Saturday, October 10, 2009

ALDS Game Two: Bringin' On The Heartbreak

Last night, the Red Sox fell 4-1 to the Angels, pushing them to the brink of elimination in the five game ALDS. Jered Weaver and Josh Beckett battled to a tie for six innings, but the Los Angeles Angels rallied for 3 seventh inning runs, the limp as a noodle Boston bats could not respond. Game three is Sunday.

In The Glow Of The Night
Howard Zinn on Obama and the Door Knocker Prize. (No bell…….Nobel….get it?) Zinn makes me look like Newt Gingrich, but he has a point here. Then again, as Zinn points out, he’s far from the worst person to win it.


Pierre Robert told an awesome story on the radio the other day-apparently when Pearl Jam played in Los Angeles, they had Chris Cornell come on stage with them to play Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike”, and Jerry Cantrell from Alice In Chains came out to play “Alive” with them. Coolness.


More Pierre love: Friday afternoon, his vinyl pick was Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender”. I forgot what an EXCELLENT song that is. I guess I really do like Jackson Browne, it turns out, since I’m fond of several of them. (That one, “The Load Out/Stay”, and “Take It Easy”, which he wrote.)


Listening to the Who’s “I Can’t Explain”, it struck me that the first time I heard this song, it was because the Scorpions did a cover of it. Shows what an ignoramus I was-one of the most significant rock bands in history, and I had never heard one of their biggest hits until a heavy metal band performed it.


An amazing story about a Russian military officer who saved the world in 1983 by ignoring a false alarm coming from Russian early warning systems. He could have started a chain of events that resulted in Russian nuclear attack, which would have, of course, been followed by American response, and killed us all. Mindblowing.


Kevin Pollak ( (@kevinpollak) (Lt. Weinberg from “A Few Good Men”), standup comic, actor, and raconteur, is going to have the brilliant and mordantly funny Eddie Izzard (@eddieizzard) on his show tomorrow. It starts at 5 PT Sunday, and I highly recommend it. (The show in general, and this episode in particular.) (Even though it hasn’t, technically, occurred yet, I am confident it will be extraordinary.)


Listening to Bob Dylan’s “Unplugged” makes me wonder how much music, and how many books, I owned because I thought I should, instead of actually wanting them? Isn’t life too short to spend it reading and listening to stuff because you think you should?


I always get sad listening to the end of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”. (“Eclipse”) A long time ago, I went to the museum with a very special person to see the Pink Floyd laser show, and the last song meant it was over.


“…And all that is now,
And all that is gone,
And all that’s to come,
And everything under the,
Sun is in tune,
But the sun is eclipsed by,
The Moon.”

-Pink Floyd


Isn’t it outrageous that it took Genesis this long to get elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? And that Rush still hasn’t been elected? And why the heck don’t they sell recordings of the all star jams at the inductions? I’d buy them.


MY WIFE (watching “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel): “He's castrating a sheep.”

ME: “Like you do.”

Another song I forgot was this good:

Friday, October 09, 2009

This is stupid, but I can't resist.

More from the Starchild.

Charlie Pierce on Afghanistan

Charlie Pierce with the clearest diagnosis of Afghanistan I have seen yet:

"I am admittedly not an expert on the culture and politics of what we all used to call the Near East. I am particularly not expert on the politics and culture of Afghanistan--which, come to think of it, puts me in roughly the same boat as Alexander The Great, several Caesars, a handful of British PM's, and Leonid Brezhnev, all of whom down through the centuries paid far more dearly for their ignorance than I ever will. But I do know that there is in this country a seriously building sense that the war there has spiraled beyond any rational attempt to control it. Correct me if I'm wrong but what I see now is a vicious and expanding tribal conflict the roots of which go back beyond the invention of movable type, and one that's now energized by a thoroughly modern war between several thoroughly modern drug cartels, all of which is taking place right on top of the least stable member of the Nuclear Bomb Club. And we're the referees. How this is possibly a coherent foreign policy moving forward is, I confess, beyond me, but it's going to be what finally blows up the Obama Administration politically. Of that, I am certain."

The Prize is Right

So President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The immediate, semi snarky response I have heard is that he won it for not being George W. Bush. That's setting the bar pretty low, I would say. I'm not George W. Bush either. Neither is DMarks, or Paulie Beernuts, or Ananda Girl, or Jeanne. And frankly, if anyone deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, it is a mother of two kids. So by that standard, Jeanne should win the Nobel Peace Prize, too. Maybe they come in six packs.

This was the first really shocking piece of news I've heard in a while. Boston losing to the Angels? Kind of saw that coming. The Literature prize going to someone I had never heard of? Not a shocker. I still jump a little whenever the "special alert" thing comes on the TV, and it was pleasant to not have the news be about death and misery for once.

Conservatives are going to crow that he doesn't deserve it. Liberals are going to crow that he should be nominated for sainthood, too. Frankly, it doesn't make any difference to me. He won't be the worst Peace Prize winner (Yassir Arafat, I'm looking at you...), and he won't be the best. For once, the newsbreak isn't about human misery, and for that, I'm grateful.


I finished Nick Hornby's new novel, "Juliet, Naked" this morning. As usual, I'm a little sad that it's over, and a little sadder that I didn't write it.

It's a marvelous book, though.

ALDS Game One: Die Hard The Hunter

Los Angeles center fielder Torii (Die Hard The) Hunter clouted a 3 run homer in the middle of the damn night last night that proved to be all the runs that John Lackey and the Angles would need in a 5-0 whitewash of the Red Sox.

The two teams play again tonight in the best of five series, Josh (Commander Kickass) Beckett against Jered (Not That One, The Good One)Weaver.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Keith Olbermann on healthcare reform

You should watch this, if you have the time. 


"I do not want to yell. I feel like screaming but everybody is screaming, everybody is screaming that this is about rights or freedom or socialism or the president or the future or the past or a political failure or a political success. We have all been screaming, I have been screaming.

And we have all been screaming because we do not want to face, we cannot face, what is at the heart of all of this, what is the unspoken essence of every moment of this debate; what, about which, we are truly driven to such intense ineffable inchoate emotions. Because ultimately, in screaming about health care reform, pro or con, we are screaming about death.
This, ultimately, is about death.

About preventing it. About fighting it. About resisting it. About grabbing hold of anything and everything to forestall it and postpone it, even though we know that the force will overcome us all - always will, always has. Health care is, at its core, about improving the odds of life in its struggle against death. Of extending that game which we will all lose, each and every one of us unto eternity, extending it another year or month or second.

This is the primary directive of life, the essence of our will as human beings, all perhaps that is measurable of our souls, the will to live. And when we go to a doctor's office or a hospital or a storefront clinic in a ghetto we are expressing this fundamental cry of humanity: I want to live! I want my child to live! I want my wife to live! I want my father to live! I want my neighbor to live!  I want this stranger I do not know and never will know to live! This is elemental stuff — our atoms in action, our survival mode in charge. Tamper with this and you are tampering with us."

"Because as discovered in a new study conducted by Harvard University and the Cambridge Health Alliance, that's how many of us are dying, each year, because we don't have insurance.

The number is horrible. But when it is contrasted to what faced my father that night, it is unforgivable. Because as Cambridge's summary of the findings put it: "Deaths associated with lack of health insurance now exceed those caused by many common killers such as kidney disease." My father had less to fear that night from bad kidneys than he would have if he hadn't had insurance!

And yet we let this continue.You and I. This society. Our country. Democrats and Republicans.
This is the study Congressman Grayson of Florida quoted, about which the Republicans demanded an apology when they should have been standing there shrieking, demanding we fix this. "Uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts."

People, in short, are dying for the lack… of money.Dying as surely as they did when Charles Dickens wrote about the exact same problem. Of a boy who couldn't get sufficient medical care for his affliction. Of the underprivileged, suffering not just privation but death, as the comfortable, moved silently and unseeingly through the streets of London."

"Death panels? We have them now. They're called WellPoint and Cigna and United Health Care and all the rest. Ask not for whom the insurance company's cash register bell tolls. It tolls for thee."

"We must reform a system that lets my father get better care than yours does, or better care than Mike's daughter does, because by the accident of life, I make more money than he does, or my checkbook can hold out longer than his does, or yours does, as the bills come endlessly like some evil version of the enchanted water buckets in Fantasia.

The resources exist for your father and mine to get the same treatment to have the same chance and to both not have to lie there worried about whether or not they can afford to live!

