Sunday, June 29, 2008

turn, turn, turn

Ever since 9/11, there has been an increasing push in New York City toward "out there" architecture. Sadly, these designs so rarely seem to come to fruition. First, of course, you had the redesign for the World Trade Center itself (which has been changed so much that the original intent seems quite lost in the red tape). Then there were two Santiago Calatrava ideas (for a gondola to Governor's Island and an East River apartment building) that were ultimately nixed. And the Frank Gehry vision for the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn is far from certain to be completed.

On the plus side, a few notable funky designs have been built. These include the Gehry IAC Building on the far west side, the curvy Sculpture of Living on Astor Place, and the sleek BLUE tower on the lower east side.

The latest "out there" idea is for a truly mind-bending building that would mimic towers that are now being erected in Dubai and Moscow. Designed by Italian architect David Fisher, the Dynamic Tower would have somewhere on the order of 70 or 80 floors (based on the existing Dubai and Moscow designs), and each of the floors could rotate 360 degrees about a central axis. The result? A building in motion that would fluctuate in look between undulating waves and a gigantic Jenga game. Check out this video to see how it would work.

All things considered, I kind of doubt this thing will get built. But what a sight to behold if it did...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

switching it up

I realize this makes two baseball-related posts in a row, but I couldn't let the week finish out without commenting on an amazing game I went to on Thursday. It was the third meeting of the season for the New York-Penn League (A-level) Brooklyn Cyclones and cross-town rival Staten Island Yankees. And actually, most of the game itself was pretty mundane; the Yanks held a sizable lead for most of the way. But then the bottom of the 9th inning happened, and, as it turned out, I was witness to something completely wacky.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Yankees hurler Pat Venditte was a switch pitcher—meaning he could pitch with either the left arm or the right! To aid him in this exceedingly rare ability is a custom six-fingered glove that he can use on either hand. Anyway, everything was moving right along until the fourth batter in the inning, when Cyclones designated hitter Ralph Henriquez came up to the plate. What started then was a dance for the ages.

For the uninitiated, hitters are usually better against a pitcher who is pitching from the opposite side of the plate as they're hitting. So, a lefty batter usually hits better against righty pitchers, and vice versa. Managers will sometimes take a lefty pitcher out and replace him with a righty pitcher just to turn the numbers in his team's favor. Of course, opposing managers can retaliate by sending a different batter up in these cases. Well, in Thursday's game, it was just mayhem, because not only was Venditte a switch pitcher, but Henriquez was a switch hitter! As you can see in the video, the result was pretty funny.

The umpires were initially confused about the situation, but they ultimately decided that the batter had to pick a side first. Henriquez did, and the at-bat concluded with him striking out to end the game. But how crazy was that?!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

mets to willie: good riddance

Well, the speculation had reached a fevered pitch, but I never thought the Mets would stoop so low as to fire their manager (and a couple of other key coaches) the way they did. The Mets were out in Anaheim, California—three merciful time zones away, I guess—and it wasn't gonna matter whether the team won or lost last night. The Wilpons decided that it was time for Willie & Co. to go, so at about 3 a.m. EDT, Mr. Randolph got the news. As did pitching coach Rick Peterson and bench coach Tom Nieto.

I'm pretty disappointed in my team right now, on all fronts. Yes, they are a .500 team. Yes, they have been the picture of inconsistency. Yes, they have been shockingly good at times and then maddeningly horrible the next day (or four). But what were the Mets brass thinking when they decided to let Willie fly all the way out to Cali, just to fire him after one game?

I guess we'll hear more at the press conference later on today (5 p.m. Eastern). But part of me thinks they won't really divulge very much. To me, the season is now officially a lost cause. The ownership has essentially said: "We don't even care to replace you with another star manager; we just want you out." No one can know exactly what goes on behind closed doors, so maybe there was tension a-brewing that simply needed to stop, no matter what the media and fans might think. But on the surface, at least, the manner in which this firing occurred was insensitive and just plain dumb.

Willie, we'll always have 2006. If you need any comfort, this song just might do the trick.

Update: Oh, Mr. Met. You are the bomb. You too, Mr. Stewart.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

i heart M83

It kind of makes sense that I would fall for a group that's named after a galaxy. M83 is the name of the musical undertaking of Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez, who apparently liked the Messier object No. 83 so much he decided to name his group after it.

M83 is mostly known as an ambient electronic synth group, but for their most recent album, Saturdays = Youth, 80s new wave electronica is in full force. I managed to catch the second of two sold-out shows in New York, and it was pretty amazing. Lush chords often found themselves being slowly drowned out by pulsating guitars and, at other times, punctuated with gorgeous vocals from contributor Morgan Kibby, whose breathy overtones recall Alison Goldfrapp, Elizabeth Fraser (of the Cocteau Twins), and Kate Bush.

I won't gush any longer - just go and check M83 out right now!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

refueling america: grasping at straws

Hello readers! Apologies for the long drought in posting. It's been a busy 6 weeks...

So, there's been a lot going on in the world since my last post. I'll start my return to the blogosphere with a piece on a new marketing strategy I've been hearing about as I watch Mets games (an activity that has become a lot more painful since I wrote last...yikes). This strategy's moniker? "Let's Refuel America."

The label alone makes me think of such falsely named Bushy initiatives as No Child Left Behind and Clean Skies—and for good reason. The program is run by Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep, who have teamed up to offer customers who buy one of their vehicles a deal where they pay no more than $2.99 per gallon for gas in each of the next three years. As the program website states, after buying a car or truck, you get a special credit card that magically converts every gas or diesel gallon you purchase to $2.99. (You simply pay the initial bill if prices go back under $2.99 per gallon.) Of course, as average gas prices have recently passed the $4-mark, the deal may seem like a pretty sweet one. Here's why it's not!

For one thing, I looked into the fine print, and you can only use the card for a certain amount of gas. I don't think they're worrying about people reselling the gas—although stranger things have happened. But they preset a maximum amount of fuel that you can purchase that's based on the miles-per-gallon consumption rating of the car you buy (of course, there are other restrictions on grade of fuel you can buy, too). For instance, if you buy a Jeep Grand Cherokee, which gets a paltry 16 miles per gallon, you can buy up to 2,250 gallons of gas—which, by the way, doesn't actually need to be used in that Grand Cherokee you purchased—over three years. But if you buy a Jeep Compass, which gets a much more respectable 24 miles per gallon, you can only purchase 1,500 gallons over the three-year term. How annoying is that?

Of course, the bigger problem with this program is that it promotes our continued reliance on driving fuel-inefficient cars. Rather than following the trend of many other car companies, who of late have obviously been working much harder at building and promoting hybrid models that both use less gas and pollute less, Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge are effectively giving a big middle finger to the environment just to make a buck. "We'll pay the oil companies off so you can use our gas-guzzling cars!" they're saying. "Who cares about cutting our dependence on oil and our emissions of noxious, polluting carbon dioxide? We've got SUVs to sell!" It's really sad. I urge anyone in the market for a new car not to fall for this horrible scheme! If you really want to save money on gas and you must get a new car, buy one with fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon or more. Here's a list of cars that get great mileage.