Visiting the House that Ruth Built

 

Above: Yankee Stadium in the Past

They say every baseball fan worth their salt should go at least once to a game at Yankee Stadium.  After last night (8/28/07), I can say that I did–perhaps just in the nick of time as construction has begun on the new Yankee Stadium next door.  Not only did I go to Yankee Stadium, but I watched them play (and beat) the Boston Red Sox under a full moon that hung at dusk like a Christmas tree ornament over the hallowed ball field before disappearing behind the stands.  After taking the jammed-packed subway to the Bronx (a truly uncomfortable experience that was a real trial for this germaphobe who likes his personal space), outside of Yankee Stadium is like traversing some third-world country, and people are packed into the walls of the House that Ruth Built like sardines.  Never have I been to a ball park where the concourse is so narrow, the ramps so steep, the seats so precariously stacked and spaced.  Yet walking into the stadium there’s a palpable sense of history and the Yankees’ ghosts, and the rush of stepping off the concourse and up into the bowels of the stadium where you get your first glimpse of the field where Babe Ruth and so many other greats have played and became legends leaves you with a feeling that I doubt can be duplicated anywhere else in the sports world.  There’s an ancient, crumbling, yet fecund aura around the ball park, as I imagine it to be the modern equivalent of entering the Roman Coliseum at the height of the Empire.  From the stands on this eerily perfect summer evening, the modestly rising Bronx architecture seemed to be painted onto the backdrop by someone channeling the spirit of the 1930’s. 

Below: Yankee Stadium Today

Then, of course, there were the fans.  There’s no rivalry in sports more bitter and storied than the one between the Yankees and Red Sox.  The colorful profanity slung around the stands was wildly entertaining, and the staff and police on hand did an excellent job of stopping the mudslinging just in time before things got physical.  Our government intelligence agencies could learn a thing or two from these well-trained and attentive folks who know just when to swoop in and poor water on the fire before violence ensues between warring factions.  With the Yankees leading going into the top of the 8th, hard-throwing rookie sensation Joba Chamberlain took the mound, and the escalating fervor the ensued was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  New York loves this guy, cheering every strike thrown as if it was Game Seven of the World Series and the opponent was down to the final out.  Joba the Hut set things up perfectly for Mariano Rivera who in the 9th closed things out as usual and allowed the Yankees to gain a game in the standings on the 1st place Red Sox.  Thanks to Jeter’s solo home run earlier in the night, and Rivera’s save, my fantasy baseball team scored as well.  All in all, a great night this baseball fan won’t soon forget.

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*To date, the ball parks I have been to:

Yankee Stadium, New York 

Veteran’s Stadium (sadly no longer in existence), Philadelphia

Citizen’s Bank Park, Philadelphia

Camden Yards, Baltimore

RFK Stadium (hopefully to be put out of its misery soon), Washington D.C.

Turner Field, Atlanta

*Ball parks I desperately hope to visit:

Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles

Fenway Park, Boston

Wrigley Field, Chicago

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Written by David H. Schleicher

The Verdict on Self-Publishing and The Thief Maker

Earlier this month The Thief Maker was reviewed by Floyd M. Orr, an author of several non-fiction titles who reviews exclusively books published by iUniverse on his blog under the penname, Tabitha.  Orr’s reviews are of special note for authors who have used iUniverse’s self-publishing services as he thoughtfully critiques not only the content and quality of the writing, but also the quality of the physical book–i.e. the cover design, interior layout, and how well the book was edited and/or proofread.  In bold fashion, Orr passes judgment on both the author and the publisher.  Currently iUniverse is the largest and most well known provider of POD (print-on-demand) self-publishing services in the U.S. Continue reading

A Review of David Lynch’s “Inland Empire”

David Lynch’s latest cinematic mind bender, INLAND EMPIRE, was finally released on DVD this Tuesday, August 14th after a brief, enigmatic, and very limited run in theaters, where Lynch personally distributed the film in true independent fashion much to the frustration of many of his fans who never got the chance to see the film theatrically.  The film is sure to please his cult of fans, and for the first time ever, he has released a DVD full of 2nd disk extras including vignettes of him cooking, talking about ideas and film and music, clips of his passionate hands-on style of directing on INLAND EMPIRE, and discarded scenes from the film.