Afford to live? Are we at that point? Are we so heartless that we let the rich live and the poor die and everybody in between become wracked with fear — fear not of disease but of Deductibles? Right now, right now, somebody's father is dying because they don't have that dollar to spend. And the means by which the playing field is leveled, and the costs that are just as inflated to me as they are to you are reduced, and the money that I don't have to spend any more on saving my father can go instead to saving your father that's called health care reform!

Death is the issue! How can we not be unified against death? I want my government helping my father to fight death! I want my government to spend taxpayer money to help my father fight to live and I want my government to spend taxpayer money to help your father fight to live! I want it to spend my money first on fighting death. Not on war! Not on banks! Not on high speed rail!

Spend our money, spend my money, first: on the chance to live!

And we must be unanimous in this, not to achieve some political triumph for one side against the other, but to save the man or the woman or the child who will be dead by morning, in this country, in this century, on our watch, because we are not spending that money tonight. I will not settle for a compromise bill and I will extend my hand to those who are scared of the inevitability of death but have been told they are scared of reform, those who have been exploited by the others, paid, or forced, to defend the status quo.

And we must recognize the enemy here: an enemy capable of perverting reform meant for you and me, into its own ATM that mandates only that more of us become the slaves to the insurance companies. The monied interests that have bled their customers white, and used their customers' money to buy the system, to buy the politicians, to buy the press, cannot now even be checked by the government."

" Because in one party, in one demographic, in one protest movement, we are all brothers and sisters. We are united in membership in the party that insists that every chance at life be afforded to every American seeking that chance.

We are united in membership in the party that insists on the right of everyone to the startling, transcendent blessings of the technological advance of medical science. We are united in membership in the party that is for life, that is against death, that is for lower premiums, that is against higher deductibles, that is for the peace of mind that can be provided only by the elimination of the fear that cost will decide whether we live or we die!

Because that's the point, isn't it? It is hard enough to recover, to fight past pain and to stave off death, if just for a season or a week or a day. It is so hard, that eventually for you, for me, for this president, for these blue dogs, for these protestors it is so hard to recover, that for all of us there will come a time when we will not recover. So, why are we making it harder?"

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Hitchens on Polanski

Christopher Hitchens, in his typical, understated way, about Roman Polanski.

People Smarter Than Me, Part MCMLXXVI

Penelope, who knows more about blogging than me, argues that blogs without focus are a waste of time.

So I ask you, dear readers-do I lack focus? Do I need focus? Am I a waste of your time? And, if so, why are you bothering to comment?

(Wait-that's a contradiction, isn't it?)

Desert Island Books

The lovely, talented, and continually charming Jeanne asked, in the Bill James post below, what other books I would want to take with me to a desert island.

Many years ago, Tower Records (remember them?) used to publish a free magazine with artist interviews and suchlike promotional material. One of the pieces they used to publish was a reprint of an article called "Desert Island Discs" from a UK newspaper, in which artists would list the seven albums they would want to take with them (obviously, one assumes the presence of a solar powered player of said albums) to a desert island.

So, in that tradition and with Jeanne's inspiration, my Desert Island Books-the seven books I would like to take with me to a desert island. (I will exclude, for the sake of argument, books on wilderness survival and such. The natural first choice would be "how to survive being stranded on a desert island", but that's no fun.)

The books for a list like this not only have to be good, but they have to stand up to repeated rereading.

1. "The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract"-A long, detailed history of baseball, along with rankings of the top 100 players at the different positions and commentary about each player. I have read this cover to cover probably ten times, and love it each and every time.

2. "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", Robert Pirsig-First read it in high school, and understand it a little bit more every time I read it. A book about motorcycles that really isn't about motorcycles at all.

3. The Bible-I've always wanted to read it, cover to cover. I've read lots of books about it, but I've never read it itself all the way through.

4. "Get In The Van", Henry Rollins-A nonfiction account of Rollins' time with the punk band Black Flag. It doesn't sound immediately interesting, but Rollins is a fascinating man, and goes into various digressions often enough to make it a fascinating read.

5. "The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide", Douglas Adams- A bit of a cheat, because it is a 5 volume omnibus of the Hitchhiker's novels, but one that has stood up to repeated rereadings over the years. Of the hundreds of books I have bought, maybe the best value. Arthur Dent is an ordinary man in England who narrowly escapes the demolition of the Earth-and, believe it or not, hilarity ensues.

