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Monthly Archives: September 2010

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Around the World in 140 Characters or Less

Malcolm Gladwell on “The Twitter Revolution”:

The world, we are told, is in the midst of a revolution. The new tools of social media have reinvented social activism. With Facebook and Twitter and the like, the traditional relationship between political authority and popular will has been upended, making it easier for the powerless to collaborate, coördinate, and give voice to their concerns. When ten thousand protesters took to the streets in Moldova in the spring of 2009 to protest against their country’s Communist government, the action was dubbed the Twitter Revolution, because of the means by which the demonstrators had been brought together. A few months after that, when student protests rocked Tehran, the State Department took the unusual step of asking Twitter to suspend scheduled maintenance of its Web site, because the Administration didn’t want such a critical organizing tool out of service at the height of the demonstrations. “Without Twitter the people of Iran would not have felt empowered and confident to stand up for freedom and democracy,” Mark Pfeifle, a former national-security adviser, later wrote, calling for Twitter to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Where activists were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools. Facebook warriors go online to push for change. “You are the best hope for us all,” James K. Glassman, a former senior State Department official, told a crowd of cyber activists at a recent conference sponsored by Facebook, A. T. & T., Howcast, MTV, and Google. Sites like Facebook, Glassman said, “give the U.S. a significant competitive advantage over terrorists. Some time ago, I said that Al Qaeda was ‘eating our lunch on the Internet.’ That is no longer the case. Al Qaeda is stuck in Web 1.0. The Internet is now about interactivity and conversation.”

These are strong, and puzzling, claims. Why does it matter who is eating whose lunch on the Internet? Are people who log on to their Facebook page really the best hope for us all?

As Balzac said, “There Goes Another Novel”

I’ve had at least ten people tell me that “The Wire” isn’t only their favorite show but that it is without a doubt, “the best Television show ever made.” I still haven’t seen it but plan to tackle it this winter.

Over at the New York Review of Books, check out novelist Lorrie Moore’s take:

Set in post–September 11 Baltimore, the HBO series The Wire—whose sixty episodes were originally broadcast between June 2002 and March 2008 and are now available on DVD—has many things on its rich and roaming mind, but one of those things is Baltimore itself, home of Edgar Allan Poe, H.L. Mencken, Babe Ruth, and Billie Holiday. Baltimore is not just a stand-in for Western civilization or globalized urban rot or the American inner city now given the cold federal shoulder in the folly-filled war on terror, though it is certainly all these things. Baltimore is also just plain itself, with a very specific cast of characters, dead and alive. Eminences are pointedly referenced in the course of the series: the camera passes over a sign to Babe Ruth’s birthplace, tightens on a Mencken quote sculpted into the office wall of The Baltimore Sun; “Poe” is not just street pronunciation for “poor” (to the delight of one of The Wire‘s screenwriters) but implicitly printed onto one horror-story element of the script; a phrase of Lady Day wafts in as ambient recorded music in a narrative that is scoreless except when the credits are rolling or in the occasional end-of-season montage.

…he use of Baltimore as a millennial tapestry, in fact, might be seen as a quiet rebuke to its own great living novelists, Anne Tyler and John Barth, both of whose exquisitely styled prose could be accused of having turned its back on the deep inner workings of the city that executive producer David Simon, a former Baltimore reporter, and producer Ed Burns, a former Baltimore schoolteacher and cop, have excavated with such daring and success. (“Where in Leave-It-to-Beaver-Land are you taking me?” asks The Wire‘s homeless police informant Bubbles, when driven out to a leafy, upscale neighborhood; the words are novelist and screenwriter Richard Price’s and never mind that this aging cultural reference is unlikely to have actually spilled forth from this character; the remark does nicely).