Dreams of a Dying Empire, 14 August 2007
8/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

Taking the murderous jealous husband theme of “Lost Highway” and melding it into the dreams of a tortured actress theme of “Mulholland Drive,” David Lynch fluidly immerses his recurring dark fantasies into a story revolving around a Polish-Gypsy legend and a cursed movie production and delivers his most experimental film since “Eraserhead” with his epic three-hour “Inland Empire.” Continue reading

My Summer with Graham, Kurt, and William

I feel the work of art displayed below, “On the Way, Open Book” by Quint Buchholz accurately displays the mindset I was in this summer while reading and writing…

 

During this long, hot seemingly endless summer while nursing the early stages of a new novel into being, I also dug deep into the classics for inspiration and went on a wild reading spree.  I caught up with some of Graham Greene’s lesser known novels, the short stories of Kurt Vonnegut, and for the first time ever, tackled William Faulkner.  Taking a queue from Oprah (say what you will about the woman–I know no one in the public eye more passionate about spreading literacy and serious literature), I picked up her personally endorsed box set of three of Faulkner’s works.  Faulkner is one of those writers, like Shakespeare, who people endlessly study and write about–reading him is a daunting task that you should only take if you are truly prepared and ready.  I doubt I would’ve appreciated him had I read him in college.

Here’s the rundown:

Graham Greene:

After watching and loving the film adaptations of his End of the Affair and The Quiet American, I snatched up his gargantuan short-story collection and devoured it.  Now having read two more of his novels, he is hands-down my favorite writer.  Every time I visit the book store, I snatch up another one of his works.

The Tenth Man.  I read this twisty convoluted tale of switched identities and the things men will do to survive in times of war while on the North Carolina beach in late May.  It’s a shockingly effective and tense little thriller that would’ve made a great story for an Alfred Hitchcock film.

A Gun for Sale.  This deliciously wicked and psychologically complex “noir” tells the tale of a hired killer paid with stolen banknotes who hunts down the man who scammed him while trying to elude the police and the sharp-witted young showgirl who gets tangled in his web.  Greene called this one of his “entertainments,” clearly thinking less of it than his standard and more serious-minded work, but he did for the thriller here what Hitchcock did for the rote suspense flick during the same era–he raised it to the level of art.

Kurt Vonnegut:

Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction.  Vonnegut is the master of sparse, no-nonsense, modern prose full of satire, humor, the wonders of technology, and an exploration of the social mores of the Baby Boom Generation.  He’s also good for those ironic twists, which after reading four or five of his stories in a row become more apparent and predictable.  My favorites from this collection include “Any Reasonable Offer,” “The Cruise of the Jolly Roger,” and “A Present for Big Saint Nick.”  There’re some great bits in the introduction where Kurt discusses the need for the short-story form and offers some witty advice to writers.

William Faulkner:

As I Lay Dying.  Faulkner’s tale of the Bundren family’s tragic trek made to bury their mother in her hometown is an aggravatingly brilliant tour-de-force.  It features all of the hallmarks that make Faulkner so beloved and hated: roving 1st-person narration, often incomprehensible train-of-thought, dialogue in Southern dialect that is often unreadable, and long-winded flowery prose that occasionally reaches the level of transcendence.  A short work just over 200 pages, this is best read quickly and straight through.  If you stop and try to understand everything or attempt to dissect a piece, you’ll drive yourself mad.  I got the gist of it and moved on. 

The Sound and the Fury.  Oddly, the novel most quoted as his defining piece of work, I found to be the most un-involving as I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters in this tale of the highly dysfunctional Compson clan.  That isn’t to say there aren’t moments of shear stupefying literary brilliance, especially towards the end where he vividly describes the servants going to Church and the passionate sermon delivered by a visiting preacher.  Ultimately the novel goes nowhere, signifying, well, fancy that, sound and fury.