6. "Rabbit Angstrom", John Updike-Same as above-a cheat, because it is all the Rabbit novels in one cover. A fascinating series, following one man through the fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties in America.

7. "The Civil War", Shelby Foote-Actually only read this once, but it's a tremendous read-a deeply detailed history of the American Civil War.

Feel free to leave your own list in the comments. The rules are simple-7 volumes of any size (the Civil War is a stretch-it's a boxed set of 3 volumes, but I consider it one item.) you have to take with you to live forever on a desert island. Assume your bodily needs (food, shelter, clothing) are taken care of-these are just to keep you entertained.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Everybody Loves Twins

Somewhat shockingly, at least to me, the Minnesota Twins beat the Tigers today, 6-5, to win the final American League playoff spot. The Twins go to New York to get stomped by the Yankees tomorrow, while the Red Sox will head west to play the Angles out in sunny California on Thursday.

In the lesser league, Colorado plays the Phillies and the Cardinals face the Dodgers.

Some time after Halloween, we will have a World Series winner.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Bill James and the Invention of Common Sense

It is Bill James' birthday. The author, sabermetrician, and Senior Advisor for Baseball Operations for the Red Sox is 60 today.

James is probably the single most influential baseball author working today. A former night watchman, James has an intense dislike for cant and foolishness, and has spent his life analyzing topics, predominantly baseball ones, with rigorous logic. His writing is passionate, sometimes cruelly so, but always strictly commonsensical.

I have been reading him for as long as I have followed baseball, and consider his "Historical Baseball Abstract" one of the books I would want to take with me to a desert island. Happy birthday, Bill James.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

And another thing...

...the NFL has really got to do something about their officiating.

There have been a number of downright bizarre calls, not just today, but all season. Rules should be rules, no matter who the player is or what the situation is. As terrible as Tom Brady's injury was, football doesnt function unless you can tackle the quarterback.

So You Think You're Crazy?

Steve at No More Mr. Nice Blog, on a New York Times piece about anxiety:

"Most of the time, though, the vast majority of Americans don't want to hear it if you feel any anxiety. Full speed ahead! Why are you being such a gloomy Gus ? You're worried that something could go wrong if we invade Iraq? You're afraid the housing boom could be a bubble? You have health insurance and don't have a serious illness and you're worried that if you have a really serious medical problem you might not still be insured, or might not be truly covered? Hey, enough! You're bumming us all out!"

Steve expresses something here I have felt for years, but have always had trouble giving a voice to. 

I've always felt like I missed a memo somewhere along the way.

I have been living with what I like to call melancholia since I was approximately 15 years old. I have been this way for so long I cannot remember being any other way. It causes misery-buckets of it-but I think it makes me more sensitive, at the same time, and easier to live with. Whether or not I am easy to live with I will have to leave as an exercise to those who live with me.

I am a worrier. I don't take advantage of opportunities, I don't do things that are likely to be complicated. To borrow a title of a children's book, I am the Shark That Is Afraid Of Everything. I am this way to such an extent there are things that people do-attend horror movies, go to amusement parks-that not only do I never do, I cannot concieve of any possible way they would be enjoyable.

I have never run anything. I have never had to make my living based on my wits or my skills in any real way. That thought-being a salesman or running a business- terrifies me. I am constantly worrying that I'm not doing enough, that something is about to go wrong in my life.

Steve's notion, that it is this worrywartism that both may be genetic and may be the cause of my liberalism, explains a lot.

Game 162: And there...we....went!

In the final game of the 2009 regular season, Boston steamrollered the Indians one last time, 12-7. Boston got homers from Alex Gonzalez (?), Jed Lowrie (??), Dustin Pedroia, and two from JD Drew, while Clay Buchholz was downright inadequate, allowing 6 runs in just three innings.

The playoffs will either begin on Wednesday or Thursday. The Red Sox will play the Angels, and the Yankees will play either the Twins or the Tigers, depending on who wins a one day playoff Tuesday. When it is determined who the Yankees will play, they will then choose the 8 day schedule or the 7 day schedule for the first place round, and their choice dictates when Boston and Anaheim will have to play.