Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tom Glavine Wins 300

I know this happened a while ago, but it was fun, wasn’t it? Much more fun than losing two in a row to the Phillies. So take your mind off the current struggles and indulge in a little bit of recent nostalgia:

Suk 11, an iconic back-packer hostel. The only space available was in a dorm room. The place is as eclectic as you’d expect, winding rooms, plaster walls covered with graffiti, sporadic and ornate patches of wood, of which the management was viciously proud. Frequent, adamant and angry signs warned against writing on the wood, as well as smoking in the rooms, and sex tourism. “Honnymon, ‘97”, “Love u ladyboy, you changed my life, see you soon.”

The night before, Javid and I had gone looking for a jazz bar, and ended up in an odd pocket of Suckumvit rd, that was filled with Japanese bars and restaurants. In one of these, where we had stopped for beer, one of the Thai bargirls and I had ended up pawing each other across the language barrier; the management seemed to have resolved that I was going to take her to a short time hotel, but a connection got missed and Javid and I ended up staggering back to the hostel in a hostile and directionless argument.

Back in Suk 11, I bitterly repented not having gone with my new friend: not so much for carnal reasons as because every minute in the short-time hotel would have been a minute not spent in the oppressive stuffy, dormitory, surrounded international snores and a lack of air.

At some point mine host, who had gone out for food after we had both apologized for various behaviors, returned to the hostel. “Dude, I think I just fell in love with a girl,” he told me. I congratulated him and returned to my thankless parody of sleep.

Thus it was with no great difficulty that I roused myself at seven thirty in the morning. Suk 11 has accepted modernity readily, in an almost curt, simplistic way. Putting a 10bhat coin in a box (approximately 33 cents), will get you fifteen minutes of internet. The office where I had checked my computer was closed, so I went to a station of computers on the second floor and watched a couple innings on game day: I didn’t much care for the political overtones of waking up an international hostile with a baseball game.

The office opened at eight. I went out for bottles of green tea and a further supply of ten bhat coins. When I returned to the hostel, I gave myself a neat scare by telling the management that the stripe on my computer bag was red, instead of orange.

The lobby in Suk 11 opens directly onto the street; there is no outside wall, but only a railing and a barrier of plants. There are two tables, one by the opening to the outside, and one further in. In back of the second table there was a low table on which was laid out a spread of bread, jams and fruit. Coffee and tea were also available. I set myself up on the table closest to the outside, where an older, white bearded American was smoking Thai Marlboro Lights, and working on a Chinese imitation lap top. We discussed our computers for few moments: he was impressed by my “real IBM.”

For the next two hours, I resembled a member of some obscure religious sect, in one of those ecstatic states that suggest both piety and mental illness. The two obstacles to my devotions were that the signal through Gameday Audio would frequently stop for periods for ‘buffering’ and sometimes go out altogether, and secondly that the speakers on my computer were nearly inaudible in the lobby that began to fill with international tourists and jazz music on a sound system. To remedy the latter, a Thai girl offered me headphones, but these just made the increasingly common periods of no sound at all far more frustrating, and I quickly returned them to her, and resumed sitting with my head cocked over my computer, rocking with frustration and excitement as I caught snatches of what seemed, increasingly, to be an excellent and historical game. I wish that I could say that I never offered my own commentary in an unhinged mutter or quietly applauded at certain intervals.

Ever since the sail-boat, people have been fond of thinking that various innovations have the effect of shrinking the world, that the increased connectivity somehow makes the world smaller. For me, this idea died that morning in Suk 11. Not many years ago at all, it would have been impossible for me to in anyway at all follow this game in real time; now I was listening to the same words, the same voice of Howie Rose who was being listened to in cars all over the tri-state area, in homes through out New York and New Jersey, on the boom-box in my parent’s house that had been taken out of my sister’s room after she went to college. But Howie Rose heard in Thailand is very little like Howie Rose heard in the states, a baseball game in the lobby of Suk 11, is not the same as a baseball game in America. Gameday Audio has not had the effect of shrinking the world at all: rather it calls into being an infinity of Howie Rose doppelgangers—which expands the world, rather than shrinks it—and indeed serves to remind us that different shades of Howie Rose are heard by different listeners at different exits on the turnpike.

