Sunday, April 27, 2008

Neil Diamond blows the save

Imagine, if you will, this scenario. It's the bottom of sixth inning and somehow the home team has cobbled together a close game with a pitcher on three days rest. Sickness and injury has ravaged the line up, and several triple A call-ups are in the game. The top of the order is coming around, and its time to get the crowd back into the game. Who do you turn to? If this is Red Sox nation, there's no question. It has to be...Neil frickin' Diamond (Warning: baseball rant now in progress).
So what happens? Pedroia pops out. Papi takes a walk, and then arguably the hottest hitter in baseball, the league leader as of that moment in RBI's and homers, stands in. How do we hype him up? Black Betty by Ram Jam. That is just sad, and what is the result? Manny hits into an innning ending double play, and the bats go silent. Timlin gives up another solo homer in the ninth. The Sox hot streak comes to an end, and as I write they've now lost four straight. Great work DJ.
On the serious tip, music is arguably one of the most important tools at the disposal of the home team. It gets the crowd into the game. It can get the players hyped, but here's the thing. Those guys play 162 games a year. Do you really think Manny Ramirez gets ramped up on the 8,236th hearing of Black Betty? I kind of doubt it. If anything, he should stand in to Mind Terrorist by Public Enemy. Admittedly, this isn't really a song. It's just weird scratches and noises with Flavor Flav shouting 'base for your face' for a minute, but I still think it's perfect. How about Kanye's Good Morning? That song's got some umph to it. It really gives you a lift, or if it's got to be classic rock, how about Immigrant Song?
I'm just spitballing here, and probably I've put way too much thought into this. It just frustrated me. I'm sitting there while the whole stadium dances and sings along to 'Sweet Caroline', and I was just embarassed and a little upset. Nobody even noticed Pedrioa pop out. They were just waiting for the song to come back with the chorus so they could sing along, 'So good, so good, so good'. I'm all for dancing and singing like idiots, but we all come to Fenway for a reason. What was it now? Oh right, baseball.
Last word on the subject: The music should complement and bolster the players, mess with the opposing pitcher, and rally the team, not pander to the drunken mob. Let's work on this people.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


I'm gonna expand on a comment I made over at the lovely and talented Golfwidow's blog because I don't think I really got to what I was trying to say in the short space of a comment mostly because I was fumbling around with the point and had to think about it for awhile before it became clear to me where I was going with what I said. She asked if her readers considered curry a comfort food.
To me there's a difference between food I crave and food that give me comfort. I crave lots of food. I crave smoked salmon every time I go to the grocery store, and I crave Inari all the time. I want ice cream every time I go to my parents house, and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night craving fried okra. I get a lot of cravings, but there indulgence rarely comforts me. Sometimes I feel worse. Sometimes I just feel full, but for me comfort is a much more elusive proposition.
Today, for example, I lost a good chunk of money playing cards, and as a result I was craving a cigarette something fierce. I was comforted by the fact that I didn't have one. It's rarely such a direct one to one exchange, but I think that kind of illustrates the point I'm trying to make rather aptly.
The comforting aspect of food, for me, is heavily situational depending as much on circumstances and mood as on the content of the food to be consumed. I'm comforted when I cook a nice meal for friends or family, and we communally enjoy that food. I'm comforted when I eat things that I know I should over and against the ones I crave that I know I shouldn't have or have too much of. I'm comforted by a large heaping bowl of pasta on a rainy night with candles and Thelonious Monk and maybe a nice glass of Chianti. The world feels right in those times, and for a brief moment I'll be comforted.

It's not just me

"This threefold characterization of the nature of the world and all it contains-sorrowful, transient, and soulless- is frequently repeated in Buddhist literature, and without fully grasping its truth no being has any chance of salvation."-Theodore de Bary (Ed.); The Buddhist Tradition in India, China, and Japan

It's always comforting in my times of Existential crisis to know that there's a whole religion based on what I'm feeling. I think that's why I've always felt right at home with Buddhist thought. Not only does the philosophy of the big B teach inclusion, moderation, and meditiation, but also the realization of sorrow. It's the first step towards enlightenment. I love it. I'm like three steps away from enlightenment.

