Monday, July 31, 2017

Banana Republic

We, the US, are not a banana republic. However, if one did not have a sense of history and just arrived on Earth, and followed the Trump administration the last week or so--that person might have a different assessment.

Today I read that the tenure of "the Mooch" has ended. The erstwhile Director of Communications lasted a week and a half.  Eleven days.  The new chief of staff, John Kelly--in this role for a few days,--urged the president to make the change.

So, in a couple of weeks, the press secretary, chief of staff, director of communication have all resigned.  Russia is threatening to remove over 100 members of the US diplomatic core in Russia. North Korea has threatened the United States.  The President made a speech to the boyscouts that would have gotten him tossed out of Student Government in any high school in the country.  The extraterrestrial might figure we are a banana republic.

I just completed a book of short stories by O.Henry.  It is called, appropriately, Stories of O.Henry.  I was surprised to read in the preface that O.Henry was a different sort of person than I had imagined. We all are familiar with his most famous story, "The Gift of the Magi" which is in the collection.  Also, while it is not in the collection I remember reading "The Ransom of Red Chief" in high school which is pretty funny. It is about some no-goodniks who kidnap a kid to get money from his rich folks, only to find out that the kid is impossible to control.  The parents, aware of this, force the kidnappers to pay them to take the kid back.

If not a no-goodnick, O.Henry was a bit of an eccentric character.  The guy drank himself to death allegedly knocking back two bottles of whiskey a day for the last decade of his life. He had worked in a bank, was subsequently arrested for embezzling, and spent three years in jail. When first arrested he went south of the border to avoid capture, only to return when his wife proved too sick to join him.

His stories, I figured, would be easy to digest.  I'd read "The Gift of the Magi" which is not too difficult and "...Red Chief" and then another very short one called, "It Makes the Whole World Kin."  These three are relatively simple, but they are aberrations. Most of the stories in this volume are work--sometimes work that is worth the effort, but nevertheless, not walks in the park.

It was worth the entire collection of 23 stories to read a long paragraph on page 113 about adventurers and those who do not have courage to take chances.  Also, a story about pancakes was excellent.

In the pancake one, a cowboy is interested in a friend's niece. He attempts to court her and is initially successful. One day he comes to visit and a rancher is out riding with the woman.  Well, the cowboy is upset and approaches the rival ready to duke it out. The rival tells him he has no interest, that he is a homebody, and is only riding with her because she has a terrific recipe for pancakes.  If, says the rival, the cowboy can get the recipe from the niece, he promises to never see the woman again. This strikes the cowboy as a good deal, but every time he brings up the pancake recipe to the woman, she looks at him strangely which he interprets to mean that nobody gets this family recipe. Each time he mentions pancakes, she stares at him frostily, disappears, and then the uncle comes out with a glass of water to placate the suitor.

One day the cowboy comes to visit the woman and the uncle says that she ran off and married the rival.  The cowboy is furious.  He finds out that the woman never made a pancake in her life, but the rancher rival had told both the woman and the uncle, that the cowboy was a bit crazy and you could tell he was about to go postal whenever he started talking about pancakes.

Anyway I can't recommend the collection in its entirety as it really was hard work. Besides a number of the stories I could take or leave.  The stories aside, however, I found the history of O.Henry interesting particularly when I read today--on the heels of the Mooch firing-- that it was O.Henry who coined the term "banana republic" from his outlaw days living south of the border and observing the ways of countries where he was hiding.

On a peripheral note, I read a best seller called, The Woman in Cabin 10.    Very high on the ridickalus scale.  I'd pass and move on to cabin 11.

Friday, July 28, 2017


When I was in high school, and probably when everyone was in high school, there was a big fat reader that was used in English class. In it were dozens of short stories.

I have forgotten most of them, but a few stick in my head. One had a title close to the saying, "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."  I tried to find it last night, but could not so maybe the title I've recalled is a little bit off, but I remember the essence of the story.

The essence was, what you do in life plants the seeds for what will happen later in life. Your actions will affect future developments even if those developments are unrelated to the prior action.

And that is, at least in part, what fueled what happened last night. The bad news last night was that I woke up at 1 am and had some trouble getting back to sleep. The good news was that I went to the computer at that hour and saw that the senate was voting on what has been called the skinny health care bill--a repeal of ObamaCare and a replacement with a thin health care bill that had been cobbled together.  I flipped on CNN and watched the drama live and its aftermath.

The vote was going to be close because all 48 Democrats were going to vote against it.  Support required 50 of the 52 Republican senators to vote for it.

I attempt, without much success, to separate the fact that I do not like the person Donald Trump from my assessment of how he performs as president.  It is not an easy separation because the character of a president is a component of what makes a president a good or bad one.  Also character influences behavioral decisions.  Still, I try to say to myself, "just because I don't like him, doesn't mean he might not be effective."

