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Popocatépetl

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This photo is a couple of months old. I was awake early, and the volcano on the outskirts of Mexico City was cough up smoke, so I went up to the roof and had a proper look.

Written by Craig

December 15th, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Blah blah

Cruz Azul

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When I moved to Mexico City, I picked a team. There are three football teams in the city: Club América, Pumas, and Cruz Azul, all of whom play in the top division, the Liga MX. I looked at a map. Even though I’d seen América and Pumas play at their stadiums (Estadio Azteca and Estadio Olímpico, respectively) when I visited on holiday in 2008, I plumped for Cruz Azul, who were the closest team to where I was living at the time (and has been at all subsequent apartments). Pretty much everyone I know supports América or Pumas, but, that was fine. I liked the idea of supporting my most local team. It would also be disingenuous to pretend that I didn’t enjoy the idea of supporting the smallest team in the city, too. The fact that nobody I know supports Cruz Azul, though, made me a lot less inclined to go to the stadium. Until 2014. My girlfriend and I were looking for an apartment, and eventually found one just a block away from Estadio Azul, Cruz Azul’s stadium. My girlfriend is a Pumas fan. This new apartment was way better for my footballing interests than hers.

We are coming to the end of the regular season in Mexico. Well, it’s more complicated than that. I’ll explain. The 2014-15 season, as with previous seasons since the mid-nineties, is split in two. Before Christmas, there’s the Torneo apertura (opening tournament). This consists of each team playing every other team once, at home or away. After New Year, there’s the Torneo clausura (closing tournament). Same format here, just with teams playing the corresponding home or away fixture. After each of these tournaments, there’s a liguilla (little league). The liguilla is an eight team playoff. Essentially, quarter finals onwards. It’s a rubbish, overly complicated format for a season intended to make things more interesting. For me, Mr Logical Brain, it diminishes the achievement of being a champion if you can finish 8th over half a season, win a few playoff games and be the kings.

Anyway, last Saturday was the last home game for Cruz Azul in the Torneo apertura. After three seasons of not bothering to go to games, living around the corner has changed things drastically. Including cup games, I went to nine of eleven Cruz Azul home games. (I missed one when I was in Belize, and I missed one earlier in the season when I had food poisoning and really could not be too far from my own bathroom.) It’s been fun going to games. And it’s been fun to just go and buy a ticket from the stadium ticket office on the day of the game. Really, it’s the first time that I’ve regularly gone to see “my” football team since Lincoln City’s 1987-88 season.

It’s a relatively small stadium. 35,000 capacity, compared to Estadio Azteca (105,000) and Estadio Olímpico (69,000). Estadio Azul is interesting. Maybe not as pretty as Olímpico, or as impressive as Azteca, but I like that the pitch is below ground level. When you enter the stadium, you are at the front of top level of seating. From a living point of view, it means that the view from my window isn’t blocked by a big stadium, as Estadio Azul is about the same height as my third floor (fourth floor in American English) apartment.

It’s pretty cheap, too. Ignoring the cheapest section behind the goal where the hardcore fans go, you can get a ticket for 65 pesos (£3.02, €3.84, US$4.79). Unless–unless–it’s a local derby against América or Pumas. Then, the club puts the prices up. Well, that happens in England too, some games are more attractive, thus more expensive, than others. Here, though, with the Ticketmaster fee, that 65 peso ticket jumps to 423 pesos. About 650% of the normal price. Last Saturday was a local derby. Cruz Azul v. Pumas. What should be a game where the stadium is rammed full is a game where the stadium is half empty because of the price hike. It was a game with implications, too. The winner would more or less*eliminate any chance of the other team progressing to the liguilla.

I like being at Estadio Azul. I like that on match day, my street starts to fill up with stalls selling merchandise. I like that the street gets busier and busier as kickoff gets closer. I like hearing the hardcore fans, the porras, chanting and banging drums as they walk to the stadium. And I, of course, like being able to leave the apartment fifteen minutes before the game starts. There’s a far greater mix of men and women at Cruz Azul games than I’ve ever seen at games in Europe, and a mix of fans, too. Being the capital city, there are always fans of the opposing teams scattered around, even more so for local derbies. In my section up in the “cheap” seats, I’d say that about 30% of the fans were Pumas fans. Some of them alone, some of them mixed-team couples. Girlfriend and I would’ve been one of those mixed-team couples had she not had other plans.

