Saturday, June 29, 2013


THC knows that many of its dedicated readers have asked themselves at one time or another, "Hey, what were The Kinks up to during the four years between their early success (1964-66) and the 1970 resurgence triggered by the hit single Lola and the album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One?"  Well, here's your answer!

The Kinks, formed by brothers Ray (chief songwriter and vocalist) and Dave (guitarist) Davies, quickly achieved success as part of the British Invasion of 1964.  Their first hit, You Really Got Me, featured simple lyrics, a frenzied, spastic guitar solo and is considered by some to be THE seminal punk rock song.  Later in the year came their second hit, All Day And All Of The Night, essentially a reworked version of You Really Got Me.  In early 1965, they had a third straight hit single, Tired Of Waiting For You, a quieter, more reflective song.  All three singles reached the US Top 10 and two topped the charts in the UK.

After a couple of relatively unsuccessful releases, The Kinks found themselves with another hit in late 1965, A Well Respected Man, marking their move into social commentary followed by a less successful release, Till The End Of The Day (although it remains one of my favorites of the early singles).  The next single, Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, was a hit and a return to the social mode of A Well Respected Man.   Then, in July 1966 came the wonderful Sunny Afternoon, a success in the U.S. and  knocking The Beatles' Paperback Writer off the top of the charts in the U.K.: 

The tax man's taken all my dough,
And left me in my stately home,
Lazing on a sunny afternoon.
And I can't sail my yacht,
He's taken everything I've got,
All I've got's this sunny afternoon.

My girlfriend's run off with my car,
And gone back to her ma and pa,
Telling tales of drunkenness and cruelty.
Now I'm sitting here,
Sipping at my ice cold beer,
Lazing on a sunny afternoon.
What made it even better was the B-side, I'm Not Like Everybody Else (originally written by Ray Davies for The Animals who did not record it), the perfect song for young rebels and a staple of Kinks concerts for years, covered by many other groups and even used over the closing credits of an episode of The Sopranos.

I won't take all that they hand me down,
And make out a smile, though I wear a frown,
And I won't take it all lying down,
'Cause once I get started I go to town.

 But darling, you know that I love you true,
Do anything that you want me to,
Confess all my sins like you want me to,
There's one thing that I will say to you,
I'm not like everybody else,
I'm not like everybody else.

Ray Davies
Then The Kinks disappeared from U.S. radio and touring.  Why?  First, their songwriting became out of touch with the US scene and more rooted in their "Englishness" (for more, see below).  Second, the well-known contrariness of the band, and particularly of the Davies brothers.  They knew what was expected of them if they were to continue to have U.S. hits and they refused to deliver it.   And finally, the band was "banned" from touring in the U.S. during those years.  It's hard to pin down the specific reasons for the ban but the most common story is that the American Federation of Musicians refused to issue the necessary permits due to their rowdy behavior on and off stage (yes, they were indeed very rowdy, including with each other as the Davies brothers engaged in fisticuffs with each other onstage).

We American fans were left to wander in the desert.  While the band could not chart any U.S. singles in those years (and you could rarely hear them even on the newly born FM-radio band), they had a string of chart successes in the UK, including four Top 5 hits and once a year they would release a marvelous album that we could play over and over again.

In the latter part of 1966 came Face To Face which, along with Sunny Afternoon, contained snappy songs like Dandy (which became a hit for Herman's Hermits) and Party Line.  At the same time, The Kinks released Deadend Street, a U.K. smash and a U.S. flop, a catchy pop tune about folks with no prospects and no hope.

1967 saw the release of Something Else, a collection of "little England" songs permeated by a sense of class punctuated with lugubrious dissipation, featuring standouts such as David Watts (about the finest boy in school), Harry Rag (about smoking) and the languid End Of The Season ("I get no kicks walking down Saville Row, there's no chicks left where the green grass grows"; "You're on a yacht near an island in Greece, though you are hot forget me not"), along with three remarkable U.K. hit singles.  The first was the beautiful Waterloo Sunset, the finest song ever done by the band.

