Saturday, November 14, 2009

From our friends at

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: (

"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 (

"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 (

"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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.