Well so far, Trump has solidified my sense that he is not a good person. His speech to the boy scouts was outrageous--just for an example.  Not accepting responsibility for failures of his administration is another.  The president reminds me of the fraternity guy who brags about how much money he has, but whenever you try to get a few bucks from him to pitch in for a keg, pats his pockets and says he must have left his wallet in his BMW.  Or the guy who walks out of the can where he has left a predictable odor, but yanks his thumb over his shoulder like an indifferent hitchhiker saying "Wasn't me." He's boastful and not the slightest bit willing to take responsibility.  Just don't like the guy.

What irks me most is how he speaks of other people.  During the campaign he referred to his Republican competitors--two sitting senators--as "those two morons".  President Obama was appropriately professional during the transition, yet since taking office Trump has gratuitously disparaged him.

Perhaps the most outrageous thing he has ever said, was when he was discussing Republican Senator John McCain.  When someone pointed out that McCain was a war hero, Trump commented that he is only a hero because he got caught.  Trump continued saying that he liked people who did not get caught.

So last night Trump needs 50 senators to vote in support of the skinny repeal and replace.  Murkowski from Alaska, and Collins from Maine, two Republicans, vote against it.  It comes down to McCain's vote.  The guy just had brain surgery. The guy has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.  He comes back to Washington to vote.  And votes against Trump's repeal and replace.

Now maybe it was ideology, but maybe it was "Hey you sob, let me tell you what heroism is."

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Save Box

Every couple of months either I or my brother, or both of us, go to Florida to check on the condo we inherited.  Typically we/I stay only two or three days before heading back.  That was the plan this time.

I got here on Sunday, watered the plants, checked on the general condition of the place--then met up with my Camp friends Wally and Eileen for the dinners which we always enjoy whenever I stroll into town. On Monday I met a guy for lunch down by the beach, and on Tuesday I enjoyed lunch with my twin cousins who live in south florida.  Plan was to depart on Wednesday morning.

I returned from my afternoon lunch with my cousins and walked into a steam bath.  It has been broiling in Florida this week. Very humid, every day in the 90s.  When I walked into the unit I expected the refreshing cool air of the air conditioner. But nay.  It was hotter than Hades in the condo.

The bad news was that the air conditioner unit had stopped working. The good news is that it had stopped working while I was here.  Otherwise it could have been months without air and the place would be mold city.

I had to scramble to get HVAC people to take a look and give estimates (which were widely disparate in terms of what they thought the problem was).  Meanwhile I had to cancel flights, extend rental car, and in general rearrange quite a bit.

One fellow came out and shook his head predicting financial disaster. Another guy got it to work by ramming his hand on top of the unit, and them pushing the fan with his screwdriver.  Alas that inexpensive remedy did not last through the night.  Today a third person took a look and explained in what amounted to a foreign language what was wrong and what he fixed.  So far, knock on wood, because of his actions the ac is working. I will be staying here tomorrow, just to make sure it works for a day before I head back to Boston.

I figured that I had some extra time (a) waiting for the repairmen to come during their 1:30 to 4 slot (arrived at 3:50) (b) waiting to see if the work worked.

 Previously my brother and I had gone through the entire house and thrown out various items that needed to go. We did keep some items in boxes marked "Save Box" for either one of us.  It is well over a year since I put stuff in my Save Box.  With the extra time waiting to see if the air will remain cold, I thought I'd go through it.

This could be a testament to my failing memory, but much of the stuff in that box i had not seen before. I think in our haste to go through items in the past, there were some things that looked like they might be worth saving, that I put in my box, without really studying the item.  I hope that is the case, otherwise my memory is shot.

Regardless, the items in there were remarkable. There were telegrams my father sent to my mother when he was stationed in Japan during WWII.  I saw an invitation to, not my parents' wedding, but to the reception that followed.  There were the formal thank you notes to those who sent gifts at the wedding.  A bunch of letters that I had sent to my folks--many far wittier than what I compose nowadays.  A poem that I'd composed to the pace of The Raven that I remember writing and mailing, but did not remember having seen in the last 30 years.  A great card with a picture of a sheep on a desert island.  You open it up and it reads "Isle of Ewe." Dad must have loved sending that and mom probably is still rolling her eyes in the grave.

Also in the box was junk that I cannot believe I saved the first go round.  Those items did not make the second cut.

Well, I kept the items I thought were special, but I wondered who else would think they were.  Would my nephew get a charge out of going though the Save Box.  Would his kids at some point think it was neat.  I do know that I enjoyed the romp through the Save Box.  Our past is just the backdrop to our present.  It helps put what is current in perspective.

I took a break during the sifting through the Save Box and thought it would be appropriate to go to a Chinese restaurant my dad liked in the area. He went there so much that he had his own card with a discount.  On his last Thanksgiving, after my mother died, I was down here to visit.  We were going to go to get a turkey dinner, but instead ate Thanksgiving dinner at the Chinese restaurant.  It was hardly the only time I had gone there with him.  But tonight, three years later, when I was eating my egg rolls and hot and sour soup, I recalled that Thanksgiving and sitting across from him.  I smiled, looked up at the empty side of the table, and said, "thanks for the stuff in the box." It sort of felt like he smiled back.  I should have said, "Isle of Ewe"

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Magpie Murders

The best word I can use to describe, Magpie Murders, is "clever."  "Clever" popped into my head, thirty pages into it, and it remains there as an apt descriptor now that I have finished.

