Sunday, May 26, 2013

Song of the Week - The Guns of Brixton by Arcade Fire

Here's a 2007 live recording of Arcade Fire doing the Clash song, "The Guns of Brixton". I'm not familiar with the original but this version is fabulous. It also clearly features someone playing what I believe is a hurdy gurdy.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

This is one great movie.

I've been looking forward to this movie since I saw the 2009 Star Trek movie. OK, so call me a fan boy.  Paramount starting teasing us with trailers at least a year ago.  Before I tell you how much I liked the movie I want to tell you that Paramount has conducted an excellent advertising campaign. Thinking back about the trailers I now realize that they managed to make me excited to see the movie without giving much of the story away. Sure, we knew that Benedict Cumberbatch was the bad guy. Could he possibly be the return of Khan!  The trailer showed battles with Klingons, the Enterprise getting the crap beaten out of her and cool cityscapes of future London and San Francisco. But the trailers did not tell us what was really going on and there lays the greatness of the movie.

J. J. Abrams has gotten it. He's captured what the original show and movies had and has brought it to life with a new cast. His 2009 Star Trek was pretty good, but this one is better.

I read a couple of reviews of the movie and I have to say that the reviewers did not get it. At this point, Star Trek has a lot of history. Abrams has mined that history well to present this alternate universe Star Trek that remains true to the original. If you know a lot of that history, then the movie has a lot of depth that you'll appreciate. If you don't, the story stands on its on.

I'm not going to divulge the plot here just in case you've not been following all of the publicity. You can look at the IMDB page if you want the ultimate spoiler right on the front page if you want. I'll just say that my wife is a fan but has not been following closely so the main plot came as a surprise to her.

The one review I read thought that this was the funniest Star Trek. I wouldn't go that far but I there are a lot of good lines, delivered with style and a sense of awareness.  McCoy gets to say "Dammit, I'm a doctor not a weapons technician". and "Are you out of your corn-fed mind"? Kirk tells McCoy "Enough with the metaphors"! 

I can hardly wait to see the movie again. I only have to wait until Thursday. My daughter and I are going to see it again, but this time in 3-D IMAX.

Song of the Week - Good Ole Rock and Roll Music - Cat Mother...

One of my all-time favorite record albums is the 1969 release "The Street Giveth...And The Street Taketh Away" by Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys. The LP had 11 songs, everyone of them great. It was 50 minutes long, quite long for an LP in those days. It was produced by their good friend Jimi Hendrix.  There was one hit song from the record, a medley of '50s songs which really wasn't typical of the album as a whole.It's the only video I know of them from back in the day.

I played the heck our of that record. Since the demise of my last working turntable and the rise of CDs and MP3, I hadn't heard the record for years. A few years ago my family gave me a USB turntable for my birthday, which made the tedious task of digitizing old LPs a little easier. One of the first records I did was "The Street Giveth...". But the record was so worn out that it sounded terrible. I thought, well at least I can listen to it, even with the flaws.

I'd been looking for the album on CD or on iTunes for ears with no success. There had been a limited CD release around 1998 that I missed. One of the songs came up on iTunes the other day and it was so bad I couldn't listen to it. I checked one again on Amazon, and surprise, a new CD was recently released. I ordered it immediately.

It's great to be able to hear those old songs again.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Random Cards From My Collection #44

Card #19484
2010 Topps #387 Josh Fields
Comments on the card: I kind of liked the big swoosh on these cards when I first saw them but find the set less to my liking these days
When acquired: 2010
How acquired: Paid $0.19 for 6 packs of Series 2 bought at Target
Player's season: Fields was a White Sox 1st round draft pick who made his major league debut with a home run in 2006. By 2010 he was with the Royals but only appeared in 13 games. He's been in the minors ever since. In fact, today he's with the Phillies farm club in Lehigh Valley.

Card #19028
1989 Donruss #485 Kevin Mitchell
Comments on the card: One of a series of crazy 1980's designs by Donruss.
When acquired: 2009
How acquired: Acquired in a box of 1989 Donruss along with a pile of other sports stuff at a church bazaar.
Player's season:1989 was Mitchell's biggest year. He hit .292 with 47 home runs and 125 RBIs. He was an All Star and the National League MVP. Oh, and the Giants won the World Series.