As you enter the stadium, you are frisked. No belts allowed. That’s another benefit of living close: not having to traverse the city constantly tugging up my jeans. The Pumas section at one end of the ground was pretty much full early on. The Cruz Azul end of the ground not so much. Apparently, there had been some clashes with police outside the ground, which I assume accounts for that. The crappy PA played music. “Everybody Get Up” by 5ive. The cheerleaders (like yer proper NFL style cheerleaders) walked around the perimeter of the field to mucho whistling.

The breeze blew the smell of Domino’s pizza around. The vendors touted their wares. Like at baseball games, they bring beer and soft drinks and snacks to you. As game time approached, the big inflatables around the edge of the field were deflated. I kind of enjoy seeing those before the game. Four inflatable bottles (Tecate, Gatorade, Mexicola (a, er, Mexican cola), and Boing (a fruity drink)), and a couple of inflatable cement bags. Cruz Azul, you see, is sponsored and named after a cement company of the same name.

The match itself wasn’t so great for Cruz Azul fans. It reminded me of last season’s Liverpool v. Chelsea game (albeit at a much lower quality level). The home team looked by far the most dangerous, with the visitors content to defend (well) and hope to nick a goal. And Pumas did nick a goal, with the help of some awful linesmanship. A ball went out of play for a corner or goal kick (not sure who touched the ball last) but the Pumas player kicked it back onside, and from that, they scored. Cruz Azul continued pressing to equalise, but the Pumas keeper was having a great game. After a Cruz Azul player was sent off with half an hour to go, they continued attacking, but it was obvious that nothing was gonna happen, and in injury time, Cruz Azul got caught out in defence and there you go, the Battle of the Mediocre Mexico City Teams ended 2-0. The other Mexico City team, Club América, are top of the league and looking really strong. Considering how they’ve performed, they really should win the liguilla.

There’s one more away game left, but Cruz Azul need to win and for four teams to all not win to make it into the liguilla. But, they don’t deserve to be there. They’ve lost six of sixteen games, and not won a single away game all season. But, I’m looking forward to the Torneo clausura starting up again in January, and getting back to the stadium every other Saturday. It’s nice to be a regular.

Written by Craig

November 12th, 2014 at 10:42 am

Posted in Blah blah,Sports

Baseballin’ racoons

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One of the joys of Google Street View is knowing that if you miss something with your camera, you might be able to see it again. This is a school, I think, that I went past in a bus yesterday in Chetumal. Link to Street View view

Written by Craig

November 7th, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Posted in Baseball,Blah blah

Dreams do come true

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I’m on Google Street View!

Written by Craig

October 18th, 2014 at 9:07 am

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Naughty Who

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Written by Craig

October 18th, 2014 at 8:57 am

Posted in Blah blah

Twin Peaks

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I’m tentatively happy that we’re getting a third season of Twin Peaks in 2016. I’ve been a Beach Boys fan for way too long to let the idea exist of a legacy being ruined by later projects. If it’s rubbish, not a problem. So was most of the second season, anyway.

My enjoyment of Twin Peaks is so entangled with the time, anyway, that any NOW feelings about a third season could never ever come close. I was 20-21 when it was on TV in the UK. I was at art college. I was in love. It was a bright sunny summer. Life felt pretty good. And then there was also a very enjoyable TV show that felt totally out-of-step with everything else on the UK’s four channels at that point.

Seeing the news that it was coming back, though, did remind me of something. In the title sequence, when we see the shot of the sign for the town: it’s so obviously just been rammed into a piece of worn-down-by-vehicles ground next to a road. A real town’s sign would not have worn-down ground all around it like that. There’d be tufts of grass around the posts.

I do hope Audrey’s doing well, though.

Written by Craig

October 8th, 2014 at 10:07 am

Posted in Blah blah

Comic Sanskrit

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Written by Craig

October 8th, 2014 at 9:50 am

Posted in Blah blah

Where the Streets Have No Name

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I had this dream last night that I was in a city somewhere east of Europe. There were narrow shaded streets and big open areas where the sun was roasting. I was eating nuts and the adhan was being called out. And the sound of the adhan was different to what I’d heard before when I visited Istanbul. It was being made by instruments I didn’t recognise. Lots of different instruments combining to make one sound. Then over the top of that was the sound of voices repeating guttural consonants, like a slowly building choir of k sounds.

That sounds like the start of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” I thought.
I wanted to tell people. I had no device to email or tweet with. Oh my! U2 stole that! And nobody knows.
Then I looked again and found my device and wanted to tweet it, but I only had emojis. No proper alphabet to type with. I wanted there to be emojis that didn’t exist.

Man with blond hair.
Man with cigarette.
Man with hat and goatee.
Man with pink sunglasses.
Dusty road.
Stripey-shirted robber.
Music symbol.
Mosque.

