Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tigers Update

I coined a nickname for the most recent Tiger, Aubrey Huff. It's "Half-Swing." I dubbed him this after watching last night's game in which he struck out three times on check swings. Half-Swing Huff.

It was nice to take two of three from the Angels in Anaheim. Not easy to do.

Fernando Rodney is only a little less roller coaster than Todd "Roller Coaster" Jones. I know because I haven't had to dip into my stash of antacids as much this season.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Standing Tall in the Corner

My favorite thing to peruse during the baseball season is the mlb.com overall standings board. I would get into Baseball Prospectus but I already have enough black-hole-time-absorption machines in operation. The regular standings have just enough to keep me occupied for about 5 minutes, and then I can move on, satisfied.

Today's contemplation: Runs Scored and Runs Scored Againts. Now, the teams I root for: MN Twins (Land of My Heritage) in the AL and LA Dodgers (Land of My Birth) in the NL are a giving me very different feelings in my tummy.

The Dodgers have been on a tear. Everything is right. Manny Ramirez is "being Manny" to the tune of beating the living crud out of the ball (Boston, we thank thee). The young starters are doing things that make me giddy. And is all of the exuberance something we can continue to count on or should we trap our happiness in a jar and look at it longingly in July? Apparently, contrary to this man's existence, plan on repeated euphoria Dodgertown: our Runs Scored: 119; Runs Allowed: 82; Expected Win-Loss Record: 14-7. Actual Win-Loss Record: 14-7.

On the other hand, the Minnesota Twins. Now, the Twins have been having a lot of problems. Their All Star, 2X Batting Champ Catcher has been out, coming back Friday against the Royals {anticipatory giggling}. The rotation, also young, has been garbage except for the #5 pitcher; this can be expected to get better. So, we have accumulated these numbers: RS: 85; RA: 113 which should give us the diametric opposite of Dodger-lation: an 8-13 record. What have we actually managed to do? 10-11, with a chance at .500 against Scott Kazmir tonight (not likely, I know, but why can't the good times roll?). The culprit? Being 4-0 in 1-run games. {guilty chuckle}. The Twins hereby thank the world for allowing them to miraculously and inexplicably not trash their season already, and hope you will not mind when we go on another ridiculous run in August-September to steal the division from some much more "expected" (i.e., deserving) winner.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Next Year, We Can't Miss This

Why didn't I find out about the annual Grilled Cheese Invitational, which is held in L.A., until too late? Probably because God is looking out for my cholesterol levels. But next year . . . .

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Classic Rodney? Let's Hope So.

The Tigers were up 4-3 against the Rangers this afternoon in the top of the ninth.

Last year in this situation Jones would have made an appearance, and we would have broken out the antacids. This year, Jones is retired (in peace, we hope), and Fernando Rodney is our man. What did Rodney do today? Struck out the side in the top of the ninth. That's not the Jones spirit, but it's one we can live with.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Let the Record Show

... that Jim Caple's attempt at prescience is the only one that would not result in a November stoning were we to apply Old Testament prophecy standards to 2009 Major League Baseball Pre-Season predictions.

Therein: 13 out of 21 "experts" (variously defined) have the MN Twins getting to the playoffs; only 2 predict the Tigers to assert themselves (though the Tigers did snag the "Dark Horse" pick from Rob Neyer and Jason Stark, who are more "expert" than most). In fairness will I have to spot the Burglar some good odds this year?

On the eve of the real beginning of baseball: may injuries not be the bane of destiny!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Je aime le matérialisme

This may ring a bell with Burglar more than me since he has direct experience with freshman philosophy students who have "figured it out" after three lectures, but I couldn't help but giggle at this.

The part to which I refer is the very end, where we are treated to the following.

"Really, the weather, it's not an important aspect for driving or protesting ... it's a simple material state, I think. So, people come out in the snow or in the summer, it really doesn't matter to them because they have a message they want to present to the congressmen and senators and they're gonna do it despite whatever happens."

Question: what do the protesters think about the significance or lack thereof of the simple material state of the globe?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Stat Challenge

Did everyone notice? Baseball started. Now I can finally procrastinate again.

In memory of losing FireJoeMorgan over the winter, here's a baseball-announcing puzzle.

Sunday, March 1st, bottom of the ninth, Twins-RedSox, two out, two on, Twins down by one. One Dustin Martin steps up to the plate. Since it's Spring Training and there are often whole games where I hardly know who anyone is, I wait with great anticipation for that ever helpful stat box to pop up. Here's what it said:

1-1; AVG: .750; RBI: 1; OBP: .667.

Is there any scenario in which this is possible? Ready ... go!

Oh, and lest our favorite label meet its end, the aptly surnamed Red Sox closer of the day, Hunter Jones, was slinging a textbook Classic Jones.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Tolkien My Mind

Since Tolkien is appearing all over this blog we might as well keep up the trend.

An interesting article by Courtney M. Booker tries to explain the progression from the publication of the Lord of the Rings in 1968 to the release of The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001. The central issue being why those who read the book in the 1970s and those born post 1990 had such different reactions to Peter Jackson’s visuals. Not necessarily: “I didn’t like it” vs. “I did,” but more “That is not at all how I pictured it” vs. “That’s perfect!”
To summarize and simplify, his progression goes: Lord of the Rings -> United States -> Fantasy Literature -> Role Playing Games (esp. Dungeons and Dragons) -> RPGs into Computer Games -> The Personal Computer -> Graphics Oriented Computer Games -> RPGs lost much of their “personalized” and “plot” aspects in favour of large-scale CGI effects -> Peter Jackson welds the new fantasy computer game look back onto the Lord of the Rings plot and characters. “The Fellowship of the Ring … can largely be reduced to a host of dramatic helicopter and swooping bird’s-eye-view shots of landscape, and a linear sequence of frantic hack-and-slash video-game scenarios … his interpretation moves through a series of scenarios in much the same fashion that computer games are structured. There is little time for character development or interaction; instead, stunning visuals and special effects are relied upon to breathe life into a fantasy realm encountered largely apace.”

