Friday, April 25, 2008

Welcome Back, Granderson

After annihilating the Texas Rangers this week, the Tigers are creeping back toward respectability with a 10-13 record. It seems that you can't keep a 130 million dollar payroll down for long.

The biggest difference between how I feel about the Tigers today (cautiously optimistic) and the way that I did last week (moody, sullen, withdrawn) is the return of their lead-off hitter, and my personal favorite player, Curtis Granderson, one of the true good guys in sports (please stop me if I start sounding like Rick Reilly). According to the this story from the Grand Rapids Press, while he was rehabbing from a broken finger last week with the Tigers A ball team: "with some time on his mending hands, he called Grand Rapids Public Schools and offered to spend some time with students." He went on make an impromptu speech at a local assembly about what it takes to be get ahead, be successful, etc. to a bunch of thrilled middle-schoolers.

Here's a slightly shaky YouTube clip of Granderson hitting an inside-the-park home run last year that gives you some sense of the type of on the field excited that he creates with the Tigers:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Break from Politics

For at least two weeks, at least until North Carolina brings what will hopefully be some good news, I'm going to try and take a break from politics. I'm going to try and scale back my blog reading, going to refrain from reading the New York Times (as much), and I'm even going to scale back watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

It's all just too much, and here's the main reason why: THE. RACE. IS. OVER. It's been over since March 5th. Clinton cannot win without something way, way more catastrophic than the "Bitter/Cling" controversy or the Jeremiah Wright scandal, she just can't. She won't be able to catch up with Obama in terms of delegates, she won't even have a shot at total votes after North Carolina (even though that is a completely worthless statistic because numbers are considerably lower in states that have caucuses and thus paint an inaccurate picture), and there is just no way that downticket Superdelegates in places like South Dakota and Georgia will have to give Clinton the 70% + margin that she needs to overtake him the backroom way (and that's not even mentioning the fact that if she won this manner it would irrevocably damage the Democratic party in the eyes of African Americans, college age students, etc.).

So, what I really can't bear is two more weeks where people debate non-issues like whether or not the race is actually over. Nothing else is going to change except for more gaffes and "gotcha" moments that will continue to cost the Democrats votes they won't get back in the fall. Why am I subjecting myself so passionately to a race that's over? Why don't I just hang back for a few weeks and wait for Clinton to, inevitably, step down from her pursuit of the nomination? Seriously, what new developments could I learn at this point?

So, if you need me, I'll be in my bunker watching the NBA playoffs for, oh, the next 5 weeks or so...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hiphopopotamus vs Rhymenocerous

In anticipation of the release of the long-awaited Flight of the Conchords full-length cd, I thought I'd share the video for "Hiphopopotamus vs Rhymenocerous," a song that for weeks now I haven't been able to get out of my head. Like a lot of the best Flight of the Conchords songs, the music is actually deceptively pretty good and strikes just the right note of "white guy hop-hop" without actually looking down their nose at the genre (no human beat-boxes, for example).

Yeesh, three YouTube clips in a week? Does this mean I'm shifting from a Slate shill to a YouTube shill?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hello, I Must Be Going

Well, now that the apartment anxiety of the last few months is over and I'm two weeks away from being a Park Slope-ian (or South Slope-ian, if you want to split hairs. And why would you want to split hairs, man?) I'm finally starting to feel a little jaunty, a little sanguine, about this summer. As such, I thought I'd share a classic, cheerful old song from Groucho Marx.

This clip, from the movie Animal Crackers (thanks, Dewey!), was the moment that finally hooked me into to the hilarious, bizarre world of the Marx Brothers:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Art in the Open, Hidden

Has anyone else read Gene Weingarten's Washington Post story about world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell playing a Stradivarius while incognito in a rail-station in Washington, D.C.? Basically, Weingarten got Bell to agree to play for an hour in disguise as just an ordinary busker. The results, needless to say, were extremely surprising...

