What I Did on Friday Night: Dodger Stadium still looks good. The fans are another matter.
04/03/2004 03:25 AM
Baseball Predictions & Possible Betting Pool: So, here are my picks for the season. If you want to, put your predictions in the comments, and if there are enough people, we can run some kind of low-key betting pool, based on some variation of a weird scoring system I propose below. Without further ado:
1. Anaheim, 2. Oakland, 3. Seattle, 4. Texas
1. Chicago, 2. Minnesota, 3. Kansas City, 4. Cleveland, 5. Detroit
1. Boston, 2. New York, 3. Toronto, 4. Baltimore, 5. Tampa Bay
AL WILDCARD: New York
AL CHAMP: Anaheim
1. L.A., 2. S.D., 3. S.F., 4. Arizona, 5. Colorado
1. St. Louis, 2. Chicago, 3. Houston, 4. Cincy, 5. Pittsburgh, 6. Milwaukee
1. Atlanta, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Florida, 4. Montreal, 5. New York
NL WILDCARD: Philly
NL CHAMP: Philly
WORLD SERIES CHAMP: You have to ask? The Angels.
How would a betting pool work? Easy -- 15 points for each division, awarded in descending order from top to bottom (5 points for first, 4 points for second, 3 points for third, 2 points for fourth, 1 point for fifth). For the division with four teams, run it like 5/4.5/3.5/2; for the division with 6 you get the ungainly 5/4/2.5/1.7/1/0.8. (Or any better divvying up of 15 you can come up with.) Wild card picks get an additional five points, and then I'm at a loss to score the playoffs. But I figure let's get a few sets of picks in the comments, and we'll go from there.
04/02/2004 03:37 PM
My Baseball Longshot Picks of the Year: Some of you may remember last spring, when I gave my three best longshots to win the World Series. One of them was the eventual champion Florida Marlins, who were then 100-1. So listen to me, and get rich. My best three bets for 2004:
3. The Kansas City Royals, 60-1. Well, someone's gotta win the gruesome AL Central, and while I think Chicago has a better chance, the Royals won 83 games last year, and have some upside. Even at age 62, C Benito Santiago is a significant mark-up from Brent Mayne; RF Juan Gonzalez is a safe bet to hit better than Michael Tucker, and 1B Mike Sweeney is healthy. Carlos Beltran, already a stud, is entering his prime, and Jeremy Affeldt seems set to take off. And their division really, really sucks.
2. The San Diego Padres, 40-1. Sure, I was sweet on them last year too, but all these fine young pitching arms can take a while to develop, and now they've got A) an exciting new pitcher's park to dampen ERAs and pump up the enthusiasm, and B) massive upgrades on offense, in the form of RF Brian Giles, C Ramon Hernandez, and the rapidly developing 23-year-old Long Beach kid Sean Burroughs, in addition to bounce-back upside to last year's injured Phil Nevin and Ryan Klesko. Plus, they play in arguably baseball's worst division (unless it's the AL Central) -- Frisco's old and depleted and injured, the Dodgers are still anemic (even if I think they'll win the NL West), and the Diamondbacks are running out of horses to shoot. It could be the feel-good story of the year.
1. The Toronto Blue Jays, 80-1. All it takes for the Jays to get in the playoffs are three pieces of extremely plausible luck -- 1) either the Yanks or the Red Sox, both teams that depend on old and/or fragile superstars, break down in a big way; 2) two of the three AL West teams (probably the A's and the Mariners) regress slightly, and 3) the Jays continue to play well, and benefit from improved performances from a few breakout candidates, such as 3B Eric Hinske, SP Miguel Batista, DH Josh Phelps and 2B Orlando Hudson. I'd say 1 is a 50-50 proposition (both teams' starting pitching is alarmingly thin), 2 is even likelier (the Mariners especially are due for a collapse), and 3 is the strongest bet of all. The team won 86 games last year, is relatively young, and managed intelligently. Vernon Wells is a monster and he's only 25, Carlos Delgado and Roy Halladay are both still in their prime (and among the elite players in the league). A Wild Card, then a surprise stomp through the playoffs, is certainly worth 80-1 odds.
This year, I'll actually put my money where my mouth is. Meanwhile, Eric Neel's longshot picks are the A's, Mariners, Twins and Jays.
04/02/2004 03:35 PM
Alan Levy, R.I.P.: The founding editor and old-timey columnist for The Prague Post passed away this morning from cancer. He was 72.
I've certainly soft-tossed a dart or two in Levy's direction over the years (as recently as 10 days ago!), but he was a classic type -- the foreign correspondent who stumbles into a historically tragic story that changes his life, the hometown columnist/enthusiast who writes cheery profiles on the burghers (which was far and away my favorite part of the Post), the grandfatherly figure overseeing the newsroom whippersnappers, and the instinctual promoter of his paper, his adopted town, his work. Doug Arellanes, who still lives out there, has more.
04/02/2004 01:14 PM
The Difference Two Years Makes: On April 1, 2002, Bjoern Staerk, the ridiculously smart young Norwegian who has always been proud to call himself a "warblogger," posted a legendary April Fool's joke as the The People's Blog, complete with a portrait of Stalin and latest from the North Korean news service. Rancid Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam fell for it, and we all had a good laugh. Last year, we were treated to People's Blog 2.0. And 2004? Instead of Stalin, it's a certain Texan in a cowboy hat, dreaming of offing Jacques Chirac, and heralding the Total War Blog, which advocates the invasion of Iran, Syria and North Korea, for starters.
04/01/2004 08:56 PM
First Reason Media Column -- 'Hack Roast': I have a new regular media column at Reason, kind of like what I was going to have over at The American Prospect, until they re-read my resume (or was it simply because this article was unprintable? Or both?).
Yesterday's comedy aside, my first Reason effort is now online -- it's about nitpickers, like the kids at Spinsanity, who fact-check political journalists & op-edists. I also speculate that partisan passion, rather than Spinsanity-style non-partisan scrupulousness, fuels more media criticism than the high-minded journalistic approach.
04/01/2004 06:36 PM
Check out Tony Pierce's Great Video-Advertisement for Tsar's April 5 Concert at the El Rey: Go ahead, I'll wait.
OK. This is the most important show ever in Tsar's six-year history. The tension is incredible. It's at Los Angeles' beautiful and historic El Rey Theatre, on 5515 Wilshire, Monday night, April 5, 9 p.m. sharp. Buy tickets here. You like put-it-all-on-red rock shows, don't you? You like that great song you heard on indie 103.1 Sunday night, the one that included the immortal couplet Mohammed is just all right, but he never got you high? You like drama and dirt and melodic gutter-punk epics? OK, even if you don't, you'll love this show, and you should go. Why?
You'll get a free four-song CD sampler of their long-awaited new record. Also, it'll be stomping good fun.
And it's 18 and over, for all you tweeners out there. Let's rock!
04/01/2004 05:28 PM
Roger Simon Goes To Laker Blowout, Takes Pictures of Large Men
04/01/2004 05:09 PM
Who Are We at War With? Keith Berry asks, lots of mostly pro-war bloggers answer, and a minor conflict is ginned up in the comments. I'm pretty confident my answer was the dullest of the lot.
04/01/2004 05:05 PM
Interesting Little Q&A With Ex-Dodgers GM Fred Claire: With stuff I didn't know about Craig Wright, and Frank Jobe's diagnosis of Pedro Martinez.
04/01/2004 05:02 PM
Here's Axl Rose's Press Release About Buckethead: Via Gawker, whose daddy just launched an interesting blog-tracking site (here's the baseball bit).
04/01/2004 05:01 PM
One-Liner of the Week:
Nobody wants a president who carries on like a bitch. And Cavanaugh's probably even voting for the guy.
04/01/2004 04:57 PM
A Beatiful Ode to Strat-o-Matic: If you don't know what that is, you probably don't want to click on the link. But he describes that annual ritual very, very accurately.
04/01/2004 04:55 PM
What Happens When You Mess With Alkon's Paris
04/01/2004 04:54 PM
Check out the Google Ads to the Left: Suddenly, they're all about vines & shrubs and whatnot. Actually, I put 'em all over this site, and it's pretty interesting to see how they change to reflect the content of the given page. Found a couple interesting sites that way, too; remember, if you click & look, as long as it's not in a too-hyperactive manner, I get like three cents!
04/01/2004 04:51 PM
That E-mail Address Above Is Fraudulent, By the Way: If you've tried to use firstname.lastname@example.org -- you know, the address in the logo -- it hasn't worked for a while. Months, maybe. Who knows! It's been my little personal April Fool's joke, apparently.... Just send stuff to mail-at-mattwelch.com, and if you want to make yourself laugh, substitute a different prefix for "mail" (isn't the Internet funny!). Soon, if the Holy Infant Alien of Los Angeles is kind and true, there will be a new logo above, and maybe even a new picture to the left....
