Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Only In America...

...can citizens run up a massive debt and go to jail while the government runs a nine trillion dollar deficit and complain that they need to spend more!

I heard on the radio yesterday that even if you spent $100 per second, it would take 2,900 years to spend 9 trillion dollars. Unreal.

Here's an idea - stop spending! Or does that make too much sense? Allow me to introduce the Lattanzi Corollary to Murphy's Law. Murphy's Law says that anything that can go wrong will. The Lattanzi Corollary says that precisely because something makes sense, it won't ever happen or be done.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Your Government At Work

1200 Veterans Get False ALS Scare (Breitbart)

The Veterans Administration (VA) accidentally sent out 1200 letters to unsuspecting vets telling them they had Lou Gehrig's Disease. A coding error was blamed for the letters.

Technology is a blessing and a curse, but someone needs to be fired over this. This is what certain politicians want more of - more government intervention and control. Why? So more events like this happen?

M*A*S*H Issues - Projection

A problem whenever a period show is being made is in attempting to make it as authentic and as true to that period as possible. An extremely good example of a well-done period piece is a film like The Godfather - the cars, the clothing, the storefronts, the music, and so forth. M*A*S*H, made between 1972 and 1983, was no exception in having to deal with the issues of what life was like in the early 1950's.

That being said, the issue of projection rears its ugly head from time to time. It isn't a constant feature on the series, thankfully, or else the show could not be considered 'period'. Ironically, the original film was specifically made to be a projection of the Vietnam era onto Korea. Robert Altman wanted an anti-war film that used Korea to show his opposition to the then-current Vietnam War, and the show started a little bit in that vein; quite easy because 1972-75 was still in the Vietnam era. That in itself isn't the concern, but certain other trends become more apparent.

The largest example that I find is the idea of the 'liberated' person. There is no greater example in M*A*S*H than the chracter of Margaret Houlihan. 'Liberation' was a running theme of shows in the 1970's, especially in regard to women and their sexuality. It was definitely NOT a theme of the early 1950's culture, when sex, while thoroughly practiced, was not discussed in any respectable circles and attempts to hide it were much more prevalent. A large part of the responsibility for this projection rests in Alan Alda, who moved around attempting to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed in the late 1970's and early 1980's. The tangent theme to the 'liberation' is the 'stupid/evil man'. This was explored in the divorce and 'empowerment' of Margaret in Seasons 6-8. Margaret's husband (Donald Penobscott) and various other men (Sgt. Jack Scully, General Lyle Weiskopf, etc.) will not stand in the way of Margaret 'finding her [true] self'.

Some people complain about the clothes and hairstyles, but I find those to be more minor. If a show is being made in 1979 but set in 1951, attempts should be made to be as realistic as possible. However, if it falls a little short here and there, a huge fuss should not be made. The bigger overarching issues do need to be taken head on, such as the one discussed above. It's one thing to try and give a morality tale; it's another to completely disregard the ostensible time period and beat the audience over the head with 'preachiness', which in itself is a posting for another time.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pete Rose - Never to Cooperstown

Sportscenter is running a story about whether or not Pete Rose belongs in the National Baseball of Fame. It's a story that usually appears a couple of times per year - 1) when the new Hall of Fame class is announced (January) and 2) Induction Weekend (late July/Early August). The story interviews both the pro and con positions, including Mike Schmidt, Joe Morgan, and Fay Vincent. As a lifelong Phillies fan, I appreciate what Rose did for the franchise, and the first article of Phillies clothing I wore as a baby was a Pete Rose onesy. However, despite all of this, I still land squarely on the con side of the question of whether Peter Edward Rose belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I wasn't always against it; I was for it younger because my parents were (and still are) for it. I guess you could apply the John Kerry 'I was for it before I was against it' status, but it has been a long development as to how I came to be against Rose's induction. First and foremost, Pete Rose violated one of the most basic rules of baseball - one that hangs in large letters in all baseball clubhouses:
Rule 21(d):BETTING ON BALL GAMES. Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year.

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.

That is pretty clear, isn't it? The Hall of Fame prohibits people on the ineligible list from being enshrined. Why would Rose sign off on a permanent ban if he was innocent? It's much like why Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Mark McGwire haven't sued anyone for 'defamation of character' - bringing everything up messes with their stories of denial. Pete Rose would have been completely exposed had a full and open investigation been done in 1989 and 1990, not that the Dowd Report didn't already do such a thing.

Secondly, Rose is a liar, through and through. America is a forgiving society, but not when it comes to lying. Remember the key lesson - not the crime, it's the coverup. Pete Rose lied for well over a decade that he never bet on baseball, then crassly admitted it in order to sell a book: My Prison Without Bars. Why should people believe anything that comes out of his mouth? The Baseball Hall of Fame is one organization that specifically lists integrity as part of its criteria.

Now, before anyone screams foul and points out the charlatans and jerks who are in the Hall, let me point out that I find those to be non-sequiturs. If Pete Rose were merely a philanderer and a horrible father (which he was), then he'd be in. But he went beyond that and violated the integrity of the game, gambling on games as a manager that he had the ability to fix. That's a problem! We like to think our sports are pure, but if your team's manager is running a bookmaking operation out of his office with the ability to influence the outcome just to make a few bucks, where's the fun or the integrity in that?

It's a sad story, because he didn't have to do it. He certainly didn't need the money, but as many pointed out, his competitiveness became his Achilles' heel. I feel bad for him, but not to the extent that I feel he has 'been punished enough' (as Mike Schmidt recently said). No, I don't want him to rot in hell or anything like that, but I do believe he is not Hall of Fame worthy, and I hope that he doesn't get in just because people feel sorry for him that he is getting older. The punishment is just, and it needs to remain.

On Spinoffs and Television 'Universes'

One of the main features of television programming through the 1990's was that of the spinoff - where a character from one show would get his own show as the star. Some of the most famous shows were in fact, spinoffs - such as Laverne and Shirley (from Happy Days) and Frasier (from Cheers). Contrary to the opinion of some, even the flimsiest of reasons can be given to spinoff a show - Family Matters was spun off with the Harriette Winslow character; she had been the elevator operator for the newspaper building in Perfect Strangers. Sometimes even the spunoff character doesn't last, as in A Different World when Denise Huxtable goes right on back to New York in The Cosby Show.

Universes, on the other hand, are a little trickier, but it works like this: if there are any crossover episodes, or perhaps when even a character goes to another show, it becomes part of the 'universe'. Spinoffs are automatically included in any universe as well. The character of Steve Urkel, despite being in Family Matters, made appearances on Step By Step and Full House. Thus, those shows become part of the Family Matters universe, which itself is in the Perfect Strangers universe. Some crossovers are ridiculous, but still constitute a universe. Modern day television universes include Law and Order, which has six titled shows plus Homicide: Life on the Street, Convicted, and In Plain Sight. Another universe is CSI, which has three titled shows plus Cold Case, Without A Trace, and even Two and a Half Men.

It is a strange development within television, to be sure, but it also provides a lot of useless fun for its fans to figure out and provides fodder for arguments, which ended up being the cause of this very post. Wikipedia has a list (albeit incomplete) of spinoffs here, just for your own enjoyment.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Late August, Which Means...

...it's hot as hell, school is about to start, and the Little League World Series is upon us.

As I sit here in the sweltering heat, I have decided to contemplate the LLWS, in all of its grandiosity and just marvel at some of the stupidity of the television coverage.

