What baseball jersey do you sport?

April 14, 2012Sports Illustrated recently named the top 20 selling baseball jerseys based on 2011 sales, according to Major League Baseball.

You might not find it surprising that the New York Yankees have four player jerseys in the top 20, but it’s the Philadelphia Phillies that surpass them with four player jerseys in the top 11.

Here’s the complete list:

20. David Freeze, St. Louis
19. Carl Crawford, Boston
18. Mariano Rivera, New York (Yankees)
17. Robinson Cano, New York (Yankees)
16. Ian Kinsler, Texas
15. Alex Rodriguez, New York (Yankees)
14. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston
13. Justin Verlander, Detroit
12. Joe Mauer, Minnesota
11. Chase Utley, Philadelphia
10. Buster Posey, San Francisco
9. Hunter Pence, Philadelphia
8. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
7. Dustin Pedroia, Boston
6. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco
5. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
4. Josh Hamilton, Texas
3. Albert Pujols, St. Louis
2. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia
1. Derek Jeter, New York (Yankees)

Go Phillies!

Music and film: Perfect together

April 13, 2012 – What do you get when you combine movies and music?

Aside from two of my favorite things – or a really great soundtrack – if you’re an area resident of Philadelphia, you get the first-ever WXPN Music Film Festival.

WXPN is a public radio station operated by the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, which broadcasts adult alternative music, and may be best known for its World Café music programs. The popular radio station is well-known for introducing new and local artists to listeners by broadcast and the variety of concerts and music festivals held in the area; an event combining both music and movies is a first for the station and the Philadelphia scene.

The XPN festival, produced by the Philadelphia Film Society, and sponsored by the Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, The University of Pennsylvania, The Wyncote Foundation, and Philadelphia Weekly, features four days of rockumentaries and biopics about musicians, beginning April 26. View the complete list of 25 films here. 

Most screenings will show at the Annenberg Center, located at 3680 Walnut Street in University City, and selected others, either at the TLA, located at 334 South Street in Philadelphia, or the World Café Live, located at 3025 Walnut Street in University City. The cost of individual tickets is $12 for general admission, $8 for students and members, or an all-access badge may be purchased for $125.

For more information on the festival, visit www.xpn.org.

“I Remember Better When I Paint”

April 11, 2012 – Last night I attended a special screening of the documentary film “I Remember Better When I Paint” at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Written and directed by Eric Ellena and Berna Huebner, and narrated by Hollywood legend Olivia de Havilland, the 2010 film focuses on the positive impacts of the creative arts on Alzheimer’s patients. It shows that creative initiatives, such as drawing, painting and even museum visits, are effective therapies, and have been known to improve the quality of life for both patients and caregivers.

The film includes interviews with Yasmin Aga Khan, president of Alzheimer International and daughter of Rita Hayworth, who explains that Hayworth suffered from the disease, and took up painting to help cope with it. But the main focus of the film is the touching story of American painter (and mother of one of the filmmakers) Hilda Goldblatt Gorenstein (1905-1998), who signed her work “Hilgos”. Gorenstein was a nursing home patient in the mid-1990s, and was so withdrawn and agitated that her doctor prescribed tranquilizers as part of her treatment. Seeing no real improvement her daughter Berna asked if she would like to try painting again while she was visiting one day. Her mother responded, “I remember better when I paint.”

I can attest to the healing of the creative arts in my own life, but the documentary provided a scientific reason why this is so with Alzheimer’s. It works because parts of the brain related to emotions and creativity are largely spared by Alzheimer’s altogether, or at the very least until the late stages of the disease. It’s essential viewing for people who are coping with the Alzheimer’s, or any type of dementia, and who want to learn more about non-medicinal ways to help. For as one doctor asked in the film, what is the use of prolonging life with drugs if you can’t improve the quality of life with it?