But I couldn’t find these emojis and nobody knew that U2 stole the adhan.

Written by Craig

October 7th, 2014 at 9:25 am

Posted in Blah blah,Music

Real talk

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Written by Craig

October 2nd, 2014 at 8:56 am

Posted in Blah blah

This guy

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So, there’s this guy. One day he did some washing. He got the stuff out of the washing machine, grabbed his keys, and got ready to take the stuff up to the clothes line on the roof of his building. He did a wee trump before he left the flat, then opened the door. His next door neighbour–a female lady woman–was just coming out of her flat. They exchanged good mornings and both stood by the elevator. She wanted to go to the ground floor, he to the roof. They stood there in silence for a moment. He thought he should just take the stairs to the roof. He realised he could smell his wee trump. It had followed him out of the flat. Should he just go? He was embarrassed. There’s no way she couldn’t also smell it. Oops. What was he to do? Stay in the lift with his wet laundry in his arms all the way to the ground floor then all the way back up to the roof, with the knowledge of the wee trump there in front of them both? No, that’d be dumb.

“I need to go to the roof,” he said.
“Okay, bye,” she said.

He went to the roof and felt terrible. He called himself an idiot. A fucking idiot. A stupid fucking idiot.

He never wanted to bump into his neighbour again. The next day he wrote a letter to the landlord, packed his stuff up, moved out, left the city, got on a plane, flew to another county where he’d never trumped before, rented a shack in the middle of nowhere and now he trumps in peace.

Written by Craig

October 1st, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Blah blah,Stories

Surfin’ USA

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If everybody had an ocean
Across the USA
Then everybody would have drowned, Brian, ya daftie.

Written by Craig

September 30th, 2014 at 6:46 am

Posted in Blah blah

Standing on the balcony, I got to noticing something…

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Written by Craig

September 29th, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Blah blah

Much meat

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Written by Craig

September 29th, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Posted in Blah blah

Let’s make baseball games longer and more boring

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It seems like at least once a season, there will be a bevy of tedious articles where people flap their hands and faint like ladies in Victorian novels about the length of baseball games and how that means people will soon stop going to games and watching on the television. Baseball is long and boring, they say, something has to change! I say NO! It’s too short and not boring enough MLB is not doing enough to stop people watching! This is my 20-point plan for making baseball better.

1. 7.05 p.m. first pitch? Pfff, that’s rubbish. Let’s start the games at 7.05 a.m. and snag that coming-home-from-a-night-shift demographic that all sports currently ignore. Plus ballpark breakfast food, knowhamsayin’?

2. Who doesn’t love the excitement of extra innings? Let’s make that the norm. 18-inning games. Double the pleasure. Double the fun. And if we’re still tied after 18 innings: extra innings!

3. Why are we putting so much pressure on pitchers to pitch quickly? Don’t we want them to be relaxed and mentally prepared? Take all the time you need, Daisuke.

4. Similarly, we want the batters to do the best they can, and if that means Derek Jeter needs to adjust his batting gloves twenty or thirty times before each pitch: so be it.

5. Who doesn’t love walk-up music? Well, let’s hear the whole song, not just a snippet.

6. After each at-bat has ended, one of the players’ children can appear on the big screen, calculating the updated statistics of that batter. With a pencil and paper, not using a calculator. That child could also gain some sort of school credit for doing this.

7. Catchers should be banned from throwing the ball back to the pitcher. They should have to take it to the mound and hand it the pitcher. And then the pitcher would say thank you.

8. God Bless America should be played between every half inning to remind attendees that they are American (in case they had forgotten to be patriotic), and that God exists (in case they had forgotten to be Christian). In Toronto, this still applies. Canadians need reminding that they are inferior to Unitedstatesofamericans.

9. But, we should be accommodating to Johnny Foreigner, because it’s not only Americans who play or watch baseball. Let’s play the anthems from the countries of all the players on the rosters that day! American! Canadian! Dominican! Venezuelan! Cuban! Japanese! Mexican! Australian! Curaçaoan! Saudi Arabian!

10. I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know if this would actually work, but it feels like it might: put airtight roofs on all stadiums, fill them with helium, give every player and spectator oxygen masks, and let’s see how many massive home runs the batters can hit. Helium is less dense than air, so that should work, right? We’d have longer, higher-scoring games. Just like in the Mexican League!

11. After the seventh-inning stretch and the playing of the full length version of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, why not have a special guest reading out some delightful poems?

12. Players should be obligated to take their own batting gloves and elbow and shin protector things to the dugout after reaching base. Similarly, runners left on base at the end of an inning have to collect their mitts themselves rather than having a team employee doing it.

