Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Baseball Review //
Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League
@ Dunkin Donuts Park [8/3/20]

Additional photos can be found here :::

When the idea of putting a baseball stadium in Hartford was first brought up, many people were upset that the Double A affiliate would be leaving New Britain.  What people didn't perhaps realize then was that this opportunity would create more baseball in the state of Connecticut and that's not a bad thing.   Since the creation of Dunkin Donuts Park I have somehow found myself there a decent number of times and yet I've been there more times for games which didn't involve the Yard Goats than for games that did.

Around Christmas last year, we were also able to take a guided tour around Dunkin Donuts Park, which was such a great experience (and I think Quentin really liked it for the free donuts)  Isn't it funny how people complained before Dunkin Donuts Park was built, and yet now you never hear anyone complain about their experiences there after they actually go there?  The "downtown traffic", "highway traffic" and "parking" are all a non-issue.

On this night, I knew this was not only a chance to see baseball at Dunkin Donuts Park but it might be my only chance this year to do so (and I don't want to even begin to think about what next year might hold for the minor leagues)   There is just something about watching baseball inside Dunkin Donuts Park that is different from other places.  It's that feeling of both knowing that the world is happening outside around you and yet not being aware of it.  Especially when the lights go on, it just feels like you're in a world all its own.

This double header had a ten dollar cover charge but that money went to help Johnny Taylor Field and we were told during the game that they were able to raise $2000 to help.   Baseball helping baseball helping baseball is really what you love to see.  When we sat a few rows back behind home plate, at one point I asked my dad what he thought these seats might go for at a Yard Goats game and I said I thought at least $50.   They might not actually be that expensive, but they felt like hundred dollar seats.

Concessions were open and this was the first baseball game I attended this season where we were able to actually buy food  (Not to discredit the fast pitch softball of the Brakettes)  Quentin ate a lot of food throughout the night while I had a beer which was specially made for the Yard Goats.   It was certainly one of those times you would think of as being a night at the ballpark and it's a lot of what baseball should be.   People were sitting socially distanced (and I didn't see anyone not wearing a mask when we were supposed to) but I wonder how many people would have been in attendance if they didn't have to distance.   Throughout the night, Dunkin Donuts Park remained fairly full.

Both of these games only went six innings each, which made sense with the time constraints, but they each had six innings of excitement- of intense baseball action.   The Expos and People's put up big run innings, while the Steel and Jets seemed to battle against each other only one or two runs at a time.   Anyone who is a fan of baseball could have enjoyed these games, even if they knew nothing about the teams and league. 

I was only taking pictures during the first game because it got dark and then I didn't know how the second game would go.  The funny thing was that I expected my dad would want to leave by 10 because it would be late but even he stayed invested because it was such a good game.   And, yes, these games count towards their season, but I'm not going to look back at these games and remember who won or lost so much as I'm going to remember a night spent out at Dunkin Donuts Park with my dad and son, which really you couldn't ask for more. 

Music Review //
Ellen Siberian Tiger
"Cinderblock Cindy"

I've always been a big supporter of album titles.   A good album title can sometimes make an album.   It's easy enough to have a self-titled album, but what happens when you have more than one album?  How can you say "Oh, I really like that one album by them" or even know what album a song is on if you don't know the name of the album itself.   The name should be strong and stand out.   In the time (months?) that I've had this particular album downloaded it has set in the second position in my folder, under "c" for "Cinderblock Cindy", and as such I've thought about that name a bit more than its author.

There are two stories to be told on "Cinderblock Cindy" and I went through and took notes the first time around based solely on the music itself; the second time I took notes based upon the lyrics.   This is one of those albums where you'll listen to it every day and after a few weeks, maybe months, you'll start quoting lyrics you might not have picked up as much the first few dozen times of listening.    But in that way it truly does feel like every lyric is important and once you have fully embraced this album you will know every lyric, you will know every note, which is a sign of the greatest of albums.

