Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Condolences to Jack Bog

whose popular blog was hacked nearly to death today. Four years of his great writing...and it might all be just plain gone. That sucks.

Hope you get it all back, Jack, and if not, I look forward to the next four years.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Better Survivor article

Is here. Read the whole thing. MSNBC's Linda Holmes does a hell of a job.

But here are some highlights--perceptive stuff:

"Survivor" has shown, usually in spite of itself, a talent for surprisingly adept social commentary. It has delivered sharp insights about gender politics, much more in its small moments of cajoling and strong-arming than in broad strokes like contrived "Battle Of The Sexes" scenarios. Viewed with a careful eye, it has much to say about celebrity, manipulation, groupthink, and how a game show becomes a morality play in the minds of its participants.

Well said. People in a fishbowl under pressure will do things that cause us to think about how we relate to each other all the time, and those water cooler conversations do more for gender/race in our country than this season's contrived BS ever will.

And this:

It is interesting to note, however, that "Survivor" has not chosen to cast "the Arab-American Tribe." Meanwhile, the 10th season of "The Amazing Race" will include, without a special announcement or a special season, a team of best friends who are bonded in part through their shared Islamic faith, one of whom has a request he delivers in the season's early ads: "Don't associate me with terrorists." The power of that simple sentence makes the "Survivor" casting look, by comparison, even more like an ill-advised ploy.

Yup. Smaller is better.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Have the folks at Survivor lost their minds?

With this?

Maybe next season they can have Christian, Jew, Muslim, and Atheist tribes?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

John Mark Karr

Why is the media treating this guy's plane arrival here like it was the Beatles' arrival in 1964?

Monday, August 14, 2006

US Citizenship

I'm going to teach US Cit this year. I'm putting together what I think is a pretty kick-ass syllabus. I want, however, to be sure I'm not leaving anything else.

To do this, I'd like some answers to this question:

What do you believe a good US Citizen should know and be able to do?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Might be quiet here for a piece...

I've got to get ready for school. Got to get on that.
I've got to write up my many baseball pages...can't seem to get going on those.
I should clean the house.
I'm going to take a 5-day weekend with my sister, Tommy Spoon, and the Washington Nationals.
And I'm finishing up ref camp.

So, in the midst of all of this, I get a magazine article dropped on me. A damn good one, too, that'll require a good deal of time and attention. So I say "Hey! I'll have it by Labor Day!"

So this blog and the baseball stories have fallen to the bottom of the priority list. I have a LOT I want to write about, but I suspect it'll be a while.

Please, contain your stress over this. Pretty soon, my world will calm down again, and when it does, you can resume reading about my life minutiae.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Gratuitous Kitty Post

I have more to write about, but I'm working hard on getting my school year together, going to ballgames, heading for a long weekend in DC with my kid sister and Tommyspoon, and getting the many many updates to the baseball site done. So for now, here's Samson. Three times.

How y'all doing?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Some observations from the Red States

I'm back.

My trip took me to eleven states. Nine of them were red states, including some of the reddest. My goal to get to as many minor league ballparks as I can takes me to some small towns deep inside rural America.

In that regard, this trip was a major eye-opener. There are differences within this country far deeper than I thought there were.

Don't believe me? Go to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Driving through Pigeon Forge was unreal. In addition to the Miracle show (which my wife has told you about), there were many other shows that indicate an wider-than-wide cultural gulf within this country. Check out this page for a heavily-advertised comedy show in Pigeon Forge. It uses the word "clean" multiple times to describe the comedy. I'll grant you that I wouldn't want to take younger kids to see some of my favorite comedians...but that doesn't mean that I want to limit my own entertainment options to the kid-friendly.

Having driven through the town and looked at the snippets from Miracle and the Comedy Barn show on-line, I'm mulling over exactly what, if anything, we have in common in this country. I'm not judging here...there's something to be said for simple differences in taste. Still, I'm trying to imagine a life in which these shows would be entertaining.

