Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It Ain't Us, Bay

Jason Bay, formerly known as Everyone's Favorite Canadian, has flown the proverbial coop, leaving good sense and Boston behind to become a New York Metropolitan. With the Mike Lowell trade having vanished into the ether, this leaves Boston oversupplied with aging semi-respectable batters with health issues (Lowell, Ortiz, Drew) and undersupplied with legitimate major league batters (Our Man Youk, and Our Man DP, and...uh....did I mention Youk?)

So hopefully, a deal of some sort is in the offing, or you can expect to read sentences like "Sox lose 3-2" on here quite a bit in the months to come.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Win! I Win!

What do I win, you may ask?

Well, nothing at all, but I did, in fact, win my Fantasy Football League this year. Thanks, in part, to Philadelphia's own Donovan McNabb, the Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald, the Packers' Ryan Grant, and the Colts' Dallas Clark, along with my shrewd picking-a-pretend-football-team skills and the fantasy advice of the Talented Mr. Roto, @matthewberryTMR on Twitter, I have managed to triumph over my brother and 10 other worthies.

What do I win, you may ask, again?

Nothing. Not a goshdarn thing.

But it's all mine.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The War On Christmas

Well, we lost, because it came anyway.

Anyway, someone sent a bulk email at work wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, then bragging parenthetically that they were "not politically correct".

I forget where I heard it, but I heard a comic say once that complaining about being politically correct is basically saying, "I want to be rude, and I don't want to be called on it."

The recipients of that email don't all celebrate Christmas. That's just a fact. Saying "Merry Christmas" necessarily excludes people who don't celebrate that particular holiday. It's inappropriate. It's rude. If you want to show off your freedom of speech, start a blog.

(It shouldn't be sent on a work email system anyway, but that's an issue for management to ignore, not for me.)

(Also, that being said, in the United States in 2009, if you're honestly offended by the use of the phrase "Merry Christmas", you really have to learn to pick your battles.)

Sometimes, you're looking for nothing in particular, and you find gold.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Oh, and this?

Oh, and this?

I thought we were fighting them over there so we wouldn't have to fight them over here. I thought war and killing was supposed to make us safer. I thought we were going through all this to make our world a better place. That was what all this was about, right? We're going to make the world safe for democracy, isn't that it?

War never makes anything better.

Only The Lonely

TTBOOK had another great program this week, this time about loneliness. You can take the UCLA Loneliness scale test here, if you want. I scored a 29.

I've never really had friends as an adult. I know a fair amount of people, but in terms of people I would ask to pick me up at the airport? Other than my wife? None. Not a sausage. This bothers me sometimes. It seems deeply abnormal, but I don't know how to change it. I don't know how to be someone's friend. I don't remember what it feels like.

Ten Songs About Loneliness

1. Roy Orbison, "Only The Lonely"
2. Jackie Wilson, "Lonely Teardrops"
3. Ray Charles, "Lonely Avenue"
4. Paul McCartney, "Lonely Road"
5. Eric Clapton, "Lonely Stranger"
6. The Beatles, "Lonesome Tears In My Eyes"
7. Live, "I, Alone"
8. The Eagles, "The Sad Cafe"
9. Billy Joel, "The Stranger"
10. Pearl Jam, "Alone"

Friday, December 25, 2009

Jesus Loves Health Reform

Matthew 25: 35-46


[35] For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

[36] Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

[37] Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

[38] When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

[39] Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

[40] And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

[41] Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

[42] For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

[43] I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

[44] Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

[45] Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

Two Great Books

I finished Lorrie Moore's "A Gate at the Stairs", and it was gobsmackingly good. She is breathtaking. I read "Birds of America" back when everyone else read it, but I haven't, for no particular reason, read anything else of hers.

I just started Steven L. Carter's 2nd most recent book, "Palace Council". Years ago, I read his first two-"New England White" and "The Emperor of Ocean Park", and he is really a terrific author. He writes thrillers, but very intellectual ones.

I hope everybody (by which I mean, all 12 of you) had a lovely holiday.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

A Charlie Pierce story, ten years old but no less relevant, about how the drive to cut down on government waste can hurt real people.

God Bless Us, Everyone.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Spectacle

I saw a wonderful television program-Spectacle, with Elvis Costello hosting a group of musicians. They play their own songs, and Elvis' songs, and just generally talk about music and songwriting. The one I caught was with Sheryl Crow and 3 other people I should probably have heard of, and I really enjoyed it. I know Sheryl Crow is kind of, I don't know, commercial and hackneyed-but I like her, and I really enjoyed watching her reinterpret her work with Costello playing with her.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tangled Up In Blue





I first heard this song driving home from a girl's house, at an absurdly early hour. It was someone I had talked myself into being with, mostly because I didn't want to be alone. I think I knew this, all the way through the relationship, and I never said anything. After we broke up, I remember slamming the door on my car so hard I shattered the window. Did you know you could do that? I didn't until that day.

I treated her poorly, and I have always regretted it. She deserved better.

For some reason, this song always reminds me of her, even though we never heard it together.

Brittany Murphy

Actress Brittany Murphy has died. Twitter pretty much exploded with the news, while I, only having access to Twitter at the time, was forced to ask myself, "Who is Brittany Murphy?" I'm terrible at recognizing actresses and actors. Whenever my wife and I watch a movie with a number of characters in it, I separate the actors into two groups: the ones I know, and the others. For example, Ang Lee's "Sense and Sensibilty" stars Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, and a bunch of people who are not Grant, Thompson, or Rickman.

So I had to come home and look up Ms. Murphy, and it turns out the only projects of hers I have seen are Fox' "King of the Hill" and the film "Clueless". I saw Clueless, but this is the only part of Clueless I can remember:





Which I love for the line, "Girlie, I'm the Messiah of the DMV." And she's not in that scene. Ms. Murphy was 32, and there is tons of speculation that her death involved drugs or anorexia, which is sensible at least as far as it is rare for 32 year old people to suddenly suffer cardiac arrest. It doesn't, in the end, matter what killed her because she's gone. Dying young, though, she may get a Heath Ledger/Marilyn Monroe sort of halo effect, making the work she did better than it was because she'll never get the chance to turn 46 and play the mom on a sitcom about two wacky teenage twins.It's a shame that she's gone, though, because people will miss her. Eventually, she will be only the sum of her work, the series of characters she played and the impression she made on audiences. Which is too bad, but it sure beats not being remembered at all.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Leaving

This is an Outside magazine profile of Laura and Guy Waterman. I heard about their story on the incomparably wondrous "To The Best Of Our Knowledge" (ttbook.org). They are a couple who were avid outdoorspeople and were living and working deep in the New England woods, writing and working on wilderness conservation. The reason why they are featured in the profile and on the show is that Guy Waterman, in early 2000, made it clear he was going to commit suicide, walked up into the mountains, and froze to death. I'm currently reading her book "Losing The Garden", about her marriage.

The stunning and somewhat noteworthy part is that Mrs. Waterman knew what he was planning to do and didn't try to stop him. Comedian Doug Stanhope tells a joke in his act about suicide being like leaving a movie halfway through-if the first half of the movie has been horrible, you really don't have any reason to believe the second half is going to be any better. Laura Waterman seems to have a similar attitude-she let her husband go because she loved him-he made sure she was taken care of, but he had grown tired and miserable at the prospect of more life, and didn't want anything else to do with it, so he left it.


