Friday, June 30, 2006

Culture: Single A Club hosts Tom Cruise Bobble-Couch Night

Further solidifying Southern California's reputation as the land of fruits and nuts (Hey, at least we have fun with it!) I saw this item. Excerpt:
The Lake Elsinore Storm has planned a salute to Tom Cruise tonight during its California League baseball game.

Besides giving away a Cruise bobblehead -- make that a "bobble-couch," depicting the star in full Oprah couch-jumping mode -- the San Diego Padres' Class - A affiliate will celebrate the "silent birth" of Tom and Katie Holmes' baby, Suri, with a "silent inning," during which no batters will be announced and no music played. "Silent birth," a Church of Scientology teaching, specifies no music and no talking during the birth.

Other planned activities include a couch-jumping contest, a Scientology information and sign-up booth and a retrospective of Cruise's movie career.

The Storm's opponent? The High Desert Mavericks, of course. No doubt in honor of Cruise's character in "Top Gun."
I decided I better check this out on the Lake Elsinore Storm web page.

Indeed, if you mouse and click to the promotions page, the event is scheduled for June 30, 2006. The blurb on another page says this:

For years, the bobblehead has been the definitive giveaway at ballparks across the country. On Friday, June 30th, the Lake Elsinore Storm and Coca-Cola will introduce a whole new twist on the "bobble" theme with the Tom Cruise bobble-couch! Just when it seems like the whole world is against the Hollywood mega-star, the Lake Elsinore Storm offers their salute to Tom’s bizarre behavior, and has planned an entire evening in his honor.
In addition to the bobble-couch giveaway to the first 1,500 fans, the Storm has planned several Tom Cruise themed events and activities throughout the night.

Sports: AL beating up on the NL and the World Cup

Jayson Stark gives the hard numbers on the reality that the AL is clobbering the NL. Excerpt:
With only one interleague weekend remaining, the AL had an insane 127-75 interleague record through Wednesday -- a .629 winning percentage. Just so you understand what that means, if a team played .629 baseball over a 162-game season, it would win 102 games. So the National League essentially has turned every American League team into the 1976 Big Red Machine.
Also, quite shocking is the record of the Kansas City Royals in inter-league play:
Are the Royals and Devil Rays in the wrong league? Through Wednesday, they were a combined 18-11 against the NL but 41-85 against their own darned league. Which gives them a chance to join a bizarre list of teams that couldn't even play .400 baseball against the league they were in, but played .600 ball against the other league:

2004 Devil Rays -- 15-3 (.833) vs. NL, 55-88 (.385) vs. AL
2004 Brewers -- 8-4 (.667) vs. AL, 59-90 (.396) vs. NL
1999 Marlins -- 11-7 (.611) vs. AL, 53-91 (.369) vs. NL

Since the Royals have a grotesque .274 winning percentage when they play against their own league, they could obliterate the record for worst record by a team that won 60 percent of its interleague games.

Of course, they also could campaign for emergency realignment -- but not much chance they can ram that through.
Meanwhile, the World Cup marches on and my predictive powers fell to only 3 of 8 in the last round.

So once again, here goes...
Germany over Argentina
Italy over Ukraine
England over Portugal
Brazil over France

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Sports: World Cup Sweet 16

And now for more "expert" commentary on the World Cup...

Germany over Sweden - Germany has been en fuego

Argentina over Mexico - Argentina has been muy caliente

Australia over Italy - the USA should have beaten those Italians so I'm counting on the Socceroos to make the Italians say, "No mas."

Switzerland over Ukrane - ... queso, I love queso!

Ecuador over england - montana alta, they train at 9000' above the sea ...

Portugal over Netherlands - okay, so Portugal doesn't speak Spanish but their bandera has the right colours (note British spelling)

Ghana over Brazil - have to go for at least one upset special.... want to hear that guy on channel 34 say, "Goooooooooooooooooooollllllllllll!!!!!!!" in what would be the biggest upset in World Cup history!

Spain over France - they speak Espanol in Spain and they speak Frances in France... 'nuff said.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Sports: LA's Koreatown going World Cup Crazy!

Noon (PDT).


Korea vs. Switzerland.

Businesses in Koreatown are capitalizing on the Soccer fever gripping fans of the Korean soccer team. Excerpts:
If South Korea beats Switzerland today, several Koreatown businesses plan to offer free or discounted services and merchandise.

Up for grabs are free bowls of noodles, cut-rate hair cuts, rounds of drinks, higher interest rates on savings accounts and even a chance to win a wig.

