July 30, 2007

I’m a few days behind on this story, but I can’t get over the recent revelation that some NASA astronauts have been intoxicated shortly before their missions into outer space.

Many years ago, when automobiles were first introduced, I’m sure most people could hardly conceive of operating a car under the influence of alcohol. So, given that we’ve had manned space flights for over 40 years, perhaps the combination of cocktails and space travel isn’t really that far-fetched. But you have to admit — when the story first broke, it sounded like an absurd plotline from an 22nd-century after-school special on TV (assuming television is still around 100 years from now).

[ No. 358 ]

July 24, 2007

Much like three years ago, I treated my dad to a weeknight Phillies game for Father’s Day. But unlike that game in 2004, the Phillies came to play and held on for a thrilling victory.

From our seats overlooking the third-base line among an impressive Tuesday night crowd of over 40,000, we watched center fielder Aaron Rowand save an opposing run with a perfect throw to home plate, hit two doubles, and smack a towering solo home run in the bottom of the eighth to lift the Phillies to an exciting 4–3 win over the Nationals.

By the way, Dad made a great call by opting for some tasty pulled-pork sandwiches at Bull’s BBQ before the game, and we couldn’t resist some soft-serve ice cream in miniature Phillies helmets before the end of the night.

[ No. 357 ]

July 20, 2007

I took a vacation day and met up with some friends in the afternoon to attend the XPoNential Music Festival (formerly XPN’s Singer/Songwriter Festival) at Wiggins Park on the waterfront in Camden, N.J. I hadn’t attended the XPN event since a similar group outing in 2004, but the wait was definitely worth it.

The scheduled line-up for Friday’s portion of the festival contained an improbable hat trick of some of my all-time favorites — Bob Mould, Cracker, and Fountains of Wayne, in that order, on the same stage, on the same night. Unfortunately, Bob broke his ankle just a few days before the show and had to cancel his appearance, but despite that setback, I can hardly complain about seeing Cracker and FOW, among even more bands, for a mere $8 (the advance XPN member rate).

What a relaxing evening! The weather was pleasant and cool; the lines for food, drinks, and “portable restrooms” were reasonable; and the whole crowd was low-key and respectful — even the young children in attendance were well-behaved.

In fact, watching great live music from a beach chair with good friends and a summer ale in my hand is a little slice of heaven. And come to think of it, XPN’s event was the polar opposite of our miserable experience at the Tom Petty/Black Crowes show at the Tweeter Center two years ago (for the record, I haven’t returned to that venue since).

By the way, the evening’s headliners, The Fratellis, put on an impressively catchy, energetic performance to close out the evening. And I should also note that our group split an order of deep-fried Oreos, mostly out of curiosity (think of the cookie encased in funnel cake). They were worth trying once, but I won’t be able to afford the hospital bills if I have them on a regular basis.

Long live XPN and their dedication to great music!

[ No. 356 ]

July 17, 2007

The next U.S. presidential election is well over a year away, so it’s difficult to get too worked up over anything related to the 2008 race. But the GOP appears to have a problem on its hands: many registered Republicans are struggling to support any of their party’s “top-tier” candidates.

In fact, the void is so large that the following headline ran on CNN’s main page earlier today:

Poll: “None of the above” leads GOP field

(Who could have ever predicted that “None of the Above,” the political slogan from a joke mayoral campaign in Brewster’s Millions, would eventually describe a real election?)

Sure, there’s a long way to go until November 2008, but I want to see both parties put their best candidate forward. Lord knows we need a better leader than the one we have now.

[ No. 355 ]

July 16, 2007

It’s official: the Philadelphia Phillies have become the first U.S. professional sports team in history to record 10,000 losses.

Ten thousand.

The Phils reached the dubious milestone last night by losing 10–2 to the Cardinals. And, perhaps not all that surprisingly, my fellow Philly sports cynic, Jeff, happened to be in the stands to witness the historic game in person.

To be fair, the Phillies have simply existed longer than all but four current teams (the Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds). The club was formed in 1883 as the Philadelphia Quakers — their first game was a loss, naturally — so 10,000 losses over 124½ seasons isn’t really all that bad.

In terms of overall winning percentage, a much more revealing statistic, the Phillies’ record of 8,810–10,000 (.468) is better than the Rockies, Padres, Devil Rays, and Rangers. Sure, they’re fifth from the bottom, but not dead last.

It’s also interesting to note that the majority of the Phillies’ failure took place many decades ago. The team notched just one winning record during a wretched 31-season span (1918–1948), and although they’ve finished 14 seasons with 100 or more losses, the most recent one was in 1961 (during which they lost 23 games in a row, a record that still stands).

On a related note, I’m perplexed by a site called Celebrate 10,000 (note the tagline: “Real Phans Love Their Losers”). Certainly, life is full of disappointment, and I always try to maintain a sense of humor about my own failures — but I usually stop short of reveling in them.

[ No. 354 ]

July 9, 2007

Some observations from my recent 10-day stay at the Jersey shore:

  1. The average baby stroller that I witnessed on the beach was the size of a Mini Cooper.
  2. Roulette and blackjack at Caesar’s in Atlantic City are efficient ways to part with your money, but I managed to hang in there for a while without completely embarrassing myself.
  3. Kids running to and from the ocean must be wearing blinders, because they never look to the left or right to see if anyone is walking near them.
  4. Since Independence Day fell on a Wednesday this year, Avalon decided to schedule its fireworks show on Friday, July 6. The colorful display over the ocean was really impressive, but the scheduling was, well, un-American. It’s called the Fourth of July for a reason.
  5. I won’t get into specifics here, but three separate incidents that took place on the Saturday night after the Fourth reminded me of how completely oblivious, careless, and disrespectful some people can be.
  6. Upon my return home — just one day after I had clumsily dropped my cell phone into a few inches of water on the beach — my phone miraculously came back to life (although the ringer no longer works). I’m due to buy a new one soon anyway, but the fact that the old phone still works at all is truly amazing.

[ No. 353 ]