Musically this reminds me a lot of Slothrust because it can go from big, distorted guitars to pure blissful melody.    I suppose other artists do that as well, but since I listen to so much Slothrust they're always the first to come into my mind.    By "Do I Know You" I'm thinking of Local H and into "For Better For Worse" I'm reminded of a dreamy band such as Weezer, as there are starts and stops, sad strings and then it even gets a bit noisy.   "Peach Pit" is an amazing ballad while we end big and beautifully on "Kitchen Knife"   Elements of Period Bomb can also be found within these songs. 

On "Drown", which is somewhat of a psych/hypnotic song in its own right, there is this breakdown where it's more talking than singing and the lines "It's not about power / It's about control / This might change me / But I am not afraid" come out and that's really something we all need to think about, from both sides of the coin.   By the end of the album, on "Kitchen Knife", we are treated to the pure poetry of "I really tried my best to love you / I don't know what love fucking means" which is something I feel like I will always be able to relate with except now I'm going to stop trying to love.

While I could pull any number of lyrics out of these songs and write about them, I feel like I could write just as much about other influences within the music.   I chose the ones which I felt were closest to me, but you might feel as if some are closer to you.   This is the power of "Cinderblock Cindy".   This is an album which, from start to finish, never misses a beat.  It's an album that I'm going to be talking about still ten years from now.   And it's an album that, along with the importance of the lyrics and the quality of the music just flat out rocks.   It's something you can turn on as loud as possible and just come alive in it. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Baseball Review //
South Windsor Phillies 5, Record-Journal Expos 6
[7/31/20 @ Ceppa Field, Meriden, CT]

Additional photos can be found here :::

From Wednesday night we return to the Expos vs. Phillies on Friday night only this time the Phillies are in Meriden.   This game really had a lot on the line as we're winding down on this season and the two teams involved plus the Vernon Orioles and People's United Bank all seem to be fighting it out tooth and nail for the top spot in the league.    Going into this, I think we all knew this game was going to be tough with the Expos on a three game losing streak, but after the Phillies comeback victory in South Windsor I didn't see the Expos letting history repeat itself on this night.

This game was tense from the start.   It felt like the Orioles game at Ceppa the week before but a bit more on edge because that game presented this fear of the Orioles not wanting to lose two in a row to the Expos and this game was more about the Phillies keeping what they did on Wednesday night going into this game.  But the Expos had that on their side- the hope of not losing two in a row to the same team.   And with Charlie Hesseltine on the mound the Phillies were stunned for most of this game by the pitching.

Going into the fifth, the Expos were down 2-1 and it seemed like they might not make it out of the inning with more than the tying run scored when Jonathan Walter hit huge and cleared the bases.  Even though he was thrown out at his attempt to get a double, he still put the Expos up 5-2.   The Phillies would come back little by little, putting up a run here and there, until they were able to score two in the seventh.   When the Expos couldn't put up any of their own runs in the seventh, this game went to extra innings.

The eighth inning was a big inning for the Expos.  In the top of the inning, catcher Mike Gulino threw out Luke Terrance, who was trying to steal second, which upset the Phillies.    In the bottom of the inning, Will Kszywanos flew out and it appeared as if the game was over as Mike Gulino was then on third and would score on a sacrifice fly.   However, when Mike Gulino got to home plate, he missed the base at first but the Phillies catcher also missed the tag.  As Mike Gulino reached over and touched the base, the game should have been over right there with the winning run to walk it off.   Somehow, through some of the poorest judgment I've seen by umpires yet, Mike Gulino was called out in a way which still makes no sense to me.

In the top of the 10th inning a runner from the Phillies didn't tag going from second to third on a fly ball but the umpires didn't seem to bat an eye at that and let him have the base.   It's not that these calls went against the Expos, it's just that these were a lot of calls which made you really wonder what game the umpires were watching.  If the runner had tagged, he never would have made it to third as quickly as he did and he clearly went thinking the Expos were dropping the ball on a diving catch.  But there is the problem: The umpire was more focused on the diving catch- to see if that catch was in fact made- to be paying attention to whether or not the runner tagged.  You can't see everything, but you can certainly use logic (which the umpires did not)

Luke Terrance had a game on this night.  He had a few easy plays, where the ball was hit to him and he either let it get by him or he juggled it before being able to throw it, which played heavily into the Phillies defensive errors.  He was also thrown out trying to steal, which could have made a difference had he not done that.    But the biggest play of the game for Luke Terrance was when he was to stop Joey Gulino from making it safely to third- which he might have been able to do- but once that ball went past him, everyone knew Joey Gulino was going home.  Everyone knew the game was over.

