Saturday, May 31, 2008

One less shrine to honor

While the 2008 Major League baseball season has not produced any noticeable impressions thus far (except for a whole bunch of injuries and the usual early-season collapse of the Texas Rangers), it is still an historical year if you are a lover of the “game,” as am I. History is slowly being made as the schedule whittles down to its September conclusion when one of America’s national monuments will be retired.
After more than eight decades as a national shrine, and this country’s most recognizable (and arguably hallowed name) among all outdoor stadiums, Yankee Stadium – the House that Ruth Built – will see its final pitch. In 2009, the venerable Yankees will move across the street to a new facility, leaving behind untolled memories, not just in baseball but in other athletic endeavors, music and news (Pope Benedict just conducted a mass for 60,000 of the faithful on the same ground that had been roamed by Ruth, DiMaggio and Mantle).
Oddly, in New York, both teams will be playing out the string in their current residences, as the Metropolitans (yes, that’s’ the real name of the Mets) vacate Shea Stadium in Queens and open CitiBank Stadium next year.
While Met fans have plenty of memories of classic games in Shea, the real Americana loss is Yankee Stadium – then one place every American male ballplayer wanted to set his feet upon as a major leaguer. It is the third oldest ballpark in the country (behind Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago) and there’s just something NOT right about playing major league baseball in the Bronx and NOT have those games on the same ground that saw Don Larsen throw a perfect game in the World Series, and where Lou Gehrig and Ruth were teammates.
The Mets have already sold the naming right to their new home, CitiBank, but I hope Yankee ownership, already lords over the most valuable franchise in all of professional sports, never succumb to that pressure. I can only think of a small handful of indoor arenas where corporate logos do not adorn the building’s moniker. But in baseball, almost half (14 of 30) of the current facilities have no such tag.
And if they ever saddle Fenway Park with a name OTHER than Fenway, there just might be a riot in Boston.
Oddly enough, it is also the 50th anniversary of the move of the once beloved Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles. If Barack Obama wants to define the meaning of the word “bitter,” all he has to do is visit Junior’s delicatessen in Brooklyn and ask the old-timers if they still, to this day, resent Walter O’Malley for that decision. The joke that was told at that time asked a Brooklynite what he would do if he had a gun, with two bullets, in a room with Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and O’Malley. The answer would be “Shoot O’Malley twice.”
There is an historical connection between the conclusion of service for Shea Stadium and the Dodgers. O’Malley never really wanted to leave the borough of Brooklyn, but needed a new stadium to increase revenues, which he wanted to build (as a domed facility, by the way) in the heart of beloved Brooklyn.
However, one man stood in his way, Robert Moses, New York City’s planning master. Nothing got constructed without his approval and Moses didn’t give a hoot about Brooklyn. His vision was to build a stadium in Queens, on the site of the old World’s Fair (and the 1964 World’s Fair).
O’Malley would not hear of it and finally, out of frustration and declining attendance, accepted the offer from the West Coast to move his storied franchise.
In Los Angeles, the Dodgers were given the land in the area known as Chavez Ravine; so O’Malley built his ballpark. Today, as the franchise celebrates its 50-year anniversary in sunny Southern California, Dodger Stadium, thought to be the epitome of the fan-friendly, accessible ballpark, is now the fourth OLDEST facility in Major League Baseball. However, it is still a wonderful place to watch a game.
Meanwhile, Moses built his stadium, Shea Stadium, home of the Mets … in Queens. And, as stated earlier, 2008 will be ITS final year of usage as the Mets will play in their new home next season.
I cannot imagine baseball in America without games played in the facility that everyone knows as Yankee Stadium. The sport will move forward and people in New York will root for the Bronx Bombers while almost everyone in the rest of the country will root against them.
But there should be more than a few tears shed when they closer the grand old lady down.
From everywhere. It WILL be the end of an era.

Friday, May 30, 2008

11 LOST questions that need answering

After Thursday night’s LOST finale, I thought I’d pose 10 questions for all you Lostphiles and you can e-mail your responses to me.
First, I thought it concluded the best of the four seasons (Frankie Valli notwithstanding) and moved it to the top of the TV drama class.
But I got questions:
1) Why did Locke (the two alternate endings had either Sawyer or Desmond in the coffin) use the pseudonym “Jeremy Bentham”? For the record, this is what is listed in Wikipedia under that name.

Jeremy Bentham (February 15, 1748-June 6, 1832) was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He was a political radical, and a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law. He is best known for his advocacy of utilitarianism, for the concept of animal rights, and his opposition to the idea of natural rights, with his oft-quoted statement that the idea of such rights is "nonsense upon stilts.” He also influenced the development of welfarism.
He became known as one of the most influential of the utilitarians, through his own work and that of his students. These included his secretary and collaborator on the utilitarian school of philosophy,
James Mill; James Mill’s son, John Stuart Mill; and several political leaders including Robert Owen, who later became a founder of socialism.
He is also considered the godfather of
University College London.
Bentham’s position included arguments in favor of individual and economic freedom, the
separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the end of slavery, the abolition of physical punishment (including that of children), the right to divorce, free trade, usury, and the decriminalization of homosexuality.

OK, you tell me what that all means…
2) What do you think Sun is up to meeting with Widmore?
3) Exactly WHAT is Kate sorry about with Aaron?
4) Exactly WHERE are Sayid and Hurley going? Gun in hand worth two in the bush?
5) Will Desmond and Penny still keep searching for the survivors in The Searcher?
6) WHAT did Sawyer whisper to Kate on the chopper?
7) Will Sawyer EVER wear a shirt again? For all you women, Jack or Sawyer??
8) Is Jin really dead? And where is Faraday going with no boat and no island?
9) Was Charlotte born on the island where no woman could deliver a child? Or could she be Halliwax’s daughter????? Or Penny’s half-sister? (everyone seems to have an extended family tree).
10) Why did the tape suddenly start rewinding? Or is Locke VCR challenged?
11) Will the Oceanic 6 ALL return? Or is someone writing a tell-all book?

I invite you to e-mail me at with ideas and questions of your own.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Let’s do the time warp again

It’s astounding, time is fleeting,
Madness takes its toll.
But listen closely, not for very much longer.
I’ve got to keep control.

I remember doing the Time Warp;
Drinking those moments when
The blackness would hit me and the void would be calling;
Let’s do the time warp again ...
Let’s do the time warp again!
Rocky Horror Picture Show - 1975
So there I was, reading the Guide section of the Dallas Morning News on a Friday morning, looking to see what concerts would invade the DFW region this summer and something extraordinary dawned on me: We’ve never left the 1980s!!!
At least not when it comes to music.
Oh, sure, you’ve got your rap and hip-hop and country music that sounds an awful lot like “American Idol” too many times (in the immortal words of Marty Stuart, “And I don’t wear no hat …”).
But when it comes to rock and roll, the more things change, the more they stay the same; at least they do on stage, live in front of an audience. The map is populated by groups who are longer in the tooth than any saber tooth tiger and who haven’t seen the top 40 in years. Heck, more of their audience will consist of the parents and … grandparents of today’s youth, who listened to the radio during a time when you could actually understand the words and dance to the tunes.
As evidence I give you the names of the groups/performers coming to Dallas-Fort Worth this summer (some will already have arrived by the time you read this) – Jack Bruce (of Cream fame), Eric Burdon and the Animals, The Turtles, Badfinger, Melanie, Three Dog Night, The Beach Boys, The Police, Elvis Costello, Cyndi Lauper, B-52’s, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Steve Miller Band, Joe Cocker, Chicago, The Doobie Brothers, Rick Springfield, The Tubes, Boston, Styx, George Michael, Foreigner, Bryan Adams, Journey, Heart, Cheap Trick, Boy George, Squeeze, Earth, Wind and Fire.
Three Dog Night, for God's sake!!!!!!!!!
Just to name a few. It sounds like the overall playlist of any classic rock station, even though there are fewer of those actually on the air because advertisers think that only tweeners, teenagers and 2-somethings comprise people with disposable cash for products.
But unless it is to see Hannah Montana or some other Disney Channel wannabe, these youngsters aren’t shelling out the big bucks to go to concert venues. If you check out the prices for a decent concert seat, “big” doesn’t begin to describe the cost. I was shocked to see that a ticket to see The Police, the biggest concert tour of 2007 (on its final legs of its tour) actually cost TWO tanks of gasoline in my Ford Explorer.
Oh, the horror!
There must be an answer to this anomaly in popular culture, and the answer is this: “rock and roll will never die” (Danny and the Juniors, 1958). At least the audience for good music by these level of performers will never go away as long as they choose to hit the stage.
My only objection comes with authenticity. Boston isn’t really Boston without lead singer Brad Delp, who passed away earlier this year. So the songs might sound similar, but it isn’t the SAME thing. Steve Perry doesn’t sing with Journey anymore so those expecting the real “Sopranos” moment when the band plays “Don’t Stop Believing” will have to imagine the real thing in their heads – not in their ears.
But when people complain about seeing The Rolling Stones in concert, about their age, I retort with MY complaint.
Where’s MY seat?
Because I know … it’s only rock and roll … but I … and many, MANY others, like it! After all, the whole world’s (on) stage.
“Time meant nothing, never would again;
Let’s do the Time Warp again!”

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Let’s NOT go out to the ballgame

Last night (Monday, May 5), I officially became a grouchy old man and curmudgeon. I also became someone I thought I’d never be – a casual in-person baseball fan.
Although I consider myself to be the biggest (in theory and in size) baseball an alive, I was stuck at the Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas (a snobbish suburb of Dallas) to see one of the worst exhibitions of the Great Game ever in my life. It was SOOOOOOOO bad, I left after 5 innings and I’ve never left a game before it was concluded. I barely made it past the first five innings between the Class AA Frisco RoughRiders and Midland Rock Hounds. The first five innings took more than 2 1/2 HOURS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I saw slow, bad pitching (making pitching changes in the fifth inning with 8-1 leads and two outs is stupid), horrible fielding by Midland (worst than I’ve seen from a little league team and even my I-could-care-less-about baseball wife noticed the incompetence) and the most listless crowd in my life. They only came to life when the damn mascot (who had frankly worn out his rug and welcome) throw free T-shirts into the crowd or when a foul ball was hit so all these brat kids could get something for free. These brats come from $250,000 homes and all they want to something for nothing. Like their parents.
It will be my last visit there. Besides at $19 a ticket (for the good seats and $13 for the seats down the outfield lines), it is the most expensive, and overpriced, ticket in ALL of minor league baseball (typical of Rangers/RoughRiders Tom Hicks). It’s simply not worth the price of admission.
Add to that the ridiculous price of ballpark food at this joint (a $9 “special” is a limp hamburger, fries and a watered-down drink) plus $5 to park, and for a family of four, you’re looking at a cost of more than $130 (at least $100 to say the very least). And you are seeing AA crap-ass baseball. At least on the AAA level, there are former major leaguers trying to claw their way back to The Show and others on the brink of entering the big leagues.
In Texas, Corpus Christi, home of the AA Hooks, offer a better show for the cheaper price at a better ballpark (Whataburger Field), and the crowd actually CARES about the game – not the surrounding shit.
I can no longer stand to be around “tweeners” – those brats in the sixth grade age group squids, who refuse to listen to adults and think it is OK to do whatever the fuck they want in public because Mommy and Daddy think it’s fine to dump their irresponsibility on others.
When you asked these deadheads to find their own seats, instead of hovering around me, they drew the typical “Children of the Corn” visage and just stood there like they were shocked to even be questioned about their behavior. What made the situation worse was the so-called “security”/usher man who stood stiffer than a statue and allowed such bothersome behavior to continue without saying a word. If this is “family atmosphere,” I’d rather be alone.
It is the reason I will NEVER go back to Frisco’s Dr Pepper Ballpark or to movies. These suburban over-privileged brats are obnoxious and their turd head parents are to blame. They don’t know how to behave in public and I am just too fucking old to put up with it. I don’t need to; since there is more of them than me, I will choose NOT to patronize those establishment where their two-legged fire ants gather.
Our tickets, by the way, were free through a sponsoring hospital. That was how much the entire experience was worth.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Columns sight previously unseen

