Are You Ready For Some Baseball?

It’s that time of year again – and this time even more hope is springing eternal in the human breast. A full 162 game season of major league baseball is approaching!

Fans will be allowed in the stands – at limited capacity to start, certainly. But there will be games, and there will be fans present.

The season looks to be a real barn-burner (admittedly, that can be said about every season – but so what). The Dodgers have a really good chance at repeating as World Series Champions – though the Padres are going to have something to say about that. While the Yankees stand a good chance of ending their pennant drought, the Twins are hoping to just win a playoff game. The Pirates are hoping that Ke’Bryan Hayes will be enough of a reason for people to care about them.

Speaking of rookies, there’s the usual crop of young studs that bring excitement to every game they’re in. Juan Soto. Fernando Tatis Jr. Randy Arozarena. Francisco Lindor. Shohei Ohtani. And the veterans that are always worth watching. Are the Angels good enough to get Mike Trout to the playoffs? Can Jacob de Grom win a third Cy Young Award? How good will Clayton Kershaw be now that he’s off the “can’t win in the playoffs” schneid? Will the tweaked ball have any effect on Aaron Judge’s power output? When will Miguel Cabrera hit career home run number 500?

I suppose I should make some predictions, er, best guesses.

The Dodgers and Padres will fight to the last day of the season, but Los Angeles will emerge as division winners. The Braves will come out ahead in a crazy scramble in the NL East. No one cares about the mediocre NL Central. The depth on the Dodgers’ roster will enable them to return to the WS again.

In the AL, the Yankees and Twins will be the teams to beat – and they will face each other for the pennant. The Twins will have already ended their streak of playoff futility, but they will still lose to their October nemesis.

Dodgers and Yankees in the World Series is as far as I want to go here.

Anyway, I’m hoping I’ll be able to get to a game or three this year.

Play ball!

Movie Review: Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935)

When watching movies “of a certain age”, one has to keep in mind the old saw that “the past is a foreign country”. Social and cultural attitudes were quite different in the past, and those attitudes will be reflected on the silver screen. Not just the way people behaved in general (the casual smoking and drinking, for example), but the way people of other races were depicted.

The “Charlie Chan” movies were based on a character created by mystery writer Earl Derr Biggers, who was inspired by newspaper accounts of Chinese-Hawaiian police detective Chang Apana. Chan would appear in six novels, and became so popular that Hollywood would make over three dozen “Charlie Chan” movies.

In this particular film, Chan has been sent to Egypt by a French archaeological society to find out why goods from an excavation they’re sponsoring have been winding up in the hands of private collectors. This quickly turns into a multiple murder investigation, but for our purposes, there’s another question to investigate:

How many ethnic stereotypes can you cram into one movie, without pushing it over the line into blatant offensiveness?

Continue reading

Fixing the Olympics – II

Less than one year from now, Beijing is set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Needless to say, there’s much talk about boycotting them over China’s miserable human rights record.

There’s been the usual suggestion of a boycott, but we all know that doesn’t work. It only harms the athletes who don’t get to participate, and the host country gets to control the narrative as well as get bragging rights from winning all the medals.

Mitt Romney, who organized the Salt Lake City Olympics, so he has some experience in these things, suggest we should participate – but counter all the Chinese propaganda by telling and showing the truth about what they are doing in Hong Kong and with the Uighurs.

But that isn’t a permanent solution to the problem. The scale of hosting the Games means that more than likely, a totalitarian state that can ignore the cost will wind up as a host. Some suggest moving the Olympics to a permanent site, but that just places the costs onto a single country – and the same country every time.

There might be a better solution.

Spread the Games out.
Continue reading

Cancelling Characters

It started with the news media misreading a press release from Hasbro about the rebranding of one of their toys. Then an announcement from the publishers of the Dr. Seuss books that they would let a handful of the titles go out of print.

The right wing news media grabbed that and went bonkers over the libs “cancelling” childhood icons. They grabbed more fuel for their fire when Warner Brothers sent out some pre-release updates to the forthcoming remake of “Space Jam”.

Naturally, the general news media had to cover this “outrage”.

And now we’re forced to rehash the old arguments over offensive stereotypes and censorship.
Continue reading

It started with the news media misreading a press release from Hasbro about the rebranding of one of their toys. Then an announcement from the publishers of the Dr. Seuss books that they would let a handful of the titles go out of print.

The right wing news media grabbed that and went bonkers over the libs “cancelling” childhood icons. They grabbed more fuel for their fire when Warner Brothers sent out some pre-release updates to the forthcoming remake of “Space Jam”.

Naturally, the general news media had to cover this “outrage”.

And now we’re forced to rehash the old arguments over offensive stereotypes and censorship.
Continue reading

Happy Videos

Because we can always use something to make us feel good….

Matt Harding was a video game designer who decided he needed a break from making games were the goal was to kill things. So he traveled the world, and put together a clip reel of him doing a goofy little jig in interesting places. It went modestly viral, and was seen by someone at Stride Gum. They approached him with a marketing idea: “How about a second trip? We’ll deal with the logistics and permissions, you just be there and do that dance, and stick our logo in your video.” He agreed (hey, more travel to interesting places!), and that video went even MORE viral. Fans commented that they would have LOVED to dance with him if only they had known about it. So Harding asked the people at Stride if they’d be interested in sponsoring another trip – this time with other people dancing, and a blog where people could follow the journey. Stride said, “OK, sure!”

A few more videos followed. FIFA helped him make one for the World Cup in South Africa. He returned to game design, editing, and writing. Presumably, he and his family are doing fine.