So confident are Simon and Burns in their enterprise that they have with much justification called the program “not television” but a “novel.” Certainly the series’s creators know what novelists know: that it takes time to transform a social type into a human being, demography into dramaturgy, whether time comes in the form of pages or hours. With time as a medium rather than a constraint one can show a profound and unexpected aspect of a character, and discover what that character might decide to do because of it. With time one can show the surprising interconnections within a chaotic, patchworked metropolis.

It is sometimes difficult to sing the praises of this premier example of a new art form, not just because enthusiastic viewers and cultural studies graduate students have gotten there first—”Heroism, Institutions, and the Police Procedural” or “Stringer Bell’s Lament: Violence and Legitimacy in Contemporary Capitalism” (chapters in The Wire: Urban Decay and American Television)—but also because David Simon himself, not trusting an audience, and not waiting for posterity, in his own often stirring remarks about the show in print interviews, in public appearances, and in audio commentary on the DVD version, has not just explicated the text to near muteness but jacked the critical rhetoric up very high. He is the show’s most garrulous promoter. In comment after comment, even the word “novel” is not always enough and Simon and his colleagues have compared his five-season series to a Greek tragedy (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripedes are all named), Homer’s Iliad, a Shakespearean drama, a serialized narrative by Dickens, an historical document that will be read in fifty years, a book by Tolstoy, and Melville’s Moby-Dick. This leaves only journalist Joe Klein to raise the ante further: “The Wire never won an Emmy?” Klein is shown exclaiming in the DVD features on the final episode. “The Wire should win the Nobel Prize for literature!”

Come Back Tomorrow

A few weeks ago my wife turned to me and said, “What are we going to do when baseball ends?”

“Hopefully, we’ll be watching another victory parade,” I said.

“But then it’s over and what are we going to do? Maybe I should start watching football.”

Football? She hates football. What is she turning into?

Emily still likes to bust my chops when I become shrill and unreasonable, announcing the season is over after a first inning at bat. But on Sunday night, the pressure finally got to her. She retired into the bedroom by the seventh inning and listened to the game on the radio. I stayed out in the living room and watched it on TV. By the 9th inning, I came in and she said, “I think I’m going to vomit.”

An inning later, after the Yankees had won, I came in again, and she said, “I’m never going to watch or listen to another baseball game again. I can’t take it. I’m sick to my stomach.” I had to stop myself from smiling. This after the Yankees had won, mind you. “Welcome to my world,” I said.

Last night, with a chance to clinch a playoff birth, A.J. Burnett gave up seven runs in just over two innings, and I opted for the wife’s world of Dancing with the Stars. Figured I owed her one. The Bombers rallied but fell short, 7-5. The Red Sox also won, but the Rays and Twins both lost.

We’ll do it again tonight.

Sometimes You Just Gotta Cut a Piece For Yourself

Such was the poignant wisdom of my old college chum, Lomain. That was his line, right out of “The Pope of Greenwich Village,” ‘cept out of Bayside, Queens. This is Beef Lomain I’m talking about, the eldest Lomain. His brother Mikey was Chicken Lomain and his little brother Matty was Shrimp Lomain.

I’d like to see A.J. take a piece for himself tonight, wouldn’t you?

Why mince words? Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

Beat of the Day

Folly Floater

Josh Wilker on Knucksie. ‘Nuff said. Dig in.

Million Dollar Movie

My favorite Robin Williams flick.

You Must Remember This

Here’s another one from Pete Hamill via the New York Magazine Archives. Let’s go back to 1987:

Once there was another city here, and now it is gone. There are almost no traces of it anymore, but millions of us know it existed, because we lived in it: the Lost City of New York.

It was a city, as John Cheever once wrote, that “was still filled with a river light, when you heard the Benny Goodman quartets from a radio in the corner stationery store, and when almost everybody wore a hat.” In that city, the taxicabs were all Checkers, with ample room for your legs, and the drivers knew where Grand Central was and always helped with the luggage. In that city, there were apartments with three bedrooms and views of the river. You hurried across the street and your girl was waiting for you under the Biltmore clock, with snow melting in her hair. Cars never double-parked. Shop doors weren’t locked in the daytime. Bus drivers still made change. All over town, cops walked the beat and everyone knew their names. In that city, you did not smoke on the subway. You wore galoshes in the rain. Waitresses called you honey. You slept with windows open to the summer night.

