got points after saying they were from Brooklyn. But their rocking cover of Human League's “Don't You Want Me” was a nice surprise, and the rest of the set was a nice mix of power pop – with the emphasis on power – and straightforward rock.

“Take Me Out” sounded familiar and I liked “The Moment,” the title cut from their CD. I went to meet the band at the merch table after the show, and snagged the last CD they had. Nice guys.

The CD has been steadily playing in the car since the concert, and I found their apparently famous video of “Take Me Out” played and filmed entirely with iPhones on a subway.

“Catching Hell”

I got an email out of the blue last winter from someone who said he was working with a documentary producer and was interested in using two photos he found on the blog.

The post was about Will and I going to see the Mets lose at Wrigley. As will once explained to a Comiskey vendor as I snapped a shot of him preparing my hot dog, “He documents everything.”

And on this particular adventure, we located the seat where infamous Cubs fan Steve Bartman was sitting when he prevented Moises Alou from catching a foul ball in the 2003 playoffs. Or not. It's not really clear whether Bartman actually got a hand on the ball, and the Cubs proceeded to allow 8 runs in the rest of inning, all without Bartman's help.

But this was Chicago and Cub losses are blamed on curses and not incompetence, so Bartman has been forced into exile.

We found the seat, and some goofball was sitting there, preventing others from taking in the view. I documented him.

Then I recreated the Bartman alleged near catch and Will documented that because that, too, is what we do.

The producer wanted to use both of those, and I happily consented.

The documentary aired Tuesday and was called, “Catching Hell,” focusing on the treatment of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner after the glorious 1986 Mets World Series comeback and Bartman.

And, about 90 minutes into the show, you will see the goofball and me in a montage of fans recreating the moment, which must have been a surprise to the goofball, had he been watching. I get a photo credit, too!


Grand Rapids is filled with art of all shapes, sizes and quality this week for the third annual ArtPrize competition.

People spend the first two weeks voting thumbs up or down on each pieces, and the ten with the most votes continue into a second round, where the winner gets a nice pile of cash.

As you can imagine, high-brow art people are horrified – horrified – at the kind of stuff that lands in the top 10. It's like when music critics tell us how we should love some artists when we all just want to hear Foreigner.

Confession: I like Foreigner, and I like the stuff that sends the hoity-toity people into a frenzy. This year, artist have figured out the kind of stuff that voters like and have been accused of pandering more than a politician in Iowa a week before the primary.

The arts version of “Hot Blooded” is called “Gerald Ford Goes to ArtPrize,” and kind of looks like a wax museum version of the native son pondering a bronze bust of himself.

The same artist last year created an ultra life-like sculpture of a monk which was praised mightily but did not get a ton of votes. This year's version is in the top 10.

I wanted to vote for it just because A) it is pretty cool, and B) the high brow folks would go ballistic. Alas, with just one vote to cast, there were great negotiations within the family. We voted for “Rusty,” the giant dog made from car scraps and tree stumps.

Maybe a little more "I Want to Know What Love Is" than "Double Vision," but still pretty cool.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Friday Five: Google, Beltran and the Diet 'iCoke' machine make for a San Francisco treat

This week's Deezo Friday Five recalls some of the things I learned while attending an education writers conference in the Bay Area this week.

For instance, I had no idea that there are palm trees in San Fran. After seeing all those Giants fans in parkas at Candlestick Park all those years, I assumed it was a colder place. But here are some more interesting things.


We all signed non-disclosure statements so we couldn't reveal top-secret things we might have seen during our time at the sprawling Google headquarters in Mountain View. I'm pretty sure that it involved world domination.

But we did get a tour of some of the wild and crazy things that go on there.

Google employees eat well. There are about 20 cafes on the campus, and employees eat for free. Good stuff, too. Because employees gain “The Google 15” with all the free food, they exercise by riding brightly colored bicycles all over the place.

There's a T. Rex skeleton named Sam, and he is covered in plastic flamingos. Employees play beach volleyball during the day between meals.

There's a sculpture garden with giant heads of people real and imagined.

I saw one person older than 30 and not a single necktie.

I wonder if the Bingplex is as fun.

