Friday Music – May 29

New Music

Dinosaur Jr. – Bug – This is more music that came out of my newfound interest in the 1980’s.  Freak Scene is a fantastic track and my favorite of the album.  I got this a while ago, but I’ve been a little tardy in really giving it a chance in the CD player, so I’ll have to make an effort.  Overall, I would say I like Dinosaur Jr’s sound, you can see where it leads into a lot of the early 90’s rock music that I grew up on.

Random 10 Songs

Your Touch – Black Keys – Magic Potion
Chop Suey – System of a Down – Toxicity
Monkey Gone to Heaven – Pixies – Doolittle
The Mountain – Heartless Bastards – The Mountain
For All the Cows – Foo Fighters – Foo Fighters
Suck – Nine Inch Nails – Broken
Powderfinger – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps
Dancing Days – Led Zeppelin – How the West Was Won
Smack My Bitch Up – Prodigy – Fat of the Land
Velvet Pants – Propellerheads – Decksanddrumsandrockandroll

Let’s see, we’ve got some NIN, some 80’s stuff and a dash of Zeppelin and techno.  I’d call that a pretty solid Big Mak music list.

Random 10 Story – maybe later today – I don’t have one ready right now.

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Series Preview in Blog: Tampa Bay Rays

The Twins start a road trip with a weekend series against Tampa Bay.  Minnesota’s road woes are well documented (5-14) so hopefully this series against a team struggling with higher expectations this year will get them on track.  Tampa Bay currently sits at 23-27, fourth in the AL East, only percentage points above Baltimore in the cellar.  They are coming home (11-10 record at Tropicana Field) from a entirely disheartening sweep by the Cleveland Indians that involved a seven-run ninth inning and rain delays in every game.  The rain delay is an apt metaphor for the Rays season so far, everyone is just waiting for the 2008 Rays to show up and start winning.  On the other hand, I’m having trouble generating any sympathy for a fan base that includes a Jose Canseco jersey-wearing contingent (after jinxing the Cleveland series I hope that guy shows up this weekend).

As is to be expected, there is some restlessness to be found, and some dissatisfaction with the Rays start to the 2009 season.  Some are looking at the offseason as a bit of a disaster (but in a clever and amusing way, so points to them for that), while others are just calling a spade a spade.  If this team looks like the Devil Rays and plays like the Devil Rays, then they are going to be called the Devil Rays.  Probably the most upsetting indicator that people are unhappy with the Rays first 50 games is the attendance numbers.  The Rays has some promising numbers at the end of last season, and early on people were coming out in numbers that easily surpassed the crowds of the year before, but now it seems that trend is starting to taper off.

Another reason for the Rays slow start is injuries.  The middle of the infield has been particularly ravaged.  Jason Bartlett is on the DL with a sprained ankle, Pat Burrell is close to coming back from a stiff neck, and Akinori Iwamura is done for the year with a torn ACL.  The Rays are actually somewhat deep at second and short (see the Iwamura post for the options available to them), and these injuries have paved the way for some of the exciting prospects in their system to get a look (Matt Joyce may be called up for this weekend, color Rays fans excited about that news).  Fernando Perez is another casualty, he broke his wrist in spring training.  You may think this isn’t that important of an injury as Perez probably wasn’t going to be much more than a pinch-runner or 5th outfielder, but it’s important because he’s using his down time to write fantastic blog entries for the NY Times baseball blog.  He has three up right now.  The one concerning walk-up music is awesomely bizzare, but read the other two (here and here), watch this video of Perez’s unorthodox sliding tactics, and tell me you’re not at least a little bit glad that we got to hear about this guy.

–PROBABLE PITCHERS–

Baker v. J. Shields

Liriano v. D. Price

Blackburn v. M. Garza

Stupid Stats, Vol. 2

roubik2

As we all know, the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series at the end of last season.  They held the title of “best team in Major League Baseball” all winter long.  Then the 2009 season started and they lost two of three to the Braves right out of the box.  Let’s see how the mantel of “best team in baseball” has been passed around thus far this season.