I have to admit, I was quite moved by this story. Although I think the reason has something to do with the way that we recognize (or, more often, fail to recognize) something beautiful even when it's right in front of us, what really got me were the stories of the few people who understand, even if only on some intuitive level, that what they were seeing was indeed something special and out of the ordinary. The fact that the people who stopped to watch don't fall into any specific set of racial, gender, or age categories makes me want to speak in flowery language about the power of art to transcend boundaries and reach people that don't even care to be reached, but I'll restrain myself. Still, good article. Well worth reading.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Little Bitter Myself

Seriously busy the last couple weeks with apartment-hunting and doing the work of two people at my job, hence the lack of frequent or substantial posts. Still, I've been thinking a lot about Obama's "bitter" problem and the presidential race in general, so here are some thoughts for the 3 people out there that might possibly be interested:

First, in case you haven't seen it yet, here's what Obama said at a fund raiser in California that got him in trouble:

"But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothings replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

1. A classic "Kinsley Gaffe" (once again: check out Kinsley's new essay collection and you won't be disappointed) if there ever was one. We can all agree that what he said has an air of truth behind it, can't we? If it weren't, would Republicans in every state be wasting their time with issues like distracting Gay Marriage bans that district voters from the Iraq war and the economy but don't actually make anyone's life any better? We all know that he shouldn't have said what he did the way that he did, but to pretend that what he said was completely untrue or out of line is to be willfully naive (or worse). Still, for someone that William Safire himself has noted for his gift for words, I can't believe that Obama would be so careless in his use of words like "bitter" and "cling" which have such strong and generally negatives connotations.

2. The fact that H Clinton has been trying to murder him on this the last few days proves just how dangerous it is for the Democrats the longer she stays in the race. There's absolutely no way that the 80% of the Superdelegates (or so) that she needs to win will break that dramatically in her favor at this point. In addition, there's almost no way that Obama won't win North Carolina big enough to make Pennsylvania a wash. And, though every possible indicator makes it seem like a foregone conclusion that she will lose, it looks like Clinton will most likely stick around long enough to not ultimately accomplish a lot more than spending millions and millions of dollars attacking Obama and hurting his general election chances for as long as she cares to. Do I sound bitter? I think I'm mostly just tired of it and bored with that fact that there's nothing new to follow except each new Clinton attack.

3. Aren't we all getting a sick of politicians (and Obama's camp is as bad as any other) getting so "outraged" and "insulted"and "shocked" when an opposing candidate phrases something the wrong way. Obviously, the gender and racial components have taken this kind of thing to another level during this presidential campaign. The problem with this new "scandal," is that, as Marc Ambinder points out on his Atlantic blog, the issue is one of elitism, and it's a bit of a stretch for people like McCain and Clinton to frame Obama against themselves as some sort of elitist outsider.

4. Regardless, what Obama did was merely a gaffe, not a scandal. Spitzer getting caught in a prostitution crackdown is a scandal. The Teapot Dome was a scandal. What Obama did doesn't really seem to me like anything more than a case of using the wrong words to describe a phenomena (i.e. the way many working class/lower class people vote against their best economic interests because of cultural issues) that we all know exists but, apparently, have to pretend doesn't.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Hillary Deathwatch

In my never-ending quest to be a total shill for Slate Magazine for no apparent reason (including telling my friends to check out the excellent new Michael Kinsley book), I thought I'd also include their "Hillary Clinton Deathwatch" on here as well.

Now, I hasten to add that I don't think this will be any sort of reliable indicator of when or if Clinton will actually leave the race. I'm pretty sure, for example, that their "Albert Gonzalez Resignation Meter" was up for about a year before they finally retired it (only then, of course, did he resign-maybe he just didn't want to give Slate the satisfaction?)

Anyway, here it is. For whatever dumb reason I've been checking this every day, and I thought by sharing it I could somewhat lesson my secret shame at doing so.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Noah & the Whale-Five Years Time

Thanks to the heads-up from the friend Emily, I got a chance to check out this YouTube video of "5 Years Time" by the Swedish band Noah and the Whale. It's a simple but completely irresistible little song which, if there's any justice (and, of course, there's no justice), will be one of the biggest songs of this summer. Is it ever possible to go wrong with a ukulele?

