Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 Topps Turkey Red Mystery

I've only bought two blaster and two cereal boxes of Topps Series 1. Eventually I'll get around to making a post about them. But first I have a mystery (at least to me).I managed to pull 11 Turkey Red cards. 3 of them are Albert Pujols. When I started to catalogue these I started with the Pujols cards. The first thing I noticed was that unlike every other issue of Topps Turkey Red, the card had no texture. It's as smooth as a baby's bum. What gives here? When I reached for the second card, it did had the familiar Turkey Red texture, as do all of the others I have. I searched, and on eBay and can find no mention of smooth Turkey Red cards. Does anybody have any thoughts about this? I suspect that I have a card that somehow missed the texturizing process but I'd like to think I have a one-of-a-kind short print.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Quest for 1998 - Part 7 Donruss Collections

In 1998, Donruss had four primary sets: Donruss, Leaf, Donruss Elite, and Donruss Preferred. They also produced a set called Donruss Collections which featured cards which were parallels of these four sets. The cards featured the same design and photography as the regular sets but were either printed on thin plastic or are plastic coated. It's hard to tell. The background of each card had a sunburst kind of effect which was raised from the surface of the card and the word Collections was embossed in the background as well. Each 5-card pack featured 2 Donruss Collections Donruss, 2 Donruss Collections Leaf, 1 Donruss Collections Elite. A Donruss Collections Preferred was inserted 1 in 2 packs.

There were 750 cards in the set, 200 each of the Donruss, Leaf and Preferred and 150 of the Elite. Also, the Preferred were limited to 1400 sets.

As if this wasn't confusing enough, there were also parallels of the parallels called Prized. The Prized parallels, in addition to all of the above, had a refractive rainbow finish. They were also limited in production although they were not serial numbered. I just picked up 3 of the 4 parallels.

Donruss Prized Collections Donruss #26 Jeff BagwellThe Donruss Prized versions were limited to 560 sets. Unfortunately the rainbow colors didn't show up in the scans very well, but this is a pretty attractive card.

Donruss Prized Collection Leaf #295 Craig Biggio
The Leaf version was limited to 400 sets.

Donruss Prized Collections Elite #511 Derrek Lee
The Prized Elite cards were limited to 220 sets.

Although I have one Donruss Collections Preferred card, the Prized versions are limited to 56 sets. The Jim Thome card is currently being offered on eBay for the Buy It Now price of $22.50. That's a bit more than I'm willing to spend.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Song of the Week - Distant Shores by Chad & Jeremy

I have 9,396 songs on iTunes. This is one of them.

I was listening to the CD The Very Best of Chad & Jeremy and though, something from here would make a goof Song of the Week. This due was active in the mid-1960s and were bart of the original British Invasion. I was going to go on about their sweet harmonies and sad love songs. But while looking for a video on YouTube I found this and any ideas I had went right out of my head.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Quest for 1998 - Part 8 Donruss Signature

In 1996, Donruss introduced Leaf Signature. It was the first set to feature a large number of autographed card. Each pack had at least one autographed card. There were over 1,000 different autographed cards available in several parallel sets. In 1997, Donruss renamed the set Donruss Signature, and continued the set into 1998. Donruss went bankrupt after 1998 and disappeared for a few years. Just like with the Leaf Signature, there was at least one autographed card per pack.

1998 Donruss Signature #83, Roberto AlomarThere was nothing particularly exciting about the design of the base cards, in fact they looked pretty much like the 1997 versions. A moderately glossy card with silver foil.
The back featured a player photo and personal and game stats.

1998 Donruss Signature Autographs Millennium Gabe Alvarez
There were 3 125-card parallel sets of on-card autographs. This set featured 1,000, serially numbered cards of each player. The 'base' autographed card was also serial numbered to various amounts between 400 and at least 3,900. There was also a Centennial version, serial numbered to 100. Gabe Alvarez only played about 90 games but I only paid $4.00 for this on-card auto.
The backs featured another photo and some biographical information about the player.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday Night at the Movies - Green Zone

This movie is being billed as an action-adventure film. In the ads for the movie much is made of Damon and the director Paul Greengrass' connection to the Bourn movies. In the trailers for the film, it's not too clear what Damon is doing. He appears to be on a quest of some kind.Damon plays chief warrant officer Roy Miller. It's just after the fall of Baghdad and Miller and his team are looking for WMD in and around the city. The opening scene has them arriving at a site where intelligence has reported a stockpile of biological weapons. Here's where the action-adventure part comes in. Although an Army unit has attempted to secure the site prior to Miller's unit's arrival, all is chaos. There is a sniper keeping them pinned down. Panicked Iraqi citizens are running all around. Purposeful Iraqi citizens are looting the place. Bullets are flying everywhere. When Miller and company finally get inside, the find an abandoned toilet factory. No WMD. It's the third dry hole in a row.

