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We will return to our regularly scheduled posting on Monday
It’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.
It doesn’t take a sports guru to know that a seven game losing streak is a BAD THING. Back the Marlins up to 19 April and you see a team five games ahead in the AL East with a record of 11-1. Just ten days later the team is sitting half a game up on the Phillies with a 12-8 record. Yeah, it’s been that kind of week for me, haha. The Fish were FINALLY able to bang together a win last night against the dreaded Mets, but will this momentum start to carry the team forward? They face Johan Santana tonight on the mound, a guy with a sub 1.0 ERA and who they only managed to beat last time thanks to a Daniel Murphy error in left creating two unearned runs. Luckily for the Fish, they’ve got Josh Johnson to trot out onto the mound, but he’s not gonna be able to do much unless he gets some run support.
The Rays, on the other hand, haven’t been on a losing streak, but they haven’t really been on a winning streak either. They continue to live about a game or two shy of their mark last season, which leaves me optimistic, but it also makes me question why a team that just won it all (save the World Series) needs a warm-up time anyway. It’s been a bit heartbreaking for me to pay attention to them this April, as they’ve only won one series (against Boston), so I’m really hoping they can pull it together. Their offense isn’t terrible, it’s just not stringing together hits properly. Once they get that rolling properly, they’ll be a force in the East again. Maybe another series with the Red Sox is just what the doctor ordered? Needless to say, the Rays will be taking on the hottest team in baseball (whose 11 game win streak was just snapped last night) on Thursday. Good luck Tampa Bay, you’ll be needing it, because I want you guys to be Sox killers and create that new, amazing rivalry. Just beat the Twins tonight, rack up another series win, and start making things happen.
Last Friday I went out to Towson to see one of my favorite bands, Streetlight Manifesto. The last (and only) ska show I’d ever been to was back in 2003 for Five Iron Frenzy’s farewell tour, which primarily means that I didn’t really go to a ska show. You see, FIF skewed mostly to a Christian audience and so at their shows they mostly discouraged the shoving and pushing endemic of most ska concerts. Naturally, SLM had no such qualms about the shoving, so I got firsthand knowledge of just how hard it is to jump/dance, sing, try and stay on two feet in all the shoving, and, most importantly, breathe. Other than all the unnecessary shoving (I get why, it’s all the energy, but it just seems kind of pointless…maybe I’m just old?), the venue was my kind of place. The last show I went to was at the DAR Constitution Hall (that’s Daughters of the American Revolution for the uninformed), which was a huge venue that meant that we had assigned seats that we were mostly confined to. Now, I was mostly turned off by Ben Folds’ all-new stuff set that night, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to be out in a crowd for it too. The Recher Theatre, on the other hand, was a tiny venue, with capacity for maybe 1000 people, if you stretched the limits of the place and maybe ignored a fire code or two. Perfect for a rock show, although I do also like the setup they had at school for Slope Day for the same kind of show.
The openers that night were the Skakabobs, an old ska group on a reunion tour. They must be really small time, cause Wikipedia doesn’t even know who they are, which would almost lead me to believe they didn’t exist if I hadn’t seen them with my own two eyes and heard fans of theirs singing their songs last night. Most of the band showed up for the reunion, but either the trombonist or the lead singer didn’t show up, because the lead singer that night also doubled as the trombonist when he was free of the mic. Their set was typical of ska bands and ska music, high energy, irrelevant, and catchy. Of note were two songs, one about Chinese food and the other about Emilio Estevez and how he was the band leader’s girlfriend (I believe this one was called “Emilio”). The latter featured chants of “Estevez!” after “Emilio!”s rang out, followed by awesome “Charlie!” “Sheen!”s. A good show and I was impressed…until I heard SLM come onto the stage.
It’s not the Skakabobs’ fault that they just can’t match up to Streetlight Manifesto, they just have a much richer sound that has yet to be upstaged by any ska performer I’ve heard since. The main strength, in my humble opinion, of SLM has to do with the composition of their horn section. Not content with just one saxophonist, Streetlight features both an alto (Jim Conti) and a baritone (Mike Brown) sax along with the usual trombone (Mike Soprano), trumpet (Matt Stewart), guitar (Tomas Kalnoky), bass (Peter McCullough), and drums. Each member of the band is a fully capable performer in his own right, which is frequently highlighted in their music with horn duets and solos, providing kind of a jazzy feel to their performance to break up all the ska punk flying around. They opened strong, they closed strong, and they had excellent pacing with a nice, slower section in the middle to ease us in to the raucous finale. I’ve yet to go to a better show.