It helps if you know how long Cubs fans have been waiting for this, but you don’t really have to know much about baseball to feel the sheer joy on display here. This has got to be the Best Reaction Video Ever. I double-dog-dare you to find a better one.

By the way, if there are any other videos (no cute animal ones, please; those are too easy) that you’d like to share, give the link in the comments – and I just might add it!

 

Overrated-Underrated: Medieval Battle

Warfare in Medieval Europe is a bit of an odd duck. Wars, such as they were, were rarely about acquiring territory or expanding the national geopolitical reach. Instead, they were more about personal or family politics, and ransoming prisoners. On the tactical level, things were barely and rarely more than massed frontal assaults. Most “armies” were around the size of a modern brigade, and forget about grand campaigns. It was more about who could get the most trained troops to the battlefield first. And there was rarely anything epic or glorious in the fighting.

But a few battles from that era still stand out – so of course some are overrated, and some are underrated.

Continue reading

Between the Dynasties

I was musing recently on World Series of years gone by. In the 1950s, it was all Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees, with a few interruptions from the New York Giants and Cleveland Indians. Then the Milwaukee Braves, with Henry Aaron, Eddie Matthews, and Warren Spahn came in for two years while the Dodgers and Giants were moving to California.

Then suddenly it’s the 1960s, and you’ve got the Mickey Mantle Yankees in their twilight, and the Bob Gibson Cardinals and Sandy Koufax Dodgers (with the Willie Mays & Willie McCovey Giants in a brief supporting role).

But there’s an interesting gap of three years in there – where three teams that almost always get left out of the discussion managed to win pennants while playing exciting baseball.
Continue reading

IOKIYAR

I don’t know how you’d pronounce it – perhaps “Eye-OWE-kay-arr” – but it’s an acronym for “It’s OK, If You’re A Republican”, and it seems to be the guiding ethical principle for today’s GOP. Any perceived offense or violation of ethics by a Democrat calls for immediate condemnation – at a minimum. But a similar or even greater offense by a Republican is of no consequence as long as the alleged offender is in good standing with the party.

A Democrat is found to have made a tasteless joke years before he entered politics? Sorry; he’ll have to resign. A Republican has many credible accusations of sexual assault in his history? Nothing to see here; he won’t do it again. The Democrat president’s son has just released a book? Even though the publisher bought the manuscript before Dad became president, that’s still nepotism! We must investigate! The Republican president puts several family members in high level positions, bypassing normal background security checks, and his son publishes a book? Meh, no big deal.

The best instance of this hypocrisy can be seen by comparing the responses to a pair of deadly attacks on government facilities.

Continue reading

Movie Review: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (UK, 1943)

“Colonel Blimp” was a comic character created by David Low in 1934 as a satirical depiction of the Old Fogey who, while sitting in his chair drinking brandy and puffing on a cigar, expounded on all the News of the Day, giving his considered opinion that he knew how to solve everything. Generally simplistic and often self-contradictory, his comments earned derision and the contemporary equivalent of a snarky “OK, Boomer” response. The great moviemaking team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger took the idea of the character, and turned it into the “Most British” of films, and, by humanizing him, one of the greatest character studies of all time.

We open with Major-General Clive Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey), an officer in the Home Guard (England’s “last ditch” defense force of retirees and the like), relaxing at a Turkish bath the evening before a set of war games / training exercise with another unit comprised of actual military troops representing the Germans. His bath is interrupted when the “German” forces “attack”. Complaining that the games aren’t supposed to start until midnight, Candy is told by the “German” officer that the real German forces don’t follow rules, so they need to be prepared at all times. After an angry exchange, Candy loudly gripes that they make fun of his appearance, but know nothing of how he got that way. He throws a punch at the officer, and they both fall into a pool. The camera slowly pans to the far end, as Candy’s voice slowly repeats the phrase “Forty years ago….” At the far end, the magic of film has brought us to 1902, and a younger Lieut. Candy emerges from the pool.

Continue reading

Nobody

So the results of this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame election have been announced, and we do not have a winner.

The leading candidates were Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling, each of whom has problems when it comes to the “Character Clause” that voters are asked to consider. They all fell short by a handful of votes; for obvious reasons.

I do not have a problem with the clause itself; what does irk me is how much people publicly agonize over their decision. “Oh, we can’t allow people who cheated in the Hall! What about players who, when they were active, were known to have or at least were widely suspected to have cheated and are already enshrined? What about the known racists in the Hall? What about the players who will appear on the next ballot?” I can understand why one might ask these questions, but do we really need to read about all your hair-pulling and kvetching?

Then there are those few who have said they aren’t going to vote in any future elections, because the Hall hasn’t given them any guidance on how to deal with this matter. Why are you telling us? If you have a problem, take it up with the BBWAA. You know, that organization of which you are a member and sends you a ballot every year? By the way, can you not trust your own judgment?

The “electorate” consists of nearly three hundred people. And an election does not have to be unanimous. One individual vote is rarely going to make a difference. We’re going for a consensus here.

So you can’t bring yourself to vote for someone who, on the basis of their record, clearly belongs, but has been a real schmuck off the field. OK, that’s fine. Don’t vote for them.

And by the way, it is also fine to change your mind about someone. Every year, once the results are announced, we read about players who increased or decreased their vote totals. You know what that means? People changed their minds! If no one ever did, no one would ever go “up” or “down” in the polling, and we’d only have to have people on the ballot once when they became eligible – instead of keeping them on for up to ten years.

I get that you want to treat the matter – and your vote – with seriousness. Good, you’re supposed to take it seriously (and not consult a Magic 8 Ball to help you decide). But this isn’t like partitioning India. Fill out your ballot, and don’t lose any sleep over it.