Friday, October 19, 2007

The Black and Gold are BACK!!

Last night was one of the happiest days of the year for Your Humble Scribe. For hockey returned to the Boston Garden when the Bruins, fresh off their 3-2 road trip, finally had their home opener. Besides the second period, when they went nappy time for a while, it was a decent enough effort, with plenty of grit and scoring, and it culminated in a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

I was originally to have gone with Smitty but he decided instead that he'd rather have a kidney stone. No accounting for some people's taste. Me, I'd have rather gone to the game, but tomato/to-mah-to, I guess. Taking his place was DB, aka Mrs. Smitty, for whom this would be only her second hockey game.

It was, perhaps surprisingly, a good time, despite me having to explain to her, yet again, how offsides worked, and enduring conversations like these:

DB: They're just fighting?? Why don't they stop it?
CS: And how do you presume they do that?
DB: Um...blow the whistle?

She was at least attentive to the game itself and we both had a really good time. I thought when Smitty's kidney stone kicked in, my evening was blown. And though going to a game with a neophyte can sometimes suck, it didn't in this case. I'm glad she came. And I never thought I'd end up saying that!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Channelling my inner 7 year old

Everyone has strengths. Can we agree on that? Because if we do, that makes the realization that we all have weaknesses that much easier to bear.

For example: I have strengths. No crossword puzzle is safe from me. I can quote MacBeth in a pinch. I'm a decent poker player. I play the guitar. I have strengths, is what I'm saying.

Apparently, I also have weaknesses, as illustrated by an exchange between Toots and me just this past evening.

You should know that it makes me crazy when she speaks to me like I was a child. It's one of only a small handful of things that can generate a guns blazing, full tilt boogie screaming match. I'm old, for chrissake. I don't need to be told what to do step by step like a child.

Or so I thought.

After dinner, as is my wont, I trundled downstairs to watch the Red Sox cough up yet another eighth inning lead. On my way down, Toots asked me if I wouldn't be a love and take the sheets that had just finished washing and put them in the dryer, which I did with great aplomb.

About an hour later, I hear her voice tumbling downstairs.


"Yes hon."

"Did you put the sheets in the dryer?"

A perfectly valid question. I forget things. I forget things ALL THE TIME. I've been told I'm the archetype absent-minded professor. I forget by whom.

"Yes, hon."

"Did you actually turn the dryer on?"

Now was this question completely necessary? Well, as it turns out, yes. Because there have been plenty of times where I've put clothes in the dryer and not actually turned the beast on. So that's one reason why I took this question in stride.

The other reason was, for the life of me, I couldn't remember if I did or didn't.

"That's...that's an open question, dear," I said as cavalierly as I could, getting up from the couch.

My job was now clear. I had to go to the laundry room and confirm that I had, in fact, turned the dryer on. The problem was, I had no idea at all if I had or not.

I stared at the dryer. It stared unblinkingly back at me.

The laundry room smelled faintly like laundry, so maybe I did.

I reached out a tentative hand to the top of the dryer. Cold. Hmm. Maybe I didn't.

There was only one thing left to do. Open the dryer and reach my hand in, and consult the "was the dryer on" manual, which states:

Clothes cold and wet: dryer not turned on.
Clothes warm and dry: dryer turned on.

I opened the door with a hand that shook ever so slightly. I placed my shaking hand on a bedsheet.

Dry. Blissfully dry and still a little bit toasty. Whew! I had performed a task that any seven year old child could have done without thinking. I was so proud.

"It's all set," I yelled upstairs. "What do you think I am, a child?"

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

My Conversation with God

Maybe it was a blob of mustard, an undigested bit of cheese. Maybe there was more of gravy than of grave with the Lord, but either way, He manifested Himself before me.

I will say this: He looked serene. He was dressed in a cotton oxford shirt, impeccably tailored, and a pair of blue jeans that were perfectly worn to the shape and contour of The Holy One, Blessed Be His legs without looking at all ratty. In His hand was might and power, and the keys to a BMW 7 series. On His brow was wisdom, and a pair of Ray-Bans that, it hardly need be said, fit him perfectly.

"Hello, my son," he said, and His very voice was musical, lyrical, and melodious. "We need to chat, you and I."

"Hey, can this wait?" I asked in my impertinence. "I have to, er, do a thing, see a guy about a thing about another thing..."

"Sorry, no," saith The Lord. "You're stuck with Me for the next little while."

"Well, ok," I said, agreeably enough. "What can I do for you?"

"You're a sinner, a horrible sinner, and I need to discuss your sins with you."

"That's a little harsh, isn't it? Sure, letter of the law and everything, I suppose I'm a sinner, but I'm not that bad. Like how many of the ten commandments have I broken?"


"Oh," I sputtered. "Are you sure?"

"Shall we go down the list?"

"OK," I said. What are you gonna do, say no to God?

"All right," he said, winding up. "One. I am the Lord thy God."

"I'm an atheist."

"My son, I stand here before you."

"I'll deal with that later."

"Two," He said, moving forward. "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me, nor make any idol."

"OK, well, I do like money, I gotta give you that one too."

"Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain."

"Guilty," I said, not even bothering to try to protest.

"Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy."

"A-ha!" I said. "I keep the Sabbath holy!"

"Son," He said with infinite patience, "Sitting on your hinder and refusing to clean out the litter box does not constitute keeping the Sabbath."

I was left precious little time to reflect on the fact that God used the word "hinder" when He continued.

"Five," the Lord plunged forward. "Honor thy Mother and Father." Before I could utter any word of protest or defense He looked down His graceful, aquiline nose at me. "All the time."

I sighed.

"Six," He said. "Thou shalt not Murder. This one, you're clean."

"Thank G..." I started, before remembering Commandment Three. "Thanks."

"Seven," smirked The Lord. "Thou shalt not commit adultery."

"Listen, don't mean to contradict you here, but I haven't."

"Lust in your heart counts, My son," He intoned.

"Oh shit," I said. "Then I've broken that one tens of thousands of times, haven't I?"

"Two hundred forty three thousand, seven hundred nineteen," said God. "I compliment your imagination."

"Thanks - I mean, sorry," I said. I was starting to feel pretty miserable.

"Eight: Thou shalt not steal. Need I remind you of the Cinnamon Gum Incident of 1973?"

It was only too true. When I was four I took a pack of gum off the shelf, not realizing that my Mother would start to wonder where I was getting all this cinnamon gum. She hauled my ass back to the grocery store and made me apologize to the manager. Very humiliating.

The Lord took my silence as an invitation to continue.

"Nine - thou shalt not bear false witness."

"One time," I said. Sheesh. I was ready to testify that my very drunk buddy wasn't the one driving the car he got stopped in. That's what friends do, right? And anyway, I never actually had to do it; they threw the case out before it even came up.

"Ten," quoth the Lord. "This is a three parter. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house..."

"Clean," says I.

"...or thy neighbor's wife..."

"Wow," I said, stung. "So lust in your heart breaks TWO commandments and murder only breaks one??"

"...or thy neighbor's ass."

"Well, if you mean, thy neighbor's wife's ass, then sure."

He paused for a while, observing me with a slow yet deep look up and down.

"My Son," He said, "These are some serious transgressions. What have you got to say for yourself?"

Seemingly without anything else to say, I said the only thing I could say.


He smiled. Even for a non-believer like me that felt pretty good.

"Can't say fairer than that," He said. "My blessings go with you, even though you're an atheist."

"Well, you're probably just indigestion," I smiled. "But it was good talking to you."

Monday, August 27, 2007

10th player award

As baseball season rounds the final turn, let's turn our thoughts to who on the Red Sox is worthy of the 10th player award.

Remember, the criteria is not who is the best player on the team, or its most valuable player; this award goes to the player that has most exceeded expectations of him this year. Forthwith then my four candidates and my pick:

Candidate 1: Julian Tavarez Projected: C- Actual Performance: B+
Out of nowhere, Tavarez has come up big and delivered everything you could want from a fifth starter: Usually good for 6 innings, he keeps the score low when he's on and keeps things close even when he's not. Relegated to the bullpen and ignored for weeks, he's come up big in two recent spot starts. Put the ball in his hand and your team has a fighting chance to win a game, and you can't say that about every team's fifth starter.

Candidate 2: Tim Wakefield Projected: B/B- Actual Performance: A
Quickly, who is tied for most wins in all of baseball with Josh Beckett? Yes, that's right, the stalwart Wakefield. Wake and his maddening, fluttering knuckler have stymied the opposition to the tune of a 16-10 record this year. He's riding a 22-inning scoreless streak. He's added a decent curve ball to his good-for-shock-value-only fastball to keep batters on their toes. He's played himself into the playoff rotation should the boys get there this year. A normal season for Wake is, say, 12-12 with a 4.8 ERA, decent enough numbers, especially for what we're paying him. But this year he's been nothing short of spectacular.

Candidate 3: Hideki Okajima Projected: C/C+ Actual Performance: A+
I confess: I thought Okajima was going to have little impact on the roster. Like most of the Nation, I thought he was brought in to cushion Matsuzaka's landing here on our fair shores. But no. He's turned into the most solid 8th-inning guy since Mariano Rivera set up John Wetteland. He's taken innings (therefore strain) off Papelbon's shoulder and with the emergence of Delcarmen, the acquisition of Gagné, and the resurgence of Timlin, if you're not in the lead by the 6th inning, might as well just mail in the last nine outs and hit the buffet.

Candidate 4: Dustin Pedroia Projected: C+/B- Actual Performance: A+
Nobody had too high hopes for the rookie 2nd baseman - except me, that is. I saw him a lot in Pawtucket and he showed the exact same pattern when he came up to Triple-A: His first two or three weeks he looked completely lost at the plate. Then for a couple or three weeks he started knocking the ball around really good but just right at people. Then it all came together for him and he started spraying the ball all over the place. Sound familiar? I knew that once he locked in that he'd contribute in a meaningful way, and to his credit, Tito Francona saw the same thing. Having said that, I pegged him as a .280/.290 guy. I had no clue that he'd rip up the league and, by the looks of things, position himself to run away with Rookie of the Year. Good for you, Petey.

Winner: No contest, my 10th player for the 2007 Red Sox is Okajima, with the silver medal going to Pedroia.

As always, differing opinions welcome.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

My Refuse-Based Existential Crisis

How does one throw away a garbage can?

This isn't one of those stupid hypothetical questions like "why isn't there another word for 'synonym,'" or "why is the word 'abbreviation' so long;" this is the real thing. I have a garbage can that is so decrepit that it cannot stand right side up, and have had it at the curb for three weeks now. And nothing will work to get the garbage collector to collect it.

Think about it: Can't put the word "trash" on it (or "basura" or "lixo"); that would just be an exercise in self-reference - a modern and somewhat baser version of Magritte's painting captioned ceci n'est pas un pipe, except in reverse (and instead of a pipe, it's raw chicken and well-used kitty litter).

Compounding my crisis is the fact that my garbage man is worldly and philosophical, and was more than willing to engage me in what I'm sure he perceived to be a battle of wits.

"Good morning, Johannes," I said to him early one Monday morning recently. His parents had eight children and named each of them for Romantic-era composers.

"Mr. Jacobs, a pleasant good morning to you as well."

"Johannes, I need to discuss this garbage can with you. I'd like you to take it."

"Thank you most kindly, Mr. Jacobs, but I have no need for a garbage can at this time."

"No, you misunderstand. I'd like you to take this and put it in the back of your truck."

"Well," he mused, "were I to do that, of course, it would disappear forever-treated like garbage itself."

"That's precisely what my wishes are along these lines, Johannes." I always felt a little intellectually intimidated by Johannes, and unconsciously chose my words with great care when speaking with him.

"But Mr. Jacobs," he said, easily parrying my first thrust, "the vessel is not the medium. In fact, can not and can never be the medium. It's not garbage. It's a means for transporting garbage from hither to yon with a fair amount of efficiency."

"Yes, certainly," I said, quick to appear in agreement with my sophist adversary. "But this particular vessel has outlived its life. It no longer performs adequately at its only jobs, which are to transport garbage and allow me to bring it to the curb with a modicum of comfort. See, there are large holes in the bottom, so it doesn't hold garbage to any great degree, and look here: both handles have worn off, so it's a chore to drag it to the sidewalk. It's a garbage can in name only, Johannes, and I'd really like it if you would treat it as garbage and put it on your

(goddamn son of a bitching)


He looked at me for a long moment, carefully considering my argument, weighing each logic point to a nicety in his head. Finally he spoke.

"There's a bigger issue at stake here," said Johannes. "President Lincoln once asked, 'if you consider a tail to be a leg, how many legs does a dog have?'" He paused, clearly expecting me to answer him.

"Five," I said, trying to sound decisive.

"No, sir, that's not the case," he said slowly. "Because considering a tail to be a leg doesn't really make it one. I can't take a garbage can and treat it like garbage itself. I hope, in the fullness of time, you'll come to see my point of view, and perhaps even agree with it. Until then, we must agree to disagree - and I should also remind you that there's a forty pound weight limit on trash cans. Good day, Mr. Jacobs."

"Lookit," I said, losing the last shreds of patience I possessed. "Take this. I want to throw it away. It's trash. It's worse than trash, it's apparently trash that not even the smartest fucking trash man in the world will take. Take the trash can or so help me god I'll report you to the city."

He smiled, a soft smile, more of pity and understanding than humor. He put a gloved hand on my shoulder.

"I hope you find what you're looking for, Mr. Jacobs. You should consider the fact that what truly troubles you lies deeper than this garbage can. Good day."

And with that, he left, leaving me to ponder both his last words and the dawning realization that the last thing his gloved hand touched before my shoulder was apparently a dirty diaper filled with Indian food that had been sitting in the sun for three days.

Until next week, Johannes.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Don't Get Me Wrong...

...I know my last post smacked of over-indulgent self-pity. But I don't want to give my readers, of whom I've grown very fond, the impression that my life is anything but good. Of course, life can be complicated. Really complicated sometimes. But let's get all the cards on the table: Life is really, REALLY good.

Thanks for asking.

Friday, July 27, 2007

An Open Letter to My Muse, After Running Completely Dry

Quit your fucking complaining and get out of bed.

I know - you haven't written anything over at Dirt Dogs in over a month. Can't think of anything to write. Hellacious writer's block. Blah blah blah. Even here on this blog, which is as close to empty mental masturbation as it gets - you haven't written anything in weeks.

Well, sport, I hate to tell you, but that just ain't good enough. Writers write - that's what makes them writers. And you aren't writing shit lately, which must mean you're not a writer - or not much of one.

What's the matter? Sure, you don't labor under the structured life of a REAL writer - a beat writer, for example, knows exactly what he's going to write about every day: the game, and maybe another six to twelve column-inches of notebook. A columnist has a good idea of what to write, and besides, he has to write something because his livelihood depends on it. Ditto a writer of books: gotta get that three to six pages per day in, and at the end of the year you got yerself a whole new book.

But you? You don't have to worry about anything. You write just for the sheer pleasure of writing, of looking back on a finished piece and deriving pleasure in its creation. The simplest, least complicated avenue to creative expression there is, for Christ's sake!

And you can't even get it together to write down 400 pleasant words that please people.

You have 30 bad pages of a book you started years ago that you're afraid to look at because you cringe at the stiff dialog, improbable circumstances and outlandish plot. Have another latté, you lazy bastard. You know in your heart that first drafts are always bad, but you still use that as an excuse to ignore it for yet another weekend, month, year.


You're not a writer. You're just fucking pretending.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Learning to Fly - the Prequel

As I was casting about for another embarrassing story about myself, which apparently has become the raison d'etre of this little chucklefest, it occurred to me in a flash that there was a rich vein of comedy gold out there that has yet to be tapped.