Yesterday, when done, I thought that while it is certainly clever I am not sure I can recommend spending 470 odd pages with it, just to be impressed with the author's impressive ability to have thought this up.  Today, I am not so sure. I find myself thinking about how he put it all together and some parts that I did not get until this morning.  There are a number of instances in the novel when a sleuth realizes that a key to solving the mystery lies in an anagram.  So, this morning I took the name of the main character, Susan Ryeland, and tried (and am trying) to sleuth out what that anagram might be.  (I will succumb after I finish writing this review and check Amazon to see if someone smarter than me got it, if indeed the name is a revealing puzzle of sorts).

In short, hats off to Anthony Horowitz-the author- for putting this together, but readers of this blog might get enough out of the following to decide not to read it.  I will not give essential parts away.

A non revealing synopsis:

A fiction editor of a publishing company sits down to read a whodunit which is the most recent one of a series.  This series about sleuth Atticus Pund has been the key breadwinner for the editor's publishing company.  So, four pages into the book, the editor (and we readers) begin Magpie Murders which is both the title of the most recent fiction featuring Atticus Pund detective, and the title of Horowitz's book.

It's classic British whodunit.  There's a funeral, all the potential suspects are introduced, someone seeks out Atticus Pund for his wisdom, Pund comes to town with his assistant, and works collaboratively with the local police.  Meanwhile 217 pages later the editor (and we readers) stop reading the detective story.  The editor has to solve a new (real life) mystery that is related to the novel's fiction.  She then becomes the sleuth for the real mystery and in several ways mirrors Pund, the fictional character, as she interviews all potential players in the real life mystery related to the fictional mystery set decades earlier.

Eventually, the fictional and real life mysteries are solved, in the way that fictional whodunits are solved. There is a scene at the end of both where the sleuths reveal who done it and how they come to know who has done it.  Life imitating art using art to demonstrate.

Sometimes I think I am very creative, but I don't think I could conceive of this intricate novel that contains another novel.  Horowitz even paginates the book separately from the Pund novel.  So you read four pages in the beginning and then start on page 1 of the Pund novel. Then 217 pages after that, you go back to page 5 of Horowitz's Magpie Murders that encompasses the fictional Magpie Murders, for 200 plus pages. Then the reader is taken back to page 218 of the fictional novel.   You can pick up this fat book and look at the last page and see it is numbered 236 which makes no sense given its heft.  But then you realize there is a 241 page novel inside.

What I liked second most (beyond just the idea) was the Pund novel. It was as good as the Agatha Christie type books I have read. Horowitz really imitates that style. And it is a good story in and of itself. (No, I did not figure out who done it).

If you like puzzles and like to read, you will probably enjoy Magpie Murders. However, I think the thing you will come away with more than anything else is an appreciation for the creativity of the author. And you will enjoy how sleuth Pund solves his case as well.  If, however, you want a straight forward short novel, with perhaps a message that will hang around in your head, I'd put this one on the back burner.

Ball Hype

Lonzo Ball may turn out to be better than I believe he will be in the NBA.

In the summer league, he had one very good game which I did not see, one very bad game which I did see, and one game where he showed some passing skills which were admirable.

The Lakers played eight games in the summer league and won the championship last night.

Of those eight games, Ball did not play in two of them because of injuries.  In a third he sat out a good deal of the second half with the same injury that kept him out of the finals.  The Lakers went 3-2 in the games he played in.

BEFORE the championship game last night--in which he did not play--the league voted him summer league MVP.

Come on.

The guy did not play in the championship game which the Lakers won.  They won another 1 1/2 games without him. They lost two games with him.

How do you name a player MVP when he does not have an impact on over 25% of the short season?

It's hype. The father has a big mouth.  A lot of people went to the games because of the hype surrounding Lonzo Ball.  Maybe 15 years ago I went to a summer league game in Boston. It was held in a local gym.  It was fun to watch, but maybe there were 500 people in attendance.  Daddy Ball and NBA's marketing changed that this summer. So the kid is a draw.

 But when you don't play in the championship game or in over 33 % of the games your team won, and your season opener was a Johnny on the spot latrine do you win league MVP?

As I wrote in the beginning, there were some clips from his very good game which were impressive and they made me think that my overall assessment of the player could be wrong. And in another game, I saw some passing that was extra special.  It is possible that he may be somewhere nearly as good as the experts think he will be. I am still not convinced, but maybe.

However, the decision to make him league MVP reflects the hype.  You can't give the MVP to someone who does not play, unless you yourself have consumed the Dad's batch of Kool-Aid.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Thanks for the Memories

My brother came to visit last week. We had a number of moments where we recalled things about our folks which were, at once, funny and touching.   At one point, he said something like, "Remember the house sale and dad with the furniture."