Card #3787
1994 Pinnacle #344 Bryan Harvey
Comments on the card: This was a real nice set. Glossy full bleed cards with good photography front and back.
When acquired: Don't know.
How acquired: Don't know.
Player's season: As a member of the first Marlins team in 1993, Harvey had an ERA of 1.70, appeared in 59 games, and saved 45 games. In 1994, he had an ERA of 5.23, appeared in only 10 games with 6 saves. He hardly pitched at all in 1995 and by 1996 he was injured and never returned.

Card #17967
2010 Topps #378 George Sherrill
Comments on the card: Go ahead and compare this to the 1994 Pinnacle. Seriously lacking.
When acquired: 2010
How acquired: Paid $0.26 for a blaster box of Series 2.
Player's season: Sherrill was a closer with the Orioles before the Dodgers got him in 2009. They appeared to be using him as a middle reliever, appearing in 65 games in 2010 but in only 36.1 innings.

Card #6994
2005 Skybox Autographics #13 Sammy Sosa
Comments on the card: Non-glossy cards featuring close-ups of the players on team colors and facsimile autographs in silver foil.
When acquired: Don't know but probably got it new.
How acquired: Don't know.
Player's season: A declining Sosa hit .221 with 14 home runs in 102 games for the Orioles.

Card #2660
2001 Greats of the Game Autographs Jim Bunning
Comments on the card: Non-glossy with an on-card auto. Great card.
When acquired: 2005
How acquired: Paid $8.50 in eBay.
Player's season: In 2005, Bunning was a US Senator from Kentucky.

Card #25623
1991 Donruss #760 Checklist
Comments on the card: Donruss continued the crazy through 1991.
When acquired: Don't know.
How acquired: Don't know.

Card #28657
2011 Topps Lineage #110 Thurman Munson
Comments on the card: I pretty much hated this set. The fronts and backs are very dull. It didn't help that about a third of the cards I got were badly miss cut.
When acquired: 2011
How acquired: Paid $0.35 for a blaster box from Target.
Player's season: Munson is the only Yankee ever to win both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards. Munson's career ended tragically in 1979 when he crashed his private plane and died from a broken neck.

Card #33061
2012 Bowman Chrome Prospects #85 Levi Michael

Comments on the card: 2012 was the first Bowman set in many years that I actually liked when they finally broke out of the long boring red and black theme.
When acquired: 2012
How acquired: Paid $0.31 for a 3-pack blister pack.
Player's season: The Twins #1 Draft Pick in 2011, Michael spent 2012 with the Twins single A team in Fort Myers, FL. For what it's worth, he hit .246 in 117 games.

Card #25971
1997 Upper Deck #201 Roberto Alomar
Comments on the card: A subset of 1997 Upper Deck featuring top players and references to their "international" backgrounds. Alomar was from the not-so-foreign country of Puerto Rico.
When acquired: Don't know
How acquired: Don't know
Player's season: 1997 was a pretty good year for Alomar. He hit .333 with 14 home runs and was an All Star. His playing time was limited by spending most of August on the DL.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

2009 Topps A&G vs. 2009 Topps 206

I've mentioned before how disappointed I was in 2009 Topps 206. OK, it's been 4 years so maybe I should get over it, but I keep finding reasons to be disappointed. I was recently scanning 2009 Allen and Ginter cards. While I was doing this I kept noticing similarities to 2009 Topps 206 cards. Take these Rich Harden cards for example.

On close examination, these probably aren't the exact same pictures but they are real close. Close enough in fact that the one might be a photoshopped version of the other. But what about this pair?

Cropped differently as with the Harden pair but I think these are exactly the same image. And one more.

OK, so only 3 cards. For one thing, I don't own more than half of either of these sets so there are probably more. For another think, why should there be any?

