Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Impression Everyone Can Do

If you are like me, and I assume you are, you do weird things when alone. Perhaps you do funny little dances or make up little games to pass your solitary time, but a lot of these are activities are kept to yourself, unless, say, a night of drinking draws out these private moments for show-and-tell. Me? I talk to myself. Not just ordinary hypothetical conversations or talking to inanimate objects. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve received much guidance from the sub-living in my time, but it doesn’t stop there. I delve into my secret vault of voices and accents.

My primary use of these is when I’m driving alone, usually on a long trip to keep myself awake. I only now thought of what I must look like to passing motorists, but that’s beside the point. The voices come shooting out and I sometimes don’t even know how to recreate the sound. However, I fully understand what actors mean by being in character. Depending on the voice, my whole mentality changes to suit the new sounds spewing from my mouth (this is how I came up with my new way of saying, “they’re from two different worlds”… “they’re just moles from different holes”).

Anyway, in my arsenal of bad accents and bizarre characters, I made a discovery and a realization. The discovery is that I do a pretty good Peter Lorre impression. The realization is that I’ve never heard a BAD Peter Lorre impression. I’m fairly certain that everyone on earth can do a passable Lorre imitation. In fact, I’d wager that there are many people who do one without even knowing it’s Peter Lorre because his voice has become so prevalent in pop culture. Looney Tunes’ cartoons frequently used the voice. There it is in The Brave Little Toaster. Even The Corpse Bride has a little creature running around speaking in that breathy, nervous, nasally voice.
In a way, it’s kind of remarkable that this little, foreign, character actor (as awesome as he may be) has had this sort of impact on pop culture. And that he’s so easy to mimic.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Portland Week One

After a week in Portland with no job as yet (but a million excuses for lacking one) I’ve started facing the prospect of severely budgeting myself. Gone are the days of Amazon buying sprees which is quite difficult for me with so many great movies and CDs that need purchasing. I don’t even want to think about the great deals I’m missing out on.

Also, much to my dismay, my first weekend in Portland coincided with a pretty great city-wide musicfest featuring, amongst others, Modest Mouse, Love As Laughter, Dr. Dog, Blind Pilot, Explosions in the Sky, Beach House, The Pink Mountaintops, Cymbals Eat Guitars, and We Were Promised Jetpacks. Once again, monetary concerns and not knowing how to get anywhere prevented me from indulging me in the festivities. If only I still had student loans funding my frivolities (then again, had I been less whimsical with my loans, I wouldn’t have to be so worried about money now).

It’s pretty well established that grocery shopping is generally the cheapest way to eat meals, but I haven’t trained myself to think ahead about meals quite yet. Living with my parents the past month curtailed my self-sustaining instincts significantly. Sure, I was put to work, laboring endlessly painting the living room, but they kept me well fed with a roof over my head (added bonus, aside from the rhyming: free storage). In such circumstances, I recently discovered that a single, medium pizza is a pretty stellar option. Pizza is typically a communal food, and I never realized how long a single pie can last when I’m the only eater. One medium is three meals worth of food (should I decide not to gorge myself). Not at all bad. Plus, I’m learning that a smaller in circumference pizza is not necessarily worse because it may be denser. Something I never thought about.

Fortunately, my first month and a half’s rent here is significantly cheaper than the rest of the year and most of my bills won’t be due until November, so the real pressure is a while off. Of course, once I get a job, I can just throw all this out the window. Why bother learning how to live responsibly? There’s no fun in that. I am holding off on getting a dog because I’d rather my dog eat than myself, but I REALLY want to eat. Yay for responsibility!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tropicana Field

