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September 29, 2008

Shea Goodbye to 2008 Baseball Season

The Mets and the Yankees ended the 2008 season on losing notes yesterday; the Mets closed Shea Stadium to make way for the 2009 opening of Citi Field with a devastating loss to the Florida Marlins for the second straight year, preventing them from moving into the playoffs. And the Yanks lost the final game of their season in Fenway Park, having already played the last game at Yankee Stadium ... to make way for a new Yankee Stadium opening next year.

The Yanks' loss last night was in the second game of a doubleheader (due to a rainout on Saturday) with the Red Sox; they had won the first game, giving pitcher Mike Mussina the first 20-game winning season of his career. But it's going to be a quiet postseason in NYC... the first time since the 1994 strike-shortened season that the city will not host October baseball.

I did watch some of the festivities at Shea, however, as the Mets hosted some of the baseball stars of yesteryear. This was a stadium that was, in 1975, home to both the Yankees and the Mets, and the football Giants and the Jets, while Yankee Stadium was being remodeled. This was a stadium that had hosted concerts from the Beatles to the Boss, and even Pope John Paul II. The stadium farewell tribute ended with a final pitch from Hall of Famer Tom Seaver to soon-to-be-Hall of Famer, Mike Piazza. Even Yankee great Yogi Berra showed up (he had managed the team in the early 1970s, taking them to World Series in 1973).

I'd gone to a few games at Shea through the years; while it was not the baseball cathedral that Yankee Stadium was, it still had its charm. I will miss these two stadiums; here's hoping the 2009 season brings the teams two new homes, and two winning seasons (well, okay, in the unlikely event that they face each other in the World Series ... ONE winning season).

Shea Goodbye. Wait 'til next year!

September 28, 2008

Paul Newman, RIP

Paul Newman, an iconic American actor, and humanitarian, passed away on Friday, September 26, 2008. I loved many of his films, and list two of them---"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Verdict"---among my all-time favorite movies. His performance in the latter film especially is one of my all-time favorites by an actor. Newman's spoken words, and sighs, were brilliantly delivered, but what he said with his tired blue eyes and even bluer facial expressions spoke volumes. It was a terrific performance, in my view... probably the finest of his career.

Thank goodness for film, which will keep him eternally alive for all of us to see.

September 24, 2008

Song of the Day #919

Song of the Day: Maria, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is a classic tune from the great Broadway and film musical, "West Side Story." Bernstein would have turned 90 on August 25, 2008; tonight, tonight, WNYC radio begins a 13-day tribute to the master. This timeless song has been performed by everybody from Maynard Ferguson to Johnny Mathis (YouTube clips at those links). Take a look also at this YouTube clip from the Oscar-winning 1961 film. Celebrate the Maestro!

September 22, 2008

Song of the Day #918

Song of the Day: Falling in Love with Love is a sweet song from the Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart musical, "The Boys from Syracuse." How apropos to be falling today... with the arrival of Fall (the Autumnal Equinox comes at 11:44 EDT). Listen to an audio clip of a Tony Bennett swing version and check out YouTube moments with Allan Jones (from the 1940 film version), Frank Sinatra (and in a swing arrangement too), Vic Damone, Sarah Vaughan with Benny Carter, and Bernadette Peters (when the song was revived for the 1997 Disney TV version of "Cinderella").

September 21, 2008

Farewell, Yankee Stadium

Readers of Notablog know that I am a fanatic when it comes to the New York Yankees. Tonight, the 85-year old Yankee Stadium, "the House that Ruth Built," hosts the final regular season baseball game of its storied history. The Yankees face the Baltimore Orioles in a prime-time ESPN event, a great goodbye to The Stadium.

I am not too thrilled about this move away from one of the hallowed fields of baseball. Back in 2005, I was privileged to tour this "baseball cathedral." It was a day that ranks up there with some of my fondest memories of the place. A Yankee fan since childhood, I first set foot in the Stadium... the old Stadium, long before its mid-70s refurbishing. It was for a Mayor's Trophy game between the Mets and the Yankees and the Stadium was incredibly imposing to my young eyes. But when the Yankees returned to their home turf, after a two-season stint at Shea Stadium (which also closes at the end of this year's baseball season), I started attending many more games, especially in 1978, when the Yankees came back from a 14-game mid-season deficit to win their division against the Boston Red Sox, and then, the American League Pennant and the World Series.