I think his best example (for which Booker quotes B. Rosebury) of this is the scene in the mines of Moria, when the fellowship is nearly trapped by hosts of orcs. The scene is a page in the original book: over five minutes in the movie. “In the film … its theme seems to be: how very, very difficult it is to kill a cave troll. … [in the book] its focal point is the ominous fact that the orc-chieftain has selected Frodo for his spear-thrust.”


All of this I find interesting, and can agree with for the most part. However, Booker’s second major point, which he starts the essay with and concludes with (and so which seems to be his main axe to grind)—even though he spends almost no time in the body of the essay specifically arguing the point—is that (and this is a little hard to follow) Tolkien presents a “Medieval” world (or at the very least, that is how basically everyone reads him); there is no “religion” in that medieval world; one problem with present conceptions of the medieval world is that we don’t get and so ignore how religion fits into the medieval thought world; when we “role play” a medieval character or present him in a movie, or imagine him/her in a book, we assume the medieval character thinks in a crisis like we do (obviously a huge generalization here): with “logic and violence” (his terms); this is incorrect.

I’m going to let his final points alone, mainly because I find it too problematic to even begin talking about.

However, the premise that Tolkien’s world is “not medieval” because there is no overt religion, to my mind presents one of the problems representative of Medieval Academics. They don't get it either, even though they know they should. For starters, Tolkien was himself a professional academic “medievalist,” and as a literature-linguistics person I would argue more closely attuned to the intricacies of a “medieval thought-world” than 99% of historians. Secondly, any of his biographies point out that his interest in the medieval period and texts started at a very young age: if anyone in the modern world had their mind formed by medieval texts; if anyone could actually claim to possess a medieval mind in a modern age, it was Tolkien. Finally, for a medievalist, what should stand out to Booker is a medieval epic (which the Lord of the Rings, given its author and the way he created the text, is) doesn’t talk about religion as such. Where is religion and God in the Arthurian tales? Ever read Gawain and the Green Knight? About the only “religious” thing there is the setting of the Pentecost feast. Even in Spencer (who is a bit late), “religion” is present much more in allegory than in explicit plot sequences. How about that dramatic communion scene in Song of Roland?

Religion is so much a part of the backdrop that you don’t even need to say anything: it is just there, it is assumed. This is a point completely missed by those who continue to read medieval mystical texts as though they could also be Buddhist: if you’re careful, you realize it just doesn’t work. All of their apparent “loosey-gooseyness” assumes that the loosey-goosey experiential path to the Divine is at the same time taking place within, not apart from, the religious structure and thought of the Universal Church. It is a part of the church, not an alternative to it.

What is actually really interesting about the Lord of the Rings in modern (especially American) culture is the generation that Booker failed to talk about: those of us who were born from 1970 to 1985 or so, and grew up largely without larger-than-life computer games, but were formed by an early reading of the Lord of the Rings. We have the same claim to have intimately experienced that world as kids right now will have on Harry Potter: when you encounter books like that in your middle school and elementary years, they are going to fundamentally impact your imaginitive world for the rest of your life. One of the oddest things about my generation seems to be the movement (which I am a part of) to more “medieval” forms of Christianity: the high-church traditions of the Church of England, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox where the Christian life, where ‘religion’, becomes a rhythmic part of life in the way that it becomes a part of everyday life down to the way one behaves at card playing … so that an outsider may not at first realize that they are being immersed into a deeply Christian universe until it is too late, and they find themselves on their knees kissing the chalice …

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ents in Isengard

I feel somewhat apologetic for it, but I cannot help, at a certain level, feeling somewhat relieved -- yes, that is what I said -- at the economic crisis. Am I a jerk? Probably. Yes, I know how bad it will be for so many things that I like, and for so many people's real lives and real livelihoods: including those of us who have invested our all in the academic profession, which unfortunately is a surplus industry. Just this morning the Cambridge Crier announced that Cambridge University Press is cutting half -- half -- of its staff. That is not fun times for anyone's family. But we have been living in a bubble world where the face of the earth has become a video game; and eventually things had to break. And yes, there is that grim delight in destroying rot that Treebeard sings out so perfectly somberly in Isengard.

Michael Lewis says:
In the two decades since [the late 1980s], I had been waiting for the end of Wall Street. The outrageous bonuses, the slender returns to shareholders, the never-ending scandals, the bursting of the internet bubble, the crisis following the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management: Over and over again, the big Wall Street investment banks would be, in some narrow way, discredited. Yet they just kept on growing, along with the sums of money that they doled out to 26-year-olds to perform tasks of no obvious social utility. The rebellion by American youth against the money culture never happened. Why bother to overturn your parents’ world when you can buy it, slice it up into tranches, and sell off the pieces?

At least one other person agrees with me:

When I hear the stock market has fallen,
I say, "Long live gravity! Long live
stupidity, error, and greed in the palaces
of fantasy capitalism!" I think
an economy should be based on thrift,
on taking care of things, not on theft,
usury, seduction, waste, and ruin.
(W. Berry from Some Further Words)

I would be very bad at it for quite awhile, but I've always sort of wanted to be forced into trying farming ...