The pitch counts are just as bad in Little League as they are in the Majors, but with one caveat - I can at least understand why you would want to hold off developing arms from high pitch counts, but a scorched earth policy benefits no one and harms everyone.

What is up with ESPN's 'MLB Equivalent' speed radar? Whenever a kid throws a pitch about 70 miles per hour, a little tab pops up showing what it would be if the kid was a Major League pitcher. Here's clue: he isn't a ML pitcher, so stop trying to project. 70 MPH is 70 MPH, regardless of the distance. I get it - it's really about reaction time for the hitter, but let's can the nonsense of 'potential speed' - it's a completely made up number like heat index or wind chill.

I liked the days when the umpires wore cameras on their heads to show a different view. Now, they just show from a K-Zone point of view, directly over the pitcher in a straight line to the plate. Oh God, now I sound like one of those old farts that I complain about. Yeesh.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Random Questions While Watching TV...

Why didn't the creators of The Golden Girls ever try to make Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty a little more, well, Sicilian in their appearance?

Why doesn't ESPN feature Sage Steele more prominently on their news programming? She obviously knows her stuff very well, more so than many other Sportscenter anchors.

Why can't Skip Bayless just shut up for 10 seconds?

Why does Drew Carey never wear a tie on The Price is Right, or never even feign real excitement on set?

Why did the writers on Full House mess up a good thing? The middle seasons (from about 1990-1993) were the best and devolved into Jesse/Michelle all the time.

Why do commercials talk in euphemisms about feminine issues, except for the Activia commercials that deal somewhat frankly about constipation?

Why did Dick Clark so condescendingly try to give clues to winner's circle contestants on the $25,000/$100,000 Pyramid, as if it should have been sooooooo obvious?

Where have all the cool game shows gone? Deal or No Deal, Trivial Pursuit, and Millionaire just don't quite have the same effect as Let's Make A Deal, Match Game, Password, or $25,000 Pyramid. Celebrity panels rule.

Is anyone else creeped out by the commercial of the woman sucking through a container of yogurt in the aisle?

Did anyone know that there is now a Hannah Montana PSP Pack?

What woman since June Cleaver vacuums with a dress and heels on, besides in an Oreck commercial?

No Plaxico For the Eagles

There had been whispers that the Eagles were looking into signing Plaxico Burress at the behest of Donovan McNabb and his call for 'playmakers'. Guess that won't be happening now, as Burress pleaded guilty to the weapons charges in New York.

I still feel that this is very much a 'crime' of stupidity - in other words, it isn't against the law to be a moron, but Burress got caught. However, the powers that be in New York have decided that they want to 'make an example' of Burress more than anything else. It's the price he has to pay - two years in prison, with the possibility of it being 20 months with good behavior, as well as two months of 'supervised release'. It could be worse, I suppose, but then, if Burress had been smart and not carried a gun into a club in his sweatpants and not accidentally shot himself, we wouldn't be talking about this now, would we?

(Image from Sports Illustrated)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Life Beyond Parody

The MCJ has a post demonstrating the absurdity of some Episcopalians, and it absolutely reminded me of an incident I had with a parent at a back-to-school night. Chris Johnson, the blogmaster of The MCJ, opines that the following comment would make a great epitaph for what he calls 'The Episcopal Organization':
I raised my daughter in the Episcopal Church so she would learn the traditions of our ancestors, not so she would become a believing Christian.
It is a sad, but amusing line; completely in line with the trends that have been the downfall of the Episcopal Church, as people like Mr. Johnson and others have documented so well over the years.

Anyway, in my second year of teaching, at back to school night, I was explaining the course (which was a year-long study of Scripture) and going through the points of emphasis within the course. A woman raises her hand and interrupts me: 'uh, *professor* (just imagine the sneering in her tone), I am concerned that you are going to teach that fundamentalist stuff here. You see, we are Episcopalians, we don't really believe in anything.'

I almost gagged at that point. I think I know what she wanted or meant to say, but I also think it was a Freudian slip. To this day, it is honestly the only clear memory of any back to school night I have had.

ESPN Baseball Tonight

Yes, I am speaking about the video game, rather than its namesake that appears on the four-letter network every night at 10 PM. As a kid, it was one of my favorites, even though it is quite possibly the most unrealistic 'simulation' baseball game ever created. It was great when I was 11 (I'm 27 now), but I find it to be pretty amusing still.

Set Up

The game was made sometime in late 1993/early 1994, and players have the option of either a 2 division or 3 division league - there are no regular seasons to be played; only single exhibitions and playoffs, and so the division alignments make the difference as to whether you play a division series and LCS, or just the latter. The flaw is that you get to pick your opponents. Theoretically, you could be the Braves representing the then-NL West and play against the expansion Marlins and beat them to a pulp.

Game Play

It is remarkably simple to play on the Sega Genesis - A for pitch, A for swing with the D-Pad being used to guide the pitch or whether you swing up or down. It's the fielding and playing view that can be absolutely maddening. Sometimes the ball is hit so hard that you only know the general direction in which it goes. On any fly ball a shadow will indicate where the ball will land, but it isn't always clear which fielder will get it, either. Realism isn't this game's best friend by any stretch. Any ball hit to the right fielder or directly to the center fielder can be thrown to the first baseman for an out. Triples don't occur at all, and home runs can be hit by anyone at any time regardless of whether they have 500 career homers or 5.


Being part of the ESPN platform, it uses Chris Berman as the introducer - canned speech, and because so many home runs are hit, it will feel like the Derby in July - 'Back Back Back Back...Gone!' incessantly. It has Dan Patrick saying 'the whiff' whenever someone strikes out swinging. It also contains a home run derby function - 15 pitches, and I even hit 11 with an American League pitcher! Again, realism is not ESPN BBTN's friend.

Yet, I love it. I am in the World Series (as the Phillies, of course) against the A's, and am winning the series 3 games to none at this point. The game itself is MLB licensed, but not MLBPA licensed. Ergo, it has the teams and numbers of the players, but not names or likenesses of the players. I have won games 5-1, and 27-10. I can pitch Curt Schilling in every game and never get tired or hurt. In this day of uber-realistic games like MLB: The Show, ESPN BBTN is just a fun throwback to play and have a good time remembering when Chris Berman wasn't a self-righteous, narcissistic piece of sh*t.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Frustration

Per the last post, I guess I am overly frustrated at how much all of this hoopla surrounding the Favre 'saga' is media generated. One could almost guess that if ESPN and others didn't send out reporters to cover every bowel movement of Favre, none of this would be going on. Maybe Favre is narcissistic enough to think that he should be able to control an entire news cycle in the sports media.

Let me perfectly clear (channeling my inner Obama) - Brett Favre has never been a favorite of mine. Yes, he was a great player at one point (1994-2001), but that time has passed, and a lot of his butt-boys covered for his every mistake (John Madden - I am looking at YOU). I want his Hall of Fame presentation to include the following:

6 Interceptions in a playoff game
Career leader in interceptions
Complete choke jobs in at least two playoff games ('03 Divisionals, '07 NFC Title)
Most overrated QB of his era

None of this will happen, but I can hope, right. Although, if he keeps playing, he'll never make the Hall of Fame...hmmmmm.

(Photo from New York Post)

Brett Favre.....Again

I wish Brett Favre would go away, and I wish someone would take out his kneecaps during the first week of the season, a la Tom Brady last year - it would be even a better story if his own new Viking teammates would be the one to do it.

If Favre needs the attention so badly, give him a friggin' mirror!