Braves over Phillies (2-1)
Braves over Nationals (3-0)
Marlins over Braves (3-0)
Marlins over Nationals (3-0)
Pirates over Marlins (3-0)
Pirates over Padres (2-1)
Brewers over Pirates (3-0)
Brewers split DBacks (2-2)
Brewers over Pirates (2-0)
Brewers split Reds (1-1)
Brewers over Cubs (2-1)
Brewers over Marlins (3-0)
Brewers over Cardinals (3-0)
Brewers over Astros (2-1)
Twins over Brewers (3-0)

Well, look at that. Hopefully now that they are the “best team in baseball” the Twins can maybe get back to .500?

Just What We Needed – Twins 20, White Sox 1

I will never get tired of this picture (click on any of the images for the larger version):

Mrs. Mak had a friend with season tickets at US Cellular, but couldn’t make it to a weekday afternoon game. Since we both work a somewhat flexible schedule, the wife and I headed down to the south side to see if we could reverse the Twins luck and end a six-game losing streak.

First of all, we had GREAT seats. We were about six rows above the Sox dugout.

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EPL Final Day – Relegation “Live” Blog

It all comes down to today to decide who stays in the Premier League and who goes down.  There are four clubs with a chance of being among the other two relegated along with West Bromwich.

Here’s what happens to get each side relegated:

MIDDLESBROUGH (any of the following scenarios)

  • loss
  • draw
  • win + Hull point
  • win + Newcastle point
  • win + Newcastle loss + Hull loss + Hull wins goal difference

NEWCASTLE

  • loss
  • draw + Hull point
  • win + Hull win + Sunderland win

HULL CITY

  • draw + Newcastle win
  • loss + Newcastle point
  • loss + Newcastle loss + Middlesbrough win + Middlesbrough wins goal difference

SUNDERLAND

  • draw + Hull win + Newcastle win
  • loss + Hull win + Newcastle win

Middlesbrough is essentially gone, so I’ll be focused on three matches which determine these clubs future in the EPL.  It’s important to note that none of the opponents in these games have anything to play for (the top of the table is set).  Here goes, I’m settling in for a nail-biting Sunday

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Series Preview in Blog: Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox come to town to start off a ten-game road trip with a 4-game series with the Twins.  Boston lost 2 of 3 against the Mets this weekend, and lost 3 of their 4 series on the road this month.  Overall, the Sox are 9-12 on the road, but remain in first place in the AL East, one half game ahead of the Blue Jays.  The Twins are 17-9 at home, having won 8 of their last 9 in the Dome.

Judging by the blogs, everyone in Red Sox nation is talking about David Ortiz.  He’s been keeping pace with Matt Tolbert in the HR race, but apparently that’s not acceptable for Big Papi.  He’s gone back to struggling mightily, and the rumor is that he’s going to be moved down in the lineup for this series.  Still, it could all just be an elaborate trap (A-Rod and Teixeira were supposedly struggling too).

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The Angry Amphibians’ Farewell Tour

New Music

Kronos Quartet – The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind – Music composed by Osvaldo Golijov.  I liked what I’ve heard of Golijov’s and the Kronos Quartet is brilliant, so I have high hopes for this one.  Not enough listens to offer an opinion just yet, but that’s what I got for you this week.

Random 10 Songs

Erase/Replace – Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace
All You Ever Wanted – Black Keys – Attack & Release
Over the Hills and Far Away – Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy
Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory – AYWKUBT Trail Of Dead – So Divided
Lake of Fire – Meat Puppets – Meat Puppets II
Lounge Act – Nirvana – Nevermind
Where Is Everybody? – Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile
Carry On – Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young – Deja Vu
Love Dump – Static X – Wisconsin Death Trip
Had To Go – Heartless Bastards – The Mountain

Those first three albums are three of my favorites.

Random 10 Story – How will I follow up ‘Love Dump’ with ‘Had To Go’? Read on.

Ernie did the final erase/replace edit on the new posters and showed me the results.  “Pretty sweet, huh? All you ever wanted was to change the name, but I redesigned the whole graphic.”  Bless his heart, he was embracing this reimagining of the band as best he could, but I knew it killed him.  It was always his dream to take the “Angry Amphibians” out of the backwoods, over the hills and far away.  Ernie wrote the songs, designed the costumes, never flinched at the harshest reviews.  He had a Gold Heart. “Mountain Top Queen Directory”, the revered index of costumed jazz acts, called us “unbelievably odd” and likened us to “being dipped alternately into a lake of fire and beaten against a block of ice.”  Pretty high praise for a country bumpkin’s interpretation of a Vegas lounge act, but all the pretty words of the critics didn’t stop us from playing mostly empty bars, and wondering ‘where is everybody?