That New York is gone now, hammered into dust by time, progress, accident, and greed. Yes, most of us distrust the memory of how we lived here, not so very long ago. Nostalgia is a treacherous emotion, at once a curse against the present and an admission of permanent resentment, never to be wholly trusted. For many of us, looking back is simply too painful; we must confront the unanswerable question of how we let it all happen, how the Lost City was lost. And so most of us have trained ourselves to forget.

[Picture by Bags]

On the Waterfront

Dark Harbor, Nathan Ward’s riveting book about the New York Waterfronts, got a good review in the New York Times over the weekend:

For a writer of history, there is always a risk in telling a story that’s been told before. In this case, the bar is especially high, because Ward presents a tale that has been told not just often but quite well, first by Johnson and then in the Oscar-winning movie.

To make his challenge even greater, Ward brings no huge trove of new information to his account, and he offers no novel grand view to reshape our thinking of this chapter in American history. But he does have a few weapons at his disposal — namely, meticulous reporting, a keen eye for detail and an elegant writing style — and he uses them to make the tale seem new again.

Check out the book and dig Ward’s blog.

[Photo Credit: E.O. Hoppe]

One, Singular Sensation

Joe Pos on Ichiro!

Ichiro’s singles percentage is higher than Ozzie Smith’s. It’s higher than Jason Kendall’s (yes, it is). It’s higher than that of Luis Aparicio, Bert Campaneris, Bill Buckner and Kenny Lofton. It’s not the all-time mark — other very good hitters such as Richie Ashburn, Stuffy McInnis and Lloyd Waner have higher singles percentages. But in fact, those are probably the ONLY three good hitters who have higher singles percentages — maybe Maury Wills, depending on how good a hitter you think he was.

So, what’s wrong with a single? Nothing. But it ain’t a double. Ichiro’s .430 slugging percentage is certainly low for a .331 hitter, especially in today’s big-hitting era. Jef Cirillo slugged .430. Hal Morris slugged .433.

So, mainly what Ichiro gives you are lots of singles — line drives, hard grounders up the middle, bloops, bleeders through the infield, high-choppers. Are these aesthetically pleasing? Absolutely. Are these valuable? You bet. Are these more valuable than walks? Yes, of course, well, somewhat. But do a barrage of singles without many walks put Ichiro in the luxury line of hitters with Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera or Josh Hamilton or Robinson Cano or those sorts of guys?

I’d have to say no.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

If you hung on to the bitter end on Sunday night, then you can imagine what a pain in the ass this game is to try to write about.  For the first six innings the story line was about the continuing ineptitude of the Yankee bats, as Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka was dominant throughout.  The recap for that game was called “The Darkness on the Edge of Town,” and the story pretty much wrote itself: the Yankee swoon continues, the Twins and Rays are now the top two teams in the league, and the Red Sox and ’64 Phillies are looming.

But then the seventh inning happened and I ripped that first story up.  With one out and Mark Teixeira on first base, Alex Rodríguez came up to face Dice-K, a pitcher against whom he’s always struggled.  A-Rod quickly dug himself into a two-strike hole, then lashed at an inside fastball with a swing very much like a Rafael Nadal two-handed backhand.  At contact my first hope was that the ball would dunk in in front of an outfielder, but then as the camera panned upwards both outfielders were racing towards to the gap in right center and suddenly I was hoping it would be over their heads.  A split second later it was scraping over the wall and the Yankees had a 2-1 lead.  A-Rod was the hero, and what’s better than a hero story?  Again, the story would write itself, and it would carry the title “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