This is a stunning way of thinking. It's realistic, and I can't deny the logic of it. It goes against our typical way of reasoning-in the West, we seem unable to admit that life has an end the same way it had a beginning. It's an involving story, if not a particularly cheerful one. Worth your time.

I'm not prepared to judge her, or him-that's not my job, and I can't even understand my own marriage, never mind someone else's. It's a compelling, if sad, testimony.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

As Spongebob likes to say...

IMAGINATION!

This is the Imagination Prompt Generator, a little dohickey that gives you a prompt for those times when you're stumped to come up with a blog post. Now, I don't have to blog-certainly, none of you have been clamoring for my wit and wisdom, banging on my virtual door, begging me for my views on Tiger Woods, or health care reform, or reforming Tiger Woods, or the health of tiger care. But I am nothing if not stubborn-just ask my son-and I can't help but feel that I am not doing my bloggerly duty if I don't, you know, say something.

So the prompt I settled on was

"Nothing matters..."

Well, that makes me think of a couple of things. First of all, this:



Jaymz and the boyz bringing some semi-soaked noyz, 10 full years ago. It's really a beautiful little song, that I don't think gets enough credit. Kirk Hammett can really play the 'ol six string.

The second thing I think of is the late Tug McGraw, who is nowadays better known as Faith Hill's father in law. He was also a major league pitcher for a number of years, and he used to say he had a frozen ice ball theory, which he would use when stuck in a jam on the mound. He would imagine that, billions of years from now, when the Sun has gone out and the Earth was just a frozen ice ball hurtling through space, no one would care whether or not he got that particular hitter out. Which is true-many more of the people reading this will know who Faith Hill is than those who will know who Tug McGraw was, and the Earth, as of this writing, is not yet a frozen ice ball hurtling through space.

So, with the comforting notion that nothing that you, I, or anybody else will ever do will amount to anything at all, at least cosmologically speaking, I bid you adieu.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holy Moley! There's Baseball News!

Well, after an off season that began with a Hermida, a Boof, a Tug, a Marco, and another Ramon Ramirez (because every team should have a spare), the Red Sox went Full On Kevin's Mom yesterday, inking former Angel John Lackey for the starting rotation and former Brewer Mike Cameron for the outfield spot soon to be vacated by Everyone's Formerly Favorite Canadian, Jason Bay.

Well now.

There are questions left to be answered, still-the Mike Lowell deal to Texas is being held up because the American Hero has health issues (do tell!), and, to paraphrase Casey Stengel, if you don't have a shortstop, you're going to give up a lot of singles to left field. The informed speculation (read: wild a$$ed guessing) is that Cowboy Clay Buchholz will be dealt away, probably for San Diego's young heartthrob Adrian Gonzalez. But all in all, a busy day for the Carmine Hose.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

100 Words On Hope

This is Velvet Verbosity's 100 Words Challenge-write a post of exactly one hundred words centered on a given topic. This week's challenge is "Hope". The Blog Nosh Magazine Loads of Hope carnival is located here , hoping to bring attention and buzz towards Tide's "Loads of Hope" program, which is bringing a mobile laundromat to Americans affected by disasters.


Here's my entry.

"We chose him. He told us to hope. He told us he was hope.

We chose him, people still strive, and suffer, and get sick, and die.

We chose him, people still cry, rage, scream and shout.

We chose him, people still lie, cheat, and steal.

We chose him. He can't fix it all. Maybe no one can.

People still reach out, hold hands, extend words of comfort.

People still hug, and kiss, and hold, and wonder at the sky.

People still love, and marry, and hold new babies.

We chose him, and we go on, and there is hope."

(NSFW) Rick Astley with narration



A very clever version of the Rick Astley video for "Never Gonna Give You Up", with a narration of the video's activities. Very funny, very NSFW.

Teach Your Children Well

The irrepressible Dan Carlin (www.dancarlin.com) has another great Hardcore History program this week, this time about the history of children and how their role in society has changed throughout history. He makes several interesting points, one of which is: if we are more aware of child abuse than we ever have been (which seems inarguable), why is there still child abuse? Wouldn't we have eliminated something so counter to the health of our species?

You don't need to know anything about history to be aware of the fact that, until shockingly recently, utterly appalling treatment of children (and women, and non white people, too) was completely acceptable behavior. Carlin makes note of these things, and tries to explore some of the reasons why this could be-how could people who came up with so many great ideas (democracy, Hamlet, the printing press) be so daft and stupid in other areas? And you have to agree that child abuse is damaging to the long term health of the adult-and yet, you would think we would see these effects throughout history, wouldn't we? Or do we, and we just can't see it?

Tons of interesting ideas to toss around, especially when you're ignoring Christmas shopping you have to do like I am. Carlin concludes by echoing a thought I have quoted here before. I orginally heard it from baseball historian Bill James-look kindly upon the mistakes of the past, in the hope that future generations will look kindly on yours.

There's another analogy from baseball that fits here. (I, unlike your ordinary mortal blogger, can link everything to baseball.) It is often asked in baseball circles why it is that pitchers could throw 500 or 600 innings per season in baseball's prehistoric era, and even 300 innings in relatively modern times, while the 2009 league leader pitched 233 innings, widely considered to be the maximum for a modern hurler. People with modern training methods and nutrition should be able to exceed the limits of the past, right?

The answer is a complicated one-it is certainly harder to get a modern hitter out, and modern baseball philosophy has changed as well, along with a dozen other factors-but the one I am thinking of is the fact that the 300 inning pitcher of 1969 (league leader Gaylord Perry with 325) is at the summit of a selection bias-the ones who were able to pitch that much were able to survive shoulder and knee and back and elbow problems. There were numerous pitchers who could pitch that well for 9 innings, or 90, but who were injured and never heard from again.

Similarly, the appalling losses of women in childbirth and children themselves, both to infanticide and simple death and disease, create a world where you have to abuse your children-you can't afford to get too attached to them, because they may be gone. The society we have now was somehow built on the survivors of all those dozens of risks that befell women and infants-a horrific, macabre, real life version of Survivor. (Carlin makes this point well. Spider Robinson has a story about this, too, which I wish I had handy, about a woman who is immortal, but has had to follow the roles of women throughout history-burying dozens of children and spouses as the years go by.)

Cheerful, ain't I, on this rainy, gray Sunday?

Anyway, if you're a pod person, go download Dan. He's worth your time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Two Great Posts

This piece from the Wall Street Journal about writers and how they write, and this piece from Fake Steve Jobs, an imagined conversation with the head of AT+T about the state of American business today.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Blogging

Bad week in these parts.

I'm not alone in this-you can see the suffering here or here , too. Jelisa is still hysterically funny, and Kelly still rocks my world, but around my little corner of the interwebs, we is feeling us some seasonal affective disorder. Blues. Melancholia. The Darkness Visible. The Noonday Demon.

I could talk about my baseball team-Mike Lowell, American Hero, is gone to play Deep In The Heart Of Texas, traded away for young Max Ramirez, the latest in the long line of Good Young Catchers Who Are Going To Step In Since Jason Varitek Turned Into A Piece Of Petrified Wood. A smart move-dear old Mike doesn't have the spring in his step that he used to. Then again, I hasten to add, neither do I. Plus there's Boof. The Red Sox have acquired a player named Boof. Yes, really. That's his honest to Pete name. On his driver's license and everything. Boof. I swear on Bobby Doerr's grave. Wait, he's not dead? Dom DiMaggio's grave, then. But honestly, I just don't feel passionate about it right now.