For, my friends, I have flown through the air before.

March 5th, 1991. I'm standing outside my good friend The Corporal's house with his cousins Brian and Glenn, some ten and twelve years our junior, and a bunch of our friends. We were just about ready to head over to our regular hangout (Cpl's brother Steve's pad in Revere), there to wait for the midnight showing of The Doors movie.

Brian and Glenn were clowning around, throwing rocks at streetlights, generally doing kid stuff, nothing major. For the life of me I don't know how it happened but I chanced to get into a footrace with Brian, the older of the two.

It was then that I learned the first important lesson of the evening: overweight 23-year-olds tend not to run as fast as fit thirteen-year-olds. I was, to the surprise of precisely nobody, losing the race, and losing it ugly. So much so, in fact, that I started silently thanking the city planners that this street was straight and not oval, lest he lap me and start running backwards, taunting me as he fades into the distance for a second time.

So it was with these thoughts of impending humiliation with which my brain was preoccupied, when it was broken out of its reverie with a priority telegram from my left foot:


(for you youngsters who might not know what a telegram is: look it up)

Never let it be said that my left foot lied: After a majestic yet all too short sail through the air, down I went like ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag. I put my hands in front of me to break my fall - and brother, break they did.

My father took me to the ER when he got home from work the next morning (he was working nights then), and they put casts on both my hands. My right hand had a little mobility - it was a smaller cast with just a band across my palm. But my left hand - I'm a lefty - was casted such that the only flesh one could see was the very tips of my fingers and thumb.

For six gorgeous weeks I had casts on both hands.

I know what you're thinking right now, or something close. You are all thinking, "well how could he _(specific function here) ?" Let's get it all out on the table: I couldn't. Whatever you're thinking, I couldn't do it, and let's just leave it at that.

The list of miseries was long and fraught with sorrow. Driving, for instance: I drove a stick and until I learned to manipulate the shifter with the palm part of my cast I was a menace on the roads. Working was nearly impossible: I worked tech support and had to log every call's details on a computer. Ever tried to type without being able to bend your wrists? I had to position my hands above the keyboard like some lunatic puppeteer and divebomb each key with an unmoving hand, hoping I hit the right key, which I did maybe 30% of the time.

I had to put a plastic bag over my casts to shower. It's hard enough putting a bag over your arm when you're in a cast - now try putting one over your other arm with an arm that's in a cast in a goddamn bag already! And when that's done, try taking a shower. If you can get 60% clean, god bless you, bunky, 'cause you did better than me.

Eventually they were pleased enough with the progress of my right wrist that they took off one cast, so certain things could get back to normal: I didn't need my mother cutting my food, for one thing. And about six weeks after that, they took the left one off and life once again returned to normal. Or close to normal: My arms looked like those of a long-dead Pharaoh, all crusty and flaky - truly disgusting.

Also, to this day, anyone who shakes my hand feels, and hears, a click that is at best surprising and a touch disturbing, and at worst creepy and off-putting, depending on the weather. Which, by the way, the doctor who casted me promised I'd be able to forecast; no such luck. The wrists only hurt when the weather IS bad. All of the pain, none of the cool psychic weather guy act.

But I got through it, and I learned a valuable lesson in the whole ordeal: if you're going to break both your wrists, for the love of God, have a girlfriend.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Are You Quite Sure You Wouldn't Like Some of my Corn Dog?

Well, it's been almost three weeks since my last embarassing post, so I thought I'd make with another one, since apparently my TiVo Chronicles have driven my readership to serial yawning. This incident took place when I was 15 years old, some 23 years ago.
My first real girlfriend was a girl named M. M, if you're out there, stay there. M was 17 and was at that point already a woman of the world, if you catch my drift. To her credit she wasted no time in making me a man of the world. We knocked around for about a year and a half before I just got so sick and tired of her endless whining and adolescent insecurities that I, at this point a boy of 16, actually turned down the nookie just to not be with her. But I digress.
I first decided to ask her to go steady with me when we went to the Topsfield Fair, a local ag fair and carnival that is an institution in our little corner of the world. I took M there and was encouraged by the signs she was putting off - she let me put my hand in her back pocket in that cool '80's way that people did, so I got to look cool as well as touch her hiney. Also in the ride of horrors or whatever the hell it was, she let me kiss her, so I figured, ok, I have something here.
So later that afternoon, after popcorn and corn dogs and chips and a bunch of other fair fare, we were strolling, hand in hiney, until we came across a ride that looked harmless enough. M begged to go on the ride and, like a grade-a jackass already thinking with the wrong head, I agreed. The ride -- ugh, I still shudder just thinking about it -- was basically a washing machine. You sat down, they strapped you in rather aggressively, and then pressed a button, which apparently started the spin cycle. We were hurtled forward like two astronauts in training, around and around and around at dizzying speed. The color drained from my face and I could feel every piece of popcorn, every bite of corn dog, straining to slip the surly bonds of my stomach.
At last came a glorious moment when I felt that the ride was slowing down. After checking to make sure it wasn't my own consciousness ebbing away from me, I felt with aching relief that this hell-trip was soon to be at its end, and that whatever desire my lunch had to once again see the light of day would go unfullfilled. The ride slowed ever more, until at last, it came to a blessed stop.
Then started going around, backward, just as fast as before.
This was obviously far too much to bear.
I'm not proud of what happened next - it certainly could be described as a candidate for "worst date moment ever." No verbal treatment, no passage of time, can sugarcoat it: I threw up spectacularly, over me, over M, over the ride, over everything. The centrifugal force applied on us meant that instead of just dripping slowly off our clothes, and M's face, it streamed out from the original landing points like raindrops on a windshield. And since the food in my stomach was relatively new and thus mostly undigested, it was sickeningly recognizable as it came out.
It was, in short, a disaster. But M, without a thought for herself or her predicament, led me by the arm to the nearest bundle of napkins and started cleaning us up. The only emotion she showed was concern for me, and I found that endearing as all hell. I kissed her (THAT must've been swell) and asked her to wear my pin, as it were, thinking it an upgrade from the contents of my stomach. And from that point on we were an item, until I made the correct decision that no amount of hiney touching was worth her incessant whining and complaining.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Life Gets an Upgrade

Sometimes life actually works as advertised.

As my regular readers know, my TiVo died earlier this week (please reference my previous post). I identified the problem as hard drive failure, scoped out a few places that advertised replacement TiVo drives, did a little price comparison, and placed my order, a 300-GB drive that would in theory restore my TiVo to the land of the living and deliver a fifteen-fold increase in capacity.

The drive came yesterday. It promised a fifteen-minute installation procedure, which I could well believe - this wouldn't be the first hard drive I'd yank out and replace. So out with the old and in with the new, reconnect the cable, and cycle back up. It couldn't be THAT easy, could it?


Not an ounce of trouble with the installation. I powered back up and it recognized I had a lifetime membership. It reconnected with TiVo central, got my program listing, and I was back in business. With 377 hours of recording space, up from 20.

Do you know what that's like? It's like going from a shitty 250 square foot one room apartment in Manhattan to the biggest mansion in Mansion Land. I'm doing stupid stuff like recording the whole baseball game, in best quality, and hell, why not the post-game show too. Why not? If I record everything in best quality I've still got five times more space than I had in draft (shitty) quality before.

Life is good again, friends. I'm on vacation until Thursday, just me and my TiVo. And by the way, for those of you with the need or the desire to upgrade your TiVo, consider using the nice people at AuctionNook ( As their name suggests they started off life as an ebay-only company but have their own site with a good e-commerce process, free priority mail shipping, and when I had a question (because I didn't read the FAQ), I got a real answer from a real person with a minimum of snarky "read the FAQ" attitude. I recommend them - they made it easy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

You Don't Know What You've Got 'Till It's Gone

Yesterday, tragedy struck the home of the Crafty Southpaw. I'm still a little shaken by the whole ordeal and you should know that it's a little difficult to talk about it. But being a blogger, whose blog has been viewed literally DOZENS of times over the months, carries with it a certain responsibility and I will not shirk my duty to my readers, both of whom are quite loyal. So here goes:

My TiVo died yesterday.