There was a long drought in the Bronx through the 1980s and early 1990s ... but I still root, root, rooted for the home team, though, in truth, it was mostly the Mets who owned NYC baseball and the back of the sports pages during this period. Indeed, I spent most of my adult years rooting for a loser, so unspoiled was I by the decades of remarkable Yankee dominance.

When the team returned to its winning ways in the late '90s, with a new crop of talent, it was a true delight. Alas, this year hasn't been such a delight; after 13 straight years of making it to the postseason, the Yankees are most likely playing the very last baseball game on this field.

ABC World News Tonight tributed the place as part of last Friday's "Person of the Week" segment (you can read or, better still, view that segment here). Charlie Gibson reminds us that it wasn't just a home for baseball; it has hosted "Popes and Presidents," and some of the greatest sports events of the past century, from the 1938 Joe Louis-Max Schmeling boxing match to the 1958 Colts-Giants "all-time greatest" football game.

But, ultimately, it is about baseball. As Gibson said, "With a nod to Wrigley and Fenway, this has been baseball's capital for so many years."

I hope to make it to the "new" Yankee Stadium, with its retro design that harks back to the old beauty I first encountered as a child. But no place will be this place. A Field of Dreams, for sure. And for so many memorable realities.

Farewell, Yankee Stadium.

Update: Take a look at these really nice essays and links from the NY Times and the NY Daily News, dealing with tonight's Stadium finale:

Echoes in the Bronx
Blogging the Bombers
Reggie Jackson Has a Hard Time Leaving
Mike Lupica, Magic of Stadium Bridges Generations (and check out Lupica's piece on Derek Jeter)
A Tribute to the Great Bob Sheppard (Yankee Stadium Announcer)

Update #2, 9/22/2008: Check out these follow-up stories by Bill Madden, Filip Bondy, Mike Lupica, Mark Feinsand, and a couple of NY Times features here and here. Cliche that it is... it was truly a night to remember...

Song of the Day #917

Song of the Day: Dragnet is credited to Miklos Rozsa (from whom the "dum-de-dum-dum" theme was drawn, first heard in "The Killers") and Walter Schumann. Known also as "Danger Ahead" and the "Dragnet March," the theme was a hit for the Ray Anthony Orchestra (YouTube clip at that link) in 1953 and for Stan Freberg thereafter (in a comedic take as "St. George and the Dragonet," YouTube clip at that link). And so concludes our 2008 TV Theme Tribute. Tonight, enjoy the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards!

September 20, 2008

Song of the Day #916

Song of the Day: Looney Toons ("The Merry Go-Round Broke Down") (YouTube clip at that link), composed by Cliff Friend and Dave Franklin, is a true companion to the "Merrie Melodies" theme. This theme opened up some of my favorite cartoon shorts of all time, which included such greats as Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Sylvester and Tweety.

September 19, 2008

Song of the Day #915

Song of the Day: Merrie Melodies, composed by Charles Tobias, Murray Mechner, and Eddie Cantor, was a variation on the song "Merrily We Roll Along." This theme opened up a series of hilarious Warner Brothers cartoons. Look and listen to one of these cartoons at YouTube. And check out additional audio clips from these animated classics.

September 18, 2008

Song of the Day #914

Song of the Day: The Jetsons, music and lyrics by William Hanna, Joseph Barbera and Hoyt Curtin, was the percussive, jazzy theme to one of my favorite prime-time cartoons as a kid. Check it out on YouTube.

September 17, 2008

Derek Jeter Breaks Record

Yankee fans have little to cheer this year; the team ain't gonna make the postseason, and the Ol' Stadium is being torn down at the end of the season, as a new one opens across the street for the 2009 baseball season.

But last night, Derek Jeter gave fans a reason to cheer. He moved into sole possession of 1st place: the player with the most hits in Yankee Stadium, a record that, arguably will always be held by #2. (I say "arguably" because a case might be made that there is still a record there to be beat: Most home-field hits by a Yankee, which, conceivably, might be broken in the new stadium.) Jeter beat Lou Gehrig's former record of 1,269 hits, and now holds 1,271 hits at the great baseball cathedral in Da Bronx. And just last week, he moved into second place on the all-time Yankee hit list, jumping over Babe Ruth's 2,518 hits, and now standing behind Gehrig, who holds the team record 2,721 hits. Jeter currently has 2,532 hits; if he stays healthy, he may be the one Yankee player who, someday, reaches the 3000 hit plateau.