Jack Rich picked up a win for the Expos with only one inning pitched but I was kind of happy to see Trevor Moulton take the loss for the Phillies because the guy was boohooing to the umpire behind him all night.   Being a baseball player at any level feels like it's a lot of picking and choosing your battles- speaking up when a call is obviously wrong, not nitpicking over every single pitch.   Though the umpires do have a different view of the plate- which works against everyone not just the Phillies- so a lot of strikes have been called as balls and vice versa simply because of where the umpire is located.

This win put the Expos into a tie for second place with the Phillies.   The Orioles jumped into first with a win over the Steel and People's is only a half of a game in third place.   This puts a bit of importance on the next Expos game which is tonight at Dunkin Donuts Park against People's.   A win could put them into a clear second place and once they finish their game with the Graphics they could even be right back into first place.   With only a few games left to be played- less than a handful- it really is going to come right down to the last game for the Expos, Orioles, Phillies and People's. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Interview # 2 2 1 // WHYJOHNNY //

New Video out right now!!

1) The name WHYJOHNNY makes me think of a famous quote by JFK.  What is the idea behind "WHYJOHNNY" and why not "WHYnotJOHNNY"?

There are always more questions than there are answers. I think it's really cool when a solo artist has a name that is not their own, since my name is already an artist’s name I thought it'd be cool to come up with my own. Started asking myself what is the value of a name, why do people stick to something they didn't even pick? Then the question of ‘why’ stuck. So I called my mother to ask her why she named me Johnny. WHYJOHHNY? And there it was. 

2) How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you before?

There’s the feeling of intense despair in my lyrics mixed with explosive and majestic choruses. Mixing subtle acoustic guitar with the excitement and mystery of a synth while also sprinkling over the rush that comes from the simplistic piano.

3) Do you feel as if the lyrics are as important as the music itself?  How do you convey that with your sound?

Yes the lyrics are as important as the music itself. They’re the bridge between the music and the listener. The interpretation of my words, that's the other half of the song. The lyrics bring the melancholy and disparity to my sound. In all of my songs; whether it be lyrics or melody, I think there's this underlying tension. It’s not forced, it’s just that every time I sit down to write I try to capture the headspace I’m in. Exploring my subconscious through my own music. That’s why my listeners' interpretation is so important, because everytime you listen you can find a new meaning behind what I’m trying to say. 

4) Your debut EP is being released on July 31st.  What was it like creating that?

It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The recording process brought out the best in me and the songs. I had never felt more comfortable in a creative space then I did at Strange Weather Studios with Daniel Schlett. All three of these songs were written at different times in my life so I did not write them knowing they would be on the same project.

5) What is it like being from/playing in NYC?

It’s a great privilege to have been born and raised in the greatest city. It makes life and the future feel exciting. My motivation and drive skyrocket when I’m in New York City which is such a good feeling.  All the wonderful venues only add to the excitement. It’s a great place to share your art because of all the different cultures you come across. I think being a New Yorker really can give an artist edge when it comes to work ethic and confidence. 

6) How vital do you think record labels are in 2020?

I think they are still a very important aspect of the music industry; with that said, it’s easier today for emerging artists to achieve some sort of success with the internet, social media and the right marketing team. I do also think it varies from case to case. The labels still have great resources to further an artist’s career and they put together very experts who take care of certain things an artist normally does not know much about. This gives the artist more time to focus on the music as opposed to worrying about his or her marketing campaign. 

7) What are your thoughts on physical media, such as cassettes and records?

I believe that owning a physical copy of a piece of music has a different psychological effect on a person then streaming it. When you own a record of your favorite band it feels like it belongs to you. You put the wear and tear on that specific copy and even though there are a bunch of the same copies, there isn’t one that looks, feels, and smells quite like yours. It’s just a much more personal experience which is what art should be. 

8) Final thoughts, shout outs, etc... ??