On an interesting side note, lead singer Tomas Kalnoky mentioned that there would be a new SLM album of covers released on the net this summer and that, following Warped Tour, they would be working on their final album for Victory Records, creatively freeing them up to do whatever they wanted. I can’t wait.
Deep from the trenches, it’s time for your Monday video feature: Embedded Reporter.
Now, I know this is going to sound both bizarre and boring in concept, but hear me out on this, cause it’s actually pretty awesome. Here’s what I’m proposing to you: Watch two other people play an ~65-80 hour game on a daily basis at about 20-50 mins long. Sound awful? Well you haven’t heard the icing on the cake: they’re going to Mystery Science Theater 3000 the whole thing!
Giant Bomb members Jeff Gerstmann and Vinny Caravella are doing just that with Persona 4, the epic role playing game simply because neither of them would have the time to play it on their own time, so why not do it as a work-related activity?
Below is the first episode, which is a little low on action, very high on exposition, game-wise, but it also lays the foundations for the humor that you can expect to see in each of the episodes. Also hilarious, but not as present in the first episode, is the way that the pair learns to play the game. They’re going in cold, no guides, no FAQs, but they do occasionally look up facts on their iPhone for the classes and they also will take some advice from the forums and comments.
They are currently on episode 55, representing over 24 hours of gameplay (and footage), but, let me tell you, it’s all well worth it.
Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.
The Left 4 Dead survival mode has finally hit the tubes and I think there’s really only one adjective that can accurately describe it: hard.
The video I posted below comes from Giant Bomb‘s Brad Shoemaker playing it on the 360, but let me tell you, the unprepared will fare no better, even on a PC.
It’s still tons of fun, it’s just also very hard. My best time with my roommate still barely reaches 6:44 or so.
I’ve yet to try out the new maps in Versus mode, but I imagine they’ll provide a helpful respite from the overplayed first two maps.
The inclusion of the new map Last Stand also leaves me optimistic for new campaigns in L4D. We all know that Valve is working on them, it’s just a matter of finishing their extensive testing. It seems to me that there would be no reason to work on that lighthouse level if it wasn’t part of a greater mission. Imagine how sweet it would be if you had an oceanside level where zombies could come out at you from the water. After reading World War Z, I think that would be just about the freakiest thing that could possibly happen.
I was totally supposed to do some MLB news yesterday and I spaced and forgot.
The Marlins dropped three straight to the Pirates to end their road trip 6-3. The Fish are off today, but starting tomorrow they take on the former World Series champs, the always challenging Phillies. If they do as well as they did against the Mets, I won’t worry, but if they pull a Pirates against these guys…this season could start getting dicey soon. Honestly, I’m not too concerned with the sweep at this point, it’s one of those math things where the team that’s just won so many straight can’t continue doing it. Hopefully the bats get swinging and the pitchers start dueling hard tomorrow.
The Rays snapped their losing streak last night against Seattle, thankfully, by getting those bats swinging again. Many an analyst was concerned about the slow start, but you’ve gotta remember that we’re really only 15 games in. A slow start helps no one, especially in the AL East, but, from what I’m seeing online, this is exactly how the Rays started off last year, record-wise, so breathe easily for now and save the concern for later.
Toronto and Seattle both lead their respective divisions, despite predictions to the contrary, but we’ll see how long that lasts. The season is officially speeding up and I’m getting more and more excited by the day!
The American Ballpark Tour continues this month with my first visit to a relatively new baseball stadium, Nationals Park. First opened for the 2008 season, the park is home to the struggling Washington Nationals (3-10 as of today) and actually presents one of the better baseball stadiums I’ve ever been to.
As part of the new park boom kicked off by Camden Yards, Nationals Park features a lot of those quirky design choices that are standard in new ballparks. The new “it” thing is to give each stadium something unique to them to make them stand out from everywhere else. This is clearly an inspiration from the most classic and iconic baseball parks, like Wrigley Field with the Ivy or Fenway with the Green Monster. This is why Minute Maid Park has a bizarre hill in center field, Camden has those great warehouses, and Citi Field has that Ebbets Field-esque rotunda and facade. The Nats didn’t go as much for the retro-feel of Camden or any of those brick ballparks like Citi, but instead went with a more modern, clean, American look. In the shot below you can see some of its features, the curly W mowed into the field, the blue seats, red, white, and blue banners, the glass walls, and the Presidents Race, but the American feel is completed with cherry blossom trees, view of the Potomac, Capital Building, and Washington Monument, depending on where you sit, and statues of baseball greats Walter Johnson, Josh Gibson, and Frank Howard.