And then we got to the ninth inning.  Mariano Rivera had come in to get the final out in the eighth, and now he needed only three more outs to send everyone home happy.  Jed Lowrie almost ended the suspense early, but his rocket to right was cut down by a vicious wind and settled harmlessly into Nick Swisher’s glove.  Ryan Kalish followed with a single, and that’s when all hell broke loose.  Kalish quickly stole second, then a few pitches later stole third without a throw, and suddenly we were ninety feet away from a tie game.  Bill Hall then hit an absolute missile towards third, but the drawn-in A-Rod really had no shot, and the game was tied.  Proving that he had been paying attention earlier, Hall stole second and then third.  (You don’t have to be a SABR member to know that Mo has never allowed four stolen bases in the same inning.)  Now the winning run was on third, still with only one out, and the only thing keeping me off the ledge was everything I knew about Mariano Rivera.  But this wasn’t the Rivera we’re used to seeing.  He struggled with his control throughout, and eventually yielded a sac fly to Mike Lowell, giving the Sox a 3-2 lead.  This time, the story was titled “Cuts Like a Knife.”

But the ninth inning wasn’t over.  Even after Derek Jeter flied out to start the bottom half, I still had hope.  Nothing Jonathan Papelbon has done recently makes me fear him, so I wasn’t surprised when Nick Swisher started a Yankee rally with a sharp single to right.  When Teixeira kept the line moving with a single of his own, I just knew A-Rod would end it all with another dramatic home run.  Didn’t you?  Alas, he took a well-earned walk, loading the bases for Robinson Canó.  With MVP chants raining down (the first time I’ve noticed those for Canó), Robbie showed how far he’s come over the past two years.  He took two tough pitches to get into a hitter’s count at 2-0, then laced the expected fastball into right field to tie the game at three.  With the bases loaded, one out, and Jorge Posada and Lance Berkman, I was sure the game was in hand.  My only question was whose face would be covered in pie at the end.  But Posada struck out and Berkman flied out and we moved to the tenth.

The Boston tenth was uneventful, unless you count the fact that Joba Chamberlain looked good, and the stage was set for a walk-off in the bottom half.  With Hideki Okajima on the mound, things got interesting almost immediately.  Curtis Granderson roped a line drive for a single to right, then Brett Gardner reached when he was able to beat out an intended sacrifice bunt as Victor Martínez’s throw hit him in the back, allowing Granderson to race all the way to third.  As Jeter stepped towards the plate, I just knew Captain Clutch would wrap things up, and I started typing a story called “You Never Forget Your First Pie.”  Terry Francona made me rip that one up, too, when he walked Jeter intentionally to load the bases with nobody out.  Greg Golson was due up next (long story), but Joe Girardi sent Marcus Thames up in his place.  Thames did what he does — he hit a bullet — but it was snared by Adrian Beltré, who threw home for the first out.  Due next was Juan Miranda (long story) who worked an anticlimactic bases-loaded walk to end the game.  I don’t even know if he got any pie.  For a quick moment my story was called “Walk This Way,” but then I quickly realized that that was kind of lame.  The Yankees started bouncing around a bit, but then they quickly realized the same thing.  A walk-off walk isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but a win is still a win.

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3.

[Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP]

Desperate Hours

On second thought, Phil Hughes will start tonight, after all. Like to see it.  And it’s not Buchholz but Dice K for the Sox.

Hughes game. Gimme some Score Truck.

Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

Are you Ready for Some…

While we wait for the Yanks to play tonight, we’ve got football and football means:

Happy Sundaze.

[Picture by J. Parthum]

Everything’s Gunna Be Alright

It just is.

[Photo Credit: J. Parthum]

Absolute Truth

That’s the only word that will do. The Yanks are playing like horsesh**. Jon Lester is a stud and he was in peak form on Saturday, true. Give him credit. But listen, the Yankees have lost four games in a row at home and are doing their best to make us squirm. Final score this afternoon: Red Sox 7, Yanks 3.