Aside from the documentary, the building itself was worth the visit. Located on 22nd Street between Market and Chestnut Streets, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, founded in 1787, is the oldest professional medical organization in the country. When you walk through the front door you are reminded that Philadelphia is “the birthplace of American medicine.”

Throughout its 225 year history, the College has provided a place for both medical professionals and the general public to learn about medicine as both a science and as an art. Most events and discussions held here are free and open to the public. It’s also home to the Mutter Museum, which provides an interesting look back at the history of medicine, and just how far we’ve advanced.

For more information on the film, visit irememberbetterwhenipaint.wordpress.com/page/2/. For more information on The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and future events, visit www.collphyphil.org/Site/The_College_of_Physicians_of_Philadelphia.html

A tale of two opening days

April 9, 2012 – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Charles Dickens’ famous opening line to his novel “A Tale of Two Cities” about London and Paris during the French Revolution could easily describe the Phillies 2012 season so far, if you change it to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia instead.

The Phillies opened on the road to kick off the season last Thursday with a 1-0 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Opening on the road allows them a much-anticipated second opening day in front of their own home crowd, and with a Cole Hamels on the mound, which unfortunately ended up as a disappointing 6-2 loss on Monday afternoon.

The sold out crowd was electrifying during the pregame ceremonies, and right up until the start of the game when the Miami Marlins, the Phillies biggest division competitor, took a quick lead and never looked back. Phillies fans didn’t get much to cheer about until the 7th inning when newcomer Freddy Galvis hit a clutch double, his first major league hit, to score the team’s only two runs.

In the first four games, the Phillies who won a record 102 games last season, have scored only eight runs. That’s not going to be enough to get the job done. Still, the optimist in me remembers that the Phillies record in at PNC Park is dismal at best, since they always struggle in games against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, and on opening days in general. The pessimist in me was frustrated and almost bored by the fourth inning, and had to force myself watch the rest of the game.

It’s certainly not time to write them off yet with only 4 games into a 162 game season, or for fair-weather fans to jump off the bandwagon (and you know who you are), but it is time for the offense to find its spark before it does get too late.

Wednesday night, Roy Halladay takes the mound against the Marlin’s ace Josh Johnson. I do have confidence that Halladay can hold back the Marlin’s hitters, but the Phillies will need to score at least one against Johnson to get the job done. And sometimes that one run is the hardest to get, especially for a team struggling with their offense.

The age of ignorance?

April 6, 2012 – Sometimes it’s better to be aware of what’s going on around you, and sometimes it’s not.

So, if you’re heading to a movie this weekend, here are 13 things a movie theater employee won’t tell you, but you may want to know before you buy the ticket, courtesy of readersdigest.com.

You can decide whether it’s better to be painfully informed or blissfully ignorant after you read it. Enjoy the weekend!

April 5 is the real New Year’s Day!

April 5, 2012 – It was a Sunday afternoon in 1972, and my family was visiting Veterans Stadium for the first time. The Phillies were terrible that year, finishing in last place in the National League East with a 59-97 record. But it didn’t matter because Steve Carlton was on the mound that day, and we knew we would win. That’s the moment my love of baseball began.

Sure, I grew up listening to baseball games on the porch with my family on summer nights, and watching games on television on Sunday afternoons, but it didn’t really sink in until I saw my first game live and in person. I remember thinking that we were the luckiest people in the world to have Veterans Stadium for our very own.

After that first game, a tradition began that I will always look upon fondly. We became frequent visitors of Veterans Stadium, and began creating plenty of memories. I’ll never forget, for example, my mother climbing the fence to sneak down from the cheap 50 cent seats in the upper deck to the better seats below, and all of us running from the security guards giggling hysterically. Or my mother’s best friend (and our neighbor) sitting in the stands with a hotdog box on her head to keep away the rain.

Today we celebrate America’s pastime, when professional players take to the diamonds across the country to kick off the season with all the pomp and circumstance it deserves. For the Phillies that normally includes a visit by Pennsylvania National and Air Guard who drop in to deliver the first ball.