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Moth Podcast

Good news: The Moth reading series (a much-loved storytelling series hosted by the hilarious Jonathan Ames, the also-very-funny Andy Borowitz, and others) have begun to put some of their favorite readings out on a weekly podcast!

A couple of my favorites so far include Malcolm Gladwell reading a very funny (though perhaps not entirely true) story about shenanigans he undertook while as a writer for The Washington Post and Dan Kennedy (author of two of my five all-time favorite McSweeneys pieces) talking about his days as a corporate marketing exec (from his new, highly-recommended book Rock On).

At lunch today I finally got around to listening to Elna Baker's story "Yes Means Yes," about her attempt to reconcile her devout Mormonism with a desire to be with an atheist that she meets and falls for. It's hard to do justice to just how funny, sad, and sincere her fifteen minute reading is, but I'll just say that I'm still reeling from it two hours later (maybe because I'm a non-believer that has been on the other end of this situation more than once in my life?).

Anyway, if you like things that are good, things that are funny, and things that only last 15 minutes, you might want to check out this podcast series.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Salute to Forgotten Pistons

Head on over to the Pistons official website to see a very entertaining list of their various "All-Time" teams (thanks to Detroit Bad Boys for the heads-up). It was a bizarre pleasure to be reintroduced to Ratko Varda (a member of the "Ron Behangen All-Stars" for players that only made it into one game) and Bison Dele (a member of the "All-Teal" team from the ill-fated teams and uniforms of the mid-90's) among others. If you're a Pistons fan, it's a must read.

Quick sidenote: when did "official" websites get so good? Basically everything on the NBA's official website is solid, while the Major League Baseball website is an excellent place to go for radio and game-tracking. Am I crazy or were these terrible places to go for any information at all just a few years back?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What's on Your Shelf?

The New York Times Book Review ran a highly entertaining article last weekend about how much (or little) your book collection defines you in the eyes of others. There were parts of this article that were so obviously, occasionally embarrassingly, true for me (like not being able to date an Ayn Rand lover, chuckle chuckle) that I was alternately cringing and nodding my head in agreement the entire time I read it.

To this day, I find it impossible to resist trying to see what everyone on the subway is reading, though I'm not really sure what this knowledge of the reading habits of strangers accomplishes. I guess I occasionally get a feeling of superiority that last about .2 seconds, though usually it just makes me depressed that there are so many great and entertaining books out there and at least half of the books you see belong to J.K. Rowling or James Patterson. A depressing thought that I'll put off elaborating on until another post (lucky you).

I mean, you can call it snobbery, but a big part of why people like me can't help but judge other people's choices is simply that we really, really love books. We often work with them in some capacity (I'm an extreme case: I was a bookstore employee for many years before I was in publishing and even worked in a bookstore cafe in high school) and have a vested interest in seeing books treated with the same level of love and obsession that we have for them. I care about books the way that more wiser, more compassionate people care about, say, Darfur.

Although I used to think this was a pretty common point-of-view, this essay has forced me to consider that others (even other book lovers) may not feel quite so strongly. I don't want to be, after all, one of those High Fidelity you-are-what-you-like types and I don't think that I am about most things. I could date someone that watches American Idol. I could marry someone that loves country music. But I just don't know that I have it in me to date someone with a terrible/nonexistent taste in books.

Anyway, point being: I invest books with a lot of value and expect others (or, at least significant others) to do the same. I love movies, I love music, but I don't invest them with nearly the same level of value and I thus don't really care as much if my opinion differs with someone.

I guess in the end you choose what it is that you want to infuse with value. People might think that I infuse books with too much of it, but there are countless things that people care a hell of a lot about that I don't really understand. Doesn't, for example, this get at the same values and lifestyle choices that would make a person that values healthy eating and living want to stay away from an unkempt, picky eater like me? Like Sloane Crosley's quote near the end of the essay says:

“If you’re a person who loves Alice Munro and you’re going out with someone whose favorite book is ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ perhaps the flags of incompatibility were there prior to the big reveal.”

UPDATE: I just noticed that my friend Stephanie posted her take on this article yesterday-check it out.