Author's Note: Since I have no clue whether anything I forward to the Dallas daily paper, as a guest columnist, ever makes it into print, or why it doesn't, this seems to be the only outlet to get them into public. Very unsatisfactory but politics seems to trump humor or common sense ot taste, here they are.
Where the streets have no (right) name
A recent “Sounding Off” question in the pages of the Dallas Morning News concerned street names, possible changes and confusion that could be avoided with a name change … or 10.
My answer was quite simple: choose one of the three names currently in use for Plano’s 15th Street (Whitsitt Parkway, 15th Street, FM 554), settle on one of them and remove the others.
Yes, it IS confusing, but no more so than scores of other places in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where you need more than a road map or Mapquest or the latest GPS tracker to find the proper route to your destination.
For example, if you live out-of-town and want to visit Dallas … and I supply you with the following directions, “Take the Julius Schepps to the Woodall Rodgers, then proceed up Stemmons to the Airport Freeway, but cut over at Walton Walker to John Carpenter,” could you do anything but get terribly lost?
As a Collin County resident, do you know the locations of either the Marvin D. Love Freeway or the Gus Alexander Freeway? (Answer: They’re both U.S. 67, south from Interstate-35).
That’s because none of those thoroughfares have signs identifying them as being named that way. Seriously, check it out; you won’t find anything designating those freeways for visitors … or even longtime residents. Yet, rush hour radio traffic reporters employ these names to tell you where the three-hour backups exist.
Oh yes, my directions were to go north on Interstate-45 South, take the I-35 connection through downtown to I-35 North to Denton until you reach Highway 183, going to Irving. Get off on Loop 12 North for just a very short bit and head north on Highway 114 … like you’re going to Grapevine.
Those are the names you understand every day. It makes more sense because it’s part of our normal language. Until Jerry Jones discovers a means to sponsor Central Expressway (I imagine someone in his office is doing just that). DART unsuccessfully tried a decade ago to sell sponsorships on the overpasses, but that’s another story …
In Plano, Greenville Avenue is called K Street and other streets have often seen name changes. In 1976, for the Bicentennial, Armstrong Parkway became Independence Parkway, and later, Carpenter Drive turned into Legacy Drive for that development. In 2001, an attempt to rename Parker Road to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was discussed at a public hearing, but was taken off the board.
Which brings us to the Texas Gulf Coast community of Lake Jackson; population 27,000, and hometown to Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul. I spent half a year in that delightful city before moving to North Texas and driving there was an adventure to say the least – purposely planned that way by the town’s architect.
Lake Jackson was constructed as a company town for the new Dow Chemical plant built in the early 1940s. The man whose vision was used was Alden B. Dow, who thought himself to be the second coming of Frank Lloyd Wright … for cities. He didn’t want an ordinary community for his employees; he wanted something special and different.
So he did three unique things when he laid out Lake Jackson. First, none of the streets are straight; there are curves at least every quarter mile and everything winds and bends their way through the town. This helped preserve as many trees as possible and Dow wanted to give people a sense of adventure (“not know what was ahead for them”) as they traveled through.
Second, all the original street names are based on something that grows – plant, fauna, tree and flora. Hence, it is not unusual to find addresses with the names Sycamore, Acacia, Nasturtium, Hybiscus or Ligustrum. Giving directions could be quite a mouthful.
Finally, the “downtown” area was totally unique. It is shaped like a pinwheel or the spokes of a bicycle wheel and they all possess the word “way” in them. Circle Way encircled that part of Lake Jackson, West Way travels (naturally) westward, Parking Way leads to a major parking lot and Winding Way does what the name implies – it winds. Center Way cuts the city in half. A church is located on “His Way” and you might wind up on “Any Way” ... anyway you turn.
There is literally, and figuratively, a “This Way” and “That Way.” When I was there, it would drive people batty when you answered the question, “Which way did I go?” with the response, “The corner of This Way and That Way.”