Look, no matter how much we both want to carry on doing this, it’s time to realize that the emphasis is on “labor” in this labor of love. Dump the plush frog costumes behind a diner I told Ernie.  It killed me to say it, but they had to go.

The “Two Angry Tadpoles” start their world tour on Friday.

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The Mind Of Dwayne Hoover: Where The Wild Things Are

where-the-wild-things-are-posters

This will be without a doubt the shortest book to be reviewed in this series.  I have vague recollections of reading this story at a very young age.  As it is with books and TV shows of our youth, nostalgia has convinced me that this book is a pinnacle of children’s literature.  I make no claims as to whether or not that thought is accurate, but the recent release of the theatrical trailer for the movie adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s tale caught my eye (see the end of this post).  First of all, the movie looks absolutely gorgeous, and I’m excited to see it as soon as I can (I’m not sure if I will wear my wolf suit).  Since it has to have been around 20 years since I read the book, I decided to revisit it.

The book is beautiful to look at, and still fun to read, and the great part about it is that it’s even more fun to act out – you can imagine me dancing about the room with all the Wild Things.  I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this part of my childhood, here’s hoping the movie is just as fun.  The temptation is to ascribe all these high-arching themes to a children’s book, but that ends up sounding like a high school English class essay, so I’ll just say that there are parts of this book that resonate with me at this point in my life.

As I’m sure most people reading this know, I’m currently a graduate student in the last few months of the journey toward a doctorate degree in organic chemistry.  Chemistry is without a doubt what I want to do in my life, but there are days where graduate school has felt like a trek ‘over a year, in and out of weeks, through many, many days’.  I’ve had unruly projects, untameable bosses, and ridiculous co-workers who have all made me want to make mischief of one kind and another.  So I can empathize with Max’s troublemaker side.  Unfortunately, no one has named me king of the chemistry lab yet so I have to continue to slog my way toward that Ph.D.  [As a side note – there’s going to be one hell of a ‘wild rumpus’ once I finish this degree.]

But back to the book.  Imagination is wonderful, and the pursuit of your dreams is something we are all entitled to, but when we tire of pursuing our wild fantasy, when our hobby/career/education has ceased consuming us (‘We’ll eat you up, we love you so’), when we return to the real world, those of us who are the luckiest have someone waiting for us with a meal that is still hot.

———————
Postscript – My wife is starting her pursuit of a masters degree this August.  A couple months before the start of the program, the school has a dinner to “thank in advance the significant others of the students for their patience throughout the completion of the program.”  I love the idea, because I know it’s not easy to be the spouse of a graduate student, so, since my wife didn’t get a special dinner devoted to her, instead she gets a post on her husband’s stupid blog.  Thanks, Mrs. Mak – I know it ain’t easy, but you pull it off wonderfully.

What I Watched Instead of Walk-Off Weekend

ThePitch_small

The weather here was beautiful this weekend, so my wife and I made the trip up to Beloit to take in a game on Sunday.  Keeping an eye on the Snappers this season (via Seth and JeffA), it seemed like they were having a tough go of it so far, perhaps our presence could inspire a victory?

Beloit Snappers 9 – Peoria Chiefs 6

box score | play-by-play

Success!  Upon returning home to see the Twins were victimized by another walk-off HR, it was obvious we had made the right decision.  Dan Osterbrock got the start for the Snappers, and promptly gave up a 2-run HR in the first.  Not an auspicious start, but Angel Morales upped the ante with a 3-run HR of his own in the bottom half of the first.

MoralesHR_small.jpgAngel Morales connects on a 3-run HR

Osterbrock and Morales were the stories of this game, Osterbrock ran out of gas in the sixth, but essentially cruised through the first 5 innings.  After the fifth I commented on the efficiency of the Snappers pitcher, so if that was enough to jinx him, I apologize.

