Monday, June 30, 2008

Jay-Z at Glastonbury, Parts 1-8

"If you break it, people ain't gonna go. I'm sorry, but Jay-Z? ... No chance," said Oasis songwriter Noam Gallagher, who has headlined Glastonbury twice with his band. "I'm not having hip-hop at Glastonbury. No way. No. It's wrong."

So days after Gallagher called the notion of a hip-hop act headlining the colossal British music festival, "wrong," Jay-Z walked on stage singing "Wonderwall." He then put on a fantastic show, apparently to the surprise of many.

Below is his set in its entirety (If the video links below aren't showing up on Facebook, click the "view original post" link at the bottom of the page, and it will take you to my blog page with the videos).

Friday, June 27, 2008

Worst Moments in Astros History

There are dark moments for all professional sports franchises. Typically, a player choking your general manager would qualify as such. The events of the past few days have not put the Houston Astros in the best of lights, but there have been more ominous tones heard in Astroland. So before you cast this as the worst moment to face the Dis-Astros, here's a history lesson on moments where the skies seemed darker.

5. December 7, 1988
Nolan Ryan signs with the Texas Rangers

After the 1988 season, the Astros began a string of significant personnel changes. Manager Hal Lanier was dismissed after the team suffered consecutive disappointing seasons following the NL West crown in 1986. What amounted to a fire sale ensued, as well, the zenith of which being the iconic gunslinger heading North up I-45 to join the Texas Rangers. Called "too old" by then-owner John McMullen, the Ryan Express went on to throw 2 more no-hitters for the Rangers - one more than he did in an Astro uniform.

4. April 8, 1964
Jim Ubricht dies of cancer

Jim Umbricht pitched just two seasons out of the Colt .45's bullpen, going a combined 7-3 in 143 innings of work. However, he would be better remembered in the Houston area for his resiliency, returning to pitch for Houston in 1963 after undergoing surgery to remove a malignant tumor in his leg in March of that year.

On the eve of the 1964 season, Umbricht succumbed to lymphoma at the age of 33. The club immediately retired his number 32, and the Astros' MVP award was subsequently renamed in his honor.

3. June 13, 1999
Manager Larry Dierker suffers seizure in dugout

One of the more bizarre, frightening moments in recent baseball history happened inside the Astrodome during a game between the Astros and visiting San Diego Padres. Larry Dierker, the Astros' manager at the time and former player and broadcaster, suffered a grand mal seizure during the 8th inning. The game was postponed and resumed July 23rd.

"''I was getting ready to step in, and the umpire said, 'Hold on,' '' Jeff Bagwell said. ''I looked around, and everybody was running to the dugout. Larry had collapsed. He couldn't talk. He was shaking violently. He was shaking the whole time. It was shocking. We're all stunned.''

Paramedics in an ambulance rushed to the dugout from center field. Dierker's wife, Judy, left the stands and went to the dugout. As the ambulance was driven off the field, accompanied by a motorcycle escort, Astros players huddled in group prayer. Dierker underwent brain surgery to repair malformed blood vessels two days later.

Thankfully, Dierker returned to the dugout just a month later. The Astros went on to win the National League Central that season.

2. January 5, 1975
Don Wilson dies in his Houston home

Wilson pitched 8 full seasons with the Astros from 1966-1974, going 104-92, making the All-Star team in 1971, and throwing 2 no-hitters - one as a rookie in 1967, the other in 1969. He is also is one of only 12 pitchers to ever strike out 18 or more batters in a start of 9 innings or less. On January 5, 1975, Wilson died at his Southwest Houston home he shared with his wife, daughter and son. Wilson was found in the passenger seat of his brown Ford Thunderbird inside the garage with the engine running. The garage was attached to the house, which caused his son, Alex, to die also and his daughter, Denice to be hospitalized in a coma. The official cause of death states that Wilson's death was accidental.

1. July 30, 1980
J.R. Richard has stroke

In 1980, J.R. Richard was widely considered to be a front-runner for the National League's Cy Young Award and was one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball. The flame-throwing righty had a 10-4 record and an ERA of 1.73 on July 30, 1980 when he suffered a stroke before a game. In the days and weeks previous, Richard had complained of a "dead arm" and shoulder and neck pains. Additionally, in his last start on July 14, he said he was unable to read the catcher's signs. Richard's concerns fell on deaf ears with Astros management, and several in the local media perceived Richard to be whiny for making such claims.

While playing catch before a game on July 30, 1980, Richard suffered a major stroke and collapsed in the outfield. A massive blockage in his right cartoid artery necessitated emergency surgery that evening. A CAT scan of Richard's brain later indicated that he had suffered three separate strokes from the different obstructions in his arterial system. Richard underwent rehab, but missed the remainder of the season. J.R. underwent a lengthy comeback attempt over the next couple of years, but was never able to regain his old, dominant form, and never pitched in the major leagues again.

Though the team still managed to go on to win the NL West that season, long-time Astro fans maintain that had something so colossally tragic not happened to one of their aces, the Astros would have won the World Series that year. The Astros lost the NLCS, 3-2, to the eventual World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Richard's personal struggles outside of baseball in coming years make the story much more tragic, though. He lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in unsuccessful business deals and two different divorces. In 1994, a local Houston news outlet aired a story revealing that the former diamond hero was living under a Houston-area bridge. Richard has since regained traction in his personal life, finding solace in the church and becoming a Christian minister and stalwart for youth baseball programs.