Water Is Wet...Pope Is Catholic...

...and Twitter is found to be a bastion of useless messages (Breitbart).

I find it amazing that they had to do a study to figure out that 40% of all Tweets are useless minutiae of life? I would venture that it is more, but since they were doing a statistical analysis, we'll go with the 40%, which does not even include the self-promotion (6%) or the spam (4%).

Only in America.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Japanese Boost

The Financial Times has published a piece demonstrating that the US Government's 'Cash for Clunkers' program has been a bigger boon for Toyota, with three Toyota models being in the top five sold. Some American car makers have benefited, as was intended, but the Japanese makers have far outdone, and there is a reason why.

Japanese cars are better. Now, we own two Saturns, but I would put up my old mint-green Mazda Protege' (with its 196,000 miles at the point of 'death') up against either of the Saturns and the Missus would put up her old piece of sh*t Subaru station wagon ('Granny', it was called) over those as well. We like our Saturns, but ultimately, the quality are below those of the traditional Japanese makers - Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Subaru.

When it comes time to buy a new car, we are avoiding the American makers through and through. Certainly, there will not be any purchase of a GM or Chrysler automobile. I had entertained the idea of buying a Ford because it has been able to sustain without corporate welfare, but thought better of it because its cars just don't stand up to the better models from the Japanese makers, or even Korean makers like Hyundai. If all of this is blasphemy for you, then just call me a heretic and be done with it. I have always found it to be stupid that people would buy a particular car just because it was 'made in America', without regard to how well it was constructed or the efficiency of it.

An Interesting Question

Adam V. puts forth this question about the characters of M*A*S*H:
Given the age of the doctors and such, why weren't any of them drafted in WWII [as regular soldiers]?
My best guess would be that many of them were in college at the time and thus got deferrals from the draft. Consider the fact that most people didn't attend college at all prior to the end of that particular war (with the G.I. Bill), and so there would be a need to protect certain people to make sure that particular professions would go on - unlike, say, during the Vietnam era when people would go into college/grad school specifically to avoid the draft.

My alternate theory is that the creators and writers of the show didn't even bother considering this point and therefore 1950 is the starting point of history and World War II didn't happen.

M*A*S*H Season 10 Ramblings

Season 10 of M*A*S*H is an interesting one, at least from my point of view, because it contains some of my least favorite and some of my favorite episodes ever, both being written by the same people! In the later seasons, as I have contended, there isn't the consistency of brilliance that was a mark of the middle seasons (3-7). This is not to say there are 'bad' episodes in the season, but the goal of making people say 'wow' isn't accomplished every time the show was trotted out.

The episodes that stand out are 'Where There's a Will, There's a War' and 'Sons and Bowlers', with 'The Tooth Shall Set You Free' as an honorable mention. In 'Where There's a Will, There's a Way', Hawkeye gets sent to the front because an aid station's surgeon has been killed. Feeling endangered, he writes his will, leaving seemingly insignificant items to his cohorts at the 4077th. However, as he writes, the items are fraught with meaning. I find it to be an incredibly touching episode, and one that doesn't contain a lot of the cudgel bashing that can sometimes be a mark of the later seasons. It isn't a laugher type of episode by any stretch, but it was written in a way that anyone with a pulse can sympathize. At base, it explores man's reaction to his own mortality; a topic M*A*S*H explored constantly from day one, but particularly well in this episode.

'Sons and Bowlers' has two good story lines – Hawkeye being concerned with the fact that his father is going to have an operation, which brings up memories of his mother dying some years before. The second story line concerns the 4077th competing against a Marine unit in various athletic events, including bowling. Colonel Potter thinks they can win in bowling, but the Marines have a ringer – Marty Ubancic, the 'Trenton Tornado'. Unfortunately, to really grasp the episode, you have to watch it in its uncut form on the DVD; syndication really doesn't do it justice. Uncut, you get an exploration of some of Charles' inner thoughts, his sense of compassion, and even jealousy over the relationship Hawkeye has with his own father.

'The Tooth Shall Set You Free' explores a bit of the bigotry that occurred in the service in that time, and has a good side story of Charles' tooth issues. Interesting guest appearance by a young Laurence Fishburne is also a part of the episode.

The episodes on the negative side of my ledger in Season 10 are the two-parter 'Snap Judgment' and 'Snappier Judgment', 'Picture This', and 'Twas the Day After Christmas'. The two-part episode has to do with Klinger getting involved with the black market ('Little Chicago') after Hawkeye's Polaroid gets stolen. It has a lot of courtroom boredom and tries too hard to be funny. Winchester as a counselor is painful to watch, although I guess that is part of the goal.

'Picture This' entails Potter trying to paint a picture of the 'gang', but there are a lot of arguments going on. Hawkeye moves out of the Swamp over BJ stealing his socks, but BJ and Charles drive each other nuts and everyone else gets involved with white lies in order to get Hawkeye to move back into the Swamp. It sounds like it should be funny, but it ends up being an extremely childish plot. The painting looks nice, but that's really the only nice part of the episode.

'Twas the Day After Christmas', I just find to be a incredibly lame episode. Tangent: Let me clarify that there aren't any poor episodes of M*A*S*H. Every episode has a high production value and is well shot and acted. Most of my beefs come in the writing and creative stage. No one is mailing it in at any point, but it becomes clear in the later seasons that they are straining to find plots and story lines. It isn't all the fault of the writers and so forth; no one expected M*A*S*H to go eleven seasons. Nevertheless, criticism is deserved in some cases. But I digress…the episode itself portrays the British tradition of 'Boxing Day' where people trade positions (i.e. enlisted become officers and vice versa for the day). Ultimately, it isn't a very interesting episode. I just want to know how many different times the show could go through Christmas, even though there were technically only three during the Korean War. Again, I digress….

There is even one episode in which I am bipolar - 'Wheelers and Dealers' - I hate the story line about BJ going nuts because his wife has to take a job as a hostess in a coffee shop, but I love the story line about Potter having to go through driving school to regain his license back. Sgt. Rizzo probably has his best lines in the show. Veeeee-hicle!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Michael Vick and the Ideal of Forgiveness

One of the consistent themes in the Michael Vick 'saga', whether you are pro or con, is the notion of forgiveness. Many have brought up the 'debt' that Vick has 'paid' to society through his time spent at Leavenworth and the time he may have spent 'thinking' about what he had done. At the same time, it seems that many people want to embrace the mantra of 'forgive and forget'.

Except this time.

I have never been a big fan of the 'forgive and forget' school of attitudes, because if someone has wronged you, why would you ever want to forget that? The problem is, of course, that there are a lot of people who want neither to forgive nor forget. Forgive? Absolutely, since we are called to do by God to 'forgive those who trespass against us'. That does beg the question - against whom exactly did Vick trespass? The dogs, certainly, but they don't have the ability to forgive.

Thus we tend to embody society as a victim of trespassing on the part of Vick, but we always must be careful not to overplay that; the reason is that sin and wrongdoing is personal, and therefore the recipient is often on a personal level as well. Dog owners may be disgusted by everything that happened, and may take it personally, but there is a unnecessary tendency to over-dramatize how personal it is.

The dangers are shown in the excessive hand-wringing (and hypocrisy - but that's a different post) that we are seeing on the part of many fans, dog-lovers, and assorted others who have decided to inject themselves into the story (i.e. PETA). The hand-wringing has bothered me because the people indulging in it have a) decided that the time Vick has served 'cannot ever be enough'; that is, they want him to continuously suffer personally for it, and b) want to remind him of it at every possible turn. The latter is more reasonable, as it is an indicator of his wrongdoings, which is fine, but the desire to perpetually punish someone becomes unreasonable; eventually people are going to have to get past it.