Dirty old river, must you keep rolling
Flowing into the night
People so busy, makes me feel dizzy
Taxi light shines so bright
But I don't need no friends
As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station
Every Friday night
But I am so lazy, don't want to wander
I stay at home at night
But I don't feel afraid
As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunset's fine

Millions of people swarming like flies 'round Waterloo underground
But Terry and Julie cross over the river
Where they feel safe and sound
And they don't need no friends
As long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset
They are in paradise

Waterloo sunset's fine
Next up was Dave Davies' solo single, Death Of A Clown, a tale of a disintegrating and chaotic circus:

My makeup is dry and it cakes on my chin
I'm drowning my sorrows in whisky and gin
The lion tamer's whip doesn't crack anymore
The lions they won't fight and the tigers won't roar

The old fortune teller lies dead on the floor
Nobody needs fortunes told anymore
The trainer of insects is crouched on his knees
And frantically looking for runaway fleas

So let's all drink to the death of a clown.
Dave Davies

The final hit was Autumn Almanac.  Here are some of the lyrics but you can only appreciate the true lunacy of this very funny oddball song by listening to it.

From the dew-soaked hedge creeps a crawly caterpillar,
When the dawn begins to crack.
It's all part of my autumn almanac.
Breeze blows leaves of a musty-coloured yellow,
So I sweep them in my sack.
Yes, yes, yes, it's my autumn almanac.

I like my football on a Saturday,
Roast beef on Sundays, all right.
I go to Blackpool for my holidays,
Sit in the open sunlight.

This is my street, and I'm never gonna to leave it,
And I'm always gonna to stay here
If I live to be ninety-nine,
'Cause all the people I meet
Seem to come from my street
And I can't get away,
Because it's calling me, (come on home)

In 1968 The Kinks became even more of an acquired taste with the release of  The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, with the band boldly stakeing its claim to "the old ways are the best ways".  The title song said it best and with wit:
We are the village green preservation society
God save donald duck, vaudeville and variety
We are the Desperate Dan appreciation society
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
We are the draught beer preservation society
God save mrs. mopp and good old mother riley
We are the custard pie appreciation consortium
God save the George Cross and all those who were awarded them
We are the sherlock holmes english speaking vernacular
Help save fu manchu, moriarty and dracula

We are the office block persecution affinity
God save little shops, china cups and virginity
We are the skyscraper condemnation affiliate
God save tudor houses, antique tables and billiards
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
God save the village green.
The record also contained Picture Book, featured in a recent Hewlett Packard commercial.  The album sold very poorly outside the U.K., but over the decades has become the best-selling of all the original Kinks albums, inspiring Ray Davies to call it the "most successful flop of all time".

That year also saw another hit single, the melancholic Days ("Thank you for the days, those endless days, those sacred days you gave me, I'm thinking of the days, I won't forget a single day, believe me")

The final album of this glorious four year run was Arthur (or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire).
Arthur was written as a concept album for a TV production which never materialized.  It tells the story of a family from the height of the empire (Victoria) through WWI, emigration of family members to Australia, the privations of WWII (the rocking Mr Churchill Says) and of the immediate post-war years (She's Bought A Hat Like Princess Marina).  The highlight is Shangri-La, (the link takes you to a live version of Ray Davies performing the song several years ago), a wistful reflection on these years and the lives settled for.
Now that you've found your paradise
This is your Kingdom to command
You can go outside and polish your car
Or sit by the fire in your Shangri-la
Here is your reward for working so hard
Gone are the lavatories in the back yard
Gone are the days when you dreamed of that car
You just want to sit in your Shangri-la

With Lola, The Kinks again found success in the U.S. and continued to have occasional popular hits into the mid-1980s with some terrific songs (Celluloid Heroes, Father Christmas, Come Dancing, Do It Again and others which deserve their own post cause this one is already way too long) and were a good touring draw into the 1990s until Ray and Dave's quarreling finally broke up the band.  Over the course of their career The Kinks turned out more high-quality, melodic pop songs than any other band except The Beatles.  THC was fortunate to attend two of their shambolic concerts in the early 1970s but our favorite period remains the "lost years" of 1966-69.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Empathy For Kelo


With the recent Supreme Court decisions in the news this week, let's take a moment to remember the 8th anniversary of Kelo v City of New London, a 2005 Supreme Court ruling.

A New London paper just ran a story about one of the families on the losing side of the case.  Losing in this context meant being forced to sell your family home and see it leveled.

