In Honor of the Reopening of Oberlin's Apollo Theatre, Here is a List of Movies I Saw at the Apollo (in Roughly the Order I Saw Them)

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St. Elmo’s FirePrizzi’s HonorKiss of the Spider WomanSilveradoBack to the FutureTeen WolfRocky IVThe Color PurpleOut of AfricaWildcatsBack to SchoolAbout Last NightAliensCrocodile DundeeThe Color of MoneyChildren of a Lesser GodPeggy Sue Got MarriedJumpin’ Jack FlashHoosiersStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeThree AmigosLittle Shop of HorrorsLethal WeaponPlanes Trains and AutomobilesThrow Momma From the TrainEddie Murphy: RawBroadcast NewsMoonstruckGood Morning, VietnamPink Floyd—The WallBeetlejuiceBiloxi BluesComing to AmericaBull DurhamA Fish Called WandaDie HardMoon Over ParadorThe AccusedTequila SunriseMississippi BurningTwinsThe Accidental TouristRain ManBill & Ted’s Excellent AdventureField of DreamsMajor League

Baseball/Softball Encyclopedia: Josh Neufeld

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[Originally posted April 12, 2006 — updated for 2017 with final 2016 stats]

 In honor of the new baseball season, I’ve asked Bill James and the good folks at Baseball-Reference.com to compile my career (so far) statistics. Unfortunately, the records are spotty. Though they date as far back as my 1982–1983 stint as a Little Leaguer playing baseball against such classic teams as 15th Street Iron Works and Aurora Phoenix Construction, there is a disturbing absence of information for almost the next twenty years!

I know! No stats from the glory days of the mid-1980s, when man_size, larrondo, thamesrhodes, pango_lafoote, and I tested the confines of Riverside Park during summer softball?! Or the three years at the helm of the Oberlin College intramural softball teams — The Dascomb Lords of Fresh (1987), Better Than You (1988), and Like a Big Dog (1989)? Or those great seasons in the early 90s as captain of The Nation magazine softball team, as we squared off against the likes of The Village Voice and Money magazine? I know: a travesty.

But, since I joined their “league” in 2003, the nutty nutjobs of Prospect Park Sunday softball have stepped up to the plate. With an obsessiveness for stats I can only stand back and admire with awe, they record every out of every game we play during our April–November season.

So sit back and peruse my (admittedly sparse) stats, which prove beyond doubt that I was a born softballer. As the records clearly show, I couldn’t hit a curve — or a fastball, for that matter. (Though I was a pesky hitter, working out a fair number of walks and wreaking some havoc on the basepaths.) And the results some years later weren’t any better: I was cut from the Oberlin College baseball team, a Division III team with no athletic scholarships!

Anyway, my softball stats are a bit better — at least I’m over the Mendoza Line. However, I believe hitting anything less than .400 in softball is nothing to be proud about, so I’ve got plenty of work to do. (The two stat lines for the 2004 season reflect two leagues I played in, the first being P.P. Sunday Softball, and the second being the weekday Zen League, featuring real umpires. My team, the Plug Uglies, won the championship, but I found it all a little too intense — and time-consuming — and didn’t return the subsequent season.)

So the 2006 season has just begun, and assuming I don’t break any more fingers, I hope to really get my swing in the groove as the summer moves along.

NEW! UPDATED FOR 2017 [with 2016 stats]!

JOSHUA MICHAEL ROSLER NEUFELD
Born: August 9, 1967 Home: Brooklyn, New York
Ht.: 5’9″ Wgt.: 200 Bats: Left Throws: Left

YEAR G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB AVG. OBP. SLG. OPS
1982 9 17 5 3 0 0 0 5 9 6 6 .177 .391 .177 .568
1983 15 17 6 3 0 0 0 3 13 5 4 .177 .533 .177 .711
2003 60 19 25 6 0 5 18 4 0 .417 .453 .767 1.220
2004 104 22 38 5 1 4 29 13 0 .365 .436 .500 .936
2004 50 6 17 3 1 0 14 4 0 .340 .389 .440 .829
2005 24 69 20 26 3 1 3 18 9 0 .377 .449 .580 1.029
2006 43 127 48 67 13 2 3 31 17 0 .528 .568 .732 1.300
2007 40 133 42 71 9 5 3 50 12 2 .534 .565 .744 1.309
2008 23 82 26 41 8 5 5 27 4 2 .500 .667 .902 1.402
2009 25 78 30 41 9 2 2 26 8 1 .526 .570 .769 1.339
2010 26 82 28 43 8 4 4 43 9 1 .524 .542 .866 1.408
2011 23 67 26 37 7 5 2 30 11 2 .552 .578 .866 1.444
2012 11 37 7 17 2 1 0 12 1 1 .459 .474 .568 1.042
2013 14 45 11 19 4 1 1 12 3 3 .422 .458 .622 1.080
2014 25 74 40 40 5 3 3 40 9 2 .541 .577 .811 1.388
2015 19 73 19 36 9 1 2 25 1 2 .499 .500 .699 1.199
2016 4 14 5 8 1 0 0 3 1 0 .571 .600 .643 1.243
2017 2 7 3 4 0 0 2 6 1 0 .571 .625 .1.429 2.054

