Archive for November, 2011

I’m back!
November 29, 2011

My sojourn to Del Boca Vista was lovely, but now it’s time to get back to my very important work.

Um.

Oh! Here’s an amazing redub of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with voiceovers from Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Herman Cain.

Yes, that will do.

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Thou damned whale
November 18, 2011

This is Gregory Peck overacting as he stabs a giant animatronic whale.

Because, why not?

(the movie’s a favorite of mine, for what it’s worth (a lot))

Life’s small pleasures
November 17, 2011

Sometimes it’s catching a sunset over a watery horizon. Sometimes it’s hearing a newborn laugh hysterically at the simplest thing.

And sometimes it’s finding out that one dreary fall morning, Mike Francesa woke up, trudged into the bathroom, and accidentally brushed his teeth with diaper rash cream.

The Compendium of Hermantor Idiocy
November 16, 2011

Herman Cain is stupid, stupid man. Here are a few of his greatest hits:

Here’s Herman Cain asking how to speak “Cuban.”

Here’s Herman Cain quoting a “poem” which was in fact a song from the second Pokemon movie.

Here’s Herman Cain in a debate telling his opponent “you go first” because he doesn’t understand a question.

Here’s Herman Cain saying “women do it too” with regard to sexual harassment in the workplace.

Here’s Herman Cain dismissing countries he knows nothing about with the umbrella pseudonym “Uzbekibekibekibekistanstan.”

Here’s Herman Cain worrying that China, which has had nuclear capabilities since the sixties, is “trying to develop nuclear capability.”

Here’s Herman Cain not knowing what the Palestinian right of return is.

And finally, here’s Herman Cain simply struggling to produce a complete thought.

Bonus: Several more projected Herman Cain policies based on his favorite poetic works.

The long-awaited Occupy Wall Street post
November 15, 2011

will be written another day. 🙂

But for right now, I’d just like to take a moment to offer some much-needed, quite overdue advice to my many peers who disdainfully dismiss OWS as aimless and silly:

You need to shut up.

Know why? Because if an Occupier told you they stood for higher tax rates on capital gains, tighter oversight and regulation of credit default swaps, and an independent federal agency to rate the viability of collateralized debt obligations, you wouldn’t have a fucking clue as to what they’re talking about.

And that, friends, is why your thoughts on Occupy Wall Street are utterly worthless.

(Line of the Day is relevant here.)

Tom Brady fail
November 8, 2011

Gotta love it.

The Art of Fielding
November 5, 2011

“The shortstop is a source of stillness at the center of the defense. He projects this stillness and his teammates respond.”

So reads one of the many epigrams from The Art of Fielding by legendary shortstop Aparicio Rodriguez. Which is not the book referred to in the title of this post, but rather a fictional instructive pamphlet that’s become a sacred text for the college ballplayers portrayed in The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, which is the book referred to in the title of this post. Said book had its rights won by a publisher in a highly publicized bidding war for north of $600,000, a fairly outrageous sum for a first-time author. Said book thus arrived in September with a ton of hype behind it.

Said book is brilliant.

The Art of Fielding is about baseball the way Moby-Dick was about a whale. It’s author chose an area of interest dear to him and used it as a framework for exploring the human condition, the same as Melville did with his whaling opus. Which isn’t at all to say that the baseball stuff is irrelevant or poorly thought-out. It’s thrilling and illuminating, just as the hunt and battles with The Whale were. It’s just not The Big Idea of the book.

Shortstop is routinely (and correctly) described as the hardest position on the diamond to field. A shortstop must make split-second decisions once a ball is put in play – should I charge it or give way? Set and plant my feet or flick it across my body? Go for the lead runner at second or take the surer out at first? Make the throw and let the sliding runner upend me or hold onto it and get out of the way?

Henry Skrimshander is a skinny, socially reticent nothing who can’t hit a lick, but he’s an absolute prodigy at the shortstop position. Mike Schwartz, the gregarious lumberjack of a catcher for the woeful Westish College Harpooners (there’s Moby-Dick again) takes him under his wing. He gets him into his school, onto the baseball team, and onto the MLB scouts’ radar. Under Schwartz’s tutelage, Henry blossoms into a legitimate prospect, with a bat that’s nearly a match for his glove. The Harpooners start winning for the first time in forever. Henry’s told by scouts he could go in the draft as high as the third round.

