Thursday, July 31, 2008

Live Blogging the Trade Deadline

4 hours and 52 minutes from now, the MLB trade deadline will have come and gone. Will we see some of the biggest (and strangest) deals in the last decade in the next four plus hours? Today at TPG, I will be live blogging the final hours before the 4pm (EST) trade deadline.

A rundown of the trades that have already occurred (asterisk represents trades I personally feel are the most important for contending teams--not to be confused with steroids):

June 6: Angel Berroa (SS) to the Dodgers; Juan Rivera (IF) to the Royals
June 13: Trot Nixon (OF) to the Mets; Diamondbacks get player to be named or cash
July 7: *C.C. Sabathia (SP) to the Brewers; Matt LaPorta (OF), Zach Jackson (P), and Rob Bryson (P) to the Indians*
July 8: *Rich Harden (SP) and Chad Gaudin (P) to the Cubs for four players to the A's (more here)
July 17: Tony Clark (1B) to the Diamonbacks; Evan Scribner (P) to the Padres
July 17: Joe Blanton (P) to the Phillies for three players to the A's including Matt Spencer (OF)
July 20: Ray Durham (2B) to the Brewers for two players headed to the Giants
July 22: Pitching deal--Randy Wolf to the Astros, Chad Reineke to the Padres
July 25: *Xavier Nady (OF) and Marte (P) to the Yanks for four players to the Pirates*
July 26: Casey Blake (3B) to the Dodgers for Carlos Santana (C) and Jon Meloan (P) to the Indians
July 27: *Mark Teixeira (1B) to the Angels for Casey Kotchman (1B) and Marek (P) to the Braves*
July 28: Ivan Rodriguez (C) to the Yanks; Kyle Farnsworth (P) to the Tigers

The Braves were going to lose Mark Teixeira at the end of the season to free agency, but they don't seem to have taken advantage of his worth. On the other hand, the Angels capitalized on this trade and are nearly a sure bet for clinching that division. The Padres seem to be trading all over the place, but are they even going to make it to the post season? I highly doubt it. The Dodgers needed a bat, Casey Blake on a good day probably won't be enough for them. The Cubs and Brewers made wise pitching choices that will leave them in the race up until the end. The Yankees are attempting to clean up their lineup with so many injuries. If anyone can replace Jorge Posada, it's Pudge Rodriguez, but that doesn't make me feel any better about Pudge going to the Yanks!

Players to keep an eye on today: Greg Maddux (SP) of the Padres, Adam Dunn (OF) and Ken Griffey, Jr. (OF) of the Reds, Jeremy Hermida (OF) of the Marlins, Manny Ramirez (OF) of the Red Sox, Jason Bay (OF) of the Pirates, Will Ohman (P) of the Braves, Brian Fuentes (SP) of the Rockies, Ron Mahay (P) of the Royals, and Adrian Beltre (3B) of the Mariners.

Update (9:18 a.m. MST): Ken Griffey, Jr. is said to be in talks for a trade to the Chicago White Sox. The former Mariner and current Red has never played for a World Series winning (or playing) team and would like to do so before the end of his 608-home run and still counting career.

Update (9:32 a.m. MST): From the rumor mill...embattled Boston Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez may be going to the Florida Marlins (of all teams!!) in a three-team deal. If this indeed happens, I still don't believe Theo Epstein will let it, this coul put the Marlins in a position to take over the National League East where they have been battling the Mets & Philles competently for over a month. Manny, who like Ken Griffey, Jr., gets the final say and he's saying he won't block a trade.

Update (9:50 a.m. MST): Word is the Reds have agreed to trade Junior to the White Sox, but are awaiting final word and approval from Griffey himself.

Update (9:59 a.m. MST): And it's golden! Ken Griffey, Jr. is headed to the White Sox--just agreed to it. No word on what the Reds get in return.

3 hours and 53 minutes to go...

Update (10:09 a.m. MST): Marlins trade prospect Hernandez for left-hander Rhodes; Astros acquire Hawkins from Yanks

Update (10:26 a.m. MST): Pirates may be holding up the Ramirez deal.

Update (10:56 a.m. MST): Sports Illustrated is reporting that Manny Ramirez has approved possible trade to the Florida Marlins. However, the Pirates want more from the Red Sox for Jason Bay than Theo Epstein and the Bo-Sox may be willing to pay. Seems the Marlins are willing to trade whatever is necessary to the Pirates to assure Manny arrives in Miami. What do you think the chances are all those empty seats at Dolphin Stadium will fill up if Manny turns up in Miami?

3 hours and 4 minutes to go...

I've yet to decide what the silence out of the Mets and the Nationals means for the National League East. Where Washington is concerned, I suspect it boils down to having very little money and players that aren't worth much if anything (Paul Lo Duca I'm looking at you).

Found this from yesterday's Houston Chronicle: Astros to those interested--thanks for asking, but not a snowball's chance in hell. They are keeping Tejada! Is this the second-wind of Miguel Tejada? If his performance in the all star game is any indication, then a resounding yes!

Update (11:37 a.m. MST): If the Red Sox don't deserve Manny, nobody deserves Manny? It's beginning to look like a deal that would land Manny Ramirez in Miami and Jason Bay in Boston is all but dead. There are of course still 2 hours and 23 minutes before the Red Sox have hit a brick wall (or big green monster) with this deal, but it doesn't look good for the BoSox.

Update (11:43 a.m. MST): Details of the Manny situation via Ken Rosenthal. Is no news good news? Not if there is "nothing to talk about."

Update (12:28 p.m. MST): I can't decide who is the bigger story today--Manny Ramirez or Jason Bay. If the Pirates are back in talks with the Rays about sending Jason Bay to Tampa Bay does that mean the deal that would send Bay to Boston and Manny to Miami is off the table?

I didn't say there was anything sane about the trade deadline! 1 hour, 32 minutes and the race is on.

Update (12:37 p.m. MST): Manny says he'll go anywhere; Dodgers say they're back in the running to let Manny be Manny.

Update (12:56 p.m. MST): Running, not literally, to P.T. now, whenever I return a full and complete look at today's big trades. Hits & misses. An hour and four minutes to go.

Final Update and Analysis:

As of the 4 p.m. (EST) trade deadline, no deals had been announced for today's most talked about players: Manny Ramirez and Jason Bay. It seems that in the last hour before the trade deadline, a deal that would have sent Manny to the Florida Marlins fell apart and Jason Bay was left hanging. Then talk got louder about Bay going to the bay, literally, Los Angeles to be exact.

The 4 p.m. trade deadline came and went. Still no deals to be announced.

However, word is that a deal has been reached between three teams, the Boston Red Sox, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, sending Manny Ramirez to L.A., Jason Bay to Boston, and four minor leaguers (possibly Brandon Moss and Andy LaRoche) to the Pirates.

I didn't believe that the Red Sox would trade Manny, but once Manny started saying he'd accept a trade anywhere, I figured things had gotten bad enough that Manny wanted out and Boston would in fact move him. After all he's done and said recently, Manny needed a move almost as much as the Red Sox needed him off the front page of the Boston Globe. Ironically, L.A. deserves Manny. Hopefully for Joe Torre the trade turns out better than it did when Andruw Jones booked a flight from Atlanta to L.A.

Jason Bay's presence in a Boston outfield doesn't detract much from the overall defense of the BoSox. His hitting may. For all that has been said about Manny, there is no denying his presence in any lineup. You don't trade away a 600-career homerun hitter and not feel the pain a little.

Suddenly the Casey Blake deal is making tons of sense for L.A.