They thought I was either a fool or a liar.
Or that I lived in Dallas.
In defense of Allen, Texas
As a resident of Plano, I have no horse in the May 10 Allen (Texas) mayoral race between incumbent Steve Terrell and challenger Mark Pacheco. But as a former employee who spent more than two years working in the city of Allen, I take some offense with some of the language used in Sunday’s endorsement editorial (in the Dallas Morning News) about the community.
First, Allen does not suffer as “image-deficient” – a terrible choice of words to say the least. If you ask people outside of Texas, or outside of North Texas, what imagine is conjured by the words, “Plano, Texas,” few are seen as positive. Terms like “snobbish” are often employed and images of children dying from heroin overdoses (rightfully accurate or not) are first to be brought forward.
The discussion of how to bring DART’s light rail service to Allen did not begin yesterday. It has been subject to ongoing community and council debate for more 10 years. It was a regular part of council agendas when I was covering those meetings at the turn of the decade.
However, it was always the insistence of DART of retroactive tax payments for Allen’s non-inclusion that kept the city from even considering transferring one of its sales tax options from community use to DART. Besides, the will of the citizenry was that sales tax fund usage remain within the city of Allen and produce exactly what it was originally meant to do – enhance community developments such as one of the best new library-community center facilities in North Texas and a parks system second to none in Collin County.
While we can debate the quality of “transit-oriented development” along DART’s Red Line, Allen is NOT without its retail and commercial growth. The Allen Premium Outlets is one of the best retail attractions in Collin County, having tripled its size and number stores since opening in 2001. A new retail megacenter (Village at Allen) is in the construction process across U.S. 75, which will also house a sports complex and arena.
This newspaper recently did a major business section story about Watters Creek at Montgomery Farm, a major urban mixed-use development, which will sport many retail names (Cheesecake Factory, Borders, Banana Republic, Sephora, Chico’s, Ann Taylor Loft, Eddie Bauer) not seen a few miles to the north in “spiffy” McKinney. In fact, this new Borders will be the only major retail frontline book store located on U.S. 75 between the Collin-Grayson border and south Plano.
A closer examination of Allen also reveals several major corporate employers, including Sage Telecommuni­ca­tions, Experian, Color Dynamics, Sanmina SCI, Celerity and Photronics. HIT Entertainment, located on Greenville Avenue, in the heart of Allen, is the original home to children television’s characters, Barney and Wishbone. These businesses might not have the pizz-zazz of EDS or Frito-Lay, but they form a strong backbone for the Allen community in terms of employment and tax base. They ARE major “high-end” employers and they are already located in Allen.
Just because Allen is not the size population size as its neighbors does not mean its growth is less dramatic. In 1990, the population sat at 19,000; increased a whopping 122.6 percent in that decade and then another 68.2 percent to 2006’s estimate of 73,248. The estimated median household income in 2005 stood at $82,001 (up from $78,924 in 2000) and the estimated median home value in 2005 was $177,300 (up from $142,400 in 2000). It is obvious even higher in 2008.
Almost half the city’s population above age 25 holds college degrees and 85 percent of those who live in Allen do so in what can be called traditional family households (two married spouses with children).
This has been due, in most part, to the steady, conservative, controlled growth and strong adherence to the city’s master plan, overseen by one of the best city managers in this state, Peter Vargas. His hiring from the city of Laredo in the early 1990s can be directly linked to Allen’s growth and maintenance as a fine place for families to live, work and shop.
Allen has never wanted the runaway expansion of a Frisco nor has it possessed the boundary capacity for growth of either Plano or McKinney. It has chosen its developments carefully, and, in my eyes as an outside observer, wisely. It has always been a wonderful place to work and visit.
Who ends up becoming mayor makes no difference to me. However, Allen, Texas is not second-stringer as a community – socially, economically or culturally. It deserves far more respect than to be seen as standing in any other city’s “shadow.”