Thursday, September 30, 2010

Some Ocean-Front Property on Gliese 581g

Gliese 581 is a red-dwarf star about 20 light-years from us, around which orbit a few planets. The most recently discovered one is in the right spot to support life and is enough like Earth that life there could indeed exist.

Most other planets found orbiting other stars have either been too close or too far away from their own stars or have been gas giants more like Jupiter than our own rocky world. Life could potentially exist in some of those circumstances, but it would be very weird compared to us. We, of course, would be very weird to it, and I don't just mean Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber. Although I suppose it's possible that these other life forms would find those two normal and the rest of us weird, which would also prove they lacked a sense of hearing and communicated by signs, strange clothing and silly gestures like publishing your autobiography at 16.

Anyway, the planet is named Gliese 581g, or it will be unless there are indeed folks living there who tell us what they call it (Look out for the copyright infringement lawsuit of the galaxy if they call it "Earth"). Conditions on Gliese 581g are kind of extreme. The planet is tidally locked with its star, meaning one side faces towards it and one faces away from it all the time. The side facing towards it is probably plenty hot, and the side facing away is probably plenty cold. There should be a tolerable zone at the border, where all of the (literally) cool people will hang out, if they exist.

If there is life on Gliese 581g, it may have been around for a very long time. Because of their small size, red dwarf stars burn quite a bit longer than stars like our sun. There is as yet no way to determine whether the radiation of a yellow sun like our own would give that life powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, such as leaping tall buildings in single bound, outracing bullets or telling locomotives where to get off and making them like it.

Although nearby in astronomical terms, the 20 light-year distance between our own sun and Gliese 581 means that we are actually seeing it and its planets not the way they look today, but the way they looked in 1990. And it means that whoever may be living on Gliese 581g is seeing us not as we are today, but as we were in 1990. So unless we swiftly develop faster-than-light travel to visit them, warn them and explain ourselves, they will one day see us watching From Justin to Kelly and paying attention to Keith Olbermann as a political commentor, after which they will have no choice but to decide that our planet is home to no intelligent life.

Proposals! With Emphasis!

Oklahoma State Senator Kenneth Corn has proposed a long list of things that Oklahoma politicians, lobbyists and ethics commission officials should have to do, as well as a few things he doesn't want them to do anymore.

Corn says he's proposing "the toughest crackdown in state history on special interests and their hired guns at the Capitol," and he's doing so because: “There's a stench rising from the dome of the Capitol and that stench is choking the voices of average citizens. It is the foul smell of corruption, money and special interests.” 

Leaving aside Senator Corn's somewhat overheated rhetoric -- apparently politicians figure no one will be on their side unless they're involved in a Cause, The Desired Resolution of Which Involves Nothing Less Than the Fate of All That Is Decent, Upright, Honorable and Nice to Kittens -- we can look at his proposals in several different ways. Most of them center on restricting lobbyists' access to legislators. The image of the shady lobbyist offering perks and gifts to lawmakers is an enduring one, with good reason. But lobbyists sometimes represent good things too. Plus, at what point does a person cross the line from speaking out on behalf of a group of which they're a part to being a lobbyist? When the group pays them? What if groups take up a collection to defray their spokespeople's travel expenses? Or cover for them because they took time off work to go to the Capitol and make their case? Does that make them paid lobbyists?

Some people may also look at Sen. Corn's proposals and wonder why he's making them now. Before he was Sen. Corn, he was Representative Corn, and he's served in the Oklahoma legislature since 1998, which means he's had a couple of chances to plant this flag before. But he didn't until term limits required him to leave the legislature, which makes me wonder how many of his soon-to-be-former colleagues might be grumbling, "Thanks a lot, Ken" under their breaths.

The real laugher in all of this comes when we consider how Corn, if he is elected Lieutenant Governor, will bring his proposals before the legislature. Because unless he can get a representative or a senator to put them into a bill, he won't. Oklahoma gives its lieutenant governor absolutely no ability to propose legislation. He or she is the official presiding officer of the State Senate, but only votes in case of a tie. The LG serves on or chairs several state commissions, none of which are the ethics commission. The LG's main job is to wait around for the governor to get sick enough, get convicted enough, get dead enough or get out of town for a long enough time that somebody else has to take over.

In other words, Senator Corn has made a bold commitment, using bold apocalyptic language, to boldly call for bold changes that he can only politely ask someone else to think about making. You might, if you were mean, say that in order for these reforms to be enacted, their supporters will have to...ahem...lobby for them. Now, I personally don't know whom Okie voters should support in the LG's race (our LG election is separate from the gubernatorial one). For all I know Sen. Corn's GOP opponent has said just as many silly as Sen. Corn has. But whichever candidate I wind up voting for, I seriously doubt my pick will come because said candidate staked out a no-brainer position on an issue which he can't really affect all that much.

(H/T The McCarville Report Online)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Real Estate in a Time of Disaster

Not a commentary on the current housing finance crisis (too many numbers hurt my head), but the subject of this week's sermon as Jeremiah is told to buy a piece of land while his city is under siege.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


You might think that, since I have a cousin who attended Central Michigan State University, I would tone down my triumphalism, one-sided game reporting and ridiculously over-the-top, sports-radio-call-in mindset view of the game.

You would be wrong!

Our stalwart heroes sent the Chippewas of CMSU home in a waaambulance Saturday, toying with them by allowing them to come within a touchdown of victory before ruthlessly snuffing an onside kick attempt and keeping the universe in balance with a 30-25 win.

The paragons of virtue began their 'Cat and mouse game early, raising false hopes in the breasts of the Mt. Pleasant crew by missing an extra point following their first touchdown. Then, like Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown, they continued to allow CMSU to pull close through the first half before storming out to a 30-13 lead in the second. Then, in what some might call cruelty but which actually demonstrated NU's magnanimous nature, Central was allowed two scores to build up their self-esteem and confidence, before the natural order reasserted itself and Chippewa hopes were dashed.

Ethicist and human-rights activist the Dalai Lama commented on how Central fans might feel after the back-and-forth scoring tactic: "It's a hard world. Get used to it."

Next week, conference play begins as Your Mighty Ones journey to the University of Minnesota to make fun of the Golden Gopher's buck teeth.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No. Just, No.

Back in the dim days when plesiosaurs swam the seas and MTV played music videos, they had promo spots for different things, some of them by comedian Denis Leary. In one of them, he argued against racism, saying something like, "Racism isn't born, folks, it's taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list."

Apparently some of the folks in London could do with a refresher rant from Mr. Leary, as a racism reporting act in England has required teachers to report "racial incidents or racial abuse" from children as young as 3. Although I suppose it's possible for the racism gland or whatever to become active between the ages of two and three, I am inclined more towards the idea that three-year-olds often use words the meaning of which they do not know. Some of those words, which they hear someone say someplace because they are little tape recorders with feet, might be racial epithets that the big people shouldn't say whether there are three-year-olds present or not, but which hardly merit hanging a scarlet "R" on a preschooler who repeats them without understanding them.

My parents are probably not, by today's standards, very enlightened racially, although compared with the generation that preceded them, they do represent progress. But racial epithets of any kind, especially the so-called "N-word," earned the same kind of attention that the usual suspect four-letter words earned, and it was not pleasant. We were not labeled racists nor required to attend diversity training, but we learned that racial labels were not to be uttered by folks who wanted to behave properly. In time, I believe, we came to understand reasons not to use those words that had nothing to do with the taste of soap or the effect of swift contact of parental palms to the seat of knowledge. And except for a brief time as a teen when I was trying out which boundaries I wanted to transgress, I have not been a user of those words. I, like everyone else, will make a mistake and sometimes prejudge someone according to racial or ethnic stereotypes, but I always try to correct myself when I've done it and not repeat the mistake.

Maybe my folks picked one of the right ways to bring up kids so they harbor as little racism as possible and maybe they didn't. I don't doubt that some other ways probably produced people who do better on this than I do. But I feel certain that any system that requires teachers to report racist language uttered by three-year-olds to local authorities can safely be called one of the wrong ways to do so.

Well, Duh...

Sesame Street has decided that a clip of its character Elmo singing with pop-fluff-of-the-moment Katy Perry will not air on the show. Given that Perry's first big hit was "I Kissed a Girl" and that in describing the thought behind another single, "Waking Up in Vegas," she said, "Vegas gives me that 'what the ****' feeling. It's really close to LA so one night you could be having a beer with your friends and, when you wake up, you're in Vegas," it does not seem surprising that they did so.

Teaching children lessons like that, of course, is reserved for MTV.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dark and Stormy Nights

Bill Loehfelm may have been best-known so far as a contributor to a book of reporting and one of fiction from post-Katrina New Orleans, and his debut novel Fresh Kills won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for 2008. Bloodroot uses the same Staten Island location of Kills, Loehfelm's hometown. Kevin Curran is a history instructor at a Staten Island college more or less stuck in a rut in life. His mother's developing Alzheimer's and his own growing professional burnout don't make anything easier. One day, he reunites with his brother Danny, a heroin user who had dropped out of sight several years earlier. Now clean, Danny would like to try to make amends with Kevin and their parents. But Kevin learns that "clean" doesn't necessarily mean Danny is living his life on the right side of the law, and is drawn into his brother's borderline activities, as well as several that cross that border. Looming around the caper into which Danny enlists Kevin is the abandoned Bloodroot Children's Hospital, loosely based on the Willowbrook State School closed by authorities in 1987. Bloodroot is choppy and unfocused, kind of like listening to a song you like on a car radio at the edge of a station's range, when the signal "picket fences," or drops in and out very quickly. Kevin is alternately paralyzingly wistful, stupidly macho, street-savvy or clueless, depending on what the situation calls for. Other characters yo-yo similarly and don't maintain distinct personae long enough to establish themselves, and the ending relies on a series of coincidences that thrust minor characters into suddenly major roles with little or no warning or buildup. Maybe Bloodroot suffers from a sophomore slump, but it's definitely a step down from Fresh Kills.
Storm Prey returns John Sandford (the pen name of journalist John Camp) to the "Prey" series and the character that he's best known for, investigator Lucas Davenport. Davenport and his team begin investigating a drug theft at a Minneapolis hospital in which one of the pharmacists is killed. But it turns out that Davenport's wife Weather, a surgeon at the hospital,  may have seen the thieves as they were driving away. The thieves have an inside man at the hospital, who quickly learns that Weather did indeed see at least one of the men in the getaway car and police are now working to identify them. Davenport must track down the gang before they make a move to silence Weather, who is in the middle of a series of operations separating Siamese twins joined at the skull. Davenport is his usual tough-guy self, a walking advertisement for anger-management classes and he and his team wise-crack and sleuth their way through a series of leads to find the criminals. Meanwhile, Sandford also follows the gang's story as they try to figure out what to do about Weather -- and about each other, because they are no longer sure they can trust their own associates. That part of the story is almost more interesting, because even though the gang is deadly to several people they encounter, they're basically losers. Sandford spent many years on the police beats in St. Paul and in Miami and knows that, unlike the nefarious masterminds whose intricate plots decorate the television and movie screens, a lot of lawbreakers are none too bright. But even losers can be harmful to those who cross their paths, so Davenport can't waste any time running them down. Storm Prey is neither the best nor the worst of the Prey series, and Sandford's skill keeps things moving and doesn't bog down in clich├ęd situations or dialogue. "Weather" is still a really dumb name for a character, though.
Mark of the Assassin is a kind of prequel to Daniel Silva's headliner series about Israeli spy Gabriel Allon. Allon's mentor and boss Ariel Shamron makes a brief appearance, but the protagonist of the story is Michael Osbourne, a CIA case officer drawn into the investigation of a terrorist-downed jetliner that provides at least one body dead with a familiar bullet pattern. An assassin leaving the same mark killed a woman Osbourne loved many years ago, and he wants a chance to catch the man now. At the same time, political operatives throughout Washington want to use the attack to suit their own ends, some of which wouldn't be helped if Osbourne gets his man. Osbourne is distracted by personal matters, as he and his wife are working with doctors to conceive a long-desired child and his wife wonders why other things always take the place of her and the baby they want to have. Silva's writing and characterization skills were already well-developed in this, his second novel. The story rarely, if ever, bogs down to relate details or explain things, but it doesn't need to because Silva knows how to bring a reader from point A to point B without going the long way. The story itself, which relies at one point on a kind of international cabal of shadowy figures, is weaker than the Allon stories will be when it leans on these kinds of tired conventions, but is definitely strong enough to see why Silva keeps selling books.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What Song Is It You Wanna Hear?

One wonders at just exactly what kind of reunion took place when Jacksonville, Fla. gym teacher Leonard Skinner arrived at the Pearly Gates and met there at least one of his former students.

Skinner earned his place in rock and roll history when he sent Robert E. Lee High School student Gary Rossington to the principal's office for his refusal to cut his long hair in the mid-1960s. Although Rossington was far from the only boy so chastised, he and some similarly harassed friends were among those who would form a band that, in 1970, they named Lynyrd Skynyrd in mocking recognition of their former teacher. Skynyrd is known as one of the originators of a combination of blues, rock, soul and more than a little country boogie that's often called "southern rock," and created the classic rock radio staples "Sweet Home Alabama," "Gimme Three Steps," "Saturday Night Special," "That Smell" and a few others. One of them is, of course, the epic "Free Bird," the live version of which features a crowd responding to Van Zant's question -- the title of this post -- with one voice as they all shout, "'Free Bird!'"

As often happens as people age, the dispute between Skinner and his former students mellowed. He introduced one of the later versions of the band at a Jacksonville concert and made certain to use his name prominently on bars he owned after he quit teaching. The Augusta Chronicle story points out that the original hair policy which Skinner enforced banned hair that touched shirt collars. Heaven only knows what he would have had to have done if the mid-70s version of the band, with shoulder-length hair and chest-length beards, had appeared in his class. He first learned of the connection when his son -- also named Leonard Skinner -- was playing one of the band's albums, and a relative heard them explain their name during a radio show. The elder Skinner didn't much like the album and actually never cared much for rock and roll music at all, apparently.

The thing that strikes me as a little interesting is that Skinner was born in 1933. He was barely 30 years old when he was attempting to correct Rossington and his classmates' sartorial deficiencies, even though they probably thought of him as some kind of ancient, out-of-touch relic. Had Ronnie Van Zant not died in a 1977 plane crash, he would be 62 and probably finding a lot more in common with his former teacher than differences.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Owls say "OW!"

Indeed, the stunned Owls of Rice University could only gape open-mouthed as they were denied the end zone until the very last minute of play and lost to the courageous Wildcats of Northwestern 30-13.

The hapless Owls, as powerless against the Purple Reign as their namesakes would be against actual wildcats, could do little more than give their place-kicker a workout through most of the game. Gripped no doubt by sheer terror, they tried to placate the valiant lads from Evanston by both fumbling the ball to them and throwing an interception, but a just universe would not allow these transparently sacrificial moves to stay its hand. Entropy was preserved, bodies in motion tended to remain in motion unless acted upon by outside forces, and the Cats were victorious.

Next week, Our Heroes return to Ryan Field to host the Chippewas of Central Michigan State University, who will, if the subset of reality includes the set of deity, return to their college's town of Mt. Pleasant feeling anything but.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Get Me Rewrite!

Thomas Jefferson, 1787:  
"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

Thomas Jefferson, after seeing yesterday's article in the online "Healthland" section of Time Magazine:
"Um, never mind."

Where Are We Again?

We've had a bit of a spat in the area regarding how the National Anthem is being sung at college football games.

Fans of the University of Oklahoma Sooners have been substituting "home of the Sooners" for "home of the brave" in the last line of the song, "The Star-Spangled Banner." Sooner head coach Bob Stoops weighed in this week, suggesting that since OU's opponent is the Air Force Academy, it would be good for fans to sing the original words rather than their own innovation. Since most of the players and their classmates from the Academy will begin serving their nation after graduating, and since some of that service will be in harm's way, Coach Stoops thinks it would show proper respect to them. They, after all, will be some of the actual "brave" who are referred to in the anthem and it might be fitting to acknowledge them while they are guests.

A local sports columnist referred to the "Sooner" ending as "a star-spangled shame," given that fans had made their changes to the anthem at a game on Sept. 11. His opinion has generated the usual insightful commentary in letters to the editor, online comments and sports radio call-in shows.

I sympathize with people who believe that altering the anthem in this way shows disrespect to our nation and those who serve it, as well as those who served it and made the ultimate sacrifice in that service. But I disagree. We have heard people screech the anthem in myriad ways, bending and twisting the notes to suit their own vocal abilities or to put their own style into it. Those people have looked on the anthem as less of a moment to honor their nation than to showcase themselves, which is in essence what those who bellow "Sooners" instead of "brave" do also. Although I would like to see how many of the "Sooner" shouters sing anything other than that last line. I don't think disrespect is at the root of choices like these. I think actual disrespect would require more of an effort and more thought -- the anthem-changers haven't given enough thought to the matter to be disrespecting their country, its history or those who serve it.

Not that the anthem is some kind of holy writ, which must not ever be changed. Our nation adopted it as such relatively recently -- 1931, if you're curious -- and seemed to do just fine without it for many years.

I don't mean to suggest I approve of either our local university fans' alteration or of those who treat the text and tune as something they have to mold and shape so that their own glory might stand before the symbol they're supposed to be honoring. I just don't see supposed disrespect as the reason I disapprove. A common phrase I've heard and used suggests that we should never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence, meaning that it's a lot easier to be dumb than evil. In this case, I would say that we should not ascribe to disrespect and anti-patriotic feeling that which can be explained by a simple lack of class.

Monday, September 13, 2010

No Shirt for You...

Did you know that, if you bought one from the University of Georgia website, you could sell an A. J. Green jersey? If I bought one, I could too. Barack Obama could. Sarah Palin could. The pastor who wanted to burn a Koran could. The imam who's the spokesperson for the group that wants to build a mosque near the destroyed World Trade Center towers site could. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could -- but probably only the youth sizes, because he's a sawed-off little runt of a psychopath. Hugo Chavez could, but then he would likely order some soldiers to confiscate it back from you and keep the money.

In short, nearly all of the world's citizens, should they find themselves in possession of a University of Georgia Bulldogs jersey No. 8 with the word "Green" on the back, could sell said jersey for whatever their local market could bear. Unless, of course, that citizen happened to be A. J. Green, the guy whose work in that particular shirt makes it something someone would want to buy. Green can't sell it, even if it's one he wore himself and didn't just order off the school website. When he did so, he got suspended by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for the first four games of the season.

Get that? The University of Georgia can make all the money it wants off Mr. Green. If, in the process of playing full-contact football for them, he is injured or if he turns out to be not so great at the pro level or is a head case who can't get signed, he will never make any money. But even if he does, the University of Georgia will share none of their green with Mr. Green, despite the fact that they made it directly from his labors and his good name. They will, of course, claim they are giving him free room, board and tuition while he works towards a degree. Mr. Green, for the curious, is enrolled in the University of Georgia's Department of Housing and Consumer Economics, where he is pursuing a bachelor's in housing. You may read about this major here.

I like watching college football, and I have fun offering my hyperbole-laden recaps of my alma mater's football games. But the reality is that universities, coaches, conferences, TV networks, shoe companies, athletic apparel companies and the like all make mints of money off the unpaid labor of young men while offering them little more than food and a roof -- a situation I thought a Mr. Lincoln signed a piece of paper ending, back in 1863.

It may be that those in charge of the NCAA and its plantation -- I mean, organization -- didn't study history. But I bet they will, one day, get the Cliff's Notes version, thanks to some enterprising lawyers and a judge or two who did take that course.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Red Scare Defeated!

Yes, the forces of the free world, represented by the help-your-grandma-across-the-street upstanding young men of Northwestern University, triumphed once again over the diabolical-but-hapless minions of the red menace, represented by the Redbirds of Illinois State University.

After foolishly angering the valiant legions of purple with their presumptuous scoring of a field goal in response to NU's initial touchdown, ISU remembered their station in the grand scheme of things and went quietly for the remainder of the game. As merciful as they were dominant, the Wildcats limited themselves to a field goal in the second half so as to only moderately crush the Redbirds instead of completely destroying their spirits.

Next week, those paragons of all that is decent about our great nation travel to Houston, that they may steam some Rice.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Have You Ever... something that made you laugh so hard you were scared to look in the mirror for fear you now had pasty white skin, green hair and a grin so wide it was actually malformed, like this:

Now you have.