What they will lose in sales, these entrepreneurs hope to make up in goodwill and promotion for their businesses.
For Lee, it's more than just a sports event. Lee, an immigrant from South Korea, has three children, who were all born in the United States. She said they felt little connection to the country that she still considered home -- although soccer is starting to change that.

"In 2002, the children were too young," Lee said. "They didn't understand why I was being so crazy about the games. But now, they're starting to get it. They say, 'Oh, this is our parents' country.' And I tell them, 'These are your roots too.' "

Pride is also a driving force for Andrew Shin, manager of Bohemian, a bar on 6th Street and Kenmore Avenue that is opening early to accommodate the soccer set.

"It means a lot to us, as immigrants, to see Korea doing so well," Shin said. "A lot of people in the United States don't even know where South Korea is located. This is our time to shine, to make our mark."

On Sunday, when South Korea played France to a 1-1 tie, about 150 people gathered inside Bohemian. Shin gave out a round of drinks on the house when South Korea scored. Today, he plans to do the same: one free drink per person every time South Korea scores.

With a drink costing an average of $6, Shin knows that the bar could lose hundreds of dollars if the team performs well.
Yang Gi restaurant at 7th Street and Vermont Avenue is expecting patrons to come watch the game on its two TVs and will take 20% off all lunch tabs today. If South Korea wins, the discount will grow to 30%.
Thousands of South Korean fans are expected to gather in Koreatown to watch the game on big-screen TVs and projector screens. One of the main viewing areas is on Wilshire Boulevard between Serrano and Oxford avenues. Radio Korea, which is organizing the event, said it expected about 10,000 people.
[ed. note, emphasis mine]
Not to be outdone, Pacific City Bank on Wilshire Boulevard will boost the interest rate paid on money market accounts opened in the last two months if the South Korean team advances. The initial rate of 4.25% will bump up 0.25%, the bank said, adding that a number of restrictions would apply.

A South Korean victory would kick off a raffle at Himo Inc. for a $1,500 wig. If the team advances again, the retailer will give away two more wigs. Another advance, three wigs.

At A Team Hair Salon, owner Jenny Park knows that she will have a busy day if South Korea wins this afternoon because she will offer men's haircuts for $1.99. The normal price is $20.

If South Korea moves ahead again to become one of the top eight teams in the competition, she will offer women's haircuts, normally $20, for $1.99.

And should South Korea enter the semifinals -- where the team was eliminated in 2002 -- Park will offer all haircuts for free. Each offer would be valid for only the day the team wins.

"If they come, we'll just have to give out number tickets, I guess," she said. "They'll have to wait. But we'll get to them."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sports: World Cup Coverage in LA

Don't have cable?

Ghana vs. USA is on channel 34.

As of 7:40 AM, Ghana leads 1-0.

Czech vs. Italy is on channel 46.

Italy leads 1-0.

The play-by-play is in Spanish.

UPDATE: USA lost 2-1. Italy won 2-0.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sports: Spanning the globe to give you the constant variety of sports

If you are above a certain age you will remember this: Spanning the globe to give you the constant variety of sports. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, the human drama of athletic competition. This is ABC's Wide World of Sports.

I have been following World Cup 2006 with more interest than in the past. I didn't order up cable, nor am I pub crawling looking for games on TV or nor am watching at odd-hours on Spanish or Korean language television.

Nonetheless, as an observer of culture, it has been lots of fun. The viewing and enjoyment of sports is such a typically male activity. With Title IX, more women can participate in sports and a certain percentage of women enjoy watching sports but I do wonder if the experience is as visceral?

I've heard some say that team and honor are deeply male virtues. Just as there are "chick" flicks, there are "buddy" movies and they are usually inspirational team sports movies or war movies or crime/bad guy fighting action adventure films.

Thus, soccer, though less a part of the American psyche can tap into that sense of team and honor.

On top of those "male" aspects there is the national pride angle.

Los Angeles has a large Korean community. Thus, on Sunday, I couldn't help but root for them against the French. I pumped my fists as Korea got that late goal to tie the game. ABC's cameras showed the tens (?) of thousands of red-clad fans in the German stadium going crazy then they switched to Los Angeles' Staples Center where they opened the doors to thousands of fans who watched the game on the jumbo scoreboard and they too exploded in celebration.

I didn't see the game on Saturday between Italy and USA but by all reports it was a gutsy performance by the undermanned USA team.

Some of my predictions have flopped but it has been a good geography lesson and lots of fun.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sports: The World Cup of Soccer Bracketology

This blog is not the most friendly to the game of soccer. 8-0

However, as a culture blog, the World Cup does warrent at least a modest (very!) attempt at you heard it hear first soothsaying!