A few weeks prior to my move to Portland, I visited my grandparents in St. Petersburg, FL to catch the Red Sox – Rays series at Tropicana Field (located in St. Pete and NOT Tampa Bay). This isn’t the first time I caught this particular series in at the Trop and hopefully won’t be the last (though the trip is much longer now). Of course, maybe “hopefully” is too strong a word. While I love seeing my grandparents, I somehow completely forgot how horrible it is to watch baseball at the Trop. It’s like pregnancy: the mind blocks out how terrible it is to keep you going. After two games of head-pounding awfulness, I decided to take notes on the experience. For those of you who’ve only heard rumors about Tampa Bay home games, this is for you, with the hopes that you’ll never experience it first-hand.
It’s truly difficult to know where to start. I don’t want to talk about the stadium itself because that is well-trod territory and I don’t want to feel like I’m piling on. Perhaps the first thing one notices pre-game is the “Ray Girls” running all around the field. I’m by no means a “good old days” baseball fan, but there really isn’t a place for cheerleaders in baseball. Maybe this is because they don’t have any choreographed routines and simply generically dance on top of the dugouts, but they offer little to cheer about. They are frequently accompanied by some Ryan Seacrest wannabe who acts as MC to the between inning entertainment. Why the actual team announcer can’t do a similar, but less annoying job of it is beyond me. The Rays appear to be marketing to a younger demographic, but latching onto trends in an entirely different media isn’t the answer. This aspect of Rays games feels like the worst parts of going to minor league baseball games.

The game starts, and I’ve got to give the Rays organization credit, they had some pretty neat National Anthem performers (a cappella quartet, trombone group, though, with the MLB essentially drawing players from all around the globe, the National Anthem seems a bit unnecessary unless we play all of the represented nation’s national anthems and I don’t think anyone wants that). However, there is no one at the stadium (17,000 to 20,000 tickets sold) and the Rays were still in the Wild Card race that was being led by… the Red Sox! And this is a year removed from a World Series appearance! Then comes the spine-tinglingly bad “Here Come the Rays” song that sounds like Kid Rock, but stupider and we’re ready for the line-ups.

A quick aside: bad music is just a part of sports. I acknowledge that I’m sort of a music snob, but you will never hear worse music played than at a sporting event. It is the arena where “Who Let the Dogs Out” and “The Macarena” still thrive. And the players perpetuate this with their at-bat music. The only player who used a somewhat interesting song was Evan Longoria. On the other hand, it is funny to see a bunch of middle aged and older men and women dancing around to hip-hop and the like.

As for the Rays line-up, I’ve never heard more booing for one’s own team than I have in the Trop, especially for B.J. Upton (a Rays fan actually cheered when Upton got hurt making a play) and Pat Burrell (can’t Burrell get a break anywhere?). My grandparents are as bad as anyone. While they don’t openly “boo,” they do nothing but talk about how horrible players are, and their whole section is in general agreement. I spent more time defending the Rays while wearing Red Sox gear than I think anyone else in the stadium. At least anyone else in the section. Which brings me to:

Everybody has an archaic view of baseball. I understand some of the reluctance to new statistics, but they are designed to better gauge how effective players are, so why wouldn’t one at least try to learn some of the more basic stats? VORP is Value Over Replacement Player and tells how many more runs a game the player adds to the team over a replacement level player. Pretty useful for seeing if a player is good or not. RBIs, batting average, wins, and ERA aren’t so good. It’s this view that makes everyone hate Joe Maddon because he does things a bit differently, but the Rays have never been as good as they have been under him (though I don’t believe the manager has too much responsibility for that, the fans still shouldn’t hate him like they do).
One special bit of fan hypocrisy was when high and tight fastballs knocked Sox batters to the ground. It’s generally accepted that it’s never OK the bean a batter on purpose, and while the pitcher may not be trying to hit that batter, the fans were certainly out for blood. Amidst the chants of “steroids” for Papi’s at bats (a subject for a later post), I wondered what happened to pious protectors of the game who suddenly started crying out for blood. Also, I never understood how fights started in the stands until a gloating Rays fan slapped my Red Sox hat off of my head. Fortunately, my grandparents were there for me to not want to lose my temper.

The Rays aren’t the only fans that act this way and some of my observations extend to other teams, but the worst is yet to come.

