On the 2022 World Series

Well, that was a set of games. At least, in the opinion of this writer, the “proper” result was achieved. I really don’t think it would have been “right” for the team with the worst regular season record of all the playoff teams – one that could only finish third in their division – to have won the Championship. Yes, the Phillies showed that they can compete with the best. But does that make them The Best?

One of the things that annoyed me quite a bit about the coverage was the very frequent mention that this was the Phillies’ first World Series appearance in thirteen years, as if that was somehow a huge “drought”.

Well, you know which teams are in a longer “drought”? Here they are, with the last time they appeared in a World Series:

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MOVIE REVIEW: Viy (USSR, 1967)

It’s Spring Break at the seminary! The wannabe monks are being set free for a spell; this means that they’ll proceed to prank the locals and (lightly) sexually harass whatever women come within reach.

Khoma (Leonid Kuravlyov), one of these prospective monks, finds that he and his friends have wandered too far away from town when night falls to find a decent bed. A farmhouse inhabited by an old woman provides some shelter, but he’s forced to bed down for the night in the barn. Eh, presumably he’s had worse accommodations. His rest is interrupted by a visit from the old woman, who it appears wants to do a little sexual harassment of her own. Well, Khoma isn’t having any of it, but she won’t take no for an answer. She turns out to be a witch, and casts a spell of him that stiffens him, allowing her to ride him around all night long. Wait, get your mind out of the gutter. What were you thinking? She forces him to carry her on his shoulders while flying around the countryside.

After finally landing, Khoma is freed from her spell. He promptly whacks the magic out of her, revealing her true form as a lovely young woman (Natalya Varley). Why she needed to disguise herself to get men to do her bidding is left unsaid. Khoma flees the scene, leaving the unconscious woman behind.

Little does he know his problems have just begun.

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The Little Old Local Cemetery

It’s the time of year when people turn to ghost stories and hauntings and graveyards and all that. There is a small – about ¾ of an acre – graveyard not too far from where I live. It’s old, too. And run down, of course. Perhaps there are some stories about it?

At the very least, a little exploration ought to result in a blog post…

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Book Review: The Baseball 100

The Baseball 100
Joe Posnanski
Avid Reader Press
Copyright 2021 by the author

It started out as a project on his personal blog. Essays on who longtime baseball writer Joe Posnanski felt were the 100 greatest baseball players of all time. He never got around to finishing it. Then, when he moved over to The Athletic, he started the list again. This time, presumably because he the site was paying for his contributions, he finished it. Along the way, commenter after commenter begged him to collect them all into a book. Many said they’d buy it whatever the price.

A little hesitant, Posnanski wasn’t sure people a book that merely collected his online essays would sell. He gave in, and a publisher was found. Another writer and baseball fan, George F. Will, heard about the book and demanded to write the introduction.

The book was an instant success, rocketing to the top of the charts.

How could a simple collection of biographical essays (with minimal photographs and about as plain a cover as you can imagine) on great baseball players become a best seller? Continue reading

The New Playoff Format

On the off chance that you, as a baseball fan, haven’t been paying attention, Major League Baseball is going with an expanded playoff format this year. Six teams from each league will be fighting it out; the two division winners in each league with the best records will sit out the first round of playoffs while the other four battle it out in best-of-three series for the opportunity to face them in the second round.

Here’s how the “seeding” works:

1st seed: Division winner with the best overall record.
2nd seed: Division winner with the next best record.
3rd seed: Division winner with the third best record.
4th, 5th, and 6th seeds: Non-division winners with the three best overall records.

There are a bunch of rules in place to prevent the need for tiebreaking games.

In the first round, the third and sixth seeds play each other, as do the fourth and fifth seeds. In the next round, the winner in that first series (3 vs 6) will play the second seed; the winner in the other series (4 vs 5) will play the first seed.

Pretty complicated, isn’t it. It will get worse should MLB decide to expand the playoffs to seven teams per league, as some are speculating.

Anyway, it is always useful when there’s a format change like this to hop back in time and see what the playoffs would have looked like if these rules were in place at the time…

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Gate (1987)

It was a dark and stormy night in Nameless Suburban Town. In the midst of some unsettling dreams, a bolt of lightning takes out the tree in the backyard of Glen’s (Stephen Dorff) home. The next day, the removal of the now-dead tree reveals a rather large hole in the ground. Well, dealing with it will have to wait. Glen’s parents are heading out of town for the weekend, leaving his older sister Alexandra “Al” (Christa Denton) in charge. A large panel of wood is placed over the hole, and strict instructions are given to NOT go in and poke around.

Well, try telling unsupervised teens that they can’t do something. Glen and his friend Terry (Louis Tripp) poke around in the hole. While digging out a large geode, Glen cuts himself on a splinter of wood. A few drops of blood fall into the hole – can’t be anything significant, right?

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Pandemic to Endemic

So it seems President Biden caused quite the stir when he said in his 60 Minutes interview that the COVID pandemic was over. Quite a few people – medical professionals and infectious disease experts included – disagree with him, and warn that COVID is still around, and that there’s still plenty of potential for new and dangerous variants to pop up.

Well, they’re right.

But so is President Biden.

The pandemic phase is over, and we’ve shifted into the endemic phase.

The time for containment is over. COVID is everywhere; there’s no justification in shutting schools and closing businesses. Nor is there much point in requiring masks or proof of vaccination. By now, everyone who is going to get the vaccine (and the boosters) has done so. And no one is going to tolerate masking up when they don’t have to. Our health care system can handle the current case load, and there are a number of good treatments should someone catch the disease. We can even scale back some of the emergency economic measures, too.

Yes, COVID is still around. It’s still killing people. People should still get booster vaccines as they become available, and put on a mask if they’re going into a health care facility of any kind (or if they want to, just in case). Yes, those who have “long COVID” will need the requisite long term care; that’s something that can be dealt with as it comes up.

BUT.

We can handle it. COVID isn’t scaring anyone any more. It’s time to shift from a preventive strategy to a mitigation one.

Enough panicking – it’s pointless.

Chicago – 8

A couple of leftovers to wrap this up.

I’d forgotten to include this in my comments on Wrigley Field, so here it is. The fans have a thing called “Moundball”, where they make a friendly wager on whether or not the ball will come to a stop on the pitching mound when the home plate umpire tosses it there at the end of a half-inning. It all seems to be in fun; I didn’t catch any actual betting. A good thing, no doubt; I’d hate to see the sports gambling sites start to take wagers on it.

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Chicago – 7

One could quite easily call the stretch of South Michigan Avenue from East Adams Street to the Chicago River “Museum Row”, since there are a couple of cool museums and attractions there, all north of the Art Institute.

The first stop is the Cultural Center, between Washington and Randolph Streets. The building used to be the city’s public library, but got converted into an all-purpose arts and culture facility in the 1990s. It hosts a wide assortment of lectures, film screenings, workshops, and performances – all free to the general public. There wasn’t much happening when I visited, and it seemed like a lot of the rooms were under renovation, since many places were closed off. However, the “holy crap, that’s awesome” highlights were still open. Continue reading

Chicago – 6

The Art Institute of Chicago is much easier to get to – it’s right there on Michigan Avenue. When I went, there was actually a small crowd waiting to get in. Seems they don’t open to the general public until 11 am (one hour after they let Members in), so there’s time to hang around if, er, when you get there early. Fortunately, it’s just south of Millennium Park and just north of Grant Park, so it’s a nice place to stroll around while the clock ticks.

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