Oh sure - I thought it was a simple matter of the batteries in my remote dying. I conveniently neglected to remember that the same remote turned my television on without so much as a second thought. But I bravely changed them anyway - and lo and behold, the same nothing that happened before was still not happening now.

This was my first indicator of any real trouble.

The next step was, of course, a full system shutdown. After all, a TiVo is nothing but a computer - and this one had been running continuously for the better part of seven years with maybe two or three reboots. That's probably it, says I. No need to panic - not just yet.

So I flip the master switch and my entire entertainment console goes cold. I wait the magic three seconds that they tell you to wait and flip the switch back on.

TV: Springs to life. Cable Box: ditto. DVD, VCR: Check check.

TiVo? TiNo.

Ohhhh, shit.

How did this happen? How did I get so helplessly, hopelessly hooked on my TiVo? Why is it that now, the experience of watching TV seems to be so one-dimensional, kinda like...kinda like...well: In Kurt Vonnegut's brillant novel Slaughterhouse Five, he describes a friendly alien race called the Tralfamadorians, who can see in four dimensions - basically they can see all points of a time line at once - and they try to describe how humans experience life in terms of looking at life through a narrow tube, and only being able to see what the tube shows them at any one given time, as opposed to being exposed to the entire vista before them.

TiVo laid bare to me the entire vista of television, without regard to that pesky fourth dimension of time. If I sauntered downstairs at 6 or 10, on Tuesday or Sunday, I still had the same choices waiting for me when I got down there. Hmmm, a MythBusters I haven't seen yet? Promising. Oooh, how about some Poker After Dark (that airs at 2:05 AM, weekdays, on would I ever have seen that otherwise?), or perhaps the Family Guy where Brian and Stewie find themsleves in Florida and have to get to Rhode's all there, just waiting for me, instead of the other way around.

In other words, as life should be.

Anyway, I shut everything else off so I could isolate the sounds that my TiVo was making, unplugged, waited, and plugged back in. And then I heard it: the unmistakable whirrr-clack whirrr-clack of a catastrophic hard drive failure.

Game over, man. But not the worst news in the world. Though I can't (actually, won't) go out and get a new one because the scumbags have eliminated the lifetime membership and now charge by month or by year for the privilege of suckling at the sweet teat of TiVo, I can get a replacement hard drive for it, which will provide me a fifteen-fold increase in capacity, without me having to buy a new membership.

So, to my family and friends, please forgive me if I seem a bit on edge for the next few days. I may show the standard withdrawal signs of fever, chills, and a constant desire to pore over the TV Guide. I'll get my fix soon enough, and then life can be swell again.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

An Open Letter to You: Overenthusiastic New Guy

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have no idea who exactly it was that made me fire off this little missive. I completely forgot having written this, but as I read it back it's pretty funny in a mean-spirited sort of way. Enjoy!

Hey New Guy! Thanks so much for sharing all your great ideas with us. I know that you being here for 16 business hours makes you think that you’re now an expert in all things, and that you alone can see the answers to the great Imponderable questions of our business. But look around. See us all here? All us employees who have been here for years? Guess what: we haven’t just been sitting here with one thumb in our mouth, the other in our ass, just waiting for YOU to come along and holler “switch.” We know what the fuck we’re doing. We’ve done it for quite some time. The same stupid suggestions you think are so profound we’ve all thought of and discarded during an enthusiastic shit five years ago.

Do you think for one moment that your single-digit-day tenure with this place makes you qualified to make suggestions as to how to steer this company? We all take your suggestions with a certain forced benign good cheer, and even compliment you on your creative “out of the box” thinking. Well here’s a little something for you to chew on, sport: when you leave, we laugh at you and your ridiculous, infantile suggestions. We’ve forgotten more about how to run this company than a newbie like you will ever learn. You won’t stay with the company – you’ll be gone in nine months, and three years from now, we’ll be having lunch together and looking back on all the ridiculous little men and women with their polished shoes and day planners that have come parading through these doors only to parade themselves right back out again – and we’ll be laughing at you all over again. Some one of our number is going to start the conversation with “any of you guys remember what’s-his-name, the guy with all the ideas? What a fucking tool that guy was! What was his name, anyway?”

And we won’t know, or care. Because, Overenthusiastic New Guy, you think that you’re the savior of this place, but the reality is, you ain’t worth a fart in a windstorm to us. The sooner you get that through your immaculately coiffed head, the better off you’ll be.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Reaction from My Last Post

The consensus from the small yet passionate circle of friends, acquaintances, and various and sundry hangers-on is unanimous: Everybody loves a post wherein Your Hero inflicts pain upon himself, whether that pain be physical or mental. Apparently, they can't get enough of some good old-fashioned pie-in-the-face humor and debasement, as long as 1) they are NOT the subject of the humor, and 2) I am.

Well, who am I not to oblige? Forthwith then one of my most embarassing moments on this earth.

My first new car was a 1989 Ford Mustang, black with a red interior. I bought it for the princely sum of $9,400 in the summer of that year. And I loved that car, whether it deserved the love or not. Hey - I was all of 21 years old - what can I tell you? If you want to take a look at what it sorta looked like, click
here. Mine was a hard-top, and not automatic, but it's more or less the same car. The details aren't too important; suffice to say I loved the car and felt like a million bucks driving it.

One fine day as I was driving down the highway (128 South, heading towards 93, for you townies), I looked to my right and saw some dude driving the exact same car as mine. black exterior, red interior, the whole bit. My car down to the floorboards. So I did what any car-proud youngster would do: I sidled up to him and made eye contact. I made what I hoped was the universal gesture for, 'hey, check it out, we're driving the same car.'

The other guy looked at me as if I were holding up a fresh turd for his examination.

Undaunted by this apparent rejection, I pointed at his car, then pointed to mine, again in a gesture I thought was immediately recognizable as an acknowledgement that we were, in fact, brothers in automobilia.

Again, he gave me a look that would wilt lettuce and pounded on the gas, speeding away.

I was left only to reflect on the unfriendliness of my fellow man when it struck me why he had reacted the way he did: I was driving my girlfriend's car at the time, a decidedly girly Honda Prelude. Instead of "Hey, we have the same car," he could have only taken my gesture as meaning, "pull over - I'm a homosexual." I turned the color of the interior of my car, a humbler boy, but a little bit wiser.

And because this story has no real moral I'll borrow the one from my previous post: Don't mess with your own ass.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Learning to Fly

Humans, I found out the hard way, are not meant to fly. It's neither exhilarating nor, ultimately, pain-free - but I get ahead of myself.

A little background on Your Humble Scribe, for those of you who don't know him or know him well: I wear socks to bed. Yes, it's strange, I suppose. I have to have my feet covered more or less all the time or I kinda get the willies. Sure. It's a thing. But at least I'm not turning the lights on and off six times before I can go to bed. As things go, it's pretty mild.

The second and third things you need to know to get maximum impact from this story are these: my house has hardwood floors, and a sunken living room. The perceptive among you already can see where this is going. But for the slow, I continue:

This past Thursday, upon awakening, I staggered out of bed and, as is sometimes my custom, made my way to the living room to watch Hazel Mae doing SportsDesk and dream my little dreamy dreams about being her mug of Dunkin Donuts Coffee. Except I never got there.

Right before the step down into the living room, my left foot went completely out from under me and my momentum sent me, for one long moment, airborne and completely parallel with the ever-approaching earth.

Time stood still. A thousand thoughts raced through my head - most of them some variant of, "this isn't going to end well."

I was not wrong in my assessment of the situation.

I landed, ass first, on the unyielding hardwood floor, the step having lodged itself cozily in the small of my back. The pain was exquisite. Toots, putting on her face in the bathroom and hearing both the sickening thud and the subsequent howls and whimpers of pain, asked me if I was ok.

"I don't know," was my honest reply.