2)San Francisco International.

The airport was as close to the city as I got, since our activities were all in the southern parts of the region.

Alas, the airport was nowhere near as drama-packed as the magnificent “San Francisco International” television pilot that became one of our favorite “Mystery Science Theater 3000” episodes.

The movie features Pernell Roberts as a smug airport administration who does his job, his way. A typical day at work involves Tab Hunter and some other bad guys kidnapping David Hartman's wife and eluding security chief Clu Gulager. Meanwhile, newspaper columnist Van Johnson is splitting from his wife, depressing his son who somehow manages to wander into a small plane that accidentally takes off.

As all this is going on, Pete from “McGuyver” is having issues with a made-for-TV hippie.

It's all good fun, and it kept a lot of 1970s minor stars off the streets until “Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island” came calling.

3)Stanford University

One of the good things about changing time zones is that you can get up at 5 a.m. and it feels like you are sleeping in.

I decided to ditch the treadmill and take to the streets for my early morning run, especially after discovering that the Standford University campus was nearby.

With Bay Area resident Bruce Hornsby rocking the iPhone, I explored the campus in the pre-dawn darkness. Seemed like a nice place, especially with some of its famous architecture dramatically lit. The Memorial Church's mural is beautifully lit, as is the tower named after alumni Herbert and Lou Hoover.

Now, I don't know what crazy things they're working on at Stanford, but something was wreaking havoc with my iPhone's GPS. The RunKeeper ap kept announcing distances and mile paces that would have me welcomed at the Olympics next year. Apparently I ran 18 miles in 46 minutes, and was running 2 minute miles at one point.

4)New-fangled Diet Coke machine.

There is a possibility that I drink too much Diet Coke. I know this. But if you ever want to know the location of the Diet Coke vending machine in your building, or any other, I'm your man.

I was roaming around downtown Palo Alto looking for the Giants Dugout store and wanted something small to eat to tide me over. I found a pizza by the slice place, and thought it would to the job.

Turning to fill up my cup, I encountered a crazy new Coke delivery system. It looked like it was part iPad, with a touch screen boasting it could create 106 kinds of soda. I was surprised. There are other kinds of soda?

I tapped the DC logo on the screen, and the graphic switched to all Diet Coke and then the refreshing beverage started flowing freely.

Pretty cool. Oh, and there is a reason the Bay Area is not known for its pizza.

5) Carlos Beltran, Giant

I did find the Giants Dugout store, and obtained this week's Cap of the Week, a black-and-orange, soft-crowned beauty.

There was plenty of World Series gear, though those caps were more expensive. Some Grateful Dead and Brian Wilson stuff, but I had my fill of weirdness after the Googleplex.

I was pleasantly surprised to see t-shirts for our mid-season gift to the team, Carlos Beltran. Nice to see that Beltran is appreciated in his new surroundings, even if he apparently couldn't lead the team to the playoffs.

We shall remember Carlos fondly when we see Zach Wheeler shirts at Citi Field before too long!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Postcard tour: Cincinnati, where Mets win when they absolutely have to

Riverfront Stadium was a nice enough ballpark in a multi-purpose concrete donut kind of way. But it was a bit of a house of horrors for the Mets over the years.

During the park's existence from 1970 to 2002, the Mets had 77 wins and 100 losses.
But the team won in Cincy when it counted. The team split the first two games of the 1973 playoffs there, which was important. But the Oct. 4, 1999 game was a winner-take-all affair.

The Mets and Reds were tied for the wild card, and the game at Riverfront was the tie-breaker. Al Leiter was on the mound for the Mets, and rose to the occasion, throwing a complete game, 2-hit shutout. Edgardo went nuts, going 3 for 4 with a homer and a double, scoring two runs. The Mets won, 5-0, propelling the team into the postseason for the first time since 1988.

I've had some exciting moments at Riverfront, including my first time in a Mets clubhouse. I was to interview Mickey Weston in 1993, and we spoke at his locker about his return to the major leagues with the team that drafted him originally. I also interviewed pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, and Doc Gooden came over to chat.