And then he forgets how to throw.

It comes on the day he’s set to tie his hero Aparicio’s record for consecutive errorless games. He makes an error that day, but to call it an error would be the understatement of a lifetime – he nails a teammate in the dugout in the face with a throw. Puts him in the hospital. After that fateful throw, this once machine-like fielder with a bazooka for an arm has trouble with even the most routine of tosses. He thinks too much, clutches one time too many, plays out too many possible permutations in his head. He’s just plain lost it.

Harbach’s depiction of a kid who’s just lost the one attribute that made him special is heartrendingly empathetic. His prose and dialogue offer such clarity, such insight, such this-is-a-real-person-ness that it became for me not a fictional portrait of a condition that’s famously bedeviled Chuck Knoblauch and Rick Ankiel, but a genuinely profound image of the frailty of humanity. A truly authentic and enlightening look at what lies beneath; not so common, is it?

Henry’s ill-aimed throw hits his teammate and friend Owen, an impossibly likeable character and the antithesis of a stereotypical athlete. This is someone who sits on the bench with a reading lamp, devouring Thoreau or Emerson, and when called to bat will calmly, serenely slash a double down the line, coasting with a graceful gait into second. Drive him in and he’ll tell you, without a hint of pretension, that “You are skilled. I exhort you.” His teammates call him the Buddha.

Owen becomes the object of desire, in a not-at-all crass way, for college President Affenlight (another absurdly endearing character). Their relationship will become intriguing, unpredictable, multifaceted and, above all, tender. It’s a word that’s often used and almost as often used inappropriately. To develop a romance that isn’t cliche and cloying but genuinely heartfelt – this is one of the more distant stars for an author to reach for. Harbach completely, and gently, closes his hand around it.

Gentle and complete – that may well be the best shorthand for speaking of Harbach’s novel. It is so fully-formed, its characters so well-realized, its narrative’s unfolding so elegant. It’s about so much, more than I can cover here, more than anyone not named Chad Harbach and not writing The Art of Fielding could cover. Do you charge and barehand that slow roller up the line, or just put it in your pocket? Do you try a spectacular diving catch, or play the ball on a hop? Do you take the easy out, or go for the improbable double play? That’s not just the life of a shortstop – that’s life. And that, for 528 sublime pages, is The Art of Fielding.

I rarely struggle with determining whether a book is truly great, and it’s because I have a tried-and-true personal indicator: at or around the midpoint am I both eager for and dreading the book’s end? Am I obsessively powering toward the conclusion and then, upon noticing that the pages on the right are dwindling into nonexistance, am I consciously slowing myself down, and savoring every last word? And when I’ve hit that last line, do my eyes linger on its text as my mind lingers on its finality, and do I slowly look up and know that, should I grab a mirror, my reflection would betray something I hardly ever feel: honest to god reverence.

Well. By that fundamental test of greatness, The Art of Fielding is a goddamned masterpiece.

Mr. Harbach, you are skilled. And I exhort you.

Mmm, sacrilicious
November 2, 2011

A critic rips beatified celluloid:

Awash with mixed messages and a disturbing sanctimony (bearing in mind there’s nothing wrong with rape/revenge flicks unless the victim is positioned as a saint/saviour unsullied by his/her debasement and fury), The Shawshank Redemption has earned its loyal following with its ability to know exactly which buttons to push in these United States… What are the lessons learned by The Shawshank Redemption but that a film with neither nuance nor irony, a film shot in brilliant colour but cast in black and white, is easier to love than a film that challenges with complicated characters making the best of a complicated situation?

I don’t go crazy for Shawshank the way, well, seemingly everyone does, but I’ve certainly enjoyed it the few times I’ve seen it. Even so, I found this writeup to be full of thought-provoking ideas, and it’s certainly well-written. The author makes a very compelling case for the film as an insidious, uniquiely American theoconservative retelling of the Christ myth.

Well worth a read, whatever your thoughts on Shawshank.