I took a quick inventory. Toes: wiggling. Good. Limbs: seemingly intact. Also good. Shards of broken bone piercing the skin: absent. So it appeared as if there were no permanent damage - but I couldn't help but feel like I got run over by a boxcar. And there was this unsettling fact: my ass hurt. Real bad. I had landed right on my tailbone and I learned quickly and poignantly that a tailbone injury was no laughing matter.

Thoroughly out of options - staying upright was unthinkable - I staggered back to the bedroom and threw myself, face down of course, on the bed to collect myself and take a more accurate assessment of the harm my body had just taken. Thankfully, after about a half-hour and three Advil, I was enough of my old self to drag this miserable excuse for a body into the shower and get to work, only about 45 minutes after I normally do.

However, the (pun intended) kick in the ass is, my ass still hurts. And the only two positions in which the pain is gone is standing up, or lying in such a way as to put no pressure on the offending area - neither option of which is palatable to my day job, or to the pressbox at McCoy Stadium, where I'll be this evening, squirming like I've sat on an anthill and wishing I'd taken my Advil with me.

So the moral of the story is this, and it holds true in many walks of life: Don't mess with your own ass.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Why I Hate Vegetarians

Ok, you got me: I don't really "hate" vegetarians. Certainly not all of them, at least. Perhaps it's closer to the mark to suggest that vegetarians - specifically, ethical vegetarians - annoy the bejeebers out of me. If meat gives you the grumbellies and hours of gastric distress, more power to you; eat all the vegetables you want. I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about people with the well-meaning but misguided notion that by eating the flesh of other animals, we are somehow abusing our position at the top of the food chain and performing acts of cruelty on our animal neighbors.

My response, predictably enough to those who know me, is: bullshit.

We are animals. Animals eat animals. This has been going on for roughly the same amount of time as there have been animals. Just because the lion kills the gazelle with claw and mandible, and we do it with cunning and opposable thumb, that does not mean there's a great difference. And yes, you could make the argument that lions eat gazelles because there's nothing else to eat, but I get the feeling that even if kibble were readily available on the Serengeti plain, they'd go back to gazelle because it's just so goddamn yummy.

The cunning and opposable thumb I referenced earlier make it possible for people to buy or trade for food in this enlightened society without directly having to hunt for it themselves. Firstly, do we not also see this behavior in ant and bee colonies? When was the last time a queen had to scrounge for her own food?

Secondly, the vegetarians will point to slaughterhouses and offer them as concrete evidence as man's ultimate cruelty to the creatures they will eventually be eating. Now, it is certainly true that a tour of a slaughterhouse should only be performed by those of strong stomach; you are surrounded by recently slaughtered livestock, whose gutted bodies heat and humidify the building in a way that can be quite literally sickening. The animals are sent on a line where they're quickly (and humanely) killed, whereupon an employee underneath the line guts the animal from chin to anus. From there, it only gets grimmer.

I would not want that job, to be sure. But the meat industry doesn't just have to feed you. It has to feed a country of 300 million people, and a world of 5.5 billion. They don't have the luxury of taking ol' Bessie out back and kissing her neck gently before shooting her. Besides, what did you think happens when you transform a cow on the hoof to a slab of meat on styrofoam in your grocery store? If the slaughterhouse didn't do it, you'd have to. And there's nothing wrong with that. Do you have a rice paddy in your back yard? No. You go to the store and you buy a box of Uncle Ben's. No difference.

Our teeth are made for ripping meat; our digestive system is designed to digest meat; we are omnivores. Lookit: if the Good Lord didn't want us to eat meat, He wouldn't have made it so yummy. Ethical vegetarians just don't know what they're talking about. Period.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tales of the Poker Table, Vol II

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Today's entry comes to us courtesy of DB, who ran a lot of smack before last night's game about how she was going to dominate. Did she dominate? I'll leave it to you to decide.

My comments will be interspersed with hers in italics.

It was a quiet night for poker. Only 4 players were in attendance; Gary, The Mayor, Smitty and me.

Despite me giving everyone else a nickname, I find that no one has given one to me. Although I seem to have been dubbed "Evil Gary," based apparently on someone's pet rodent.

I'd gotten myself a nice little stack and I'm the big blind. When Gary raises in first position, tripling the blinds, I call. I have a J-Q so I take a look at the flop. Flop is J, 7, 3. I flopped top pair with an over card for a kicker. Gary bets, and I raise doubling his bet. He immediately moves all in - then starts his song and dance. Now let me tell you something about Gary. I can read him. I've pretty much got him down pat, and he knows this. I'm looking at him - chest is heaving like it always does when he has something good - he's knows I'm reading him and he starts his reverse psychology. "Call me, put it in" he says, over and over. Covering SOMETHING. Is it reverse psychology or reverse psychology with a twist? I can tell he thinks he has something good - but does he have better than what I have? I know he raised big in first position, so I think he didn't match the rags on the flop, unless he has trips. It's about 7 minutes into the first game, and I don't really want to put it all on the line, but it's Gary so I call him out. My buddy has J-3 off suit (jack off for a jack off) and he's flopped two pair. This is the guy who complains about my luck at the table. Anyway, I don't catch another pair, and I'm out. Game one is over for me and Jack Off has a win under his belt. POKER ISN'T FAIR. Neither is life, I suppose. That pretty much set the tone for the rest of the night. We played a total of four games. Gary won two and Smitty won two, and I sucked eggs.

To give DB credit, this accounting of the facts actually bears a little resemblance to actual events. The way I remember it is this: We were at the first round of blinds still, where the big blind is tiny in comparison to everyone's stack. I was under the gun (first position after the blinds) and looked down to find J-3 offsuit. For no reason other than to mix up my play, I raise a standard raise, 3 times the big blind. Smitty and the Mayor (who has been re-christened "The Mighty Timekeeper") fold down to me. DB, of course, doesn't. She could have had two rags and she'd have stayed in with me, because the very thought of me winning a hand uncontested so incenses her that it clouds her common sense. And she hadn't built up a stack - it was seven minutes into the game, and we all had more or less the same stack. Anyway, the flop comes J-3-4, not 7, and I connect two pair, top and bottom.

My thinking was along these lines: she thought I had nothing, and before the flop she was right. Not for nothing is she my main adversary. I could have bet small, or checked, but I decided that I would reinforce her notion that I was bluffing, and went all in after she bet. So she starts deliberating on her hand.

Now obviously I want desperately for her to call. What I did was exactly the opposite of what she said I did: I started an act that indicated that I knew she had garbage, and stop wasting everyone's time and FOLD ALREADY. I never begged her for a call. I begged her for a fold, which was, as she suspected, the double-reverse psychology with a twist - what Daniel Negreanu calls "third level of strategy." She calls and I triumphantly turn over my cards. The hand holds up and I tell her that I can work her like modeling clay - and I'm right, and she knows it. She can talk all she likes about luck, but at the end of the day it was the way I played my opponent that made that hand, and that's what irked her the most.

I'm a firm believer in creating your own luck at the poker table. I believe successful players are aggressive and force others to make hard decisions. I like to go into a pot with a premium hand, just like the next guy, but my experience tells me that if you only play premium hands you're not playing correctly. You need to pick up as many blinds as you can. Squirrel away those small pots so you have something to work with. I didn't play that way last night. Last night I played conservatively, (read scared) and when I do that, I never win. I'm much better when I play is Gary. Gary was better last night. He played better AND had better luck. But that was just one night. Let me catch the Jack Off with a jack-off next week...they don't call me DB for nothing.

Ah, DB. If you'd truly played conservatively you wouldn't have called my all-in with top pair and decent kicker. And as I said to you last night: Some people play their cards, and that's fine - but good poker players play their opponent. That's what I did, and that's why I walked away with your money and not the other way around.

The Last Entry You'll Ever See Here Regarding Basketball

The Celtics were wronged by the fickle ping pong ball of fate and were awarded the fifth pick in the upcoming draft, instead of the first or second.

Say it with me, now: WHO GIVES A RAT'S ASS?

Thank you for your time and attention.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

God Finally Breaks His Silence

Today Jerry Falwell died at 73.

It's not for me to spit on a warm corpse. I'm sensitive to the fact that he left a family who loved him on a personal level, and believe me, I'm hip to how much his death is hurting them, especially today and in the coming days. So if one of Falwell's immediate family is reading this, please accept my condolences for your loss, and I apologize in advance for the hard words that will follow.

But the man you loved was, at his heart, a bad man. He turned his love for his God into a political agenda, and in so doing brought shame to himself and diminished many people's view of his God. For his sake, he'd better hope there is no heaven, because he's gonna be on the outside looking in.

It's my belief that Falwell did more damage to the American political landscape than any other human being, other than perhaps the current President and his administration.

Falwell's particular brand of havoc was to inexorably tie religious beliefs to politics, against the specific instructions of the framers of the Constitution. In so doing he has set the course of American history back by decades. I know this is a difficult concept for a lot of people, especially Christian people, but there are more people in the United States besides Christians. And there are plenty of Christians who can separate the notions of how a country should be run versus how one's house should be run. But Falwell decided things should be otherwise.

There's nothing wrong with being a person of faith, though I admit freely that I am not one. What's wrong is that certain people of faith are, you should pardon the expression, hell-bent on subjecting the entire population to the same set of rules by which they have chosen to live (the selfsame choice, by the way, that might never have been possible had the Founding Fathers decided that religion and politics ought not mix).

A provocative question: How much different is the Christian right - specifically that segment of the Christian right that pursues a political agenda - from those who would see Islamic regimes set up based on Shariya, ancient Islamic law? Sure, maybe the way punishment is meted out might be different (we'll throw you in the hoosgow for knocking over a liquor store; those crazy bastards will cut off your hand), but the idea is the same: conduct YOUR life according to the tenets that I believe, and if you can't see the folly and the arrogance of that, you're not paying attention.

And Jerry Falwell was the man that pioneered the concept that his God should run the United States. And would say and do anything to further his political agenda, irrespective of whose beliefs he trampled or whose good name he besmirched. He claimed that feminists and Democrats -- Democrats, for heaven's sake! -- were doing the work of the devil. He claimed that AIDS was God's divine retribution for the "sin" of homosexuality. He claimed that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were the direct cause of abortionists and the ACLU. He of course later claimed that his remarks two days after the attacks on Pat Robertson's 700 Club were taken out of context. I'll let you be the judge:

JERRY FALWELL: The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this.


JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen'.

PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we're responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system.

How out of context could that be? On September 13, 2001, when the whole country was shaken and raw, and tears were shed for total strangers, and there was a universal outpouring of sympathy and pity and love for one's fellow man, here's Jerry Falwell blaming Americans for that horrible tragedy and furthering his own political agenda at the exact time that a TRUE man of God would be trying to heal the nation's wounds.

No, Jerry Falwell was not a good man. History will not remember him kindly, and that is the one true legacy that he deserves.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Few More Words About the Red Sox

My favorite baseball quote of all time comes, ironically enough (you'll understand the irony soon) from Earl Weaver, the longtime skipper of the Baltimore Orioles:

"You can't sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You've got to throw the ball over the goddamn plate and give the other man his chance. That's why baseball is the greatest game of them all."

Yesterday, the Red Sox, down five runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, scored six for an improbable 6-5 victory over the selfsame Orioles that Weaver managed for so many years. Had they harkened to his words of wisdom, this game would have ended up the laugher that it had been shaping up to be all afternoon. But an error, an ill-timed pitching change, a few base hits, a few walks, another error, and hey presto, 6-5 good guys.

One hears that the Yankees were scoreboard-watching and couldn't believe that the Sox ended up winning. "I looked up and couldn't really believe it," the New York Daily News quoted the ever quotable Johnny Damon as saying. "It seemed like the Orioles had the game convincingly. I thought they might have made a mistake, that it should have still been 5-0."

No mistake, Johnny D.

Combined with a 2-1 Yankees loss to the Mariners (where A-Rod had the game on his bat with two outs and two on in the eighth, but whiffed), this means that the Orioles and the Yankees both trail the Sox in the AL East by eight games, which is quite a lead for the middle of May. Of course it's no guarantee that the crown comes to Boston this year, but I'm sure they'd rather be eight up than eight down.

In my last post I articulated why I think this is no fluke; the team is strong in just about every category you can measure. But I'll add some additional analysis, and hope that the less stat-minded among you will forgive me.

The Red Sox are tied for second place in all of baseball in the category of runs scored with 198, tied with Detroit and second only to a certain New York based team whose name rhymes with "Shmankees." They are also the outright leader in runs allowed, with 125.

A heady combination, that. Makes one really start thinking that this team is well-constructed for the long haul.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Spot the Weakness

Sorry for the lack of posts. Lot going on for the Crafty Southpaw these days, and only some of it is good. But something is really starting to loom large, so large in fact that I find myself having to write about it.

I'm speaking, of course, of the fortunes of the Boston Red Sox.

Now, I know that it is just May, and that predictions have a tendency to stand on their heads when they're made in May. But as of this morning, the Sawx enjoy a seven-game lead over their closest opponent, as of this morning the Baltimore Orioles by a whisker over the Yankees. More importantly, if this team has a glaring weakness, I can't spot it.

Starting Pitching: Do I even need to go here? The Sox' rotation is as formidable as any in all of baseball. The staff's nominal ace, Curt Schilling, is with his stingy 3.28 ERA only the third-best starter they have by that measure. Josh Beckett is 7-0 with a 2.51 ERA and is the lead horse in the race for the AL Cy Young. Perhaps his closest competitor is Boston's number four starter, the ageless Tim Wakefield, whose 1.79 ERA rules the AL right now. In a word, ri-god-damn-diculous.

Relief Pitching: The Sox have perhaps the best 8th-inning/9th-inning tandem in Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon that the game offers right now. I'm not as up on the NL closer situation as I might be, so I'll allow myself to be educated otherwise, but I don't think so. How disheartening is it for an opposing team to know that if they're not leading by the end of the 7th that they have virtually no shot at winning? My goodness. And they're not the only stars of the 'pen either. Brendan Donnelly has been buried at the end of the bench through no fault of his own - JC Romero and Joel Pinero have been performing yeoman's work when Oki and Pap have days off or any mop-up duty is called for. Kyle Snyder is a capable long-relief man, but there's really been no great need for long relief.

It is often said that relief pitching is the most difficult part of the roster to fill well - after all, if a pitcher were top-shelf he'd be a starter, usually. But the Sox pen is as lights-out as I personally remember a Red Sox team ever being, and I'm just a hair on the sunny side of 40.

Defense: Sure, we don't have Alex Gonzalez to stare at in wonder any more. I still remember the silky, fluid perfection of his work at shortstop and can't believe he lost the Gold Glove to Jeter. But if our defense isn't top-5 in the league, it's certainly no liability. Go around the horn and it seems that the worst defensive player, this year as last, is Manny Ramirez - and he's only a little ways below average. Despite the howls of the Faithful, Manny is not a BAD left-fielder. He's just not a really good one. Given Manny's other gifts, I'll take it.

Offense: The Sox are pounding the crap out of all comers, and Manny isn't even starting to hit yet (though he will; the one constant in the world besides death and taxes is that Manny will finish the season with an average over .310). The one player thought to be soft with a bat is Dustin Pedroia, and he's been knocking the cover off the ball lately, bringing his average up to a respectable .267, with only upside to come. Those of us who followed him in Pawtucket knew this would happen, by the way; he started off his tenure there poorly, then went through a phase when he made solid contact but always right at someone, then built his average up to over .300 by the time he got called up last September.

Bench: Alex Cora is hitting over .400, and is perhaps the smartest player in the game - look for him to embark on a wildly successful management career when he decides to hang up his spikes (and if he wants to). Wily Mo Pena is looking less lost at the plate and woe betide the poor pitcher who doesn't use scouting reports and tries to sneak a fastball by him. Hinske is only batting .200 but he's only had 30 AB's. If he gets enough work, he'll be good for a .260-odd BA, which is his career average.