For the last two weeks, at least, I have been anhedonic like a mofo. I can't derive pleasure from anything. I was so obsessed with finishing my novel for NaNoWriMo, and I guess that pleased me. The story means a lot to me, but it has reached the repulsive insect stage for me. I've now become hyper aware of its many flaws and the weight of the amount of work needed to fix them just overwhelms me. I want the story to be shared, to be experienced by others-but sometimes I just am nauseated by it.

I don't know what's wrong, exactly-I don't know that anything's wrong, necessarily. I can't shake the feeling that my despair is rational-as Doug Stanhope points out, if the first half of a movie is lousy, you don't really have any right to expect it to improve. Things are not looking well-I just don't see hope for the future. I see more striving and sacrifice and suffering just so I don't lose any ground. I'm not looking forward to that. Sorry.

My thinking doesn't feel disordered, to me. Don't all crazy people say that? It's dark out, and cold, and bitter. I still have to do Christmas shopping, and I just don't feel anything. Not anger, just fatigue-waves and waves of fatigue, physical and mental and spiritual.

I don't get anything, and I don't fit in anywhere. I don't feel like I'm a part of things. There are so many people doing great work, and I just didn't feel like I could add anything to it. Then I posted today, and proved it.

(Apropos of nothing, I added comment verification today. I have been getting spam comments in Chinese on one particular piece, for reasons I do not grasp. So just in case someone is smuggling plans for an anti tank missile using this blog, I'm sure that will stop them.)







Friday, December 11, 2009

And then, there's this...




My very favorite Muppet of all, Beaker, with my very favorite piece of music, Beethoven's "Ode To Joy"

New Muppet Video!




There's a new Muppet video out! Thanks to @nerdist for the tip off.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Dream Is Over






Twenty nine years ago today, musician and activist John Lennon was shot and killed in New York City.






Friday, December 04, 2009

Don't Know What You Got, Till It's Gone- (#Best09)

I don't have to post every day. I don't have to post any day. Every day, I think I should-there must be something funny, or soulful, or soulfully funny, or funnily soulful, that I can mock or comment upon or agree with or disagree with or argue with or throw my hands up in frustration at. Most days, I do. Some days, I don't. And the Earth just keeps on turning, heedless.

The inescapably marvelous and inexplicably single Katie wrote today about the Best of 2009 Challenge , which is the End of Yeary (and End of Decade-y) thing that the media usually does, assessing and evaluating. What were the Top Ten stories of 2009? Top Ten books, movies, TV shows, plays, actors, writers, golfers, tennis players? Political bloggers will give you the Top Ten Outrageous Things The President Did in 2009, and Basketball bloggers will give you the Top Ten Dunks of 2009. Pause, reflect, look back-because after all, we're about to go buy new calendars.

That's too harsh, really-there's nothing wrong with this trend. I just don't have the patience to try to come up with my ten favorite books from 2009. (That's really the only list I could populate, unless it was Top Ten Things I Said That DMarks Disagreed With or Top Ten Inappropriately Salacious Comments I Left On Katie's Blog.)

This article suggests that social networks, ironically, spread loneliness-that a lonely person, who is bitter or snarky or nasty on a social network to his or her peers will propagate this loneliness to others. Or, as my lovely and deeply patient wife puts it, "misery loves miserable company". This is the reason why I don't spend more time on Facebook, and this is the reason why I don't get more personal on here. I'm sick of scuba diving inside my own head, as Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, and I can't imagine anyone else finding it pleasant.

So this is a roundabout way of getting to the point-Katie's point today is about her lesson-what learning experience or lesson did you learn in 2009 that changed you?

I'll let Tom Keifer of Cinderella explain:



Life is too damn short, and it gets shorter every day. I will miss my father's presence, as much as I couldn't seem to make any time for him while he was here, every single day I am alive.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

More Flash Fiction: Sneakers

Yet another rejected piece (flash fiction, 200 words or less) from dogzplot.blogspot.com : "Sneakers"








"When he left, she put on her old sneakers. They are white, with some faded blue panels on the side in a checkerboard pattern. They are cut, sliced in places, and worn- friction from curbs and floors and cars and grass revealed in a thousand scuff marks. She wrote on them, once, a long time ago. You can't see what she wrote, but she remembers. They were faded, beaten, forgotten-shoved into the corner of the closet. She had other shoes-flats and sandals and flipflops and loafers and heels that she wears by herself, relishing the way her calves bunch and tighten in the mirror when she has them on. She wasn't trying to look down market and bohemian. She wasn't giving up. She wasn't backing down, or allowing him to dictate how she looked or how she felt.
She put on her old sneakers and wore them because they had been through a lot together, and it was time to rescue things that were forgotten. They looked like she felt, used and ignored and tossed aside in favor of newer, shinier things. She put on her old sneakers, and she walked out the door."


Hotel Illness




This was recommended by @ordinaryart, the magnificent Kel, who can be found writing here . As I have said, and will continue to say, if you're not reading her, you're missing out on someone special.



This is the Black Crowes performing "Hotel Illness". I am home from work trying to recover from another leg infection, a illness my body appears willing to succumb to about once a year. The last time this happened, exactly none of you will remember, the Celtics were in the NBA Finals playing the Lakers, making it June 2008. The reason why I remember things like that, I do not understand. Assuming the antibiotic takes hold, I should be back to normal very shortly. If I never post again, I'm probably dead. In that case, I would expect the number of posts to drop off dramatically.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

How Quick The Sun Can Drop Away

First off, if you haven't been here yet, then you're missing out. The post called "Hymnal" is gorgeous beyond my poor ability to describe.

Secondly, I think this is a really cool site. Dramatically NSFW, but cool. If you disagree, I can probably see your point, though.

Thirdly, these are ten questions I wish my company was smart enough to ask. 

Fourthly, seriously , Tiger? Wealthy beyond my capacity to imagine, married to a gorgeous woman, two beautiful children, and arguably the best practitioner of your craft who ever lived, and that's still not enough?

Fifthly, sometimes the simplest messages are the best. Thanks, @ericjfisher!

Sixthly, Tom Heinrich died yesterday. For a blog that is so slavishly baseball centric during the summer months, I have uttered barely a syllable since. Heinrich was a outfielder/first baseman on Joe DiMaggio's Yankee teams from 1937-1950. A feared clutch hitter, Heinrich was one of those "other guys" that never get the big money or the lion's share of the fame, but you don't win without them. He helped bury my Red Sox with 2 RBI in the deciding game of the 1949 season, sending them home with a 5-3 loss. (Boston entered the Yankee Stadium for the final two games of the 1949 season, needing one win to reach the World Series. Naturally, they lost them both.)

Seventhly, I have not given nearly enough love to my pals and brothers from another mother, Eric and Rob at WBRShow. Go here  for more information.

Eighthly, this is the always interesting Charlie Pierce's take on l'affaire Tiger. 

Ninthly, this guy grew up in the same town I did, and now he's the CEO of a major company. Sigh. 

Tenthly, for the funniest, pop culture oriented, NSFW tweets , follow her

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Black






I meant to add this story as a comment to someone's post about Pearl Jam's latest album, but now I've forgotten what blog that was on. I may have told this story before, too, so if I have, I'm sorry.