Later I sat in the Mets dugout as the team took the field for batting practice, talking to General Manager Al Harazin, who had a connection to Flint and was very generous with his time. I treasured every moment.

Riverfront also hosted a memorable Baseball Truth Executive Game in its final season, and, of course, gets points for being Tom Seaver's home in exile for five years.

But the Reds' new ballpark hosted one of my most glorious baseball memories.
The BaseballTruth crew returned to Great American Ballpark in 2008 to see the Mets, and I had been dragging my 17-year streak of shame.

The Mets got thumped 7-2 in the July 27 game, as was the custom with me in attendance. I returned the next day, by myself. Sunday, July 28 was an amazing back-and-forth game that headed into extra innings.

Robinson Cancel, our pudgy third-string catcher and pinch-hitter of last resort, lashed a double. He moved to third on a Jose Reyes bunt then scored when the Reds threw away an Argenis Reyes grounder – and he later came around to score an insurance run.

Shaky Mets close Billy Wagner came in to try and finish the game – and struck out the side. I remember cheering, tears, friends calling and trying to snap photos of the first Mets post game celebrated I could witness in person in 17 years.
I've been able to find several postcards of Riverfront over the years, but I haven't had much luck with Great American, coming across only this funky foil card in the team gift shop.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday Five: Stan Musial and other heroes

Remembering heroes

I didn't expect to be so moved by the West Michigan Healing Field. Volunteers filled the Cannonsburg ski area with 3,000 American flags, each with a brief biography of a Sept. 11, 2001 victim. People working in the Pentagon; people at their desk in a World Trade Center office. People heading home or on a vacation. A woman remembered by colleagues for keeping a candy jar on her desk filled. Firefighters and police officers. The heroes of Flight 93. Children. I wanted to read them all.

Katy Perry

Caroline and I were supposed to see Katy Perry on Sunday night, but the singer has a respiratory infection and the concert has been postponed until December. This gives me more time to rewrite some of Katy's lyrics so they are more “Daddy friendly.” For example, Katy, in “Teenage Dream,” sings: “Let's go all the way tonight; no regrets, just love.” I don't think that's an appropriate sentiment. So, when Caroline commands the iPod in the car, I sing the new, Daddy-approved lyrics: “Let's go on a date tonight, no regrets, just lunch.” Much more wholesome. For Katy's biggest hit, I imagine her getting in touch with the outdoors. Instead of “I kissed a girl and I liked it, I hope my boyfriend don't mind it.” No wonder Elmo blushed. I envision Ms. Perry in a park, feeding the other furry forest friends: “I kissed a squirrel and I liked it, I hope Ranger Rick don't mind it.” I think Caroline is hoping there is a special seating section where fathers of 14-year-olds can be herded in together and not publicly embarrass their daughters.

Chatty Famous Chicken

We enjoyed seeing The Famous Chicken at the West Michigan Whitecaps game during Labor Day weekend. Big parts of his act haven't changed in the 20 years since I first watched him, but he's always funny. Caroline, who has worked as Katie L, the Kent District Library mascot, was a little bit concerned that the Chicken violated the first rule of mascoting – he talks!

Flat Stan the Man

Give the St. Louis Cardinals credit for doing cool things. You must have heard of “Flat Stanley,” Dale Hubert's book character who gets flattened and goes on adventures. Teachers across the country have used the book for lessons, assigning children to send their Stanley to friends and family and take photos of him is locales near and far. Caroline's Flat Stanley got to visit off-limits sections of the Kennedy Space Center and military headquarters in Afghanistan, where he posed with – and was signed by – then-Sen. Hillary Clinton. The Cardinals created a Flat Stan Musial, complete with his Presidential Medal of Freedom! People are encouraged to post their photos on the team's web site. Tony is sending me one, and we're going on a tour of Grand Rapids!

Cap of the Week

This week's Cap of the Week is a gift from my nephew Zachary. He pitches for the Deer Park-Mackinaw traveling team in Illinois, and tossed a no-hitter this season. The local minor league team, the Cornbelters, were so impressed that the team signed a ball for him and he was allowed to sit in the dugout. So, my nephew has pitched more no-hitters than the Mets have. The cap also has Uncle Dave's initials, which is cool!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Postcard tour: Comiskey Park, where you have to work for your fun

Wrigley is always fun, but I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the Southsiders and Comiskey Parks, old and new.

