Monday, October 29, 2007

Red Sox Win World Series (No not a repeat of the 2004 headline)! Nightwish and H.I.M Concert Experiences.

Well, the Red Sox won the World Series...AGAIN!!! Damn, twice in one lifetime! To paraphrase Arnold Judas Rimmer, I'm turning into Hugh Hefner! Okay, maybe not the best obscure reference to use, but I think you get the idea.

I was only five in 1967, the Impossible Dream season of Yaz, Jim Lonborg, Dick Williams and the over-achieving Sox that lost a World Series to a Cardinals team with four future Hall of Famers (Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda and Steve Carlton), and got people in Boston to care about baseball again.

Since then, I lived through the agonies of the following seasons: 1972 (Aparicio falling down around third base to kill a rally against Mickey Lolich. The Tigers won the game, and the AL East), 1974 (Blowing a seven-game late August lead to end up in third place behind the Orioles), 1975 (The World Series, for all its color, was a frustrating event for the opportunities squandered), 1977 (All offense, no pitching), 1978 (A 1951 Dodger-like or 1964 Phillie-like collapse), 1986 (The World Series nightmare of the final inning of Game Six, and being damned certain that there was no way we'd win Game Seven), 1988 through 1991 (Two more division titles, and quick exits at the hands of Tony LaRussa's Athletics in '88 and '90, plus frustrating finishes behind the Blue Jays in '89 and '91), 1995 (Quick playoff exit at the hands of the resurgent Indians), 1998 (Same), 1999 (Same, but at the hands of the Yankees, with a little help from some shitty umpiring), and 2003 (Aaron Boone's homer off Wake) before the Miracle of 2004 happened. So the Sox went back to the usual plan in 2005 and got eliminated from the playoffs by the eventual champions, the White Sox. 2006 was a wasted year with injuries that killed the team.

How great then, was it, that the 2007 season turned out the way it did? It certainly didn't seem that it would go this way after the Yankees came roaring back from being eight games below .500 in late May to finish two games back of the Sox before getting burned by the Indians in the first round. The Sox fell into the 3-1 deficit and rebounded to win the league championship and there was, for a change, little doubt that they would beat the Rockies in the Series (though I didn't think it would be a sweep). Hats off to this team of mostly familiar faces (Papi Ortiz, Manny, Schilling, Wakefield) mixed in with newer veterans (Mike Lowell, Daisuke Matsuzaka, JD Drew, Coco Crisp, Julio Lugo), and, thank goodness, with some younger guys (Beckett, Papelbon, Youkilis, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Buchholz) that put this team in a position to remain at the top for the foreseeable future. Enjoy your parade boys!

And while we aren't on the subject, I realize I haven't posted my concert reviews for the Nightwish and H.I.M. shows of October 20th and 21st (when the Red Sox were winning games six and seven of the ALCS), so here goes:

On Saturday the 20th, Nightwish and support band, England's Paradise Lost, played in front of about 500 people at the Palladium in Worcester. Paradise Lost was plagued with equipment problems for the first three songs. There was no sound coming from the lead guitarist's amp. After straightening that out, the band recovered to play a decent set, made up mostly from songs from their recent CD "In Requiem".

Nightwish came out and blew the place away with a set mostly of material from the new CD "Dark Passion Play" and "Once". New singer Anette Olzon proved she could handle the lead mike as she belted out her parts in songs like "Bye Bye Beautiful", "Amaranth", "The Cadence of Her Last Breath", "Eva" and "Sahara" from the new CD. She also handled the stuff from "Once" fairly well as the band took us through "Nemo", "Dark Chest of Wonders" and "I Wish I Had an Angel". Bassist-vocalist Marco Hietala turned in a powerful performance in both capacities, as he shined on "The Poet and the Pendulum", "Master Passion Greed" and "The Islander" (on which he played acoustic guitar), as well as on "Bye Bye Beautiful" and "I Wish I Had an Angel".

Keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen did everything, including playing looped pieces of the orchestral parts from the songs to fill out the sound. Guitarist Emppu Vuorinen was terrific, playing slicing, biting leads and relentless riffs throughout the show. Drummer Jukka Nevalainen must have lost at least ten pounds during the set, as he never stopped hammering, except for the quiet of "The Islander". The band did reach back into the past a bit and played "Wishmaster" towards the end of the set, but that was it for the older stuff. I'd have liked to have heard them play "Dead Gardens" from "Once", or "The Carpenter" from "Angels Fall First", but since they had already done three songs from "Once", maybe they felt that was enough. And I'm sure Marco could re-work Tuomas' vocal part on the Carpenter and get out the acoustic guitar again.