The Kelo litigation started with the desire of the city of New London, Connecticut to attract a large, global corporation to the city as part of a "redevelopment" project which would pay more taxes to the city than the homeowners in the long-standing residential neighborhood which would be destroyed to make way for the commercial development.

Six of the families refused to sell their long-time homes and sued the City claiming it was misusing its eminent domain power which under the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution was limiting to takings for "a public purpose" (the lead plaintiff was Susette Kelo).  The plaintiffs claimed that taking their homes in order to give their land to large corporations merely because the City could obtain more taxes was not "a public purpose".

In 2003, the Supreme Court of Connecticut ruled against the plaintiffs on a 4-3 vote.  The case was appealed to the US Supreme Court, where it attracted a number of amicus briefs, including from the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, supporting the plaintiffs, briefs prompted by memories of the liberal use of eminent domain to uproot and destroy long-standing black American neighborhoods in the 1950s and 60s under the guise of "redevelopment".  Despite this, the Court ruled in favor of the City in a 5-4 vote, ruling that taking the land of the homeowners to give to big business was a "public purpose", with Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Souter and Kennedy joining in the opinion written by Justice Stevens.

In the minority, convinced that the City's actions were unconstitutional, were Justices Thomas, Scalia, Rehnquist joining in the opinion by Justice O'Conner who wrote:

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

THC is confident that it was these four justices that President Obama had in mind when he spoke about the need for Supreme Court justices to have empathy.

The line up of the justices should not be a surprise.  There is a thread on takings cases, particularly on the liberal side, which gives broad leeway to government.  Informally, there is a clear hierarchy - local planning is good, state planning is better and federal planning best of all.  The justices retain a touching, if naive, faith in the magic of planning.  This approach resonates all the more with them since the Court's sleight of hand in the 1930s when it created an artificial separation of "individual" from "economic" liberties and decided that it would pay attention to rights in the first category and ignore rights in the second.  In this view, the property right of the homeowner has nothing to do with an individual right.  [UPDATE: Of course, self-interest can play a role in one's views - see, for instance, the New York Times' effusive endorsement of the Kelo majority and its own use of eminent domain to seize the property of less-powerful business owners.]

And what happened to the properties in question?  Well, after the homes were destroyed, nothing.  The development never happened and the land remains vacant eight years later.  On the other hand, all that open land served as a great storage area for debris from the recent hurricanes! 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Man Of Steel

In honor of the new film - which THC has not seen (and probably will not see) - here is one of my favorite Superman songs; Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down.  THC previously featured another Superman-themed song, Jimmy Olsen's Blues by the Spin Doctors.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Law Of The Jungle

THC was recently able to locate a rare copy of the out of print treatise, Law Of The Jungle, originally published at 4 National Lampoon 1973.  Authored by two Ivy League scholars, John Weidman(1) and Henry Beard(2), their work is a much-needed summary of an often neglected topic, the law of the jungle or "lex biologica", as the authors more properly refer to it.

The authors provide a useful corrective to what they refer to as a simplistic view that reduces lex biologica to:

"a pair of simple catch phrases; 'kill or be killed' and 'survival of the fittest'.  This is, of course, no more true than the proposition that all human law can be expressed in the simple solomonic principle of 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth' "

As an example of the loathsome degree of disparagement visited upon lex biologica the authors note:

"Another example of this attitude is the oft-quoted line from Dickens; 'The law is an ass".  To set the record straight, it should be noted that a number of asses have been very distinguished jurists.  For example, an ass, sitting as judge in the famous migration case, Vertebratae Americanae v Alaska Land Bridge, established the principle of the right of unlimited evolutionary spread.  In another instance, an ass wrote the celebrated dissent in Goldfinch v Bluejay (12 Ornith. 148), holding that a search of a bluejay's nest for evidence of its having eaten the eggs of the plaintiff goldfinch, a search which, as it developed, did yield incriminating evidence  . . . violated the defendant bluejay's rights since it was based not on specific probable cause but on the general knowledge that bluejays traditionally raid other birds' nests.  The principle was later accepted."