Miller's quest is to find out what is going on. Just where are those danged weapons of mass destruction. For his trouble he finds himself in the middle of a CIA operation and a Pentagon operation. Although both these agencies work for the same government, they seem to be working at cross-purposes. To reveal those purposes would be too big of a spoiler so I won't. Suffice it to say that you may have heard that WMD were never found in Iraqi. There have been many theories put forward as to why this is so. This movie offers a theory I never heard before but doesn't sound any crazier than those I have heard.

We thought that Matt Damon was great in this. As I said, when his unit arrives at the chaotic scene in the opening of the movie, Damon just takes charge. His men have complete confidence in him and you believe it that they do. The action scenes are very good. The director goes for a total immersion sort of feel with jerky camera movements, a point of view from right inside the action. You can almost feel the bullets whizzing past your ear. Very effective and very tense.

A word of warning. If you think that the Iraqi war was fully justified and that we did the right thing there, you will probably not like this movie no matter how close the bullets come.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Club - The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050

The Next Hundred Million: American in 2050 by Joel Kotkin is, perhaps, the most optimistic book on America's future that I ever read. He extrapolates a lot of positive trends in the US and negative trends in other countries and predicts an America in 2050, pretty much on top of the world.But it's not just about trends. He spends a lot of time reminding us what's good about the US compared to other countries and how these good things will get us through. A lot of his optimism seems based on the fact that people have been predicting the fall of America for the past 60 years and it hasn't happened yet. I'm afraid that isn't a very persuasive argument by itself but combined with the trends makes a good case.

He thinks that the high amount of immigration over the past years will blossom into a renewed American vigor because of the influx of youth. While other countries either segregate their immigrants or deny immigration all together, the American blending pot will continue to operate. Lots of new businesses will mean lots of opportunities and jobs. The Heartland is starting to show signs of recovery with high tech businesses relocating there. The suburbs will become more diversified, with mixed housing and businesses and an influx of immigrants.

He predicts an America of more diversity than ever as immigrant groups intermarry with other groups and the people already here. We will be come a land of minorities, but all Americans.

I will be 98 years old in 2050 (I hope). If I'm still writing this blog then, I'll revisit this book and see how well he did on his predictions.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Photo re-use, again

Just a quick post today.

2010 Topps Heritage #356 - Dan HarenThis is a nice picture but I'm sure I've seen it before. Oh, yea...

2009 Topps 206 #62 - Dan Haren
At least the background is a different color.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Song of the Week - Summer Skin by Death Cab For Cutie

I have 9,266 songs on iTunes. This is one of them.

Nothing fancy or too complicated today. It's been a long cold winter, but it's the first day of Spring. Here's a song that reminds us of summers past and summers to come that will end too soon.

Squeaky swings and tall grass
The longest shadows ever cast
The water's warm and children swim
And we frolicked about in our summer skin

I don't recall a single care
Just greenery and humid air
Then Labor Day came and went
And we shed what was left of our summer skin

On the night you left I came over
And we peeled the freckles from our shoulders
Our brand new coats were so flushed and pink
And I knew your heart I couldn't win
'Cause the season's change was a conduit
And we'd left our love in our summer skin

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Quest for 1998 - Part 6 Circa Thunder

With these three cards, I am up to 177 different base cards and inserts. My quest is to reach 200. Circa Thunder was published by Fleer/Skybox.

Circa Thunder Rave #259 Jose VizcainoThe Rave insert was a parallel to the base set, numbered to 150. On the base cards, the player name was a colored foil while the card logo was gold foil. On the Rave parallel, the player name and card logo were a holographic silver foil. The card design was the same. There were multiple backgrounds, mostly looking like some sort of whirlpool. The backs of the cards were exactly the same except for the serial number.

Circa Thunder Fast Track #18 Todd Helton
This was a 10-card set inserted 1:24 packs. The front features refractive foil behind the player on the left, and head shots of all 10 players on the right. Note that the little head shot of Helton is also in refractive foil. The text and card logo is in silver foil. I think this is a nice looking card.
The back features another player photo and a little write up about the player's debut.

Circa Thunder Rave Review #15 Mike Piazza
This is a pretty extravagant card. It has a copper foil background with gold foil printing. It is die cut on all four edges. The team and league names are in raised lettering. It was inserted 1 in 288 packs so it was a pretty tough pull. For what it's worth, Beckett lists this card at $25. I paid about $6 for it.
The back features a high gloss finish and another player photo.