In other words, you forgive, but you never forget.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Phantom DL Visit

I didn't get to see the Phillies choke away yet another game, courtesy of Brad Lidge's double error and multiple walks. I am thankful for that. I think it is time for Brad Lidge to go on the 15 day DL just to clear his head. Eight blown saves this year. Eight! It needs to stop, one way or another. Charlie Manuel needs to figure out something other than continuing to say 'Brad is my closer'.

Make it all go away! Even if it was 3 or 4 blown saves, that's an extra 3-4 games in the standings, potentially. Makes me want to vomit.

(Image from Getty)

The Good Times Keep On Rolling

And by that I mean, the check engine light came on in the car, which could theoretically mean anything. Only when we get the car to the garage tomorrow will we even have a clue as to what the meaning of the light is. Booooooo.

Friday, August 14, 2009

CEO Speaks - (Some) Customers Howl

John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, an organic food chain, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about what kind of health care reform he would enact. It is one of the most sensible proposals I have seen. One that doesn't take 1,018 pages. Things include (with my commentary):

- Allowing individual insurance policies to be pre-tax: this is probably one problem on an individual level that needs to be changed, so people can carry their policies without any issue of employment.

- Eliminating state-by-state regulations: Mackey means that there should be interstate policies. I am guessing that he says there should be one national standard, rather than different policies from state to state. Again, this would allow people to carry their policies wherever without concern for employment

- Eliminate government regulations on what must be covered: acupuncture, chiropractors, herbal treatments, plastic surgery, abortions and so forth are required to be covered in a lot of states. That's ridiculous. Anything that is considered 'elective' should not be required in any way, shape or form, and therefore paid out of pocket - excepting reconstructive plastic surgery.

- Tort reform: probably the farthest reaching point, one that affects everything - cost to doctors, cost to health plans, and cost to patients. Too bad because as long as trial lawyers are a key Democratic constituency, it will never happen in any meaningful sense.

- Allow voluntary donations for Medicaid and S-CHIP: Americans are among the most charitable people in the world, and so I agree with this point, that as long as we know the money is going to those funds, it is a good idea. Knowing the bureaucracy, I doubt it, though.

Not everyone is happy about this. ABC News has a story about people wanting to boycott Whole Foods because Mackey isn't on board with the current House bill. That is their right to do so, but the story also says that it is causing some people against the bill to consider shopping at Whole Foods. An interesting development indeed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vick Signs With Eagles

I am very surprised by the news that Michael Vick has signed with the Eagles. It is an interesting move, considering that they already have Donovan as their starting quarterback. Will Vick run the Wildcat offense? Or is going to be insurance just in case the soon to be 32 year old McNabb gets hurt? Only time will tell. All I know is that people in my family don't like the move and it is raising a lot of eyebrows.

Hanging Out With Grandma

My dad went to New Jersey to visit his parents today and took my brother along, which means I drew the short straw in helping my mom watch her mother, my grandmother. I have blogged previously about what this entails. During the school year, I spend on average about 15-20 hours per weekend with mom and grandma while my dad is working his second job (so my brother can finish college).

When this routine started around the spring of 2008, I did not like it at all. I felt guilty about those feelings and decried my own selfishness, but now, I possess mostly a grim resolve: grandma won't be around forever, but I need to do what I can to help especially my mom, who has had to bear the brunt of everything that happens. I only need to deal with the weekends. It isn't all fun and games, although I can get stuff done here that I would never get done at home. It does take away time that I would spend with the wife, but fortunately for me, she is the understanding and sympathetic type, and has pitched in helping mom when necessary as well.

I have to say that the one thing I have learned in being a caretaker is that I now know what it means to give 'dignity' to the elderly, especially when they cannot help themselves very well. When grandma was in a rehab center after a hospital stay, dignity was not among the watchwords of the facility. She cried every day saying she wanted to die, because of the piss-poor treatment and 'care'. People, no matter their age or condition are still human beings made in the image and likeness of God; ergo, they should be treated as such. Not numbers, not statistics, not things, and certainly not as stray animals. Remember this if anyone in your family (or even you) becomes what some would consider a 'burden' - they are people, they need your love and care.

Being un-American Isn't Enough....

...the healthcare protesters are now 'evil-mongers' too! (The Hill via Drudge)

Thank you, Harry Reid.

Now we have all the top Congressional leaders calling protesters, who are exercising their right to assemble, names.

Store-Brand Cola

People who know me well know that I am a big fan of Coca-Cola, the Real Thing. I used to drink a Super Big Gulp of Coke for breakfast every day, so when I stopped doing that, my students were puzzled as to the location of my Coke. The elimination of that habit has been a big reason why I am healthier now. But I digress...

The wife and I went shopping this afternoon and she complained that I got a bottle of orange Crush rather than a store-brand can of soda. I replied that *if* there were any cans of Shoppers Food soda, such as root beer, I would have bought one. The one soda I will *never* buy is store-brand cola. In short, I think it is disgusting, which led the wife to anoint me as 'picky' - an ironic charge if I ever heard one (long story).

The people who say that there is no difference between the name-brands and store-brands obviously must be lying or their taste buds are tone-deaf. And yet, I hear that quite frequently; a bigger travesty are those who say that there is no difference between Coke and Pepsi. What planet are they living on? For shame! I bet the people who took the Pepsi challenge could tell the difference!

*UPDATE* The wife has amended her wording for me to 'soda snob'. If wanting the best (Coca-Cola) over inferior products (crappy store sodas) makes me a snob, so be it!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pedro Solid, Phillies Cruise

God, it's nice to have an eight-spot! I am sure Pedro Martinez agrees. He pitched 5 innings and gave up 3 runs to the Cubs in the Phillies' 12-5 victory. I am ok with this. Moyer is probably fuming somewhere because even he could have won with that kind of run support.

The moment of the game - was Shane Victorino's receiving a full cup of beer. He still made the catch, although I maintain that interference should have been called and the runners returned. But what do I know? I am not an MLB umpire!

Review of AfterMASH

Because I am a teacher, I have a lot of free time on my hands during the so-called 'dog days' in August. YouTube is a wonderful thing to have on hand during these particular times, and I decided to watch the pilot to the television show AfterMASH, entitled 'September '53/Together Again'. It was placed in 5 different installment, given YouTube's ten minute limits on videos. Yes, it is the sequel to M*A*S*H, starring Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr, and William Christopher, all reprising their roles as Col. Potter, Max Klinger, and Fr. Francis Mulcahy, respectively.

The continuity is there, with Potter speaking in a letter to Klinger of his early retirement, spending time with Mrs. Potter, and getting a job as chief of staff at General Pershing V.A. Hospital, otherwise known as 'General General'. Potter offers Klinger a job as his clerk at the hospital, but Klinger needs to get out of jail for his role in a bookmaking operation. Klinger convinces the judge that he needs a fresh start and he hasn't quite adjusted to civilian life as much as he thought, despite all the attempts to get out of the army. He and Soon-Lee move to Missouri to start up again. The adventures around 'General General' are shown and we are introduced to new characters. Potter then gets a call from Fr. Mulcahy, who is deaf and drunk. Potter has surgery arranged for Mulcahy to restore his hearing, which is successful and he joins the chaplain staff at the hospital as well.

