Thursday, April 4, 2024

Not so Serious Movie Review: Damn Yankees


I finally watched the movie Damn Yankees. In March of 2023, I read the novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop, the book from which Damn Yankees is based. The movie and the musical took the novel to another level as most people now associate the story with the Damn Yankees title and not the book's original title.

Several of the reviews for Curveball at the Crossroads have mentioned Damn Yankees, inspiring me to find the movie and the book. There are some similarities, although my novel is based more on blues music and southern folklore. Damn Yankees is a more generic Faustian tale.

What I liked:

  • As far as I remember, the movie stuck pretty true to the novel. 
  • It's light, quick, and fun - an easy watch. 
  • The Yankees lose. Which is always a good thing.

Being a musical and made in the 1950s, the movie doesn't get too deep into the dark side of a deal with the Devil. Ray Walston keeps the Devil humorous and mischievous. He is evil, but with a quick wit. After working with the Devil in my novel, I like seeing how the Devil is portrayed in other works.

My biggest critique of the movie has to be why "Who's Got the Pain" was part of the production. While impressive for its dancing, it doesn't advance the story at all.

If it wasn't a musical, the movie could have dove deeper into the characters. I thought Lola was especially overrated. She is a side character at best and definitely doesn't deserve to be the focus of the poster. But Gwen Verdon is an amazing dancer and steals the show in her dancing scenes, and that's the focus of musicals, hence she is the biggest face on the poster. 

On a related note, no offense to Gwen Verdon, but she doesn't come off as a temptress very well. The fake accent scene didn't make sense and not until the end does the viewer get the idea that Joe Hardy might even like Lola. She is more concept than character. The novel version of Lola is a bit more tempting. Neither are as seductive as Kim Bassinger in The Natural, however.

Overall, Damn Yankees is recommended. Especially if you have read Curveball at the Crossroads. I also recommend reading The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, which I like to think is Curveball at the Crossroads's spiritual predecessor.

Side note: I realized after watching Damn Yankees that the song "Heart" is from the musical. I have seen the video of the 1969 Mets on the Ed Sullivan Show performing the song many times but never knew where it was from. Mystery solved.

By the way, could someone look less excited than Nolan Ryan being forced to sing on late night television?

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Signing books at Magnanimous Brewing in Bradenton


In what has now become an annual tradition, I am again doing a book signing at Magnanimous Brewing in Bradenton, Florida. This is one of my favorite locations to sign books as it is directly across the street from LECOM Park (formerly McKechnie Field), spring training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

You can't get a better place for the baseball environment than across the street from the stadium. And even better, my book signing is on Sunday, March 17th - St. Patrick's Day - from noon to 5PM. Yes, I am signing books at a brewery on the holiday of the Irish.

Should be a great time.

So come on out and say hello. If you haven't purchased either Curveball at the Crossroads or The Man Makes You Work, check them out. If reading isn't your thing, support local breweries.

See you there!

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Interviewed by The Gilded Page Bookstore

I forgot to post about this a few months ago, but the kind folks at The Gilded Page Bookstore in Tarpon Springs, Florida interviewed me on their website. I really liked this interview as they asked some really good questions.

Here is a sample:

Here is the link to the rest of the interview:

Author Spotlight: Interview with Michael Lortz

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Book Signing at Grindhaus Brew Lab in Clearwater, Florida


I will be selling and signing my books at Grindhaus Brew Lab in Clearwater, Florida on Sunday, March 3rd from 3 to 6 pm. Grindhaus is located at 1650 N Hercules Ave, Unit I, Clearwater, FL 33765.

Grindhaus is an awesome funky local brewery with a movie theater in the back of the establishment. There is a good chance they will play some baseball movies for us during the event. Baseball is back!

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

A Video Tribute to My Dad


As part of my Dad's celebration of life, I volunteered to make a video slideshow. Making the video was a feat. I had to scan old pictures, label pictures, find dates, and sort through hundreds of pictures spanning from 1952 to 2023. I had to make some tough decisions on what to include and what ended up on the cutting room floor. But in the end, I think the final product turned out pretty good.

I try not to think about it like this, but this is the final thing I did for my Dad. I like to think that I had the honor and the pleasure of telling his life story. As a creative person, that's the best gift I can give.

George's Journey - A Tribute to George Lortz from JordiScrubbings on Vimeo.

Monday, February 12, 2024

A Tribute to My Dad

On December 23, 2023, I joined a club few if any want to join. Unfortunately, in the course of life, time makes many of us members. Now in my mid-40s, many of my friends have lost a parent or two. And as much as I feel comfort knowing I have people who are there for me and have felt this loss, it’s still hard.

My Dad is gone. I’ll never talk to him again.

My Dad was proud of me. Of that there was no dispute. I followed close enough in his footsteps that he knew the route, even if I walked on different paths.

My Dad was a complicated man who wanted the world to be simple. He enjoyed Jeopardy, Jim Beam, and James Bond. He thought there were too many dinosaurs. He could be obstinate. He could be argumentative. He was quick with what is now appropriately called “a Dad joke”. He taught me to drive as fast as I wanted, as long I didn’t endanger anyone. Seventeen speeding tickets later, he would tell me not to speed.