Anyway, Nightwish was terrific. The band was tight, they looked like they were having fun, and have apparently dumped the "Where's Tarja?" baggage that a lot of folks expected them to be carrying. My only caveats were the above-mentioned lack of variety in the set. Maybe this is due to some of the extremely high parts Tarja sang that Anette may not be able to reproduce, or maybe its just the band's way of saying the future is now. If the latter, then I'd say that future is bright based on this show.

The next night, H.I.M. played in front of twice as many people as saw Nightwish (some of whom, like me, came back for this heaping helping of Euro-rock). I managed to get inside just as the boys took the stage (the usual parking garage I use was locked, and I had to drive two extra blocks to find something that wasn't crazy expensive, so by the time I got to the venue the queue was twice as long as it was the previous evening). Anyway, like Nightwish, H.I.M. chose to play mostly recent material. They played most of the new CD "Venus Doom". I think the only song they didn't play was "Song or Suicide". They counteracted the brutal sonic assault of songs like "Passion's Killing Floor", "Kiss of Dawn" and "Bleed Well" with lighter stuff from "Dark Light" like "Killing Loneliness" and "Rip Off the Wings of a Butterfly". Valo would go from manic, gyrations to the grinding rhythm of the heavier numbers, to statue still, almost as if he was looking at a nightmare landscape only he could see as he crooned the painful lyrics of his slower songs.

The boys also took a crack at some of the material from "Love Metal" with stuff like "Buried Alive By Love", "Soul on Fire", "The Sacrament" and "Circle of Fear". The oldest song they performed was "Pretending" from "Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights".

Linde was the unsung hero of the show, as his fuzzy riffs and dense leads provided a sharp contrast to Burton's surreal keyboard sounds. I have no words to describe what I heard him do. Psychedelic? Ethereal? Chaotic? Urgent? How about blending all that together and mixing it with the harshness of Linde and Mige to go with Valo's lamentations? Gas hammered away on the drums, and was better than I'd expected. He and Mige, on bass, more than held the foundation of this show together.

All in all it was quite a show. Valo is close to what I expected, as he didn't do much that I'd expect from a "traditional" metal front man (I know, "categorization", I know...), but he had the crowd in his pocket from the moment he stepped into the spotlight, and kept them there the entire show. The band was tight, and even stretched things out into some extended jams on songs like "Soul on Fire" and "Sleepwalking Past Hope". These guys have been together now for several years, and are obviously comfortable with one another. From here, the boys head west. Their tour is longer, and takes them to more places than Nightwish's tour. After having seen both bands on back-to-back nights, I'd like to say that the next time they come to this area it will be to headline the DCU Center, but since I couldn't get the ass-monkeys on the local "hard rock" station to even consider playing one cut from each artist (despite the fact that the shows were held a mere 15 minutes from where those mindless hacks broadcast), I'd say they have an uphill battle to reach the status they enjoy at home here in the US. Still, these shows give me hope!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

CD Review: Nightwish - Dark Passion Play

Well Nightwish fans, this may not be the review you've been waiting for unless you are one of the six loyal readers of this crummy excuse for a blog, but here it is anyway, you bastards.

Okay. Everyone knows that vocalist Tarja Turunen was given the boot. Her replacement is a young lady from Sweden named Anette Olzon. The rest of the Finnish symphonic metal band, bassist/vocalist Marco Hietala, guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, drummer Jukka Nevalainen and keyboardist/main songwriter/producer Tuomas Holopainen are back to show that they are more than capable of carrying on with a new voice on their new release, Dark Passion Play.

So, how did they do? The songs:

The Poet and the Pendulum – The first track is a 14-minute masterpiece that features quiet soprano solos accompanied by violin, oboe and piano, a surging orchestra and the voice of new singer Anette Olzon. Her delivery is solid and and urgent at times. Bassist Marco Hietala also lends his pipes to the song in one passage where his mad wails are driven by the buzzsaw riffs Emppu supplies. The song ends with Tuomas gently playing the piano to the fadeout.

Bye Bye Beautiful – This song starts of with Anette singing sweetly, but Marco takes over with an angry delivery that seems to be aimed at Tarja. The band pumps the rhythm out to make their point.

Amaranth – This is the first US single, and it is a catchy song. Anette’s voice soars over the band in both the verses and choruses, and the band clamps down tight, mainly fueled by Emppu’s riffs.

The Cadence of Her Last Breath – A bit more punchy that Amaranth, Anette once again soars over the cacophony of the band. Emppu takes his first proper lead break, and it is a quick, piercing piece that ends in a flurry of squeals. The urgency of this track will likely eliminate it as a candidate to become a single.

Master Passion Greed – A monster track that mixes grinding metal riffs with the orchestra. Marco’s vocals drive this song, and, as he holds the heavy bottom down on bass, he is more than up to the task of battling Emppu’s riffs and Jukka’s powerful drums. Easily a match for Dead Gardens in the heaviest Nightwish song ever.

Eva – A slow, sentimental ballad guided by Anette’s sad vocals and the gentle strains of the orchestra. Emppu plays a lean, crying solo to counter Anette’s laments.

Sahara – This plodding song shows the darker side of Anette’s vocals. The interplay between the band and the orchestra in the middle of the song give an eastern feel as the choir assists Anette before the song slows for a bit before getting back in step. The song ends with Anette chanting to the heavy riffs and mighty orchestra.

Whoever Brings the Night – Starts fast with a guitar riff and matching bass line before Anette comes in, but even darker than on Sahara. She is accompanied by the choir on the choruses. The middle of the song is dominated by the alternating choir/orchestra interplay with Anette’s sneering delivery before the band kicks back in. Emppu fires off a short solo with Jukka hammering away behind him before the main melody re-asserts itself as the song ends.

For The Heart I Once Had – The sweet Anette returns as she gets back into her higher register for this sad song. Alternating between heavy and subtle, the band plays it smart and lets Anette’s multi-tracked voice guide things, then joins in when appropriate. Emppu provides a couple of nice fills. The middle quiets as Anette softly sings over Tuomas’s quiet piano before the band notches it back up as they bring it up a step and push Anette’s voice. She is up to the challenge and guides the band to the song’s end.

The Islander – A folky, acoustic piece that features Marco on vocals. He sounds a lot like Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull as he sings over Emppu’s dexterous guitar and the an Irish-sounding flute. Anette joins Marco on the second verse, but she does not overpower, and the mix works as Emppu strums on. After a brief violin solo, Marco, Anette and Emppu go back for another chorus which ends as the guitar, flute, violin and soft drums fade the song to its end.

Last of the Wilds – This instrumental track comes in as The Islander fades out. It starts out with some Celtic style violin before the band jumps in with vigor. The first riff repeats with Tuomas playing along with the violin as Marco pings away on the bass. Emppu joins in with some heavy riffs as Jukka slams away on the drums. Emppu fires off a sidewinding solo between the violin and keyboards. A quiet space with gentle harpsichord and flute comes in before the band re-enters with Emppu seemingly dueling with the violinist. The quiet again descends as the harpsichord plays everything out.

Seven Days to the Wolves – This song shifts things back into slow burn mode. Anette sings with sharpness on the verses and Marco joins her on the choruses. The orchestra pitches in with the band and Emppu plays a soaring solo into a tempo shift powered by Jukka’s steadiness. The orchestra comes back in, and a short violin solo gives way to Emppu’s heavy riffs as Anette comes back before another round of repeating choruses gives way to a quicker version of the main melody to bring the song to its end.

Meadows of Heaven – This song starts with quiet violin and piano as Anette sings the sad words of hope. The vocal choir and orchestra join her on the second chorus. After a slow flute/violin passage, Anette guides the choir in another verse before Emppu slices through with a trembling solo before Anette comes back with another verse. The last two minutes of the song are truly uplifting as Anette sings the refrain over some of the sharp individual voices of the choir while the orchestra sweeps it all up.

This CD is a hell of a statement. It picks up where 2004's Once left off, and carries it off into the distance. To say that Tuomas pulled out all the stops with this project would be an exercise in understatement. The direction in which the band is headed seems clear, as evidenced by the increasing use of philharmonic orchestras and vocal choirs. While this gives the music a fuller, grander sound, it takes away from the band itself, in particular guitarist Emppu Vuorinen (but maybe that's just my guitar player's bias showing). Still, if you liked Once, you should like these songs.

But what about Anette? The comparisons to Tarja are unavoidable. Her voice definitely doesn't have Tarja's high end, but she might have just a bit more versatility to her voice. She doesn't sound as deliberate as Tarja sometimes did, and she seems to be able to handle the more exotic passages Tuomas writes and arranges as well as Tarja. That having been said, I think Anette will be fine as long as people pay attention to what she can do as opposed to what she cannot do. Marco also stepped it up, carrying a bit more of the vocal duties to provide a nice contrast with Anette throughout the CD.

To wrap it up, the band happens to be on tour in this area, and I am fortunate enough to be heading out to see them this Saturday at the Palladium in Worcester (Followed by H.I.M. at the same venue on Sunday. It's gonna be a hell of a weekend!). I hope to see some of you there!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Saturn's Weather Forecast: Methane Rain

Scientists have discovered that it can rain on Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and that the rain falls in the form of liquid methane. Yahoo News Reuters excerpt:

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The daily weather forecast on Saturn's largest moon Titan appears to be a steady drizzle of liquid methane, at least around the bright, exotically named region known as Xanadu, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

But this is hardly the paradise romanticized by the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem "Kubla Kahn."

New images from Hawaii's W.M. Keck Observatory and Chile's Very Large Telescope show nearly global cloud cover at high elevations and a dreary morning drizzle that seems to dissipate around midmorning local time -- which is about three Earth days after sunrise.

Scientists had expected rain in the atmosphere of this planet-sized moon, but these near-infrared images for the first time have revealed a persistent drizzle of methane off the western foothills of Xanadu.

"We expected that perhaps it was raining. It was reasonable that it could be raining. We just didn't know if it was raining right now," said Mate Adamkovics, a University of California, Berkeley researcher whose paper appears in the journal Science.

Titan is larger than the planet Mercury, but much, much colder, with surface temperatures of minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 183 degrees Celsius) -- cold enough to turn an explosive gas like methane into a liquid form.

"The question is, is it liquid methane that is sitting in a cloud, or is it falling through the sky," Adamkovics said in a telephone interview. His hunch is that it is falling, given the massive size of these raindrops, which Adamkovics believes are about 1,000 times bigger than rain on Earth.

"Because there is a bit less gravity and the atmosphere is thicker on Titan, the rain drops and the cloud drops are really big," he said. Whereas raindrops on Earth are micrometer sized, he said on Titan they appear to be a millimeter or bigger in size. "The droplet gets so big it can't hold itself together anymore," Adamkovics said.

I don't know about that. It rained like a bastard here for about two hours, and the raindrops I saw were a hell of a lot bigger than a millimeter, and they seemed to hold together quite nicely as they crashed into the roof of my wage-slavery containment facility. At least the rain has now stopped, and the skies have cleared, which means that the first game of the American League Championship series between the Red Sox and Indians at Fenway Park will at least be somewhat dry...

He and colleagues are now speculating about just what is causing the rain, and whether it follows weather patterns similar to those on Earth.

Xanadu, a region about the size of Australia, was first discovered in 1994 by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

I heard this story on NPR as I drove home, and it appears that there are also lakes of methane around this region. Some scientists think that Titan's environment is similar to models of early Earth, before outgassing occurred and the oceans formed. If this is true (or even if it is not), then we have a real life laboratory experiment just waiting to be conducted.

Full Story

Monday, October 08, 2007

CD Review: Venus Doom by H.I.M.

Nearly two years have passed since Finnish gloom gods H.I.M. released Dark Light, and they have gone back to the sound they had on 2004's Love Metal, only harder and more raw. The band personnel remain intact: Ville Valo on vocals, Linde on guitar, Burton on keyboards, Mige on bass and Gas on the drums. Tim Palmer is once again the producer, but this time, Hiili Hiilesmaa, who produced Love Metal, is back on board as the co-producer, which may account for the band re-asserting its heavier side.

The songs:

Venus Doom – Starts out fast, heavy and raw with Valo belting out the words with his usual breathless urgency. About halfway through, a guitar solo is followed by a bit of quiet with only the sound of a music box to accompany Valo’s deep voice before the song kicks back into gear with some nice keyboard effects to go with the guitar feedback as the song ends.

Love in Cold Blood – A bit slower and more deliberate, with multi-tracked vocals on the choruses. A nimble-fingered guitar lead breaks things up, then leads it all back to the main melody for a few measures until the outro kicks in to the end with wah-wah fueled guitar, heavy drums and bass with shimmering keyboards adorning the soundscape.

Passion’s Killing Floor – Another mid-tempo track , this one begins with a repetitive guitar riff with some soft keys laid on top until the verses and infectious choruses take over (“My heart’s a graveyard baby / and to evil we make love / on out passion’s killing floor….). Then, the song slows into a dirge-like riff for a few beats until the main melody kicks back in. This song would make a great single if not for that small blemish.

The Kiss of Dawn – And speaking of singles, this is the first one off the CD. It begins with a choppy guitar riff and heavy bass and drums as Valo drags his words out slowly before the chorus (Reachin’ for your shadow drowning in…the kiss of dawn / touchin’ the pain that you left me with…at the kiss of dawn…). A quick, chaotic, effects-driven solo churns things up, then the main melody returns for a few measures before things quiet for a bit before slowly revving back up as the song fades out over Valo’s lamentations and Linde’s feedback.

Sleepwalking Past Hope – This ten-minute epic starts with some soft piano followed by a distorted pick scrape that goes right into a heavy riff helped out by the drums and bass before Valo limps in. The choruses about love and love lost cry over Burton’s piano notes. About three and a half minutes in, the guitar riff changes for a few beats until the solo chews its way through, powered by the drums and bass. Approaching the five minute mark, Valo mumbles his pain to the bass and light piano for a few measures until the guitar and drums grind their way back into the mix. At 6:30, the tempo shifts into overdrive as Linde launches a short solo that leads back to the pain of the main melody. As we approach the eight-minute mark, a new guitar riff takes over, accompanied by some spacey keyboards and almost latin-sounding percussion as Valo cries over the maelstrom. Simply a masterpiece!

Dead Lovers Lane – Another mix of soft keyboards, heavy guitar, pulsing bass and heavy drums to Valo’s lyrics of warning (Fear has a name…written on unhallowed ground with dead leaves…those words never fail to feed the hunger that feeds and needs above love’s grasp…). Midway through, after a short flurry on the bass, Linde takes a short, fiery solo that ends quickly to some light piano before a crunching guitar riff asserts itself to bring the main melody back before the song ends.

Song or Suicide – A 70-second bit of Valo’s longing accompanied by a lone acoustic guitar. I won’t print a lyric excerpt. Instead I’ll just hope that Valo isn’t really this depressed!

Bleed Well – Starts out with fire and quickly digs a heavy groove. The verses and choruses are punchy and to the point with the whole band in the pocket. A little more than halfway through, the riff changes with some keyboard counterpart before a nimble solo that degenerates into feedback as Valo yells it out to the end.

Cyanide Sun – Starts with a slow, heavy, Sabbath-like guitar riff with an eastern-sounding tinge. Valo comes in quietly as the rhythm simmers underneath. After a few verses and choruses, Linde and Burton supply a psychedelic feel with heavy bombast before sudden acoustic quiet accompanies Valo’s almost crooning outro.

The differences between Venus Doom and Dark Light are quickly apparent. The same applies to the comparison with Love Metal. Venus Doom's songs are heavier and longer than was the case with Dark Light, and the poppy atmosphere that guided that CD is all but gone. In addition to the grinding heaviness, the songs take on a jam-like feel in some places as the band is clearly trying to stretch out. I think this may be Hiilesmaa's influence at work.

As the individual performances go, Linde really steps up on this CD. Instead of simply playing riffs as he did on Dark Light, he takes a lot of lead breaks and throws a lot of fiery wah-wah fueled licks around as if he feels that he'd better get it all out now while he can. Gas hammers away on the drums, and shows a bit more dexterity than on some of the previous outings. Burton is his usual spectacular self, providing a surreal atmosphere, and Mige holds the bottom down as tightly as ever. Valo, the master of gloom, does what he does best, whether it is by whining in an almost breathless manner, or by growling in his lower register to evoke his dark images. This CD is more than a return to the heaviness of Love Metal, it has surpassed it with a good deal more swagger as this band is solidly locked in.

The bottom line is that this is a terrific collection of songs that any H.I.M. follower should love. I can't wait to hear how they pull it together on stage, as they will be appearing at the Worcester Palladium on Sunday October 21st in what promises to be a killer show.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Major League Baseball Roundup

Well folks, I'm back at the keyboard of my new beast, ready to blog at you once again. Things have been a bit frantic down on the Farm lately as some home improvement projects have been coming together nicely.

But enough about that. It's time for some post-season baseball, which is even more fun for me since the Red Sox finished first in the American League East for the first time since 1995. The Sox begin their quest for the 2007 World Series championship tomorrow night when the Anaheim Angels come to Fenway. The other AL Division Series features the Cleveland Indians versus the New York Yankees.

The National League had some exciting finishes down the stretch with the Philadelphia Phillies not only sneaking the NL East title from the New York Mets, but denying them a post-season berth in the process. And the Colorado Rockies, who won 14 of their last 15 games, including an exciting 9-8, 13-inning thriller in the playoff game against the San Diego Padres to win the Wild Card, will play the Phils.

By the way, why was there a playoff game to determine this? The reason I ask is that because in 2005, the Red Sox and Yankees both finished at 95-67, in a tie for first place. However, the baseball gods decided that because the Yankees had the superior head-to-head record (10-9), that they would be awarded first place, and the Red Sox second place (and the Wild Card). The Rockies had an 11-8 record against the Padres, so, by 2005 logic, they should have automatically been awarded their spot without having had to play the Padres one more time. Right? I'm just sayin'...

And Lou Piniella's Chicago Cubs take on the Arizona Diamondbacks, who somehow had the best record in the NL at 90-72, despite having been outscored by their opponents by 20 runs for the season. By way of comparison, the Red Sox outscored their opponents by 210 runs (which led all major league clubs). The Indians were +107 while the Angels and Yankees were both at +91. The other NL playoff teams: Phillies +71, Cubs +72 and Rockies were at +102, which led the National League!

2007 was a season of milestones and records either having been broken or tied. Barry Bonds passed Henry Aaron as the all-time home run leader, and has 762 (and he hit his 600th career double and got his 2,500th career walk to boot). Sammy Sosa hit his 600th career homer. Frank Thomas, Alex Rodriguez and Jim Thome (who also struck out for the 2,000th time in his career) each hit their 500th career homers. Todd Helton hit his 300th career homer. Craig Biggio got his 3,000th career hit, but will retire two shy of Hughie Jennings' career record for most times having been hit by a pitch (287-285). Ken Griffey Junior, Gary Sheffield and Luis Gonzalez each collected their 2,500th career hits. Larry Jones, Johnny Damon and Shawn Green each collected their 2,000th career hits. Ivan Rodriguez got his 500th career double. Ray Durham hit his 400th career double. Ten players notched their 300th career double.

On the pitching side of things, William Clemens got his 350th career win (and his 700th career start), and Tom Glavine notched his 300th victory and 2,500th career strikeout. Mike Mussina got his 250th win (and his 500th career start). John Smoltz and Andy Pettite each win their 200th career games. Jose Mesa, Mike Timlin and Roberto Hernandez all appeared in their 1,000th career games. Trevor Hoffman got his 500th career save, and Todd Jones got his 300th. Pedro Martinez got his 3,000th career strikeout while Jamie Moyer got his 2,000th. Greg Maddux, like Clemens, got his 700th career start.

Some other interesting things happened. Frank Schulte of the 1911 Cubs became the first player ever to have 20 homers, doubles, triples and stolen bases in the same season. Willie Mays was the second player to accomplish this feat, having done so in 1957. This season, they were joined by Curtis Granderson of the Tigers and Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies.

Ryan Howard of the Phillies struck out 199 times to break Adam Dunn's 2004 record of 195. And Matt Holliday of the Rockies won the NL batting title with a .340 average while striking out 126 times. That is the most strikeouts for anyone who ever won a batting title. The previous record holder was Derrek Lee of the Cubs who whiffed 109 times while hitting .335 in 2005. I love odd combinations like this, and here is another one: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays became the first team ever to have its pitchers lead the league in strikeouts while at the same time having the worst ERA (How do1194 strikeouts and a 5.53 ERA grab you? No wonder they went 66-96...).

Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox did not make a single error at first base this season (in 1080 chances over 135 games, though he did make three errors at third base in 13 games). Even more remarkable than that, Placido Polanco of the Tigers handled 683 chances over 141 games at second base without making a single error (and he had 200 hits!).

Well, I could probably go on like this for some time, but I will stop now, since I am in the midst of evaluating my newest music purchases: Venus Doom by H.I.M., Dark Passion Play by Nightwish and After Forever's self-titled release, and reviews will be coming soon. Nightwish and H.I.M will be at the Palladium in Worcester on October 20th and 21st. I hope to see some of you there!