The original article is here, and it has quite a few more howlers produced by someone who desperately needs to meet her own personal Copernicus to tell her something other than herself occupies the center of the universe.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fish in a Barrell, Part 3

A senior aide to California Senator Barbara Boxer was arrested and later quit when he tried to sneak some marijuana into a U.S. Senate office building.

Marcus Stanley was arrested Tuesday morning and soon after resigned from the senator's staff. Among his assignments during his career had been senior economic advisor to the senator and working for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and...wait for it...the Joint Economic Committee.

Ah, Mr. Stanley, you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


One of the newest members of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, elected to that body by acclamation (meaning no nation eligible to vote asked for a recorded vote or objected to the move) seems to have an interesting idea about whose fault it is when the newspaper makes a mistake.

Iran, which sentenced Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani to be stoned to death when she confessed to adultery -- after receiving 99 lashes -- was upset that Ms. Ashtiani's picture appeared in The Times of London, because she wasn't properly covered with a veil or hijab hiding her hair in the photo. So they gave her another 99 lashes, according to her lawyer. The problem? The Times ran the wrong photo. It wasn't Ms. Ashtiani. They've said they're sorry. The Iranians have said they didn't beat Ms. Ashtiani, but you can believe that like you can believe the Earth is flat. And, oh, by the way, she also helped kill her husband -- that's the real reason we sentenced her to death even though we never said anything about it until now -- and butt out, everybody.

While the medieval-minded mouth breathers that pass for leadership in that nation have as yet to bury Ms. Ashtiani in the ground up to her chest and throw rocks at her until she dies -- the sentence to which the court condemned her -- the lawyer is also worried that they have simply been waiting for the end of the Muslim religious period of Ramadan, a time of fasting and prayer during daylight hours. When it ends later this week, he believes Ms. Ashtiani will be killed, either by stoning or some other method.

I've given up wondering why the United Nations countenances Iran's presence at any table, let alone one concerned with women's rights, and treats it with anything other than the disdain that any civilized group of people should have for barbarians. There's no good reason and no way to choose from among the bad ones. But I am curious about something else.

Way back in April, Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Seddiqi ("Hojatoleslam" being his title) said that when women dress immodestly, they tempt young men into sin and God punishes humanity in response with natural disasters. A young woman from Purdue, along with many other people, thought his remarks were very silly. But she went a step further and took action, encouraging women at first via her blog and then through a Facebook group to dress immodestly on April 26 to see if God would in fact send disasters in response. This became known as "Boobquake." The title refers to the body parts that would be more exposed via the protest, not the brain function of those who dreamed it up.

"Boobquake"'s Facebook page shows just above 98,000 "likes," or what would have been called two or three Facebook upgrades ago, "fans." A page entitled "No to stoning Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtian," by contrast, has nearly 150,000 likes. The catch? The second page is actually called "NO ALLA LAPIDAZIONE DI Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani," because it's in Italian. The top number of likes for any English page referring to Ms. Ashtiani is under 1,000. She is mentioned in one link posted to the Boobquake page, a link which has drawn no comments, likes or other notice from Boobquake followers. A notice that a blogger will go without sleep for some time in order to raise money for her school's Secular Student Alliance, on the other hand, earned 88 likes and 30 comments. A news story about a study that suggests a connection between staring at breasts and longer lifespans has been posted at least twice.

So, what I don't understand is this. Why is it that the silly words of some preacher, destined to be soon forgotten (trust me on that one) and offering pretty much no immediate harm to anyone, can stir up such a fuss among people who care about the rights, status and empowerment of women, while the actual threat of actual death to an actual woman who will be killed by men throwing rocks at her until she dies is greeted with what is by comparison a cricket's chirp?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Not Bad

So today was in fact, my birthday. Every now and again it falls on Labor Day, which means I can pretend the country takes a day off in my honor. My mother says the actual birth was on a Saturday, but she still considers it labor day. I can't offer much of an argument; although I was present, I was not paying much attention to anything other than the masked giant hoisting me upside down and smacking me in the middle of a very cold room.

In addition to all of us U.S. folks getting the day off, TCM also decided to show Tender Mercies, the 1983 movie that won Oscars for lead Robert Duvall and screenwriter Horton Foote. One of my top films, top actors and top writers. No specific birthday message was offered by the cable channel, but sometimes you have to read between the lines.

