Waiting For Opening Day

Overall it’s been a pretty dull off-season for Major League Baseball. Not many “blockbuster” trades, and though there were two major free-agent signings, there are still a lot of good players available. It also seems like too many teams aren’t even trying to field a good team, which has pretty much preordained the results of the regular season.

What discussions there have been involved rule tweaks to make the game play less boring, and the upcoming financial negotiations as the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is set to expire in a few years.

Nothing is ever simple enough to be blamed on one single cause, but this writer thinks that the increasing prevalence of advanced metrics (launch angle, batting average on balls in play, etc.) is having a ripple effect throughout the sport.

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Movie Review: The Wages of Fear (France, 1953)

It isn’t an easy matter to take a movie to an international audience. There’s a lot that doesn’t translate across cultures. Comedy is often highly culturally specific. Romance depends a lot on social customs. Drama is a little easier to do, but it still has some problems.

Action and thrills, however, cross all borders. Explosions and monsters speak all languages. Is it any wonder that the biggest international box office successes these days are action & adventure flicks?

But even there, some things may still not translate very well across space and time.

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On the Green New Deal

The freshmen class of Democratic representatives (and one or two on the Republican side of the aisle) came up with this nice little legislative proposal to attack global warming head-on, and deal with a few other pet social and economic issues.

As a set of policy goals or a proposed platform, it’s a lot like Wilson’s Fourteen Points. As a detailed legislative package, well, it’s a lot like Wilson’s Fourteen Points….

And it doesn’t help that its backers, so far, seem to be adopting the tactic of browbeating the opposition until they cry “Uncle!” and give up. Hanging out in the halls of Congress harassing people isn’t going to win them over to your side. Yes, the matter is extremely urgent, but why not come up with a better approach – one that explains the dangers if we don’t do anything, gives some ideas about what will have to be done to avoid that fate, and makes the necessary steps more palatable?

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Feel the Bern

So Bernie Sanders has tossed his hat into the ring. In one day, he raised kajillions of dollars, and that was enough to make him the “front runner” in the primary campaign. Nevermind that fundraising does not directly correlate with votes, and that the first actual primary is a year away, his supporters from 2016 (perhaps “fans” or “acolytes” would be a better term) are rallying around the banner.

His campaign was questionable back then, and it has some questions now. This time around, because the circumstances are quite different, he’s got a few additional hurdles in the way. We’ll leave out the fact that he’s four years older….

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Book Review: Paradox Bound

Paradox Bound
Peter Clines
Crown Publishing Group
(c) 2017 by the author

If “Doctor Who” was American.

That’s about it.

Teenager Eli Teauge lives in Sanders, MA – basically “The Town That Time Forgot”. The town is stuck in the past. No cell phone towers, an actual video rental store…. After two encounters with a woman in a tricorn hat and a frock coat who is driving a modified Model A Ford, he winds up joining her at their third encounter. And they’re off on a rollicking ride through American history, searching for a magical McGuffin that’s supposed to allow its possessor the ability to change the destiny of the nation.

Yeah, pretty much an American “Doctor Who”. I did spot one direct reference to Doctor Who; there are probably more.

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Crimefighting Strategies for Bruce Wayne

I follow Hollywood news about as much as I follow what’s going on in the NFL (There was some sort important game this past weekend, wasn’t there?), so I have no clue on the ins and outs of studios and gossip. But I have seen headlines indicating that Ben Affleck no longer wishes to play Bruce Wayne / Batman.

So the studio controlling that particular franchise has to cast about looking for a replacement actor to wear the Batsuit. No doubt they will be considering the fees a new actor will demand, plus what the box office take can be expected to be given the new lead. Sure, some actors will be cheaper, but those are also likely to be the ones with less “pull” at the box office. It’s a standard thing called “return on investment”.