While the authors note that the lex biologica consists of two categories; plant law (lex flora) and animal law (lex fauna) and acknowledge that some cases may fall between jurisdictions, particularly between the microbe subcategory of lex fauna and plant law, citing as an example the "incalculably large number of nitrogen-fixing cases, a criminal matter taken very seriously by most vegetation", the Law Of The Jungle remains primarily focused on lex fauna which gives the work a much needed unity of purpose.

The authors take us through a brief, but illuminating, overview of the multitude of legal jurisdictions within animal law including the Vertebrate Courts, the Reptilian Courts, the Rodent Courts (administering the special codex rodenta), the Court of Common Stings and introduce us to the Marsupial Courts "a quirk produced by the early separation of the Australian land mass from the rest of the continental agglomeration" with its own unique characteristics

"to the extent that, in criminal prosecutions, evidence by the young, if they are in the pouch at the time of the commission of the alleged crime, is not admissible, and cannot be compelled."
In this section of their work, THC was delighted to learn something completely unexpected:

"Incidentally, while we're on the subject of insects, it's worth mentioning that when you hear the characteristic high-pitched noise which cicadas make on a summer day, the odds are you are hearing a Court of Small Crawls being called to order"

On a more serious note, the authors admit that while "the minutiae of all this is admittedly bewildering . . . nothing  . . . begins to compare in complexity and sheer orneriness with aquatic law" and treat us to a elegant discussion of the famous case, Seagull v Mollusk (187 Atlan. 30) in which:

"a gull, which had taken a clam from among some rocks near the seashore normally covered by high tide and had dropped it from a considerable height to break its shell, found itself charged with unlawful breaking and entering under the corpus juris maris for an act which under the jus terrestria and the jus aeris is not a crime if committed in the course of a lawful search for food.  The critical point was that the clam had been seized in an aquatic jurisdiction and when it fell, it fell into an aquatic jurisdiction, namely on a rock covered at high tide."(3)
Because the lex biologica is based, like the British legal system, on a common-law framework, the treatise also contains an overview discussion of key rights:

The Right to Eat
The Right to Breed
Freedom to Cry, Howl, Bay, and Hoot
The Right to Bare Claws
The Right to Assemble in Herds, Migrate and Stampede
The Right of All Animals to Be Secure in Their Nests

As to the first of these rights, The Right to Eat, the authors point out that "the distinction between killing to kill and killing to obtain food is paramount throughout animal law" and use the landmark case of Gazelle v Lion (245 Mamm. 198) as illustration.  In this case (which took place in the Court of Carnivore Appeals for the Northern Veldt) a plaintiff gazelle asked for a writ of habeas carcasse to be issued.  This writ, when issued, "demands the return of the remains of the preyed-upon animal and its release ex mandibilia, literally, 'from the jaws' pending determination of the legality of the predator's actions."  In this instance, the gazelle had the good fortune that an officer of the court happened to be in the vicinity as the authors note that most of these such writs are "issued post-mortem".

Unfortunately, while the gazelle initially prevailed after issuance of the writ on the grounds that just prior to attacking the gazelle, the lion had killed an antelope which it had not eaten:

"In a judgement nullifying the writ of habeas carcasse, the court, presided over by a notorious 'feeding judge', it must be noted, [found] that the lion's legitimate and protected right to eat remained intact, for at the time it killed the antelope, it could not be argued that it was not hungry, since it had not eaten the antelope it had previously killed, and, having not eaten the antelope, it could hardly be argued that at the time of its attack on the gazelle its hunger was any the less."
The next section of Law of the Jungle addresses common areas of the law including Contracts, Property or Territory Law, Torts, Classification Law and Trusts and Estates although in the last area, animals rarely execute testamentary instruments:

"since, with few exceptions, they usually have very little in the way of real property to pass on except possibly some freshly-killed food or recently gathered forage, and estates are almost always eaten up (literally) by the lawyers handling the probate."
 At the end of this admirable work one can only endorse the closing sentiment of the authors:

"It is sad indeed that legal biology has failed to gain the attention it so clearly deserves, and it is mankind, surely, who is the loser.  Think, for example, of how convenient it would be to be able to swear out a writ of nolo pestare in Insect Court against every mosquito on your property, or of how many lives could be saved if the sharks along our coasts were hit with a succession of beach warrants and cease-and-desist eating orders!"

THC highly recommends Law Of The Jungle to its readers and urges them to undertake the arduous, but rewarding, task of obtaining and reading this little-known masterpiece.