Back when I was in college, I commuted every day on the subway. The subway line I took also connected to othercolleges-Northeastern University, Massachusetts College of Art, Harvard Medical School, along with Boston LatinHigh School, so at typical commuting times (pre-9AM, say), the train would get fairly crowded. C'est la guerre, right?


So, when I was either hopelessly lost or otherwise bored while in class, I would write little cartoons and such in the margins. Sometimes band logos, sometimes song lyrics. Whatever. Anyhow.


One morning, I'm studying for a test, waiting for a train. A particularly stunning girl comes nearby, waiting for the same train. (On this train platform, the trains share the same track, and where you stand on the platform determines what train you intend to board. Confusing, at times, for non locals, but we cynical college students, half asleep, pretty much do it without much thought. ) Now, this happens 50 times a day-I used to fall in love quite readily, and being around 18-22 year olds a lot of the time, your odds of seeing someone attractive are astronomically high. So not exactly a news flash.


The page I'm studying has the last verse to Pearl Jam's "Black" written on it. Which, as I'm sure you all remember, is: "I know someday you'll have a beautiful life/I know you'll be a star/In somebody else's sky/But why/
Why/Why can't it be/Can't it be mine"



So I tear the strip of paper off of my notebook, and roll it into a cylinder. The train comes, and I maneuver myself to be behind the fetching girl. She is carrying a backpack. I slip the cylinder of paper, without being detected, into the aforementioned backpack. She leaves the train at some point, and I never see her again. 


Now, questions that has tormented me for almost 20 years now: Why did I do this? And, more interestingly, how did she react to finding it? 



Monday, November 30, 2009

Fear and Loathing

I exchanged emails with my son's teacher over the weekend. This is a very 21st century thing to be doing-I certainly would have freaked out if my parents had done something similar when I was my son's age. My son seems unimpressed-but, in a way, he is unimpressed about just about everything. I think he is getting used to the idea that I am one weird cat. It wasn't about his scholastic performance, it was actually about the Vonnegut excerpt I posted below, but it wound up being about that, at least in passing. That is an entirely logical thing to happen-after all, my son's status as his student is the reason why I know him at all. 


But I digress. 


The problem I am having, and have had, and continue to have, with my son is motivating him to apply himself in school. This is not an uncommon problem-and it was certainly one that my parents had with me. It may pass, with time. It may not. I don't know anything about a lot of things, and parenting is one of them. Parenting is without question the single hardest and most complicated thing I have ever done. I'm never done parenting, and I am constantly afraid I am doing it wrong, and I am given reminders, every once in a while, that I am. 


Now, part of this problem is the breed-preteens don't care about a lot of things that we'd rather they care about, and care a lot about things we'd rather they didn't. I get that. Part of the problem is that he's right-no matter how hard his teachers try to render it otherwise, school is boring. It is infinitely more interesting to be doing any one of a hundred other things, especially in 2009's multiverse of entertainment options, than being in school. 'Twas ever thus-even in my own childhood in the late Pleistocene, I would have much rather been at home than in school, ten times out of ten, and twice on Sunday. Except we didn't go to school on Sunday. Except for Sunday School.

Anyway. 



The only way I can get my son to work at anything is through threats of dire consequences if he does not. This is a lousy motivator. (Mind you, I'm Scottish, so I'm stubborn enough to follow through on the threats, and, on a few occasions, I have.) "When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully," wrote Samuel Johnson. 


Fear motivates, but it is not viable over the long term. I run much of my life based on it. I work because I fear starving, I parent out of fear of failing. It works for a while, but like being exposed to chronic stress, after a while the system breaks down, and the gears grind to a halt.  


I love reading, and I love being exposed to new ideas, and learning things I didn't know yesterday. I don't know how to get someone else to motivate themselves. I guess that means I'll never become President. 


These are the top ten suggestions Google has for phrases that begin with "Fear of"


1. Fear of long words
2. Fear of flying
3. Fear of clowns
4. Fear of heights
5. Fear of death
6. Fear of being alone
7. Fear of the dark
8. Fear of public speaking
9. Fear of commitment
10. Fear of flying lyrics


I think we can all agree that flying lyrics are something to be afraid of. 

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The End of Silence

"This silence is not just in the gaps and spaces that punctuate sentences but is rather the lack within words that renders them articulate. For those with ears to hear, all saying is unsaying and every word is also a not. There can no more be word without silence than silence without Word. The origin, then, is always duplicitous: In the beginning is the Word...In the beginning is Silence. The quiet echo of this silence is profoundly unsetlling-in it I hear the Not that I am. Though we may long to escape it, silence can never be silenced. When we forget or refuse to listen to silence, we no longer know who we are because we do not know what we are not."



"Not everything that can be said should be said. Reticence is a particularly important virtue, especially in a time when everything as well as everybody is exposed...All too often people become complicit in the colonization of their own inwardness by soliciting the very publicity that inevitably undoes them. When this occurs, thoughtful reflection gives way to thoughtless spectacle: I am seen, therefore I am."

-Professor Mark C. Taylor, "Field Notes from Elsewhere" (Columbia University Press, 2009)

Blogging about silence is not quite like dancing about architecture-it's a little more like dancing about a statue.

I've always liked the drama of the phrase, "In the beginning there was the Word." It's the first words of the first chapter of the Book of John, the fourth book of the New Testament. If you've read any of the Bible (or books about the Bible), you know that it tends to repeat itself-retelling the same story or set of stories, sometimes more than once, in various places, sometimes using different names. The reason why is pretty obvious-without the printed word for the next 1400 years or so, the tradition was either oral or handwritten to keep telling the stories to the kiddos and pass the religion along. You had to keep them simple, easy to remember.

The echo, here, from "In the beginning there was the Word", of course, is the "In the beginning" from, well, the beginning-the book of Genesis. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth." The notion of the Word being the beginning is a powerful one. In David Plotz' book "The Good Book", where he does a pretty close, sometimes very funny, reading of the Old Testament, he points out that the Word is what kept the Jewish people together, on the same page, so to speak, through all their thousands of years of wandering. The Word is everything-before everything, there is the text. Hence the phrase "People of the Book"-a Muslim phrase describing Jews and Christians-without the words, without the text, there is nothing, in a sense, to believe in. The words hold it all together.

I like Prof. Taylor's notion that every word implies its opposite. You chose that word, and not this other one, and not, by definition, silence. Words have enormous power. Silence, the absence of speech, the blank page, gives rise to words, and worlds are created. In the beginning, is silence, and then there are words, and then there is, well, everything.

I've been quite self reflective since finishing NaNoWriMo. (pause to admire the glow from my winner's badge-winner, winner, chicken dinner.) I have this world, these people made only of words. (As I edit and reshape and retool and refine, checking things as simple as making sure someone has the same shirt at the end of the day as they had at the beginning, I'm increasingly sympathetic towards copy editors-it's exhausting, reading the same stuff over and over again. It starts to look right, even when it's glaringly wrong.) I'm sad that it's over, but I'm glad that it's done-that this story that I've been thinking about, in one form or another, since high school, is out of my head and into a finished form. I'm elated about eventually putting it onto the printed page for the world to consume, and I'm also terrified. Not just of the embarassment of missing an error, but what if it isn't the same as it is in my head? Or what if it is, and people hate it or, worse, are bored by it? You can't control that-that's the nature of art. You put it out there, and people make of it what they will.