Maybe it’s a second-team-in-the-city kind of thing, and bond between the Mets and Sox.

Look, anybody can embrace Wrigley and its traditions. It’s always going to be cool to go there. But the Sox make you work a little for it.

Even recently , when Will and I attended a game at the park that used to be called New Comiskey, we had to charm our way past the ushers just to escape the upper deck to see some of the cool statues and other things on the lower level.

But we’ve also had some awesome adventures on the South Side. From hanging out with Bobby Valentine at the batting cage to having John McNamara meltdown during an encounter under the stands to Scott Radinsky answering questions only after giving me hard time to Ken Griffey Jr. making sure we weren’t taking unauthorized photos, we’ve had some memorable encounters.
And there are not as many Comiskey postcards out there compared to Wrigley cards. You have to look for them. But like the team and the park, you are rewarded for the effort.

My favorite is the blue-bordered postcard that I found on the epic road trip with Rich that resulted in the meetings with Valentine and McNamara, the former Red Sox manager who was not quite over the 1986 World Series defeat.

Will and I were present for the final two games at that glorious old yard, and watched the construction of New Comiskey across the street. That leads to one of the most unusual cards in the collection, showing two views of the new yard still under construction.

The aerial views of the new park are neat, especially the one showing the famed Chicago skyline off in the distance.

And, finally, I’ve found one and only one postcard with the ballpark’s corporate – and likely temporary – name of U.S. Cellular Field.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Friday Five: Pat Benatar and other music of the universe

Settling in for a very busy Labor Day weekend that includes the Famous Chicken – and a very special holiday Deezo Friday Five.

Mystery animal cap

My favorite cap this summer came from a store in Traverse City called Cherry Republic. If you do the Michigan-as-a-hand thing, Traverse City is at the tip of our pinky. It's known for magnificent beaches and sunsets, angst-filled newspaper softball tournaments and growing cherries. The Cherry Republic sells cherries in just about every form imaginable, including salsa and peanut butter. Lots of samples. The cap is one of those rare magical caps that just feels perfect. It's made by a company called Attitude 101. But we've had big debates about the animal in the logo. I think it's supposed to be a bear, based on other things I saw in the store. But other people think it looks like a dog, a pig, Big Foot or Lucas Duda. I like that the mystery animal is looking over his shoulder with a bit of an attitude. Very New York for a laid back place like Traverse City. This might kick off a cool cap of the week feature.

Pat Benatar

Pat Benatar says I rock! Pat was in town for a concert and came to the local Barnes & Noble to sign copies of her book, “Between a Heart and a Rock Place.” There about 200 people in line, and about 190 them were guys between the ages of 45 and 55. Pat and I discussed Long Island, and the Lindenhurst native said she was back home recently for a big family barbecue. “The Island's still a good place,” she said. I'm assuming she's a Mets fan because she was nice, though I could not find references to the team in the book.
Words With Friends

My sister got me hooked on the game, and it's one more reason I suffer from separation anxiety when I misplace the iPhone. My winning percentage was only slightly better than that of the 1962 Mets. But now I've discovered the joys of triple word score tiles, I'm a little better, like the 1978 Mets, but without the embarrassment of “Mettle.” Look for me as MetsGuy if you want to play.

Mets blue jerseys

The team wore the blue Los Mets jerseys again this week, and reports are the magnificent tops are returning for special games next year less the Los. Too bad fans haven't been clamoring for uniforms like these for years. Oh, wait.

“The Music of the Universe”

“Chuck” is the latest morning diversion as I put in the daily treadmill mileage, and I'm part of the way through the second season. One episode revolves around an old Missile Command arcade game, and the creator of the game explains it must be played to “the music of the universe.” Chuck, playing under pressure to save the world, realizes that the game creator meant that the game can be conquered when played to the rhythms of “Tom Sawyer.” There's truth to this. The epic was voted the No. 1 song to play games to by the Nintendo Power magazine. Note to the people running the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Some people give Rush the respect it deserves.