(1) John Weidman, BA Harvard, JD Yale;, Writer, Sesame Street; Author of book for three Stephen Sondheim musicals
(2) Henry Beard, BA Harvard; Co-Founder National Lampoon; Co-Author O.J's Legal Pad (1995)
(3) The seagull was eventually acquitted on a technicality based on an argument that the case "fell properly into the jurisdiction of the jus aeris and jus terrestris, jointly, because at the instant of the commission of the act . . .  namely, the moment the seagull released the mollusk from its beak with the intent that it should fall on a rock, thus breaking the shell, the seagull was in the air over dry land".

Monday, June 24, 2013

Take A Look Around

To celebrate its 125th anniversary, National Geographic released a lot of photos from its archives which can be found here.  It's worth taking a look and poking around for awhile.  The earliest dated photo I've seen is from 1907 and it seems like 95% of the pictures are prior to 1975.  Below are three samples - a Hong Kong street scene from 1934, the New Mexico border (1940?) and the Golden Horn at Constantinople.  A couple of things I noticed are (1) the world seemed less crowded and (2) people, including children, are doing stuff that today we would think of as very unsafe.  We've become a lot more timid over the years.

Vendors and pedestrians along a steep staircase in Hong Kong, November 1934.Photograph by W. Robert Moore, National GeographicA tourist stops to get directions from a cop in New Mexico.Photograph by Luis Marden, National GeographicThe Golden Horn at Galatea in Constantinople, now modern-day Istanbul.Photograph by Jules Gervais Courtellemont, National Geographic

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Songs I Didn't Like To Admit I Liked: Glen Campbell

We all have them.  Songs we thought were sappy or stupid so didn't want to tell anyone else how much we enjoyed them.  I'm talking about tunes you liked at the time they were released, not songs you disliked at the time but grew to appreciate years later.  What are yours?

Here's the first one I'll fess up to; Wichita Lineman, which reached #3 on the charts in 1968, which would have been very uncool for me to admit at the time.  Written by Jimmy Webb (of MacArthur Park fame) and sung by Glen Campbell.  Gorgeous melody and odd, but memorable, lyrics plus Burt Bacharach style horns in the solo (and a little Moody Blues orchestral touch at the end of each verse), unresolved melodic and lyrical tension at the end and a fine vocal by Campbell (who, earlier in his career, had been a touring member of The Beach Boys and done studio work with Elvis Presley, Jan & Dean, Merle Haggard and others).  THC was reminded of the song by this post at Sippican Cottage.

I hear you singin' in the wire
I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line

Of course, nowadays, the Wichita Lineman would be working for the NSA adding further meaning to the lyrics. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Game 7

Great game.  Great finals.  Only thing that would have made it better is Duncan winning it with a shot at the buzzer.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

One Shoe,Two Socks,Three Points

Game 7 of the NBA Finals is only a couple of hours away.  Could it be as good as Game 6 - one of the most memorable games in NBA Finals history?  Great ebb and flow thoughout.  Duncan owned the first half; LeBron most of the final quarter (and he did it without his headband (btw, is "headbandless" a word?)).  Parker made the three from a mile out and Allen tied it with another three with 5 seconds left.  Bosh had two outstanding blocks in OT.  Best of all, both teams played hard from start to finish and the refs let them.

One unforgettable moment was Mike Miller sinking a three with only one shoe on.
Not quite The Bloody Sock, but it'll do.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ballpark Tour 2013

Larry and I recently completed our second annual ballpark tour (for an account of last year's epic journey read this) making it to five parks (Comerica, Wrigley, US Cellular, Miller and Target) in seven days.  Just like last year all but one of the games was competitive right to the end.  One difference was that there were three day games compared to all night games in 2012.

And a big thanks to our friends who joined us at various places on the tour - Randy, John, George, Liz, Hal and David!