Generally, I like for the fans to take it upon themselves to start cheers for the team and not the sound operators. Sadly, this isn’t the case in Tampa. Doubly sadly, the prompting calls for the incessant rattling of cowbells throughout the stadium. Yes, the Rays hijacked the “gotta have more cowbell” SNL sketch and turned it into a weapon. Seemingly, Rays fans are too lazy to scream and clap like normal people and shake the shit out of cowbells causing headaches for everyone without a cowbell filter. Add to this the giant plastic horns and it’s worse than a hundred thousand Thunder Sticks. I almost had to leave the first game I went to due to a headache. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is why the Rays can’t draw fans. God forbid you sit in front of one of the horns. You may never hear again. The very least the stadium could offer is some sections devoted exclusively to obnoxious noise making toys.
And in case you forget, the Trop is a dome. There is nowhere for the sound to escape to. It bounces off of every surface and right back at you. Even the sound system is cranked to the clich├ęd eleven. The environment is positively oppressive. I understand home field advantage, but I cannot fathom the Rays players enjoying this racket. I’ve never been more aware of how afraid of silence people are until I experienced Rays’ baseball. Even when I went to the Tigers – Rays game, I couldn’t root for the Rays because that would be rooting for noise. At least when they are losing, the sound stops for the most part and the “fans” leave early.

To cap off all of the obnoxiousness, the Rays don’t even have a full scoreboard! You have to wait for games to cycle through on a giant screen that can easily fit at least one entire league’s worth of scores. And on the last night there, it wasn’t even cycling through American League games.

I’m in no positions to say Tropicana Field is the worst place to see a baseball game, but it can’t be far off.
One final general observation: people do weird things when the Jumbo-tron camera is on them.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Move to Portland

As many of you know, I just moved to Portland after much talk about doing so. What strikes me most about the move are the parallels between this move and my move to Boston. When I got to Boston, I arrived in mid-July, well before anyone else in my suite was due to arrive. I spent a lot of time watching TV on DVD and listening to audio commentaries (those voices talking over the shows quickly became my best friends). My time was spent doing that (while doing a puzzle), watching Red Sox games, and walking around. The biggest difference between then and now, though, is that I knew school was going to start and I’d meet many like-minded people. That security was very nice. By the time everyone was leaving, I was prepared to relish my alone time in Boston and milk it for all of its selfish glory.

After spending nearly a month back in Camp Hill, living with my parents and seeing my high school friends regularly, I got used to the presence of others, but I was getting restless not doing anything with my life. The move to Portland needed to come fast. Time moves slowly while you’re living it, but in retrospect, it flies, and the next thing I knew, I was camping out in my new living room with little to do but read and do crossword puzzles. Oh, and watch TV on DVD (The State on my computer if you are interested).

By the time my stuff arrived two days after my arrival (it was shipped across country in a trailer), I was ready to be done moving and looking forward to life in Portland. Fortunately, this time I was able to get the nephew of a Portland acquaintance to help me unload the truck (as opposed to doing it mostly alone, which became habit the past month) AND got the truck out of the neighboring parking lot before it could get towed.

Surprisingly, the “it’s time to set everything up in the new apartment” phase was the most emotional part for me. The fact that all of my friends and family are spread out across the country nowhere near to me hit hard and seeing all of my stuff around me indicated that the move was official. It didn’t help that I was working in complete silence and had nothing to distract me from thoughts of that nature. In light of this, I made it my first priority to hook my TV and DVD player up so I could have SOME mental diversion. And it worked! Also, it’s weird thinking about the bulk of my friends and family are living life three hours ahead of me. But then again, I get all of my sports earlier, so that ain’t not bad.

So yeah, I’ve spent most of my first week here in Portland walking around, watching TV on DVD, setting up the apartment, and looking for jobs. Sadly, the security of school and more importantly, school loans (that cash is flowing the opposite way these days) isn’t there and I spend my time wondering how long it’ll be before I meet some people. Thankfully, I know I went through this in Boston when I went two weeks without really knowing anyone there.

Now that my apartment is mostly assembled and looking like a home, things aren’t so up and down. I am trying to avoid certain media for risk of it sparking melancholy nostalgia, but Netflix started shipping here, so that’s great (except watching How I Met Your Mother, while entertaining, didn’t help assuage the desire for friends). And as another bonus, the record player I thought was broking works perfectly (or Andy and I “fixed” it). With Internet and cable coming in the near future, I’ll be positively civilized, just in time baseball playoffs.

So, I’m sorry about the delay in posting anything here on Creamy Nougat, but I’ve got a ton of content planned and will update my saga as I see fit.