I didn't.  He said, "you were there. you don't remember?"  And I said I didn't.

I do remember the house sale. The home had been sold and we came in from Boston and New Jersey to help out as we attempted to sell various items that my parents did not want to haul to Florida.  I have a pretty good recollection of various moments during the day.  Our folks told us that anything we wanted we could have--and I still regret not taking this expandable table which did not go until closing time.  I remember the goniff who tried to bid low on some pretty hoo hah picture frames.  And the woman who showed up two hours before we were starting.

But this particular episode my brother was relaying, I did not recall. So when he told the funny story, I laughed so hard.  The two of us were giggling like school kids.

Which was great.  The problem was that the next day I remembered that he had, in fact, told me the story before. But when he told me the story the prior day, I had no recollection of it.

The last twenty five years of his life, my father's memory had failed him.  He still was sharp in terms of reasoning and things like current events and politics.  But I could tell him a story five times during a year and each time he said that I'd not told him the story previously.  In the first ten years or so, I would say to him what my brother said to me the other day.  "You were there, you don't remember?"

A college friend lives nearby and a few times a year we get together and have a drink.  She told me some news on Friday which I professed not to have heard before. She said she was pretty sure she had mentioned it.  I said I would remember.

On Saturday I went for a walk and stopped short when I had the realization that she had indeed told me this news at a prior quaffing session.

Point is I am not certain of what I had been certain about.  I still can remember things that are stunning and my relatives are appropriately shocked when I pluck a fact from the fifties or sixties or remember how to get to a place I haven't been to in forty years. I know I will wow my classmates at our fiftieth high school reunion in the fall with trivia, and will be the go-to camper for esoteric questions about camp history when Chicopee cronies rendezvous in September.

The thing about memory though is when you lose it, you don't know it.  So, unless it wafts up the next day--you could be under the illusion that what you don't remember did not occur.  I am grateful for the memories I have and am also grateful that I have been fortunate enough to have a better memory than most--but these episodes have been yet another example that there is such a thing as deterioration and mortality.

Seize the day.

Palindrome Redux

I had to go to the bank today.  I went to fill out my slip and realized that today, is another palindrome.

7-1-7-1-7.  Backwards and forwards

And then a moment ago, a week late, I realized that every single day since July 10, and up until July 19th will be a palindrome.

7-1-0-1-7 and 7-1-2-1-7 and etcetera.

So much for novelty. After the 19th we will have to wait until August of 18 when again we will be lousy with palindromes.

That was an expression my father and mother used to use. If you were lousy with something, that meant you had a lot of it. It actually stemmed from "lice"--that is if you had lice you were lousy with them.  I imagine the derivative of the adjective lousy as it is commonly used is based on the wonderful experience of having lice.

On Saturday morning I noticed that the basement sink was overflowing.  There is a trick I use to clean out clogs in the elbow drain but that was not working. Eventually I carted out some water because it was close to toppling over.  I measured the distance from the top of the sink to the water. It was 6 inches.  I took a shower. Measured again. it was three inches. I knew I had tsuris.

 I tried some home remedies to no avail. All day Sunday the water would have cascaded out of the sink had I not bailed out gallons of water and stopped using water in the house.  I had to go to the gym to take a shower and shave.  I called local plumbers. Most plumbers, I was surprised to find out, do not do clogs.  There are some specialty outfits which cost, hold onto your plunger, 300 bananas to unclog your pipe. One fellow was very friendly and he agreed to come out this morning.

I took him downstairs. We went to the sink. The water was gone. For two days the water was hanging around like the neighbor who comes to chat and doesn't take a hint when you are all but begging him to leave.  The clog cleaner comes by and and for 300 dollars there is nothing in the sink. He ran his gizmo through the pipe anyway and cleared the pipes of roots. I was lousy with roots.

We noticed that there was a leak under the sink.  His comment. "You'll need to call a plumber."

The guy was very nice but explained to me that you need a plumber's license to do plumbing, but just a powerful machine to clean major league clogs. So now, 300 bananas after my pipe was cleaned, I need to call a plumber.

Good news is I can take a shower.

Bad news is that I can't afford the soap.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Summers of Love

About a week ago it crossed my mind for the first time that the "Summer of Love" was at its fifty year anniversary.

The black and white above was taken at the end of the summer of love.  The color photo is a selfie taken this past Sunday, half a century later.

For the longest time I had a tee shirt that read, "A Summer in Life--1967."  I was not in California wearing a flower in my hair in July and August of '67, but it was nevertheless a wonderfully romantic summer.

In the summer of love The Grass Roots encouraged us to live for today. The Doors urged all to light our fires. Johnny Rivers sang "All summer long we were dancing in the sand. And the band kept on playing, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

I can remember, almost vividly, a July day fifty years ago, sitting shotgun in a car with three others humming "Live For Today".  I was leaning out the passenger window, adjusting the side view mirror thinking that the future and present seemed so bright.