As for the rest of today's trade deadline news, I am happy to see Ken Griffey, Jr. getting some of the spotlight. This guy is a class act. More so than any other active player in the league. He is what is great and decent about Major League Baseball. Will his move to the White Sox earn him a World Series victory? Too soon to tell if Chicago will still be at the top of the their division. However, Chicago fans, I think, can really appreciate the talent of Griffey. He'll be happy, showing of that trademark smile, no matter where he plays. Let's just hope he's playing for a team that will see a whole lot of the post season.

Here's what no news from the Mets and Nationals means to me. The Nationals will not see post-season play for at least another couple of years. Without making any moves before the trade deadline they aren't ever going to bring in young talent or get rid of veteran talent. As far as I'm concerned, they should send Paul Lo Duca packing. For whatever they're paying him they could easily pick up some minor league talent. The Mets are a bit more complicated. They have had their own shakeup this year and the exit of Willie Randolph may have been the biggest change they could handle. They have a decent, young team that is still in the race. Despite their epic collapse last year, they know what it takes to win. It would have benefitted them to go shopping for a little more outfield help. Trot Nixon and Carlos Beltran can't do it all and it may be awhile before Ryan Church and Moises Alou are healthy and back in the lineup. The funny thing is, when the season started I thought that by the trade deadline they'd be shopping for a new first baseman by way of the Diamondbacks or Braves. Good for Delgado for coming around.

The team I think stands the most to gain by these pre-deadline happenings is the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Mark Teixeira brings gold-glove skills and a serious bat to their roster. He will be what the Braves were looking for and couldn't capitalize on. With a solid lineup behind him, look for big numbers from Tex.

The team I don't want to have anything to gain from all of this is the Yankees. In fact, since last night I've spent a lot of time wondering if my favorite catcher can remain my favorite catcher once he suits up in pinstripes. I was looking at stats for Ivan Rodriguez earlier and noticed that he's listed at 5'9" and 190 lbs. Pudge! Are you kidding? I wonder how pitchers will adjust going from the tall and slender Jorge Posada to the short (can't be more than 5'5") and stocky Pudge. Regardless of size, the 2003 NLCS MVP brings thirteen gold gloves with him to the remaining days of Yankee Stadium. Thirteen gold gloves behind the dish, can you really beat that? Nady will stabilize the Yanks' outfield, his arm is certainly stronger than Damon's, but will his bat bring the numbers the Yankees need to stay in contention? Who knows. I want to say no.

Who were the winners and losers this trade season? Obviously, the Angels and the Brewers. With solid hitting and pitching you can't go wrong. The Red Sox struck even. The Pirates three years from now may be the winners of today's trade, but tomorrow they'll be the team without two solid bats. The Braves made a horrible trade in terms of what they got for what they had. And I'm still wondering how the Tigers couldn't agree to send Pudge to the Marlins in some sort of deal similar to the Willis/Cabrera deal. The Reds lost big time, the White Sox too soon to tell, but probably winners in the short term.

Surprise of the day? Not a single Molina was traded. Can't blame the Cardinals for holding tight to Yadier, the Yankees now have a backup catcher for their backup catcher, but Bengie? Staying put for a team that doesn't seem to need anyone to catch anything behind the plate--not with fastballs that everybody is hitting and wild pitches that not even the backstop is knocking down.

Minus the part where I had "Best of You" by the Foo Fighters stuck in my head all damn day and had to take a break for physical therapy, this has been a fairly exciting and enjoyable trade deadline.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Movie Review

Spoiler alert: If you haven't seen the new X-Files film yet and plan to, stop reading now.

Since the Chris Carter creation left television, the world became a different place. In a post-9/11 world, conspiracy theories, assassination plots, and story lines related to terrorism are no longer common place in the entertainment industry. Illegal aliens have replaced the little green men that Chris Carter made famous. Shows centered around the government agencies whose purpose is to protect us are no longer light-hearted and have often focused on larger issues like torture.

With that said, X-Files fans walking into theaters over the weekend to see the latest installment, I Want To Believe, knew some things would be different. What we didn't know was that things would be so different. Barring disappointment, this could have been a spectacular end to a show a lot of us grew up with. Would it answer our questions? Would it leave us feeling, as the series finale did not, that there was a finality to it all? Would we be happy with Carter's final project? A distribution executive for 20th Century Fox said of the film that "hardcore 'X-Files' fans, they're happy. And frankly, that's who the movie was made for."

Happy? This X-Files fan is not happy!

If Chris Carter wanted to make a film that would both bring in a younger audience, as I said last week, and satisfy a long-standing audience, he failed in both respects. The younger audience that may have been intrigued by a sci-fi thriller were let down. Long-standing X-Files fans that wanted a film that would do justice to the brilliant series were let down.

For a younger audience, those who may have wanted to see Xhibit were disappointed with a character that had no depth. Minus one comment about Mulder's sister being abducted by E.T., Xhibit exhibited absolutely no humor, no emotion, nothing. His skepticism could be misconstrued as boredom and disinterest. All audiences were looking for a strong performance from Amanda Peet, playing yet another FBI agent, and what we got was a shallow performance from Peet that was more or less a result of poor writing. Peet's character, according to reviews, was supposedly "smitten" with Mulder and an admirer of his work, yet until I read those reviews after seeing the film I never would have put the two together. Not nearly the skeptic and empty character that Xhibit was, she still brought very little to the story.

Where Carter went wrong with Believe is his all but abandonment of the base mythology. Minus the previously mentioned comment about Mulder's sister and a photo of her on Mulder's home office door (or shrine), there is no discussion of her abduction. This was essential to the television show. In looking for a missing FBI agent, Scully rightly accuses Mulder of always searching for "her." Meaning he's still looking for something he will never find, his sister, the truth, or otherwise. In addition to the absence of Samantha Mulder, there is only a brief mention of Scully's son William. Only once do she and Mulder acknowledge they had a son. This was the base of the final two seasons of the show and yet it is completely missing from the film. The grand government conspiracy to introduce human-alien hybrids is missing as well. No discussion of what happened to their former partners Reyes and Doggett (though it is quite obvious that the 'I Want to Believe' poster once picked up off the trashed X-Files office and rolled up by John Doggett got back into the hands of its rightful owner).

And what about the supposed alien take over in 2012? No mention whatsoever of "the truth" as discovered by Mulder in the first part of the series finale. Don't tell me just because the Cigarette Smoking Man is dead so is the biggest conspiracy in the history of scripted television!

There is this huge missing piece when it comes to where the hell Mulder and Scully have been for the past six years. We get the idea that Mulder has been hiding out, still a fugitive for murdering a super solider in the end of the series, but what we don't ever put together is how they got to where they are--living together in a remote house where Scully seems largely absent as she is working as a surgeon at a Catholic hospital. At least they tell us that Mulder's sins will be forgiven if he assists the FBI in searching for the missing agent.

Sure, it is nearly impossible to answer all of the questions we Filers have been asking since the series ended. Sure, we should be simply happy to have our favorite characters back on the big screen. Sure, bringing Walter Skinner into the mix was worth seeing the film, period. But this is all Carter had? After six years this is the best he could do?

There's no paranormal arch to the film. There aren't monsters (despite perhaps the greatest line from the entire film from Scully: "I'm done chasing monsters in the dark."), though the body snatchers are a bit unsettling and the headless man is absolutely disturbing. The only semi-paranormal story is Father Joe's "visions" of the missing agent. The audience, and our favorite agents, are left questioning Father Joe's role in the entire ordeal. Minus the body snatchers and the large number of barking dogs, there aren't any monsters. Just a whole lot of snow.