Light in August.  This represents Faulkner’s most traditionally structured and plotted work.  His hallmarks are all here, but kept in check: the flowery prose sprawling but intoxicating, the Southern-style dialogue used for great purpose to further the plot, and the train-of-thought kept to a minimum resulting in maximum effect.  He masterfully intertwines the tales of a young pregnant woman hunting down her baby’s father, a criminal haunted by his mixed ancestry, a fallen preacher, and many others in this epic treatise on life in the South in the 1930’s.  Light in August is a stone-cold masterpiece.

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Next up: The Orient Express by Graham Greene and the collected short stories of William Faulkner.  If anyone has any suggestions for a contemporary best-seller with literary merit, please feel free to leave your recommendations in the comment field.

Written by David H. Schleicher

A Review of Paul Greengrass’ “The Bourne Ultimatum”

Bourne Again Fan, 7 August 2007
8/10

Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

“The Bourne Ultimatum” begins recklessly mid-chase and in pulse-pounding fashion explodes from there as Jason Bourne (Matt Damon, absolutely superb) tracks down the masterminds behind the CIA black-ops that turned him into the perfect killer in a final attempt to learn his true identity. A devastatingly icy David Strathairn as the “man behind the curtain” is added to the returning cast of regulars including Joan Allen (excellent) and Julia Stiles (non-existent).

Like the second entry in the series, I wished Paul Greengrass’ shaky hand-held camera would go static at least for the few minutes of downtime. However, that being said, it’s a perfect way to capture the tense, claustrophobic feel of the intimate hand-to-hand-combat scenes and works equally well in the chase scenes which are mostly on foot and across rooftops with the occasional big car pile-up. Part of the fun of the Bourne series is the constant globe-hopping and manipulation of technology and communications that seem to defy the laws of physics and current capabilities. The Bourne films seem to exist in some sort of gritty hyper-reality that is full of technological-based magic. It makes no sense that everyone seems to be just in the right place at the right time, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a blast to watch them get there.

With the absence of the emotive and involving Franka Potente, the writers attempt to create some emotional connection between Damon and Stiles, but she is so blank-faced an actress it never really leads to anything. Still, this can be forgiven, for unlike the “Identity” and the “Supremacy”, this “Ultimatum” reveals all and we finally learn the truth about Bourne’s past. It’s an entertaining and satisfying conclusion to the series, and if they have any good sense, and Damon gets his wish, this will be the perfect end to it.

The Jason Bourne films are based on Robert Ludlum’s popular series of books. 

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:

http://imdb.com/title/tt0440963/usercomments-174

A Review of David Wain’s “The Ten”

Go Fly a Kite!, 6 August 2007
7/10

Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

If you grew up watching MTV’s “The State” and made a cult classic out of “Wet Hot American Summer,” then you’ll laugh yourself silly during the latest from the same comic troupe. Others probably won’t get the humor. “The Ten” is one of those rare vignette comedies, intertwining ten insanely unique and monumentally stupid sketches about the Ten Commandments.

There’s plenty of the same absurdity, like when two men compete to see who can buy the most CAT-scan machines or a librarian (a fetching Gretchen Mol) loses her virginity to Jesus Christ, and random humor that made their past efforts so uproarious. What other comedy would be so daring to make such obscure jokes of Diane Wiest and Timothy Dalton? However, “The Ten” is far more scatological than some of the group’s earlier work and makes “Wet Hot American Summer” seem sweet and wholesome in comparison. They also go ridiculously overboard with gay-themed humor. This troupe likes to play homosexuals in the same way that Monty Python enjoyed dressing in drag as a subversive subtext to their comic styling.