04/01/2004 01:33 AM
Gardening Interlude -- Springtime in Los Angeles:
That's my lovely wife, planting new bits of creeping thyme in the backyard. She's leaving today for a 10-day swing to France, so I want her to be able to think of Los Angeles when she's gone. That's a crazy bougainvillea decorating an inexplicable chain-link fence that bifurcates the property, if you know what I mean. Also pictured: an umbrella-like white oleander (back left), and a bamboo patch all shot through with pomegranate branches and the odd red-wine grape vine. Also, some Martha Stewart-brand table cloths (Free Martha!). It's springtime in L.A., which means lots of flowers, and above all, the California poppy:
In both orange and a fetching white. Note the various cacti (several of which are also flowering), the lettuce, the daisies, and the encroaching grape vines (above left), which produce delicious fruit every year. This year, I'm actually cultivating them.
This is just a little corner of our original 8x4 rectangle of space that we started planting in last spring. First, we removed buckets of rocks & unspeakable debris (the backyard was basically a hillside pile of rocks and baked dirt, ringed by the aforementioned oleander/bamboo/grape vines, some massive olive trees, and a ridiculously tall palm tree). Here, you're looking at (I think!) aloe, Mojito-quality mint, chocolate mint, lemon thyme, delicious parsley, young cilantro, some sage, shaded strawberries, various flowers, and (in the upper left-hand corner) this weird grayish cactus that grows on rocks and spits up beautiful yellow flowers.
There's plenty of stuff not pictured, but I'll inflict that on you when I figure out how to "transfer" images from my wife's computer to the Interweb. In the meantime, let this be a partial answer to the e-mail correspondent who recently asked why I don't move back to Prague. You know that "sometimes it snows in April" bit? In Czech, the "sometimes" converts to "every time," and unless things have changed radically in seven years, I wouldn't be able to hop on the bus there for a half-dozen stops and end up at the Dodger-Angels game.
03/30/2004 01:16 AM
More on Historical Analogies: Again, with the crucial caveat that I still haven't paid any meaningful attention to any of this Clarke stuff yet. Michael Totten writes (in part):
Looks like Saddam was out of the [9/11] loop. And so what? Changing his regime wasn't an act of revenge or retaliation any more than smacking down Adolf Hitler was to punish him for Pearl Harbor. This is narrowly true (even if Hitler never tried to bump off FDR's dad), but as I mentioned below, there are limits to historical analogies. Saddam, unlike Hitler, hadn't signed a formal alliance with Al Qaeda (the Japan in this metaphor). Nor had he trampled over several democratic countries over the past 24 months, nor was he in the middle of actively prosecuting a long-telegraphed eradication of the world's Jews.
Am I splitting the Hairs of Evil? Yes. But I'd also like to preserve some extra-special dungeon in hell for Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust. There are plenty of people (Palestinians, for example) who wish to lay claim to this ultimate in analogical victimhood, just as there are many (including just about every modern American president) who wish to tap into the awful power of that memory to shore up public support for a foreign intervention. Both acts, when inaccurately applied, end up doing an injustice to the actual victims of the Nazi regime, in my opinion. I have little doubt that Osama Bin Laden would be a Hitler, if given the chance, and it's also a pretty safe bet that fears of not learning the lessons of appeasement have contributed to an atmosphere in which a true modern-day Hitler is actually unthinkable (specifically, when the first President Bush would not let stand Saddam's invasion of neighboring Kuwait). So why flinch at a dictator = Hitler analogy? Because A) it's just too far off the mark, in my judgment, and B) It's a black-and-white conversation-stopper too frequently used on policy issues that, to my eyes at least, look gray.
03/28/2004 10:43 PM
When Russian Kids Speak English to Each Other in Prague, What Do They Say? Doug Arellanes has the exclusive report.
03/28/2004 02:59 PM
More on Cobain and Prague: The post below reminded me that I once wrote a rambling cover story for the short-lived Velvet magazine about the promising but snake-bitten music industry in Prague. It's a kind of interesting (to me!) snapshot of a business sector in transition, complete with minor scoops about payola & tainted journalism; it also somehow reminds you of how rock music itself was in a weird flux after Cobain's suicide. Here's the lede:
On February 25, 1994, Carol Miller, Greg Jarvis, and a posse of friends piled into two cars packed with booze, smokes, and backstage passes for a three-day road trip from Prague to Ljubljana to see Nirvana. They had plenty of reason to be giddy. Miller, then co-owner of the local promotions agency Interkoncerts, had sold 6,000 tickets in just four hours to Nirvana's pending Prague show, a Czech record that still stands. Jarvis, marketing manager for the local office of Nirvana's European label BMG, had visions of swelled In Utero sales and was looking forward to hanging out with the band in Prague for a whole week. "It was pretty heavy because we had spent months and months working on the concert," Jarvis recalls. "So we get there -- it's always really tense backstage -- and we just talked to the tour managers. We didn't even bother to talk to the band." It was a decision they would soon come to regret.