I now have all the Circa Thunder I'm likely to get. There is another insert parallel called Circa Thunder Super Rave. These are numbered to 5. There is currently one dealer offering quite a few commons. He is asking $60 each. Or you can choose a Manny Ramirez for $400 or a Mark McGwire for $500. No thanks.

Here's the breakdown on what I have.

Circa Thunder base (300 card set) - 32
Circa Thunder Rave - 1
Circa Thunder Boss (20 card insert, 1:6) - 1
Circa Thunder Fast Track - 1
Circa Thunder Limited Access (15 card insert 1:18) - 1
Circa Thunder Quick Strike (12 card insert, 1:36) - 1
Circa Thunder Rave Review - 1
Circa Thunder Thunder Boomers (12 card insert, 1:96)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday Night at the Movies - The Ghost Writer

Ewan McGregor plays The Ghost, a successful ghost writer who is hired to rewrite the memoirs of charismatic (and Tony Blair-like) former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). The Ghost (who's name is never revealed in the movie) is reluctant to take on the job but the $250,000 paycheck convinces him. Lang is in America, staying at an extremely ugly seaside house, apparently in Martha's Vineyard. The gloomy island of Sylt in the North Sea stands in for Martha's Vineyard. Just as The Ghost arrives, the news breaks that perhaps Lang had ordered the kidnapping and torturing of suspected Muslim terrorists in Pakistan (who happened to be British citizens). Needless to say, this puts a damper on the project. The movie is a nice mystery and well done. An old-fashioned movie in some ways, driven by plot and acting. There is one minor chase scene but it's important to the plot.

Kim Cattrall plays Lang's assistant, Amelia Bly with a sort of icy efficiency. Lang's wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams) suspects that Lang and Bly are screwing around, but this is one mystery that isn't solved. The plot gets a bit convoluted, with implications of ties between the CIA and a US defense contractor (with a name suspiciously like Halliburton). There is a not totally expected resolution which left me satisfied.

Look for a cameo appearance by Eli Wallach as a crusty old beach bum and the first use I've seen of a GPS as a major plot device.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Quest for 1998 - Part 5 Bowman Chrome

My quest: to acquire 200 different 1998 cards. This finishes what I'm going to try for from the 1998 Bowman Chrome set. With these I have 12 base cards, 7 base refractors, 1 International, 1 International Refractor, 1 Chrome Reprint and 1 Chrome Reprint Refractor. What I'm missing are the Chrome Golden Anniversary (numbered to 50) and the Chrome Golden Anniversary Refractors (numbered to 5). I haven't seen any auctions on these that I'm willing to pay for.

1998 Bowman Chrome International #259 Travis Fryman

I like the Chrome version of this card a lot better than the base version. The base version has a Dufex foil finish what I don't really care for.

1998 Bowman Chrome International Refractor # 107 Ryan Minor
If you know your 1990s Bowman cards you know this is a rookie card because the back is blue (vs red on the non-rookies).

1998 Bowman Chrome Reprints #13 Ken Griffey, Jr.
This, of course, is a jazzed up reprint of 1989 Bowman. 1989 was the year that Topps revived the Bowman brand. Bowman and Topps were fierce competitors in the early 1950s. Topps eventually bought out Bowman and retired the brand. For some reason, Topps decided that the 1989 version should be about a quarter inch longer than regular cards. They only did this the one year. The reprint is normal sized.
1998 Bowman Chrome Reprints Refractors #1 Yogi Berra
This is a reprint of a 1948 Bowman card. The originals were shorter than modern cards but Topps made this normal sized.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Song of the Week - London Calling by The Clash

I have 9,243 songs on iTunes, this is one of them.

The Clash formed in 1976 and was part of the first wave of British punk. "London Calling" was from their third album of the same name released in 1979. I can't say that I was a big punk rock fan, but The Clash was a band that had to be taken seriously by anyone who was a fan of rock 'n' roll, especially in the mid to late 1970s when radio was pretty much taken over by soft rock and disco. I wasn't a big concert goer but I actually saw The Clash perform at the University of Penn's Ice Skating Rink in 1982. This would have been while they were touring to promote, what was their biggest selling album, Combat Rock. It was a strange concert. The stage was at one end of the rink. There was a floor placed over the ice for the audience. There was no seating. Even though this was in August, it was freezing cold in the place. At 31 years of age, I'm pretty sure I was the oldest person in the place. The opening act was a very forgettable reggae band. I remember one of the people with me saying, after their 10th or so song, "Is this the only song they know?" But The Clash was great. I can probably attribute at least some of the tinnitus that I suffer from today from that concert. Turn up your computer speakers and listen.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wheaties Fuel featuring Albert Pujols

I've been eating Wheaties since I was a kid and as near as I can tell there have been no significant changes in the product. Sometime last year the Wheaties boxes began talking about something new coming, an evolution. I thought, great, they are going to 'improve' Wheaties, which would probably mean, I wouldn't like them anymore.