What Carter does get right, as he did in the entire series, is the issue and often battle between belief and faith. Mulder wants to believe in everything, Scully in nothing. That underlying difference between them that perhaps drew them together and made the show what it was is not missing from the film. Despite her employment at the Catholic hospital, Scully remains the skeptic. She questions why a loving God would bring a child into the world only to suffer. She questions Father Joe, a former priest and convicted pedophile, asking him what he was praying for when they first meet him and asking if he thinks his prayers are heard, but shows up to speak to him about faith in one of the more moving scenes of the film. In the seventh season, an episode called "All Things" really doted on the faith issue, almost as much as the series did as Scully's character was battling cancer. That tone was evident in the film, one of the most redeeming things about the film.

From time to time that old chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson emerges and the audience is left wishing these kind of characters still existed. There is that old frustration that they'll never figure out how to be together, though Scully admits that Mulder's stubbornness is what made her fall for him. And they play off each other so well. Even in dark moments, like when they first meet Father Joe, they come up with some zingers that are nearly as great as the back-and-forth banter in the original episodes.

What do we know now that the film has been released that we didn't know the last six years waiting for it? All of the mythology that the first feature film was criticized for would have made the latest film a worthy final installment. Where the first film stretched too far for an unknowing audience, this film didn't stretch far enough. In an attempt to bring in a new audience the old audience is nearly ignored. To make a thriller acceptable by today's audience standards they used gore instead of exploring the creepy paranormal that the original show clung to. Minus the visions, what Scully and Mulder were known for investigating is all but lost on not only a new audience, but the fictional FBI agents that questionably gawk at the old team's entrance.

But they're still a team and Carter doesn't abandon that. Mulder is still the stubborn believer. Scully is still the strong willed skeptic driven by the possibilities of medicine and science. If you loved the original show for the two characters alone, the film will be enough for you. If you loved the show for the combination of superb writing, great story telling, character chemistry, the philosophical battle between believing and having faith, and supporting characters, the new movie will disappoint.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Weekend Preview

In case you missed it, earlier in the week on AM 63 KFXD Radio, senatorial candidate Larry LaRocco challenged his opponent Lt. Governor Jim Risch to "talk the talk." After another successful interaction with Idaho voters, LaRocco's campaign pointed how frequently Risch avoids public debates and fielding questions from the public. Responding to LaRocco's challenge, Jim Risch will be on the radio program tomorrow morning at 7:30 for a half hour segment. For more on this story, please visit New West.

Have questions for Risch? Don't we all? Make sure and call in tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. (MST) to see if Jim Risch can weasel his way out of your questions. 

Early Saturday morning before the sun has time to beat down on the over-trained bodies of swimmers, bikers, and runners, the 22nd Annual Spudman will be underway. (Photo courtesy of the South Idaho Press)

A 1.5 km swim, 40 km ride, and 10 km run make up the Spudman triathlon held in the Burley area every year. Sponsored and planned by the Burley Lion's Club, the Spudman has become a regional attraction drawing competitors from several states.

I've never participated in a triathlon, never will given my inability to swim and fear of water, but this year I'm watching the Spudman results with anticipation as my kid brother is participating for the first time. Competing in the 15 year-old age group (his sixteenth birthday is just around the corner), he as been training for several months and assures me has a chance of placing in the top five of his group. Not to brag, okay, I'm bragging, the kid has a shot.

Good luck, little bro! And good luck to all of the participants in this year's Spudman.

I'll be away from the blogosphere this week, but will eturn to posting on Monday. Nothing exciting going on around here, just need some time to relax and get some reading done. My copy of Shock Jocks: Hate Speech & Talk Radio has arrived and I'm sure it will entice more commentary on the unnecessary spewing of hate from the mouth of one Zeb Bell. Of course, that isn't the reading I really need to be doing, but how can I resist?

Have a good weekend and I'll catch you all on Monday!

Cougars & Carrying

We have had several cougar sightings on campus over the past months, the latest resulted in the teaming up of ISU Public Safety and the Idaho Fish & Game to "corral" the cougars.

The sightings have been mostly on or near Red Hill, an area I don't frequent, so I haven't paid particularly close attention, but yesterday the Idaho State Journal quoted an ISU student in their "Campus Word" section that caught my attention:

The Journal asked: How do you feel about cougars coming on campus?

"I really wished they had concealed carry on campus. As long as it's sitting there, I can aim."
--Jordan Keough, Junior

Oh boy. What do you say to that? Who knew it took the cougars coming back to bring the concealed carry argument back up! Maybe I should have been a little more concerned with the open carry people visiting the Boise zoo if this is the thought process...

*An update via ISU student memos:

Following reported sightings of mountain lions on campus, ISU Public Safety has been working closely with the Idaho Fish and Game to locate and capture any of the animals for relocation.

Sightings have yet to be confirmed. Fish and Game officials have employed scent-tracking dogs and live traps, but have yet to discover evidence of the animals' presence.

Campus officials will continue working with Fish and Game in a vigilant manner. Any confirmations or other pertinent information to reported sightings will be shared with the public through timely warning systems and other means as necessary.

(5:04 p.m. MST)

Obviously the update is cougar related, not conceal-carry related.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Want to Believe

Friday is a day we X-Files fans have waited over six years for--the release of the second full-length motion picture based on the original television series created by Chris Carter. The X-Files: I Want To Believe is said to be a gift to the long-standing fan base as well as a conduit for a new, younger audience to be introduced to the nine season series.

Yes, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz want an even younger audience than they've already achieved. What does this mean? I'm assuming the 16-24 year olds. Traditional X-Files fans are a little older than I am, usually those who were in their teens when the show first aired in 1993. College kids who stuck with the show or had just picked it up when seasons eight and nine took an expected turn without the every-episode presence of one of the stars, David Duchovny.

Will they achieve this goal? Chances are with the additions of Amanda Peet and Xhibit to a cast with the series' stars Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, yes, they may.

Had I started watching the series when it first aired, I can't say I would have appreciated the genius of it (I was eight), but when I did start watching the series (in its sixth season), I loved every minute of it and immediately went in search of the earlier episodes. This was long before the TV on DVD push, in fact I believe this show was the first to be released on DVD when the TV on DVD push finally came around. This was when you could find cult hits on VHS or in syndication. If I had started watching the series when it first aired I may have been scared away by episodes like "Tooms" in season one and "The Host" in season two. However, Chris Carter soon grasped the idea of character development and by mid-season two with "Duane Barry" and "Ascension," he had created a storyline with characters that viewers could become attached to.

Of course, some viewers latched onto the storyline associated with Carter's fictional vast government conspiracy to introduce human-alien hybrids to take over the world.

Why did I watch? There was a certain amount of conspiracy in the show (minus the bizarre aforementioned alien conspiracy) that I found entertaining. And it was smart. The writing was superb. They expected you to know something, unlike what they must assume are dimwitted sitcom watchers, and they expected you to question the outcomes.

Following the fifth season of the show, Carter did something that only few successful television series are capable of--bringing in money and a whole new audience with a feature film. X-Files: Fight the Future rejuvenated the show. Traditional fans may have been slightly disappointed in what was put on the big screen, it didn't do justice to the overall theme of the show probably in an effort to Hollywoodize the production and boost the box office numbers, but most of us hung on and were forgiving.

Carter created a franchise untouched by the hopes and attempts of other television shows. At the peak of X-Files glory (around season six) there were action figures, board games, the Lone Gunmen spin-off (albeit, failed), video games, books, VHS then DVD sets, re-runs on SciFi and FX, and oodles of other show-based collectibles. The X-Files infiltrated pop-culture, an entire Simpsons episode was devoted to the Carter creation.