Did the summer of love leave a lasting imprint?

How did that "live for today" philosophy work out for us?

Did our fires remain lit?

Bliss, Remembered by Frank Deford is a novel about a summer of love.  But the summer was 1936. And, in addition to the questions above, a question that the book wants the reader to address is this: "How much would you do for love?"

In a nutshell, in the summer of 2004 an 80 something year old woman asks her son to come visit.  The father has already passed. Now his wife, the mother, is dying. She tells the son that when he visits she has "something of a surprise" she must relay.

When the son visits, the mother--still lucid and feisty despite the sad medical prognosis--tells her son about her experience in Germany in 1936 when she was on the women's Olympic swimming team.  The son knew that his mother was on the team. What he did not know was the essence of the surprise. He did not know that within days of arriving in Berlin his mother met and fell immediately in love with a young German. The German's father was a diplomat and consequently, the courtship with the German allowed her not only to meet Hitler, but to attend a gala Nazi party hosted by none other than Goebbels.

To the son, the mother's relaying of this "remembered bliss" is a bit disconcerting. Nazis aside, he has a fond recollection of his father and, apparently, this German/Horst character swept his mother off her feet before Dad had come into the picture.  The book continues with the reader learning about what happened to the lovers after the summer of 1936 and into the first years of the war.

To relay more of the plot is to spoil the story for interested readers.

Is it worth reading?  The novel is engaging even if the ending is more than a little implausible.  Not the love parts. Those are very plausible.  But the resolution, could not have happened.   Even three quarters of a century ago.

Also, the way the story is told can be a bit off putting. While the narrator is the son, most of the book is told in the first person by the mother. The son has a tape recorder and the mother speaks into it, with a few interjections from the son. About eighty other pages are from a manuscript the mother has written that describes the sequence of events. So again the manuscript is in the first person from the perspective of the mother, with the son occasionally making first person comments like, "I didn't really think mom would do that."

For the mother in this novel, the summer of love was 1936, even though that summer was a summer of hate.  Her German sweetheart does not have Nazi sentiments, but his brother-in-law, sister, and father have consumed the Kool-Aid. When the Olympian visits the German's parents she is asked repeatedly about her last name to sleuth out if she is Jewish. She is not, but she knows there is something wrong about attending a party hosted by the slimy Goebbels, yet is so taken by her lover that the shine of love trumps logic.

For her, the summer of love--1936--the Bliss, is remembered and it leaves a multigenerational imprint.   It was interesting to me how much the mother followed, naturally and beautifully, the advice of the Grass Roots and followed her heart so that her fires might be lit.

This book is not as good as Deford's, An American Summer, which I reviewed in this blog several weeks ago.  But readers will enjoy turning the pages of Bliss, Remembered and, at the end, when you say--"That could not have happened"--you might also find yourself saying, "so what."

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Ball Round 2

I watched most of Lonzo Ball's second game last night.  And endured an interview a sideline reporter had with his outrageous father during the first half.

As for Lonzo--he showed me something in this second game. I have been unequivocal in my prediction that he will not be particularly extra as a professional.  He was not super last night, but he was not as awful as he had been in his first game.

There were some bright spots.  He can pass--better than I thought. He made some very good connections with teammates last night which opened them up for shots.  This is only the summer league so the opponents are not of the caliber that he will be facing in the fall--but still some of the passes, and his passing in general made me rethink a comment I had made that he is an overrated passer. If yesterday is an indication he is better than average.

Still other parts of his game are mediocre at best. He did make some shots last night, which when juxtaposed with game one when he could not drop a bar of soap in a bathtub, was an improvement. He did not, however, shoot the lights out.  Just made a few shots.

His defense was abysmal.  It looked like the person he was defending frequently attempted and was able to drive on him whenever he got the ball. But Ball did show me that he can rebound at least with the players in the summer league.

His father was as insufferable as he has been. During the interview the dad was all over the place saying things like it was the "show" that mattered, and how Lonzo changed the culture of the Lakers, and how he was now the new Magic Johnson and soon would surpass him.  The father is a circus act and I feel for his son, who has to carry the burden of having a man who may be a decent person, but is behaving like a jackass.

In sum, in Ball's round two his passing made me see what the hoopla about the guy could be about.  Not that the outcome really matters in the summer league, but the Lakers got off to a strong start, but lost again despite the presence of the new Magic Johnson.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

First Ball game

I was flipping channels last night, just before ending the day.  I came across a Summer League game between the Lakers and the Clippers. 

It was the debut game of Lonzo Ball.  Ball was the number two pick of the draft and hyped, irresponsibly, by his father LaVar Ball, who compared his son to Michael Jordan.  On May 12th in this blog, I wrote the following:

"Let's start with this.  Please remember this.  I am promising you this.  Lonzo Ball will not be a change maker in the pros. He is very good, but so is every player in the NBA.  Lonzo Ball will not be that good. If you are an NBA executive and are looking for someone who can catapult your team into a championship contender, don't sell the farm for Lonzo Ball.  Lonzo is a kid. He is 6' 6" and 190 pounds.  Just for comparison, Jae Crowder on the Celtics is 6 6 and 235 pounds and not the Pillsbury Doughboy. Lonzo Ball is going to get bounced around like a pin ball when he drives to the basket. He has great court vision, but he is nothing extraordinary in terms of shooting or passing.  Claiming that Lonzo Ball is better than Michael Jordan is just beyond belief.  Jordan is probably collecting social security now and could defeat Ball in a one on one game ten times out of ten."

You can't extrapolate too much from only one game, and a summer league game at that.  But Lonzo Ball stunk up the gym last night.  At the risk of sounding self congratulatory Ball was everything I described on May 12th.  

And I will comment now as I did then that his father's incredibly selfish promotion of his son will do nothing to help him on the court. Off the court, the bragging may have helped get his son a fat contract. But on the court it just heaped pressure on a young man who will now be playing against great players, and I do not think will shine except sporadically.  Maybe, this one meaningless game will be atypical, and in the pros he will dominate.  I will be surprised if that is the case. I also noticed that the kid took some ill advised shots, and that the defense was egging him on take them--as if they had already doped out that his shooting was not all that special.

Friday, July 7, 2017

body issue

Okay. I am not a prude, by any stretch of the definition.  My feeling about sex and the discourse related to intimacy is that we, in America, are in the very dark ages.  And that is for those who believe and adhere to their beliefs about intimacy.  Others are hypocrites; spewing the values of abstinence and perils of intimacy while engaging in practices that people of their ilk, outwardly, condemn as sinful. The ubiquitous chatter about the evils of the flesh are at odds with the overwhelming evidence that the pornography business is beyond lucrative.

Not only do I think we are in the dark ages about sex, but we are worse off for it.  Sexual repression has got to be no good for you.  Think of how you felt the last time you engaged blissfully in consensual intimacy.  Now imagine not being able to purge whatever had been purged. It has to go someplace.

So,  with that background, this rant may seem peculiar--but the two paragraphs above actually are foundational to the following argument.

The SI swimsuit issue is, without question, the fattest issue that SI puts out all year. This is not because they are taking a lot of pictures that require pages. It is because advertisers want to advertise in the issue thus expanding the size.  The reason advertisers want to advertise is that many people purchase the swimsuit issue.

As anyone who has perused that issue knows, the lure for the consumers is not the particular garb that the models use when they go to the beach. It is because the models pose with not a whole lot of garb, sometimes no garb, and the pictures are less of the "check out this great bathing suit" variety and more like "come hither and imagine what I look like if my suit is removed."

My problem with the swimsuit issue is that given the size of the audience, there must be a whole lot of people who squawk about the perils of intimacy, but nevertheless check out the photos.

However, the swimsuit issue, has been topped.  ESPN-the magazine has published in the last few weeks what they call their body issue.  Essentially they have said, "we don't need no stinking swimsuits."  Naked athletes, men and women, in softball, hockey, basketball, football, tennis, rugby--and other sports are posing naked. Every single one is in the buff. There is no frontal nudity, but you want to see what Julian Edelman's ass looks like, or anybody else's, you are in business.  Six women from the 2014 silver medal hockey team stand, backs to the camera, with nothing on but their skates. Each looks back at the camera, but my hunch is that the gazing is at regions further south.

When I was a kid, the Body Issue would be something that would be found behind the counter. There was a sign at the candystore near my house that read, "Ask for Playboy."  You'd have had to ask for the Body Issue in 1964.

Does the Body Issue bother me?  In some ways yes, (a) because ESPN-the magazine is trying to claim that what they are showing off are the athletes' physiques; what you have to do in training to be a winner--and that is baloney--they are peddling sex and (b) because so many of the full of baloney people will scream about how we are all going to hell, yet will check out the images on line a gazillion times fueling some creative daydreaming.

We as a society would be a whole lot better off, if people got off a whole lot more. and there was no stigma surrounding consensual intimacy.

My beef with the swimsuit issue and the body issue is that they do not really puncture the prevailing bogus morality, but rather create a vehicle for indulgence while maintaining the status quo.

In high school we had to read a play called Miss Julie.  Completely lost on me in high school.  I read it again last night as I am on a kick now of reading plays.  In it, Julie, an aristocrat, does the slow dance with one of her servants.  Afterwards, she does not know what to do. She has been disgraced. She wants to move away with the lover, who has little sympathy calling her a whore, and acting toward her, as if she is forever stained.  The play was written in 1883.  Yes attitudes have changed some, but not enough.  And despite what might seem to be the case, the Body Issue and Swimsuit Issue do not help the cause.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Black and White

I remember Gordon Hayward from when he played at Butler.  He was the only real stud on the Butler team that came within one shot of beating mighty Duke in the NCAAs.  The next year Butler, again, without Hayward--who had gone to the NBA--went to the finals- this time with no stud.  Nobody who would make a real dent in the NBA was on that second Butler team.