Speaking of which – and this is a really clumsy way to get to the main subject – what crimefighting results does Bruce Wayne get out of being Batman? How effective is being the Caped Crusader in reducing crime in Gotham?

How can he improve the return on his investment?

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To Be a Man

It’s hard not to notice that the news these days is filled with tales of Men (and Boys) Behaving Badly. Other items tell of Men being called out for having violated what is a current social norm some decades ago. Over the course a single lifetime (like my own), one sees that the entire social/cultural/legal relationship between the sexes has undergone a radical upheaval. Even the whole concept of “gender” has become fluid and variable.

I suspect that a lot of the problems with “Men These Days” is that they are having trouble coping with the new realities of their gender roles.

Most Men can handle it, naturally. But it still makes one wonder.

What is the role of Men in the 21st century?

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Unanimous

There isn’t as much blather about Mariano Rivera being the first player unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as I honestly expected. Partly because, I suppose, that it’s been expected for a few years that he’d at least be a “first ballot” nominee, and partly because, I hope, that there’s also been a growing realization that it’s not that big of a deal.

There’s always been some griping about the Hall’s voting procedures; and the Hall has tweaked them seemingly every five years or so. Not just recently, but throughout its history (the Hall’s own website covers the many changes in the voting rules for the BBWAA, and there’s a GREAT article on the various veterans committees here). In recent years, as the Hall has become more open in its election process, attention has been drawn to the fact that no one has ever been chosen unanimously in the standard ballot process. It’s been rightly believed that given all the popular pressure in the media that someone would eventually get the Magic 100%. The only question was who.

Now that it’s happened, Mariano Rivera will become the answer to another trivia question. Because it makes no difference how you get in to the Hall of Fame.

Rivera is just as much a Hall of Famer as Ralph Kiner (made it in by two votes in his last year of regular eligibility) and Ron Santo (selected by one of the Veteran’s Committees) and Roberto Clemente (special election) and Harold Baines (wtf?). There’s nothing on the plaques that indicates the player’s voting percentage; no special alcove for the “first ballot” selections. I suppose Rivera could add a little “100%” thing to the “HoF” that he now gets to put on his signature, but no one should care. It doesn’t make him any better or greater a player than any other Hall of Famer.

And we shouldn’t forget that three other players were chosen alongside him. Edgar Martinez, whose Double saved baseball in Seattle, Mike Mussina, whose excellence often went unacknowledged until we got to see the totality of his career; and Roy Halladay who threw a perfect game in 2010, and then no-hit the Reds in the NLDS that year on his way to his second Cy Young Award.

Rivera is still responsible for the Biggest Blown Save of All Time, though.

Book Review: Inseparable

Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous With American History
by Yunte Huang

Liveright Publishing Corporation
Copyright 2018 by the author

I doubt there are many people who haven’t heard of Chang and Eng Bunker, the “archetype” of Siamese Twins. There have been a few biographies of the pair, but this is the first I’ve come across. They led a fascinating and complex life, that just happened to coincide with a fascinating and complex era of American history.

Huang, who previously wrote a “biography” of Charlie Chan (in which he covered the lives of Werner Oland, the actor who first portrayed the character in film, Earl Biggers, who wrote the novels, and Chang Apana, the Honolulu policeman who was the inspiration for the character), applies his considerable skills to a real person – or is it real people? He barely touches on the conundrum of whether Chang and Eng should be considered one person or two. To be fair, I don’t think that question has an answer….

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Fixing the Senate

I’ve been reading a bit lately about a general dissatisfaction with the construction of the Senate. Seems people aren’t happy with the rule that gives every state, regardless of population, two senators. Such an arrangement gives a drastically unequal representation to the citizens of the states. Why should Wyoming have the same number of senators as California (to use the example most frequently cited) when they only have about one seventeenth of the population?

This would be a very strong argument – if it weren’t for one thing.

The Senate isn’t the only part of Congress.

There’s also the House of Representatives, which *does* have proportional representation.

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