Conclusion: Sure, there have been a few pleasant surprises: Mike Lowell is perhaps playing beyond himself, as may be Okajima, but this is not a team of overachievers. This team is the real deal. If the injury bug stays away, you have to figure these guys to take it all. Who's going to beat them in a race to five or to seven with Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Wakefield as the starting four, and Oki and Pap at the back end? This might just be May, and it certainly could be said that I'm reaching for a little good news in my life right now, but my pick is for the Sox to earn at least another pennant, and perhaps another parade.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Politics - but first, some ground rules

It is my hope - provided of course this little corner of the Internet gets viewed by more people than my immediate family - that there will be discussions about politics.

Of course, any opinion is welcome here. The last thing I want is a forum for only the like-minded. Though satisfying from one perspective, it's lacking in several others, including the romantic, sadly anachronistic image of two strangers at a publick house engaged in a lively debate about the state of the world over a bottle of house wine with a complete absence of rancor or invective.

Impossible, you say? Naive and idealistic, you mutter? Maybe. But it's my blog, and I get to lay the rules down:

  1. If you don't like the man or his politics, at least respect the office. He's not "Dubya" or "Slick Willie," he's President Bush or President Clinton respectively. Feel free to poop all over actions and decisions, but remember that we're speaking of offices of honor.
  2. Arguments will be supported by facts here. When someone suggests, for example, that the War in Iraq is, oh, just hypothetically speaking here, a complete clusterfuck, a boondoggle, a sop towards Big Oil and Big Engineering, and a tragic drain on human life, a good response would be an attempt to refute those points - NOT an attack on that person's patriotism. Likewise, a reasoned justification for the war is no excuse to call someone a warmonger or worse.
  3. We like curse words here (see clusterfuck, above). Curses are like red pepper flakes - it would be a tragedy indeed if they were completely missing from the palate of discourse, but too much just makes things distasteful and inedible. So, in that spirit: Shit.
  4. I reserve the right to make more rules.

So let's kick things off by giving you a flavor of my political views: I arch fairly far to the left of center, but have some decidedly right-wing views that indeed fall so far right as to be better described as Libertarian.

For example: I'm a flat tax guy. Lookit: I do my own taxes with the help of a tax program - you know the one I'm talking about. The big one. In addition to all the forms and other related nonsense it generates, it also gives me a sort of recap sheet before anything else prints out. And it has told me for the last fifteen years of my professional life, where my income has ranged from $18,000 a year to (thankfully) several times that, my actual tax paid after all the hoo-ha stands right around 19%. That's a good number, as far as I'm concerned. Add it all up, subtract whatever dollar amount equals poverty, and tax the rest on a flat percentage basis. The IRS - a government employer of 100,000 people - becomes a shell of its former self. Government revenue skyrockets. James L. Payne, author of the book Costly Returns: The Burden of the US Tax System, posits that for every dollar of tax the government collects, the taxpayer actually needs to pay $1.65, due to the costs of complying with a labyrinthine tax code and the cost of supporting the IRS itself. We can do better.

For another example: I believe that the Government exists solely for the succour of its citizens, and should only be used for that purpose. Any government that passes a law restricting the rights of its citizens (such as the Defense of Marriage Act) is an act of abhorrence. There's no justifiable excuse, no matter of public interest to defend here. That's not what Government does - or is supposed to do. This is America, god dammit. If a couple of gay guys or girls wish to know the exquisite misery that is married life, I say let 'em. It doesn't pick my pocket and despite the rhetoric of the Christian right, homosexuality is NOT like cooties: you can't catch gay. If you believe it's against God's law because the Bible says so, I better not catch you digging up your entire garden (Leviticus 19:9), wearing an article of clothing made of a wool-linen blend (Lev. 19:19), or heaven forbid eating a medium-rare steak (Lev. 19:26). If you're going to wave the Bible at me, you better live your life according to ALL its tenets, not just the ones that make you oogy when you think about 'em.

Last example for now: I think most drugs which are currently illegal should be legalized and have the everloving CRAP taxed out of them. It's not politically expedient to legalize, say, pot, now or ever. I know this. But I also know this: interdiction DOES NOT WORK. It has never worked. It will never work. Period. It just fills the prisons with people who aren't criminals and provides the occassional photo-op for an overeager DA trying to make a name for himself. I have no problem with the commercials exhorting people to tell their kids about drugs, or the ones that speak to kids themselves about not starting - besides the fact that they're stupid and ineffective. GOD, that pisses me off - like everything you see on TV, those commercials condescend to kids and give them no credit for having a brain. Do you really think that a kid will look at an egg frying in a cast-iron skillet and REALLY think it's his brain on drugs? Come now.

Anyway, like I said at the top of this little missive, I welcome all viewpoints here. Want to defend the Defense of Marriage Act? Step right up, there, manly man, and make your argument - and thanks for visiting.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Of Swastikas and Nappy Hair

My little swastika
My little swastika
You can do what you want
But I'm taking it back
It's not yours anymore
It's mine now
Well, I got me a white one to give to my bride
I got me a black one that my uncle dyed
Green means football, that's the Notre Dame sign
I got me a pink one: gay pride

-Dan Bern, My Little Swastika

Who is this miscreant, this spreader of hate, this Dan Bern? Is he a Nazi? a Skinhead? A Klansman?

Nope. He's a Jew, and he's got a good point.

Bern, all the rage among the folky-singer-songwriter set (and a good time in concert), argues that the only reason the swastika stands as such a pervasive symbol of hate and intolerance -- indeed, of evil -- is because we as a society are still letting it be so. In his song he makes the point that the Chinese used the swastika for 3000 years and it no more meant evil to them then the checkmark sign does to us today. But in twelve years of usage, Nazi Germany has seemingly erased a civilization's benign use of a random symbol.

Hey: It's been a long time since Nazi Germany has influenced anything. Bern is right. It's time to stop viewing symbols as personifications of the boogeymen who used them. I know it's difficult to conceive of now - but it could happen. Symbols are only powerful if we give them power.

Which brings me to the recent brouhaha regarding Don Imus and his apparently unforgivable statement about the Rutgers basketball team.

Let me start off by saying this: I DESPISE Don Imus. He's irrelevant, unfunny, mushmouthed, and I think that that kid thing on his ranch that he does is more self-serving than philanthropic by orders of magnitude.

But people, people, lord amighty - back off the guy! He's a radio guy. He gets paid to make people laugh, and that means, usually, making fun of people. Listen to Howard. Listen to Opie and Anthony. Listen to any of them, and you'll hear them say things EVERY DAY that are more insulting to more people than what Imus said about the girls from Rutgers. Why they chose to fixate on this one remark out of thousands made by all the shock jocks, all the morning Zoo chucklefests on every goddamn radio station in every goddamn market in the US is beyond me.

Now, people have made the argument that all this ridiculous kerfuffle serves as a beard to shield Revs. Sharpton and Jackson from the embarassment of the complete and total vindication of the Duke lacrosse team - heaven forbid they should ever admit to backing the wrong horse - but it doesn't matter. Obviously this issue resonated with a lot of people, and notwithstanding the motive behind making a big deal of it, it's certainly a big deal.

My point is this: Why are we allowing words to hold so much power over us? Idiots will always be idiots. Those who hate and hurt will always do so. It's not the words they use. It's what they think, and the ideas they articulate. Here, check this out:

Nappy-haired ho.

See? It's not the words. It's the idea behind it. Without a malevolent spirit behind a word (or in this case, without any spirit behind them whatsoever), it's just a word, devoid of emotion.

Words have power because we give them power. Words will immediately cease to have power the microsecond we stop giving it to them.

Let's all take back the swastika.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Sox Lose on Opening Day: Panic in Streets of Hub

Blockbuster news coming out of Kansas City: The Red Sox are now mathematically eliminated from going 162-0.