I didn't care much for the episode, to be perfectly honest. It struck me too much as a conventional comedy despite the fact that it was written and developed by many of the same people who had worked on the mother show. I have to admit, if you get used to particular characters in a particular place and setting, it is difficult to see them in other roles. It wasn't bad, but when you use formerly secondary characters as main characters, it becomes more difficult to develop them and the like. One similarity between the shows was the red tape that was involved in doing anything. Veterans Administration hospitals on the whole (even in 1953) require paperwork in triplicate and things can be rejected easily.

The show didn't last a whole long time (1.5 seasons) and that was the fault of several things. First, CBS decided that it was going to put AfterMASH up against The A-Team on Wednesday nights. Secondly, how much further could the plot go without exhausting the possibilities and beginning to repeat, especially in a closed situation like a V.A. hospital? In a war, it is easier, but one of the reasons M*A*S*H stopped was because they were starting to run out of episode possibilities. It is also easy to see how it was just a vehicle for the actors who weren't sure how much more professional success they were going to have in the future. In a sense, AfterMASH was pure opportunism.

Harsh? You be the judge, watch - One, Two, Three, Four, Five

Camille Paglia's Interesting Point

Every month on Salon.com, Camille Paglia writes a column on political and cultural happenings. She is a self-identified liberal and libertarian, and while I don't agree with worldview, she always writes a good column because she isn't ideologically blinded; if things are stupid, she calls them as such. Anyway, after lambasting Nancy Pelosi and chastising President Obama, she has this to say about the Gates-Cambridge kerfuffle:

Gates and Obama mistakenly assumed that the original incident at Gates' house was about race, when it was about class. It was the wealthy, lordly Gates who committed the first offense by instantly and evidently hysterically defaming the character of the officer who arrived at his door to investigate the report of a break-in. There was no excuse for Gates' loud and cheap charges of racism...Class rarely receives honest attention in the American media.

I find this point to be fascinating because she is right on target - class is avoided in the story because it doesn't fit the easy perceived 'storyline'. In other words, lazy journalism. It's ironic as well because during election season, there seems to be a lot of stoking of class-warfare, but when class issues are evident, they are ignored.

Remember When?

SI.com has a feature up in which various writers talk about 25 things they miss in baseball. Most of it is the standard 'I am older and you young people just don't understand' type of laments - such as stirrups, organs, mustaches, bullpen carts, and so forth. Some are even nonsensical - consider:

22. Old School Managers

In an age when statistics, pitch-counts and matchups rule nearly every decision-making process, it has become conceivable that a computer might soon fare just as well as most of the men who manage today's major league teams. Now if you were to tell fiery types such as Earl Weaver, Billy Martin, Sparky Anderson and Whitey Herzog that they'd have to depend on numbers on a spreadsheet and not on their gut instincts to make in-game decisions, you'd be guaranteed a fight.

Hitting, Plunking, and Beaning

Any of you who are baseball fans saw the brawl between the Tigers and Red Sox after Kevin Youkilis was hit by a pitch by Rick Porcello - in retaliation, I might add. I'll start by saying that I like a good brawl every now and then. Not too frequently, but a couple of good brawls per season lets the bad blood out. It's similar to what Clemenza said in The Godfather about mob wars.

That being said, there are right and wrong ways to go about this. I completely dislike the MLB rule about the manager and pitcher being tossed after retaliating to protect a player who had been hit previously. They have codified the stupid standard of the retaliator being the one to get in trouble, rather than the instigator. This is one thing the NHL gets right - the instigator gets a harsher penalty. I am completely in favor of protecting one's players; the other team should never be allowed to get away with throwing at opponents with impunity.

In a way, this has been an argument of mine against the designated hitter (DH) - if a pitcher has to bat, he would be less inclined to throw at people knowing that he has to face the other pitcher later as a hitter. The AL rules basically allow throwing without consequence (save for ejection) because the pitchers don't have to hit.

As for last night's brawl, I think Youkilis is a wimp for throwing his helmet and letting Porcello whip him to the ground. I also believe that the Red Sox are among the worst instigators in baseball when it comes to these things. They have a bully complex - they strike, but react poorly when the other team dares to strike back. Baseball isn't Christianity - no one will be turning their other (butt) cheek, but they may come back for retribution.

(Image from the AP)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jamie Moyer's Demotion

I haven't said a whole lot about the Phillies' decision to demote Jamie Moyer to the bullpen and raise up Pedro Martinez to the rotation, mostly because you can get coverage from people who a) are closer to the situation (beat writers) and b) do this much more in depth than I can or do (TGP, WSBGMs, Beerleaguer). But nonetheless, as a fan of the Phillies, I do have a couple of thoughts, neither of which will add anything substantially to the conversation.

1) I feel bad for Moyer, but I think the handwriting is on the wall. It is time to give Martinez the shot at the rotation. With Happ pitching well lately, there was no way that the hot hand was being demoted. The guy with the nearly 6 ERA was the one who was going to go.

2) Moyer himself is 'unhappy and misled', according to Todd Zolecki, and if what he says is true, this may be a lot uglier than originally thought. I am hoping that this is resolved, so it doesn't become a distraction, no matter what ol' Grampa says.

The Salutes of Hawkeye

One of my many quests in M*A*S*H fandom is to see how many legitimate salutes Hawkeye Pierce made in the eleven seasons of the show. By 'legitimate salutes', I mean this:

The salutes can be for any reason - courtesy, mockingly, or what have you. What it is about is proper form, not intent. This post (which will also be on the side rail) will keep track of all the legitimate salutes of Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce.

'Requiem For a Lightweight' (Season 1) - Salutes when Cutler loses her towel
'The Moose' (Season 1) - Returns a salute to Sgt. Baker
'Tuttle' (Season 1) - After giving eulogy for 'Tuttle'
'Dear Dad...Again' (Season 1) - Returns a salute on the way to mess tent
'Showtime' (Season 1) - Salutes Frank while Frank is on the toilet
'Radar's Report' (Season 2) - Salutes Frank in the compound
'The Incubator' (Season 2) - Salutes Major Morris at Quartermaster
'The Trial of Henry Blake' (Season 2) - Salutes Margaret
'A Smattering of Intelligence' (Season 2) - Salutes Frank in the Swamp
'Officer of the Day' (Season 3) - Salutes guards going on duty
'Welcome to Korea' (Season 4) - Salutes Radar after 'promoting' him to 'Corporal-Captain'
'Fallen Idol' (Season 6) - Salutes Radar after presenting Purple Heart
'Goodbye, Radar, Part II' (Season 8) - Salutes Radar when he is leaving
'Captains Outrageous' (Season 8) - Part of group salute to Fr. Mulcahy
'Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen' (Season 11) - Salutes Potter (with BJ)

Government 'Competition'

One of the main pieces of the health-care bill (now called health-insurance reform, by the way) is the so-called 'public option'. The idea behind it is basically that no one will be left behind. The troublesome part is the contention that it is there to 'compete' with private insurance.

In the words of Ralph Wiggum: 'that is un-possible!'

The entity that sets the regulations and is the enforcer of said regulations cannot, I repeat, cannot be considered a fair competitor against those for whom the regulations exist. Likewise, the government does not rely on capital to sustain themselves nor do they need to turn a profit in any sense.