In any event, thanks, Captain Jeter... for giving us something to cheer about.

Song of the Day #913

Song of the Day: Love, American Style, music by Charles Fox, lyrics by Arnold Margolin, is the theme to a late 60s-early 70s TV anthology series that I watched and enjoyed as a kid. A pilot episode of "Happy Days" was first seen as a segment on this series. Check out the opening theme at YouTube.

September 16, 2008

Song of the Day #912

Song of the Day: Underdog, composed by W. Watts Biggers, is the theme to the celebrated TV cartoon, which I watched religiously as a kid. I have yet to see the 2007 movie version, but it looks very cute. Check out a YouTube clip with the full theme.

September 15, 2008

Song of the Day #911

Song of the Day: The Greatest American Hero ("Believe It Or Not"), music by Mike Post, lyrics by Stephen Geyer, was a huge 1981 hit for Joey Scarbury, from a TV series that I never really watched. But, growing up, I confess... I really liked the theme. Check out the full-song on YouTube, with clips from the TV series.

September 14, 2008

Song of the Day #910

Song of the Day: The X-Files ("Materia Primoris," Main Title) (audio clip at that link), composed by Mark Snow, evokes all the mystery and tension of that show in its prime... one of my all-time favorites. Check out this midi too! And so today begins our Annual Tribute to TV Themes.

September 13, 2008

Song of the Day #909

Song of the Day: Calabria, produced by Rune (DJ Enur), featuring the late Natasja Saad, is the soundtrack for one of the hottest Target commercials on the air. The two women roommates who stage a "dance off" to this track express infectious joy as they decorate their room (see the commercial on YouTube). The track features a sample from a Taana Gardner disco classic: "Work That Body" (YouTube clip at that link). Check out a full-version video clip of this track at YouTube.

September 11, 2008

A Judge Who Bore Witness

Father Mychal F. Judge is officially listed as Victim 0001 of the attacks of September 11, 2001. Judge was a Roman Catholic Franciscan priest who, in 1992, was appointed Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York. On that terrible morning in 2001, Judge arrived on the scene, comforting those who were working heroically in the rescue efforts. He administered last rites to many of the victims. But when the South Tower collapsed, and the debris filled the lobby of the North Tower, Judge became one of those victims.

Many remember that photo of the departed Father Judge, whose body was recovered from the Pit. A lifeless pose that resembled a modern American Pieta.

On Tuesday, I posted the newest installment of my annual series, "Remembering the World Trade Center," a portrait of firefighter Eddie Mecner. Today, I'd like to remember the efforts of Father Judge.

Last week, the New York Daily News published an excerpt from a new book about Father Judge, written by News correspondent Michael Daly. The book is entitled The Book of Mychal: The Surprising Life and Heroic Death of Father Mychal Judge. Daly reminds us that, before his death, Judge bore witness to some of the most horrific images in our city's history. Daly writes:

He and the firefighters around him were witnessing an elemental law of nature by which a falling object accelerates at 32 feet per second minus the particular air resistance, be the object a lead weight dropped by Galileo from the Tower of Pisa or a human being leaping from the upper floors of One World Trade Center.
Male or female, young or old, healthy or ill, urban or suburban, black or white or Hispanic or Asian, married or single, parent or childless, straight or gay, rich or poor, generous or miserly, kind or cruel, fierce or meek, virtuous or sinful, dreamy or practical, toned or flabby, Christian or Jew or Muslim or Hindu, all fell at the same ever increasing rate. The only variations were density and surface area. Mundane business papers wafted gently down, but even the most decent person was soon plummeting at nearly 150 miles per hour.
Those who leapt from the topmost floors of the North Tower fell for as long as nine seconds. The people on the floors closest to where the plane actually hit had maybe seven seconds, still time to think of loved ones and pray to their particular notion of the Almighty. A Roman Catholic, for example, would have been able to say a Hail Mary, but not an entire Act of Contrition.
Everybody had time to utter "Oh, God!" or "God, no!" or some another plea even nonbelievers cry at the onrush of death. All likely remained as keenly conscious as skydivers.
Some jumped together, holding hands. Most leapt one at a time, often tumbling as they fell. At least one man stayed feet first, his red and blue tie streaming above him. But most were on their backs as they reached the lower floors, facing the heavens if not necessarily heaven. Their last sight was of the perfect baby blue sky as they struck the pavement with a velocity that instantly turned a living person into a bright red splatter. The sound was jarring, loud, a body becoming a bomb.