It has something to do with the role of religion in life, I think. Let me be very clear: Religion is critically important to me. It is the underpinning of the way I think. Jesus calls me to lead a life of service to other people, and I do my best to pull that off. Jesus does not call for me to make Him central to my taste in art or central to all my vacations or comedy. That notion, I bet, is anathema to the red-staters vacationing in Pigeon Forge. Even though I recite the same creed every Sunday, I don't feel like I'd be welcome in their churches, and that's a shame for both our country and the state of religion in it.

I'm remembering a woman I dated for a couple of months when I was 30. She was a really great woman, and we hit it off really well, but the relationship was doomed from the get-go because she was a fundamentalist Christian and I'm not. I tried to ignore this basic difference and focus on her many positive attributes--she was a teacher who genuinely cared about her kids, she had a wacky sense of humor, she liked hanging out with me, she was a genuinely sweet person. But it was impossible to sustain any kind of conversation. I had to avoid any mention of homosexuality, science, or popular culture (we really had it out about my love of The Simpsons one day, a really bizarre show to attack, I think, as it's really a sheep in wolf's clothing...but I'm digressing). She spoke with admiration of her older sister, who declared in college that she would not kiss another boy until she had an engagement ring from him. (It worked.)

Most tellingly, I remember her listening to some of my music (my typical favorites...Paul Simon, Jonatha Brooke...I avoided the Indigo Girls...), and her enjoying it. But what she said next I found a bit scary. "I've never really gotten into music," she said. "I've got a couple of Christian CDs, and that's it."

Wow. How is this possible? How could she have lived the 27 years of her life avoiding ALL music tha didn't mention God? She didn't even like Shania Twain, not ABBA, not Brahms? Nothing? God is supposed to open us to the beauty of the world, not shut us into an insular phone-booth-sized part of it that shuts out anything that could potentially be unpleasant.

What a weird trip. Bumper stickers. So many bumper stickers that I found strange. I don't want to be offended by someone's political opinions, but the way these are presented...oh my. "Why is it a crime to kill a bald eagle but not a baby?" I saw that. I'm more pro-choice than pro-life, but that sticker reiterated my position of hating everyone on both sides of the abortion debate.

I took a tour of a National Park site sitting next to a guy wearing this "Swiftboating" T-shirt, a sad reminder of the stuff some Bush supporters found important two years ago. Would that Kerry's Vietnam service record were as relevant as the fuck-ups his opponent made and continues to make in the world, and all the lives lost as a result.

Is conversation possible between parties with these kinds of fundamental differences?

On the way to stay with a friend's family, we mentioned we'd be driving through Murphy, North Carolina. "Oh!" she said. "That's where they caught Eric Rudolph! You might want to check out the back of the Sav-A-Lot!" Sure enough, I took a picture of the dumpster behind the store where Eric Rudolph, in spite of the help of many anti-government folks in the region, finally was caught so he could be tried for his acts of terrorism. I refuse to say that Rudolph, or those who support him, are anything other than a lunatic exceptions to the rule, even in the reddest part of the reddest states. But I also can't help but believe that Rudolph would not have found safe houses if he'd been on the run in any other part of the country.

As much as I try to focus on what we have in common, I can find very little. We certainly share the characteristics all human beings have in common (being basically good, loving our families, basically wanting love and peace and freedom). Beyond these surface characteristics, all we share in this country are a few fairly surface-level cultural adornments (we sing the same national anthem before watching the same baseball games, and many of us like roller coasters...I bet I'd have enjoyed Pigeon Forge's Dollywood as much as a red-stater). But we're terribly different. I'd feel just as sick watching Miracle or the guys at the Comedy Barn as a red-stater would feel watching The Simpsons or Jake Johansen.

In all seriousness...are we really one country right now? And if not, how do we get there from here? Is it possible? Is it desirable? I value diversity--swear to God I do--and a lot more than the snotty elitist branch of my party. But at what point does diversity become schism?

At what point are we kidding ourselves when we say that we're one nation, under God, and indivisible?