President Obama tried to compare the Public Option and its potential competition to the competition between FedEx, UPS, and the United States Postal Service; a way of saying that private insurance would be fine against a Public Option. It is a false comparison in several ways - FedEx, UPS, DHL, and the like are forbidden from carrying first class mail. It is a monopoly of the Postal Service, as set up by the United States Government. Likewise, the Postal Service runs at an operational defecit every single year - true competition would have blown the Postal Service out of the water. If FedEx ran a defecit like the Postal Service, its creditors and the US Government would be calling for it to shut down.

It is a matter of honesty. Just say you want to eliminate private insurance as so many videos of various politicians (The President, Barney Frank, etc.) have said to sympathetic gatherings. I think, though, that honesty would completely kill any chances of passing the bill.

Billy Mays From the Grave

It's a bit weird to see all of the commercials with Billy Mays on television after his untimely death some weeks ago. These days it's still ESPN360 and the Jupiter Jack. I feel bad for his family, especially after the coroner's toxicology report contained evidence of a bunch of different drugs and painkillers in his body. Can't say I am shocked - not a lot shocks me anymore, but I always have to wonder what drives people to use these combos of drugs on a recreational basis.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cockroach Spraying

I have been stuck at my parents' house since 9 AM with the cat thanks to our complex management's decision that we ought to be sprayed for cockroaches. Never mind that we have never had any cockroaches in our 2+ years living here. Hopefully the 'problem' is solved, but I doubt it. Too much fear of litigation, I suppose. I have had quite a few experiences with the little critters, but I am sure no one wants to hear about it. Besides, you don't really want to anger the very creatures that will be masters of the earth once the nuclear holocaust occurs, right?

Americans Are Now 'Un-American'...

...if they oppose the health-care bill, quoth Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in an op-ed for USA Today.

Count me among the ranks of the 'un-American' then because I dare to oppose their dear leader's (or is Dear Leader?) pet policy initiative and exercise my right to free speech and (possibly) assembly. Hmmm, were all the war protesters called 'un-American' by Pelosi, et al? Of course not, because they were on the same side. Come off it, Madam Speaker.

Remember - Dissent is the highest form of patriotism, as your side reminded us again and again throughout the entirety of the Bush administration.

Remember this line from the (now) Secretary of State:

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Review: The Day After Tomorrow

One of the quirky habits I picked up from my father is the ability to watch movies on TV whenever they come on even though I own the DVD. On FX, I have caught the film The Day After Tomorrow, the sci-fi apocalyptic flick about the effects of global warming. They edited portions of it and in the FX style, have commercials out of the wazoo. Anyway, I figured I would review it just for fun.

The film was released in 2004. It was directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla), and stars Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Emmy Rossum.

The plot begins with paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Quaid) and his companions on the ice shelfs of Antarctica. Hall senses something is wrong when part of the main shelf breaks off. At a conference in India, he explains his findings and warns of a future 'climate shift' if humans don't stop misbehaving toward the Earth. Around the same time, the weather becomes more volatile - hail in Tokyo, tornados in Los Angeles, and the largest typhoon ever in Australia. After working the models, it looks like the shift is coming, and large hurricane-like winter storms are forming in the Arctic. Meanwhile, Jack's son Sam (Gyllenhaal) is in New York with his quiz bowl team where they get stuck in what is literally a storm for the ages. Jack tries to convince the US government what needs to be done, but the Vice President (Kenneth Walsh) is too stubborn to listen. Eventually, the storm strikes and kills a lot of people. Jack vows to save Sam, who is holed up in the New York Public Library. Overcoming odds, Sam and his friends (Rossum and Arjay Smith) survive the extreme cold and Jack manages to make it to New York by walking. The entire northern hemisphere is now blanketed with white as a new ice age has come to be.

Before I begin to dismantle the weaknesses, let me be clear - I enjoy the film, as cinema, as a way to put away popcorn, and as entertainment. As propaganda, it is so overly heavy-handed in its message that it ought to make any one cringe, even if you do believe in man-made global warming. The heavy-handed approach even boils down to making the sensible President (Perry King) look like Al Gore and the Vice President look like Dick Cheney - these kinds of things don't happen by accident. The science is absolutely non-sensical - global warming causing ice ages (the Jack Hall character tries to explain it, but doesn't pass a sniff test)? The political commentary, which includes 'reverse illegal immigration' and international debt forgiveness, is used as a cudgel. At the end, the Vice President (now President) admits he 'was wrong' - which just strikes me as wish fulfillment on the part of liberals who would have loved for Dick Cheney to start supporting their favorite policy points.

Aside from the political aspects, there were some useless points of the film, such as Lucy Hall (Sela Ward), Jack's estranged wife, who is a oncologist or something similar. Her whole plotline with the kid with cancer could have been eliminated altogether. Conversations about what books should and should not be burned in the Library were also useless, as well as the homeless guy with the dog. The most ridiculous plotline, though, was Sam et al going to a ship frozen outside the Library to find drugs and run into CGI wolves. Yes, CGI wolves!

Now, remember, I like this movie. If you are willing to understand it as entertainment and even sci-fi, then you won't have a problem. If you think that this film will provide you with ammunition against skeptics of global warming, then you will need to go back to the drawing board. Otherwise, enjoy the film and bring the popcorn.

Craptacular Umpiring and a Limp Offense = Sweep

Oops, the Phillies did it again. Jamie Moyer may have had his last start, and an embarrassing umpiring incident are what people will remember about this game in which the Marlins completed the three game sweep, 12-3. On to Chicago after an off-day to the 'Friendly Confines'. Let's hope the Phils' offense can get its head out of its collective rear.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pathetic - Once Again

The Phillies completely crapped the bed once again against second place Florida, 6-4. Cole Hamels was again not his normal self as the 'ace' of the staff and the offense once again left themselves in LOB (left-on-base) hell. In other words:

Not Shocking

White House Data Gathering May Be Illegal (Fox News).

I'll just start by saying I am disappointed in President Obama. Not surprised, but disappointed that he wants to shut down dissent, considered by his party (and ostensibly by him as well) as recently as a year ago as the 'highest form of patriotism'. Calling on citizens to spy and report on fellow citizens because they disagree with a policy point is not the American way (unless you are Woodrow Wilson). I suppose this makes me one of those 'fishy' people because I want the current healthcare bill to go down in flames.

I must also be among the people whom the president wishes to 'shut up' and 'get out of the way' while he 'cleans up the mess' (although I didn't vote Republican). Now, when Butterscotch vomits on the floor, I get the carpet cleaner and the Dust Buster and clean up the mess. I don't rip out the entire wall-to-wall carpeting. President Obama's idea of 'cleaning' is indeed the ripping out the entire carpeting for a couple of stains that can be found and cleaned up with Woolite and a vacuum.

Friday, August 7, 2009

It's the Cat's Fault!

Florida man blames cat for child porn (Sun-Sentinel).

I could see this defense if it were one image, but one thousand? No sir (if you are worthy of such a title), go to jail where your perverted ass belongs.

Eras of M*A*S*H

If you were to take a random poll of M*A*S*H fans and ask them how they would divide the different seasons (as 'eras' of the show), you would get some different answers, but a lot of them would fall into one of the following:

1) By commanders and sidekicks - Seasons 1-3 (Blake/McIntyre), Seasons 4-11 (Potter/BJ).

2) With/Without Radar - Seasons 1-7 (With), Seasons 8-11 (Without)

3) Frank/Charles - Seasons 1-5 (Frank), Seasons 6-11 (Charles)

4) Common Casts - Seasons 1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-11.

