Saturday, September 29, 2007

Get up, Stand Up

Had an opportunity to see some stand up this past Wednesday. The headliner was Jimmy Pardo, along with guest Dan Kaufman and host/opener Andy Nolan. We were in the Helium Comedy Club on Sansom Street in the right lung of Philadelphia. There were roughly 20-25 people in a club that could seat 250. I gotta give credit to all the comics, though, because all three brought their A game.

Andy Nolan was pretty decent, and finished on a high note, which is always good. It's so weird when comedians end their set on a dud joke. I can't find anything to share with you on Nolan; in fact, the funniest thing I found was this Andy Nolan - Europe's No.1 Tribute to Ronan Keating website.

Dan Kaufman came on next, and he had a nice set. By then I was already into my "Philly-tini," which was just a martini flavored with Godiva liqueur and orange flavored something or another. Quite good, actually, if not horrifically overpriced. Anyway, I don't think it was the tiny bit of alcohol that made me warm up to Kaufman. Although a little on the laid back and nerdy side, which isn't a great approach to a small crowd, he still had some quality jokes. Here's a video with a few of his jokes:

Now as good as both of those comics were in keeping the crowd alive, Jimmy Pardo was like a conquering king. He made us sound like a packed house (with the laughter, mind you). Pardo's show came on a recommendation (Nathan), and it was money well spent. Some comedians kill, but Pardo destroys. He annihilates. He's rapid fire, with a solid mix of pre-written jokes and ad lib material. I was in the front row (thank you, people not going to comedy clubs), and I just had a great time. No one commands an audience better than Jimmy Pardo, from what I've seen. I wish I had something of his set to share, but there's only a handful of videos online, including this:

You can also listen to his podcast.

After the show, I met Jimmy and Dan, and bought Jimmy's CD and picked up Dan's business card. I tend to buy comedians' CDs after the show, even if they were so-so, because apparently I like to piss away money. However, I would have purchased Jimmy's CD from a store, it was that good. Dan probably should have had a CD, I would have bought it (unless he was charging twenty bucks or something, I'm not Richie Rich here).

Here's Kaufman doing a puppet show (he didn't do this during his set, so relax):

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Update on Kurt Vonnegut

He's still dead.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I want to rub books all over my naked body

Schindler's Ark (a.k.a. Schindler's List) by Thomas Keneally - This is one of my favorite books. I'm a big fan of non-fiction that reads like fiction (Wild Swans by Jung Chang, to a lesser extent Washington's Spies by Alexander Rose), and this is written like a fluid fable. The past is brought to life in vivid detail, with personal accounts and memories used to weave a complete, balanced look at Oskar Schindler's life, and it reads like a great novel. I also like that the book deals with the details of the Holocaust in a way to leave a lasting, uncomfortable impression without disrupting the flow of the story. What I mean is, the whole of the Nazi extermination plan is looked at through the lens of the Schindlerjuden and Schindler's quest to save as many Jews as possible, and it's so much more "real" than statistics or unconnected stories. The book is about a flawed man with a flawless goal, and about horror and hope. Fantastic effort by Keneally.

The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly - This is one in a series of the Harry Bosch detective novels, although I didn't know that when I bought the book 12 years ago. You know how they say we use very little of our minds? I wonder how much of our brains is used for storage, because there are details of this book I have not thought about in over a decade that I remembered instantly upon rereading. Anyway, the novel isn't fantastic, but it's a decent mystery. Bosch is supposed to be a straight L.A. detective but he seems like a bit of a dweeb (mustache, jazz fan, named after a painter). However, the investigation into his mother's death is not filled with many twists and turns, but just enough to keep it interesting. The big fight towards the end of the book is a major letdown, but even that doesn't stop Coyote from finishing up with more positives than negatives. For every one cliche or obvious plot device, there are two original ideas, so all things considered, it's not a bad book.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Some baseball thoughts

As usual, the NL has some tight races, especially the Wild Card, so I thought I'd completely ignore that and talk about some other stuff.

If you're a San Francisco Giants fan, there's not much to look forward to now that the Barry Bonds watch is over and done with. The Giants rank 29th out of 30 major league teams in runs scored, and out of position players with 300 AB or more, none of them were born after 1975. However, ignoring all of the bad, and there is quite a lot of that, the Giants do have a bright, shining light. Fans should be very happy with their rotation. In the past month, the starters have looked like this -
Barry Zito - 30.0 IP, 22 K, 3.60 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
Matt Cain - 28.2 IP, 27 K, 3.77 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
Kevin Correia - 35.2 IP, 26 K, 2.02 ERA, 1.09 WHIP
Tim Lincecum - (shut down for rest of the season to preserve arm health, but in 146.1 IP on the year, had 150 K, 4.00 ERA, 1.28 WHIP)

That's a very good front four. And who will fill in the 5th slot? Well, they don't have to go back to Russ Ortiz; there are options. Noah Lowry? Jonathan Sanchez? At least one of them could be ready to go by April 2008.

Speaking of the Wild Card (we were, back at the beginning of this post), I've heard more rumbling about the divisions. After all this time, people are still uncomfortable that the AL West has two less teams than the NL Central. Arguably, it's easier for the Angels to grab a division title than the Cubs. I'm sort of wondering why MLB does not just go back to the duel divisions (East and West), and have two wild cards, either one out of each division or two out of each league. That would leave seven teams in the AL East, seven in the AL West, eight in the NL East, and, of course, eight in the NL West. Not only would that balance things, but it would allow more teams to face each other more often, instead of one team playing 75 games against four division rivals.

Finally, the Yankees have been routinely criticized for buying expensive free agents, stocking their team with high priced hired guns. So when the Yankees began passing on certain top free agents like Carlos Beltran and Barry Zito, and instead starting promoting young farm players like Robinson Cano, Chien-Ming Wang, Melky Cabrera, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, and Shelley Duncan (not to mention those that haven't found a home on the pro roster, such as Tyler Clippard), people had less to complain about, but no less hate. In fact, the anger probably grew. Here was a team that could sign Roger Clemens for $28 million for about 20 starts and yet still call up one of Baseball Prospectus' top prospects. If you thought Clay Buchholz's not hitter in only his second major league start was impressive (it was), Hughes did the same thing (granted, he only pitched 6.1 innings because he hurt himself for a few months, but it's all apples and carrots).

Anyway, my guess is that due to the fact the Yankees are relying on their farm system as much if not more than free agency these days, you're going to start hearing the drum beats grow louder that the Bombers use their corpulent financial resources in ways other teams can't. If the Yankees happen to win the World Series this year, it will happen ahead of schedule. Count on it.