Here's the recap:

June 5:  At Detroit            Tampa Bay 3, Tigers 0           Attendance 30,005, Time 2:42
June 7:  At Chicago          Pittsburgh 2, Cubs 0              Attendance 31,614, Time 3:11
June 8:  At Chicago          White Sox 4, Oakland 1        Attendance 23,735, Time 2:27
June 9:  At Milwaukee      Brewers 9, Philadelphia 1      Attendance 38,300, Time 2:23
June 11: At Minneapolis    Twins 3, Philadelphia 2          Attendance 30,104, Time 2:31

We'll break down the highlights below but what stood out the most was the quality starting pitching.  Nine of the ten starters went at least six innings and seven of the ten gave up either zero or one run with the only poor start by Jonathan Pettibone of the Phillies against the Brewers.  Even including Pettibone, the collective performance by the ten starters was impressive: 70 2/3 innings pitched, 46 hits, 17 walks, 58 K's and an ERA of 1.80 (1.38 excluding Pettibone).

Best starts as calculated using the Bill James Game Score method:

John Danks, White Sox (77) vs Athletics
Francisco Liriano, Pirates (76) vs Cubs
Kyle Lohse, Brewers (75) vs Phillies
Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay (73) vs Tigers 

Breaking It Down:

Best Performance By A Player On His Bobblehead DayCarlos Gomez of the Brewers who hit a long home run.

Best Adam Dunn Type-PerformanceAdam Dunn, of course!  As you may know, THC is fascinated by all things Dunn.  Our hopes were fulfilled at the White Sox game when Adam delivered the Adam Dunn Cycle (Homer, Walk, Strikeout).  And it looks like our presence and inspiration was responsible for The Adam Dunn Resurgence.  Coming into that game, Dunn was hitting .156 with 13 homers.  Since then he's hit .400 with 5 homers, raising his average to .183

Best Ballpark Food:  US Cellular (White Sox).  The widest and best selection of any ballpark.  Had a very tasty Cuban Pork Sandwich and a fully satisfying Hot Dog with grilled onions.

Most Convenient To Stuff Outside the Ballpark: Wrigley Field in Chicago and Target Field in Minneapolis.  Target is adjacent to downtown, closer than any other ballpark I've been in, including Boston, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Favorite Drive Between Ballparks

From Hillsboro, Wisconsin (Czech Capital of Wisconsin) to Lake City, Minnesota.  From Hillsboro take either Route 33 via Cashton or Routes 82 and 56 via Viroqua to LaCrosse where you cross the Mississippi River into Minnesota.  On the Wisconsin portion, you'll go through steep, wooded valleys, past Amish farms and over open uplands with wide vistas.  From LaCrosse take Highway 61 (Revisited) to Lake City.  On this section you have the Mississippi River on your right and for the entire stretch the bluffs on either side of the river are at least a mile apart.  A spectacular drive.
                                                  (County Road F, outside Hillsboro)

                                       (Admit it, you thought I was joking about it being the Czech Capital)

Best Game:  The Tigers-Rays game was 0-0 into the 9th and the White Sox-A's game was 1-1 until the Sox erupted for 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th, but THC gives this one narrowly to the Twins-Phillies game.  Well pitched throughout, some excellent outfield play and close from start to finish.  The Phillies went up 1-0 in the 3rd, the Twins came back with 2 in the 4th, the Phillies tied it up in the top of the 8th with a 2-out single by Ryan Howard and then the Twins pushed across a run with 2-outs in the bottom of the 8th to win it.

Best Strategy For Pitching To Miguel Cabrera:  Don't when there are runners on base.  He came up twice in the Detroit game with men on and was intentionally walked both times to get to Prince Fielder who struck out both times.

Best Flying Bat Into Stands Jhonny (yes, I am spelling it correctly) Peralta's bat went high and long into the left field grandstands in the 2nd inning at Comerica.

Closest Foul Ball:  In Milwaukee I came closer to a foul ball than I've ever been.  Carlos Gomez hit a rocket into the stands near first base and it landed one row behind and two seats to my right.  No one actually caught it - the ball wedged in next to a guy in his seat - because no one wanted to get in front of that ball.
Best Seats:  Comerica Park in Detroit.  Walked up before the game and purchased $60 tickets 21 rows behind home plate.
                                                               All The (Not So) Young Dudes

Cultural HighlightThe Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.  Even if you have never ridden a Harley you will want to by the time you leave.

Best Outfield CatchClete Thomas of the Twins making a 7th inning catch in right-center off Delmon Young to preserve the Twins' 2-1 lead.