In fact, they were talking about a new product, Wheaties Fuel. I saw a box on the shelf the other week and bought one. The box features a really mean looking Albert Pujols on the front.In the lead up to this product release, the Wheaties boxes had been featuring a silhouette of a bunch of people, presumably, champions every one. After all, Wheaties is the Breakfast of Champions.
The crew is now revealed to be triathlon athelete Hunter Kemper, basketball player Kevin Garnett, footballer Peyton Manning, Pujols, and decathlon athlete Bryan Clay. And what a mean looking group they are. What, they couldn't find a woman champion for the box?

Wheaties Fuel tastes sort of like plain old Wheaties with a lot of sugar, cinnamon, and Rice Krispies added. I can't say that I cared for it much.

Apparently, lots of people collect cereal boxes. I read an article about it once. They take up a lot more space than a baseball card. In a brief search on Google, I couldn't find a blog about cereal box collecting.

There are some people on eBay asking up to $10 for this box full of cereal. Go down to your local Wal Mart and get it for about $3.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quest for 1998 - Part 4 Some Bowman Cards

My quest for 200 1998 cards continues.

Bowman Previews #3 Ken Griffey, Jr.
This insert set is, perhaps technically, not really part of the Bowman set as it was inserted in 1998 Series 1 Stadium Club at 1 in 12 packs. At this time, Bowman was a pretty late issue, usually coming out in mid-August. Stadium Club was an early issue card. The card looks exactly like the regular issue card except for the numbering. There were 10 cards in the set.
Bowman Golden Anniversary #401 Kevin Burford
It was the Golden Anniversary of the first Bowman set, published in 1949. These parallel cards were randomly inserted at a rate of 1:237 in Series 1 and 1:194 in Series 2 and were serial numbered to 50. Besides the serial number on the back, the only difference from the base set is that the facsimile signature is in gold foil.
These would have been a pretty hard pull. Even this card books for $8. Burford was a 6th round draft pick of the Phillies in 1996. He bounced around the minors until 2004 but never made it to the majors.

Bowman Certified Blue Autographs #27 Ben Grieve
This is a nice looking on-card autograph insert. Even though there were 70 cards in this set they were only inserted at a rate of 1:149.
With this card I'm going to declare that my 1998 Bowman set is complete. I have more than half of the base set and at least one of all the parallels and inserts I'm likely to get. They are:

Bowman (441-card base set)
Bowman Golden Anniversary
Bowman Previews
Bowman Prospect Previews (10-card insert)
Bowman International (441-card parallel insert)
Bowman 1999 ROY Favorites (10-card insert)
Bowman Certified Blue Autographs

There are Gold and Silver parallels of the Blue Autographs but there is pretty much no chance I'm ever going to find one. The Silver were inserted at a rate of 1:992 and the Gold at 1:2,976! Much too long odds for me. Even if I found one, I'm pretty sure I'd not be willing to pay the price.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Virtual Bike Tour of Baseball Sites - Wichita Kansas

I've really been slacking off this year at the gym. It's just been one thing after another. But at least I reached another city, Wichita Kansas. I was kind of disappointed in the baseball talent from Wichita. Wichita is a fairly good sized city (about 344,000 people) founded in 1870. You'd think they would have produced at least one star. But all I could find were a couple of Phillies. And Phorgotten Phillies at that.1987 Topps #471 Ronn Reynolds
Ronn was a 5th round draft pick of the Mets in 1980. He came to the Phillies in a trade with the Mets in 1986. He played 43 games for the Phillies in 1986 as a backup catcher before being traded in April 1987 to the Astros.

1989 Topps Traded Larry McWilliams
McWilliams had a 12 year career as a relief pitcher. He was signed by the Phillies in January 1989 as a free agent and traded to the Royals in September 1989. He was 2-11 with 2 saves for the largely phorgetable Phillies of 1989.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Song of the Week - Torn by Natalie Imbruglia

I have 9,226 songs on iTunes. This is one of them

I'm not exactly sure how I first heard of Natalie Imbruglia. Maybe it's because of this song which was a big hit in 1997 from her Left of Middle CD, her first record. She's an Australian model and actress who has become a singer-songwriter as well. She's only released 2 CDs since her debut, neither of which did as well as her debut. I have the second CD (White Lilies Island 2001) as well. She is reported working on a 4th CD.