They’ve got Dustin Moseley pitching against Clay Buchholz tomorrow night. Anyone inspired with a sudden burst of confidence? Okay, so let’s say they get swept. There will be six games left, Magic Number stuck on stupid at three. You’ve still got to love their chances to make it to October, which looks like it’ll start in Minnie against that sombitch Pavano (the Rays already have a 4-0 first inning lead tonight).

But c’mon now, enough is enough already. The sky isn’t falling yet, of course, but that doesn’t mean we’ve got to be happy about this horsesh**, either.

Beast of Burden

The Yanks are stumbling toward a playoff berth. Last night, the offense showed some fight, which has me feeling good. However, the formidable J. Lester goes for the Sox later this afternoon on Fox (doom, doom!) and Dustin Moseley will start for the Yanks tomorrow night so a Red Sox sweep is not hard to imagine.

Still, I’ll be keeping the faith like De La, and root-root-rooting for the home team.

Fug whatchu hoid: Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

[Picture by Frank Miller]

Mash Up

Find two movie titles that share a common word – preferably the first word of one title and the last word of the other. Then create a new plot that combines both movies. Like: “Members of the Rebel Alliance escape an ice-covered planet in a time-traveling Delorian.” Have your friends guess the mashed up title.

Since you are beginners, that was an easy one (“Empire Strikes Back to Future,” with “Back” being the shared word). How about: Two hopeless alcoholics visit their boss for a four-day bender with his corpse? Or: A cocky, unhappy weatherman is forced to participate in the same NASCAR race day after day? Or: A secretary poses as a Wall Street executive and winds up being unfairly placed in an insane asylum? Or: Pouting teenage vampires take a road trip and get in touch with their feminine sides?

It’s a horrible, horrible game that I can’t stop playing. I hope it infects your mind in a similar fashion – I don’t want to be the only one. And I hope it distracts you from the way the Yankees are playing right now. They have lost 12 of 18 games and their grip on the best record in baseball and the home field advantage in any round of the postseason. They are hot, stale garbage. Since this game was such a mess, I want to take a quick peek back at what got them to this point.

The first cries that the Yankees stopped trying came too early for me. During that string of close losses at Texas and Tampa, I thought the bullpen was legitimately spent. Few of Girardi’s moves worked out in those games, but I thought he was taking a lot of heat for a dearth of sac flies and hits with runners in scoring position. But then came the “rain delay.”

On Wednesday, with a chance to take the most recent Tampa series, lock in at least a 2.5 game lead, and bring a four-game sweep into the equation, a wicked rain halted play with the Yankees trailing by a measly run after three innings. But the wind blew so hard that night that all of Girardi’s Major League pitchers were swept away. When the rain cleared, he gave Royce Ring his season debut, for some reason. He backed him up with Dustin Moseley, or as he’s known in my apartment, Bantha fodder. Moseley let up a run for Ring, and then one of his own. But the Yankees scored two themselves and were still squarely in the game.

Given the gift of a close contest after using the roster dregs, Girardi still refused to engage the game. Because the nasty weather cancelled Kyle Farnsworth’s flight to LaGuardia, Girardi had to turn to Chad Gaudin to put the game away. For Tampa. He let up two homers, but Girardi was scared to death it might get closer, so he left him in to let up another run. When Albaladejo let up the seventh run, Girardi finally breathed easily – there was no chance of extra innings. There was no chance someone might slip on the wet grass and get hurt. And there was no reason to use a good relief pitcher. He succeeded in putting all the eggs in CC’s basket. Then CC ate the friggin’ eggs.


Beat of the Day

Hey, Yanks just need to win two games to reach the playoffs this weekend?

Things aren’t all that bad, after all.

Der Bingleball

Okay, so 1960 is a most horrid thought for most Yankee fans but this is too good not to share.

Taster’s Cherce

The Times does homemade potato chips.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver