Friday, July 30, 2010

Thursday Night at the Movies - Inception

Inception may be the best movie we've seen this year. It's a difficult movie but that's part of what makes it good. It deals with dreams and reality and the difficulty in telling them apart.At it's heart, Inception is a heist movie. Leonardo DeCaprio plays Cobb, a man in possession of technology which allows him to insert a team into another person's dream. Even better, it allows him to script the dream as well. The purpose of this is generally extraction, stealing of information from the subject. In the film, Cobb agrees to take on an assignment to plant an idea in someone's mind, something generally considered impossible.

Here's where it starts to look like a heist movie as Cobb assembles his team of experts. In order to pull this off, the team will have to go deeper into the subject's mind than usual. It will be a dream within a dream within a dream. Once the team is together they have to design the dreams and assemble the tools they will need. This is also where the movie gets harder to follow. For the bulk of the film, the characters are acting in three levels of reality (the separate dream levels) at the same time. Time passes at different rates in each dream. What is minutes in the highest level dream is weeks in the lowest. Director Chris Nolan really messes with our (and the cast's) perception as the story moves forward. The main complication is that the subject has been trained to resist extraction so things happen that the team can't control. The other is that Cobb has unresolved issues surrounding the event of his wife's death which causes his subconscious mind throw up obstacles. If you've seen the trailers, the scene where the freight train is barreling down the middle of a street is one of those obstacles.

I can't tell you how the movie ends except to say that people in the audience actually cried out at the ending. My son saw the movie separately from us and he said the same thing happened where he saw it. I'll also say that there are at least three different ways to interpret the end of the movie and that the three of us who saw it hold two of the interpretations.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Roy O to the Phillies?

Reports are saying that the Phillies and Astros have reached a deal to trade Roy Oswalt to the Phillies. All that is needed is an agreement by Roy to the trade.It's been no secret here in Houston that Roy wants to go to a winner. The Astros are pathetic and need to get serious about re-building. Oswalt is one of their best players but by the time the Astros can get back into contention, Roy will be past his prime. So they should get what they need for the future (which is everything) for him now. He is my favorite Astro. It would be nice to see him going to my favorite team.

The Phillies sem to have regained their hitting mojo, and have won their last 7 games. With three top startes, Hallady, Hamels and now Oswalt, they will be hard to beat.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

War Cards

I learned about these cards from the book Mint Condition by Dave Jamieson.

This first set was called Horrors of War and was published by Bowman (under the Gum, Inc, name) in 1938. This is pre-War World II and featured paintings depicting the various wars going on around in the world, such as The Japanese in China, the Spanish Civil War, and the Italians in Ethiopia. The cards were quite controversial at the time but also very popular with young boys. There are guite a number of them available on eBay. One of the controversial aspects was their brutal depiction of war. Many of the cards show very bloody scenes. I chose on which wasn't so bloody but is still pretty horribe.Twenty Naked Chinese Nationalists Charge Foe. The worst one I saw on eBay showed a decapitated head flying through the air trailing blood.
Bowman added the "To know the HORRORS OF WAR is to want PEACE" in order to claim that the cards were meant to be educational, not just sensational. I found a web site, Deke's Collections, which shows all the 288 cards.

This second set is generally called "The Civil War News" set due to the heading on the back of the cards. Long time Woody Gelman (the patron saint of Capewood's Collections") got the idea for this set from the Bowman Horrors of War set. The 88-card set was published in 1962. The official name of the cards is "The Civil War bubblegum set".
A pack cost 5 cents. Included in random packs was a Confederate Civil War bank note. I doubt they were real but I don't really know. There several sites which feature these cards. Try this one.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Club - Mint Condition by Dave Jamieson

One of the great things about having a daughter who works at the library is that I often hear about new acquisitions by the library long before the book hits the shelf. Knowing my obsession, my daughter sent me a text message when she finished cataloging this book asking if I would like her to put it on hold for me. "Of course", I said.Overall, I think that this book is must reading for any baseball card collector who collects for pleasure. If you're just in it for the money (if there in fact is any money in this), the history of card collecting may not be of interest.

Jamieson covers the past 100 or so years of baseball card collecting. The history is pretty light on the years 1920 through 1950 but not a lot was going on then. Parts of the book are duplicative of "The Card" by Michael O'Keeffee and Teri Thompson but Jamieson nas a broader focus. I particularly liked the chapters on the history of Bowman and long-time Topps card designer, Woody Gelman. Because of this book I bought on-line a card from Bowman's 1938 "Horrors of War" set and one of Topps "Civil War News" cards from the 1960s. I'll feature them in a later post.

