Book Review: Floodpath

Floodpath: The Deadliest Man-Made Disaster of 20th-Century America and the Making of Modern Los Angeles
Jon Wilkman
Bloomsbury Press
(c) 2016 by the author

What Robert Moses was for New York City, William Mulholland was for Los Angeles. Both were immensely powerful and influential in their cities, despite not holding an elective office. Both earned their positions by being very hard working, and extremely good at their jobs. Both indelibly shaped their cites forever, both for good and for bad. But where Moses’ gradual fall from power was the result of a growing realization that his roadbuilding was no longer what New York needed, Mulholland’s fall happened literally overnight.

Documentarian Jon Wilkman has written another fine book on the collapse of the St Francis Dam outside Los Angeles, on the night of March 12-13, 1928. I say “another fine book” since this is not the first volume on the subject – but it is the first I’ve read. And it really is a very fine work.

The flood from the collapse of the dam blasted down the Santa Clara river valley, leaving millions of dollars in damage, and over 400 dead. It is one of the worst civil engineering disasters in US History – but is barely remembered outside California.

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Fighting the Good Fight

Seems that like the woman in the back at that Obama rally, everyone is “Fired Up! Ready to Go!

Hundreds of thousands of people have been attending rallies and demonstrations and protests. Congressional phones have been clogged with calls. And it’s been working. The House gave up on its plan to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics thanks to public outrage. Other House plans have been put on the back burner. Presidential appointments are facing a much tougher road to confirmation than expected. Members of the House of Representatives recently had a meeting to talk about how do deal with angry constituents when they go back home to their districts.

This is all very good, but one must keep up the pressure.

A few things to keep in mind….
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The World Series MVP – Before the Award – II

Going back over all the World Series like this reveals a few fun bits of trivia. For example, from 1919 through 1921, baseball tried out a best-of-seven series. The Cardinals had a pretty good dynasty in the early 40s.

But picking a World Series MVP like this can also be a bit frustrating. Which stats are important? Runs batted in are downplayed these days, as being more the result of opportunity than of talent. But what about the World Series, where every run scoring opportunity takes on vital importance? What do you do when (as in 1950), it’s a short series and no player stands out? How about when the best player is on the losing side? In 1944, George McQuinn led everyone with a .438 average, seven walks, and five runs batted in – but for the losing St Louis Browns….

I guarantee if I do this list again in a few months, I’ll pick an entirely different set of MVPs.
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The World Series MVP – Before the Award – I

It’s that time of year. After the Hall of Fame results have been announced, but well before Spring Training begins. There is practically nothing going on in the world of Baseball.

What’s a fan to do?

Back in 1995, SPORT magazine decided to give out an award to the player in the World Series who had the greatest impact on his team’s performance in the series. Johnny Podres won it that year, thanks to complete game wins in Games 2 and 7. It’s now decided by a group of broadcasters, sportswriters, and officials at the end of the last game, and the winner gets a new car in addition to the trophy.

But the World Series started in 1903. What if you went back and chose MVPs for all those earlier championships?

One could, thanks to the wonders of modern statistical analysis, simply choose the player with the greatest Win Probability Added, or some other goofy stat. That’s no fun at all. Here’s my entirely subjective list.

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Do We Give Him a Chance?

The thought has been bandied about that we should be a little lenient with our new President, especially since he has no political experience at all, and we should actually see what his policies are once he’s in office and not on the campaign trail.

New presidents usually get a “honeymoon” period of a few months while they settle in to office and the new Congress gets used to working together. They get to coast a little on the wave of optimism that swept them into office, and spend the political capital they earned on the campaign trail on pushing through the key items in their agenda.

But our new president takes office with historically awful approval ratings after an extremely close and contentious election, with clouds of scandal lurking over him.

Do we still give him a chance to at least try to be a good president?

Well…..

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BOOK REVIEW: Famous Works of Art – And How They Got That Way

Famous Works of Art – And How They Got That Way
John B. Nici
Rowman & Littlefield
Copyright 2015 by the author

Ask a hundred people what is the most famous or greatest work of art in the world, and ninety-nine of them will most likely say it’s the “Mona Lisa”. Ask them to explain why, and most of them will mumble something about the smile. Nothing about da Vinci’s technique or composition or anything else that one would usually expect to hear when discussing a masterpiece, just an opinion that they are no doubt parroting from someone else.

What is it that makes a famous work of art famous? Art historian John B. Nici has taken time out from teaching art history at Queens College in New York to delve into the matter. As often as not, Fame comes from things external to the artwork itself.
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2016 in Review

Well, I managed to keep this thing going for another year!

Sixty-five posts in all for 2016 – still better than one per week.

There were a total of 1,434 page views from 817 visitors (and 65 “Likes”)

The Most Viewed posts in 2016 were:

Movie Review: A Chinese Ghost Story (1987) 80
Expanding Major League Baseball – 2 75
Movie Review: Russian Ark (Russia, 2002) 39
Book Review: Mars Girl by Jeff Garrity 28
A Christmas Mix for You – 2016 23
A Holiday Message from Our Sponsor – 2015 23
Indiana Jones and the “Top Men” 20

If we just count the ones that I actually posted in 2016:

Expanding Major League Baseball – 2 75
A Christmas Mix for You – 2016 23
The Olympic Team to Root For 14
Movie Review: Killdozer (TV Movie, 1974) 13
Eurovision 2016 – The Predictions 12
On Donald Trump 10
Our Long National Nightmare 10
Book Review: The Book of the Dead 10

Of course, posts added late in the year (like “Our Long National Nightmare”) suffer a bit from not having enough time to collect views…..

The countries that got me the most visitors were:

United States 897
Brazil 131
Canada 74
Germany 59
United Kingdom 40
Italy 25
Australia 14
Indonesia
10

 

I have to wonder why I’m so popular in Brazil….

Can someone from that fine country leave a comment? Thanks!

Finishing Off 2016

Lately I’ve been reading occasional comments about how we should just trash all of 2016 as being a horrible, no good, very bad year. What with all the celebrities and pop culture icons dying, and all that. These complaints started appearing around the middle of November…. Interesting, to say the least…..

But anyway, we keep making this same complaint every year. That this past year was the absolute worst, and we need a global Do-Over. What a depressing hellhole we must be living in, if each succeding year is worse than all the ones before!

Look, there are a couple of things that I wish had turned out differently. A president-elect who actually showed a real interest in doing the job, for one.

But if you throw the entire year onto the trash heap, you throw out a couple of things that we really should keep.

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Another Holiday Message from our Sponsor

It’s probably the most unusual version of “Deck the Halls” you will hear.

La Senza is a Canadian-based lingerie company. Back in 2010, they wanted to make it known that they had garments in the larger, hard-to-find sizes. Their ad agency noticed that there was a correlation between cup sizes and musical notes….

The campaign – a video and website – was launched in the beginning of December, 2010. The website not only linked to the store so you could purchase the featured items, but had an interactive app where you could “play” and even record your own tune.

The video is below the jump; it’s a lingerie ad (YouTube has it as “age restricted”), so it’s probably Not Really Safe For Work.

Unless you work someplace sexy.

In which case, can I send you my resume?

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