"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Sunday, October 31, 2004

This Movie Messed Me Up

Saw - the movie

If you like horror movies, see "Saw". It was as creepy as "Frailty". (And if you haven't seen "Frailty", do so.) There are some nicely grotesque bits, but this is not a slasher film, it's a mind-bender. I walked out of the theatre wishing there were some safe way to apply soap and water directly to my brain. I don't think I'll ever look at a bathroom the same way again, either...

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Saturday, October 30, 2004

Green Grow the Rushes

The Ladies of Tortuga Knitting and Keelhauling Society met today. We sat around my living room knitting, crocheting, beading, chatting, and eating chocolate and Chinese. I'll spend all day tomorrow on the Gazelle in penance, and not regret a bite.

We are a mixed group. Wives, mothers and singles. Blue collar, white collar, no collar. We range in age from just under twenty to somewhere over forty. We met because we all like pretending to be pirates, and we continue to meet because we enjoy each other.

We always end up sitting in a circle. I don't think it's ever been planned that way, it just happens. The newcomer edges a chair in and the circle expands. It's an old metaphor, and I won't belabor it.

Ladies, it is a blessing to know you. To be surrounded by strong, vibrant women restores my soul. You are my battery and my barometer. There are things I am now proud of that I would not have even attempted without your encouragement. You make me brave. Thank you.

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Friday, October 29, 2004

Modus Vivendi

At what point must principle bow to practicality?

And at what point must it not?

I came to the rather lowering realization the other day that I haven't voted my conscience, by which I mean cast my ballot for the candidate whose platform and actions most closely reflect my ideals, since 1996. Instead, I've found that in almost every race there is one candidate who scares the bejeezus out of me and I simply cast my vote for whoever has the best chance of beating them. This isn't unusual, I'm sure--if you've never voted for the lesser of two evils, drop me a line. I'd like to buy you dinner.

But there is a soul-sucking quality to leaving the polling place after doing your civic duty, knowing that somewhere on your ballot was an unfilled dot (we still get paper ballots in my precinct, isn't it quaint?) next to the name of the best person for the job. But they didn't get your vote because Big Party Candidate A is the devil incarnate so you voted for Big Party Candidate B, who is merely slimy, in the hopes that the former won't get the chance to rewrite the Constitution or something equally appalling. And Minor Party Candidate C, who actually tells it like it is and wants to do good things, never had a chance because they didn't have a a multi-million-dollar war chest. Of course, if they did, they'd be a major party, with major-party concerns and major-party corruption, wouldn't they?

Then again, sometimes all of the candidates suck and voting is like throwing darts at a map to decide where you're going on vacation. You're as likely to end up in Akron as in Miami.

Should casting a vote be a matter of conscience, or a matter of strategy? We all have to decide that for ourselves, each and every time we step into the voting booth. It's a decision I struggle with more every election cycle. I used to wonder why someone eligible and able to vote would choose not to. I believe am beginning to understand. Disillusionment is the great demotivator.

But the fact of the matter is, if we all do nothing, nothing changes. If any one of us does nothing, they allow others to change things for them, and really have no right to object when the changes made aren't to their liking.

Throwing a dart at a map isn't a sure thing, but it's something. You've got a chance. You might end up somewhere wonderful.

I hear Akron is really nice this time of year.

More on this subject another day.

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Thursday, October 28, 2004

Curses Foiled Again

I am now at peace with the Twins' inglorious exit from the playoffs. Their failure was an unfortunate but necessary chapter in an amazing story.

Boston, you see, needed to beat the Yankees. After years suffering under the lash of their division rival's endless expense account and seemingly unshakeable dominance, after their heartbreaking loss against them in last year's ALCS, after all the chants of "1918" and "Who's your daddy?", the time had come to shut them up, sit them down, and tell the Bambino that enough is enough, already.

But for Boston to beat the Yankees, they had to play the Yankees. And for two teams from the same division, the only place to meet is the league championship series. Given the long and hostile history between these two teams, I'm sure that if the Red Sox had reached the World Series through other teams--if, in other words, the Twins had been the ones to send the Yankees home--their victory would have lost some of its sparkle. They would have wondered, could we have done this if we'd had to beat them on the way? And those charming Yankee fans would have been quick to echo those fears with claims that Boston never would have gotten past the Bronx Bombers.

So the Twins and the Angels had to be set aside for history to be made.

It didn't look good for the Idiots, as the Red Sox styled themselves, did it? Down three games to none in the ALCS, a deficit insurmountable in all the long history of this great game. Three outs away from being swept, in fact, facing one of the most formidable closers in recent memory. But their fans held up their "I Believe!" signs, and the Idiots decided they could believe for a few innings, and they rallied, and they won. And won, and won, and won. And the Yankees gave us the Biggest Choke Ever--thank you very much, boys, that was delicious. Could you lose in humiliating fashion again next year, too? I'd like to order a second-place finish, hold the wild card. Start cooking, Steinbrenner.

Meanwhile, as the poor benighted Yankees cleaned out their lockers and their owner was repeatedly defibrilated in his secret headquarters, the Idiots capered home to Fenway Park and their first World Series since 1986. Remember that one? Bill Buckner? Enough said.

I entertained myself with a certain mental image through the Fall Classic. Derek Jeter, slumped on a couch in a darkened living room, the flickering light from the television set illuminating his rumpled clothes and three-day beard. On the end table by his elbow sits a bottle of Pepto Bismol, from which he grimly quaffs whenever the Red Sox score. And wonder of wonders, quite possibly for the first time in his life, he isn't smirking.

A lovely picture, isn't it? If only I could draw.

I got a bit nervous when they went up three games to none in the World Series. Didn't you? They'd just done the impossible versus the Yankees, and wouldn't it have been the ultimate confirmation of the curse for the very same thing to happen to them?

But last night we discovered that yes, the Curse of Pay-Rod does indeed trump the Curse of the Bambino. Perhaps the Bambino took a good look at the financial state of the game of baseball and the resulting competitive disparities and decided he didn't like the Yankees anymore? The newer curse does seem to contain the same humiliation clause the old one did, which I personally find reassuring. And with the Yankees' farm system bled dry and an aging, overpaid and therefore largely untradeable lineup, the Curse of Pay-Rod should have lots of raw material to work with over the next few seasons.

Maybe Boston can get a little dynasty of its own going. Several division championships in a row, another ring or two, and so forth. Wouldn't that be great for them, after such a long drought?

Oh, but not next year's ring. Sorry, Boston. That one's ours.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Amnesty condemns U.S. over torture

Amnesty condemns U.S. over torture:
"LONDON (Reuters) - The United States has failed to guard against torture and inhuman behaviour since launching its 'war on terror' after September 11, 2001, Amnesty International has said in a report just days before the U.S. election.
The rights group called on President George W. Bush and his Democratic challenger John Kerry to promise to take prompt action to address the issue head on if elected on November 2.
It condemned Bush's response to the 2001 attacks on U.S. cities, saying it had resulted in an 'iconography of torture, cruelty and degradation'.
Amnesty's report accused Washington of stepping onto a 'well-trodden path of violating basic rights in the name of national security or 'military necessity'.'
'The war mentality the government has adopted has not been matched with a commitment to the laws of war and it has discarded fundamental human rights principles along the way,' it said.
At best, Washington was guilty of setting conditions for torture and cruel treatment by lowering safeguards and failing to respond adequately to allegations of abuse, it said.
At worst, it had authorised interrogation techniques which flouted its international obligation to reject torture and ill-treatment under any circumstances."

Hmmm. Now, didn't the president claim (after his initial claims of the existence of WMDs in Iraq and his followup claims that Hussein and binLaden were all buddy-buddy failed to hold water) that we invaded Iraq to free the Iraqi people from an oppressive regime which used force and torture to realize its objectives?

Ladies and gentlemen, your tax dollars at work.

See, this is why I find myself humming the Canadian national anthem at odd moments.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Alas, Poor Kubel

Being Jason Kubel was a pretty good deal until last week.

Rewind to April and put yourself in his Nikes for a minute. You're a 22-year-old outfielder, starting the season at AA New Britain. You flash a little leather, make a few pitchers cry, and next thing you know you're packing your bags and heading to AAA Rochester. You flash a little more leather, make a few more pitchers cry, and nail down your organizational Minor League Player of the Year honors by hitting .352 with 22 homers, all before the end of August. Because that's when you get called up to The Show, just in time to have a shot at making the playoff roster.

So, you hit .300 in the big leagues for a month, make that playoff roster, play in the playoffs, and then you're off to spend a few weeks in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, the instructional league for top prospects. And as you're flying to Arizona, you've got to be thinking about that arbitration-eligible right fielder making several times your salary and due for a raise. A raise the team may well be ready to take a pass on, thanks to your availablity as a younger, cheaper option.

And then, in your first game in the AFL, you collide with another outfielder on a fly ball play and tear a ligament in your knee so badly you're expected to miss the entire 2005 season. How rusty will your skills be after an enforced year off? Will you need to spend 2006 in AAA just to catch up? Will you have a bum knee for the rest of your career? Will you lose speed, lose power, lose confidence? Even if you make a full recovery, will there be an opening in The Show when you're ready again?

It makes me sad, it really does, how quickly a shooting star can become a burning question mark. One play, just one ordinary everyday play, and suddenly everything changes. The personnel options available to the team shrink drastically, budget questions have fewer solutions, and one young man's future hangs on a surgeon's knife and the recuperative powers genetics and his own ability to follow doctors' orders allow him.

Good luck, kid. Get well soon.

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Feline Rescue

Spare a moment while I shamelessly plug one of my favorite charities.

Feline Rescue :: Kneading Paws, Needing Homes:

"Feline Rescue is organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes. Our primary goal is to provide shelter and care for stray, abused and abandoned cats until they are adopted into suitable homes. Feline Rescue has no paid staff.
We promote positive community interaction through education, spay/neuter programs and other activities that enable all people to enjoy the friendship of cats.
We operate a shelter where the majority of our cats are free to roam. Volunteer crews come in twice a day to clean the shelter and socialize with the cats. They provide a safe, caring environment while giving the attention and affection the cats deserve. In addition to our shelter and adoption services we also have a foster care network for our kittens and cats with special needs.
Donations, adoption fees, fund raising events and matching grants are our primary sources of income. All donations go directly to the care, feeding and medical needs of our cats.
No cat shall be destroyed except when it is beyond medical treatment."

I first heard of Feline Rescue a couple of years ago when a friend gave me and Mr. Third Base Line a wonderful Yule gift--a year's sponsorship of an unadoptable cat. We got a picture and bio of the cat, the cat got a year's room and board. I can't say which of us got the better end of the bargain.

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Monday, October 25, 2004

Defining the Argument


  1. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
  2. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
  3. Tending to give freely; generous .
  4. Generous in amount; ample.

I put forth two questions, which I have never been able to answer to my own satisfaction:

When, how and why did this become a dirty word?

And what, pray tell, does it say about our society?

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