And, indeed, without the increased connectivity of the web, the French tourists sitting on my left, and the Thai’s working in the lobby would have never seen the specter of the baseball acolyte—a vision that must have somehow expanded their world view, if not for any particular purpose.

The signal went out for the last time as Billy Wagner was pitching to the third batter in the ninth, and before long the final zero appeared in the line score: perhaps this was for the best, since while I had wanted to hear the final moments of the historic win announced, I was also afraid that if I had done so I would have wept.

Friday, August 3, 2007

"The Battery"

So, Sam's Mets blog is taking a temporary break for the reason that I am en-route, right now, to Thailand, where I will be in uncertian conntact with both the internet and baseball for the next three weeks. I am writing right now in an airport in Japan that might or might not be in Tokyo (I'm embressed to ask).

Anyway, on the flight over I was lucky enough to catch a "The Battery" which is a heart-warming Japanese picture about middle school baseball players. The main character is an anti-social pitcher, who throws ridiculous heat. (makes Billy Wagner look like Tom Glavine) His two related problems are that his little brother is sickly and gets all of his mother's attention, and that he throws so hard that no middle schooler can catch him. (I would say that a seconday problem of his is that he dosn't have a breaking pitch, but more on that latter)

The main development in the movie is his relationship to a catcher, one of his few contemporaries that can occasionaly handel his stuff. The stongest thing about the movie is the extent to which the pitcher really is just an anti-social, silent jerk. He never says anything, or shows any respect to anyone, or does anything that doesn't relate to his pitching dominence. At the end of the moive, it turns out that his pitching is actually a sensative respons to his brother's illnesses-- but this is very unconvincing, and cements the movie's status as feel good crap.

The high point of the movie is five miniutes into the film when he asks his grandfather, a past player and coach to teach him his curve ball. It is the first time that he has said anything. The grandfather is played by awsome Bunto Shugwada (sp?) who plays everyone's grandfather in Japansese movies these days-- in the '70s he played Yakuzas. The grandfather replies, "no... you're not ready yet."It has a very nice martial arts feel to it-- unfortunatly this exchange lead to me to hope that the high-point of the movie would be the guy learning a breaking pitch (hopefully in a sweet montage), and that never happens. In fact, although the fact that he has no breaking stuff is alluded to once again, it never really comes up as an issue. And, if you are a middle schooler, pitching to midddle schoolers, throwing heat, I guess you really don't need a slider.

The other problem with the the film, from a baseball perspective, is that no refrence is EVER made to the offense of the team that he plays for. Apparently, in Japanese middle school baseball if you get a certain number of Ks per nine innings, it dosn't matter if you never score runs.

From a social point of view, another problem is that the arc of the movie involves every male member of the family, comming to terms with how much they love baseball, and don't care about the mother, or what she thinks or feels. The sickly younger brother starts pitching at the end, the borw-beaten father joines his companie's team, and the grandfather gets invigorated watching the "hero's" games. The last shot of the film is mom washing three different jersies.

While the move was feel-good crap, and hostile to wommen, the main character, for most of the movie is really interesting. He is handsome, and his stuff is just feroicus. But at the end of the day, the guy really is a distant, self absorbed prick, and the portrait is compelling. A second best moment in the film comes when he is talking to his catcher about his problems (which are that he throws so hard that no one can always catch him); at the end of the speach, which is by far the most that he has said in the entrie movie, the catcher tells him to just shut-up and throw.

Anyhow, the blog will be back fulltime, somtime around August 26-7ish. I'm not absolutley ruleing out posting anything while in Thailand-- particularly, I think that this thing might be worth checking after Glavine's next couple of starts.

The media options on All-Nipon air-ways are seriously sweet, although the food was dubius and I don't think they served hard alcohol. On the otherhand, the flight attendents looked as if they had been hired in a country that dosn't really go for discrimination lawsuites.