Monday, May 13, 2013

2013 Triple Play - First Look

I actually bought these a few weeks ago but I'm just getting around to them.  I purchased 3 28-card rack packs-from Target.  This is the second year Panini has published Triple Play.  The set is clearly aimed at kids, with cartoon like drawings of the players and lots of sticker cards. My question is, are kids collecting baseball cards these days?  When I'm in the big-box store looking at cards I rarely see kids at the card rack. In fact, I hardly ever see anyone. If it weren't for my fellow bloggers I might think I'm the only collector left.

Aimed at kids or not, I kind of like these cards. I suspect that most people are either going to just hate them or feel like I do.  Panini gets around not having an MLB license by using drawings, therefore there are no accidental showing of logos. Would these cards be better with MLB logos? Absolutely. Would I like to see Panini get an MLB license? Absolutely. Topps needs some competition.

There's a lot of wackiness going on here as well.

There are 100 cards in the base set featuring three kinds of drawings.

There is the Cold War, socialist workers paradise style:

 The backs all feature what is apparently a baseball card game. Instructions not included.

And then these cards featuring backgrounds evocative of the player's team's hometown.
Rockies. Snowflakes, mountains and I'm not sure what the rest of them are.  And then the just plain wacky cartoons.

The last 10 cards are a subset called "When I Was A Kid". I only got one of them.
Before I show the inserts, let me complain at bit. There are only 100 cards in the set. Only 90 of the cards are player cards. With 26 teams, that works out to 3-4 players per team. I think if I was a kid, I'd be disappointed in only getting 3 guys from my favorite team.

On the other hand, with only 100 cards in the base set, you'd think this would be a pretty easy set to complete by buying packs. I got 84 cards total in the 3 rack-packs, which resulted in 43 cards from the base set. 29 of the cards were duplicates. That's more than 1 in 3! Way too much. OK, on to the inserts.

There is a 30-card All-Star set. I pulled one. Luckily it was Howard, probably the only one I really want.

More wackiness. I got 2 of this 8-card insert. I'm not at all sure what this picture is supposed to mean,

Eye Blacks returns from 2012. These are stickers you can stick to your face. Whee!

This 20-card sticker set features the same drawing as the players regular card. The stickers come in two flavors this year, blue and red. Even though there are 30 red stickers, I didn't get one.

Tattoos are also back from last year. I got 4 of the 10. I'm not sure how these are supposed to work. Maybe you just iron them onto your skin.

Perhaps the wackiest card I pulled. Traditions is an 8-card set, new this year.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Movie Review - Iron Man 3

Comic book movies, you either like 'em or you don't. We generally like them so of course we were going to see this. And as comic book movies go, it was pretty good. It's got everything you expect in an Iron Man movie, a sarcastic Tony Stark, a beautiful Pepper Pots and lots of Iron Man action.

This time around, Tony is sort of in a funk still about the events in the last Avenger's movie. Mention New York, aliens, worm holes or the guy with the big hammer and he gets an anxiety attack. I'm just a man in a can he says, what do I know from aliens and gods.

Fortunately a villain comes along, The Mandarin, and Tony raises above his funk and gets his house blown to bits (if you've seen the trailers you know this).

The Mandarin isn't quite what he seems, which becomes apparent early on. The real menace may be another entity which seems to have an army of people who can do a Human Torch impersonation (except for the flying part).

With Tony seemingly going to pieces, the Iron Man suit seems to spend more time in pieces as well. He's got a new suit which he can call the pieces to him (telepathically?). There is some comic relief as the pieces generally come in pretty fast and knock him about as the attach.

Don Cheadle reprises his role as War Machine, renamed Iron Patriot, although he spends more of the movie out of the suit than it it. There's also some red-hot action involving Gwyenth Paltrow.

As usual you'll want to stick around through the credits for the final scene. Have patience, there must have been 10,000 people involved in the making of this film. For example, they had 9 second assistant accountants, but apparently, only one plasterer.

Friday, May 10, 2013

2009 Donruss Americana

As I've mentioned before, I'm in the midst of trying to get all the cards I purchased over the past 3 years or so put away. At the rate I'm going, it's going to take me the rest of the year as I keep getting distracted by new stuff (anyone bought any Panini Triple Play?) or scanning old cards, or filling out sets of old cards. We'll it's a hobby, not work, so I've got no deadlines.