I have ended the silence.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Vonnegut on Hemingway

I had been looking for this piece for ages, and I am delighted that I finally found it. From his nonfiction book "Fates Worse Than Death", the late Kurt Vonnegut, addressing Hemingway scholars:

" Let me hasten to say that no matter how much his choice of subject matter bothers me nowadays, I am always amazed and delighted by the power he discovered in the simplest language. A sample I chose at random from his short story 'Big Two Hearted River': 'Nick sat down against the charred stump and smoked a cigarette. His pack balanced on the top of the stump, harness holding ready, a hollow molded in it from his back. Nick sat smoking, looking out over the country. He did not need to get his map out. He knew where he was from the position of the river.

" 'As he smoked, his legs stretched out in front of him, he noticed a grasshopper walk along the ground and up onto his woolen sock. The grasshopper was black. As he had walked along the road, climbing, he had started many grasshoppers from the dust. They were all black.'

"(The grasshoppers were black, of course, because the area had been burned over recently, making black the ideal protective coloration.)

"No fear of repeating words there. How many of you had teachers who told you never to use the same word twice in a paragraph, or even in adjacent paragraphs? Clearly, that was poor advice. The biggest word in that passage, by the way, is 'grasshopper'. Big enough! The strongest word is 'black.' Strong enough!

"I myself, when I teach writing, say that people will not read a story in which nothing much happens. But nothing much happens in two of Hemingway's most thrilling stories, 'A Clean, Well-Lighted Place' and, again, 'Big Two-Hearted River.' How is this possible? It is the brushwork.  If Hemingway had been a painter, I would say of him that while I often don't like the subjects he celebrates, I sure as heck respect his brushwork."

Or, even better...(NSFW) (Jon Hamm Edition) (My Wife Is Still Funnier Than You)

As I said, NSFW. Read on if you dare.






HER:"Jon Hamm makes you drop down on your knees and thank God you have a vagina."

-OR-

"Tom Jones gets panties thrown at him. Jon Hamm makes panties disintegrate."

-OR-

"Jon Hamm makes women ovulate on sight."

My brother has a complex about this, but I don't...

...or, My Wife Is Funnier Than You, Part MCMXCVXIII


HER: But I need...lady stuff.

ME: No problem. What kind?

HER: Always Thin Overnight. With wings.

ME(writing): Thin, overnight, wings. Got it. Any special brand?

HER: I told you.

ME: No, I need to know if there's a special brand.

HER: I told you. Always.

ME: Oh, you mean the brand Always. I thought you meant the word always. Small 'a'.

HER: You're always stupid.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Charlie Pierce leaves the reservation

I promised myself I wouldn't do this anymore. (Talk about politics, and get meself all riled up.)

I lied.

Charlie Pierce on President Obama:

"It is early days, surely, but, at the moment, there is absolutely no way on god's earth that I would vote to re-elect Barack Obama as President of the United States. I always had my DOUBTS. But I was willing to ride the train in order to keep the government out of the hands of a bunch of undereducated paranoid lunatics, which I didn't see as very high a bar, truth be told. I do not underestimate the size of the problems he was handed last January with two badly run wars and one badly run economy. But, all Lilly Ledbetters aside, it is becoming increasingly plain that the man is not up to the most important job he was elected to do--which is to wring the accumulated viciousness, ignorance, and hackery of the past eight years out of the various parts of the United States government--and to do it brutally, if necessary, which it is. One of our two major political parties has completely lost its mind. This should be a political issue. It is incumbent upon the other party to eliminate that party's influence until it purges itself and comes to its senses again. It also scarcely needs to be said that the sane party has to watch its own ranks for people who seem to be enabling and abetting the goals of the crazy party. Otherwise, as Ezra Klein memorably put it this week, every attempt at bipartisanship winds up as "a hostage negotiation." President Obama--and does anyone but me notice that he gets the honorific conspicuously less often on TV than the last guy did?-- not only seems unequal to this task, he doesn't even seem to recognize the task at all. He wasn't elected to change the tone, dammit. He was elected to change everything because everything needed to be changed. So it's a hard goddamn job. So what? He didn't know this coming in? Now we're going to feed 34,000 more American kids into the meat grinder in Afghanistan because we're America and we can do anything we set our minds to? Hell, we can't even keep our own citizens alive by breaking the power of the health-insurance industry. We can't right our economy because it's still in the hands of Wall Street grifters, and the government has fallen into the thrall of a bunch of banker-morons I wouldn't trust with a potato gun. Some people needed to be crushed politically. Some people needed to go to jail. Some people needed to be exiled forever from the serious business of self-government. It's Black Friday, and I'm shopping for another candidate. I'm beating the rush."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rejection: It's Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

Since the fine folks at dogzplot.blogspot.com turned me down, I guess I can go ahead and post this here: Flash Fiction, again, this time 200 words or less. The title is "Ponytail"

"She crossed her legs easily. She can tuck one leg so far over the other her shoe almost hits me in the leg. The stockings make a synthetic, high pitched sound when they rub together. I am sitting behind her, so every detail is palpable. The semicircle of skin between the base of her neck and the collar of her shirt. Her ponytail, a long, straight line that bobs when she moves her head. Like a pony.

She moves her head to follow him as he lectures. Biology, Punnett squares. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. I have to follow him too, but I follow her, following him. A stray hair is on my notebook. It's hers, long and brown and curly. Hair has DNA.

When he mentions sexuality, the manifestation of all this math and intricate relationships, a titter runs through them all. Not even a giggle, just a acknowledgment that something naughty has been brought up. I feel it, feel the letters colliding, the traits mixing, the magic of generations bearing fruit. I cannot admit what I really feel, but my body screams it out. Reproduce or die, it says. Being civilized, I stay quiet."

***

My NaBloPoMo streak ended last night, to the shock and surprise of exactly no one. Don't judge.

***

If you want to see some roasting done by one of the quickest minds in the business, check out facebook.com/the40yearoldboy, and scroll down to the Jimmy Pardo roast section. Jeffrey Ross, eat your heart out. Exuberantly NSFW, though, so be warned.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Flash Fiction: "Last Night"

She sat right next to him. He was playing with his phone now, trying to look busy, not looking at her , deliberately. She considered poking him, even kicking him to get his attention. That wouldn't be “professional”, wouldn't be “appropriate”. The candidate would be out soon, and the work would begin. She'd be writing, recording. So would he. Then on to the next town. Shamed. Silenced. Forgotten. Last night, he called out her name. Pulled, pushed, kissed, advanced, retreated. Last night, his attention was on her. Last night, he looked at her. Last night.


Flash Fiction, fiction of 100 words or less. Based on a prompt found here

The Most Awesome Thing Ever Since The Last Thing I Said Was The Most Awesome Thing Ever








Clearly, the most awesome thing in the entire history of awesome.

The Future of Media – Howard Stern, Bill Simmons, Adam Carolla

The Future of Media – Howard Stern, Bill Simmons, Adam Carolla


Aaron Cohen with a provocative, though not new, idea about the future of media.


James McManus on Americans and Poker

"Ever since the Mayflower carried separatist Puritans to Plymouth in 1620, what is often called the American Experiment has lavishly rewarded and punished those who take risks. From Washington's attack on Trenton after crossing the Delaware in a Christmas night hailstorm, Alexander Hamilton's revolutionary banking and credit systems, to the nine-figure compensation packages for CEOs and hedge fund managers, our military, political, and economic systems have all been tipped in favor of people who bet big and won-as opposed to Old Europe, where nearly every advantage went to those who were lucky enough to be born aristocrats."