I got into collecting in 1985, just as the 'baseball cards as an investment' craze got started. Since I never believed that baseball cards were a good investment, I kept at it through the bust of the mid-1990s (although my love of baseball, and collecting, was really tested in the 1994 strike). My collecting peaked in 1994 and I've not purchased as many cards in any year since that I did in 1994.

The investing craze chapter is another good one in the book. Jamieson describes a guy who bought $75,000 worth of cards in the early 1990s thinking the return on this investment would pay for his daughter's college. I guess this can be called the 'baseball card bubble'. Not as destructive as the housing bubble of a few years ago but maybe the same mentality. Cards are worth more this year than they were last year and this trend will continue forever.

Jamieson paints a grim picture of the future of the baseball card market. Unlike me, most collectors got into this as a kid. They may have stopped collecting for awhile, but something reconnects them and they start again. This is what happened to Jamieson. His mother was threatening to throw out his cards from the 1980s. He picked them up and got interested again. Interested enough to write this book.

The problem today is that kids aren't buying baseball cards. The secondary market for vintage cards is still strong, but one dealer confided in Jamieson that when the current generation of adult collector's (in their 40s to 60s) passes on, the next generation will be much smaller. And there may not be a generation behind that.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Song of the Week - California Girls by The Beach Boys

One of the local TV stations runs a Top 5 feature every week. This week it was the Top 5 Summertime Songs. I don't agree with this list but here it is:

#5 - "Summer Wind" by Frank Sinatra
#4 - "Schools Out" by Alice Cooper
#3 - "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan
#2 - "Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
#1 - "California Girls" by The Beach Boys

So here's their #1 pick:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thursday Night at the Movies - The Sorcerer's Apprentice

This movie was a light bit of fluff that my wife, daughter and I enjoyed. Nicolas Cage, pretty much as himself, plays a 1,000 year old wizard, Balthazar who's been locking up evil wizards in something looking like a stack of nesting Russian dolls. The thing is called a Grimhold, I guess because it holds grim contents.In the deepest level of the Grimhold, is Morgana, a witch so tough she was able to kill Merlin himself. In addition to locking up wizards he doesn't agree with, he's also been searching for Merlin's successor, the Prime Merlinian, the one to become the Sorcerer's Apprentice. The Prime Merlinian turns out to be geeky physics student, Dave, played by Jay Beruchel. In an event that could only happen in the movies, Dave has just accidentally bumped into Becky (Theresa Palmer) the beautiful blond he's been in love with since the 4th grade but hasn't seen in 10 years.

Through a series of plot devices, Balthazar's enemy, Horvath, escapes from the Grimhold with plans to release Morgana so together they can raise an army of evil dead wizards and, well, it's not clear what for except it can't be good.

So Balthazar has to get poor old Dave, who's more interested in mooning over Becky, trained up so he can defeat Morgana.

The movie was fun with pretty decent special effects. It doesn't pay to look too closely at what is going on however. We think the movie was poorly edited. For example, there is a scene in the trailers, where Dave shows Becky that he can throw plasma balls (apparently a prime wizardly weapon). That would be sufficient enough to convince me that Dave had otherworldly powers, but this scene does not actually appear in the movie. Becky's acceptance of Dave's powers, based pretty much on incoherent mumblings on his part, really doesn't make sense. This is important because Becky actually plays an important roll in defeating Morgana and she seems to have zero motivation to do the crazy stunt that Dave asks of her.

There is also a dog in this movie for no apparent reason. We think that the dog played some important role based on dialogue which went nowhere but the dog just vanishes with no explaination.

If you haven't already seen it, it's probably too late to catch it. It would make a good choice for a rental or just wait until it shows up on cable. If you like Nicolas Cage you're in for a treat. For reasons known only to the director, Jay Beruchel does a Nicolas Cage impression through most of the movie.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Woody Gelman

I'm in the process of reading Mint Condition by Dave Jamieson, which is a book about baseball card collecting. I plan to do a full post on this later but since I just finished the chapter on Woody Gelman, I wanted to mention it.Gelman helped design the 1952 Topps baseball card and was the chief designer for Topps until the late 1970s. He passed away on February 2, 1978. Even before coming to Topps, he was a great collector of paper ephemera. He collected everything, baseball cards, postcards, greeting cards, matchbooks, magazine advertising. He was a great cataloger. The book describes him as a 'type collector', meaning he tried to obtain at least one card from every set made. Long time readers of this blog may remember that my collecting goal is to obtain at least one card from every set made. I didn't know that I was a 'type collector'.

