Saturday, June 2, 2007

So Long, Blue Eyes

One of my favorite actors, Paul Newman, has announced his retirement from films at the age of 82. He cited eroding skills due to aging. Oh, well. What a fine career to look back on.

Iconic films like "The Hustler", "Hud", "Cool Hand Luke", "Absence Of Malice", and one from my top ten favorites of all time--"Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid".

I actually met him once, on the street in New Orleans when I was walking to work---he too was at work, waiting to be called to the set of "Blaze", a forgotten film in which he played Earl Long, Huey Long's loony brother who courted a stripper. We passed a few pleasantries, and shook hands. He seemed like a genuinely nice man. So he probably is.

He didn't live in Hollywood, he didn't bed-hop. When asked why he wasn't big on committing adultery, Newman's response was "Why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?" Next year he and Joanne Woodward celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. And it seemed that the older he got, the better looking he got. His philanthropy and charity is well known. Somebody Up There Likes Him.

I do too. Enjoy your retirement, Blue Eyes. I'll see you every time I dress my salad...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Reasons To Be Cheerful #254

852. Although the Giants fell to the Mets 4-2, they managed to pawn off shell-shocked fat not-much-of-a-closer Armando Benitez on the Florida Marlins in exchange for a fat guy named Randy Messenger. Randy Messenger---sounds like a chat tool on an adult dating site. Not that I'd know anything about that. Anyway, had the Giants announced they'd traded Benitez for a couple of Cuban Sandwiches from some street cart in Miami, I'd have been happy. That they were able to land another pitcher in exchange is icing on the cake. And so my friend Q in NYC had the honor of seeing Armando Benitez' last appearance ever as a member of the San Francisco Giants---that stinkified meltdown of Tuesday night. Benitez, GONE. The end of an error. In retrospect, a horrendous signing. But I was for it at the time. Benitez had just come off a great come-back year with the Marlins when the Giants signed him to a three year deal, but I guess closing games in Florida is not a pressure situation. He hurt himself the first week of his Giants career, finally came back to being completely healthy this year, but turned out to be a cancerous malcontent in the clubhouse, pushing blame on anyone but himself for his troubles, and becoming a lightning rod for fan discontent. It cracks me up that so many people see Bonds as a cancer when there are guys like Benitez who really ARE cancers. List of people other than sportswriters who have said Bonds is a bad team-mate:

1) Jeff Kent

I can't think of anyone else. And if anyone would know a lousy team-mate, it would be Jeff Kent. He sees one in the mirror every day.

853. I just got my copy of Richard Thompson's new CD , called Sweet Warrior.
It is bleeding fantastic, nearly all-electric, and chock full of great songs. So far, it's my favorite album of the year, and that's saying something. I highly recommend it. Highly.

854. James Bond. I came into possession of a collection of four box sets, containing the first 20 James Bond films, each with a bonus disc of extra material. I have rediscovered my love for all things Bond. Or, most things Bond. Some of the Roger Moore outings are pretty painful to watch. And the box sets are all mixed up, as in not chronological. I guess they didn't want anyone to be able to get "just the good ones". But in retrospect, much-maligned George Lazenby's only Bond outing, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", is a pretty damned good film. Better than most of the Roger Moore ones in my opinion. The only thing missing from these sets is "Casino Royale" (the new one, not the spoof---which isn't really in the Bond genre) and the "unauthorized" Sean Connery comeback "Never Say Never Again". This was a rogue production, not part of the licensed Cubby Brocolli franchise. It's just a remake of "Thunderball".
Still, I've got to have it if I'm a completist, and it's only ten bucks at Fry's. Maybe next week.
Incidentally, I think that Daniel Craig is a fantastic Bond. On par with Connery. Here is my personal list, in order, of the Best Bonds. (Well, besides Barry)

1) Sean Connery
2) Daniel Craig
3) Pierce Brosnan
4) Timothy Dalton
5) George Lazenby
6) Roger Moore

I DO like some of the Moore Bonds, like "Octopussy" and even the universally hated "Moonraker".

I've also ordered the first five Bond novels from Amazon. I hope the obsession ends soon :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Now THAT'S how you close out a game.

The Giants won tonight 3-0 over the New York Mets. Some early runs through the timely hitting of Peter Happy and Rich Aurilia (breaking out of a killer slump), seven shut-out innings from Barry Gazillioinaire, and 1-2-3 eight and ninth innings by Jack Taschner and Brad Hennessey, who got the save.