From McManus' lovely new book, "Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker"

Sometimes even a cynic has hope...

It turns out that there are limits to what people will put up with in public.

A protest by the KKK before a University of Mississippi football game was shouted down and humiliated by a much larger crowd of right minded citizens. Free speech in action-go right ahead, bring your idiotic rhetoric into the public square, and you will be treated, by the public, as the pinheads you are. No violence, no hitting, just voices raised against morons.

Good on ya, Ole Miss!

"Rejoice, as we will destroy racism in our lifetime."
-Henry Rollins

Asking too much

I don't ask y'all for much. Only patience, really, which you give in oodles and heaps. So thanks for that.

But other than that, I don't ask y'all for much. So do me a quick favor, then, wouldja please?

Head on over to this little corner of Blogsylvania, please, and enter my blog buddy Katie's (the very same one who delighted and inspired you when she guest posted here) little contest. She's working her little social media tuchus off for @run2inspire, a HPV charity, and is giving away a Visa gift card in return for the generation of some buzz, some heat, some smoke, some googlejuice about her efforts for @run2inspire.

Since I'm sure that, like me and ESPN's Matthew Berry, you are anti cancer, you will have no ethical trouble doing so.

So go give Miss K some love, wouldja please?

Tanks heaps.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Talk about your young and aggressive rock n rollers!






Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, dropping some knowledge on the people, nearly 35 years ago.

Lions are down




I know it's tacky, but I don't care. I think that's hysterical.

Those What Be Way Betterer

Two bloggers for y'all this morning:

PeterDeWolf.wordpress.com

A sensitive, funny, impressively talented guy. All text, but some, shall we say, adult themes?

ordinaryartblog.com

I don't know this young lady's name, but I stumbled across her from indieink.org and am transfixed. Again, some adult themes and somewhat rough language, but raw, real, original, gorgeous, and heartbreaking.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Do They Know It's Christmas?

Do They Know It's Christmas? from Scott Aukerman on Vimeo.



From a mentally unstable group of LA comedians, a satire of Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?", the real one of which will begin assaulting us any day now.

Unabashedly NSFW

Saturday, November 21, 2009

They Won't Break Me




God, I love you, Youtube.

Guns N Roses, still a young, vital group, before they got psychotic and old and tired and stupid,at the Ritz on a tiny, sweaty stage, playing their guts out.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Who Is She?

According to my IPod,


She's A Mover (Big Star)
She's A Woman (The Beatles)
She's Always A Woman (Billy Joel)
She's Got a Broken Heart (Bill Hicks)
She's Got a Way (Billy Joel)
She's Leaving Home (The Beatles)
She's My Baby (The Traveling Wilburys)
She's Right On Time (Billy Joel)
She's The One (Bruce Springsteen)
She Builds Quick Machines (Velvet Revolver)
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (The Beatles)
She Gotta Smile (Stephen Lynch)
She Is A Diamond (Evita)
She Just Wants To Be (REM)
She Loves You (The Beatles)
She Mine (Velvet Revolver)
She Moves On (Paul Simon)
She Said She Said (The Beatles)
She Said Yeah (Paul McCartney)
She Sells Sanctuary (The Cult)
She Talks To Angels (The Black Crowes)

An even cheaper trick

"A girl came in the cafe and sat by herself at a table near the window. She was very pretty with a face fresh as a newly minted coin if they minted coins smooth flesh with rain freshened skin, and her hair was black as a crow's wing and cut sharply and diagonally across her cheek.

I looked at her and she disturbed me and made me very excited. I wished I could put her in the story, or anywhere, but she had placed herself so she could watch the street and the entry and I knew she was waiting for someone. So I went on writing.

The story was writing itself and I was having a hard time keeping up with it. I ordered another rum St. James and I watched the girl whenever I looked up, or when I sharpened the pencil with a pencil sharpener with the shavings curling into the saucer under my drink.

I've seen you, beauty, and you belong to me now, whoever you are waiting for and if I never see you again, I thought."

-Ernest Hemingway, "A Movable Feast"




I know exactly what he is talking about here, except for the pencil and the Earth shattering talent parts.



Something I have always wondered about-has the word processor fundamentally changed the act of writing? I wonder if the intense focus you need to type up handwritten manuscript pages on a typewriter made the writing different? Whereas now, with editing orders of magnitude easier, we write differently-more sloppy, less precise?

(For you kids-a "typewriter" was a mechanical device for putting words on a sheet of paper. Google it.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Probably the cheapest NaBloPoMo trick ever

As literally dozens of you know, along with being NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), it is NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). The latter challenge is to post something meaningful every day during the entire month of November. And, since I am a contrary cuss who doesn't like streaks being broken, I bring you today the beginning of my NaNoWriMo novel, tentatively called "The Last of the Big Time Spenders".










"There's no good reason to answer the phone, I thought.
I heard the insistent buzzing. My phone was plugged in, charging, sitting on the floor. I had left it on “vibrate”, and there it was, vibrating away, asking for my attention. Nobody ever calls me who I want to talk to, so why answer it? Especially on Monday-it was surely a bill I had forgotten to pay, or one I had deliberately ignored, hoping to be able to eat food that week.
I let it vibrate, rolling over on my mattress. I called it a futon, but it wasn't, it was just an old mattress sitting on the floor in my apartment. My four room apartment, on top of a music store, full of emptiness. When Nicole was here...stop it, I told myself. Nicole isn't here. Nicole isn't interested in you. She isn't interested in your gender, frankly, at least not now. So just stop it.
The phone stopped. I stared at it, the display glowing with a message left by the caller. One or another employer, wanting me to do something, or my credit card company, wanting me to pay something. It might be a student's parent, calling to cancel, or complain about my fees-my living room was also my studio, where I wrote songs, practiced, and thought. I would occasionally try to teach sullen preteens how to play guitar downstairs, in the corner of the music shop. When people ask what I do, I usually say, “this and that”. Which is what it is-teach guitar, work downstairs selling guitars and music, work over at the same fast food place that has paid me weekly (very weakly, as the old joke goes) since I got here to start (and finish, three days later) collegiate life. This, and that. Somebody wanted something, that was for certain."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

As y'all can see from the counter doohickey gadget, I am now an officially minted NaNoWriMo winner. For the first time since I started doing this in 2005, I have started November with nothing and wrote 50,000 words of fiction in, it turns out, 18 days. (All "winning" means is you have written 50000 words, according to the word count robot thing that you copy and paste your story into.)

Yay, me.

All that means for you guys is I may get back to doing more blogging. Whether or not that is good news or not, I will leave as an exercise for the reader.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Katievasion!

Today is blogswap day, cats and kittens, where the paranoid, antisocial ravings of myself are replaced by the smooth jazz stylings of Katie, who is a way better blogger than I am, with 100% more buttplug jokes. If you are so lonely, paranoid, and antisocial that you simply must experience my thoughts for the day, they will be represented at Katie's little corner of Blogistan. Katie blogs here , tweets here , and shops here , should you feel the need to lavish affection upon her.

Katie's brilliance begins here:

Hi to Mr. Mike’s friends. I am Katie. True story.

I was touched in my special places when Mikey Mike asked if I’d like to guest post on his blog. Not many people solicit me for more than sexual favors borrowing money or advice so when he suggested we swap blogs, I was super stoked. Of course I’m no good with topics and stuff so I made him do the hard work. I told him I was legally indecisive and he bought it.