As has been observed before, it is hard to fathom the awful conditions faced by those in the Towers, such that jumping was the better alternative.

There is so much politics that surrounds this date: The politics of the Middle East. The politics of US foreign policy. The context that these colliding forces provided as the backdrop for the events that were to transpire. And the tragic human consequences that have followed in its wake. Notablog readers know well my own views on many of these issues.

For those of us who lost friends and neighbors on this horrific date, however, there will always be the act of remembrance. It is a defiant act insofar as it compels us to comprehend causes and consequences. But it is also an act of honor toward Father Judge, and those like him, who went to their deaths seven years ago on this date.

September 09, 2008

WTC Remembrance - Eddie Mecner, Firefighter

This year, as we mark the 7th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11, I have posted the newest installment of my annual series, "Remembering the World Trade Center": "Eddie Mecner, Firefighter."

It tells the story of Eddie Mecner, one of those firefighters who braved the nightmarish conditions of that terrible day.

For those who would like to read previous installments in the series, here is an index:

2001: As It Happened
2002: New York, New York
2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute
2004: My Friend Ray
2005: Patrick Burke, Educator
2006: Cousin Scott
2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild

Mentioned at L&P.

September 05, 2008

Song of the Day #908

Song of the Day: Holding On (full-length version at that link), music and lyrics by Philip Verdi and Joanne Barry, is the title track from the Joanne and Carl Barry album. This gorgeous song is a perfect tribute to today's birthday girl: the vocalist, Joanne Barry, who happens to be my sister-in-law. Happy birthday, with much love!

September 04, 2008

RNC: Sarah Palin, Hockey Mom/Pit Bull

Boy, and I thought the DNC had epic entertainment value! Then John McCain picked a self-described "hockey mom" for his running mate, and all hell broke loose. GOP Vice Presidential Nominee-in-Waiting Sarah Palin gave a speech last night at St. Paul's Republican National Convention, and had the party faithful in a frenzy. When she joked that the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom was "lipstick," I think most people recognized immediately that she was both.

As I indicated recently, I don't believe fundamental change is on the political agenda of either party; we are just going to get more of the same.. or worse. But I am truly entertained by this year's campaign. And though there's nothing to indicate that Palin is a "Mommie Dearest," she took on the ol' boys in a manner that reminded me of a classic scene in that film: after her husband, Pepsi Cola CEO Alfred Steele, passes away, Joan Crawford (played by Faye Dunaway) tells the Board of Directors: "Don't fuck with me fellas. This ain't my first time at the rodeo."

Anyway... more popcorn moments tonight, I suspect.

The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism

I am pleased to see that The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism has finally been published!

The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism

SAGE says the following about the volume, whose editor-in-chief is Ronald Hamowy:

As a continuation of the older tradition of classical liberalism, libertarian thinking draws on a rich body of thought and scholarship. Contemporary libertarian scholars are continuing that tradition by making substantial contributions to such fields as philosophy, jurisprudence, economics, evolutionary psychology, political theory, and history, in both academia and politics. With more than 300 A-to-Z signed entries written by top scholars, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism is purposed to be a useful compilation of and introduction to libertarian scholarship. The Encyclopedia starts with an introductory essay offering an extensive historical and thematic overview of key thinkers, events, and publications in the development of libertarian thought. The Reader's Guide groups content for researchers and students alike, allowing them to study libertarianism topically, biographically, and by public policy issues.

I authored two pieces for the book, which was a project for the Cato Institute: one on Nathaniel Branden, and the other on Ayn Rand.

September 02, 2008

Song of the Day #907

Song of the Day: Baby I'm a Star, music and lyrics by Prince, was featured on the soundtrack for "Purple Rain." Back in the day when I used to DJ, I did an edit of this energetic song for one of my sister's many award-winning high school dance teams. We also enjoyed seeing Prince do this classic in concert. Happy birthday, sister! Listen to an audio clip here.