I’d like to thank Annie Ohayon, Rock Choi, Marvin Mumford, and Daniel Schlett for contributing to the making of the EP.

Baseball Review // Record-Journal Expos 0, East Hartford Jets 4 [7/29/20 @ McKenna Field, East Hartford, CT]

Additional photos can be found here :::

On the night before this game, leaving South Windsor, we somehow went through East Hartford, which seemed to set the tone for this game.   This wasn't a difficult field to find but there was netting around a lot of it, some volleyball and basketball courts around it as well, but at least there were bleachers which made it feel like a step up from the night before in South Windsor.

When I saw Jonathan Walter batting first for the Expos I knew this game was going to be different.   Not only did the Expos have Elliot Good playing second base for this game, they had Mike Bonaiuto pitching for them as well.   The pitching of Mike Bonaiuto was enough to keep the Jets at bay for four innings, as neither team scored for the first four innings of this game, making it feel like we were going to go into extra innings at 0-0.    Though the Expos kept Mike Bonaiuto in for five of the six innings, the Jets made frequent pitching changes which ended up working to their advantage.

One thing McKenna Field has is a working scoreboard so it was odd to be able to look over at it and not have to keep track of things such as the inning and score on my own.   The biggest factor in this game is what my uncle kept saying: you can't win if you don't score any runs and the Expos remained scoreless throughout this game.   While the Jets put on a good performance with their many pitchers, their offense only really came alive in that single four run inning which could have easily tipped the game the other way at any point.

Basically, this game was about the pitching, yes, but when you consider that most of the pitching by the Expos was one person and the Jets had to use five different pitchers, it makes the performance of the one pitcher a bit more grand.  This wasn't the type of game where the winning team scored ten more runs than the losing team-- it was more of a game where the Jets won, but they just barely were able to win.   The Jets offense was hindered, the Expos offense was just hindered a little bit more on this night.

The Expos move to 5-4 (while the Jets move to 4-5) and if the Rainbow Graphics game isn't made up the best they can hope for now is a 7-4 record, but to do that they have to defeat the Phillies this Friday night at home and People's on Monday at Dunkin Donuts Park.  People's has been on a roll, jumping up to third place behind the Orioles, and perhaps a lot of how these top four teams turn out by Monday will not only be decided on Friday night (as Ulbrich Steel looks to play spoiler to the Orioles) but on Sunday for the People's-Jets doubleheader as well.

Though the Expos now have their fourth loss of the season, it is worth noting that the three teams in front of them all have three losses so it can still be anyone's season to win.   Well, except for Rainbow Graphics.   They have eight losses so I don't see them coming out in first place in any scenario.   Even the Jets could move up if they sweep People's on Sunday, which just makes these next few days that much more exciting and that much more intense.  If you haven't been following along this season, no time like now to start.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Baseball Review // Record-Journal Expos 5, South Windsor Phillies 6 [7/28/20 @ Nevers Park, South Windsor, CT]

Additional photos can be found here :::

Going into this game, the Expos and Phillies were both tied for first place with 5-2 records.  Right behind them were People's and the Orioles who also played each other on this night!  The second half of the season really is heating up.   When we got to Nevers Park, we parked on the wrong side so we went by a different baseball game first.  Not sure who was playing over there, but the one kid I walked by didn't seem like he wanted to play.

Nevers Park is weird.  We walked through the Phillies' dug out just to find our way around the field to figure out where to watch the game because the dug out doesn't really exist in a traditional sense.   There is a lot of fence but no bleachers and if you happen to grab a spot of grass somewhere to put a chair, you're going to be watching the game through the fence.  We set up behind home plate because there was a smaller fence we could watch the game from without it blocking our view but Quentin couldn't duck or hide behind the home plate fence if needed.

Out towards right field was that other baseball game and out in center field there was a skate park, so it was interesting to look out there every so often and see people skateboarding on by.  On the left side was mostly woods, which was fine because at least we weren't near someone's backyard.   But I still questioned, walking through those Phillies players, why someone would ever design a baseball field where it felt like it wasn't intended for fans to show up and watch a game.