There are merits to all of these, but there are problems with them as well. Scenarios 1-3 are all way too simplistic and are on the basis of one/two character changes. Obviously, M*A*S*H as a show did not go down the toilet with any kind of cast changes (despite what the acolytes of the Blake/McIntyre years would say).

Scenario 4 is getting warmer, in my view, but still the problem with the 'common cast' is that it doesn't necessarily take into account the style and movement of the plot within the seasons and even within the cast. For example, if we were to go by style, one could theoretically go with the following:

Seasons 1-2, 3-5, 6-7-8a, 8b-11. 8a representing the ones where Radar was 'on R and R' and leaving.

The above leaves us with the other problem - cast changes between Seasons 3 and 4, even though the style of writing and comedy were not much different. My 'eras' will probably cause quite a bit of argumentation amongst fans of the series, because, yes, I may be over-complicating the issue. But here goes nothing.

Era #1 - Season 1: The first season needs to be taken on its own for many reasons: trying to feel out the direction to go, character development, the move from a true ensemble to leading and supporting characters, and the eventual distancing from the 1970 film. The first season feels so much more like a slapstick Marx Brothers film. Who can forget all of the eventually jettisoned bit characters: Spearchucker Jones, Ugly John, Generals Hammond and Barker, Private Boone, and Nurse Cutler.

Era #2 - Seasons 2-3: These seasons are usually what people remember about the Henry Blake-Trapper McIntyre years and pined for when all the changes started happening. Usually, these were comedic in nature, even while using serious issues, like enemy airdrops and the like. This era does retain a lot from the first season in the way of the protagonist vs. antagonist duel (Hawkeye/Trapper vs. Burns/Houlihan). What we start seeing is the development of Radar into the sweet, naive Iowa farmboy that is much more remembered than the cool, slick, and sneaky Radar of the first season. Likewise, characters like Klinger and Father Mulcahy become more prominent.

Era #3 - Season 4: This is going to be strange for some, but it should make more sense, once I cover the next era. This is separate mostly because of the cast changes - McLean Stevenson (Blake) and Wayne Rogers (McIntyre) left and Harry Morgan (Potter) and Mike Farrell (Hunnicutt) came in. Hunnicutt came in almost seamlessly as Hawkeye's sidekick and Potter was a shift from the loose-running Blake; more G.I. and did not tolerate any kind of overstepping by his underlings. Otherwise, not a whole lot changed.

Era #4 - Season 5: This gets its own era because it brought a complete end to the Burns/Houlihan alliance against the other doctors. Margaret's engagement (and eventual marriage) to Donald Penobscott did more to change the dynamic of the show up to that time than any other character change or development. It essentially rendered Frank Burns useless as a villain and without Margaret as a 'sweetheart in crime' (save for the episode 'The Korean Surgeon'), he became a completely one-dimensional caricature. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but it ultimately forced the series to go in a different direction.

Era #5 - Seasons 6-7*: The last of the major character substitutions took place here as Larry Linville (Burns) left the show and David Ogden Stiers (Charles Emerson Winchester III) came in. In the cliché of the show's producers, Winchester was a 'more formidable adversary' for Hawkeye and B.J., which is undoubtedly true. Winchester was definitely a more fleshed out character and at least an equal surgeon. As stated above, the show was forced to go in a different direction and it started exploring more 'serious' topics such as betrayal, divorce, drug abuse, and the like. It still had a lot of comedic elements, but one could sense the shift. Finally, Gary Burghoff (Radar) left the series.

Era #6 - Seasons 8*-11: The last of the eras is definitely the one with the easiest explanations. It is denoted by three things: 1) it begins to stretch out the dramatic elements of the show; that is, you find not a lot of slapstick type of comedy involved here. 2) Klinger completely drops the Section 8 stunts and women's clothing when he becomes the company clerk after Radar leaves and even is promoted to Sergeant! 3) You see more of the 'staged' type of filming/acting - since they were doing less filming at the Fox Ranch and much more at Stage 9 in Hollywood. You kind of get my feelings in reading my thoughts about Season 8 and Season 9. Seasons 10 and 11 (when I get to them) will be similar in thought. They aren't my favorite seasons, but there are certainly some great episodes there.

*The episodes when Radar leaves ('Goodbye, Radar' - 2 parts), are technically in Season 8, but the purposes here, we are treating them as an extension of Season 7.

Communism = No Toilet Paper

Cuba is running out of toilet paper. I am sympathetic to the people who live under such a despotism, but I can't say that I am surprised at the situation. When I was 15, I read a book called How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed for European history class and the author talks about the lack of basic things like sanitary napkins for women and toilet paper, yet they could always find pizza or soda behind the Iron Curtain.

Blogger/Google Acting Up

I can't get to my own blog while signed in because apparently some third party is trying to do automated traffic. I am trying to get this fixed, but as you can see, I am able to post. Google needs to get with it and inform me as to what the hell is going on, but I already know that won't be happening.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Red Sox and Yankees - ESPN's Fetish

Baseball Tonight on ESPN is leading with the Red Sox versus the Yankees. Didn't you all know, it's the only 'rivalry' in baseball? In fact, did you know that the Yankees and Red Sox are the only teams in baseball? You didn't? Learn to read, man!

Yes, that is the newest Phillie Pedro Martinez throwing down old Don Zimmer during the 2004 playoffs. Remember, only Red Sox and Yankees exist!

WJU Changing Prez.......Again

My alma mater, Wheeling Jesuit University, has apparently fired its president, Fr. Julio Giulietti for reasons at this time are completely undisclosed; it does look to be internally motivated.

This isn't a complete surprise, since WJU has been in turmoil for the past 7 years or so, but this is still the 4th president in the past 9 years that the college has had, and now it will be 5 once the new president is selected.

John Hughes, 1950-2009

John Hughes, the filmmaker responsible for a lot of the 80's biggest hits, died today.

While I am not a fan of much of his work (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, etc.), there is no doubt that he was a giant in his industry and did a lot for people in the film industry. He was also responsible for the resurgence in teen-oriented movies during the 1980's.

As I said above, I don't care for much of his work, some of the films he contributed to were outstanding, such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off (Directed), and Home Alone (Written). They are among my favorites, and still make me laugh very hard to this day. My condolences to his family. Rest in peace.

M*A*S*H Season 9 Ramblings

I have to say that Season 9 of M*A*S*H is perhaps my least favorite, at least in the sheer amount of episodes that I dislike. While there aren't too many of what I would call 'bad' episodes, the ability to make me laugh falls a bit and the ability to make me cringe rises exponentially. It is also home to my least favorite episode ever - 'Tell it To the Marines'.

The episode is an instance of the reputation M*A*S*H gained later (fairly or not) that it was an overly 'bleeding heart' type of show. One of the consequences of a long-running show is that eventually, the characters need to be developed more deeply and human interest-types of plots start gaining more traction. 'Tell it To the Marines' is precisely that kind of episode. But the human interest aspect isn't what bothers me about it.

I have a healthy respect for the military and what they do. M*A*S*H had a long tradition of mocking some aspects of the military, which is ok, because some things just scream to be mocked. This episode showed the myopic view that was possessed by people like Hawkeye - the neglecting of the big picture that a particular branch of the service (in this case, the USMC) has a particular job to do and letting out a kid just to see his mother prior to her deportation just doesn't happen. However, the 4077 just becomes an outlet for mocking the supposed 'heartlessness' of the Marine colonel who is trying to do his job and not have to worry about malcontents like Hawkeye.