With the second feature film opening tomorrow I cannot help but be amazed at the stretch of this show. It is simply astounding that Carter was able to bring the show back after six years off the air, forced syndication, and many failed attempts to bring the shows two stars back to the franchise (Gillian went to London to do theater work and a few unsuccessful films; David did some films and recently struck gold with his Showtime series Californication).

I'm trying desperately to not get my hopes up for what could be a doomed event. Will Carter answer the questions I've had since the two-part series finale wrapped back in May of 2002? Will I be disappointed with the chemistry, something the show was known for, between the two main characters? Will we see A.D.A. Walter Skinner? And where the hell have these characters been for the last six years?

In an effort to stoke myself up for the new film, I went back and watched quite a few episodes from the eighth and ninth seasons, the two seasons I did not watch weekly as I had seasons six and seven. After season seven wrapped with no idea of whether another season was to come, I forced to accept the finale as how the show would end. Imagine my frustration when they brought the show back and without David Duchovny for most of the final two seasons!

Merely mentioning the show and giving a plug for the new movie would be incomplete without a short listing of my favorite episodes, the creepiest episodes, funniest episodes, etc. Why not?

My Favorites:
  • The Truth I & II (Season 9)
  • Three Words (Season 8)
  • Requiem (Season 7)
  • All Things (Season 7)
  • Millennium (Season 7)
  • Triangle (Season 6)
  • The Unnatural (Season 6)
  • Detour (Season 5)
  • Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man (Season 4)
  • Kaddish (Season 4)
  • Pilot (Season 1)

The Kid Brother's Favorite Episodes:

  • Scary Monsters (Season 9)
  • First Person Shooter (Season 7)
  • Millennium (Season 7)
  • Detour (Season 5)
  • Bad Blood (Season 5)
  • Never Again (Season 4)

Funniest Episodes:

  • Sunshine Days (Season 9)
  • Hollywood A.D. (Season 7)
  • X-Cops (Season 7)
  • Fight Club (Season 7)
  • Arcadia (Season 6)
  • Dreamland I & II (Season 6)
  • The Post-Modern Prometheus (Season 5)
  • Fearful Symmetry (Season 2)

Scariest Episodes:

  • Underneath (Season 9)
  • Theef (Season 7)
  • Home (Season 4)
  • Pusher (Season 3)
  • The Host (Season 2)
  • Tooms (Season 1)
  • Squeeze (Season 1)
Yes, you can now tack this onto the growing list of things that make me a nerd. And you better expect that once I see the new movie I will have something to say about it!

Middle of the Week Mélange

Yesterday afternoon and last night I got a total of fifteen hours of sleep. Today I almost feel like a new person. Still some back pain, tail bone pain, etc., but all in all, I'm in one piece. Nothing to complain about.

This is the week that nearly 22,000 Idahoans will see a pay raise due to the second phase of the federal minimum wage hike. $6.55 will be the federal minimum wage for the next year until the third phase of this hike. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how I feel about how little I get paid), I am one of the Idahoans to see this raise. Back in May I took a $3-an-hour pay cut so I could stay on with a project I've been working on for over two years, not a great time to take a pay cut with gas prices as they are, but they could have stopped paying me entirely and I would have still showed up to do the work. I know it isn't a huge hike, but every little bit counts.

Now that I have successfully made myself sound like the great Friar Tuck from the animated Robin Hood with that last sentence, onto something a little more political...

Via the blogs:
  • An interesting piece over at 43rd State Blues caught my eye yesterday. 123Idaho has a post titled, "Could an Obama presidency hurt black Americans?"
  • angryyoungwoman pounced on the story of Michael Savage going into attack mode against autism and autistic children. I'll have more to say about this tomorrow.
  • Go watch this video, brought to you by the unequivocal notion, and see what a true moron Wayne Hoffman is.
  • MountainGoat Report has a great post on the "demented" nature of Zeb Bell's radio show. (with audio)
Via the papers:
  • Popkey addressed the anti-Bush bus in his column.
  • LTE's cause a stir; can't help but find this comical.
  • Joy Morrison is retiring, sad day in Pocatello.

Somehow I failed to mention that Candlebox, competitor in the "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" contest on ESPN, has a new CD that came out yesterday. I don't have the full release, just the title song "Into the Sun," but I would highly recommend this CD. I hear if you purchase it from iTunes you get an exclusively released track. If you were a fan of Candlebox in their heyday, you'll like their new stuff. It's what you wish they could have been right before they fell apart.

Any guesses on Veep choices? I'm disappointed to see that Joe Biden isn't on the shortlist for Senator Obama. If I were in Obama's shoes, Joe Biden would be at the top of my short list. In fact he'd probably qualify as the entire short list. Maybe I should write up my reasoning one of these days...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Guilt By Association?

You can tell a great deal about a person by the people they surround themselves with. I have never been one to subscribe to the notion of 'guilt by association' because I believe our relationships and interactions with others are based on many factors, the least of which can be the issue for which an individual may be considered suspect.

That said, I have watched with interest the public animosity playing out between one radio pundit, Zeb Bell, and his former military analyst, Gary Eller of Twin Falls. Mr. Eller previously served as the sane voice in an otherwise chaotic environment, the radio show of Zeb Bell. He has referred to bigotry as the "domestic enemy" and refutes the claim of a "Mexican and Muslim invasion" often noted by Zeb Bell's callers.

Without going into detail regarding my own relationship with a few of Bell's sponsors, I will say that two of his sponsors are men I have known most of my life, one of whom I have admired every day that I've known him. However, my interactions with these two men who are partially financially responsible for keeping Zeb on the air have been outside of the political arena. In fact, had you asked me before this latest ordeal surrounding the racism and bigotry of Zeb Bell I would not have been able to tell you anything about their political ideologies. I would have simply assumed that like most of Cassia County, they were conservative, family values-type voters.

Unlike these two sponsors, two men I once held a certain deal of respect for, I have come to appreciate and respect Mr. Eller in his departure from and opposition to the antics of Zeb Bell.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Gary Eller served in the United States Army for nearly thirty years. His military career spanned three decades and several continents. Having served in Southeast Asia, Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, and in Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Eller brought to Zeb Bell's show a knowledge of military tactics and the Middle East. Eller, a proclaimed centrist and independent, refused to accept the premises presented by Zeb Bell in reference to minorities, public education, the war in Iraq, and other issues, but offered some small factual base for discussions about the Middle East. Certainly, Zeb Bell's show was greatly benefited by Mr. Eller's expertise and portions of the show that involved Eller were the only stable and grounded conversations taking place there.

In a recent LTE printed in the Times-News, Eller stated:
I recently heard a local radio talk show personality make the claim that Obama is the “precursor to the anti-Christ” because of his Muslim heritage and his African ancestry. (Imagine, horror of horrors, if Obama was also female – my god hide the children!) I don’t care if Obama is Muslim, Mormon, or Martian; I care only that he is competent. I’ve also noticed that he is black, which makes me suspicious of all criticisms that don’t include a policy discussion. Don’t look now, but there may just be a few bigots here in Magic Valley.
Eller has referred to bigotry as the "domestic enemy." Bell has taken to referring to Eller as a "cowardly back shooter." Evidently an intelligent conversation on the issues is beneath Mr. Bell.

Without Eller, Bell has resorted to bringing on like-minded guests who merely serve as reinforcements to the skewed rhetoric being spewed by Bell. Who are his guests? This week alone Zeb will entertain the controversial opinions of Bryan Fisher, director of the Idaho Values Alliance; the racist, David Duke-apologist Frosty Wooldridge; another retired Army colonel, Randy Givens of Texas and the Citizens for a Constitutional Republic; and, ultra-conservative Albion city councilwoman Sharon Hardy-Mills.