The Expos struck first in this game with a big two run homerun by Jack Rich in the first inning.  The Phillies players were complaining it bounced and went over the fence but that ball was long gone.   Funny enough, in the sixth inning one of the Phillies players hit a double which the Phillies all then thought was a homerun but it was called a double because it went under the fence, not out and over.   I liked how the umpires were only wrong when it worked in the Phillies' favor.  However, the umpires did want a runner to come back onto third base for the double, but with runners on second and third they both score, something which had to be explained to the umps.

Ths game was a solid pitching battle for five innings.   The Phillies couldn't seem to figure out A.J. Hendrickson and Trevor Moulton did a good job for the Phillies as well, as many of the problems with the Phillies seemed to be their fielding as they had at least two balls thrown to first that didn't make it to the base.   Not sure if that was a first baseman problem or the fault of whoever threw the ball, but for the most of this game the Phillies did not look like a first place team.

However, up 5-0 in the sixth inning the Phillies had a big inning which put up three runs.   The Expos were unable to score in the seventh and then the Phillies walked it off.   As these final scenes played out, I must tell you what happened behind home plate.  My uncle had these two guys he knew from when he was a kid show up and one of them was yelling at the Expos to move their defense in.   For some reason, the batter- Mike Lisincchia- took offense to this and told him to be quiet.   Then, my uncle's friend, told this guy to focus on the game and not what he was saying and Mike Lisincchia got really upset asking "Do we have a problem?"

The Phillies may have won but the fact that they let something like that get to them, even after they had won the game they were still talking about it, makes me feel like if someone was taunting them from the stands the entire game they'd buckle under the pressure.  I'm not saying the Meriden crowd might do it this Friday night when the Expos come home, but it does seem like something an Orioles crowd might do.  In all of my years, I've never seen a baseball player so sensitive as to what someone was saying before.

With this loss for the Expos, they are now tied for second place with the Orioles, who beat People's.   People's moved down to fourth place as Ulbrich Steel takes third place.  The Jets and Graphics are pretty much out of it, but the Expos do play the Jets tonight before meeting the Phillies again on Friday.   The Orioles and Steel meet on Friday as well so it will be some sort of super battle of all four teams at once.   The only other game between now and Friday is the Orioles vs. Graphics and you can bet Ulbrich Steel is hoping for the Graphics to pull off the upset and play spoiler.

You can feel how you want about every team in this league (I don't like the Phillies because I'm a Mets fan and I don't like the Orioles because they seem pretentious) but the top five teams- Phillies, Expos, Orioles, Steel and People's- all have a chance to do something special this season still.   People's has a doubleheader on Sunday against the Jets and if they win both of those and the Phillies go on a losing streak, People's could jump up to second place.    This is what just makes it so much fun right now.

Music Review //

As soon as this song starts you can feel the soul in it.  There is a darkness behind the keys, kind of almost going into blues, and it reminds me of someone like Alessia Cara or Norah Jones.  It really, even as a single song, just sets the tone for the entire room in which it is being played.  If you were to walk into any place with a stage and this song was being performed live, you'd stop, take notice and then begin to listen and enjoy.

With the music that just pulls you in come lyrics which should be universal but due to the nature of the song I feel like not everyone can relate to this song.   Ultimately, this song is about fitting in and feeling like you don't.   I want to say that in some situation everyone must have at one time or another felt like they didn't fit in.   Even if as an adult you feel comfortable enough to fit in everywhere perhaps as a child or during middle school you felt like you didn't fit in with a certain group that you wanted to join.

The way in which this song is layered in the lyrics is that it is not just about not fitting in but also about feeling like you're not human in the sense of if this is how humans then I don't want to be one.   It is the summer of 2020 and the world is a pretty crazy place so examples might be more obvious, but there always seems to be that time where you read about something in the news and think "That human does not represent all humans" or you think about how they are the reasons why life on other planets don't come to visit us.

Lyrics like "I'm comfortable in my own skin / I can see the truth / Don't need to belong" will have everyone singing along and relating with this song.   Those who are out there creating the things which make the rest of us not want to feel like we're part of the human race any more will not appreciate the song on the same level but perhaps- and maybe this is just the hope inside of me- this song could help them to see the world a little bit differently.