Now, plot aside, the writing of the episode is terrible. It is one long (bad) pun. For example - when MP's come to get Hawkeye over his story for Stars and Stripes, BJ quips 'Hawkeye, have you been rotten to the Corps?' UGH. Others are not much better; quoth Hawkeye, 'the Bill of Rights says I have a right to write, or am I wrong?' Yeah, real winning dialogue there! In other words, the episode basically reduces its villains to strawmen and caricatures - Hawkeye remarks after he had talked to the Marine colonel on the phone - 'I could practically hear his crew cut through the phone' - never mind the guy was bald, but we won't let facts get in the way of a good stereotype.

There are some really good eps in Season 9 - such as 'A War for All Seasons', which covers the entire year of 1951 at the 4077th in small vignettes. Another good one is 'No Sweat', in which a heat wave has overcome Korea and while Potter is asleep thanks to tranquilizers, everyone else needs him awake to order something over the phone, often to hilarious results. I also enjoyed the episode 'Blood Brothers', where Patrick Swayze plays a patient with lukemia and a Cardinal comes to visit the 4077th. Father Mulcahy goes nuts preparing the camp for the Cardinal's arrival, but forgets the bigger picture in the long run about his purpose.

Having covered my least favorite above, the (dis)honorable mentions for Season 9 are 'Death Takes a Holiday' and 'Operation Friendship'.

'Death Takes a Holiday' is a pretty good episode except for the heavy-handed and ham-fisted way it deals with BJ's desire to make sure that a soldier dies on December 26 rather than Christmas. I understand the desire and even applaud it, but the way it was written and executed just doesn't get it done.

'Operation Friendship' has one of the biggest jackass bit characters ever - Dr. Norm Traeger, who is there to operate on BJ's hand from an injury suffered in an accident (and Klinger's nose was broken too). The scene where Potter is applying 'roles' as if a movie casting director is as cringe-inducing as any M*A*S*H scene in the 11 years.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Oh Happ-y Day!

An absolutely beautiful shutout thrown by J.A. Happ, who struck out 10 Rockies tonight as the Phillies won, 7-0. It took him 127 pitches, but the atmosphere at the Bank tonight resembled a playoff game and the roars were deafening, even by TV standards. In other news, the Marlins lost to the 'Natinals' of DC, so the lead is back up to six games in the NL East. Cliff Lee goes tomorrow for the series win before the Fish come to town, smarting from the fact that they have lost at least two of the three games to the Nats.

(Image from AP)

Dell 'Lollipops'

I hate this commercial. Big whoop, you can buy a Dell in different colors. The Missus has one. My cousins have them. But the ad tells you NOTHING about why it's better than other laptops.

M*A*S*H Issues - Continuity

Obviously, I have made it clear that M*A*S*H is my favorite show, but it would not be fair of me to point out everything good and pure about it without mentioning its flaws. It is a man-made creation, and thus, cannot be perfect, but there are a few issues here and there that just drive me insane upon the 10th (or 100th) time watching through the show. Today's issue is the continuity of the show.

M*A*S*H ran for eleven seasons, from September, 1972 through February, 1983. The Korean War, its setting, lasted for a little over three years (June, 1950-July, 1953). There will be some continuity problems arising, especially since the show's producers and creators could not have known that the show was going to last nearly eleven years. But some could have been completely avoidable.

For example, the episode 'A War For All Seasons' (Season 9) contains the entire year of 1951, starting with the ending of the year 1950. Colonel Potter plays a Father Time type of character in the episode, but watching the episode 'Welcome to Korea' (Season 4) indicates Potter arriving in 1952. This is most egregious example, but there are many others, such as:

- Early on, Hawkeye indicates that he has a whole family living in Vermont. Later, he is the only child of a widower father in Crabapple Cove, Maine.

- In Season 4, the episode 'Mail Call, Again', Potter's son (a dentist) writes about his wife having a child, which leads to a pool guessing when the kid would be born. Later on, Potter talks about his only child, a daughter, and we even see his son-in-law Bob in 'Strange Bedfellows' (Season 11).

- In the episode 'Ping Pong' (Season 5), Potter talks about barbecuing in his backyard in Nebraska, but again and again Hannibal, Missouri is said to be his home.

- In earlier seasons, Margaret says her mother is a 'drunk' a kleptomaniac' (while sober), and her father is dead. In the episode 'The Party' (Season 7), her parents come to the New York reunion together and act civil. 'Howitzer' Al Houlihan even shows up at the 4077 in the episode 'Father's Day' (Season 9). Pretty good for a supposedly dead guy!

These things aren't all necessarily bad in themselves, but, as my brother informs me, television shows are supposed to have continuity people that read through everything. Some are just silly, such as the Potter-Nebraska-Missouri connection, Potter's child(ren?), and Hawkeye's home and family scenarios; these could have avoided with some simple editing and *gasp*, reading. It's the television equivalent of not borrowing properly or failing to carry over digits when doing simple arithmetic problems - sloppy mistakes, easily avoidable.

Tax-paid Abortions?

If the current 1,000 page bill in the House of Representatives passes, then the answer to the question in the title bar is a resounding yes.

Which would be a travesty.

There are many, many reasons to oppose the health-care bill, but here is, on a moral plane, a higher reason to do so. Hopefully, this will open the eyes of many people who may not have paid much attention before.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

MLB's REAL Problem

Steroids? Nope.
Cheaters? Nope.
Gambling? Nope again.

It's the umpires that exist within the Major League Baseball structure. It's not their existence, per se, but what they do in their existence. I am talking about the general decline in the quality of calling the game. The rule of thumb used to be (and still may be) that umpires are supposed to be 'invisible'. They call the game, do not cause a ruckus, and refrain from unprofessional behavior.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. MLB does not want replay for any calls, but was pretty much forced into using replay for home run calls. Now, the case for widespread replay and an NFL-style challenge system is being made, wittingly or not, by screwing up more calls than I thought possible. Recently, there were the plays where Michael Cuddyer (see the above photo - from the AP) and Edwin Encarnacion were both called out at the plate when both were clearly safe, and would have been called safe if the plate umpire had been in the proper position to call it.

This brings me to my main accusation - umpires are lazy and do not get themselves into position to make the calls. They rely on certain time-worn assumptions, such as seeing and listening for the ball and seeing where the ball is relative to the runner. How many times have you seen a runner get thrown out at 2nd, 3rd, or home on the basis that the ball beat the runner rather than on the basis of the defensive player actually a) having possession of the ball and b) tagging the runner before the runner is at the base in question. The answer is, if you have watched as much baseball as I have, too many times.

The umpires then have the gall to get upset when managers, coaches, and players throw a big fit on a blown play. Which brings me to my secondary accusation - umpires inserting themselves and trying to make themselves part of the game. My advice = call the damn game, toss who you need to toss without making yourselves look like prima donnas in the process. I, and no one else, really give a damn about an ump's feelings. Look, if a manager uses the 'magic words' and insults the umpire's mother or his integrity, toss him and be done with it.

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching J.C. Romero pitch for the Phillies and he was getting squeezed on strike calls and was voicing his frustration. For whatever reason, the plate umpire starting take a few steps out to the mound. I couldn't believe it. Let the pitcher bitch, and if he needs to be tossed, do it, but for the love of God, we already have enough drama queens in baseball without the supposed officiating joining in.

Umpires need to stay in the backseat where they belong, and they need to work at getting the calls right. I am not a fan of replay in baseball, but the current state of umpiring makes it harder and harder for people like me to say 'no' to a wide-spread replay system in Major League Baseball.