I've been trying to feature this video on the blog for some time but every other time I looked for it, the video couldn't be embedded. Now it is available although there is a short commercial in the front (You Tube has to make money somehow). It's a great song and a great video.

I thought I saw a man brought to life
He was warm, he came around like he was dignified
He showed me what it was to cry

Well you couldn't be that man that I adored
You don't seem to know, or seem to care what your heart is for
I don't know him anymore

There's nothin' where he used to lie
Our conversation has run dry
That's what's goin' on
Nothing's fine
I'm torn

I'm all out of faith, this is how I feel
I'm cold and I am shamed
Lying naked on the floor
Illusion never changed
Into something real
I'm wide awake and I can see the perfect sky is torn
You're a little late
I'm already torn

So I guess the fortune teller's right
I should have seen just what was there and not some holy light
But you crawled beneath my veins and now
I don't care, I have no luck
I don't miss it all that much
There's just so many things
That I can't touch
I'm torn

I'm all out of faith, this is how I feel
I'm cold and I am shamed
Lying naked on the floor
Illusion never changed
Into something real
I'm wide awake and I can see the perfect sky is torn
You're a little late
I'm already torn, torn

There's nothing where he used to lie
My inspiration has run dry
That's what's goin' on
Nothing's right
I'm torn

I'm all out of faith
This is how I feel
I'm cold and I am shamed
Lying naked on the floor
Illusion never changed
Into something real
I'm wide awake and I can see the perfect sky is torn

I'm all out of faith
This is how I feel
I'm cold and I am ashamed
Bound and broken on the floor
You're a little late
I'm already torn, torn

Oh yeah, oh yeah
Oh yeah, oh yeah
Oh yeah, oh yeah

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Quest for 1998 - Part 3

If you're following along, my quest is to obtain at least 200 unique types of cards from 1998. Here is a trio of die-cut cards featuring foils and fancy finishes. These are cards 5-6-7 of the 41 cards I need.

Aurora On Deck Laser Cuts # 5 Nomar GarciaparraWell, OK, this isn't really die-cut, it's laser cut. There were a lot of laser cut cards at this time. The equipment must have been a new toy for the card manufacturers. I like how the oval around the junction of the bats looks almost 3D in this scan. The first three rings of the oval have laser cutouts. And lots of gold foil. The seller of this card also had the Frank Thomas card from the set with no extra postage so I bought that as well. This 20-card set was inserted 1:9 packs in Aurora.

Bowman's Best Mirror Image Fusion #19 Greg Maddux/Kerry Wood
A crazy-die cut. At first I thought that all of the cards were cut so they would fit together like a puzzle. That would be cool if you could get all 20 cards of the set. But I've seen images of other cards from the set and they appear to be all cut the same. These were inserted 1:12 packs.
The card features a different player on the back, in this case, Kerry Wood. I've decided this is the back of the card because it's got the card number.

Circa Thunder Quick Strike # 1 Jeff Bagwell
This was a 12-card insert set (1:36 packs) in Circa Thunder. If features another crazy die cut and mulitcolored textured foil on the front. I'm not quite sure what Jeff is doing in this picture since the background has been removed, but my guess is that he's just going into a slide.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thursday Night at the Movies - 2009 Academy Awards

For reasons I've not bothered to figure out, there are 10 movies nominated for Best Picture this year. Of the more than 40 movies that came out last year that we saw, we only managed to see three of the movies nominated. We saw the trailers for this and it looked interesting but we didn't see it. We'll be looking for this one on cable I guess.
This movie completely passed us by. I don't remember this at all. The write-up in today's paper about the nominees makes it sound pretty interesting. Another one to look for.
Of the three we saw, this is probably our favorite. It is the complete package. I don't think its going to win however.
We saw the trailers for this but weren't too interested, even though we like Sandra Bullock. I'm still not really interested.
I wanted to see this but my wife didn't. My daughter and I were going to go but by the time we got our act together, it was gone from the theaters.
Another movie that passed us by. We must have seen the trailers for hundreds of movies last year but I don't remember this one.
This looked funny in the trailers but the reviews for it made it sound too brutal for me. So we didn't see it.
Another movie that didn't look to interesting to us.
Another movie we saw and we really loved it. I don't think this will win either.
The third of the nominees we saw. I'd like to see this win just because it's a movie which does not rely on any sort of special effect to be successful.