Bryan Fisher needs no introduction here or anywhere in the Idaho progressive blogosphere. His quest to force his beliefs on all Idahoans is no news. Frosty Wooldridge was only a short blip on Idaho's radar when he appeared on Zeb Bell's show over a month ago and accused Barack Obama's mother of being "trailer trash" and for having an affinity for African-American men. Frosty denied being associated with David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and finally, after two weeks of continuous denial admitted his association with Duke and accepted the charge that he had (and still does) write for David Duke's website. My familiarity with Mr. Givens is limited, however I know that it was he who tipped off Zeb to the ridiculous story regarding the use of the term 'black hole' in a racially charged manner. It appears Givens' association with the Citizens for a Constitutional Republic is also cause for alarm. The last of Zeb's entourage is Sharon Hardy-Mills of Albion, Idaho. Sharon serves as guest host on Zeb's show when he is out of town and is equally, if not more, inflammatory than Bell. The comments of this woman, mentioned on this site previously, include a disgusting remark about the worthlessness of the Fort Hall tribe--stating in no uncertain terms that American Indians "deserved to be conquered."

I'm not contending that Bell's show was ever appropriate and/or grounded, but it does appear that the show is on a downhill slide as Zeb courts even more radical commentators than himself, a feat hardly imaginable.

KBAR is riddled with these radio pundits; guests, hosts, and callers alike. Following Zeb at the Ranch are similarly hate-fueled shows by Steve Mitton, Jerry Shaw, and others. There are few voices to counter the hate generated and broadcast by these pundits, few minus Benjamin Reed. Despite KBAR's inability to counter the hate speech infiltrating the Mini-Cassia area, the Times-News appears to have a better approach. Three new blogs have been created at the Times website from three political perspectives as a means of offering varying opinions.

Not surprisingly, the Times has tapped into the writing of Gary Eller and invited him to join the political discussion at their site. A man who once informed some political activists (of the Ron Paul variety) that "the real danger is the fear and ignorance that exists in [their] mind[s]." It will be refreshing to hear a more center-of-the-road conservative voice out of the Magic Valley as well as the progressive voice of Dixie Siegel.

I can only imagine how bent out of shape Zeb Bell must be about the space being offered to Mr. Eller for the airing of his opinions.

Despite my hesitance and all out refusal to subscribe to the notion of 'guilt by association,' I have listened closely over the past month to the daily diatribes and hate-filled rants of Zeb Bell and I have come to the ultimate conclusion that the guests, sponsors, and callers on his show are of the same ilk. Their comments, including those belittling American Indians, Hispanics, African-Americans, Japanese-Americans (those interned at the Minidoka Camp following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), women, Muslims, and many others, are dripping with contempt, hatred and bigotry, just as much as Zeb Bell's words.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hate Speech vs. Free Speech

As I have listened to Zeb at the Ranch, the four-show-a-week radio program coming out of Zeb Bell’s home in Murtaugh, Idaho and broadcasted by KBAR out of Rupert, Idaho, I have struggled with the underlying question of when a person’s First Amendment rights can be impinged by their inappropriate usage of hate speech.

After reviewing the literature on hate speech, including three U.S. Supreme Court cases (R.A.V. v City of St. Paul, Texas v Johnson, Street v New York, Cohen v California, and Chaplinksy v New Hampshire) and the academic publications of Richard Delgado, Samuel Walker, Alexander Tsesis, and Anthony Cortese (Understanding Words That Wound, Hate Speech: The History of an American Controversy, Destructive Messages, and Opposing Hate Speech, respectively), I have come to the ultimate conclusion that hate speech, in this case the racist and bigoted comments aired on Zeb’s program continuously, is in fact protected by the First Amendment because we have allowed it to be unchallenged out of respect for and fear of depleting our other First Amendment rights.

More specifically, I side with the author of Shock Jocks: Hate Speech & Talk Radio, Rory O’Connor, in his assertion that yes, talk radio hosts have the right to speak freely, regardless of whom they berate in the process, but I have a right to oppose them.

Unfortunately, the despicable comments heard daily on Zeb at the Ranch were only addressed publicly, via the Idaho blogosphere and the mainstream media, when he and his guest offered unacceptable, racist opinions regarding the Democratic nominee for the presidency Barack Obama. Prior to this incident, the only public rebuking of Zeb Bell has come by way of letters to the editor of both the Times-News and the South Idaho Press, many written by a former long-standing guest on Zeb’s show. Absent in daily reporting is the fact that statements similar to those made weeks ago are an everyday occurrence on Zeb’s show.

As I have come to realize, hate speech exists on levels. One stage-developmental model, developed by Cortese, applied to hate speech addresses four stages of hate speech. Stage one can be best described as unintentional offense or discrimination—offending minorities without intent to do so. This includes labeling, stereotyping, and discrimination without underlying racism or bigotry existent in the person(s) and/or situations. The second stage, one we are most familiar with, is intentional discrimination. This stage of hate speech is most attributed to those with deeply held beliefs that include racism, bigotry, xenophobia, etc. The third and most devastating stage of hate speech is on a community level—inciting hatred. The third stage is most apparent on conservative radio that allows pundits like Zeb Bell to feed and cultivate feelings of hatred among listeners and the community. The third stage of hate speech is the most public and, in my view, the most damaging. The fourth and most severe level of hate speech is that of inciting violence against groups of people. The fourth level personifies what we have come to know as a hate crime.

On a less sociological level, it could be said that the first level of hate speech is often accidental, the second deliberate and embedded, and the third and forth irreversibly damaging. All levels are unnecessary and the first three are more or less protected by the umbrella that is the First Amendment. Only within the past twenty or so years has the fourth level been addressed legally.

Every airing of Mr. Bell’s show exhibits both levels two and three of hate speech. On this morning’s show, Zeb, infuriated by a recent court ruling once again protecting wolves, discussed the danger of protected wolves and advocated the shooting of these animals despite the newest ruling to protect them. If Mr. Bell ever resorts to this kind of discussion about a group of people, as Bob Grant of ABC once did following a gay pride march when he stated: “ideally, it would have been nice to have a few phalanxes of policemen with machine guns and mow them down,” he will go from being a level three hatemonger to a level four aggressor.

As I mentioned in a previous post, last winter Zeb Bell told the story of a situation at his home where a Hispanic man drove his car into Zeb’s fence. Zeb proudly said that he held the man at gunpoint. The story turned into a discussion of illegal immigration and never once did a caller question Zeb’s action, the police did not investigate the incident, and as far as we know the radio station did not ask Zeb to clarify his statements. This incident has remained forefront in my mind throughout this discussion of levels of hate speech and I would contend that at least while telling this story, Zeb was guilty of inciting violence against a minority group. Whether any of Zeb’s listeners acted similarly following his story will remain unknown. Do we absolutely need proof of his actions or the subsequent actions of his listeners to force this man off the air?

Without question, Zeb at the Ranch has been bordering on FCC trouble for some time now, perhaps for the past eight years he has been on the air. However, not enough people are in up in arms over the issue to force a change. It appears the only recourse we have as concerned members of the community is to boycott Mr. Bell’s sponsors and make is clear that hate speech will not be tolerated.

As I’ve struggled with the battle between free speech and hate speech, as I have said, I’ve come to the ultimate conclusion that Zeb Bell has every right to spew hatred from his pulpit as he wishes, but I have every right to challenge and oppose him. And I will until he is taken off the air for making the lives of minorities in the Magic Valley and Mini-Cassia area absolutely horrific.