If you’re a baseball fan, today is probably one of your favorite days. I know it’s one of mine, and I start looking forward to it as soon as the last out is made in October. After a long winter, the tradition of Opening Day in Major League Baseball signifies that the warm weather is ahead, and that for the next six months, we’ll have baseball to rely on.

Opening Day is perhaps the only day during the season when anything seems possible for your favorite team, regardless of what they did or didn’t do in the off-season. They start the season with a clean record, tied with everyone else in their division, and on top. Many of us are snapped back into reality pretty quickly once the season gets underway, but for that first day it’s magical.

The Phillies open their season on the road this year in Pittsburgh. After a weekend series with the Pirates, they come home to open Citizens Bank Park officially on Monday against the Miami Marlins, a team expected to be a major contender for the division crown. This is the stuff that makes good drama because anything can happen.

Play ball! And go Phils!!

Does it really matter who the next president is?

April 4, 2012 – When it comes to American politics, it is often said we end up voting for the lesser of two evils. Given that we are a free people with the privilege to elect whoever we want, why do we take such a nonchalant attitude about those who create our laws and lead our nation?

This way of thinking would not hold up anywhere else outside of politics. Can you imagine eating in a restaurant and choosing between left over scraps from other diners, or rotten food that would make you sick? Of course not. Yet when it comes to voting, we are not dismayed when faced with candidates we know aren’t up for the job.

Could it be that we are so comfortable with our lives that politics is nothing but a casual sport? Or is it because people believe that it won’t make a difference one way or another? Either way, many politicians depend on the ignorance of the American people. They want us to stay uninformed because our lack of knowledge is the only reason they have jobs, the handsome pensions that they created for themselves, and first-class benefits that will last their lifetime.

Need more proof that the politicians are getting their way? A 2010 Pew Research Center poll showed that less than 60 percent of Americans could correctly answer questions about our political system, and I believe this is exactly the way they want it. The more complicated they make their jobs and the process seem, the more they can get away with.

The upcoming presidential election may be the worst offense yet. Last week, a news report claims that 52 percent of voters do not like any of the Republican candidates. While this statistic didn’t indicate whether the people polled were Republican or Democrat, I know enough Republicans who are unhappy with this selection of candidates to safely say they hope that no one receives the party’s nomination, and someone great steps in at the last minute and takes the party by storm at the Republican National Convention.

The same goes for the other side. Just as many Democrats are unhappy with the job President Obama has done over the past four years. I’ve heard enough people comment, and I’ve read the news reports that claim people don’t believe President Obama has the greatest track record, and if there were another option, they would consider it.

We accept the scraps these candidates feed to us like obedient children. By the end of the summer, we’ll likely have exactly what many of us don’t want – a choice between the incumbent candidate Barack Obama (who just announced to a group at a recent fundraiser that capitalism doesn’t work, and who was caught telling Vladimir Putin to wait until he’s reelected before they make any changes), and challenger Mitt Romney (who many Republicans believe is not conservative enough, and who is out of touch with the average struggling American). This match will most likely turn into a long, dirty campaign that the majority of Americans, both Republican and Democrat, despise. It’s a sad state of affairs, and a sadder way to select someone to run our country, and have a major impact on the world.

Politics has always been a dirty business, and it’s been that way long before now, dating back to the days of Washington and Jefferson. It just seems uglier now because neither party will compromise and most politicians seem to be in it for their own gain. 

Getting back to the original question: does it really matter who our next president is? I want to shout out YES, because it  should, but there is too much political unrest and not enough compromise between our political parties to achieve anything worthwhile, no matter who is in office. And we’ll likely have two candidates who are not faithful to their parties, or to the people gave them this opportunity in the first place. It’s no wonder people don’t want to vote (although that is not the answer to this problem).

So what do we do? Go back to voting for the lesser of two evils, and pray for a miracle?

As if we have any other choice.