The fact that Butler went to the finals two years in a row with those teams is either the aberration of aberrations, or a testament to the coach--Brad Stevens--now the coach of the Celtics.

As for Hayward, he has made a dent in the professional ranks. He was a strong player for the Utah Jazz and then, at the end of last season, became a free agent.  There was a scramble for his services over the last few weeks.  And the Boston Celtics came out the winners. Hayward is now a Celtic.

In July, months after the Celtics were eliminated and months before the next NBA season will begin, the hoopla in the post Hayward signing days has been such that there is an article in the Globe daily about the impact he will make on the team. Very big deal.  The Red Sox are on a tear during baseball season. Edelman is posing naked in ESPN's body issue, but people are talking about Hayward.

Maybe I am being cynical and could be proven to be wrong with this claim.  I hope I am wrong, but I doubt it.

The hosannahs for Hayward are as loud as they are because he is white.

I do think he will be an impact player for the Celtics, but I don't think he is someone who will carry the team, or inevitably take the team to the next level. With Hayward the Celtics do not compete any better against the Cavaliers or Warriors.  I read in today's paper that in order to sign Hayward the Celtics will need to jettison either Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, or Jae Crowder.  I like all three of these players.  Do I think that Hayward is better than each one? Yes. But not by a hoot and a holler.

One of the things that makes me unhappy about the signing is how the courting of Hayward must have affected Crowder.  Crowder plays the position that Hayward will take and Crowder was a tough quality player for the Celtics.  By going after Hayward the Celtics were saying that Crowder is not good enough. Kind of like seeing the girl you have been hugging, shopping around at the dance to find a better smooching partner.  "Hang on there Louie, I'm trying to snag Rex here who is going to be a doctor. If I can't get him to do the dosey do with me, then I'll be back."

Crowder must be thinking what more can I do than what I did.  And, this is where it gets uncomfortable, Crowder must be thinking--as I am--if he were white would his gifts be seen as better than Hayward's--particularly if Hayward was black.

It's tough for Hayward as well. In a sport where most players are black, a white player is often looked upon as someone who has gotten a shot because of race. I remember Cedric Maxwell commenting that when Larry Bird came to the Celtics a number of black players thought that the hype about Bird was because he was white. Bird soon demonstrated that Maxwell's notions were inaccurate but he had to overcome the stereotype that a white man can't really be all that good.

And I imagine Hayward has to overcome that as well, and it does not help when writers like me suggest that his stock is a function of race.  But I think in a city like Boston with a troubled history of race relations, one has to wonder if the courting of Hayward isn't in part to do with race.  I am sure the Celtics brass would shake their head and scream no. And maybe race has nothing to do with it.

But I think if I were Avery, or Crowder, or Marcus Smart--all terrific players--there could be some resentment.

I hope Hayward proves to be a savior, and I wish my experience on planet earth was such that these possibilities never surfaced to my consciousness,  but they have.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Case for Impeachment

Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University, has written a book about why Donald Trump should and will be impeached.

In The Case for Impeachment, Lichtman argues that because of the president's penchant for dissembling; his attitudes toward women; actions against climate change; conflicts of interests; relationship with Russia; scofflaw tendencies- any one of these, he contends should and will bring about his demise.

My feeling is that there is evidence galore (and Lichtman is meticulous about providing details) of all the problems the author identifies. Yet, there has been no movement to impeach.  What could he do that he has not already done?  The only thing perhaps is that his lying, and lack of concern for the law may result in some new behavior that is beyond the pale.  But wasn't inviting the Russians to hack e-mails beyond the pale. And the man was elected.

One point that the author makes that I did not know is that a president can be impeached for something he did prior to holding office.

Toward the end the author has a chapter of advice for Trump.  It is almost comical to think that the president would read this very critical book in its entirety and then take seriously the penultimate chapter offering the advice of the author. Lichtman paints Trump as a narcissist if not a megalomaniac.  Not sure narcissists are interested in reading some suggestions about how to not be self centered.

I would not be surprised to discover that there have been books predicting the impeachment of every president. Sure seemed to be a spate of anti Obama books.  People who feel strongly about the unsuitability of the chief executive, often mount a case.  While I think Donald is an unusual president,  I am not sure if this book will get any more traction than similar books from the past.

It was an interesting read in parts, but I would not pick it up if I were you if you voted for the Donald. An interesting sidebar relates to how fast this book came out.  There are references to events that took place only a few months ago.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July 4

Each year on this date, the Boston Globe--and I imagine other newspapers--publishes the entire text of the Declaration of Independence.  The Globe prints it instead of their daily editorial comments on the Opinion page.

Most years, I attempt to read through the entirety of the document.  It is tough slogging because the language is different reflecting the 241 years of evolutionary changes to how we speak and write. Today I got through it all and marveled, as I do each year, at how well articulated are the reasons and causes for the declaration of independence.

In addition to the well reasoned arguments a number of things struck me, one of which always strikes me, the other probably has but staggered me today nonetheless, and a third made me think of a sentiment more broadly.