The Astros have yet to retire Richard's number 50, an issue that remains a tedious one with the franchise and long-time fans.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

What I Learned In 1200 Miles

Yesterday, I dragged my life and a U-Haul 1200 miles from Orlando to Bristol, Connecticut. As you know, Bristol is famous for the world-renowned Pequabuck Golf Club. It's also home to a large row of satellites and some large sports television network. The following are some of the things I picked up on my odyssey from exotic and secluded Central Florida to the bustling metropolis that is my new home.

1. Never over-fill a U-Haul
I rented a U-Haul to drag behind THE Silverado, and elected to go with one that was the same size as the one I rented when I moved to Florida. As it turns out, I underestimated the amount of crap I purchased while living in Orlando, and bought a U-Haul trailer that was a size or two too small. This was no matter to a longtime veteran of the back room at Foot Locker, where I became thoroughly experienced in the art of cramming boxes into spaces where they should not fit. When I got to Bristol, however, this became a bit of an issue, when I was unable to get the back gate open of the U-Haul. In all my brilliance, I did not anticipate the contents inside shifting and rendering the opening of the back gate impossible. I then tried the following methods to get the gate open:

1. Pull on handle repetitively
2. Kick back door in frustration
3. Try to accelerate truck, slam on brakes trying to shift content
4. Fail
5. Kick back door in frustration
6. Borrow crow bar from apartment complex
7. Use crow bar to try and pry gate open
8. Fail
9. Kick back door in frustration
10. Call U-Haul hotline, where they offered to send someone out there, per my expense, to try and open gate with crow bar.
11. Tell U-Haul guy what I thought of his idea.
12. Detach U-Haul from trailer hitch in an attempt to move stuff forward
13. Fail
14. Kick door in frustration
15. Get back at it with crow bar
16. Work back gate open, millimeter by millimeter
17. *Time elapse = roughly 30 minutes*

The lesson here, children: never over-fill a U-Haul. That, or hire a moving service. Also, never give in to your own stupidity or the suggestions of help line operators.

2. Dragging a U-Haul up the east coast is PRICEY
When I started my journey, I had 70 in cash in my wallet. When I arrived in Bristol, I had 4. I didn't pay cash for anything along the way EXCEPT TOLLS. At one point, I spent 29 dollars in 30 minutes paying for the NJ turnpike and the George Washington Bridge. I'm convinced the booth operators saw my Texas plates and made up a number. I'd also like to thank Google maps for the expedient, affordable route they provided.

3. New Jersey is Depressing/Confusing
I've driven through New Jersey twice now, and maybe it's because a slow drizzle and yellow/gray sky has been the backdrop each time, but I really can't imagine living there and not needing a Prozac IV. That, or a lot of whiskey. Why is everything so rusted there? Maybe someone can help me out with this.

Also, this is the only place I have ever been that I've seen nothing but full service gas stations. I had never even seen a gas station with an attendant in my life before I drove through there last summer. I thought this was so bizarre, I told the dude that he didn't need to pump my gas and I did it myself. I explained to him that I was from Texas and had never seen a full service gas station before. He responded in a jumbled lexicon I was unable to distinguish and waddled away.

4. Delaware
What is the fucking point of Delaware? Have you ever met anyone from Delaware? No, of course not. This is because nobody lives there. The woman in the toll booth who charged me 10 dollars for driving through their county (ed. note: state) actually lives in Pennsylvania. Because of this egregious toll I was subjected to, I will always hate Joe Flacco.

If this was a publication of significance (another ed. note: a publication at all) I would now have 2 states that would hate me.

5. Wale's new mixtape > Tha Carter 3
I had only heard Wale in bits and pieces before I put "The Mixtape About Nothing" on my IPod the other day (his feature on the new Roots joint, "Nike Boots," sporadic listens on, etc.). Maybe it's because he might like Seinfeld as much as I do, but dude's new mixtape is really, really good.

His assessment of how fans shoulder the blame for hip-hop's declining health was smart and refreshing. His metaphors are subtle and rolling, harder to detect but smarter than the blatant verbal presentation of most emcees today. He also has a keen ear for beats, something that distinguishes young emcees from their peers and can lead one to superstardom. The format of the mixtape was creative and brilliantly executed, and I liked the intermittent clips from "Seinfeld." I give it a solid A-.

The Perfect Plan (FuLL) - Wale

Don't get me wrong, I LIKED Carter 3. I'll probably be playing several of the tracks all summer, if not off and on for years to come. I think it's remarkable that he had this many gems in the bank after the epidemic of net leakage that the project suffered (which was either brilliant modern marketing or just incidental). The singles are singles - the Babyface feature is the obvious next of which (I'm guessing the T-Pain track is already on radio, 'Lollipop' and 'A Millie' leaked months ago... I wouldn't know, I haven't listened to mainstream radio willingly in years.

'Mr. Carter' is unmistakably dope, but it's obvious to me that Wayne was so geeked about having his idol on the album that he put on 2 extra verses that really didn't need to be there. 'Tie My Hands' was unexpectedly my favorite song on the album. The Fab and Juelz feature song was thankfully remastered, and thumps quite well. 'Mrs. Officer' has good replay value, and '3-Peat' is a near-perfect opening number. I give it a B overall, and a B+ if you factor in the watered-down, Adderall-needed crappiness of this current era of hip-hop.


So that's what's good with my venture to the WWL. I drove through Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, circumvented DC, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and finally Connecticut. I start work Monday.