First off, I want to note that I really don’t understand why we call Thanksgiving and Christmas the “holiday season.” There’s probably an explanation. There’s probably a reason. I don’t like it. For the sake of this post, though, I’ll refer to November and December as “Holiday Season.” But I won’t like it. Just sayin’.

With the holidays approaching, I find myself in denial. Each year, I find myself in the same denial. I always think that I shouldn’t buy any presents because the Holiday season (or at least Christmas) is going to be cancelled and I won’t have to have gifts. Then a week or so before the official day of the holiday I realize that I was wrong again, Christmas will go on, and now I have a million presents to buy for people whom I often can’t stand.

It’s not that I don’t like the holidays. I think I’m a fan of most holidays in which it is not only acceptable to get drunk, but expected. Kind of like the unofficial holiday of “Thanksgiving Eve.” I don’t really know how this ritual came to be, but I do know that it’s fantastic, especially because the next day is filled with turkey and the trimmings to chase that hangover away.

Most things about the Holidays I do like. I love all of the food on Thanksgiving. And I like football. I also like the church and Christmas thing – I liked Christmas a lot better when I got all of the presents and thought Santa was real. I also liked it when a pencil with the word “Mom” on it was an acceptable gift and it only cost me .50 cents. I was also a fan of the snow globes which were about $1.00. Now you can’t find a nice snow globe for less than $30.

So, I do like Christmas, I do like Thanksgiving. As for the others?
I don’t like Valentine’s Day.
I do like Halloween.
I don’t like Easter.
I like Christopher Columbus Day.
So all in all, I think I like the Holidays. I don’t like that so much has changed since I was a wee tyke – but at least there is beer to numb the pain, right?

RIGHT!

Monday, November 16, 2009

What'd I Say






Still neck deep in NaNo. 40K down, and the end in sight!


Here's a little gem I stumbled upon, the 33 year old Ray Charles performing "What'd I Say".

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Who Is Number One?

Still NaNoWriMoing, and it's actually going very, very well-better than it ever has.

I will be taking a break from 8-9 tonight, because the new Prisoner begins tonight. I'm not a big TV guy, but I have become hooked on ABC's FlashForward, and I think this one may be a second addiction.

The original Prisoner was a psychedelic romp, set in a private mini-city known as The Village. It's one of those shows that makes you do the work-you don't know what anything means at first, and you have to figure it out as you go. (My best friend Shawn actually traveled to Portmeirion in Wales where the original series was shot.) Patrick McGoohan (who I believe I read somewhere turned down the role of James Bond at one point) is Number 6, imprisoned in The Village. The masters will not let him escape until he reveals why he resigned as a secret agent, and he tries various plans and subterfuges to get away. But they never work, and at the end of every episode, he is back in the Village again. (He escapes in the last one, but some fans argue it's an illusion, and he never really gets away.)

The series used to be on PBS a lot, and Shawn got me hooked on it in high school. He taped them all, and we avidly watched them. He even went so far as to subscribe to a fan newsletter and join a fan club. (Needless to say, neither of us were dating a whole lot at the time.) (Or at any time, come to think of it.)

In a phrase that may become familiar to you if you tune in, Be Seeing You.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

From our friends at XKCD.com


Oh, Goody.
















A cheap way to get a post out today. I'm deeply engaged in NaNo ing, which is probably a relief to many. But I'm not so hidebound that I won't do this, which technically counts as a post and keeps the NaBloPoMo streak alive.

Friday, November 13, 2009

This Might Be The Greatest Album Title Ever

Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that Soul Asylum's debut album was called "Say What You Will, Clarence...Karl Sold The Truck".

That's a great album title.

The Fix Is In

I'm reminded of the Bill Hicks routine where the new President is shown into a dark room, where he sits at a long table surrounded by portly industrialists. A movie screen descends from the ceiling, and a recording of the Kennedy Assassination is shown, in full color, from a completely different angle, with stereo sound. The film ends, the screen rises back up, and one of the industrialists asks, "Any questions?" The President responds, "Just what my agenda is."

Reading Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine" is like taking regular sips of really bitter medicine. I don't like the process, but I keep doing it. I dont totally buy her thesis-that Milton Friedman and his cronies sow seeds of violence around the world, so they can use the ensuing chaos to install policies that make the elite (who Hunter S Thompson called the greedheads) rich. But she has her facts and her history down-and there is no doubt that these University of Chicago schooled economists have wormed their way into powerful places around the world.  I have no doubt they are more than willing to see preexisting chaos and take advantage of it in the name of reform.

There's a scene in Bob Woodward's The Agenda where he describes Bill Clinton, during his transition team meetings, exploding in anger that he didn't get elected to serve the bond traders. Increasingly, I'm beginning to see that he's wrong-he absolutely was, and so have all the other Presidents.

I am starting to feel like the fix is in-politics, and Congress, and David Gregory on the White House lawn is all a dumbshow-bread and circuses to make people think their opinions matter. They don't. As George Carlin put it, the country was bought and paid for years ago. You and I are just grist for the mill.

"Soylent Green is people."

These Are The Things I Can Do Without

Five Things, People, Or Concepts I Can Do Without, In Order To Fulfill My NaBloPoMo Obligations:

1) Sarah Palin
2) Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine"-I have never been so hypotized by something I'm not enjoying at all
3) My own inadequacies
4) The fact that ESPN has decided to rerun "30 for 30" on ESPN Classic so I can't watch it.
5) Talking about how much you're going to eat at Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tweet of the Day

In my continuing efforts to keep up with nonexistent made up contests, I will extend my NaBloPoMo streak with the following lemony goodness from Amanda Rykoff, who is, despite being a Yankee fan, still a decent sort. 






@amandarykoff: " And I pulled an OJ and made my flight. Barely. And no, I didn't kill anyone.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Did I mention I love this song?

"You find somebody to love in this world/
You better hang on tooth and nail/
The wolf is always at the door."






I love this song.

Word Count Update

The NaNoWriMo widget doohickey is having a little tantrum right now.

Right now, I'm at 19,735.

Veterans' Day

It is Veterans' Day, the day that used to be set aside to commemorate the guns falling silent at the end of the First World War. In 2009, of course, we don't set anything aside-commerce and Mammon rules all. I made some really acerbic comments about the Department of Defense a few days ago in this space, which probably got me onto some kind of list. That was partially to be funny, and partially out of a personal grudge towards how they treated a friend of mine, which I won't get into because it's complicated and very, very boring to anyone but me. And that person.

But I don't hold any animus towards veterans. From Valley Forge to Kandahar, they have stood their ground, and put their body between the danger and me. "Thank you" is woefully inadequate.

Let's just say I wish there were no need to have veterans, and let's leave it at that.

George Carlin on war. Needless to say, like any Carlin routine, NSFW.




RIP Aerosmith?



Apparently, the rumor I first caught from a friend on Facebook has some legs. Reports are that singer Steven Tyler is leaving the band, and while the rest of the group appears to be planning to move on with another singer, I think anyone would agree that the group isn't the same without Tyler's yawp. I have to keep reminding myself that the guys in Aerosmith are about as old as my parents-when my parents were finishing their education at Boston University, a proto version of Aerosmith was playing at parties in the houses in that neighborhood. (They claim they never encountered them, but it's cooler to think otherwise.)