All kidding aside, I think that this is a crucial component of Buddhist thought that seems to be left out in the New age spirituality of our Western world that takes a lot of its cues from Eastern thought and especially Buddhism. Meditation and yoga are all the rage, and there are solid health reasons for that, if also hipness and image reasons that leave a bad taste.

There's just something about the whole New Age thing, to be ridiculously vague and general about it, that gives me shivers. It feels wrong and off and like a false positive, but I love the real deal. Old school Buddhist writings or even just new school non-western stuff feels more honest. I could never put my finger on what was missing until the other day when I read that line. It really seems like a lot of new age stuff dilutes out this important element of the philosophy for a feel-good good time. Once again, I'm working on vibes here, so take that for what it's worth.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Strangeness we dare not speak of

It's all well and good to play up yr own eccentricities as delightful, exciting excursions from the world of normal. I am not by any extent of the imagination trying to encourage or even define what the world of normal might be, but that does not negate the fact that there are extremes from which we clearly know we'd like to get a return ticket.
I used to have these two really good quotes from Zappa and HST about what it meant to be a freak tacked up over my desk. Zappa said something to the effect that being a freak meant you were being an individual, and Hunter voiced a variation on the catch-22 theme, in that being a freak in America meant you were not in all actuality a total lunatic.
While that may be an amusing yet profoundly true sentiment from America's favorite speed freak, it does not dilute the fact that crazy is not always fun, which brings me to my current insomniac state where I am forced to get out of bed and come write this nonsense as a way to appease the never ending string of sentences that are in a no holds barred street race through my brain. I don't think this will be successful, but it felt more productive than just tossing and turning.
I'm tired. I want to sleep for just six straight hours without the assistance of alcohol. I would like just a tiny slice of normal pie for breakfast tomorrow and not my normal slice of brain wierdness. I would like to not find that when I wake up tomorrow the very existence of my bed or my glasses or anything makes me frustrated and callow. I would like to feel satisfied that this idea that has been knocking around my head for the past week is not total manic planning, and that I might just be capable of getting it together. I would like all those things, and yet I know I will get none of them.
I don't want to leave off on such a blue note or even so pedantically, but somehow I feel insufferably incompetent at writing just now and the lack of confidence is dulling my mind. Let me just say that I love the Big Apple Circus, you know the one without the animals. It's awesome.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Do people see themselves?

I was watching the documentary The King of Kong the other day, and it inspired me to do some soul searching. That is probably not the most obvious response to a documentary about video games, but who wants to be obvious anyway?
The irrelevantly obvious question for most of us is, who would possibly put their life basically on hold to play early 80ies video games competitively? There's no money involved; it's just for the thrill of the kill screen: a screen where, once you've gone through all the levels a certain insane number of times, you just inexplicably die. At one point, there's an arcade full of people watching as Steve Weibe makes it to this screen in Donkey Kong, and...wait for it, wait for it...little mario spins around and falls off the screen. That's it.
Okay, so huge swaths of American and world culture love video games and play them obsessively. I think this is nuts, but I'm sure there are those who would consider it nuts to have spent roughly 27% of a life in reading books. I guess that makes us even.
Regardless, I was not inspired to reconsider my obssessive book reading. That was not what I gleaned from this oddly compelling documentary. It was the behavior of Billy Mitchell, the guy who had held the best Donkey Kong score for some twenty years. The whole movie he's kind of lurking around doing shady stuff. He won't ever sit down and play Weibe head to head but just sort of insinuates that he thinks Weibe is somehow a cheat.
Here's my question. Does this guy realize what an jerk-off he's being? I mean, does he know and not care or does he know and still can't stop himself or does he legitimately think he's a good and still cool guy with his awful blow-dried 80ies haircut and cheap theatrics?
I've wondered this often, like whenever I used see Dick Cheney being interviewed. Does he realize he's the manifestation of evil, or does he just think he's doing what's best for the American people? Actually those two things aren't by necessity mutually exclusive without taking a rather more than common long view, so we'll leave off on that.
Billy Mitchell made me wonder about myself. I don't think people dislike me, or that they think I'm a dick. I think they realize I'm moody and introspective and sometimes just want to be left the hell alone, but I wonder now. If this guy, who is so obviously a jerk, could maybe even think he was just too cool for school, what about myself?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Brain wierdness and an NPR factoid