Best Comics of 2009 Meta-List

A.D., Geek

Sandy of the I Love Rob Liefeld blog just posted his Best Comics of 2009 Meta-List. I love this list — and not only because A.D. landed at #13. No, I really love it because the "meta-list" was compiled in an obsessive, exhaustive way that matches my own long (sad) history of rating, chart-making, and list-making. Here, I’ll let you read for yourself how it was done:

I gave each individual "best of 2009" list 550 points to distribute among the comics named on the list. For unranked lists, the 550 points get evenly distributed among all the books. Thus, if a critic named ten books but didn’t rank his or her choices, each book gets 55 points. If a critic named 20 books, each book gets 27.5 points. If the list is ranked, the points get distributed according to a formula that gives more points for higher rankings and less points for lower rankings. So, for a top 10 list, the #1 book gets 100 points, the #2 ranked gets 90, all the way down to 10 points for #10. For a top 20 list, the #1 book gets 52.4 points, the #2 gets 49.8 points, on down to 2.6 points for the #20 book. After distributing the points, I totaled up the number of points given to each book to produce this "meta-list" of the top 100 books of the year. I only counted lists that had five or more books; for ranked lists with more than 20 books, I only counted the top 20.
 
Nuts, right? Sandy mentions that a guy named Chad Nevett "devised the formula for distributing points," which I should definitely read, because I’m dying to know how he came up with 550 points as the base allotment. I’m sure there’s a good reason.

It’s comforting to know that there are obviously lots of other people (guys?) out there who also spent their childhoods obsessing over baseball stats, comic book collections, D&D charts, and the like. That’s the beauty of the Internet: it links us all together. On the other hand, it’s also a bit scary because it makes it that much easier to cross back over that line, to go back into the interior world of numbers, where the big scary, chaotic world seems manageable, understandable — able to be controlled.

Anyway, bit of a tangent there. And in all seriousness, the Meta-List is a nice aggregator of all those top-ten lists out there (the Meta-List was made up of 130 lists identified by Sandy — including my own list!), plus it gives a good sense of the consensus of readers/critics. I’m definitely intrigued by some of the higher-ranked books that I haven’t yet read, comics like Darwyn Cooke’s Parker: The Hunter, Seth’s George Sprott: 1894-1975, Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto, Ken Dahl’s Monsters, Greg Rucka & J.H. Williams III’s Detective Comics, and  Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe.

My ten favorite comics/graphic novels of the decade

Comics, Geek, Plug

As things wind down, prompted by the Daily Cross Hatch, here are my picks of the 00s, in no particular order…

  • Safe Area Gorazde, by Joe Sacco
  • Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
  • Ice Haven, by Daniel Clowes
  • Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
  • Asterios Polyp, by David Mazzucchelli
  • Blankets, by Craig Thompson
  • The Salon, by Nick Bertozzi
  • Identity Crisis, by Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales, and Michael Bair
  • All-Star Superman, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
  • Y, the Last Man, by Brian K. Vaughan and (mostly) Pia Guerra

My picks for best graphic novels of '09

Comics, Geek, Plug

The website The Daily Cross Hatch has just posted its year-end popularity list, "The Best Damned Comics of 2009 Chosen by the Artists." Here are my picks (in no particular order):

  • Masterpiece Comics by R. Sikoryak — I’ve loved Sikoryak’s comics for years, and this beautiful volume collects all his “mash-ups” of high and low, merging the look of classic strips and comics with stories from the Western literary canon. Bob Kane’s Batman vs. Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment! Blondie & Dagwood vs Adam & Eve! Siegel & Shuster’s Superman vs. Camus’ The Stranger! Hilarious, clever, and yet designed to make you think…
  • The Book of Genesis by R. Crumb — A formidable work, filled with respect for the material yet still pulsing with the earthy, pungent humanity that Crumb defines. And the man has lost nothing in the cross-hatching department
  • Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli — Maybe the best fusion of art & words yet produced, the pinnacle of what defines comics. A true work of literature by one of my all-time favorite cartoonists. If only we didn’t have to wait a decade for each new book of his!
  • ACT-I-VATE Primer — Beautifully produced anthology featuring some of my favorite cartoonists: Dean Haspiel, Michel Fiffe, Mike Dawson, Nick Bertozzi, Tim Hamilton, Leland Purvis, Joe Infurnari, and Simon Fraser, just to name a few. Cleverly, each of the stories in the book is a print-only example of the ongoing free stories on the ACT-I-VATE website.
  • Syncopated: An Anthology of Nonfiction Picto-Essays, edited by Brendan Burford — I know, I shouldn’t be allowed to nominate this because I’m a contributor, but my piece is entirely forgettable, while the rest of this anthology is top-notch. Syncopated features 16 nonfiction stories ranging from from the history of vintage postcards to the glory days of old Coney Island, from the secret world of graffiti artists to the chess champs of Greenwich Village, from the Tulsa race riots of 1921 to the interrogation of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. Contributors include editor Burford, Nick Bertozzi, Alex Holden, Greg Cook, Jim Campbell, and Paul Karasik.

It was really hard limiting my list to just five books, so here are five more 2009 GNs which merit an "Honorable Mention":

Wiki-holic

Comics, Geek

Over the last couple of years, I’ve become addicted to Wikipedia. Not just consulting it for answers about everything under the sun, but writing and editing articles as well. Yes, I am a Wikipedia editor. (And you can be one too.)

It’s not really a big deal. Anyone can do it; you don’t even need to create a user account (though it’s much more fun to do so). That’s the beauty — and the danger — of the whole system: Wikipedia is literally open to anybody, which means it’s uniquely vulnerable to vandalism and deliberate misinformation. And of course we’ve all heard horror stories about how "inaccurate" it is, or infamous examples of slander (particularly in biographical entries). Or how Wikipedia is not considered a legitimate source for academic research. (There is also a study, however, that compared a range of science-related Wikipedia articles with those from Encyclopedia Brittanica and found the two sources virtually identical in terms of accuracy.) Actually, what makes Wikipedia such a formidable force is how little vandalism there actually is. And the fact is that most articles of any significance are constantly vetted, and any malevolent contributions are speedily removed. Wikipedia actually has an incredibly stringent set of guidelines for writing articles, and you will find the best entries are widely sourced and footnoted, overseen by editors with a great deal of professional knowledge.

In any case, just try doing a Google search, and most often the top result is a Wikipedia entry. With Wikipedia and Google (even unintentionally) combining forces, Wikipedia is increasingly becoming the dominant Internet research tool.

Personally, I’m charmed and fascinated by the "crowdsourcing" ethos at the heart of Wikipedia. I love the idea that collective wisdom is more reliable and "objective" than the old encyclopedia model of a selected few "experts" deeming what’s relevant and factual. Which brings me to my own particular journey down the rabbit hole.

On The Road of Fantasy Fanatacism

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An article in today’s Times about Jack Kerouac’s fixation on fantasy baseball caught my eye. (The term “fantasy,” in this case, refers to a sort of role-playing baseball, rather than the rotisserie-type “fantasy” baseball that is so popular nowadays.) Seems most of his life Kerouac was obsessed with a baseball simulation game of his own creation, peopled with entirely made-up leagues, teams, and players. He chronicled the results of his games in various ways, including fake newspaper stories. (He also had a thing for fantasy horseracing, of all things.) Anyway, it appears that Kerouac kept this particular obsession entirely to himself, so even Beat buds like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs knew nothing of it. I find it fascinating that the celebrated author of On The Road and The Dharma Bums had this secret life… as a nerd.

When I was a kid of about eleven or twelve years old, right when I really got into Dungeons & Dragons, I also really got into baseball (specifically the San Francisco Giants, as I lived in Frisco at the time). One of the things that drew me to both pursuits was their almost religious reliance on statistics: constitution values, batting average, hit points, earned run average, armor class, slugging percentage, saving throw — this way of measuring the world made sense to me. (A shrink would probably say it was my way of imposing a sense of order on what had been a fairly rootless, chaotic life up to that point.)

Dream Come True

Comics, Geek

For years I had this recurring dream where I would be walking down the street and come across a huge stash of comics sitting in boxes on the sidewalk. In my dream, I never got to open the boxes and see what was inside, but I envisioned them filled with great old books to complete my collection or at least sell for a tidy sum.

So imagine my disbelief when Victor, my building superintendent, pulled me aside the other day. He took me into his storage space in the basement and showed me box after box overflowing with comics! Turns out they had been left to him by a couple of vacating tenants over the years, and he had just gotten the bright idea of trying to sell them. Even though I’ve lived in the building for over seven years, he never knew I was a cartoonist until fairly recently, so when he found out, he figured I was the guy to show them to. Now I love Victor; he’s a great super and he always goes out of his way to help out Sari and I. So I agreed to go through the boxes and see what was what.

It took me a week or so of hour-long visits, but eventually I went through the thousands of books, culling what I thought had some re-sale value. (I’m sort of touch with that market from selling books from my collection over the years.) Sadly, the vast majority of the comics were crappy ’90s Marvel and Image books, published during the speculator rage when supply way outpaced demand. But I did find a mother lode of vintage 1970s Marvels, going back to the era of 25-cent books. Most of the comics were in awful condition, having been read multiple times and never bagged or boarded. Even so, there were a couple of gems, including the first appearance of The Punisher in Amazing Spider-Man #129, the first appearance of Gambit in X-Men #266, and a nearly complete run of Claremont/Byrne/Austin X-Men.

I took the books with “potential” up to my apartment, and spent some hours here or there over the last few weeks putting them up on eBay. I also invested in some comics boxes and bags and boards. When all was said and done, I netted Victor over $300 (the Punisher Spider-Man alone sold for over $100!). Victor was thrilled when I brought him the cash the other day, and I’ve been getting to enjoy reading old comics, and filling some gaps in my old collection (mostly Byrne and George Pérez books). And I still have a bunch of books left to sell, when I get around to it. Who says dreams don’t come true?

comics!