Aerosmith is not the most important band in the world, but they certainly have some memorable songs, and have returned from the ashes at least once before. After a number of hits in the Seventies, the band had several years of drug and drink fueled chaos, and then returned with a second wave of hits in the mid to late Eighties. The above song is from the second wave, and has always brought back painful memories for me-it's lyric hits home in a very personal way.

If it turns out they are gone, or even they are going to continue on without Tyler, they don't owe me anything, that's for sure-they have brought me gallons of joy over the years. Hopefully, they can straighten out their problems and fly right again. But if not, thanks for the memories.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Winter Of Our Discontent

So it's time for the baseball Winter Meetings, and my baseball team, the team I care about, decides to liven up my Hot Stove League mind with a Jeremy Hermida, whatever that is, and a new contract for a 43 year old pitcher with back problems? Really, this is our plan to unseat the World Champion Yankees? This should work, sure.

Monday, November 09, 2009

A Point I've Been Trying to Make

Bill Simmons, from his Week 9 NFL column: (http://bit.ly/3TElpC)

"On Monday night, Atlanta coach Mike Smith became the latest to screw up the "down by two scores in the final two minutes" conundrum. If you missed it, the Falcons recovered a fumble with 1:23 remaining on their own 47. Trailing by 11, they got two quick first downs and reached New Orleans' 23 with less than a minute to play. Right there, they should have spiked the ball, kicked a field goal and gone for the onside kick-Hail Mary combo. Nope. They kept plowing ahead. Quarterback Matt Ryan suffered a sack and was forced to spike the ball on second down. Tick … tick … tick … On third-and-13, they wasted a few more seconds on a quick slant out of bounds. Finally, their kicker nailed the 40-yarder that they could have had 25 seconds earlier. To make it worse, they recovered the onside kick but didn't have enough time (just 28 seconds) to get in Hail Mary range. Now, if they had hired a 17-year-old video game nerd as their Madden Late-Game Coordinator, he would have told them to grab that 40-yarder as soon as they could get it. This happens all the time. So let's call this a futuristic Great Call of the Week: I'd like to hand it out to the first NFL coach smart enough to hire a 17-year-old video game nerd for these situations. Someday. We can only hope."

Bill James, from the 1986 Baseball Abstract (http://bit.ly/626VN)

"In many other professions, simulations are much prized as educational tools; a major airline would never think of sending a pilot up with lives in his hands unless he had pulled a few dozen planes out of simulated crashes. And what is an APBA [cards and dice baseball simulation] game, anyway? Why, it is a simulation of a manager's job, nothing more nor less."


This is a powerful idea. I play baseball and football simulation games all the time. (Well, not all the time. Not as much as I'd like. But a lot.) It doesn't qualify me to be a major league manager. BUT IT WOULDN'T HURT!

So many times, we see managers of multi million dollar organizations unable to make the most simple, straightforward decisions. No, the game isn't the same as the real thing-but, if the game is constructed correctly, the math IS THE SAME. The first sports organization that gets a handle on this-using simulations to teach, not management, but the math of the game situations, will have an advantage.

To take the example Simmons cites in more detail, you need the two scores, regardless. The field goal is the easier score to get, by far-once you get the ball close enough, with a professional kicker, it's as close to automatic as you are going to get. So, as Simmons says, once you're in range, you TAKE IT. You need the ball back anyway, and you need as much time as possible left when you try to get the second score. It doesn't matter which score you get first, because you need both. What you need more of is TIME, and trying to get the touchdown now wastes that time. If you fail at the onside kick, you lose anyway. So why not do like Simmons says, get the kick now and then try to get the ball back? As he says, a Madden player knows this-instinctively, instantly. At the end of a game, when you need two scores, time is precious. Time is CRITICAL. You kick the field goal, then try to get the ball back. The key is you NEED TWO SCORES. Without the easy one, the hard one doesn't matter. So take the easy one, and save the time.

It's easy.

Top Ten Comedians

Apropos of a suggestion I made on the NaNoWriMo forums, and to keep my NaBloPoMo streak running, The Top Ten Standup Comedians I Have Ever Heard-

1. Bill Hicks
2. Jimmy Pardo
3. Steve Harvey
4. Patton Oswalt
5. Lewis Black
6. Doug Stanhope
7. Maria Bamford
8. Dana Gould
9. Mitch Hedberg
10. Brian Posehn

My criteria are lasting impact/philosophical nature, relistenability, cleverness/creativity and laugh out loud impact.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Let The World Change You

From protoblogger Dave Winer (http://bit.ly/3SQwpG):

"I am a former young person who wanted to Change The World himself. I look back at that young person, and think -- he was lovely in many ways but he made a pretty good mess of his life, because he had no clue who he was and how he got that way. Change The World? Good thing that didn't happen! As someone who just watched his father die, I don't think any of us have the first clue how the world works. My father was a smart man, spent a lot of time thinking, and at the end, he may have understood 1 percent of 1 percent of 1 percent of how the world works. And some of that was based on faulty assumptions....Change is made by all of us, over many generations. The best we can do is make a few other people happy for a while, make ourselves happy, and if you do that, and leave the place a little nicer for having been here, I say -- Job Well Done! Maybe instead of changing the world, relax, and Let The World Change You. That's closer to what actually happens in life, no matter how rich or famous (or not) you are."

Rock The Casbah

I heard The Clash’s “Rock The Casbah” on the radio this morning. I know this brands me as an ignoramus, but I don’t get the Clash, I never have. I feel about the Clash the way I feel about architecture-I know it’s important, but I just don’t get it-it doesn’t move me at all. Maybe you had to be there. I wasn’t really there for REM-I didn’t start to listen to them until they were huge, though. I don’t know what it is. I don’t get the Clash, though.
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To The Best of Our Knowledge this week was a perfect exploration of music and its meaning, “Coming of Age Through Music”, featuring one of my alltime Fave Raves, Nick Hornby, talking about his new book, “Juliet, Naked”, which I loved.
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The first speaker on TTBOOK, Lavinia Greenlaw, said something very interesting-teenage girls use music to express and share feelings, and teenage boys use it to categorize emotion-put it into taxonomies and hierarchies. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a description more spot on. Unless it’s “you’re really not well, are you?”
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I’m reading an interesting book, “Say Everything”, by Scott Rosenberg, about the history and future of blogging. Strangely, I’m not mentioned anywhere-but I’m sure he’s just waiting for the paperback.
(Ha!)
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One of the interesting parts of the book is descriptions of some flame wars and battles between protobloggers like Dave Winer and Jason Calacanis. Anyone who spends more than 3 ½ seconds online is familiar to the uncivilized nature of Internet speech in 2009-nature red of tooth and claw, as it were. Sadly, it appears, ‘twas ever thus.

What this made me think about this morning was how really grateful I am to all my readers and commenters. To have something that you have written, or just quoted, or cited, provoke a reaction from someone else is really gratifying. Why write anything at all if you don’t want a response? So, even if you think I suck (cue my friend Eric Parr saying, “but you DO suck!”), thanks for noticing.
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An IPod on Shuffle is a good way for me to discover albums I forgot I enjoyed-so far, Eric Clapton’s “24 Nights” and Billy Joel’s Live in Russia record, KOHUEPT. (Read that last word in Cyrillic to get the proper impact.
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Apropos of nothing, how brilliant was it to use the Doors’ “People Are Strange” in the movie, “The Lost Boys”? It still sounds freaky, more than 40 years after they recorded it. That sounds like a neat job to have, picking out music to put in movies.
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