First, an NPR factoid: The torch relay was first instituted by the Nazi's for the 1936 Olympic games. Take from that what you will.

And now to the brain wierdness: My precious sleep needs have been severely disrupted for the past two days by brain wierdness. Two days ago, as I was in that floating intrastate between sleep and the attempts to quell the thoughts of no great importance that attend (for me) the curled up in bed safely heading towards dreamland, a bit of brain wierdness jarred me out of the floatingness of the in between because it was just so odd it caught my attention and brought me back into all the way conscious state. My brain, as I take no responsibility for those semi-conscious ramblings, was in the midst of a conversation between two sled dogs on the Iditarod who were alternating between cattily gossiping about what a bitch the lead dog was, the necessity of a multicolored scarf in any good dogsled ensemble, and the relative merits of whipping.

That was all kind of wierd and enough to shake me back into awakeness and subsequently cut into the few hours I was hoping to get that night, but last night's brain wierdness far outwierded the sleddog convo. Last night, I was performing and narrating a neurosurgical operation on myself to remove a tumor from my brain. I was jarred into awakeness at the point when I had my skull cracked open and in an imaginative image in my head a blood red pulsating brain with a bright yellow tumor was about to be removed. My brain narration was telling me that, "This tumor is just another example of how Sam the Sham can infect with his infectious wit, so be careful in the future."

Needles to say this shook me back into full wakefulness, and yet another precious hour of sleep was lost to brain wierdness.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

You can quote it

I just thought I'd share a few...because I don't feel like saying anything myself.

"There are two kinds of poets: the good poets, who at a certain point destroy their bad poems and go off to run guns in Africa, and the bad poets, who publish theirs and keep writing more until they die."-Umberto Eco; The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

I finished this book a few weeks ago, and it goes out with a whimper, which was actually in a nice counterpoint to Ian McEwan's Saturday, which went out with a bang. I'm also glad to find that a Semiotics professor is happy to go wild in the fields of commafication.

a partial quote: "as well as the more sinister organizations like Sakurakai (the Cherry Blossom Society)"-Niall Ferguson; The War of the World: Twentieth Century Conflict and the Descent of the West.

Just a piece that stuck out from an other wise low key chapter on the militarization of Japanese society prior to WWII. I couldn't get over the fact that The Cherry Blossom Society was one of the more sinister organizations.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Politicians, sigh

If I hear Ted Kennedy say Blood and Treasure one more time, I will seek him out and smack him in the head. How is it helping anything being trite about all the death and billions of dollars this war has cost? Answer: It is not. Please, stop now.

When John Kerry says there's no daylight between John McCain and George Bush, it reminds me both how much I absolutely hate political shorthand and that John Kerry is still not cool.

And the winner of today's most frickin' sleezeballish politico: the bay state's own Gov. Deval Patrick. It turns out that while a signature piece of legislation that Patrick backed was going down in legislative flames, our man Deval was in NYC finalizing a book deal that will not only have him working on this book while still governor (on nights and weekends he claims) but also going on an extensive book tour during his last year in office. His spokepeople have claimed that it won't interfere. All of this is bad enough in and of itself, but they had some excerpts from his proposal for the deal in the Globe today. It was awful; the type of cheap self help gabage that makes you laugh, and I'd be laughing if this man was not actually a Gov'ner. The title: A Reason to Believe: Lessons in Leadership and Life. That's just sad. It really is.

On a personal note, the convergance of sickness and busyness equals busickness. There is nothing like basting yr cold in the juices of sleep deprivation.