I also have an interest in old paper. In addition to baseball cards I also collect old post cards. Here I focus on specific cards, those from Cliff Walk RI (my namesake) , and from Drexel University (my old school). I'm also interested in old magazines and some day I'm going to make a post on advertising in the old mags I own.

I'm also a cataloger. In fact, part of the enjoyment of collecting for me is the cataloging of my collection. I spend a lot of time putting cards into my database and I'm also forever tinkering with the database to understand my collection better.

I'd heard of Woody Gelman before, you can hardly be a serious baseball card collector and not have heard of him, but didn't know much about him. Although I never had the mania that Gelman had, he sounds like a guy I could understand.

I am declaring him to be the patron saint of Capewood's Collections.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bat across the shoulders

After getting several 2010 Allen & Ginter cards featuring players in the classic bat-across-the-shoulders pose, I decided to make a post of the cards I had scanned of this pose. Turns out I had 18 cards with this pose going back to the 1980s and featuring a number of players and card brands. So here we go.

2010 Allen & Ginter Matt Kemp #62For the pose to work the best, I think the player has to look sort of like Kemp looks here. Sort of dangerous, sort of "You lookin' at me?'. You also have to have the batting stats and Kemp does.

2010 Allen & Ginter Manny Ramirez #220
Manny manages "the look" but hair... He's got the chops, however.

2010 Allen & Ginter Miguel Tejada #8
Tejada looks like he's amused that he was asked to pose this way.

2009 Topps 206 Dexter Fowler #153
Dexter isn't taking this too seriously either. This pose works well on a horizontal card, but this design doesn't.

2009 Topps 206 Greg Golson #74
I'm not sure that Golson has the right attitude, which maybe he doesn't considering he's a former #1 draft pick who's managed 12 at-bats (hitting .167) over the past 3 years.

2009 Topps Turkey Red Albert Pujols #71
Albert's got the 'tude. Looks like he could break that bat over his neck if he wanted to.

2008 Upper Deck Ryan Howard #604
Like Pujols, Ryan has it, and like Albert, he's got the stats to back him up.

2008 Topps Michael Bourn #368
I like Bourn but he's not a power hitter. Speed is his style. He looks like a trickster here, which he should, as a base stealer.

2006 Ultra Carlos Delgado #88
Delgado has the power but he looks pretty disinterested in this shot. I think this design works well in horizontal.

1999 Upper Deck MVP Alex Rodriguez # 191
Alex, from two teams ago. He's got the power but he looks too friendly for the pose.

1994 Collector's Choice Silver Signature
No power, no average. What's he doing in this pose?

1994 Upper Deck Pete Incaviglia #491
Don't mess with Inky, or his 'stach.

1993 Upper Deck Manny Ramirez #433
Who is this baby-faced guy? Manny? Really?

1992 Studio Royce Clayton #115
111 home runs over a 17 year career doesn't add up to a power hitter. But you don't manage to stay in the big leagues without some talent. Speed and defense made Clayton.

1991 Fleer Pro Visions Mark McGwire #4
Pre-enhanced Mark McGwire.

1990 Score Bo Jackson #697
You knew him, you loved him. All this card says on the back is BO.

1988 Fleer Baseball All Stars Wade Boggs #2
Not a great amount of power but the guy could hit. In 1988 his average was .366.

1987 Fleer Record Setters Ben Oglivie #26
Olgivie had the power, 235 home runs and 901 RBIs. Doesn't look too frightening however.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Song of the Week - Do You Believe in Magic? by The Lovin's Spoonful

I was 14 years old when this song came out in 1965 and I believed in magic. I still do.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

2010 Topps Allen & Ginter Part 3

Part 1 dealt with the base cards and Part 2 with the inserts and minis. This part deals with the hits. The box promises an N43 card with every box and any 3 of the following:

Autograph Cards
Relic Cards
Printing Plates
Rip Cards
Cut Signatures
So what did I get?
Last year's box got me the first N43 card I ever had and it was Ryan Howard. This year, I'll settle for A-Rod.
A game-used bat card of Aramis Ramirez. I went and bought the Shane Victorino card on eBay.
And look at this! a Rip Card. I'd never seen one of these. The back said that, if I should dare and rip the card I would get:

An exclusive mini parallel
- or -
An authentic 1887 Allen & Ginter Original
- or -
A one-of-one exclusive mini wood parallel
- or -
An Allen & Ginger Originals Sketch Card

Since Elijah Dukes means nothing to me, I ripped it. Here's what I got:
This is one of the mini cards nunbered above 350. As I mentioned in Part 2, I've never seen one of these. Chris Young appears on card #260, with a mini of the same number. This card is #382 and has a different image than the #260 card. I guess that makes it an "Exclusive mini parallel" card. It also has a different finish than the regular cards, being smoother and a bit glossy.