Who broke the voodoo spell? I bet you could guess….
The next day Miller and Jarvis drove back, and the entire Nirvana road crew headed on to Prague. The band itself was supposed to come along for a mini-vacation, but decided to fly home to be with their families. Kurt Cobain met wife Courtney Love in Rome, and on March 5 -- six days before the Prague concert -- Miller was handing out refunds and sending off apologetic faxes. "It was terrible," she said.
It got worse. While Prague's weirder expats where throwing "Coma as You Are" parties featuring cheap champagne and barbiturates, Miller optimistically rescheduled Nirvana for April 29. Somehow, though, everyone knew it wouldn't happen.
Cobain's enrollment in "the stupid club" on April 6 provided a grim exclamation point to a theory that was already gaining wide currency around town: no great band, or at least a band you really want to see, can avoid the Prague Curse.
After the suicide, more evidence for the theory began to pile up. In November, the Beastie Boys postponed a long-awaited show for three months, to "rest." The Manic Street Preachers pushed a December 7 Prague show back to February 12, "because they band couldn't play a full set." The February concert then went belly-up when arm-carving guitarist Richie James disappeared, never to be seen again. By then, people were already making dark jokes about R.E.M.'s March 26 show; right on cue, drummer Bill Berry suffered a freak aneurysm.
Still, Prague looked set to rebound in July, starting with a Soul Asylum show on the fourth, followed by the July 5-7 "Prague Rock Days" featuring Elton John, Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart, Sheryl Crow and others, topped nicely by a rescheduled and rehabilitated R.E.M. on July 11.
All five concerts were cancelled.
R.E.M. managed to top the drama of their previous backout by allowing Slavia stadium to be filled up before announcing that bassist Mike Mills was on an operating table in a Munich emergency room.
"I think it was a catastrophe. It was a tragedy for the industry," says Serge Grimaux, owner of Prague's dominant ticketing agency, Ticketpro. "R.E.M. was incredible! First the brain hemorrhage or whatever, then the appendicitis. I think the voodoo thing was working on them. Even Bob Dylan, who never cancelled a show in his life, three hours prior to the concert [in March] he says he doesn't feel good and wants to postpone it to the next night. You should have seen this mess."
Near the end of the article is a bit about a kid named Prokop Svoboda, all set to show a visiting Jimmy Somerville around town. I neglected to mention that A) Prokop was a pal, who had worked briefly at Prognosis, and B) I went with him to show lil' Jimmy a good time, which included an excruciating but interesting session at a grim, fluorescent Prague 6 gay club, I think called Club Freddie Mercury. If my faulty memory serves, the club owner, who I think was some Italian guy, had to be told about 45 minutes in that a famous singer was sitting in his unlovely establishment, whereupon he sprang into gear and changed the music accordingly. Everybody tried to look like it was a spontaneous recognition, and the possibly-not-gay dancers aimed their hairless bits more in the direction of the tiny bald guy. Painful stuff.
03/28/2004 01:59 PM
Cobain in L.A., Painting: Hey Gen-Xers -- we're old. It's coming up on the 10-year anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide, a slap in the face of a fact that I heard for the first time the other night, from a friend who remembers fondly (as I do) the "Coma As You Are" party we had in Prague after the Rome suicide attempt. Nirvana was scheduled to play Prague on, what was it, April 11? We all had tickets; we all somehow knew that the show would never happen.
Anyway, here's a pretty good L.A. Times story about Cobain's painting, and his tenure in L.A. Excerpt:
He spent most of 1992 in Los Angeles, a time much less is known about. In an apartment on Spaulding Avenue, at the height of his fame, he put down his guitar, picked up a paint brush and contemplated a life without music. For several months he was ensconced in a mad world of creation. He painted using acrylics and oils, but at times he mixed his own blood, semen, cigarette ash and fecal matter into his medium. It was astonishing work. Most of it has only been seen by his closest friends. […]
Though Nirvana kept getting offers to tour, Cobain turned down million-dollar deals and chose mostly to stay inside his two-bedroom apartment in a stucco building in the Fairfax district. Love didn't drive, and Cobain rarely did. He ate at Canter's, bought expensive hi-fi gear at Silo, and retreated to painting and narcotics […]
Friends who visited in summer 1992 found a full working artist's studio in the Spaulding apartment. "He had 100 square feet of canvas," says Jesse Reed, Cobain's best friend from high school. "He was talking of quitting music and opening his own gallery."
03/28/2004 11:37 AM
Hi! What are you doing down here?