13. The designated non-hitter. While the American League is all modern and has a DH, and the National League is all old-fashioned and allows its fans to feel superior, both leagues are missing a designated non-hitter. An extra player in the line-up would be something the MLBPA would adore. Let’s extend the careers not just of players who can no longer play defense very well, let’s extend the careers who can no longer hit very well either! Or just give a spot in the line-up to a player we all love. Ken Griffey Jr. could still be a Mariner! That player would be the tenth in the batting order, and would come to the plate, tip his cap, and return to the dugout. Joe Maddon could even have him non-batting clean-up if he wanted.

14. The fourteenth inning of every game could be brought to you by Sony PlayStation 4. Two chairs will be brought the batter’s boxes, and placed facing the big screen. A PlayStation 4 will be put on home plate. Whoever is due to pitch and hit that inning will sit in the chairs and play as themselves for one inning. This will undoubted speed up the game, so Sony can organise for people to dress up like big furry PlayStation controllers and race, similar to Milwaukee’s sausages. They will compete in a 5,000 meter race around the warning track.

15. Screenings of Andy Warhol’s Empire in the middle of the fifteenth inning.

16. Water cooler breaks for the players. Baseball is a sport. Sports mean players sweat. The body needs to replace that water lost to sweat. Let’s get a load of water coolers (prime sponsorship opportunity, Commissioner) and put one at each position so the pitchers, second basemen, center fielders, etc. can get refreshed and have a nice chat.

17. Premier League breaks. Due to my proposed 7.05 a.m. start times, that will, because of time zone difference, allow some synergy with the World’s Greatest Sports League: the English Premier League. Whenever a scintillating 0-0 draw is about to happen, the umpire calls a 90-minute time out so everyone in the park can watch Sunderland vs. Stoke City.

18. John Cage’s 4’33″ will be played and observed in complete silence. Any noise made in the stadium will mean that we have to start again from the beginning.

19. During the seventeenth inning, the t-shirt gun people will keep launching t-shirts into the crowd until every single spectator has a t-shirt.

20. Ballpark security is replaced with the National Guard midway through the game. They create an exclusion zone and no longer permit people from leaving the ballpark until the season is over. Get back in your seat, NOW! At the end of the season, attendees will be permitted to leave, but only until Opening Day the following season, when they will be required BY LAW to return to their seats.

Feel free to use all of these suggestions as you please, Commissioner-elect Manfred.

Written by Craig

September 24th, 2014 at 9:00 am

Posted in Baseball,Blah blah

Zidane

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Last week, there was an article about Zinedine Zidane on Deadspin.

The photo they used really should be an album cover. Regard:

Written by Craig

September 22nd, 2014 at 8:44 am

Posted in Blah blah

Eight years of sleep

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I’ve been keeping a chart of my sleep for eight years for whatever absurd reason I feel justifies such behaviour:

Click here to see it full-size.

Previously:
Seven years of sleep
Six years of sleep
Five years of sleep
Four years of sleep
Three years of sleep
Two years of sleep
A year of sleep

Written by Craig

September 11th, 2014 at 8:28 am

Three new baseball things

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Forgot to mention these things I did for NotGraphs, coz I iz dumm:

Field of Dreams II: an abridged novelization

Cleef Van Lee

An island where a baseball-like sport is played

Written by Craig

September 5th, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Fried e

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It’s just wrong that eggplant comes before egg when you type “fried e” into Google.

(And this is not an eggplant vs. aubergine thing, but, y’know, aubergine is a way better word, America.)

Written by Craig

September 5th, 2014 at 10:52 am

Posted in Blah blah

Rhinestone Cowboy

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At a wedding in Berlin in 2002, I drunk-karaoked Rhinestone Cowboy. Please enjoy.

Written by Craig

September 2nd, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Posted in Blah blah,Music,Silly

New Moon on Monday

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Back in 2008, when I was travelling around the Americas—when this blog was good—I noticed that there was a new moon on a Monday. I made a note to write about the Duran Duran song New Moon on Monday the next time one came around. I had “26 January New Moon on Monday” written in the text file of ideas and stuff that’s always on my computer desktop. Up until a few months ago, it still said “26 January New Moon on Monday.” I never did write about New Moon on Monday on Monday 26 January, 2009. So, today, 27 May, 2014, I’m writing this post so that when Monday 25 August and its new moon comes around, the post is already there, stored in WordPress, and scheduled to go online. Planning!

I wonder, though: maybe I will die between now (27 May) and now (25 August)? I wonder if anyone would bother to check my WordPress blog for scheduled posts if I die. Maybe they won’t and after a time of inactivity, the blog will be alive again for one post. Maybe I will die and people in my private life will know, but nobody out there in Internetland, nobody who reads this or looks at Twitter or Facebook will have noticed. Maybe someone here and there may have noticed for a passing moment, “he’s been quiet recently,” but I don’t really see how the news of my death would get out there. Anyway…

Back in 1984, when New Moon on Monday was released as a single, I was a big fan of Duran Duran. I had, by that point bought a lot of Duran Duran records with my one-pound-a-week pocket money. In chronological order, I bought:

Careless Memories (7″, 1981)
Duran Duran (LP, 1981)
Save a Prayer (7″, 1982)
Rio (LP, 1982)

I can’t be sure of the order of buying the album and the previous single, but it’s incredibly unlikely that I’d have bought a single that I already had on an album at that point in my life.

Is There Something I Should Know? (7″, 1983)
Straight in at number one. I remember listening to the chart countdown. It felt like a personal victory that the copy I had bought had contributed to its position. This, of course, was back in the day that very few records went straight into the UK charts at number. I used to be able to remember all of them. Off the top of my head: Here in my Heart by Al Martino, by default, cos he was number one in the first chart in 1952; Elvis had at least one, the Beatles had one, too; Slade had a couple; the Jam had three, I think; Don’t Stand So Close to Me by the Police; Stand and Deliver by Adam and the Ants; this Duran Duran one; Two Tribes by Frankie; Band Aid, obvs…

Union of the Snake (12″, 1983)
The first twelve-inch single I ever bought. From Save Records on the market in Lincoln. I remember being so proud, and a distinct feeling that I was growing up by buying a twelve-inch.

Seven and the Ragged Tiger (LP, 1983)
The Reflex (12″ picture disc, 1984)

Twelve inch. Picture disc. Amazing. It’s a picture and music comes out of it.

The Wild Boys (12″, 1984)
A View to a Kill (7″ white vinyl with a gatefold sleeve, 1985)
Notorious (LP, 1986)

I wasn’t buying Sugar Hill imports or listening to John Peel back in the early eighties. I was into pop music. Proper music. Music in the charts. But, while Hollywood movies or shitty nightclub party nights will have you believe the eighties were corny and shitty, the Top 40 was way better than it has been in the decades since then. Pop stars were, on the whole, real people not TV-show-no-hard-work-no-personality-white-teeth-shitfucks. The fantastic magazine Smash Hits saw to that. It was like that magazine wasn’t there to say, “hey, this group has a new album out,” but “hey group, we have some teenagers you need to impress, so you better be at the very least, slightly interesting when we interview you.”

1984 had fourteen number one singles. And I would imagine that you can sing the choruses of nearly all of them. Obviously that doesn’t mean they were intrinsically good (Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called to Say I Love You, for example, although, I did buy that at the time, for some reason), but they were at least memorable.

New Moon on Monday didn’t get to number one. It got to number nine. It’s my sixth favourite Duran Duran song. Yes, I have a list. The top five:
5. Union of the Snake
4. Girls on Film
3. Planet Earth
2. The Chauffeur
1. Careless Memories

My main memory of New Moon on Monday is such a tiny moment. My family, we were all in the dining room on a Sunday night. We might’ve been doing something like playing Trivial Pursuit. We had BBC Radio Lincolnshire on. (When writing this, I typo-ed “Lincolnshite,” which, y’know…) On Sunday nights, Radio Lincolnshire used to have a programme for younger people. The start of New Moon on Monday kicked in, those three echo-ey notes right at the start, without the DJ introducing it. And I said “Duran Duran!” or something. My mum noted that I knew a lot about pop music cos I recognised the song so quickly. It felt good at the time. I did know a lot about pop music.

Now, though, when I listen to it, I feel happy to have been a teenager in the 1980s. With Duran Duran. And that nice chorus. With those fireworks-y sound effects and the Fairlight CMI sounds. That sound, that Fairlight, there aren’t many instruments that evoke so many nice feelings in my head. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, when I first thought about writing this post back in 2008, I found a couple of .wav clips of Fairlight sounds. I downloaded them, but can’t remember where I got them, so unfortunately, I can’t credit a source, but here they are: aahh.wav and orch5.wav. Now you know what I’m on about, right? Also: someone did a Spotify playlist called Fairlight Moments which is worth a go, should you wanna wallow in this sort of thing.)

Rambling post. Not really about new moons. Or New Moon on Monday, really. But it was and is a great song. With a terrible video:

Written by Craig

August 25th, 2014 at 7:30 am

Posted in Blah blah,Music