Sunday, June 24, 2007

Status: Softball Summer '07 Season

As of today,* our X-Games ministry softball team is at 5 wins, 3 losses: we are apparently tied for second place in our league. (We don't really seem to have a team name other than "FAPC", which I have to say doesn't readily lend itself to team chants. Speaking of which, as a mostly-childless-singles group, we are at a disadvantage compared with certain of our adversaries in the Presbyterian softball league, who bring small children to cheer and jeer for them. Rev. Rock sometimes brings his kids to an early game, but they are too well-behaved to do the requisite razzing for us.)

We had a great turnout for the game against First Chinese Presbyterian Church - enough for two full teams! - and some amazing plays. In fact, after the first inning, whenever First Chinese got up to bat, we managed to cut them off before they got any points, so we didn't have to play a full set of innings before they were forced to cede the victory to us. But Jim really stole the show with a spectacular catch that ended in a well-executed roll. Unfortunately this feat was not recorded for posterity except in our team's collective little gray cells (I was in the outfield at the time sans camera).

During our various pre-game warm-ups and early part of the game, Jonathan C. pitched.

Southpaw Kent experimented with a right-handed swing:

Post-swing, still looks like good form:

Jonathan P. is not Canadian, but you would never know it today. He claimed that it was Canada Day.

Rev. Rock, who even though he is technically "our age" (20s/30s) is actually a real grown-up, has demonstrated additional pastoral skills on theballfield. I guess they really do teach them useful stuff at seminary!

Although I took video clips of just about everyone at bat, it was tricky to get the full swing. (Especially when batters stepped back because the pitch wasn't perfect.) To make matters worse, often the faces were washed out by the bright sun. Grrrr! Some came out well, so I'll upload them when I can. [7/24/07 Update: I have not been able to upload any of the "at-bat" video clips, despite repeated efforts. The QuickTime files can be played on a computer, but YouTube cannot process them for some unknown technical reason. Double grrrr.]

10/11/07 Update: See if this works (Jacki at bat):

Steve Duncan hits a home run:

Here you can get a brief glimpse of Jonathan P. rounding second base.

After the game, both teams greeted eachother with the traditional cry of "Good game!" Then we gathered in a circle, and First Chinese led us in a short prayer. You would think this would be a part of every game, in a Presbyterian softball league, but I think they're the only team that's done it.

To celebrate our victory in a more secular manner, seven of us went to a dive bar on the Upper West Side called - appropriately enough - Dive Bar. It's not really a dive if it has scrumptious nachos, though.

It was a lovely evening for a walk down Amsterdam:

* [8/12/07 Update: After the last game of the season, we are at 8 wins, 5 losses. We won our final game, something like 14-7, against the toughest team in the league -- a team that trounced us last time!]

Post Script 8/12/07:

Triumphant team "Gang Green" after the last game:

Friday, June 22, 2007

Post-Volleyball Conversation

Sam: Do you live alone?
Me: Yes.
Sam: Have you always lived alone?
Me: [slight pause] No. [beat] When I was a child, I lived with my parents.

4 hours of volleyball for $6.00 is a pretty good deal, and not a bad way to spend a Friday evening. Plus you are thrown into semi-random loosely affiliated teams with people of varying skills, temperament, and teamsmanship. But everyone was supportive, and our overall bad playing allowed for some spectacular "saves."

We were in the "kids' court" (my term) in which you play off the back walls, but not the side walls, and you can play off the ceiling if you hit it on your side of the net, and you get a "do-over" sometimes (under criteria that remain mysterious to me) if the ball hits one of the basketball boards. It was fun, although I think people started to get a bit loopy after four hours.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


You gotta love the advertisements for this year's Shakespeare in the Park: big signs saying "FREE LOVE" ... and only in tiny print on the side do they mention the plays (Romeo & Juliet and Midsummer's Night's Dream). Even as we were walking into the park past those signs, my friends didn't realize those signs were for the production we were about to see. We had to go back and double-check.

The lack of big name superstar actors this year yielded at least two beneficent effects.
  • First, the ticket-waiting process was much more reasonable. We queued up at 8:30 a.m. and made ourselves comfortable, but we didn't even need to get there so early -- our friend who joined the end of the queue at 11 a.m. also got tickets. (The Delacorte is small enough that there isn't really a bad seat in the house.)
  • Second, the production itself was much better than in recent years. I'm not quite sure how the lack of a marquee name improves the overall performance, although I have some theories: (a) it may be easier to schedule rehearsals for the entire cast, so everyone is more accustomed to working together, (b) non-marquee actors may take direction better, especially as compared with iconic superstars, (c) film stars might not always have developed their stage-acting muscles, since film and stage require somewhat different skills and techniques, and (d) when they recruit a marquee name, they may have to skimp on payments to the other actors and the director, thus potentially reducing overall quality of the cast. And of course, if the superstar is more "diva" than "down-to-earth", I imagine that would undermine the cohesiveness of the acting corps.
I have never been a big fan of R&J. Their childish infatuation is so rash and ill-advised, that I've seldom been able to work up a tremendous amount of sympathy for them. (Although I always like Mercutio.) In this production, however, I was really moved at the end. For some reason, it really struck home that the feud (and childish rashness) had destroyed two families. Sure, there were cousins left -- but I felt much more deeply the horror of the parents who live to see the death of their own particular genetic line. (My own recommendation: have 3 to 5 children, if possible. This dramatically increases the chance that your line will continue. Parents with an "only child" are just asking for disaster. And even those with 2 children are risking a paucity of grandchildren.)

In this production, they really stressed the physical connection between Romeo and Juliet. There's a lot of heavy breathing into the microphone and a lot of full-body contact. It works, though. The nurse can be an annoying character, but she was good here.

My only quibble was with the set design, and more specifically, the shallow pool of water around and through which the action unfolds. It was cool-looking, sure, but it didn't seem to add anything to the production -- except small, pesky insects.

Except no - I was somewhat annoyed by the line police this year. They came out and announced some draconian rules: No line-jumping, no leaving the line except to go to the bathroom, and no switching. No switching? That's insane. Each person in line can collect 2 tickets, so why is it a problem if they switch off? I guess The Powers That Be were worried about people trying to pretend their friend who just joined the line was replacing someone else, but that's not a real problem in practice. (After all, the people in line behind you will speak up if you try to pull that stunt.) Later, the line police came back and explained an "exception" to the no-leaving-the-line-except-to-go-to-the-bathroom rule: if you are with a group, one person from the group can leave for no more than 15 minutes at a time to get a cup of tea, etc. But if you are solo, you're out of luck. (This discriminates against slow-thinking introverts who can't convince their neighbors in line to pretend they are a group so they can take advantage of the group privilege.)

One person ahead of us (X) ran into a spot of trouble because she made the mistake of taking a bathroom break just before the line police decided to count heads. Her companion, Y, didn't think of telling the head-counters that X had just stepped off line to go to the bathroom ... and also didn't think of telling them that they collectively wanted 4 tickets. Instead, when asked, Y just said, "I want 2 tickets." Bad mistake. When X returned to the line, she got chewed out for purportedly jumping the line. We vouched for her that she'd been there all along. The line police never officially accepted this story (even though it was true), but they eventually dropped it with a claim that they would "talk to their colleagues about it". I think the head-counters tacitly decided that since there were enough tickets for everyone at that point, there was no harm done to the people at the end of the queue. (In fact, they didn't start turning people away until more than 2 hours later.)

Public service announcement: Check the Public Theater web site for more information about schedule and ticket distribution.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Norwegian Boulders and Shipwrecks

Another interesting set of memorials/monuments downtown:

This guy doesn't do so well when the tide is high:

Oddly, I don't seem to have posted any pictures of the Irish Hunger Memorial yet, even though it is my favorite downtown sculpture/memorial. This will need to be remedied.

Monday, June 11, 2007


The title to this post has to be read in a girl's voice, with a hint of (very slightly whiny) protest.

I. Road Trip

During last week's road trip with my colleagues X and Y, I supplied the music and the driving and the snacks. We'd reached the soundtrack for Vanilla Sky, and I was focused on the road ahead.

Suddenly, from the back seat, I hear "Nooooooo!"

Startled, I ask, "What was that?"

X repeats, "Nooooooo, we can't be friends!" And I realize she's reacting to the song by Todd Rundgren, "Can we still be friends?"

It's hilarious: Every time poor old Todd sings some plaintive variant of this inquiry, it prompts an immediate and visceral response from her.

I think we've all been there, and maybe not always on the same side of the question.

II. The Perfect Girlfriend

Z was explaining to a guy that she was about to get her driver's licence; she's never had one before. Apparently her boyfriend is insisting on it, since he does not want to be her chauffeur. The guy was starting to make some snide remarks about demanding girlfriends with a sense of entitlement, and Z says: "Noooooooo! I'm the perfect girlfriend. I'm totally understanding of him. And I totally agree with him on this; he's not my chauffeur and I feel guilty for asking him to drive me everywhere."

Which made me wonder: What is the perfect girlfriend? Is she sort of a junior version of the Stepford Wife? And - most importantly - if she exists at all in real life (which I doubt), would she ever call herself the perfect girlfriend? I'm not sure a guy would be able to deal with "the perfect girlfriend" for extended periods of time -- probably it would get really annoying. So maybe the perfect girlfriend would have to show some imperfections from time to time, or even get into small spats about nothing, just to keep things interesting.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Giant Rabbit

What is it with giant rabbits? From Harvey, to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, to Donnie Darko, to Wallace and Grommit -- they do seize the imagination, don't they??

This one was bigger than the fattest cats I've seen, and bigger than most racoons, too. Which may be why he has survived a year in the "wild" after escaping from the farmer's hutch (nibbling freely on the garden, natch).

I didn't really get a great picture of him. This close-up looks like something the National Enquirer would run (e.g., a picture of "the biggest frog in the world" - held by human hands that are also blown up to 10x regular size):

And the distance shot makes him look only slightly larger than an ordinary rabbit.

Oh well. You'll just have to trust me on this one. Or not, as you prefer.

Monday, June 04, 2007


The church is not a "fire and brimstone" church - more or less the antithesis, in fact - so all the better for a baptism. The call to worship was memorable:

Leader: Something awakened us this morning - perhaps the voice of a child, or the smell of brewing coffee or the newspaper thudding at the door.
People: And now we gather with awakened spirits to worship the Creator of this day.
Leader: Something moved us this morning - we left behind a sufficiency of sleep or a restless night, we left our homes for this church.
People: And now we gather here to worship the Christ who moves among us.
Leader: Something called to us this morning - the Spirit whispered an invitation and we responded.
People: And now we gather to be made new and whole again. Generous God, we come to the banquet of life!

The baptisee remained alert and quiet throughout the ceremony, even somewhat pensive.

Not everyone managed to stay awake through the entire service, though: