December 28, 2011

Dumb, Ditzy Blonde?

I've told the old story about how the local TV stations around Chicago would play marathon old movies after the New Year's midnight countdown was over (this was in the days before cable and VHS tapes, so the only time you could actually see them was in movie theater "retrospectives" or on TV). The biggest things around here, in those days, were the old Marx Brothers and Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers flicks. All from the 30's and none in what we'd now consider great shape.

But it was kind of a tradition around these parts and a lot of us made a habit of trying to stay up and catch them all. They'd sometimes play them until dawn.

I do wonder sometimes if the availability of everything has somehow diminished the properties of anything. Because they were rare to see they were appreciated for the rarity as much as anything else. Now, of course, you can call them up just about any time, any where; and somehow that availability has diminished their impact. Another bit of something or other lost to the modern age I guess. But, in fact, the ability to view those old Marx Brothers movies any time has exposed the bumps and warts we ignored when we couldn't see them any time. So it's harder to extol their virtues to people who may be a little more sophisticated than we were. Oh well.

I still think it is a good idea to look at old movies, especially around New Year's. It's always something of a cultural marker, and I have this weird disease in which I worry - yes worry - about performers and performances of bygone eras being lost to people. We get very caught up in the cartoonish movies of the modern era, and - in my O - we have a tendency to forget what "class" and "style" are; seeing as how the current day audience seems to like special effect more than specialness.

So it's always around New Year's that I think of this. We're revived Nick and Nora around these parts and you liked that. Now trust me on this one. OK?

Her name was Judy Holliday. She died very young (breast cancer in the 60's) and we never got to see her full capacity or talent. Today if she is remembered at all it is as the ditzy blonde in black and white movies from the 50's. Well today's 50's are the 30's of the 60's, so it's time to put her in the same category as all the other revivals we've had around here.

Judy Holliday, as I say, had the reputation as the quintessential dumb blonde. And that's okay... if you say so. But she also had a fully tested IQ of 172.

My favorite quote? "I'm trying to eliminate every vestige of my own personality, style, approach and get into somebody else's skin. Sometimes I feel I've accomplished it. But when I don't, I'm nobody at all, having left myself at home."

I think we missed out when she died in her 40's. Here's one of her best scenes from "Born Yesterday" with Broderick Crawford. And if you don't remember Broderick, there's another guy you should check into. The last thing he ever did before he died was host Saturday Night Live when he was already an older guy. There were few more under-rated actors in Hollywood than him. And this is a gem.

December 27, 2011

They Keep Trying

The Blue Meanies tried again to infiltrate my Christmas this year. Sometimes I think there are things I must have done to pull all this vicious wickedness in on myself on what had always been my most favorite time of year. I know I've been crappy to people now and again, and I've tried very hard to forgive people who have done things to me or against me and just move on. That must be the reason that, once every few Christmases, the great karmatic God in the sky feels a need to make a point with me. Whether I've failed as a father or a husband or just as a friend - I don't know. But there seems to be something out there I have to pay for. I'm not going to get into specifics, but it couldn't get much closer to the heart of things I feel are close and precious, when it happens.

MrsRW and I were thinking maybe the whole thing is getting to be too much for people. There's always a lot of stress, a lot of silliness, a lot of feelings on the surface or something. People say cruel things, impose draconian conditions, and sudden;y seem to be different people than they were just a month ago. We usually enter into the spirit of the holiday and are happy to put up lights, the tree, secretly run around looking for gifts, hiding the stuff we're going to put in each other's stockings when the other isn't looking. I can't remember a moment when we wished anyone ill for the holiday. I doubt we ever really did, unless it was like Pol Pot or someone like that.

And this whole thing wasn't helped by massive overtime and a wretched head cold that just doesn't want to go away.

For the first time ever we sat there wondering if maybe we should forgo all the usual family gatherings next year and find a soup kitchen to work at, or a place where less fortunate kids get donated presents handed out to them, or bring fruit baskets to firemen or well... something. Something that isn't part of the great, stressful, mindless orgy of overdone abundance and people playing bumper cars with emotions and jockeying for some kind of munificent attention. Duels for control. Plots for position.

The whole "Christian metaphor" is forgiveness and the granting of another chance. It's what we would want others to grant us, and we are charged with forgiving as we'd like to be forgiven. That's kind of like, you know, the chief prayer and all? Truly there aren't many "Christians" who seem to understand the basic message of their own faith, myself included time after time. The holiday of Christmas is supposed to be about the birth of the guy who gave people that example. And, at least, you're supposed to TRY.

MrsRW's natural father left her mother before she was born. Then she spent a good portion of her early years living with her grandmother because her mother and stepfather had temporary work in another state and they wanted her to go to school here. I've read some of her letters to her Mom from those days, when she was just a little girl telling her distant mother all the news. So I get very upset - and very protective - of her when somebody treats her shabby. Especially when the source of the shabby ought to know better, and be using another approach, considering. I start making lists and rules of my own. In response to someone treating my wife poorly, I become thoroughly un-Christian... as it were.

So we figured it's a stressful time for some people. Some people can't handle all their own internal conflicts and project them onto others, no matter how hurtful, draconian, and pointless it all is. And the holidays just seem to exacerbate the problem.

But in our hearts I know we are still pro-Christmas people. So maybe next year we go do stuff for others and let the instability devour itself without us around. Maybe aim at somebody else for once. Because I'm going to forget I belong to a pacifist church in a minute here.

Because though I will sometimes sit around and say how much I hate, hate, HATE Christmas and what it does to people, I can never really give up on it.

December 16, 2011

Getting It Off My Chest


Does Tim Tebow win football games because his team has better Christians? What about the Christians on the other team? Do we really think a God would care about a football game? Have we heard enough of the whining from the flock about how the "media" is crucifying him because of his faith? He's made a big play about having been a virgin and so proud of it and I'd just like to know why nobody ever thinks about the flip side of that? Or is the thought of Tim Tebow wanking himself off in the shower sort of turn people off? Inquiring minds want to know.

Yesterday I heard an interview with an elderly couple. They were being asked about the end of the Iraq War. She said that she's sure it's only happening so that "Obama" can use it during the coming election, and he said "I come from a time when men were men," and then he explained how he hates to see our soldiers come running home with their tails between their legs. That they should stay until they finish the job. This was a husband and wife team. Obviously made for one another. There'd be no point in telling her this date was established by President Bush for the draw down. There would also be no point in explaining to him that we don't play set-piece battles anymore, that warfare is asymmetrical now, and that somehow we managed to do pretty much what we intended to do in Iraq... except of course find the weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist but hey... who is counting? We need to just line them up and shoot them. Then we come home, have a parade, and some hot dogs. And go to church. And I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free.



Someone I used to know on Facebook put up a post about the Occupy movement and ended their comment with the jab "why don't they just go out and get a job?" And it made me think for a second, you know, like, where? What jobs? Because I have been meaning to ask; you know, those tax reductions that President Bush (the "Bush tax cuts") made that exacerbated the oncoming debt crisis were defended on the grounds that this is the kind of thing that creates jobs. You reduce the tax rates on rich people and you get jobs. Only the thing that happened was that we reduced the tax rates on rich people and we lost jobs. The job market, and the economy, shrunk. And we still don't want to use the money that rich people make today because if we did that would be "job killing." And people buy this. It seems counter-intuitive to me to say we should never "up" the taxes on wealthy people or we'll end up stifling job growth when the last time we gave those people more money they didn't. What?

In fact the #1 criticism from the Tea Party against the Occupy Movement is that all they are protesting for is to get entitlements. But the critiques never finish the thought. It should be "all they are protesting for is to get MY entitlements." We need to be honest.

A few of my friends around the blogosphere have been giving a running critique of the GOp debates as they go forward. And some of the comments are pretty funny. Even lifelong Conservatives are having to scratch their heads about this GOP crew. I've decided to finally give my view a complete airing. As follows... Quite generally the GOP has fielded a list of potential candidates for the presidency who would fulfill all the desires of the GOP rank and file. The nominees have so far proven to be everything Conservatives admire. Pandering liars with the combined IQ of a hint of a shadow. Perfect for Ma and Pa up there in the second paragraph... pathological idiots. Just what the country needs. President Obama is unquestionably one of the most pointless office holders we've had in Washington for some time. He is a "cultural marker" - and as is said "the first one through the wall always gets bloodied." But his meandering, self-serving positions are still a thousand times better than the hateful, mean-spirited, know-best coming out of their mouths.

I think there are a lot of morans in this country. Cough...

December 09, 2011

A Look Behind The Scenes At The Editor's Office


Okay so this one was pretty funny. Since we started putting out Thrice it's been getting more and more attention from writers and that's the plan so it is a good thing. But you never sit in the editor's chair too long before you have a story to tell relative to the interaction between writers and editors, and as we approach our fourth issue (next March) I finally have one.

I got an email titled "Nevermind"** from a writer who didn't sign his or her name. It came in time stamped at 4:09 and reads, in its entirety;

"Can't even spare a contributor copy? Withdraw my submission from
consideration. I don't need any more glorious lines in my resume,
especially from fly-by-nights."

This was followed by another email time stamped at 4:12, also titled "Nevermind" which said only:

"Don't need any lines in my resume. Withdraw the recent submission."

There was no name attached to it, and no mention of what the title of the piece was. Well I am nothing if not careful with the intentions of artists, so I went through the entire collection of submissions sent to Thrice since we opened the submission process for issue #4 (happily, and somewhat astonishingly, there have been 14 submissions sent to us just in the last two days), looking for a match to the email address of the above emails.

Except there isn't one.

So probably I'm looking at someone who sent a submission with another email address, and then sent their withdrawal from a second email address. Very confusing. However not only am I careful with the sensibilities of artists, I am also prone to be thorough and polite. And so I dutifully responded with:

"Okay, but which one was yours? I don't seem to have one from this email
addy. Thanks."

Short and sweet, no offense taken or even perceived. I am now awaiting reply.

The whole thing is a little screwy because anyone can download a free copy of the magazine to their Kindle, or as a pdf to their computer. The reference the writer, whoever he or she may be, is making is to a line in our submission policy that says "all we can give you right now is a glorious line in your resume" which, I think most anyone would agree, is - if not funny in and of itself - said kind of funny in a self-deprecating kind of way. No?

Anyhow this sets up an interesting scenario. Let's say the writer doesn't respond. Say he or she was drunk when they sent that email and - upon more sober reflection - they don't own up to sending it. And then let's say in my list of accepted stories I happen to like the one he or she sent and dutifully inform them of the fact that they'll be in issue #4. How much would you want to bet that that offended individual wouldn't happily accept our acceptance without any mention of the withdrawal?

I'll tell you what you'd want to bet - nothing. Because their offended nature will heal with the words "we would like to use your story in the next issue..."

And - barring that - if the person tells me which is his or her story, I'll be more than happy to delete it. One less decision to make.

Either way, this is an easy fix.

Maybe I was born to do this?
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** technically the words never and mind joined into one word are only correct in slang applications, as in "pay him no nevermind." It's patois only. Legitimate, certainly, but not entirely right in this case. Nevermind is a band, and can also be a condition, but to just say "nevermind" you should really write it as "never mind." But never mind.

December 05, 2011

So What Else Is New?

Well first of all I got myself interviewed by a website called Fictionaut for Thrice Fiction. Those of you who are readers are going to notice a distinct change in the temperature at Thrice next March. I feel as if I've tapped a new resource for voices you have to read to believe. I'm thrilled at the stuff I'm seeing already coming in for it, and guarantee you will be jolted a bit next time out. I can't wait to show you the Irish writer who will be joining our ranks in issue 4. If you liked the addition of Ann Bogle to our mix, wait until you get a load of James Claffey. I don't know why the Brits always seemed to power down on the Irish, seeing as how their contribution to the English language is both legendary and indispensable. Maybe jealousy? Anyway - you're going to truly dig the guy. Or else.

The cartoon over there isn't new, it's old. In fact it's something I made in an old blog post wherein I explain how sick and tired I was of reading people say, in their comments, "that was so funny I spit Coca Cola through my nose all over the keyboard." For a while there that seemed to be the thing to say in blog comments, and I got sick of it early on. So I took a public-domain drawing and changed the dialog bubble to reflect my disdain. Pleh. I found it again going through my old Photobucket album and decided to run it again. Whatever.

Yesterday after Meeting I stopped by a table that had been set up by these women from Guatamala who were selling Fair Trade handcrafts and bought my newest granddaughter a little doll. I don't know what possessed me to do it, but I know the Fair Trade thing will meet with her Mommy's approval, the darn thing is as cute as anything, and it is 100% cotton so it smells and feels like something a very little girl would want to sleep with. Of course it is almost as big as she is so there's going to be a little time lag and all but I'm a grandpa and I'm also besotted with the kid. So lay off. But you know how it goes, Quakers are all about handcrafted stuff and giving third world entrepreneurs a chance. I know the common belief is that the liberal bent of our "denomination" would just give everything away, but that's totally not true. We believe in teaching people to fish, and if somebody wants to get their hands in there and do work we're usually the first ones to help. If you are interested go to Mayaworks and check it out for yourself. There's some truly beautiful stuff there.

I'm not having any trouble getting into the Christmas thing this year. A few years back it was as if entire vast sections of my extended family had decided to make it their mission to ruin Christmas for me, but I outlasted them all. I'm even sending out Christmas cards - cheesy ones from Hallmark - to local friends. You want one? Just email me your address and you'll see just how cheesy I can get. We can't be avant-garde cutting edge all the time. Sometimes I'm all sappy. Like with new granddaughters and stuff.

I'm even in the process of writing some long form fiction that is more "usual" than you might expect from me. I don't know if I'm getting old or just wtf. But it certainly seems unstoppable at this point.

Not only that, but I submitted some things to the literary journal world over the past month. The legit kind, the kind affiliated with universities or government grants and stuff. I don't think anything will be accepted because I still can't shake out all the alternate dimensions long enough to make it look like straight fiction and poetry, but who knows. I'll let you know. But it feels good to stretch that muscle again after so long a drought. About time I got back in the mix, and so we'll see what happens.

You know what else feels good? I dumped around 40 people from my Facebook friends list and haven't lost one minute of sleep. They were either posting too much hateful political shit or I've decided they are assholes. Or both. And I feel good about it. So there.

All 4 nao.

November 23, 2011

Little Sophie

So sometime in the next seven days I'm going to be a grandpa again.

There are small signs that little Sophie is thinking about it, but if she doesn't make up her mind by about this time next Tuesday they are going to induce labor for our daughter Kate.

The reason they will be inducing labor next Tuesday if it doesn't happen by then is that Kate developed a case of pregnancy-specific diabetes that has required her to go on insulin.

And when a pregnant mother takes insulin in this case the longer the pregnancy goes the more of a chance there is that the baby will be stillborn.

Which means they are targeting Tuesday the 29th of November as little Sophie's debut.

Because of all the incidentals and potentials, as you may well imagine, there is always the chance that we're not going to be thinking about too much else around here for a little while.

So I am accepting all prayers from prayers and, if you don't go that way I am also accepting positive thoughts, energy flows, or whatever it is you use when this kind of thing comes up. It is also a good time to speak up, if you've just been a reader and never posted or don't post much, and toss a penny in the well. Kate and Sophie will thank you and I will love you forever. Imagine that!

November 21, 2011

Many-worlds implies that all possible alternative histories and futures are real, each representing an actual "world" (or "universe").

I'm not always upbeat and engaged. Sometimes I get downright depressed. Usually it takes the form of some kind of existential thing, and I don't interiorize it; so it's not like a dangerous place for me to be. That doesn't make it any less of a downer.

But there's always your personal list of all possible alternatives wonking around. Just sometimes you'd like the luxury of a look-in from time to time, y'know?

November 18, 2011

A Strange Relationship With Conversation

When you are talking and people look away in mid-sentence and start talking to somebody else, this is a bad sign. That happened for weeks in meetings I used to have at one job a while back, and I eventually got fired from that place too. Same thing is true for letters and emails. You'll be going along back and forth with someone and then - slam - they just stop answering, and there were still plenty of things to give and take on.

It takes me so long to warm up to a conversation, whether in person or privately, that when it just stops or gets clamped down or whatever - and it isn't over yet - I have a tendency to say "ok, I won't bother you any more." Because, if you really knew me you'd recognize that I'd rather not have engaged with you in the first place. I'm the kind of person who wants to go home, be home, and stay home. To go out and mingle is something I have to kind of prepare for. In many social settings I usually start out being the guy who waits and watches before jumping in.* So to finally get in on things only to watch the process of communication fumbled, just sort of reinforces my initial desire to have stayed in the background observing in the first place.

I find it's like that with people you talk to where you say "we should get together some time, go out to dinner or whatnot," and it ends there. I guess I'm the type of person who, when I hear that, thinks "ok, we're going to get together soon. Cool." Either getting back to one's life means everything caves back in on you so that you don't follow up with stuff you said you were going to do or you sit there and go "well, they're probably busy so I won't bother them." And all that positive feeling you had when you were actually with the person gets kind of trashed. Either that or the comment wasn't actually sincere in the first place - which is a hundred times worse.

These are exactly the kind of machinations that make me want to be a recluse. I think people should say what they say and mean what they mean. This includes me, because I can well imagine I've done the same things to other people and should just get a mirror before I start whacking at folks. But the fact remains; the stumbling way we communicate with each other - insincerity, insecurity, people who talk and never listen, or folks who are all "oh we just like everything you do," or "I'm looking at you but I don't know what the hell you're talking about and don't care enough to delve into your brain to find out" - is the biggest reason I have a tendency to walk away, go inside, shutter up, and let you have at yourself.

So it takes a while to get me in, and then alienates me when - once I'm in - we're going to stop altogether.

Makes me want to shut the door and turn on an old movie and to hell with you. Sucker me in and then disappear like that. Hmph. How dare you.

Humans bug the snot out of me. Makes me glad I'm glad I'm inhuman...

EDIT TO ADD; And on the subject of hosting and being in my home and whatnot... people need to realize that if I don't care, then you don't get an invite or you don't have the nod that there's an open door, come anytime. If you're here, you're in. And if you're in that means you are welcome and welcomed here. So don't get all stifled. You don't come into my house unless I want you here. So if you're here... you're in. Did that make any sense?

-----------------

* - Unless you are in my home, at which point I transform into the perfect host, making sure everyone feels welcome - another skill that has been lost in the 21st century; being a good host to ALL your guests.

November 14, 2011

Plus, 10 Things I'm Not Apologizing For

1. Being against the death penalty. I don't believe a state ought to have the right to do it. I know there's lots of folks who want to see justice done, especially to child abusers and people who kidnap and torture little children and all that. And I certainly get it. But I don't think, in the long run, the people ought to ever give the power of execution to the state. It just shouldn't be done.

2. Being against the Viet Nam War. I'll admit the impetus of my being against it was pure cowardice. Since I faced the possibility of going I actively worked against it, knowing full well that if I was drafted I didn't have any deferments and, in my family, you just go in and that's that. But the more I looked into it the more I saw real reasons to be against it. From the Gulf of Tonkin "incident," which wasn't; to the worry that SouthEast Asia was going to fall to communism, which it didn't. In fact the first thing that happened when the war was over was that Viet Nam and China had a short war of their own. Duh. Where I started to stray from my fellow hippieradicals was when they began blaming the guys that were drafted and went because of it. That crossed the line with me.

3. Having taken just about any drug you can name at one time or another. I didn't say it wasn't stupid, I'm just saying I'm not guilty about it.

4. Liking Motown. It saved my life in high school when I was pretty much a loner, before I found my group. It doesn't matter to me if you don't like it, it has a different meaning for me, so bite me.

5. Being in tacit approval of Occupy Wall Street. Not saying I'm sure they're doin' it right, and I'm certain there are crazies hanging around it just like there are crazies hanging around the Tea Party. But I'd rather identify with these kids than the pole-up-the-ass lawn chair snake flag wavers my own age. A lot of the over-vocal "conservatives" my age are really people who missed out on the 60's and felt very uncool during all that. Truth is they were uncool. In fact they were dull, pointless, boring, and not very bright back then, and they still are all that today. Just the kind of people the GOP likes these days. Just sayin'.

6. Voting for Barack Obama. And I'm doing it again just to spite you. He may be in the lower 33% of Presidents that ever did anything for the country. Not very good at all. But him being reelected will get so many people apoplectic they may croak. Which would be funny, and a positive for the gene pool for all we know.

7. Not believing the Bible should be taken literally. It doesn't even matter to me which version of the Bible you're talking about. Pick one. But really, maybe, it's not so much people who think it should be taken literally as much as it is people who think it should be taken literally and then pick and choose which parts they want to do and not do. Stoning people for working on Sunday... not a good idea. But literal nonetheless. Point is not in the details of what it says - it can't help it, it's the people reading it who are screwed up - but in the things it's used for. One way or the other. The Bible is like a person - torture it enough and you can get it to say anything.

8. Voting Libertarian, and helping the LP, all those years. I'm not apologizing for it. I'm also not saying it wasn't asinine. See #3 above.

9. For being a Scientologist for a year and a half. But I am doing everything I can to see that other people don't make the same mistake.

10. Deleting 0ver 20 names from my Facebook "Friends" list. Though most came on from games and that shit and don't really care, a good number were not from that category. And they can go piss up a rope. So there.

What are you not apologizing for?

November 12, 2011

My Last Word On Politics

The Republican state party leaders, upset with the Tea Party for the influence they've taken away from them, are going to make sure Herman Cain gets the nomination for President. The idea is that he will absolutely crash and burn, and the Tea Party's influence will be stunted. Then, in 2016, we will see a serious candidate for the office - picked by the old guard party leaders minus the defunct Tea Party.

The game is this; The oligarchs of the GOP want their power back. So long as the Tea Party is active and organized they have to listen to them and even share their clout. The best way to destroy the influence of the Tea Party is to have Herman Cain run for President. During the campaign he will prove to be an embarrassment one way or another (and there will be more revelations as to his proclivities coming, put out - not by Democrats and the Evil Media, but by the old guard GOP - just like these recent ones were), and there will be a great big "I told you so" - not by the Democrats, but by the old guard GOP state chairmen who have been threatened by said Tea Party.

In the meantime the old line Republicans like the Speaker and other prominent GOP Senators and Congressmen who are not beholden to the Tea Party will continue to court the populist glow generated by this "grass roots movement" while enacting none of their programs under the guise of not having enough votes somewhere, as if the Tea Party didn't really exist, because the Speaker and the rest happen to BE the oligarchs of the GOP who have never wanted to have the Tea Party watching their every move in the first place.

Any threat to the clout, largess, and patronage held by the GOP oligarchs is viewed by them as something to be stunted; but they have to go about it very carefully. The mission is to appear to be doing the will of the Tea Party, but actively ruining their hold and influence in the long run.

The Democrats have already done as much. Barack Obama's upstart campaign - never supported by the Democratic oligarchs from the beginning - took them by storm as well. In response they purposely dumped enough congressional elections to not have a Democratic majority in both houses anymore (like what he had when he took office but oddly wasn't able to get through but around 10% of his programs - for some mysterious reason while the whole world said "the Republicans are headless"), by not backing key candidates and convincing other, big name Democrats, to walk away from politics and leave their seats wide open.

With Obama's policies checked, the bottom-up influx of new blood he brought with him will dissipate as time goes on, and the old Democratic oligarchs will be back at the reins of power. They did much the same in 1972, withholding workers, money, and support for the candidate McGovern so that the young Turks fell flat on their faces and the old guard retained control of the party because... hey... "I told you so."

In 2016 the two candidates will be much like Kerry / Bush; both minions of the oligarchs and not much difference between them, hand-picked by the "pros" and run through the obligatory proceedings to keep up the masquerade that the Peepul actually make the call, and the old guards of the two parties will be back at the throttle without these pesky groundswell movements popping up and getting in the way of their power.

In the meantime regular joes on the internet and on TV will continue to spit at one another fueled by code words, logical fallacies, generalizations, personal attacks and obtuse verbosity much like any political discussion board, blog or posting will demonstrate. Because we are the circus.

A bunch of clowns.

November 09, 2011

I Survived

And it also turns out that Rocco is one of the most gracious, thoughtful, and inclusive guys I've seen in some time. Here he is in Donnie Brasco in a scene with Pacino and Depp (click to make larger). It's not that I was expecting him to be some kind of snob or something - I remember him as a pretty quiet guy in school - but I was impressed that he even remembered me and shared some personal asides with me during the proceedings. Now you know I couldn't pass it up, so when they were giving his credits and mentioned that he'd been in "Far and Away" with Tom Cruise I simply had to lean over to him on the stage and whisper "I here Tom Cruise still can't fly," to which - in all honesty - he almost lost it there for a second. So, yeah, a cool dude. When I first walked up to him he seemed pretty glad to see me and shook my hand very warmly. But I did tell him who I was just in case first so he wouldn't be embarrassed.

As for the talk I had to give I had two missions given to me by the organizer, who is a teacher there and also someone who was a fellow alum of ours from that era. If I had an anecdote about Rocco, that would be very much sought after. And if I could say something about the effect teachers have on their students that would also be appropriate. So I parsed it into two parts under the idea that "there are 2 things I share with Rocco Sisto." The first was a thing that happened to us when we were in a play together and the second was our theater director/teacher - which led me into the desired "few positive words" for the faculty.

I decided to go without notes because I knew that if I brought anything up with me to the microphone I'd probably just end up reading it and none of it would have worked. This, of course, made my terrors even more pronounced. I didn't sleep well at all the night before, until I took a little killer and for a while that didn't even seem like it was going to work. Just before we went on stage I completely blanked. I had no recollection of what I planned to say. When it started I wanted the people ahead of me to just keep going. Maybe it would never come my way.

But it was not to be avoided. Sooner or later the ball would be passed to me and I'd have to do something. Somehow.

The way I used to handle it was just to get my feet moving and get up there. No matter how I felt, I just moved. That's how I'd always done it and that's how I did it yesterday. Like somebody who never jumped out of a plane straps a parachute on and just says "oh well what the hell" and jumps, trusting the conclusion to God and the forbearance of reptiles. This is how I always did it. Why not do it now?

Once I got to the microphone I was fine. Because I didn't have notes to check I made eye contact with the audience and engaged them at every moment. They laughed when they should have laughed. I even got (I talked to Sligo after it was over and told him the same, and it's true) one belly laugh. My problem, as it has ever been, is that I can't for the life of me remember what I got the score with. I don't remember what, exactly, it was that I said. But there was supposed to be a laugh there so it worked out. I just didn't gauge how loud it was going to be. But, you know, you get chuckles within the first minute and you know they're with you. They did everything they were supposed to do. So it worked out in the end.

I talked to my wife on the phone and she said I'm just silly. In his email Sligo more or less sounded like he knew nothing bad was going to happen. And a couple people came up to me during the reception afterward and gave me some positive feedback as well. So I guess I did have a support system after all. Well I'll be damned.

I had a picture taken with Rocco on my camera but the person taking it didn't frame the picture well at all and we look like we are standing a hundred miles away. So I'm not putting it on here and of course I have no idea when that chance will ever happen again. Oh well.

During his talk he told a very funny and self-deprecating story about the time he was walking his dog in a park (he lives in Manhattan). He's going along and someone comes up and says "excuse me." And, as he told it, he thought - aha, here it is. Someone recognizes me from something and they're going to tell me how much they like me. But then the person said "I'm a casting director," and - as he explained - he immediately thought - aha, here it is, this guy recognized me and is going to give me the role of a lifetime just like they did with Lana Turner. Then he goes "I said to myself, I'm going to be Lana Turner!!" (you see this is my kind of humor already, I know). And then he said "the guy wanted to know if he could take a picture of my dog."

Turns out Rocco's dog has now done several commercials.

That was pretty funny. He was also pretty up front about the realities of the business. He's not a star, he explained, but a working actor for 30 years and pretty proud of that. He explained that at any given moment a large percentage of actors who are members of their union - I think he said something like 90% - have no jobs. No jobs equals no income. So to be in stuff from Matlock and NYPD Blue and Star Trek (I forgot to tell him how much I enjoyed seeing an Italian Vulcan, dammit) was good enough, considering the obstacles.

Turns out he's going to stay in town a few days and actually give a few lab sessions with the high school actors who are putting on a play this very weekend. So, yeah like I said, a cool dude.

Everything worked out A-Ok. Then I went to work and punched in. Then I worked all night and got home an hour ago. Then I wrote you this. Oh and on the subject of working... the shop looked pretty dismal after all that showbiz stuff but I'm still happy to have a regular paycheck, and even Rocco said his advice to people starting out as actors was "don't quit your day job if you don't have to."

So it turns out Rocco is an OK guy who is very realistic about the way things are but also blessed with a lifetime of working at something he loves. And he doesn't need the stardom everyone seeks at the beginning. By the way he has a new movie out called A Bird of the Air, the trailer of which looks kind of interesting (no he's not in the trailer). But it's like an indie flick so you might have to go some to find it. Here's Rocco's blurb from the cast list.

So anyway if you happen to see the guy in a commercial or another supporting role somewhere with some big name over-acting super star, just nudge the person you're with and say "that's Rocco Sisto. And he's a pretty cool guy."

November 06, 2011

Late One Night

Been working long hours. Fifty hours a week. Sometimes more. There's more to come too. From now until the end of the year. I suppose I should be grateful. Time and a half is the workingman's bonus. There won't be any others. Since I work overnight sometimes my mind has a tendency to wander. This is not always a good thing. I hate when I remember things that are embarrassing in some way, out of the blue, and I have to go through feeling stupid all over again, but there I go.

Tuesday is the day I go to my old high school to do seven minutes in front of an assembly being put on to honor Rocco. It would be easier if I didn't have a history of the terrors before I have to go in front of people. But I better get this handled. The only way out is through. I know what I got is humorous enough, but I have to deliver it right. It's the complexity of nailing it that gets me nervous. I know what I wrote, and if it's done well it'll be a great addition to the proceedings. That's the hard part... doing it well.

I used to be pretty good in front of people. I have no confidence now, topped by a poor self-image. It's going to be a struggle, but a major win if I can pull it off. Who knows.

It's the night we push the clocks back an hour and I don't know why we do that. I never knew why we do that. I'm glad to get the extra hour to play with since I'm working Monday and worked this last Friday and am clocking so many damn hours. Tuesday's going to be crazy because I'll be on the clock Monday overnight, then have to show up at the high school Tuesday afternoon, and then go in to work after that - overnight. So I'm either going to be a complete mess or so whacked that everything will go just fine but I won't be able to remember it. I'm getting kind of old here.

To make matters worse my wife will be out of town next week. Not that she can always get available to be a support system for me, but it means I'll be walking into the Tuesday thing alone. Either a Christian before the lions or some other, more positive, metaphor i can't think of right now. But I'm repeating myself.

The whole thing is yet another of my "mystery achievements" - stuff I do that my broader family has no idea is going on. Like stuff I've published, Thrice, this little speech thing. Not that they'd care. I'm just the weird cousin/uncle/brother to those folks. So what the hell. Doesn't matter.

At the same time this week my nephew (more specifically my great-nephew) is being shipped off to Afghanistan and I still don't know what the hell we're bothering for. But he's a Marine, and a Recon Marine to boot (meaning - you know - Marines are assault troops and always the first in... and Recon Marines go in ahead of THEM so... yeah). So in the big picture my little nerve problem is pretty insignificant, by comparison. My wife bought him a St. Michael medal (patron saint of the Marines) and we're not even Catholic. Well he is, so there's that.

I remember when he was a baby. Gad...

October 22, 2011

Alright, I'll Come Back...


My poor, beleaguered agent has probably given up with "Think Fast" by now. Those who liked it said they can't deal with the length (it's novella-sized), and those that didn't like it at all were probably the honest ones. And in the end it's the typical phenomenon with me; I can't stand to look at it let alone read it anymore. So I hardly care about it by now. But I temper this with the fact that I always feel like that. I think I've said before.

But things keep coming out down my fingers onto a keyboard or out of my mouth and into my Mac version of DragonDictate when I especially need dialog, so there's always a project working. I'm going to try and make his life easier and give him something more traditional and much longer. It's not urban, it's not a genre-bender, and it doesn't seem to have one profanity in the whole thing so far. In fact that would probably be totally out of place this time. It's actually more like magic realism than anything else; which is totally new for me though I love reading it when it's done well. Think Garcia-Marquez, Mahfouz and Paolo. It's a simple premise and still manages to fall into my usual study (solitary individual alienated blah blah etc.). This guy goes off into the Sahara with his life's possessions. He stumbles upon an unknown well that he turns into an oasis and people think he's a holy man or something, but there's a white hyena who knows the guy is full of crap and doesn't miss a chance to tell him so. Working title "The Well At al-Khiba’" - al-Khiba' being Arabic for a star constellation known as The Tent. Anyway maybe he'll have a better time trying to sell something a bit more traditional and mainstream than the usual crap I do. It's not that I'm going in this direction on purpose, just to please somebody. Not at all. It's pouring out of me and I throw away 80% of what comes out so I know it's just like normal. Only a different style. Don't know where it comes from.

But it's been a whirlwind fall so far and it's going to get crazier. The Reunion is over and was dull and downright anti-climactic when compared to the gathering I hosted of the old theater department. And an offshoot of that is that on November 8 I've been invited back to the school to give a short speech and introduce Rocco, as he will be entered into the Ring of Fame or whatever the school calls it. I'm honored to do it because we were in a couple plays together and I've been watching him ever since I saw him in Donnie Brasco with Pacino and Johnny Depp.

The catch here is that one of the reasons I told myself I stopped trying to pursue an acting career (outside of the fact that I stunk) was that I developed a severe and ever-increasing propensity for stage fright. Awful, staggering, murderous stage fright. It got to the point where I didn't want to do anything simply because I didn't want to feel that way any more. So here I go next month back in front of an audience and I'm strangely not petrified right now. I imagine I will get there starting the night before, so there is that. I don't know how I was convinced or why I agreed to do it. Probably off the euphoria of the reunion stuff. I don't know. Anyway here goes nothing. I hope to put a picture up on the blog afterward. If I survive.

My wife just got back from Tennessee where she and her brothers are finally settling their father's estate. The auction is in mid-November and they each stand to get a nice sum after everything is finished. I have been assigned the task of finding the best uses for the bulk of it, investment-wise. Another interest I never fully pursued? Well not really true, I did read the book Warren Buffet considered to be the Bible standard of investing, the one he utilized by the man who was his professor. And I have been able to keep our head above water in this market - in fact I've been buying pretty much all through 2008 to now. Of course everybody took a hit and I'm no different, but I didn't cash in the chips and things are coming back if you pick your stocks right (always compare book-value to the market price, if it's less than what it is selling for in the market you MIGHT have a value buy. That's just the first step, not ALL the steps. But it is where I always start). Anyway this will probably constitute the last influx of resources into our family from outside our own household so I can't screw it up. I'm suggesting a vacation first. That always makes paying off a credit card or two easier to swallow. :-)

So I'm blithering and it's 4 in the God damn morning. I'll cut it right here. Except to say that I'm trying... really hard... to get back to everybody's blogs and to post regularly. I spruced up the joint a little bit. I don't know what it means.

But okay... I'm coming back to the game.

October 02, 2011

Moneyball

My first question was 'how do you turn this book into a movie?' Michael Lewis' non-fiction, straight-up baseball insider, journalistic piece on the first-time, gung-ho, willful use of sabermetrics to put together a ball club is not a book for everybody. While it is true that Lewis made the nuts and bolts of front office team management accessible to anyone with an adult attention span and a curiosity about how things work, it's not something everyone would just pick up and start reading. Stat wonks (like Earl and myself) could eat it up. But people who have actual lives might find the book, however uncomplicated it may have been crafted, easy to walk by.

My second question was 'why did it have to be Brad Pitt, can't you find an actual actor to do this?' And I think I'd be forgiven for the query seeing as how - though I've never seen anything he was ever in before - so many people seemed to voice the same question.

And my third question was 'after pestering my wife to come along with me to see it what if it turns out to be a total waste of time?' We don't go to a lot of movies, and she would let me know if it was, to be sure.

Director Bennett Miller answered my first question thus:

You make a movie out of this by combing the background details given in the book on Billy Beane's past and why something like sabermetrics would interest him (he's a 'bonus baby' who gave up a full scholarship to Stanford to go for the big money offered him by major league baseball who then proceeded to become a complete and miserable bust as a player), and really working on the interactions of people when ideas clash for primacy. Throw in the underdog hook, add the personal touch of how a kid (his daughter) deals with stuff when her parents are divorced, at no time pander to the lowest common denominator and underestimate the intelligence of your audience, and top it off with a musical score that gets kind of haunting after a while (because it's basically a movie about an idea inside someone's head), and somehow find a way to film something like this beautifully.

Brad Pitt answered my second question this way;

Apparently he was a force behind getting this project made because he got passionate about the possibilities and translated that into making you forget 'that there is Mr. Jolie Brad Pitt the good-looks glamorous Hollywood movie star'. At the point you might be tempted to dismiss him as a lightweight you also forget that it's Brad Pitt because both his characterization and everything surrounding him has pulled your attention in another direction and you are totally hooked on the story. And if I never see anything else he's done or will do I walk away from Moneyball thinking he's very good at his craft. I had a teacher once who said that the first job of the actor is to allow you to forget who he is and make you believe you're looking at somebody else altogether. Bingo.

MrsRW answered the third question when she said the only real criticism she had was that it might be a tad too long; which is something I'd agree with from a commercial standpoint, though because I got wrapped up in the world it was portraying that didn't seem to bother me - or the people in the theater - too much. In fact I heard some of the things other people have said as they walked out, and was especially impressed with an older lady who loved it and wanted her husband to be sure they call their son to tell him he's GOT to see the movie... "and I can't even stand baseball." Her direct quote.

And the fact is that woman's comment pretty much sums up the experience. If you're a baseball wonk it's nothing but a baseball movie with all this other stuff going on that isn't boring. If you're into human interaction and acting, per se, you'll eat up the dialog that, when appropriate, is either sparkling, hilarious, real and sometimes perfectly mimics those uncomfortable, choppy moments between people who are trying to be cordial but have other stuff going on in their lives. If you're into sentiment and romanticism you've got the underdog thing and the child of a divorce bit. In short you can pretty much make this movie about anything you want it to be.

But the main undercurrent is the power struggle between what is established and what is different. That's what everything else is wrapped around. If there is any anti-establishment sentiment left in your time battered psyche after all these years it will be revived. Probably unless of course you're a Yankee fan. In which case you will come up with any number of reasons why this ain't all that. Seeing as how people who don't know baseball at all will get a little inkling as to why you, in point of fact, are the Evil Empire.

There are any number of things that the literalist could point out that were altered to make the real story it's based on work in a movie format. Jonah Hill's character is a fictionalized interpretation of the real Paul DePodesta, who is neither a dumpy nerd nor "never worked in baseball or ever had a job" before Brad Pitt plucks him out of nowhere. In exchange you get a legitimate contender for Best Supporting Actor at next year's Oscars. This is probably the major point to make. DePodesta is nothing like his composite alter ego that was fabricated in the movie.

Another critique, strangely or not strangely enough, comes from the baseball world itself. The line of questions work like this...

"If Moneyball works so well how come it hasn't produced a championship?"

-or-

"This is a movie about how Billy Beane took a small market team that has had moderate success and some total flops and made it into a small market team that has had moderate success and some total flops. So what?"

And outside of the fact that these questions have nothing to do with the movie they are the comments you will hear regularly from the inside baseball world who are still, to this day, knocking the value of what Oakland accomplished at that time. Of course the simple answer is that most of the the team managements in baseball today are employing some form or version of the techniques and approaches started by the Oakland A's in the era the movie portrays. While it is true that if Beane had nine figures to throw around he would do it, observant and intelligent baseball people have gleaned some truths about player analysis and therefore the game has, in fact, been changed. The goal was to make a competitive team with less than half the resources of the New Yorks and Chicagos of baseball. Insofar as they've done that from time to time the goal is accomplished. And the fact that it's been less successful in the last few years is more a testament to the fact that many other teams have incorporated the techniques and are more properly evaluating talent and its relationship to money, so that there is now less of an opportunity for Oakland to find the hidden gems. That's Moneyball folks.

Plus the fact that the last 300+ words could probably spark most of any controversy that may follow in the comments, should pretty much wrap up the package of why you should go see the movie.

But strip all the above away and what you have is a movie that treats you like a grown-up. Actual dialog. An actual story. You won't like it if you want special effects and a continuous stream of mayhem and unconventional weaponry or fighting disciplines. Though the unconventional idea may be what the whole thing is about.

Recommendation: a must see. Go.

September 26, 2011

Coming Back

I don't sense a clock ticking away my time. In a couple of years I guess I will hit a milestone, age-wise, but the idea of 60 never bothered me any more than 50 or 40 or 30 did. I'm way too philosophical or usually drunk to let that get to me. What are you going to do about it anyway? Nothing. The best thing to do is get there with your personality and self-respect still in one piece. The numbers just don't scare me. It's funny because in my twenties I thought they would, but it turns out they don't. So there's that.

I do look at the fact that I've wasted a lot of time doing nothing and haven't accomplished nearly anything I've set out to do beyond being proud of my daughters and convincing my wife to hang around long after she realized how boring I actually am; but once you have grand kids some things don't seem as important as they may have at one time. Suffice to say I am who I am and I'm comfortable in my own skin, as pock-marked and saggy and gray as it is.

Anyway the 40th Reunion is over and I will have a lot of time back for myself.

But it was the Friday thing - the private party outside the general reunion, that may have been my own personal "best thing ever".

I put together a party for Bob Cetera, a teacher we had back in our school days who ran our theater department. I tracked him down, heard him gasp when I called him up more than eight months ago to run the idea by him and set up a date for the event. Then I went to work finding his people - his kids, the students from that era - with enough time to get them all together so we could give him a little fuzzy.

Because mostly of Facebook the core group of people who were involved in that old group were easy enough. The harder ones are not on that social media or went so far afield that there were times all I wound up with was yet another dead end.

Well think, RW! Hey it turns out I know a small group of anonymous hackers who can find anybody if they really wanted to. Gee I don't really know who that might be (hums, taps fingers, rolls eyes at the ceiling). Anyway I contacted some folks and at first they gave me the dreaded "NYPA answer" (Not Your Private Army), but a couple of them remembered stuff I did with and for them in the past and said they'd take a couple minutes in the chase but that was it. AND THEN It turned out I didn't need to call in that chit at all, because on the exact same day they said they found her, the one person I was looking for fell into my lap one week before the event just through the contacts I'd developed doing the normal shtick. That's pretty much my life in a nutshell though.

So the effort to find that "one person who was going to be the cherry on the pie" ended up being overkill, but it is kind of cool to think that a couple people I've never met tried to helped me out. But you know - hell - I figured if they can pop Wikileaks into the public they can find anything or anybody. Turned out it didn't have to be that dramatic. It also turned out the one "big get" of the party only lives a couple of suburbs over. Basically down the road for God's sake.

Talk about feeling like a dummy.

Anyway I'm talking about one particular woman who left a huge impression on everybody before she transferred to another school back in those days. We'll just call her K___ T___. Probably of all the people he had as students she was the one that left the largest impression if only because of what she always brought to the game. That's not discounting anyone else at the shindig - he was overjoyed at every name I mentioned when I told him who was coming. Didn't have to jog his memory at all for anyone. Knew them all as mentioned at the snap of the fingers with the same affection as any other.

I had him come over an hour before the other guests arrived. I wanted him to settle in but I also wanted to monopolize him until I had to go be the host. As we sat there talking and I reviewed who was coming, within twenty minutes he mentioned K___T___'s name just in a general sense of reminiscing. And here's where I want to show you how that happened so you can kind of get why the whole thing was making me so giddy...

I told him I had a surprise for him but didn't give any more information than that. As we talked he or I would mention a name of someone from that program and I'd say "oh yeah I forgot to tell you, he's going to be here tonight." And his eyes would pop. Then he would try to remember an incident or another and I would say "oh yeah, that's so-and-so." And he would say "that's right!" And I'd tell him, "oh yeah, she's going to be here tonight as well." And his jaw would drop. But when her name - this "big get" I was keeping hidden - came up I clammed up. Didn't say a word. I may have even put my hand over my mouth and made like I was rubbing my nose or something just to keep from blurting it out.

So the guests started arriving and it was a wonderful night for him, I'm pretty sure. After all these years - I don't think any of us had any contact with him since we graduated, or at least it was very limited - as each person would come in a new round of hugs and handshakes began.

And when she walked in, I was standing next to him and I said "Bob you remember we were talking about K____ T____ before?" And he said "Sure." And I pointed with my chin and said "she just walked in."

Yeah.

Came off perfect.

That was a good moment, but it's not to say that every last person who showed up didn't mean just as much to him as anybody else. Of course that's why we like him.

Okay so it was only high school. Compared to the big wide world not really anything special beyond the memories and involvement of those people from those days. Meaning not much more to anybody but us, as kids. Few of us tried to be serious about the performing arts after it was over. One of us, Rocco Sisto has been in Carlito's Way and Donnie Brasco, Matlock, The Sopranos and much much more (but truth to tell he was only on the periphery of the group in school and didn't get serious about it until much later) and no I couldn't get him. Another of our group has a son who stars in a theater company off-off Broadway. But, really, none of the rest of us has done much in the way of that line of work. I did try to get into it before I got married but, you know, it's very telling - you could be really really good in high school but when you get to the real world... well... the real world smacks you right in the head. Suffice it to say Malkovich wasn't impressed and we'll leave it at that m'kay?

The thing of it is this party we had Friday was probably one of the top three or four things that ever happened, in amongst all the other stuff I ever worked on. I enjoyed the planning and the organizing a lot. All during the prep I wondered if he ever thought we forgot about him. He's had some heart problems and some surgery and all. I've been out of high school forty years. You know what I mean. I never saw such a together crowd of people - few of whom stayed in close contact with one another either, by the way. Not a wallflower in the bunch, of course, being AHCtors and artISTES.

I've been assured by everyone who was there - and I mean every last person - that it was a top moment for them as well. So there it is. One more "cast and crew" party. I think we did some good.

Of course my "big get" probably thinks I'm a stalker now or something. I probably sent one email too many. Probably fawned and gloated over the accomplishment too much (like, dude, she's right down the freakin road, what's the big deal already for God's sake?). But you know what, those who don't take chances wish they'd have tried when it's too late, with nothing to show for it but a great big regret. So what the hell. I'm glad we didn't let this opportunity pass.

And, in all honesty, the general class reunion I helped organize that came off the following (Saturday) night was fun, and I managed to not make too much of an ass of myself or say too much stupid shit... mostly. But it was kind of pale and anti-climatic for me personally, considering the night before.

I wasn't the only one who didn't want Friday to end. At least that's what people kept telling me.

----------------------------

Clicking the pictures will make them huge!


Left- The cast and crew with the honored guest at far left.
Center- For regular readers here the guy on the left of this picture (Hal) is the actual creator of "Farco Barnes." There's Joanne and my wife on the right.
Right- Anna (in the yellow) is the one who's son is off-off Broadway. Then Donna, Mike and Dennis.


Left- Am I gloating too much with my "big surprise" on my right arm? Yeah probably. Cathy and Jim on my left. But I also think I take the worst pictures in the world so move along... nothing for you here.
Center- You know the man in the dark jacket as "sligo". We just call him Mike.
Right- The Boss (on the right) beside his wife who is holding Kathy, all standing next to Cindy on the far left who - as it turned out - was the only person I really needed to find the one person I felt like I worked hardest to get. Thanks Cindy.

September 01, 2011

The Old School Song

Just three weeks from now and the reunion for the class of 1971 will be over. And it couldn't come fast enough for me as one of the organizers.

In the first place it says something very telling about the dysfunction of a certain group of people when the dope-smoking sociopath of the group ends up holding the money for the party, don't you think?

But now, thanks to the miracle of Facebook, especially, I have confirmed what I thought I knew 40 years ago - that most of my classmates are complete %^^(@#$%.

Let me start out by saying I've never had to sit in front of more vile, hateful, obtuse, adolescent caveman bullshit than I have watching my classmates post their "feelings and opinions" on social media.

In response to the waves of shit I have to read before shutting their posts off completely let me just say,

1. No, people who apply for welfare shouldn't have to take a drug test just because you had to take one to get a job. The correct answer is NO ONE should be required to take a drug test for these things.

2. There are no tax dollars going to a mosque about to be built on the ground where the Twin Towers once stood. And no, the imam trying to build the mosque in lower Manhattan isn't part of al Qaida, he's actually been an adviser to President Bush.

3. I am not aware that anyone is actively trying to take "God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance, at least not as actively as those who put "God" in it in the first place; seeing as how the original version didn't have it.

4. And while we're on the subject I don't understand why people think it's being phased out of schools. I had no idea the Pledge was in such danger until I started inviting my high school classmates to be my friends on Facebook.

5. His name is Barack Obama. Sometimes he's known as President Obama. His name is not Barrack YoMomma, Barack Ubangi, or Barack Obangi. And I must say I find it just a little annoying to think of people pushing 60 who still go all a-titter about these kind of gags.

6. When someone says "she pricked her finger on the spinning wheel" they're saying something from a children's story, they're not talking about somebody's dick.

7. No, President Reagan never had a balanced budget. That didn't happen until President Clinton, and a lot of that was Newt Gingrich's doing - who you don't like because he isn't Sarah Palin. Hello?

8. No, you can't possibly be a conservative Christian and a devotee of Ayn Rand at the same time because according to libertarian objectivism existence takes primacy over consciousness and therefore according to Ayn THERE CAN BE NO GOD. Doofus.

Sigh.

What do you see me as in high school? I mean what do you think I must have been like? You pause here and guess for a second. Then I'm going to tell you and then you tell me how close you came. Okay?

When I was in high school we published "underground" newspapers. We infiltrated the dean's office and "liberated" a locker in which we kept dope, tickets, stuff we didn't want out parents to see, and passed messages back and forth. This was the office of what was known as "Movement Staff," and as far as the school knew that locker was assigned and everything was copesetic. We took acid and went to class. Every other day. We were for civil rights, against Viet Nam, and were quite certain that the general stasis of suburban life was something that would rot your mind, rot your liver, rot your kidney, cucaracha. We ran a hippie for Homecoming Queen and won. We ran Mickey Mouse as a write-in candidate in the student council election (and won).

We were a very small percentage of our school. And none of these people are showing up to the reunion, but me. And I have to sit here looking at pleas to sign the petition to build a wall across the Rio Grande, allow Creationism to be taught in public schools, and stop paying teachers and firemen so much damn money.

I was on the phone with sligo - an occasional poster here and fellow graduate of that year - and he said he didn't realize so many of our classmates were jerks. I wanted to say - or perhaps I did say (I've killed too many brain cells) that I tried to tell him that 40 years ago but nobody was listening.

I'm going to put ten bucks in an envelope and send it to Fred this weekend.

Now that I am facing the results of the present efforts, I seriously need to reconnect with my past. No not high school classmates, the other one.

August 22, 2011

What I Was Talking About

Having read the book, I can't figure out how they made a movie out of it. But they did.



You have to figure that a guy like me, who has spent hours making what are called "speed figs" (speed figures) for thoroughbreds just to find an undervalued horse to bet on would easily fall into the system. And I did. An argument can be made that, yeah Oakland has low payrolls and they've had some great teams since Beane took over but where's the championships? - and that would be a good argument. Except the goal was to have a low payroll and still be a winner. Which they did.

Which they did... until recently; because now people are stealing their ideas - which they thought were baseball blasphemy when it got started. So now it's harder. And the thing is, the story is still going on because there really is a Billy Beane (and yes, ladies, he is "movie star" looking) and he really does run the Oakland A's and he still has computer geeks on the payroll. We call them "number guys" in horseracing. Aherrrrm...

August 09, 2011

What?

Have to go to work in exactly one hour. The monk part of the week begins again. I veg on my 4 day weekends. No that's not true - but time seems to get away from me. It's like a mini-vacation every week but the problem is that the way things are going I'm finding more and more comfort in shutting everything out. It's an interesting head I live in.

Lately I've been thinking about batting orders. You know, because, that's important. But there seems to be a science to setting out a baseball lineup and lately I've been thinking about it. a lot. What can I say?

Relative to how you set your batting order, there are a handful of different theories about how to set a baseball lineup but the most prevalent is the one that goes...

1. Best speed. Low strikeouts.
2. Hit and run guy, some power OK, low strikeouts.
3. Your best all-around hitter. Hits to all fields.
4. Your Home Run guy. RBI's.
5. Second best Home Run guy. Usually a lower batting avg. than #4, but power.
6. Usually lower avg. and power but reliable under pressure.
7. Lesser version of #6
8. Most often slowest, a lot of times the Catcher to spare his legs. You get what you get.
9. In the National League, this is 99.999% the Pitcher unless the manager is Tony LaRussa. In the American League there's two lines of thought - this is either your worst hitter or your "second lead off man" with good speed but hits for a lower avg. than your #1 guy.