Osterbrock_smallDan Osterbrock delivers

Fortunately, the Peoria starter struggled mightily, not making it out of the third inning.  By the time he left the game, only one Beloit player in the lineup had yet to reach base and the Snappers had a 7-2 lead.

IMG_0470The ump was calling the high strike, but come on…

James Beresford knocked out three singles (all ground balls through the infield:  to tell you the truth the Peoria shortstop had a really tough day – not sure if he was being poorly positioned by the coaches or what, but everything was just out of his reach).  I mentioned Morales, who got hits in his first three at-bats and scored 2 runs.

Beresford_smallJames Beresford

Steve Blevins came in to put out the fire in the sixth, and after the inherited runner scored, he got out of it to leave the Snappers ahead 7-6.  At this point I was a bit worried that I had signed up to witness another bullpen implosion, but Blevins was solid over the next two innings (no hits, one walk – the only free pass issued by Beloit pitching) and Danny Rondon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with 2 strikeouts to earn the save.

Rondon_SmallDanny Rondon tosses to first

This might have been the ideal baseball game.  The Snappers jumped ahead early, and other than one half inning, never looked like they were going to give up the lead.  A nice solid win for Beloit, hopefully that starts something of a roll for them.

More pictures to come as I upload them.

Series Preview in Blog: Chicago White Sox

First off, we have to pay our respects to Palehose 9.  I first discovered Carl Skanberg’s comics doing this feature two years ago.  It was hilarious from the get-go, and I immediately bookmarked it and checked it obsessively.  Partly, it was that I live in Chicago, and so I was already familiar with all the story lines, but mostly it was that Carl was a brilliant cartoonist, and I’m legitimately bummed that I won’t be able to follow his strip the same way this year.  If you haven’t read any of the Palehose series, consider this my strongest recommendation – even if you don’t read any other links in any of these posts that I put up semi-consistently – go back and read Palehose 6, Palehose 7, and Palehose 8.  The Twins and White Sox seasons are so intertwined that I think Twins fans might enjoy these as much as South Siders.

My favorite from Palehose Seven.  And my favorite series from Palehose Eight – Part OnePart TwoPart Three.

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Beat the Streak – 5/19

On a day that started with me dropping a fork and accidentally stabbing myself in the foot at 6 A.M., it stands to reason that my soccer team would lose, the Twins would lose, and my hitting streak wouldn’t even get a chance to get off the ground. Blah.

Today is a new day. I feel good about this one.

YESTERDAY STREAK TODAY

Justin Upton (Game Postponed)

Current Streak – 0

Longest Streak – 8

Yunel Escobar

Sunderland v. Portsmouth – Relegation Watch

SUNDERLAND vs. PORTSMOUTH

Sunderland goes up against Portsmouth today, and this match will play an enormous part in determining Sunderland’s final position in the EPL table.  The current standings have Sunderland 2 points clear of the relegation line (they have 2 matches remaining, everyone else in danger has one match).

Sunderland – 9 wins, 9 draws – 36 points (-17 goal differential)
Hull City – 8 wins, 11 draws – 35 points (-24 goal differential)
——————Relegation Line——————————–
Newcastle – 7 wins, 13 draws – 34 points (-18 goal differential)
Middlesbrough – 7 wins, 11 draws – 32 points (-28 goal differential)
West Bromwich – 8 wins 7 draws – 31 points (-31 goal differential)

If the Black Cats win this afternoon they will be safe from relegation.  A draw doesn’t guarantee anything because they will lose any tiebreaker with Newcastle (fewer goals scored).  For the final game of the season, Sunderland plays Chelsea, Newcastle plays Aston Villa, and Hull City plays Manchester United.  Under normal circumstances, one wouldn’t expect many points for the bottom teams, but at this point the top of the table is set in stone, so Chelsea, Man U, and Aston Villa have nothing to play for, while their opponents have everything on the line.

Chances are that Sunderland will survive this season, but they can (and, as a fan, I think they should) remove any doubt with a win this afternoon.

[UPDATE: Sunderland loses 1-3.  That makes next weekend a whole lot more interesting. Black Cats need a win or a Hull loss or a Newcastle loss or draw.  They’re not making it easy, that’s for sure.]