It is clear to all of us now that the early words of the Declaration, that we hold self-evident that "all men are created equal" is a startling indication of how even apparently enlightened leaders at that time saw people of color as not in the category of those who are created equal. Similarly, women--until 1920--I think I have the date right--did not have the right to vote. While often "men" until the 1970s were conveniently (and myopically) used to represent men and women, in this case "all men" really did apply to men and white men at that.

The second thing that struck me is that in the Declaration, Jefferson--by accounts the primary author--referred to the first denizens of America as "the merciless Indian savages."

But what struck me the most was this following early paragraph which I did not think about in its broader applications until this morning. (or as likely thought about, but did not retain in the slowly emptying memory bank)

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that [people] are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Beyond oppressive government, aren't we all disposed to suffer, "while evils are sufferable", than to change "by abolishing the forms to which [we] have become accustomed."  In other words, do we live with abominations that we have become accustomed to, until such time that we can't stand it anymore.  And even then, do most of us develop even more callouses so that we endure the abominations? Until we say, enough.

What the authors of the Declaration did was remarkable. After they took just about as much nonsense as they could take, they took a risk and did something about it--they liberated themselves and their contemporaries by taking a stand and then fought to eliminate the oppression.

And we, 241 years later, are the beneficiaries.  I sit here on my deck reading the declaration of independence, free.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Fever Pitch

In the Fall I will be teaching a course called, Sports, Media, and Communication.  I taught a similar course in 2010, but have been writing memos since then.  I bought a bushel of books to read to prepare for the class.  A web site listed the 100 best sports books ever.  I'd read several on the list, but many more I had not.  So I bought six or seven near the top.

Fever Pitch is a memoir of sorts by Nick Hornby.  He is probably more famous in the US for writing the novel that the John Cusick movie, High Fidelity, is based on.  Now that I have finished Fever Pitch and have read the front and back matter, I know that it was this memoir that catapulted Hornby to success.  It sold well apparently in the UK and, I'm extrapolating here, made him popular enough to secure publishers for five novels, four other nonfiction books, an anthology, and a screenplay.

Fever Pitch is about Hornby as a fanatic follower of Arsenal, a football (soccer to Americans) team in England.  A field is called a pitch when referring to soccer, and Hornby is feverish if not maniacal when it comes to his devotion to football/soccer.

It reads a bit, at the risk of sounding self congratulatory, like a description of soccer fans including himself who are akin to the basketball zealots I describe in Madness of March: Bonding and Betting with the Boys in Las Vegas.  I do think, however, that he is more extreme in his fanatical following of Arsenal than anyone I have known who follows hockey, basketball, football, or baseball in the US.  Readers of my book may remember that the epilogue describes serious New York Ranger hockey fans.  They seem relatively tame compared to how Hornby follows Arsenal.

Hornby can write and is very funny at times-actually often.  His description of similar fans, how his relationships with friends and sweethearts are affected, and comparisons of a last minute win to sexual climax are all well done and humorous. Similarly his assessment of the effects of media, culpability of ownership in creating some dangerous conditions, racism, and hooliganism are all insightful.

The problem I had with the read is that if you are not familiar with the game, and the stars of the game, you can get lost.  There are regular references to players on Arsenal, other teams in the league, and even techniques of play that for someone like me--quite knowledgeable about many sports--but with a limited background in football/soccer--were like pot holes in my ride through the memoir.  Also, the use of idioms common to people from across the ocean, is such that while clever and while I can get it, slowed me down as I processed the pages.

Good book. The author is self effacing--he knows he is a maniac. Fever Pitch is certainly a good snapshot that depicts how sports can consume those who are followers.  I think Hornby is an extreme example, however, and know he is compared to most crazies who follow the major sports in America. One interesting effect of the book is that it makes me want to watch soccer more regularly.

Saturday, July 1, 2017


Today-- I just discovered as I began to pay first of the month bills- is a palindrome.


Things like this amuse me.  I am not necessarily easily amused, but I am quirkily amused. For example, I like when the odometer hits a round number and occasionally will high five the air when I notice it.  I like peculiar number coincidences.  The other day I turned 67.67 and even posted a photo to mark the date (also graduated high school in 67 which makes the moment even more pleasing).  I once found myself attracted to a 1961 Mad Magazine cover because it made the case that 1961 was an upside down year. (Write it upside down and it still is 1961). Whenever the clock hits 10:22 (my birthday) I smile a bit

I imagine I might have lost out on some fulfilling relationships because I have expressed these interests to others.

So, today's date is a palindrome.  Like dad, or sis, or boob, or deed, it reads the same backwards and forwards.

As is my wont, I try to see metaphors in phenomena.  If we were to look at our lives, would it read the same way backwards and forwards.  Would we be able to trace our life from say 15 to 70 and it look pretty much the same from 70-15.  Would our patterns be the same. Sure our knowledge would change the more times we go around the track, but would our paths be the same.

Can you see who you are and what you did going thisaway, as it would be if you looked at it thataway?