In the top-right of this shot you can see the Red Loft, a bar section of SRO seats that has a pretty neat circular LED display that shows varying information about the game. This shot also shows aforementioned cherry blossom grove.
The scoreboards are state-of-the-art and have a pretty neat glowy, curly W clock on them. You can also see the out-of-town scoreboard in the bottom of this shot.
One of the best parts about the park that isn’t really conveyed in my pictures is the open feel of it. There exists only the bare minimum of outer walls to keep the park structurally sound to keep an open air feel within the park. This allows a refreshing breeze to flow into the park (a little too refreshing on Sunday for the upper decks…brrr) and also ensures that you, more or less, have a view of the ballpark no matter where you are in the complex as you walk around. The lower decks also have neat little SRO counters that you can lean against to enjoy your food and get a more intimate view of the ballgame than your $5 tickets might allow in the grandstands.
The Nationals, back when they played at RFK, birthed the greatest event ever with the Presidents Race, which continues in Nationals Park today. At every home game, during the fourth inning, the giant caricatures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt come bounding out from center field and go racing toward the home dugout. Here’s an idea of what the caricatures look like, but with smaller heads:
In this shot you can see what Jefferson actually looks like on the field along with part of Lincoln:
As you can imagine, ridiculous antics usually ensue. At the game I went to, Jefferson totally checked Lincoln into the wall, allowing Washington to take an easy win. For some hilarious reason, the organization decided that Teddy Roosevelt should never win. For the three seasons that the president caricatures have been racing, Teddy has NEVER won a race. The few times that he’s managed to actually not get distracted and make it in first, he’s usually disqualified for cheating by driving a golf cart or taking a zip line in. He’s also been sabotaged by various other mascots to keep him from winning. Another hilarious personality comes from Lincoln. Turns out that Honest Abe isn’t so honest when it comes to a footrace. Lincoln has a strong desire to win and will do whatever it takes to get his way, cheating by tripping or even, as some suspect, juicing! You can see more pictures and footage about the Presidents Race at the Let Teddy Win blog.
Is Nationals Park more charming than Camden? No, but I get the feeling that it’s on purpose. Rather than go with the traditional retro-baseball look of Camden, the designers opted to architecturally match DC instead and create something uniquely American in their ballpark. There are also tons of great food options in the ballpark, many of them are even restaurants that you can find throughout Maryland, Northern Virginia, and DC. I’d rank this ballpark up there with the best on my list. It’s a far improvement to RFK and it’s close to Camden on my list of favorites. For $5 a ticket in the grandstands, you really have no excuse not to go.
Oh yeah, Domo-kun made his way to this park too.
Fallout has a new game coming, but it’s not Fallout 4 nor is it a DLC pack as we’ve become accustomed to receiving. No, it seems that instead we’ll have a brand new game taking place in Vegas being developed by Obsidian Entertainment instead of Bethesda Softworks.
It’s not a sequel, it’s just a sidestory taking place in a geographically different part of the post-apocalyptic USA. Unfortunately, to me, it seems like it’s probably a waste of time and money. There was a time, many years ago, when I was excited for a game that Obsidian was producing. It was KOTOR II and after playing KOTOR I knew the game would be great. Turned out that Obsidian was rushed and Obsidian didn’t quite do as well as Bioware in creating the new game. No, I’m not excited about this new project. Not until I see it happen and work…
2K has been silent as to whether or not this will be localized, but here’s the latest trailer on my favorite baseball series: MLB Power Pros!
Bring this stateside 2K. There’s a dedicated fanbase that will buy it.
On 24 April Street Fighter IV will never be the same. We’re getting a free Championship Mode which will allow us to take part in tournaments. They will be double-blind selection (FINALLY!) and reward Grade Points (GP) which will allow users to enter higher and higher level tournaments. Winning tournaments will yield Championship Points (CP) which are apparently like prize money. These CP will allow the top players in the world to upload replays that other people can view and comment on.
Can’t wait for this to hit the PSN.
As for L4D, well Survival Mode promises to be a challenge. The idea is that each level group will survive approximately 10 minutes. It seems that beyond that, the game gets pissed, cause it starts spawning tanks every 45 seconds. At 15 minutes…you’re looking at a new tank every 15 seconds.
The waves are designed to regiment reloads and revivals and supposedly each round of Survival Mode will have more zombie deaths in it than a typical campaign. Sounds intense!