Saturday, September 29, 2007

David Bazan

Two great covers:


"The Man in Me," Bob Dylan


"Hallelujah," Leonard Cohen

Plus one of my favorite Pedro songs:


"Preists and Paramedics"

Monday, September 24, 2007

Root, root, root

The Steelers are 3-0, the Pirates 15th season of misery is almost at and end (and yes, this is a good thing with the way they're playing right now), the baseball playoff picture is falling into place, and the Pens drop the puck for real October 5th. I'd say it's a good time to be a Pittsburgher and a sports fan.

Everyone keeps asking me if I'm still going to root for the Steelers in SoCal, and while the allure of LT might make me root for a Chargers-Steelers playoff match-up, I could never turn my back on the black and gold. I figure if I'm still a Pirate fan, I don't think my loyalty should really be questioned. But there's a difference in my mind between your team and teams you root for. And then there are some you just don't. Example: I'm stoked the Indians won the AL Central, but I could never don Cardinal Red in St. Louis no matter how long I lived there, or do the Tomahawk Chop in Atlanta or wear a Yankees cap anywhere, ever. But would I buy a Grady Sizemore t-shirt at the Jake? Sure. Would I love watching Chase Utley and Ryan Howard bash in Philly? You bet. So I'm figuring I'll pick up an LA cap or Russell Martin tee at Dodger Stadium sometime next spring, but that doesn't mean I won't be at every game the Buccos play there in my black and gold booing the home team--because I will. Do I wish I could see a Ducks-Pens game, sure, and is there any question which team I'd be pulling for? Of course not. It's all silliness to even question such things. No matter how much Big Ben gets on my nerves (or local news coverage of the Steelers), or whatever, he will never be Tom Brady and Pittsburgh will always be my home team.

In my head I'm pretty sure I have a pretty good idea of teams I would never in a million years root for (whether that's because of a specific defeat, player, image or whatever), and teams I could care about if given the chance (mainly because I currently hold no ill will, or I like their uniform colors or the way they're building their farm system or something). And here it is:

Never In A Million Years
St. Louis Cardinals
Atlanta Braves
New England Patriots
New York Yankees, Rangers
Dallas Cowboys, Stars
Cleveland Browns
Baltimore Ravens
Buffalo Sabres
Detroit Red Wings
Colorado Avalanche
Denver Broncos
Philadelphia [ed.] Flyers, Eagles
Washington Capitals
San Francisco Giants
Oakland Raiders
Ottawa Senators
Pretty much any NBA team

Eh, Why Not?
Cleveland Indians
Milwaukee Brewers
Minnesota Twins
Colorado Rockies
LA Dodgers
Anaheim Angels, Ducks
Vancouver Canucks
San Diego Padres, Chargers
New York Mets
Philadelphia Phillies
Boston Red Sox... I think

Feel free to add your own nevers and why-nots, and include explanations if you so choose. Be sure to vote in the poll to the right (and if you answer "somebody else," say who below). And no matter where you live, go black and gold.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

An important question??



At THE crucial point of the game. Just unbelievable.

This really is the reason why sites like this, and this really, exist, and why I have zero respect for ESPN. Thank you, Internet, for intelligent sports journalism.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Small world?

I know stuff like this happens to people all the time, and it seems like more and more people are spending time in China so it's not that big of a deal I guess, but it still sort of blows my mind. Two girls I liked in high school (of say, five) have China ties. One I dated briefly and is living there now (with her husband) and the other I really wanted to date and has been to China twice, once with ELIC even!! (She's married, too, by the way.) It seems really weird to think back to when I knew Kayla and Amanda (when I was a sophomore/junior in high school) and that we would end up in the same country on the other side of the globe at different times. It makes me think maybe John Stuart's six-degree thing is possible, but mainly it just makes my head hurt.

It's all that thing I try to explain to people sometimes: I like big things to be big, and small things to be small, and it scares me when they aren't. OK that's enough randomness for a while.

Doddi California

I want to fill you all in on some details of my sooncoming relocation, if you don't know this stuff already. I'm taking a job with the English Language Institute/China, the company that sent me to Beijing as a teacher in 2005-2006. I'm not going back to China, though, instead to California. Specifically, San Dimas, home of a famous Circle K where some strange things once were afoot.

San Dimas is also home to ELIC's North American headquarters and is, for some reference, about 45 minutes east of downtown LA, an hour from the beach, 2 minutes from the mountains, and 25 minutes north of Anaheim/Disneyland. (A year pass will be purchased.) My job title will be "Communications Typographer." My primary responsibility will be newsletter layout and I start October 15th.

Oh, this is cool. Here's the skinny on 19773 (my new zip) from ZipSkinny, via Chris. Also, go ahead and compare your Zip to San Dimas, or Moon Township (15108) or Beaver Falls (15010) or wherever. Lots of interesting stuff there.

But, just so you know, I'll only be living in San Dimas for about a year (maybe less) until all of ELIC relocates to Fort Collins, Colorado, which means I too will be moving--again--sometime next summer, most likely.

I'm trying to approach this big step in my adult life with proper preparation and thought, which means I've been reading up on surviving earthquakes, how far I'll be from Google/Apple/Pixar (the answer: 7 hours) and when Blade Runner is showing in LA theaters in advance of The Final Cut DVD release in December (the answer, I think, is starting October 5. First movie I'll see in California? I think yes.)

Which leads me to my question: What are some must-see/read/listen to LA/California films/books/albums I should get to know before or after my Westward trek?

I'll start the list and you all can help me put something complete together.

Films:
Chinatown
L.A. Confidential
The Big Lebowski

Music:
The Beach Boys
Weezer
Red Hot Chili Peppers

Books:
The Grapes of Wrath (not LA specifically, but the book I think of when I think California)
Shoot... I need help with books.

While we talk must-sees, be praying that I can find a church home in LA, and somewhere to live. My buddy Ryan has graciously provided me with a bed/couch until Thanksgiving-ish, but I'll need lots more than a pillow leaving home, Providence and friends and family behind. Somehow I'll survive without the Steelers (I left before and they won the Super Bowl), but Wednesday nights at the Stuarts, dinners at Sweet Basil and staying above mom and dad's garage will be harder.

I'll have lots more to say on lots of stuff soon. But for now, good night.

Confession



I'm watching through season 2 of The Office again and it's official: Jim and Pam have reached the heyday of Arms 404 Clark and Lana status for me. Which makes me wonder, am I ready for an adult relationship?? Because I haven't felt like this for a long time.

...

Oh wow.

(Season 4 of The Office premiers Thursday, September 27th at 9:00 on NBC.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'll never say Jeter's o-ver-rated again

(As long as ESPN gives Freddy just as much man-love.)

Basically I stand corrected on everything I've ever said about Derek Jeter. In 146 games and 592 at-bats in 2007, Jeter has scored 93 runs and has 187 hits, 33 doubles, 3 triples, 11 HRs, 67 RsBI, 54 BBs, 89 Ks and 13 stolen bases to go with 8 caught stealings. He has a .316 BA, .386 OBP, .438 SLG and an .823 OPS.

Which makes Jeter just as good of a player as our own Freddy Sanchez. In 140 games and 576 at-bats, Freddy has 76 runs, 178 hits, 42 doubles, 3 triples, 11 HRs, 78 RsBI, 31 BBs, 70 Ks, and 0 stolen bases in 1 attempt. He has a .309 BA, .348 OBP, .450 SLG and a .798 OPS.

Jeter gets the edge in World Series rings admittedly and has a slight edge in OPS thanks to those extra walks, but that's crazy how similar those lines are. Thanks, DK, for the heads up.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Giving it up

The decision's no longer in my hands. It's in His.

And here's some Derek Webb for the night:

I repent of my pursuit of America’s dream
I repent of living like I deserve anything
Of my house, my fence, my kids, my wife
In our suburb where we’re safe and white
I am wrong and of these things I repent

I repent of parading my liberty
I repent of paying for what I get for free
And for the way I believe that I am living right
By trading sins for others that are easier to hide
I am wrong and of these things I repent

I repent of judging by a law that even I can’t keep
Of wearing righteousness like a disguise
To see through the planks of my own eyes

I repent of trading truth for false unity
I repent of confusing peace and idolatry
By caring more of what they think than what I know of what we need
By domesticating you until you look just like me
I am wrong and of these things I repent

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Groceries

I seriously have no idea how to shop for myself. I went to Giant Eagle last night and came home with:

2 cartons of Arizona Iced Green Tea (mmmm)
1 half gallon of 2% milk
1 carton of low-fat yogurt
1 case of Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper
Hotel Rwanda
Strictly Ballroom/Moulin Rouge!/Romeo + Juliet box set (...that movie section in Giant Eagle kills me)

And that was it. I need groceries and I buy drinks, yogurt and movies. Ugh.

In my defense, I also bought s'more stuff for our youth group bonfire tonight, and it took me about 20 minutes to find marshmallows which drove me crazy. Speaking of, tonight's our Fall Semester Youth Group Kick-Off Extravaganza. We're building an awesome bonfire, there'll be food and crazy games, and our talented musicians are plugging in outside for a jam session that will rock Phillips Lane all the way to Clever (Eric's autoharp included). Should be sa-weet.

Before that though I have a phone call with California.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I was wrong

The Pirates scored a lot of runs tonight but didn't need them.

I really liked 3:10 to Yuma.

My brother Scott started his week as a Science Journalism Fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod, and is blogging about it here. Very interesting stuff.

And I'm a week late on this, but John Piper talks about a momentous anniversary in the history of Protestant Christianity in China and about its future. Thanks, Sam, for the heads up.

Westerns, 3:10 to Yuma and Jack Wilson



After all that Pirate talk, I changed my plans for tonight. Instead of seeing the legendary showdown that will be Tony Armas vs. Carlos Villanueva, I'll be seeing Christian Bale and Russell Crowe square off in James Mangold's remake of 3:10 to Yuma. Mangold previously directed 2005's Walk the Line, the biopic of the life of Johnny Cash, and I was mostly underwhelmed by that film. While Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon put in great, great performances as Cash and his long-time love June Carter, I just didn't find Johnny Cash's life story nearly as interesting as his music--which I love. I don't know if I can blame that on the director, and even if I can that might have no bearing at all on the movie I'm seeing tonight, which is getting some critical praise--though coincidentally both Walk the Line and 3:10 to Yuma have 83%s on Rotten Tomatoes. We'll see if my reaction is similar, as well.

Anyway, Westerns. I'll admit I haven't seen many (Unforgiven is my favorite of what I have seen), but I'm trying to watch more. I bought Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy (starring Clint Eastwood) earlier this summer but haven't had time to watch them for whatever reason... yet. Last night though, I watched John Ford's classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. It was one of Ford's last films (Stagecoach is the only other of his I've seen) and arguably, from what I've read, one of his best. The film had a different scope and feel than many Westerns, almost all of the action taking place in the town of Shinbone, and with one of the main themes being the transition of the West from the rule of the gun to the rule of the law. The film stars Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne and I can't think of two more legendary actors sharing the big screen (sorry Bale and Crowe). Stewart is Ransom Stoddard, an East Coast attorney just come to Shinbone hoping to practice law. The Duke is Tom Doniphon, a rough-and-tumble cowboy who insists Stoddard settle his score with uber-bad guy Liberty Valance (superbly played by Lee Marvin) with a gun rather than words. In addition to exploring the "end of the West" the film deals with ideas of truth, fiction, legend and what makes a man.

Like anime (another genre I love), Westerns have their quirks (over-the-top character acting, for example, or just not very good acting) and often show blatant racism, and Liberty Valance has both, but it redeems itself. Characters like the Marshall and the Newspaperman/Town Drunk look less like caricatures and become real characters by the end of the film and Stoddard's treatment of the only black person in Shinbone, Pompey, show that the Western is certainly capable of overcoming these tendencies (see, Unforgiven) and Ford successfully does so. Like I said, I'm no expert on the Western, just a fan, so feel free to correct me or agree with me, either way.

One diversion back to the Buccos, Jack Wilson was named the NL Player of the Week for his hot hitting. He has been on fire since the trade deadline passed with him still wearing black and gold, and not trading him may end up being one of Dave Littlefield's best moves. Wilson has raised his OPS all the way to .765, which for a slick-fielding shortstop like Jack Flash is phenomenal (for comparison in his 201-hit career year of 2004, it was .794--his second-best OPS season was last year's .686). This means one of two things: We can keep him, because Jack has a ton of value (way more than this guy, for example) or a good GM can trade him this off-season (selling high for once) and net what could be a great return--much better, at least, than Craig Monroe or whomever it was DL was insisting on.

Even though I won't be at PNC Park tonight, go Bucs. And I'll let you know my thoughts on 3:10.

New Pirates GM: Jon Dodd

Adrian and Brandon think I ought to apply for the now-vacant Pirates General Manager position (as I am looking for work in the Pittsburgh area, of course), and I just might. Above all else the Pirates need an evaluator of talent in their GM role, and I suppose my success in Fantasy Baseball does speak for itself. I could argue in the last few years I've drafted Chase Utley, Hanley Ramirez, Russ Martin, Justin Morneau, Jason Bay and Victor Martinez. Quite a formidable line-up. The Pirates hitters they've drafted include Brad Eldred and Chris Duffy (who are for all intents and purposes out of baseball) plus Ronny Paulino, Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit (terrible, fourth outfielder, and Mr. Glass).

I've pulled off a few nifty trades, too: Chone Figgins from Piper for pennies last year (if I remember right). K-Rod from Dre last year, and then Josh Beckett and Fausto Carmona for slugger Adam Dunn from Dre this year. Adding those guys to a pitchers Gorzo, Snell, Maholm and Capps looks pretty slick.

But my biggest qualification has to be my ability to develop pitchers. In Jake Peavy's second year on my club he's turned into a top-10 pitcher. I'll admit I let Dan Haren go too soon, but I knew two years ago that he would be the pitcher he is today. And to continue to point out that I'm moderately good at something prefaced by the word "fantasy," I'll say I'm pretty happy that I passed on Poo-Holes this year to take Johan Santana no. 1 overall (although that A-Rod guy would've been a good choice, too). And, be it Takashi Saito, Brad Lidge, Huston Street, Joe Nathan or J.J. Putz, I have a knack for knowing which set-up man has the stuff to be the next big closer.

Unfortunately it is called "Fantasy Baseball" for a reason, but I haven't a doubt that my Yahoo skills would translate into the "real baseball" world. If it's alright with you guys, Dre, Piper and Zeke, I will be using you as my references, and when Bob Nutting calls, just say something along the lines of "Jon Dodd dominates us year in and year out. He'll do the same with the NL Central."

...OK, now that I'm done with my trash talking that may or may not be legit (since I currently sit in second place behind Matt Wright and only tied for first with Dre last year... but that was preceded by a championship in 2005--yeah, nevermind, the trash-talking's legit) I am pretty stoked to return to PNC Park tonight for my first Pirate game in ages. Partially I haven't gone because I've been busy, but there's also been that hesitance to totally root (root, root) for the home team since rooting for the Pirates has previously meant supporting Dave Littlefield and the general buffoonery that goes on in the Pirates front office. With changes happening, I can at least hope it will get better.

Tony Armas starts tonight against the Brewers, so we'll need to score a lot. But hey, with Littlefield gone anything can happen.

Bob Nutting: "Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce the new Pirates GM, Jon Dodd."
Me: "Segways and iPhones for everyone!"

Friday, September 7, 2007

FINALLY

The headline I've been waiting to see: Littlefield fired, so says the P-G.

In completely un-related (yet possibly as equally amazing) news, take a look at this kid, via Digg. Maybe I should give up my obsession with bald baby heads and hope for more like this?



UPDATE: Here's Bob Nutting's letter to we Buccos fans. A jubilant day, indeed.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Two headlines, two franchises

I can't take credit for catching this first (that'd be Pat from WHYGAVS), but I will point it out to all of you who might be interested:

Pirates Notebook: Tracy wants young starters to go distance
vs.
MLB Notebook: Buchholz in bullpen after historic no-hitter

One of these two franchises is the best team in baseball, one is the worst. Guess which one is the Red Sox and which one's the Pirates? If you're not sure, click the links and figure out for yourselves how to treat young pitchers.

In other less depressing Pittsburgh sports news, the Pens unveil their new Rbk Edge unis later today. Follow the story here and here.

Oh and I hear that's not the only thing being introduced today. Wo ai ni, Apple...

Wo ai ni?

Monday, September 3, 2007

There is a surpassing worth

So... I'm tired. My mind, body and soul are tired, and finally I'm starting to realize it's a lot more than sleep I need. What I definitely don't need is to watch another movie or listen to more music. I do enough of those things. I don't need more "hang out time" with this friend or that. I don't need to debate this or to think more about that and I certainly don't need a break from work or "real life" to serve myself and my own selfish desires.

Paul tells me that there is a surpassing worth: Knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection. I need to know Jesus so much more than I need sleep or comforts or relevance. Right now I need time in the Word and time in prayer. I need to immerse myself in His words of truth and merely in Him and forget about everything else around me, everything that's distracting me from my one and only purpose: To worship and give glory to the Holy, Good and Triune God. Let me explain further.

I'm realizing that so often I want (and seek after, and pursue) all the trappings of "church" and "worship" and "relationship" without the substance. Without Christ. I'm a white-washed tomb and I love the whiteness of my tomb and I love to talk about how white it is and why it's white and what the whiteness means. That's what I do. I talk about how nice my tomb is, its purpose and its calling and what its worth is to the tombstones around it, while all the while I'm dead inside.

For a baser example: Pretend that I go everywhere wearing a Beatles t-shirt. I love the Beatles, I talk incessantly about the genius of their music and song-writing and the impact they've had on rock and roll music and on my own life. All the while John Lennon is staying on my couch and wants to be my best friend. But, rather than thanking John for the music he's made and the things his songs have meant to me personally, let alone sharing a cup of coffee with him or seeing the symphony together or actually trying to form a meaningful relationship, the only thing I'll say to him is to ask him to clean my toilet after I've failed to flush yet again. And oh, John Lennon is actually my dad. For my entire life he's given me the roof over my head, the food I eat and the shirt on my back in addition to The White Album and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

I talk about the Church and its Mission and the Kingdom and my Calling, but I don't talk to Jesus. I forget that it's for His Glory and not for my enjoyment that He has given us the good things in this world. I forget that it's for His Glory and not for my safety and comfort that He hung on a tree. I forget that He is alive and loves me and wants to make me new. In fact, He already has.

But most of all it seems I forget that while He lovingly, graciously and freely gives me all things, He wants me to desire only Himself.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

Philippians 3:7-8

Sunday, September 2, 2007

What I've been listening to:


This past week in the world of what I've been listening to, Wilco and Arcade Fire dominated when it came down to it. I just purchased Neon Bible from iTunes so that explains why I'm into Arcade Fire right now, and I've been listening to as much Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born as I can, both spectacular albums I haven't spent enough time with. Jamie lent me the new Caedmon's Call album, Overdressed, so that has had some play time, too, but not a ton. And I listened to the Gorillaz' Demon Days album once through earlier today after I heard Feel Good, Inc. on the radio. Cool song, cool album. And that's the update. Let me know what you've been listening to and/or what I should be listening to, and you should be listening to Wilco and Arcade Fire.