I had earlier in the year bought some relics and autos from the 2008 set which I thought I posted but apparently I didn't. Maybe later. As I was pawing through my 2009 cards I found I bought some from 2009. I don't remember what I bought. I don't have than many cards so I must have just bought a few packs. Mostly what I got were base cards.
2009 Donruss Americana #1 Jackie Chan

There are 100 cards in the base set featuring, in my opinion, mostly second or third rate celebrities. Jackie Chan was one of the few cards I got that show someone I'm actually a fan of. Jackie looks pretty young here. The blood is probably his own.

2009 Donruss Americana Silver Proofs Retail #91 Jamie Donnelly
There are a number of parallel sets and you really need to find a checklist on-line somewhere to understand what you've got. Ms Donnelly here was one of the Pink Ladies in the original stage production of Grease. The Silver Proofs Retail are serial numbered to 250.

2009 Donruss Americana Platinum Proofs Retail #24 John Kerr
Another actor I don't know, appeared mainly in Broadway productions in the 1950s. Thank God for Wikipedia. The Platinum Proof Retail cards are numbered to 25. The Hobby version is numbered to 10.

2009 Donruss Americana Private Signings #57 Geoff Stults
The rest of the cards I bought off eBay when I found how inexpensive they were. Private Signings is a complete parallel set printed on foil board with an autograph sticker. The autos were actually harder to find than anything else I bought, and correspondingly more expensive. I did manage to snag this guy (know for appearing in TV shows I either never watched or never heard of) for only $4.28. These are also serial numbered but to varying amounts. This one is weirdly numbered to 428.

2009 Donruss Americana Stars Materials Silver Proofs #70 Albert Brooks
There are also parallel cards with swatches of material. And then various PROOF parallels of them. I didn't see any of the base Materials cards. This is numbered to 100. Albert Brooks is actually one of my favorite comedic actors so I didn't mind paying $5.99 for this.

2009 Donruss Americana Stars Materials Silver Proofs Meredith Salenger
I'm not quite sure why I bid on two of the Silver Proofs. I must have been trying to hedge my bet that I'd get at least one of them. According to Wikipedia "Her best known role was the title role in the 1985 Disney film The Journey of Natty Gann.". She was 15 then.

2009 Donruss Americana Stars Materials Gold Proofs #94 Marton Csonkas
 I'm glad I won the Salenger card because the seller threw in this card as a bonus. I got the two for about $3.50. It's numbered to 25. I would have said I didn't know this guy from Adam but he played Lord Celeborn in the Lord of the Rings movies. The nerd in me is happy.

2009 Donruss Americana Stars Signature Materials #51 Jon Provost
 And here's a card with a sticker auto and a swatch. Looks like a piece of his pajamas. It's numbered to 100. I actually had to have this card and was able to get it for $7.60. Why did I have to have it? Surely you recognize Jon Provost, little Timmy from the CBS show Lassie. I loved this show when I was a kid. Provost wrote his autobiography called Timmy Down the Well. I'll have to look for that.

In addition to the numerous parallel cards there were also inserts.

2009 Donruss Americana Cinema Stars #18 Patrick Stewart
More nerdiness. Are you kidding me, a Captain Picard card for only $2.24! There is so much blank space on this card because there are parallels with a swatch, or an autograph, or both. It's numbered to 1,000.

2009 Donruss Americana TV Stars #21 James Caan
I tend to think of James Caan as a movie actor rather than a TV star. Anyway, this is one ugly card. And the off-center photo sliding off the edge doesn't help. But it was only $3.99. Numbered to 1,000.

2009 Donruss Americana Hollywood Legends #5 Gary Cooper
Gary Cooper, now you're talking about a Star! Also numbered to 1,000.

2009 Donruss Americana Co-Stars Materials Leslie Howard/Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
It's cards like this that start making this set look attractive to collect. Here's the back so you can read the "Certificate of Authenticity".
Looks like the real deal, numbered to 250, and only $7.04.