While the sketches are hit and miss, it will keep you entertained as the group plumbs the depths of low-brow humor in high-brow ways. Director David Wain spoofs everything from literary chick-flicks to gritty cop and courtroom thrillers as well as emo-indie melodramas, Woody Allen, and redemption-in-prison-weepers. There’s even a quote from Shakespeare in the oddest of places. My personal favorite aspect of the film was how dead-seriously Wain directed the segment where Winona Ryder (still adorable and still with all her acting chops) has an illicit affair with a ventriloquist’s dummy. The range Ryder displays to make the joke work, as well as the way in which Wain uses the camera and frames the scenes is downright astounding.

Even when the humor is faltering, they will have you laughing at how disturbing some of it gets, especially during the emotional prison sketch. Also hilarious is their desperation to create a stupid catch phrase. Take your pick of “go fly a kite,” “juicing my pecs,” or the destined to be classic “…as a goof.” Sure, it falls apart during the last three bits, but it caps off with some hilarious original songs recalling the morals of the stories over the closing credits. Be sure to stay to the very end. I’m still laughing. I wonder if anybody else will.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database

http://imdb.com/title/tt0811106/usercomments-24

A Twisted “Moment” for The Thief Maker

Last month, my novel The Thief Maker was featured by “Book of the Moment.”  The novel was yet again praised for its shocking plot twists and multiple-point-of-view style of storytelling:

full of twists and turns, July 3, 2007

By  book.of.the.moment “reviewer” (USA) – See all my reviews

I finished reading “The Thief Maker” about an hour ago, and since then have been turning over in my mind ways to go about adequately summarizing and reviewing this book…its a twisted complex story and therefore, tricky to effectively summarize in a brief way.

The characters in this story intertwine in a way that leaves me at a loss for words. Like I said, its complex, and very twisted. Through the whole story I kept shaking my head…I knew there was a kick coming, but I couldn’t quite figure it out. And when it did come, it was like a slap in the face, and suddenly all the actions and motivations of all the characters became crystal clear.

“The Thief Maker” is a story about losing your identity and struggling to find redemption and revenge in a cold harsh world. The characters are fatally flawed and at the same time, tragically endearing. While they possess characteristics that are far from admirable, a reader can’t help but identify with them — be it through sympathy, empathy or downright admiration. I enjoyed this book from the first page.

The story is told through alternating characters, and sort of jumps back and forth in time. Through the alternating time settings we are filled in on the childhoods and pasts of the present day characters we are following. The chapters in the past help set the tone for the characters’ overall personality and motivations–and will leave you shaking your head at times. While the story is told in both alternate times and through alternate perspectives, it is an easy one to follow, and you’ll soon be caught up in its pages.

Learn more about BOOK OF THE MOMENT by visiting:

http://www.myspace.com/book_of_the_moment

Purchase The Thief Maker from Barnes and Noble

Purchase The Thief Maker from Amazon.com

Selling Bonds

Well, he’s done it…and I saw it all live (thanks to my Extra Innings Package)…

Top of the 2nd…approximately 10:30pm EST, August 4, 2007…controversial San Francisco Giants’ poster boy for juicing and bad attitudes, Barry Bonds, nailed his 755th career home run on the third pitch from Padres starter Clay Hensley to tie Hank Aaron for 1st on the all time home run list.  Out of the sheer joy of seeing history before my weary eyes, I instinctively leapt from my seat.  It was met with the oddest mix of boos and applause from the San Diego crowd–seems they were as torn as I with both hatred and awe.  Cheaters always win.  When a relieved and smiling Bonds made his way back to the dugout…I was left wondering–when the hell did his teammate Dave Roberts get so old?  This guy looks like a dwarfish senior citizen next to Bonds’ eternally youthful and swollen head.

Fans can breathe a sigh of relief…as earlier in the day Yakees’ slugger Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player ever to reach 500 career home runs.  The records of cheaters, one hopes, will fall quickly.

Until then, we shall wait pensively with baited breath at each passing at bat…

Honest Hammerin’ Hank, you’ll always be number one in my book.

POST MORTEM: Bonds belted his 756th home run a few nights later, Tuesday, August 7, 2007 to stand alone atop the all time list.  Records are made to fall.

Written by David H. Schleicher