So here you go in case you actually have a pool going and have brackets to fill out today!

For entertainment purposes only, past performance is not an indicator of future results ...

Round of 16
A1 - Germany - got to believe the home team will do well!
B2 - Paraguay - somewhere in South America right? South Americans are good at soccer.
UPDATE: I guess this particular S. Am team wasn't very good... they are 0-2 and have been mathematically eliminated!

C1 - Argentina - they are a traditional powerhouse
D2 - Angola - I visited Botswana which is a neighbor!

E1 - Czech - an ESPN analyst really likes them
F2 - Australia - got to root for the team from the land of kangaroos and koalas

G1 - Korea - my upset special!
H2 - Ukraine - nice looking color scheme on the flag

B1 - England - fanatic fans = good team
A2 - Costa Rica - want to visit there someday
UPDATE: Still want to visit there someday but the team went 0-3! 8-(

D1 - Mexico - that many fans must know something
C2 - Serbia/Montenegro - two countries coming together as one, how sweet!
UPDATE: 0-2 and eliminated already!

F1 - Brazil - I suppose the only stone cold lead pipe lock of the tournament?
E2 - USA - A Homer pick, doh!
UPDATE: Barely kicking. Next match: Ghana. Ghana really took it to the Czechs and look tough to beat.

H1 - Spain - bullfighting? soccer? same skill set, no?
G2 - Switzerland - I heard one of the French players got hurt so Swiss sneak in

Germany vs. Argentina
Czech vs. Korea
England vs. Mexico
Brazil vs. Spain

Germany vs. Czech
Mexico vs. Brazil

Czech vs. Brazil

2006 World Cup Champs: Czech pull off the greatest upset in Cup history with an overtime win!!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sports: Gagne is back!

Its primary election day in LA but for the moment, I'm watching television coverage of Mets vs. Dodgers.

With an 8-5 lead going into the top of the ninth, it was a save situation and so the doors opened and the speakers blared Welcome to the Jungle and Gagne trotted out to the mound.

14 pitches later, Gagne got his first save of the season and his first save in nearly a year.

Most of the 14 pitches were not his 90+ mph fastball. With his surgically repaired arm, he now has to use his other pitches to set up the fastball. Fans were treated to his rainbow curve that busts into the strike-zone at the last minute or the sharper curve that gets the batter to swing but dives out of the zone at the last minute. Gagne also got batters swinging early on his change up and then blew it by them with a fastball.

UPDATE: Uh-oh, Gagne "a little sore and stiff" after last night's game.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Culture: LA Phil goes iTunes!

The LA Phil under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen have been innovative in their programs. They have done it again by breaking new ground on the technological front with a three-way collaboration with Apple iTunes and Deutsche Grammophon.

The most recent concert I attended was being recorded because that week was the world premier of 11 Gates by Anders Hillborg. The LA Phil played the work three times (Thursday, Friday and Sunday) and between those three live performances, the recording engineers will select the best one to be released June 6, 2006. This will be the fourth such release in this new venture.

I think 11 Gates has the potential to make the playlist of symphonies. I places considerable demands on the performers and most of all, unlike some new symphonic works, it is not too hard on the ears. The work gets its title from the composer's thoughts about the way he structured it. In his own words:
The title Eleven Gates refers to the idea that the piece falls into 11 sections, each section being entered through its Gate either abruptly or by a slowly merging transition from the preceding one. I amused myself with giving each sound-world that the Gates lead into titles with a more or less surrealistic touch:

1. Drifting into D major.
2. Suddenly in the Room with Chattering Mirrors (Bar 28)
3. D-major Still Life (Bar 101)
4. Confused Dialogues with Woodpecker (Bar 113)
5. Suddenly in the Room with Floating Mirrors (Bar 169)
6. Into the Great Wide Open (Bar 188)
7. Meadow of Sadsongs (Bar 289)
8. Toy Pianos on the Surface of the Sea. (Bar 329)
9. String Quartet Spiraling to the Seafloor (Bar 346)
10. Seafloor Meditation (Whispering Mirrors at the Seafloor) (Bar 359)
11. Waves, Pulse, and Elastic Seabirds (Bar 374)
Indeed, the work left me thinking: I suppose this is what an audio acid trip is like without the bad side-effects?! DREAMSCAPES!?

The music is quite pleasant and interesting in variety unlike some other modern orchestral music that invokes the fingernail scratching the chalkboard response!