A significant number of Facebook friends wished me happiness on this day, as well as thanked me for their holiday - heh. Spent the day with the folks, dined out and generally took it easy.

Well played, birthday. Well played indeed.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hitting is Timing...

The fun little Max St. Pierre saga continues as the journeyman minor-league catcher gets a hit in his major-league debut and contributes to a Tiger win. I like it, even if the win comes over my own preferred team, whose dismal play for most of the last quarter-century has made wins over them annoyingly easy to come by.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Victory Over Evil!

The forces of good -- represented as always by the valiant Wildcats of Northwestern -- defeated the forces of wickedness -- today being played by the Commodores of Vanderbilt -- in the football season opener for both teams. Brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking was quoted as saying, "Well, at least the universe makes sense this week." Lionel Richie was reported to be considering filing a lawsuit to retroactively change the name of his former band so that they would no longer be listed as "The Commodores" on Billboard charts. "We always thought 'The Commanders' sounded a lot cooler, anyway," he said.

Although the villainous minions of Vandy Coach Robbie Caldwell tried desperately to wring a tainted victory from the grasp of the wholesome, apple-pie-loving Cats, they learned that, truly, they should have been thinking on quaecumque sunt vera.

Next week, the upstanding young men of Evanston will be crushing the hopes and dreams of Reggie Redbird and his Illinois State cronies as they make the long journey from Normal, Illinois, in order to experience utter futility.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Blessed Omission

This morning, because of humid air or temperature layers or something else I don't quite understand (I know, I know -- the list is not thus much narrowed) a Dallas station came across my truck radio at the same frequency as our local radio station The Spy. In the space of the five minutes it took me to drive to work, I heard car dealer commercials, get-out-of-debt service commercials and payday loan commercials -- three of the least enjoyable kinds of advertisement pollution that clog modern radio airwaves. And I realized that I pretty much hadn't heard any of those in a while, and I further realized that's because they don't seem to get played on The Spy.

Thanks, Ferris.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sometimes, the World Plays Fair

As it has just done for one Maxim Joseph St. Pierre, a career minor-league catcher who's spent most of his time in the Detroit Tiger organization. Tuesday, St. Pierre was pulled from the AAA Toledo Mud Hens game in the third inning. The reason? The parent team had just purchased his contract and he was going to Detroit.

No big deal, happens all the time at this point of the baseball season, right? Major league clubs expand their rosters to give some of the raw talent a taste of the big time and some experience competing at the highest level of the game. But it's a big deal for Max St. Pierre. Max, you see, started playing professional baseball in 1997, and has played 978 games at different minor league levels without a single day on a major league roster. When St. Pierre started with the Gulf Coast Tigers of the Rookie League, Barry Bonds had only 334 homers and mostly normal blood chemistry.

With the exception of 10 games played for the Huntsville Stars of the Milwaukee Brewers organization in 2007, Max has been a loyal part of the Detroit Tiger system (And his .156 batting average for the Stars kind of shows his heart wasn't in the change). That's right -- for the first eight years of his career, Max's goal was to get to be a member of a team that couldn't post a winning season and in 2003 lost an American-League record 119 games. When you find out at the beginning of the season that you're not good enough to be a Tiger, you gotta really want to play to keep going.

He's being promoted to fill in for the ailing Gerald Laird, the Tigers' regular catcher who injured his back in batting practice and was unavailable to play. Laird's a year older and has spent two seasons on the Detroit roster after a career with the Texas Rangers that featured several stints right down the road at the Bricktown Ballpark.

So Max's time in the bigs may be limited. He may only get to play out the rest of this season before he's back shuttling between Toledo and the Tigers' AA club at Erie, PA. But I bet he won't care too much. Because for the rest of his life, baseball player Max St. Pierre will know he has spent time among those at the very top of his profession. He will face the best pitchers, and try to help his own pitcher fool the best hitters. His throw to second will be tested by the best baserunners. The daydream of almost every kid who ever picked up a bat and glove will solidify into reality for him. What most people have to watch on a TV screen or a from behind a wall will be Max St. Pierre's place of business. And even though sometimes we find out that working hard and persevering is not the automatic path to our dreams we have been promised, it will be for him.

Max St. Pierre's going to The Show.