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The Bats Fall Silent: Baseball In Harrisburg, April 26

I was in Harrisburg today for the Senators game against the Reading Fightin’ Phils, the AA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.

I knew I would be missing Anthony Rendon as today was a day off from his rehab assignment, but I knew that I would likely see Brian Goodwin, a center field prospect working his way back to AAA after a shoulder injury last year. However, there was something puzzling — and strangely familiar — about the line-up that manager Brian Daubach ran out today.

A third of the line-up had a place on the 2013 Senators — Goodwin was the starting centerfielder, Rick Hague was the starting second baseman, and Brian Jeroloman was the back-up catcher (behind Sandy Leon) who suffered an horrific plate collision in the Eastern League Division Series that year.

Taking the mound for the Senators today was Paolo Espino. Against him for the Fightings was Tom Windle.

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When Mars Attacks Equestria

I have crazy ideas sometimes. Often, I can do absosmurfly nothing with those crazy ideas, like several years ago when I wrote about the Doctor Who/Uncle Scrooge crossover I would love to write.

The latest The Daily Post blogging prompt brought another one of those unusable ideas to mind. It’s not exactly an original idea; on Friday I saw another writer talk about it online. There’s clearly a market for the idea, but for reasons that will quickly become apparent executing it is simply impossible, and so I don’t feel that I’m giving anything away by talking about it.

Mars Attacks My Little Pony!

Here’s my pitch.

Equestria, a land of friendship and peace.

Mars, a world of insane science and war.

When a Martian battlefleet invades Equestria and takes Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Twilight Sparkle prisoner for horrific experimentation, it falls to Doctor Whooves, Derpy, and DJ-Pon3 to enter the Martian battlecruiser, rescue their friends, and end the devastation of Equestria when Mars Attacks My Little Pony!

The My Little Pony gang, striking a Kevin Maguire posesI should tell you right know that I don’t know jack about My Little Pony. Though I have never watched it, I write about it not-infrequently at work, so I’ve picked up a little over the years. I have a friend who used to attend My Little Pony conventions, years ago, before the Bronies. Some of my coworkers are deep into it. In short, I’d have resources if I were ever tapped to write such a story.

But.

Just because IDW Publishing holds the comic book rights to both properties, there’s no way that Hasbro would ever let Equestria be invaded by comically homicidal Martians who go around vaporizing dogs just so they can laugh about it. Finding the right balance of the mismatched tone between the two properties would be a real challenge.

If I think about this more, I’ll actually work out the problems. I’m starting to see, for instance, that one of the Mane Six needs to escape capture by the Martians so she can join the Resistance. And there needs to be a role for the Princesses Celestia and Luna. Oh, and John De Lancie’s My Little Pony character is somehow tied into all of this.

But I don’t want to work out the problems in the idea and how to make it work. It’s an idea that’s best left as an idea. No one will ever have the opportunity to write this. And that’s probably for the best. :)


Topic taken from The Daily Post‘s “BYOB(ookworm)” prompt.

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The Mr. Holmes Trailer

Today, the latest trailer for Sir Ian McKellen’s forthcoming film, Mr. Holmes, was released:

McKellen, as you see, is playing Sherlock Holmes. Based on Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, Sherlock Holmes is ninety-three, the year is 1947, and the Great Detective has been retired to the Sussex Downs where he tends to his bees for over forty years. Holmes writes the story of his investigation into the puzzling behavior of Ann Keller, “The Glass Armonicist,” shortly before his retirement from his consulting practice.

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The 2015 York Revolution Fan Fest

I was quoted in today’s York Sunday News.

Yesterday I attended the York Revolution Fan Fest, an exhibition game and concert put on annually before the start of the season for the local independent league baseball team. I attended the 2013 Fan Fest, but not last year’s, and since yesterday was forecast to be a lovely and sunny day and I had no pressing plans, I decided Friday afternoon to go. For five dollars, why not?

The afternoon’s concert was performed by an up-and-coming country music singer, Dakota Bradley. Country music isn’t really my thing, and I ran out to the restroom. Before I made my way back to my seat, I stopped to check my phone (which had been making notification sounds for about an hour — turns out it was updating stuff pretty much all day yesterday), and a reporter for the York Sunday News stopped me and asked if I’d mind being interviewed for a piece he was working on.

I was up for that.

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The USS Independence and Atomic Bomb Testing

Friday afternoon I spent at least half an hour looking at pictures of Operation Crossroads, the first two atomic bomb tests in Bikini Atoll. Why? Because one of the ships used was found — the USS Independence — and was virtually intact.

This quote about the state of the Independence by NOAA’s James Delgado stays with me: “After 64 years on the seafloor, Independence sits on the bottom as if ready to launch its plane. This ship fought a long, hard war in the Pacific and after the war was subjected to two atomic blasts that ripped through the ship. It is a reminder of the industrial might and skill of the ‘greatest generation’ that sent not only this ship, but their loved ones to war.” They built those ships to last, but with the war done and America demobilizing, there was all this military hardware that was of absolutely no use.

The idea in Operation Crossroads was to see what an atomic weapon would do in battle to a Navy fleet. So a bunch of World War II ships that were due to be scrapped, like the indy, were sent to Bikini Atoll to be test subjects. An enormous flotilla was assembled, from liberty ships and landing craft to battleships and carriers. The ships were crewed not with people but with goats and pigs to ascertain whether a nuclear attack on a fleet would be surivable. And it was something of a spectator sport; some 40,000 people were on hand to observe the tests.

In the Able test, a bomb (similar to Fat Man) was dropped on the fleet. The Indy was one of Able’s victims. A few ships sank. Some burned. The Indy was one that burned. The fires were controlled, and the ship lived on for the next test. As the Able test was an air burst whose fireball didn’t reach the water’s surface, there was no fallout from the detonation and, thus, virtually no radioactive contamination of the ships that survived.

The Baker test is the crazy one. They dangled a Fat Man-type bomb beneath one of the ships to similate an underwater detonation. What they created was a giant, superheated shock wave bubble which gave way to a cauliflower mushroom cloud. The Baker test dumped radioactive water, sand, and mud on all the ships, it scorched the bottom of the Atoll and dug a crater on the bottom, created a radioactive tsunami within the atoll, and contaminated the area so thoroughly that the residents of Bikini Atoll still have not been able to return. (Yes, that was the intention. We could relocate the natives, detonate atomic bombs, and they could move back as if nothing had happened. How naive we were in 1946.) The ships that survived were so irradiated that the Navy couldn’t decontaminate them and the Charlie test was scrapped.

One of the enduring pictures of Baker is of the USS Arkansas vertical in the mushroom cloud’s funnel.

Operation Crossroads Baker Test

As for the Indy, after the tests, it was towed back to San Francisco for study and decontamination, towed out to sea a few years later when decontamination efforts had utterly failed, and scuttled. Working with Boeing and the Navy, NOAA located the ship in a half-mile of water near the Farallones Islands, about thirty miles from San Francisco.

As I’ve grown older, I keep wondering. What was the point of all the atomic tests? Increasingly, I suspect there was none. Just boys and their toys, blowing shit up because they can.

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Things I’ve Been Reading: Get Well Soon, Charlie Brown

Peanuts #27
BOOM! Studios/kaboom!
Written by Jason Cooper
Art by Vicki Scott & Paige Braddock

As I turned the pages of “Get Well Soon, Charlie Brown,” I felt like I had read this story before.

During one of his baseball games, Charlie Brown begins to “feel kind of woozy,” and he leaves the game to go home. Everyone assumes that he’s “been hit on the head with too many fly balls,” but Charlie Brown is checked in to the local hospital. While Sally frets about who will feed Snoopy and moving her stuff into Charlie Brown’s room, Peppermint Pattie and Marcie hold a vigil outside the hospital, and Lucy vows that if Charlie Brown leaves the hospital she won’t pull the football away again.

“Get Well Soon, Charlie Brown” is, like “It’s Summer Camp, Charlie Brown” two months ago, a full-length Peanuts comic book. “It’s Summer Camp,” though it was clearly reminiscent of past Charles Schulz summer camp stories, felt original. “Get Well Soon,” however, kept nagging at me. I knew I had read this story before.

And I had. You can find it on pages 79 through 92 of Fantagraphics Books’ The Complete Peanuts: 1979-1980. Charlie Brown complains of being woozy on July 3, 1979 and checks into the hospital on July 7th. Sally moves into his room on July 10th. Lucy worries on July 16th. Peppermint Pattie and Marcie’s vigil begins on July 20th (and includes the Sunday strip of July 22nd). Lucy makes her vow on July 27th, Charlie Brown attempts the football kick on August 2nd.

It’s the exact same story, down to the dialogue. There are some original beats in “Get Well Soon, Charlie Brown” — Snoopy has a subplot and we get an explanation for why Charlie Brown was hospitalized here that we didn’t in Schulz’s original storyline in 1979. Despite those original beats, the credits more accurately should have read “Written by Charles Schulz, adapted by Jason Cooper.”

Now that that’s out of the way, let me say that, on its own, this comic book is very good. The storytelling is strong, both in the narrative and in the artwork. (Strangely, given the source material, the artwork looks more like mid-60s Peanuts than late-70s Peanuts. Yes, there’a a difference.) The comic isn’t simply a redo of Schulz’s original comic strips; the scenes are restaged and have a comic book, rather than comic strip, flow.

In other words, taken on its own terms, “Get Well Soon, Charlie Brown” is an enjoyable piece of Peanuts. And if you don’t have those original 1979 comic strips, it’s a great way of discovering one of Schulz’s long-form Peanuts stories.

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Feelings on the Star Wars Trailer

A trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens dropped today:

It’s nice. I smiled while watching it, and seeing Harrison Ford at the end certainly filled me with some excitement.

Enough excitement to go see it? Perhaps not.

Here’s the thing. The Star Wars series has always been something I’ve liked, but not necessarily something that I’ve loved. I had (and still have) a radio-controlled R2-D2 from the late-70s. Otherwise, I didn’t have the toys, or the trading cards, or the comics. In many ways, I came to Star Wars late, after high school, with Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire. I can’t say I grew up imagining myself on Hoth or Tatooine, playing with lightsabers, or fighting the Empire. Star Wars was a nice place to visit, but I tired of it with a few years; Vonda McIntyre’s The Crystal Star may be the worst novel ever written by a Hugo Award-winner, Kevin J. Anderson sucked all the fun of Star Wars, and even the comics became interminable.

The special editions I’ve never seen. The prequels I did, two of them, anyway, and parts of the third at random moments. I enjoyed The Phantom Menace, and I think it’s the best of the prequels because it’s the one with the most creative freedom. Once it lays down the marker as the “start” of the story, it becomes a matter of lining things up to match up with the original films, resulting in Revenge of the Sith, one of the least surprising films films ever made that wasn’t based on previously existing material. (It’s Attack I’ve not seen, though I did read the novelization. The novelization contained a very interesting story that in the hands of a director like David Fincher probably would have been brilliant.)

But I did love the first LEGO Star Wars game. The second, not as much. The third, not at all.

The point of this is, Star Wars is something that’s been in my life, but not necessarily part of my life. It didn’t fire my imagination as a child. As an adult, it became a place of tedium. My emotional connection to Star Wars simply isn’t strong. So as I watched the trailer, I enjoyed it, but I also felt indifference to it.

It’s possible that feelings may change as we approach December and the film’s release. As more is revealed about the film, something will entice me and excite me and I’ll want to go see it.

Or maybe I’ll just wait until The Force Awakens comes out on DVD.

Seeing and hearing Harrison Ford in character as Han Solo, though, was nice. It would be even nicer if there were another Indiana Jones film in the offering. :)

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Baseball Day in Harrisburg

Today was a beautiful day for baseball in central Pennsylvania.

My first Harrisburg Senators baseball game was today. It was actually the second game on my 13-game plan, but I had deadlines at the office last week and was unable to attend on Opening Day. (Have no fear, that ticket is not going to waste; I exchanged it for a ticket on August 15th when the Nationals’ Racing Presidents will be in Harrisburg.)

The Harrisburg Senators were hosting the Altoona Curve, the AA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Senators lost on Thursday, won Friday night’s game in extra innings thanks to a walk-off home run by Matt Skole, and buried Altoona in the late innings on Saturday for their second victory of the year. This was the fourth and final game of the opening series of the 2015 season.

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Baseball on the Radio and Tears of Joy

Last night I cried tears of joy.

I was driving home from the office after staying until well past seven because of publication deadlines, and I was well into Pennsylvania when I realized — there’s a Nationals game on the radio!

Two months ago, a Harrisburg radio station announced they were dropping Phillies broadcasts in favor of Nationals broadcasts. This news excited me — I love the Nationals radio team of Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler — and I found that I could receive the station on the road from (roughly) Glen Rock to my apartment.

So, five miles from my apartment I tuned into 96.5, and I heard it.

The mellifluous tones of Charlie Slowes.

The road suddenly became blurry. Tears of joy.

Charlie and Dave. On the radio. In Pennsyltucky.

I got home in time for the bottom of the first, and hearing Charlie and Dave call the game brought back fond memories.

Television is nice and lovely and all, but if you can’t see a game in person, the way to “see” the game is on the radio. Baseball is literate, a sport made for words. Ring Lardner knew this. Michael Bishop knew this; Brittle Innings is magnificent. W.P. Kinsella knows this; Shoeless Joe and The Iowa Baseball Confederacy are simply magical. I wrote a baseball short story myself, and I know this, too.

I heard Ryan Zimmerman smash the two run homer, and I wanted to shout “Zim!” at the top of my lungs, but that would have been rude to my neighbors. Instead, I jumped, and I bashed my hand into the ceiling, as the ceilings in my apartment are quite low. I obviously wasn’t thinking.

As I worked on documents for the office throughout the evening, I had the radio on. Charlie and Dave switched off each inning, and I felt like my old friends were back with me once more. Oh, I’ve never met them, but I used to listen to them often when I lived in Randallstown. I remember where I was when I heard Charlie’s call of Jayson Werth’s walk-off home run in game 4 of the 2012 NLDS, the one that kept the Nationals’ season alive for one more game. (Specifically, I was in my Beetle, about a mile from home. I spent the last mile screaming my head off.)

Here’s that radio call, by the way.

Epic. That still gives me goosebumps.

I finished my work. Or, at least, as much as I was going to finish last night, and I stood in my living room and listened intently to the top of the ninth and Drew Storen’s first save attempt.

Nats won over the Mets, 2-1.

What was this strange feeling that overcame me? Oh, yes. Happiness. It was happiness.

The Nationals are, for me, back on the radio, and I couldn’t be happier, even if the happiness comes with tears of joy. For, as Gandalf would say, we should not fear to weep as not all tears are evil. :)

And, coming up for me on Sunday, the Senators play the Altoona Curve!

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Signs of Natitude in Harrisburg

About a month ago, one of Harrisburg’s radio stations, the River 97.3, posted a question on their Facebook page that went something like this — what’s your happiest place on Earth? I was characteristically specific with my answer — “Section 303 Row 8 at Metro Bank Park.”

The next morning, I got my Beetle, pulled out of my apartment complex, and Glenn Hamilton of the Glenn & Bob Show read off a few of the comments they’d received on the Facebook question. To my everlasting surprise, Glenn read off my answer, and then he added, “Senators baseball, it’s coming real soon.” He sounded happy; maybe he needed the thought of summer and baseball, too. Hearing it on the radio certainly brightened my day; we still had snow on the ground that lingered from February.

The likelihood of me hearing my response to the Facebook question was extremely low. I listen to the River for about twenty minutes in the morning and for about twenty minutes in the evening, basically from the apartment to the Maryland state line and back. but I also listen to York’s classic rock station, the Peak 98.5, or WITF, the NPR station, or Philly’s WXPN on its repeater. Maybe I was supposed to hear that. Maybe I needed to hear that; it was a long winter.

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