I think last night's jaw-dropping meltdown by Armando Benitez might mark the end of his days as the Giants' closer. Benitez wasted no time in killing the Giants hopes when he came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth. Walked the leadoff guy, Reyes, known as an instant double. Instant courtesy of Armando, last night. Balk. Runner advances to second. Grounder to the right side, runner advances to third. One out, runner on third. Infield in, grounder to second. Runner holds. Two out. Giants one out away from victory. Balk! The runner scores. Reyes danced around on third and Benitez broke his motion. The oldest trick in the book, and one EVERY closer shouldn't fall for. It came as a surprise to no one at Shea or those of us listening at home that the next batter would crush a walk-off homerun off the rattled closer. BOOM. Bang goes the tie, bang goes the game. A friend of mine who went to the game last night (A Mets fan AND a Red Sox fan, but I still like him) was elated. He'd watched Benitez blow many a game for the Mets, and as soon as Armando came in, his hopes soared sky high. In fact, when one fan dispaired near him, Q turned to him and said "Hey--Benitez is pitching. This one is far from over." Good job, Kreskin. You called that one for frickin' sure.

Anyway, tonight before the game it was announced that Armando has a knee injury. I call bullshit for two reasons. One, I watched the ninth inning last night. He looked like he had his pitches, and he was laughing and grinning when the inning started. The only people hurting their knees last night were Giants fans who may have hit them forcefully while praying to God that Benitez wouldn't be Benitez. Two, this is standard-issue chicanery from the Giants office. Whenever a move needs to be made and they don't have options or wiggle room to work with, someone magically gets hurt and sent to the Disabled List. Someone on the Giants message board I frequent called it LAST NIGHT. Sure enough, it comes to pass. Benitez unavailable tonight due to "bad knee". Maybe the front office wants to give Benitez a chance to grow a pair (a pair being required equipment for a closer). Maybe they want to give Henny or Ortiz a chance to close a game or two. Russ Ortiz was a closer in the minors. Hennessey did the job tonight. He hasn't been consistently good, but bringing Armando into a game is telling the other team that you want them to go ahead and win it. So it was nice to beat a good team tonight. Without Benitez in there to make things "interesting".

GOOD NEWS: The Nervous Red Dog had his follow-up vet appointment today and as I expected, the Vet was VERY pleased with the way he's healing. Yesterday he ate like a pig, and today he chased the cat around the house for a few minutes. His wounds are still ugly though. But he gets his many stitches out next week, and then we just have to wait for his hair to grow back.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Today Is Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, and my thoughts turn to the brave men and women putting themselves in harm's way by serving in our armed forces. I pray that they keep safe from harm, and return to the families and friends who love them. I pray for those families who have lost their soldiers, and whose lives are changed forever by the horrors of war.
Come home soon, and come home safe.

One of my favorite poems is actually a song lyric written by an Australian singer-songwriter named Eric Bogle. The poem, or song, is variously titled "No Man's Land", "The Green Fields Of France", or "The Flowers Of The Forest". It is told from the point of view of a man visiting the vast cemetery in Flanders Field in France, a World War One battlefield...

"No Man's Land" by Eric Bogle
Well how d'you do Private William MacBride
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside
I'll rest for a while in the warm summer sun
I've been walking all day and I'm nearly done
I can see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the glorious fallen in nineteen-sixteen
Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or Willie MacBride was it slow and obscene
Did they bang the drum slowly
Did they sound the fife lowly
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered you down
Did the bugles sing the Last Post and Chorus
Did the pipes play The Flowers of the Forest

Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined
And though you died back in nineteen-sixteen
To that loyal heart are you always nineteen
Or are you a stranger without even a name
Forever enshrined behind some glass pane
In an old photograph torn and tattered and stained
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame
Did they bang the drum slowly
Did they sound the fife lowly
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered you down
Did the bugles sing The Last Post And Chorus
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest

The sun's shining now on these green fields of France
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance
The trenches have vanished long under the plough
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now
But here in this graveyard it's still no man's land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man
And a whole generation that were butchered and damned
Did they bang the drum slowly
Did they sound the fife lowly
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered you down
Did the bugles sing The Last Post And Chorus
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest

And I can't help but wonder now Willie MacBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause
Did you really believe that this war would end wars
Well the suffering the sorrow the glory the shame
The killing the dying it was all done in vain
For Willie MacBride it all happened again
And again and again and again and again
Did they bang the drum slowly
Did they sound the fife lowly
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered you down
Did the bugles sing The Last Post and Chorus
Did the pipes play The Flowers of the Forest...