Armed as they were with such a compelling story, talk radio yesterday popped and sizzled with a blow-by-blow analysis of the Red Sox’ epic collapse. Schilling showed a shocking lack of control; Pedroia and Youkilis got overaggressive on the basepaths and got gunned down at second by ten feet each; Sox bats stayed silent thanks to the presumptive Cy Young winner, Gil Meche. And as an extra added bonus, we had an entire off-day to discuss the same three-hour game over and over and over again.

Please, people: Can we all take a breath here? I hate to utter a Boston blasphemy, but it’s just one lousy game. There are many more to play before I have to start my “wait ‘till next year” piece.

Yesterday morning, some poor sap called in to the morning yakfest here in Boston and actually tried to articulate this very point – that maybe, just maybe, the talking heads of talk radio, blissfully free of context or long view, were overanalyzing the bejeebers out of this one single game.

He was, quite literally, shouted down and off the air, and ridiculed in absentia for some time thereafter. I’d love to say I was surprised in addition to being disappointed, but I wasn’t.

I admit, though, that I was a little surprised that the very piece you're currently reading was rejected by the site for whom I write, BostonDirtDogs, because they actually like the idea of fomenting panic in the hearts of the Faithful, and apparently wouldn't dream of publishing anything that resembled the voice of Reason, however still and small that voice might be today. Hey - it's their gig, and I admit that beyond contributing, I enjoy reading the site, so maybe they have something there.

But come on. It’s a long season. We need to keep perspective or we’re going to lose our collective minds. Few people likely remember Opening Day 2004, when the Sox, fresh off their Aaron Boone hangover, got shelled 7-2 at Baltimore. The Sox’ erstwhile ace, Pedro someone or other, gave up a three-spot in the early going and the game was never close. We remember what happened from there, don’t we?

Yes: a win is better than a loss. Fully admitted. Any Red Sox fan would have preferred to start the season with a win, but half the league loses on Opening Day. It’s going to happen; best thing to do is hitch up your trousers and hunker down for a long season.

I don’t know if the Red Sox are going to go all the way this year. I can’t even state with anything like certainty that they’ll make the postseason. But I can tell you this: the measure of a team is not winning in April; it’s winning in October. Let’s withhold judgment on the 2007 Red Sox until some time after game 1.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Tales of the Poker Table, Vol 1

So it's the Wednesday night poker game, and the standard crew of knuckleheads are around the table: DB on my right, then Smitty, Marcella, the Mayor, and Toots to my left, rounding out the table.

I've adopted a new table persona, after DB confirmed for me that my biggest liability at the table was my mug - despite all I could do, I telegraphed the strength of my hand in a way that those who were sharp enough to read could do so. So in response I started doing what Chris Ferguson does: he caps his cards, places his hands up to his face just so and waits a 5-beat, every single time. So I adopted that mannerism, and it helped. Because DB has just been flat out kicking my sad ass for the last month, and it had to stop.

Now, these people are among the best friends I have, so I'm not going to go into a detailed description of their poker skills here. Suffice it to say, though, that collectively their skills run the gamut between pedestrian and damned good. And my friends might have other opinions - guys, you're free to air them here - but I think that generally, it's been a two-person race for table captain, and those two people are DB and me. I hope the others at the table will forgive me for making so bold a claim.

So anyway, it became clear that DB picked up a monster tell on me and was using it with complete faith, so any monkey business I tried would be punished brutally. So this past Wednesday, I debuted "the stance." Aside from a few early glitches - for example, going into "the stance" before looking at "my cards" - the general consensus was that a few big holes in my game were plugged. In fact I came down to heads up with Toots for all the marbles at the end of the night.

I looked down once and to my great joy found pocket Kings. Woo-hoo!! A little care and this little party ends right here and right now. The blinds were 500-1000, I was on the button, and raised to 3000 to go - only twice the big blind but I desperately wanted Toots in the hand.

It worked like a charm - Toots looked down with trepidation, but reluctantly called.

The flop came 8d, 3h, Jc, or something like that. Fabulous - not a sniff of an ace, just a few straight draws and no flush draw. Toots bet out a couple of grand. I waited my 5 beat and pushed all in, and I heard those magical words: "I call." My trap worked perfectly. I flipped over my Kings and saw the look of dismay on Toots's face and a raggedy 8h 5c hole. This was almost too easy. My kings against a pair of 8's. I was 75-20 to win (about 4% to tie). I was counting my money.

The turn came a blank - I think it was a deuce. Nice. 88-11 to win. But of course you know the punchline: the poker gods had other plans for me this night. A third 8 on the river dashes my hopes and makes an unlikely winner of Toots.

The uber-punchline is this: Toots' real name is Vicki, and she's my goddamn wife. I've stopped calling her "toots" and now call her "eight-five."

Well, there's always next week.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Take a Bow

After years of blogging for others, I've decided to do it for myself.

My name is Gary Jacobs, and to the extent that the Internet community knows me at all (which is admittedly an infinitessimally small extent), they know me as a sports reporter. I used to submit baseball and hockey game stories for an online sports network - that relationship ended with a surprising amount of acrimony. Maybe I'll tell you about it one day when I'm starved for subject matter. Anyway, I currently produce features for the Boston Dirt Dogs web page. Mostly, since I'm credentialed there, my features focus on the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Boston Red Sox' AAA affiliate. For those of you who are sports-minded, I'll be reprinting my articles so that you'll be able to see them all here, as well as provide a rant or two that wouldn't be appropriate for such an august site as BDD.

But sports is not the central focus of my life: in fact, it's not even one of the central foci. Predominant among my life's pursuits is slipping in odd pluralisations that make me appear worldly (see foci). When I'm not doing that, I play the guitar - not well, but loudly - and am an avid poker player. Thankfully for my wallet, I'm a better poker player than I am a musician.

I'm not a professional poker player but I will allow myself the conceit that I'm a decent amateur. Put it this way: I've won more money than I've lost playing poker, and there aren't a whole lot of people who can say that. If I ever win the lottery (difficult indeed since I don't play), I'm heading right out to the professional circuit.

My relationship with music is purposefully frustrating. It's good to have a pursuit in your life that you know will never result in victory. I suppose it's the same sort of feeling golfers get, watching yet another drive sail majectically into the drink. You don't need to destroy the windmill - it's enough to joust at it. In fact it's comforting to know that you can joust all you like, and that goddamn windmill is going to still be there tomorrow.

I'm left-handed - hence the "crafty southpaw" monniker. The term usually describes a left handed pitcher, specifically one who throws a lot of off-speed pitches like curve balls and the like. Ironic, considering my promising career in professional baseball was cut short at the tender age of 11 when it occurred to me and my coaches that I had a crucial lack of athleticism, eye-hand coordination, or in fact any baseball skills of any kind beyond the ability to spit. I could neither throw nor hit a curve ball, and I'm proud to say that in the ensuing 30-odd years nothing has changed along those lines. The triple I hit as a member of the Minor-B Cobras stands as my lone shining athletic achievement. Sure - some, including perhaps the official scorer, might better remember the event as a "three-base error" - but I choose to see the cup as being half-full. Which, given the fact that I was 11 and Jewish, was more or less true.

I have a day job, of course, and it pays the bills. That's more or less all you'll hear about that here. We're a public company so I can't dish too much about it - besides, it's pretty boring stuff. I usually describe my job as "cog in the corporate wheel," which is accurate enough and saves me the trouble of describing a job that's difficult to define. I sit at a desk, I move paper from hither to yon, I make stuff happen, I talk on the phone. It's a living.

I live in Rhode Island, a state so small they've had to annex half of Connecticut to fit in all the corruption. My parents still live in the ancestral Manse in north suburban Boston, MA, and my brother Ross lives in the westernmost city in the Commonwealth, North Adams, Massachusetts.

That's more or less enough for you to go on. If you've read this far you probably already know me, but for those strangers among you, welcome! Look for a new post every so often.