This game also featured what was almost the best catch of the trip.  In the bottom of the 4th, Arcia hit a long drive to center and the Phillies outfielder, Ben Revere, came within inches of making a Willie Mays style over the head with back to the infield running catch at the wall.

Best Outfield Throw:  In the top of the 1st in the Phillies-Brewers game, the Phillies had runners on 1st and 2nd with one out when Ryan Howard hit a line drive single to right field.  We were sure the runner on second would score easily but Norichika Aoki of the Brewers made a beautiful and accurate throw to nail Michael Young at the plate.
Best Infield Play:  I'd never seen a 3-2-2 double play before.  In the Tampa-Detroit game, the Rays had runners on 1st and 2nd in the top of the 3rd with one out when Fuld hit a hard grounder to first base on which Prince Fielder made a diving stop and threw to catcher Alex Avila.  You can watch the rest of it at this link

Torii Hunter, the veteran Tiger outfielder, said after the game:
"As long as you've been around this game, you're going to see something . . .  I don't care how old you are or how long you've been in the game, there's always something new in this game. All these years, here's something new. It was amazing."

Coldest Game:  THC did not expect this in June but the game at Wrigley was as cold as the May 25, 1976 game at Fenway I recently wrote about (see The Bird).  The temperature at game time was 55 which doesn't sound bad but the wind was blowing off the lake into our faces at more than 20mph (officially the wind was 9mph but THEY LIED) for the entire game and we were in the shade.  By the third inning our hands were numb and I had the hood from my jacket over my cap.  How bad it was depended on your location.  We could see people in the bleachers who were in the sun and had seats protected from the wind wearing shorts and t-shirts!  And the streets outside the park were perfectly comfortable.
                                                         (Doesn't look that cold, does it?)
It also affected the game since the wind was blowing in from the outfield.  Both managers must have told their pitchers to keep the ball high and over the middle of the plate and just let the batters try to hit it as far as they could into the gale.  There were only 7 groundball outs in the first 7 innings (excluding an attempted bunt), outfielders constantly had to come in on fly balls and in the 4th Alfonso Soriano hit the hardest ball we saw all week to the deepest part of outfield but as it neared the wall it just stopped and quietly drifted down to softly nestle into the centerfielder's glove.

Strangest Place Detroit.  Very nice ballpark but the city itself is hollowed out.  We drove downtown to the park at rush hour except there wasn't one.  Our drive took us past abandoned, boarded up and deteriorating homes and a couple of 20 story abandoned commercial buildings.  Woodward Avenue outside the stadium, the heart of the old city, was virtually deserted when we first got there a couple of hours before the game at 5pm.  When we left the game our route took us past abandoned lots just a couple of blocks from the stadium.  A weird and sad experience.

Favorite Ballpark:  Let's start by taking Wrigley out of the mix.  It's a wonderful place but it and Fenway are unique old-time ballparks and it's unfair to compare them to the modern parks.  US Cellular, home of the White Sox, is a little bland compared to the others (but with great food).

The location is isolated so not a lot to do in the immediate vicinity but access in and out is very easy.  Target has a great location downtown, with excellent light rail access (which we took and were dropped off 20 yards from the ticket office) and a lot of bars and restaurants are within a block or two.

The stadium has a very walkable interior.  If I went again I'd get seats in the upper left field bleachers which overhang the field.  The grandstand and box seats on the first level are well-situated but the upper deck is way back from the field.  Comerica has very good view lines and seating.  Easy access (not much traffic, see above).
I'd like to return and walk the park more the next time as it might move up in my ranking.  For now I'll give a slight nod as my favorite to Miller Field in Milwaukee though if you ask me tomorrow I might answer Comerica or Target.  First of all, anything named after a beer and that has an exterior that looks like a beer factory is off to a strong start.  It seems like a great family ballpark.

Lots of folks (including our friends) were tailgating before the game and the stadium itself has a lot of interesting seating arrangements and entertainment venues.  Because of the roof, the structural supports of the stadium allow you to follow fly balls (fair and foul) in the daytime better than in most ballparks.  The downside are that it is not located in a neighborhood like Wrigley or Target and the upper deck seats are really far away.  If you place a high value on the neighborhood, Target is the best of the new parks.

Tailgating in Milwaukee (photo by me):
Tailgating in Milwaukee (photo by George)