I learned a lot from my Dad. Most of it true, some of it not. For years, I thought the bungee cord was invented by a man named Arthur J. Bungee. According to my Dad, Arthur J. developed the bungee cord in 1942 to preserve rubber for the war effort. My Dad told me that Mr. Bungee’s new cords were used on aircraft carriers and helped America win World War II. Of course I believed him.

I wrote in the dedication of my novel, Curveball at the Crossroads, that my Dad introduced me to baseball and the Blues. I remember when he took me to my first Major League Baseball game, Back to School Day at Shea Stadium, 1985. I received a free Mets school binder that day that I still have. My Dad religiously watched those mid-80s Mets, descendants of the ‘69 Mets he witnessed win the World Series. In that year in which the second most amazing event was a man on the moon, my Dad was selling programs and scorecards from Shea Stadium’s upper deck.

One of my Dad’s favorite stories about his time as a vendor was when the Mets won the division for the first time in their history. When the final out was recorded, bedlam erupted and the fans rushed the field to celebrate. As an employee, my Dad was supposed to stay in the stands, but on this day he joined the jubilee in the grass. When a policeman grabbed him and asked why he was on the field, my Dad told the officer that in order to sell his stuff, he had to be where his customers were.

I remember when my Dad introduced me to the Blues. I was a hip-hop kid in the 90’s, much to my parents’ chagrin. During one my first visits home from the Army, however, I asked my Dad if he could make me a cassette of Jimi Hendrix songs. As he recorded most of the classics from his vinyl collection, he asked me to listen to “Red House” before he copied it. Red House is Hendrix’s most bluesy song. I wanted that song on the cassette. That lead to me finding a CD entitled “Jimi Hendrix Blues”, one of my favorite albums of all time.

My Dad taught me that most music is influenced by something earlier. I remember him listening to Dr Dre and immediately recognizing Parliament-Funkadelic samples. He challenged me to find the source of my music. In my growing Blues fandom, that led me to Clarksdale, Mississippi, and the legendary crossroads where Robert Johnson allegedly made his deal with the Devil.  If that sounds familiar, then you understand my Dad’s influence on my novel.

Throughout the years, my Dad and I went to a lot of events together. In 2008, I took him to his first World Series game in 39 years. I took him to see Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and almost every year from 2000 to 2010, we saw the legendary BB King play the Blues. 

Sometimes our events required long drives. For a few years, he would journey to Tampa and join me in trips to Tallahassee to see FSU football. As part of those weekends, I introduced him to the Bradfordville Blues Club, a small music venue outside of Tallahassee that was one of the last juke joints in America.

Besides music and sports, I understood my Dad professionally. After a few years with various other defense contractors, he worked for Northrop Grumman for over 30 years. In my career, I have worked for over a dozen different defense contractors, to include Northop Grumman for a year. My Dad was very excited I joined his company, but not so excited when I complained about my time with the company and left after nine months. I had to tell my Dad that although the company is the same, my division and my experiences were vastly different. Whereas he worked on a Northrop Grumman campus, with Northrop Grumman equipment, in Northrop Grumman buildings, I’ve always worked on military bases, surrounded by military people, doing military things. In my Northrop Grumman job, that base was in Doha, Qatar, where I enjoyed being until it was time to come home. When I came back, the company had no stateside positions for me so I moved on.

For someone who never put on the uniform, my Dad had a love for the military that went above and beyond. The equipment he worked on in his forty-plus years in defense contracting saved lives and helped win wars. And when I left for basic training on August 21, 1995, it was my Dad who drove me to the recruiting station in his pearl white, 1971 Datsun 240z. If you knew my Dad, you knew that car only came out for special drives. When we got to the recruiting station, he cried, gave me a big hug, and told me how proud he was.

I am going to remember a lot about my Dad. Although he could be a pain in the ass, we had a lot of good times. But time moves on. Shea Stadium is gone, leveled in 2009. BB King passed away in 2015, and the Bradfordville Blues Club closed its doors early last year. Many of the people and places I shared with my Dad are gone. Now he is gone as well.

I’m gonna miss you, Dad.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Buy Curveball at the Crossroads from Ingram Spark

Curveball at the Crossroads
Lortz, Michael and Anderson, Grego "MojoHand"

Buy Curveball at the Crossroads directly from my distributor for only $13.64! 

That's almost $4 off the cover price!

Open the link via QR code!

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Ahead of my time with a chili submission

Longtime readers of this blog might remember a post I wrote way back in 2012. In the post, "When Victory Tastes Like Wendy's", I wrote about how I entered a chili contest using Wendy's chili and an added dabble of hot sauce.

Last week, I saw this tiktok/instagram reel/youtube short. It had over 7 million total views.

Apparently, I was ahead of my time by 10 years. And I should have videoed my experience - from making the chili to submitting it to the winning announcement. That might have gotten some views. I could have been a social media superstar.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Spoke with WMNF Tampa on Crypto Currency

A few weeks ago, I had a very cool opportunity to chat with my friend Patro Mabili on WMNF 88.5 Tampa a few weeks ago. Mabili hosts a show called Community Speaks and wanted me to talk about crypto currency and how criminals use technology to illegally use funds. Although that isn't my area of expertise, I think I did a good job covering the basics.

Check it out here:

Monday, October 30, 2023

Book Review on Suncoast Blues Society webpage


I wrote a book review of the book Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson over at the Suncoast Blues Society blog.

Book Review: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson - Suncoast Blues Society blog, 10/10/23