To quote Sartre: “Hell is other people.”

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Rory O'Connor's "Shock Jocks"

Below are two videos to serve as a sort of primer for what is to come on this blog in the coming week. I'd like to address the issue of hate speech on a national level (similar to Rory O'Connor's approach) as well as on a state and local level--specifically with the issue of Idaho's own Zeb Bell, a talk radio pundit in the Magic Valley who is well-known for his constant belittling of minorities, mostly Hispanics, but also women, African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, and gays.

Promo for the newly released Shock Jocks, a story of hate speech on conservative talk radio.

Full thirteen minute interview with author of Shock Jocks: Hate Speech & Talk Radio, Rory O'Connor.

Rory O'Connor's Shock Jocks: Hate Speech and Talk Radio: America's Ten Worst Hate Talkers and the Progressive Alternative is available from Amazon as well as from the publisher Alternet Books.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Smorgasbord Saturday

In case you missed the MLB All-Star game this past week, the best play of the game, previously posted here, but now taken down my YouTube, was a sweet out at the plate--Nate McClouth from right field all the way to Russell Martin behind the plate. If you haven't seen Russell Martin play you won't understand how this could be so spectacular. It was certainly my favorite play of the fifteen-inning long game. Also, seems somebody picked up on the statement uttered by EPSN commentator Rick Reilly, about the home run derby being a bad night for Atheists. Go read this and see what I'm talking about. And if you missed the ending to the game, here's the last play, and the saddest.

If you don't read the Washington Post regularly, you may not be aware of a series they are running on the disappearance and murder of Chandra Levy back in 2001. The Post is obviously still following this story because it has political undertones and it is a Metro story, but it is amazing to me how many of the details being revealed to the public are in fact news. I thought I was fairly well versed on this particular story--have always been fascinated by it--and yet most of what has appeared in the Post story is news to me. There are so many more angles to this other than the typical 'Condit had something to do with it' line. The next installment will come tomorrow night, catch up before then.

The Times-News, based in Twin Falls and focused on the Magic Valley, has started a new section on their website devoted to political blogs. As of right now all three (a progressive, an independent, and a conservative) are subtitled "Election 2008: Politics Talk," but I wouldn't be surprised to see this feature carry on through the election. One of the bloggers is a man I have corresponded with for over a year, one Gary Eller, of Twin Falls. Gary claims to be an independent and refuses to be a Democrat, however, for that area of Idaho I find him very open-minded about all political issues. More on Gary in the next day or two. The progressive blogger is a woman who is no stranger to Democratic politics in the Magic Valley. I, like with Gary, have been in touch with Dixie and I am very excited to see what she brings to the political table. I have not heard of nor met Mr. Tom Young, the conservative voice. If you haven't taken a look at these blogs, I would highly recommend it. Mr. Eller has not posted anything as of this afternoon, but if his LTE output is any indication of his writing, we can expect to hear from him regularly.

If you are in Pocatello today, the Idaho State University Democrats and the Bannock County Democrats are hosting the annual Stallings picnic at Raymond Park at 5pm. The annual event intended to honor Idaho's former congressman, will be mc'd by KT Anderson and the speaker will be Pocatello Mayor Roger Chase. As much as I would love to see Congressman Stallings and rub elbows with my fellow Bannock County Democrats, I will not be in attendance as I am not feeling well. However, if you have time to make it over to Raymond park, further information on the cost and location can be found at 43rd State Blues.

On a related note, at least related to why I won't be attending this evening's picnic, this coming Monday I am having a small procedure done to relieve some of the swelling and pressure being placed on the impinged nerves in my lumbar spine from a herniated disc. Monday afternoon, I'm told, will be a lot of laying around trying to be comfortable, and then I should be back to my old self in a day or two. However, I'm going to take that time off from blogging. I plan on writing some things up and scheduling them so they will be posted to Blogger in my absence. Though I think I will be fine and there are very few risks associated with this procedure (the risks and side effects aren't that much different from what I've experienced in the past few months), I would rather not post while sedated even minimally.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rangel's Woes

Update 7.17.08, 12:14 p.m. MST: Some pretty good advice for Congressman Rangel.
Update 7.17.08 9:08 p.m. MST: How do you get the press on your side? Get out in front of it and call for an investigation of yourself. Is Rangel's ego really this huge?

Recently, the nation's major newspapers have taken to hammering Congressman Charles Rangel. In what was at first an implied-controversy over the amount of rent Rangel pays for an office in his home district, New York's 15th District which includes Harlem, the New York Post attacked Rangel on ethics alone. Rangel responded, stating that Harlem is his home and that he has been paying as much in rent as is legal. Despite that statement, Rangel announced today that he will give up the office in question.

Both the Post and New York Times stuck with the story about Rangel's office until his public decision today to let it go. Now, the Washington Post has bombarded Rangel with a new controversy--the issue of Congressman Rangel raising money for an academic center that will be named after himself. Staff-writer Christopher Lee went after Rangel today for what he says is Rangel's "pet cause." Evidently, as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rangel has successfully secured a $1.9 million earmark from Congress and two grants totaling $690,500 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The money Rangel has secured is old news. Even last year when Congress granted Rangel's earmark, it didn't make national news as an ethics issue at all. Despite a statement Lee attributes to Congressman John Campbell of California, arguing that members of Congress shouldn't be "sending taxpayer funds in the creation of things named after ourselves while we're still here," the legislation containing Rangel's earmark sailed through Congress.

Naming rights aside, the academic center Rangel is seeking funding for will be located at the City College of New York (CCNY) in a renovated Harlem brownstone already owned by the College. The project, the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service, will serve as both an academic center and a repository for the congressional papers of Charlie Rangel. Rangel has stated that his overall goal in supporting this project is to insert racial diversity in public administration, something the center would work toward. An estimated $30 million is needed for the creation and operation of the center, a goal that fundraisers are nearly a third of the way to reaching.

Despite the probe being requested, reportedly by Republican leader John Boehner and the watch dog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, into the matter of Rangel's role in raising funds for this project as chairman of Ways and Means, only $2.7 million of the accumulated $12.2 million has come from government entities (Congress, HUD, and the New York City Council). The underlying question being whether or not Rangel used his influence as chairman of Ways and Means to acquire the congressional ear mark and two HUD grants. Similarly, is Rangel using his office (and office supplies) to conduct fundraising? Meanwhile, Rangel continues to meet with business leaders and other interested parties as a continued effort to reach the $30 million goal.

A couple parts of this story infuriate me. The first being the lack of funding for centers like this. Higher education isn't being funded as it should or Congressman Rangel wouldn't have to take this matter into his own hands. It is an honorable thing what he is doing, despite wanting his name forever attached to it, and I only wish all former members of Congress were in a position to ensure their papers be placed somewhere that will cultivate them and allow them to be useful to researchers, historians, journalists, and political scientists. The cost is simply too much.

The second part of this infuriating story and the most important is the attitude of congressional Democrats who have taken their status as the majority for granted, Rangel included. For far too many years the Republican leadership represented the party of poor ethics. For far too many years congressional earmarks left unchecked and unquestioned resulted in ridiculous projects like the bridge to nowhere. Now, despite all of their frustrations prior to gaining a majority seats in both the House and the Senate, Democrats are not only buckling under the pressure of the Bush administration, they are becoming just as guilty of ethics violations. A fellow blogger at 43rd State Blues mentioned this earlier today, more as an aside to the great FISA disappointment, but it rings true here as well. We cannot allow the Democrats we elect to take advantage of their majority status and when they act questionably, we should by all means call them on it.