And this is pretty much how it has been since time immemorial. And you don't screw with the old heads in baseball, they know best and they know everything and they know it all much better than you, especially if high school was as advanced a level you ended at.

What I've been thinking, though, is that this is bullshit. The standard baseball lineup only really makes sense if every inning you start with the number 1 guy again. Because by the second or third inning the guy who will be batting first for you isn't your best speed and may be your slowest guy. So unless you start every inning from the top THE FIRST INNING IS THE ONLY POINT OF THE GAME THE LINEUP REALLY MATTERS.

And as the game progresses the lineup becomes less consequential. At any given inning any player may be asked to start things off, and the #1 lead-off man could really only lead-off once the entire game. Worse than that his speed is often negated by the conditions of the game. For example if the #8 batter gets on base and the #9 batter makes an out and fails to advance him, your best speed guy, should he get on base, can only go as far and as fast as the guy ahead of him. A single by the #2 batter in this case may only send your slow Catcher to 3rd, forcing your speed guy to stop at 2nd.

Anyway the point being is that as the game goes on you never know where in the lineup the next turn starts.

There is, actually, only one thing anybody knows for sure about a lineup, and that is OVER THE COURSE OF THE SEASON THE BATTERS AT THE TOP OF THE ORDER ALWAYS HAVE MORE PLATE APPEARANCES THAN THE GUYS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE ORDER.

So what you're doing is giving more at-bats to good players, but not your best players. Objective reason will tell you that the #1 batter will come to the plate more times than anyone else. So to put a speed guy / singles hitter in that spot immediately cuts down your chances for getting the most out of your talent. If you put your best hitter in the lead-off spot, regardless of his speed, he will bat more times than anyone else during the course of the season, which improves your overall offense immediately.

There, that's a half hour of baseball. I've got to make my lunch. See how interesting it is in my head? Yeah right.

I'm going to do more on this. But for now, we've established rule #1. Your best hitter (the guy you usually place #3) should be your lead-off man. The whole idea is getting on base and putting pressure on the other team.

More to come...

July 25, 2011

What I Have To Say For Myself


  • Issue #2 of THRICE is now available for free download to your iPad, your Kindle, or just as a PDF. You can also get hard copies if you're willing to pay for it.

  • Of all the people we've gathered together for this issue I am most personally proud of adding Ann Bogle to the mix. In the first place we are badly under-represented by women voices and in the second place she's really good. So I hope we see more of her as time goes on.

  • The next issue comes in November and will be themed "TIME." We already have a couple things for it. I think you'll like.

  • But no, I haven't been to your blogs much and for that I'm truly sorry. I miss it, but I simply have little time. If I scan you in my Reader it's lately the best I can do. I'm ashamed I've missed your radio shows, your troubles, your happies, things you've found, things you're letting go of. In the blogging world it has always been true - if you want visitors you have to visit. And I don't have enough Earth-shattering ground-breaking stuff to attract a wide audience, nor did I ever really seek one out. I will get back to your stories and incidents as soon as I can. For one thing my new schedule - pushing 40 work hours into three days from Tuesday through Thursday - changes everything. My own personal writing is stalled, and I've taken on a few more responsibilities with groups and organizations that somehow keep asking for me to volunteer. I am amazed at those requests, seeing as how if I were given three weeks of totally free time I would probably spend 95% of it alone. But I WILL get out and about to see all your great stuff soon, I promise.

  • In case I hadn't said anything to you I am going to be a grandfather again this December, God willing. We all know it is a girl and we all know her name is going to be Sophie. I may have made some mistakes with granddaughter #1 here and there or something... I guess?... because I am somewhere 22nd or 35th on her list for some reason, but Sophie will be my redemption for whatever crimes I committed... whatever the hell they were.

  • My eyes are going weird. I had cataract surgery on both a month and a half ago and I can't stand bright light and sometimes I can see for miles. In fact the farther away something is the better I can see it - which is the total opposite of what I've had the whole rest of my life before now. I need the darkest possible sunglasses but the stuff at the local drug store only goes so dark. Anybody have a lead on really REALLY dark sunglasses? I need them bad. Apparently I am not producing enough tears so they have me on these tear=producing drops. I mean wtf, I can't sit there watching Schindler's List (which is a movie it is officially "OK" for guys to cry at) everyday just to get my eyes wet y'know.

  • I am continuing to struggle between this spiritual ideal I have had in my head since forever and the complete nihilism that seems like so much truth anymore.

  • I am very much looking forward to Ken Burns' latest effort at PBS to be shown this Fall called "Prohibition" despite the fact that he basically gave my White Sox the Finger in his last episode of "Baseball" called the 10th Inning (he gave more time to the asshole Cubs' continued failure as an idea than the 3 FARCO seconds he gave the White Sox for winning it all in '05) and his nagging, bothersome apologetics for the South's destructive and heinous passion for State's Rights (which has caused more death, misery and anger in this country than any other single failed concept) in his Civil War. I find his overblown pandering nonsense comforting somehow.

  • I'm going to watch the Sox play the Tigers on TV in a second. have a nice night.
  • June 30, 2011

    Pah HA HA HA HA HA HA HA... meh...


    So Congress failed to "defund" the Libya thing after all. And there are no war crimes trials being done on President Obama for skirting the "War Powers" Act. All the huff and puff and smoke about the Constitution has faded away. And life goes on as we know it. All the "greatly concerned," "important" and overwrought comments and articles by serious American patriots worried about the erosion of constitutional law in this land (that they only just thought of now, decades after Grenada) ended up being the usual partisan bullshit once again.

    And so much for the bluster and indignation of serious-minded people who want to save America from this dangerous black guy in the White House. The GOP has once again manipulated their base on an issue, then walked away from the issue, leaving a steaming pile on shit on the President, which was their only goal anyway, but no real resolution to their manufactured indignation. I don't know what pisses me off more, that normally intelligent, reasonable people continue to allow themselves to be manipulated by country club Republicans, or that the Democrats have no fight in them. The Dems remind me of the old phrase we used to use in the drug days - "he can see the cars, he just can't get out of their way."

    Now we've moved on to the debt limit.

    In this act the GOP will take their position all the way down to the wire, vehemently demanding no tax adjustments whatsoever and a cut in Social Security and Medicare, until the midnight hour when the the deal both sides have already made will go into motion and the debt ceiling will be raised without any real alteration in anything we can think of off the top of our heads, and the whole thing will not only be forgotten but no one will be able to say what they actually did about it. Then it'll be "it wasn't all we wanted but we have to take little steps to get where we're going."

    The truth is that if the debt ceiling isn't raised and the USA defaults on its paper the world economy will smash into a million little pieces and if you think it is bad now you ain't seen nothin' yet. Anyway that's the argument President Reagan used when he wanted the ceiling lifted, and nobody said a whisper about the budget deficits he racked up. They still don't.

    But there are political points to make and more steaming piles of shit to leave on President Obama's doorstep that he'll just step over on the way to the next act because he's presumably too dumb to recognize what's going on - OR he's already in "I'm the adult in room" mode (which is what will get him re-elected). And no doubt we'll have to listen to the same "concerned" and "important" commentators - amateur and professional alike - about whatever the hell the next terribly significant issue is that will ruin the country, the Constitution, motherhood, God and baseball.

    Or we'll just toss out another tweeting Congressman proud of his balls or something. That always acts as a kind of analgesic. Doesn't really deal with the pain, just makes you forget you have it.

    In the meantime there's drug tests for people before they get that awesomely huge welfare check, the campaign to keep GAWD in the Pledge of Allegiance, and all the other bullshit commonly associated with Wal-Mart America's campaign to make this the single most prosaic, irritating, provincial, reactionary, knee-jerk, peckerwood haven, anti-intellectual shit hole of a country you and Abe Lincoln ever saw.

    Happy Fourth of July. For duty and humanity... or whatever...