And finally, I got this. Gaze in wonder:
That's right, a Lords of Olympus Relic of Poseidon. The card is as thick as 4 regular relic cards. Inside the little window is a square of some hard material. A piece of Poseidon's trident (a game-used trident, perhaps)? A game-worn scale? Here's what it says on the back:
That gave me a pretty good laugh. There is one of these up on eBay with an opening bid of $999.99. I hope he gets that, I'll have this on eBay the next day. I had a bid on the Persephone relic card for much a much lower price but it sold for $187. Too rich for me. Her relic contains pomegranate seeds. If you don't know your mythology, your assignment is to look it up and report back in the comments.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2010 Topps Allen & Ginter Part 2

Part 1 dealt with the base cards from the hobby box I bought. Part 3 will deal with the hits. Today we'll look at the inserts and minis.This is the "This Day in History" insert and comes one per pack. I like it better than the National Pride inserts from last year. The player image is different from his base card. On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers conducted the first heavier-than-air flight at Kitty Hawk. But you knew that, didn't you?
Last year they had Highlight Sketches, this year they are called Original Sketches. This card celebrates Jeter becoming the All-time Yankees hits leader.
Allen & Ginter didn't invent the 'mini' card but perhaps does it best. This is a regular card, parallel with the base set. There are more mini cards than base cards which is usual although I've never seen one numbered higher than the base card count. At least until now. More about that in the next Allen & Ginter post.
As usual, the mini cards come in multiple flavors. This Berkman card has the Allen & Ginter back, the most common variant. The other variant is the Bazooka back which I didn't get. In fact, I've never gotten one of these.
And of course there is the black border variant. Shawn Johnson won a Gold Metal at the Beijing Olympics. She was also named "America's Most-Liked Sports Figure" in a 2009 poll.
There is a mini card in each pack but some of them are insert sets. Here is Apollo from the 25-card Lords of Olympus set.
Allen & Ginter has always featured a set having something about countries. This year it's National Animals. Somehow, the Ostrich is the national animal of Caribbean island-nation of Grenada.
Another new set is the 10-card Sailors of the Seven Seas. De Soto explored Florida where he massacred everybody in sight.
They usually have some sort of creature set, this year it's the 25-card Monsters of the Mesozoic. This is card #1, featuring the king of the dinosaurs himself, Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The last mini card I got is this from the 15-card set, World's Greatest Word Smiths. Cervantes, of course, wrote Don Quixote De La Mancha, considered to be, according to the back of the card, the first modern novel.

The other two mini sets I didn't get are "Mini World's Biggest" and "Mini Creatures of Legend, Myth, and Joy".

Monday, July 12, 2010

2010 Topps Allen & Ginter Part 1

My hobby box of 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter arrived the other day. I'm real happy with it. I'm planning three posts. This one will focus on the base cards. The next will focus on the minis and other inserts. The box Said there would be any three of the following: autograph cards, relic cards, pr1nting plates, rip cards and cut signatures. The third post will show what I got. The design changed again this year. They retained the borders but put a blue-greenish background in. They also did away with the box at the bottom of the card with the player name and card logo. The card logo is also slightly different. I think the cards look great. According to, the cards above 300 are short prints. This Drew card is #345. I can't see anyway to distinguish them from the regular cards.
In general, the cards feature posed pictures. Several of them could be action shots, like this Ichiro card.
This is the only 2010 Ken Griffey I've seen.
I only got two Astros cards in the box, this Oswalt and Pedro Feliz.
I did real well with Phillies, with 7 of them. The only important card I didn't get was Howard. All of the horizontal cards feature action shots like this one.
Andy looking very menacing.
Manny with the classic bat across the shoulders pose. There are several players using this pose in the set.
Another Phillie.
There is the usual collection of entertainers, athletes from other sports and historical figures. I chose this card because I have no idea who she is. As I was scanning this card, the Coldplay song "Sparks" was playing on iTunes. Really.
There are also the usual technology and natural objects.