Rangel doesn't appear to be giving up on this project, nor should he, however, it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the constant hounding by the Post. His reaction and subsequent decision following the office rental hoopla suggests he may give in quickly, but what exactly will be give? He can't give back a congressional ear mark. He can't reject an award from HUD. He won't give up the chairmanship, he's been in Congress too long and has worked too hard to walk away from that coveted position.

Maybe it would be best for all parties, the City College of New York and Congressman Rangel included, if he allow others to take over the fundraising duties associated with this project.

(Originally posted 7/15/08 at 10:36 pm MST)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesday Night All-Stars

"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."
I think Rogers Hornsby would agree, it's games like tonight's that make sitting around all winter for the season to start worth every minute of the wait.

(Hall of Fame All-Stars, all in attendance at tonight's game, from top left, clockwise: Willie Mays and Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey, Cal Ripken, Jr., Yogi Berra, Bob Gibson, George Brett and the infamous pine tar incident, Hammerin' Hank Aaron, and Phil Niekro.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Hamilton Home Run Derby

Don't be surprised if after tonight the Home Run Derby is renamed the Josh Hamilton Home Run Derby. As he says, Josh Hamilton is "proof that hope is never lost." With twenty-eight home runs in round one of the derby, that's more than the total of the three runners-up combined, Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton is the All-Star home run king! It doesn't have to end in his favor for him to be the real winner of the night. And how about Clay Counsil?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

Found this particularly helpful in getting through this past week:
"I do not want either my life or my story to conclude in the shadow of despair generated by our current national leadership; by our president's failures in leadership, competence, and integrity; by the failures of the courts and Congress to hold him constitutionally accountable and the failure of my own party in opposition to meet its obligations to oppose. But a one-man aberration, however disastrous, is not permanent. A democracy is by definition self-correcting. Here, the people are sovereign. Inept political leaders can be replaced. Foolish policies can be changed. We the People have learned from our mistakes and misfortunes. A new leader and a new era are on the way, and I will continue to fight, to write, and to hope."
Ted Sorensen, from Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History (p.530-31)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tony Snow dead at 53

The White House and Fox News are both reporting that former Bush press secretary, Tony Snow, has lost his courageous battle with cancer.

Smorgasbord Saturday

If this week were even an hour longer I would have called in and officially quit the race. Thankfully it ended, not a moment too soon, and I am now attempting to catch up on everything I couldn't accomplish this week and absolutely refuse to drag with me into the coming week.

It was an eventful, albeit odd and often depressing, week in the news. The FISA non-fight came and went. Ted Kennedy returned to the Senate. Jesse Jackson got himself in trouble at, of all places, Fox News studios. Phil Gramm was thrown under the bus. And so much more.

Something I noticed yesterday, but didn't have the time to follow was this gem from 4&20 Blackbirds, a Montana-based blog. Seems to be a lot of ways Americans noted the passing of Senator Jesse Helms...

As the Sports Examiner asked, what the hell is in the Gatorade buckets in baseball's minor leagues? Really though, how can you be surprised that the Wichita team's manager went absolutely nuts on a bad call--the team name?--the Wingnuts. I kid you not. If you haven't seen the insane video, go watch it now. It knocks last summer's incident with the seemingly paranoid Phil Wellman down just a notch. At least this time it doesn't give the Atlanta Braves a bad rap...

Only fourteen more days until the world premiere of X-Files: I Want to Believe for anybody keeping tabs. Seven until the Dark Knight. My back is still in rough shape and the coming week is going to be brutal so I doubt I'll squeeze in the new installment in the Batman series at the end of the week, but I'm shooting for the Chris Carter epic the following week. Cross your fingers.

Speaking of Batman, the newest installment is directed by Christopher Nolan, same director as Batman Begins, and what I didn't realize is that Nolan writes, too. Somehow missed that he wrote the screenplay for Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Memento, and Following. I think I ought to give the fellow another chance. He seems to have considerable skill, depending of course on how you feel about the post-nightmare that was Batman & Robin films, and if he can write, direct, and produce, that's something. I wonder if this will be the second and final of the Batman series done by Nolan. Tim Burton did two, Joel Schumacher two, and now Nolan two. Just a thought.

An odd story out of Germany regarding an upcoming visit by Barack Obama--WaPo says Germany isn't happy, Germany says the State Dept. isn't happy. All in all very strange situation indeed.

The full rosters for both the American and National leagues have been solidified for Tuesday night's 2008 All-Star Game from Yankee Stadium. Your National League starters, led by the Rockies manager Clint Hurdle include: C-Soto (Cubs), 1B-Berkman (Astros), 2B-Utley (Phillies), SS-Ramirez (Marlins), 3B-Jones (Braves), OF-Braun (Brewers), OF-Fukudome (Cubs), OF-Holliday (Rockies), and injured/not playing OF-Soriano (Cubs). Your American League starters, led by reigning World Champion Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona include: C-Mauer (Twins), 1B-Youkilis (Red Sox), 2B-Pedroia (Red Sox), SS-Jeter (Yankees), 3B-Rodriguez (Yankees), OF-Suzuki (Mariners), OF-Ramirez (Red Sox), OF-Hamilton (Rangers), and injured/not playing DR-Ortix (Red Sox). The last two roster spots, voted on by the fans, went to Corey Hart (outfielder with the Brewers) and rookie phenom Evan Longoria (outfielder with the first place Tampa Bay Rays). Word on the street is David Wright, one of only two Mets being represented at the final game at Yankee Stadium, will replace Alfonso Soriano for Clint Hurdle.

If you aren't familiar with the work of Dr. John, now is as good a time as ever to get in on the brilliance. Dr. John's latest (recommended to me by a friend and fan of Dr. John's work) is both a testament to the relationship between music and New Orleans as well as a testament to the bitterness and anger remaining in a post-Katrina world. City That Care Forgot is a wonderful album and worth every cent.

A parting note on this the second Saturday in July, Declo Days in my hometown, is for you history buffs out there: On this day in 1801, Alexander Hamilton died in New York state after being fatally wounded by Vice President Aaron Burr. Certainly one of the more bizarre stories in our two-hundred plus year history as a nation.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Considering Popularity

Every now and again, d2 of 43rd State Blues posts something utterly thought provoking that forces me to step back and "assess" an issue on an entirely personal level. This is the brilliance of d2--brevity that outright begs for curiosity. More than once I've checked out a book, article, website, etc. because d2 has mentioned some component of it that seemed in his explanation to apply to me personally. And d2 does not disappoint with today's link to an essay by Paul Graham, author of Hackers and Painters.

Graham tackles the issue of why nerds, generically smart teenagers, are not popular in junior high and high school. On a basic level, he is asserting that nerds are too busy to be popular. They seek knowledge over all else, a search that requires time and concentration, and that search impedes any hope of being popular because popularity, too, takes time and focus. You must feed popularity.

I'm not going to over-analyze Graham's essay, it speaks for itself and is a wonderful read, but I am going to take this essay and make a personal application. As I am further and further removed from my own junior high and high school days, my own perception of who I was and wasn't then is skewed. Taking into account all six years of middle school and high school, I can say for certain that I was not the same kid throughout. The first four years were most similar, due in part to my location and my surroundings, but also due to what my priorities were. The last two years were in no uncertain terms a battle for survival. Oddly enough, it was the last two years that I achieved any amount of popularity, though I never would have then (or now) considered myself to be popular. I was, simply, known and liked by most of my classmates. Whether that is popularity or not is still a mystery to me.

Watching my fifteen year old brother embark on his high school career has been an interesting life experience for me. His priorities at this time in his life are so unlike mine when I was his age that I can hardly believe we can have such an amazing relationship while being so completely different. He is the jock, the natural athlete in every sense. He is, at times, the class clown, but can be equally shy in certain settings. His understanding of what high school is boils down to what he assumes is his God-given right to hang out with his friends. I'm not sure he knows what a GPA is, much less why it matters. His only concern with college at this point is whether or not the college he chooses will have sporting events that are televised. Without intending to demean his intelligence level, he is not a kid you would expect to have a library card and he is not a kid you would expect to have legible handwriting (not that either of these are sure signs of intelligence). None of this is to say he isn't brilliant in his own right, because he is. He is smart about people and has a huge heart. However, being popular seems to be an overriding consideration for him around his peers.

Until I read Graham's essay this evening, it didn't occur to me that being popular and cultivating popularity could actually detract from learning. Because I never felt that being popular was a goal and I didn't feel the need to work at it, I couldn't have known that popularity is a distraction.

Part of me not understanding the teenager my brother is now, in comparison to the teenager I was, has a lot to do with this essay. I know that student athletes sacrifice a great deal in the classroom for their sport. Being an athlete takes time and dedication, time taken away from being a student. I know that the student body president had a busy schedule, I just never equated that busy schedule with the time it must take to get enough of your classmates to like you that they'd be willing to vote for you.

Another interesting question remaining when I finished reading this essay was that of self-awareness and stereotypes. Are we the best judge of who we were in high school? Can we adequately apply stereotypes to our former selves? Thinking long and hard about it, I don't think I would apply any of the standard stereotypes to the high school version of me. I wasn't a jock, I played sports when I was younger and healthier. Like I said, I don't think I was popular. I wasn't a freak, at least not by the definition Graham gives. I wouldn't have considered myself a nerd, by my standards then and in comparison to my nerdiness now. I have no idea what I was in high school. I was too busy doing other things to define it, I guess.

On the contrary, my kid brother will five years from now state without hesitation that he was the running back in high school.

There is so much more to Mr. Graham's essay that begs comment--like whether we are teaching anything at all in our schools or if we are simply 'teaching for the test'--but that is an issue for another day. I look forward to reading a few more of the essays by Paul Graham, the ones that are less computer oriented and will, like this one, help me to understand human nature a little more. "Disconnecting Distraction" sounds promising...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rookie of the Month

News from the world of Major League Baseball: Jair Jurrjens, the rookie starting pitcher for the embattled Atlanta Braves has won National League honors as June's Rookie of the Month. With a 3-0 record and a 1.63 ERA for the month of June, Jurrjens is certainly deserving. The bonus? The twenty-two year old is simply fun to watch! And it certainly doesn't hurt to see some power in Atlanta's rotation right about now... In a week heavy on big pitching trade news, think C.C. Sabathia and Rich Harden, it's nice to see the underdog getting some recognition. Way to go, Jair!

Defining Racism

Since the Idaho State Journal redesigned not only the print edition, but the online edition of the paper, I have not been a regular reader. However, every now and again I will take a look at the ISJ blogs to see who is commenting. The ISJ blogs are not blogs in the typical sense, they are mostly editorials that ran in the print edition and are now running online in categorized sections (ISU, Community, Ian Fennell, and Politics). It isn't the best setup, but at least they are making an effort to understand blogging and to reach that particular demographic.

Earlier in the week as I was perusing the comments, I noticed a particularly scary op-ed not written by the reigning king of scary op-eds in the Idaho State Journal. For at least one day, Mark Balzer, a former chairman of the Oneida County Republican Party, became the scariest of opinion writers in the Idaho State Journal. For anyone familiar with the ravings of one Richard Larsen, this is big. To be the scariest among the scary is truly a feat.

"What is Racism?" is one of the opinion pieces you cringe at before even reading. You know that either the author is defending himself against attacks of being a racist or he is trying to define for those who think they know what racism is that they are unequivocally wrong. Never a good approach to an op-ed--telling your audience that they are stupid.

Balzer's assertion cannot be wrapped up in what I am assuming is his thesis: "The same people who define patriotism to be whatever they want it to be define racism the same way."

Fortunately, Mr. Balzer does not stick with his thesis and his opinion does not turn into a comparison of racism and patriotism. In fact, Balzer doesn't seem to mention patriotism at all past his introductory assertion. The mere mention of patriotism made me wonder if Balzer believes that to be racist AND patriotic makes the first excusable, but that is beyond the scope for which I mention this particular op-ed.

The reason I mention this piece is because it seems there are a lot of people taking to a soapbox lately claiming racism to be defined as certain things in an attempt to protect themselves from accusations that they are indeed racist. Balzer outlines the two types of racists: Overt and covert. Additionally, he defines racism with the help of "Webster" and Seriously, I'm not even going to start the diatribe that immediately ensues when I read someone quoting "Webster" or Who falls into his categories of overt and covert racists? Barack Obama for classifying a group of people as "typical white people" (covert?); all who support affirmative action (covert); and, white supremacists (overt). In both cases, covert and overt, Balzer simply refers to these individuals as "stupid people."

Lack of logic makes my head spin and Balzer appears to have missed the memo that told us all that an op-ed is supposed to convey an argument, for or against.

His arguments seem to contradict themselves--for example, he states that "no one in this country is limited by who they are; they are only limited by what they do and how they face adversity." Okay? So those who naturally will face adversity because of the color of their skin, their race, their standing in society, their sexual orientation, or their religious beliefs are not limited in what they can achieve as long as they are successful in facing adversity? Come again?

He's defending himself against attacks of racism (the background for this I am uncertain of) and in doing so has made himself look like an unintelligent blowhard. Seems to be the outcome of every instance of these guys taking to their soapboxes to claim they are emphatically not racist...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Middle of the Week Mélange

What a horrible Wednesday. Days like today are what pit historians against political scientists. How are we supposed to get excited about the political non-fight that took place over FISA today when we know this is a dark day in American history in terms of what the vote means to the Constitution?

Where is the respect for the rule of law? How did my party, the very party that ran Tom Daschle out on a rail for being too forceful, so calmly and quietly stand behind the spineless Harry Reid? How have we allowed our candidate for the presidency to take the position he has on this very crucial issue while still shoveling money into his campaign? Does the rule of law not apply to all citizens? Do we not each hold that law with ultimate respect? Have we forgotten how to read the Constitution of the United States of America?

Thank God for the good guys and thank God for Ted Kennedy.

Without Ted Kennedy's arrival on the Senate floor, I'm afraid I may have become completely disillusioned with my own party. Why did a Democrat-led Congress allow FISA to pass? Why bow to an administration so widely disliked?

As Russ Feingold has said numerous times today, it is indeed a dark time for the Constitution.

While watching the FISA vote today, I did a little voting of my own--don't forget that the last two slots for the MLB All-star game require fan participation. My final choices were Carlos Lee (Houston) and Jose Guillen (Kansas City). Doesn't look like at the moment either are in the running... However, my choices didn't exactly line up with the fan-chosen starters and I didn't expect them to be much different on these last two votes.

The home run derby will air Monday night with the 2008 All-star Game the following night, both at Yankee Stadium.

Forgive me for not being incredibly excited about political happenings right now. I'm afraid I've been beat down by the endless disappointments out of both local and national-level politics of late. Even those of us who eat, sleep, drink politics get sick of it sometimes. I wouldn't say I'm sick of it, the game that is, I am merely disappointed in my party, both those who voted today for a bill that has trampled the Fourth Amendment and those who have defended them.