erik lundegaard

Thursday August 31, 2017

Quote of the Day

“When you're in film school everyone talks about, 'Oh, I wouldn't make a studio film, that's selling out.' And you're like, 'You know how hard it is to ”sell out“? To, like, work with a studio? They only hire 12 people a year—in the whole world!”

-- Justin Lin, in the documentary “Hollywood Chinese,” 2007

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Posted at 03:39 PM on Aug 31, 2017 in category Quote of the Day
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The False Equivalence of the Lenin Statue in the Confederate Memorial Debate

In the wake of Charlottesville, when toppling Confederate statues and memorials not only became the topic of the day but a good idea, Seattle's embattled mayor Ed Murray brought an odd wrinkle to the conversation. He suggested two memorials in Seattle come down: a 1926 Daughters of the Confederacy memorial to Southern vets, which was on private property in Lakeview Cemetery; and the famous statue of Vladimir Lenin, perpetually on display in lower Fremont ... which was also on private property. 

I was surprised to hear that the Confederate memorial even existed. Confederate Vets? In Seattle? But whatever: It was on private property. We had no say. Lenin, too. What bugged me, though, was that Murray put the two in the same category. Was he striving for objectivity? One of theirs, one of ours? If so, like many a journalist before him, he simply found a false equivalence.

The Confederate memorial was created to honor the Confederacy. The Lenin statue, brought here from a defeated Russia and placed where it was, on a nondescript street corner, wasn't set up to honor anything. The opposite, really. From the beginning, it's been steeped in absurdity and irony. Existing where it does, it carries with it an Ozymandias-like warning:

'Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains ... except for a gyro joint and some Italian sandwich shoppe
And naked cyclists once a year

This week in The Stranger I found out somebody agrees with me: a Russian to boot. He adds a coda: Look on the dildo on my head, ye mighty, and despair.

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Posted at 11:08 AM on Aug 31, 2017 in category Seattle
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Wednesday August 30, 2017

Puddle-Wonderful

Flying into Seattle last night in the haze made all of our waterways—from Lake Washington to Puget Sound—seem like giant puddles.

the puddles of Seattle

And the goat-footed balloonMan whistles far and wee.

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Posted at 01:11 PM on Aug 30, 2017 in category Seattle
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Sunday August 20, 2017

Trump is the Culmination of 50 Years of GOP Strategy

“We've seen this coming. Donald Trump is not an outlier; he is a culmination, a logical conclusion of the rhetoric and tactics of the Republican Party for the past ten, fifteen, twenty years. What surprised me was the degree to which those tactics and rhetoric completely jumped the rails.”

-- Pres. Barack Obama, before last November's election, in conversation with David Remnick. In Remnick's New Yorker piece, “Donald Trump's True Allegiances,” Remnick goes on to talk about how, for the past 50 years, “the leaders of the G.O.P. have fanned the lingering embers of racial resentment in the United States.” This is the story. Don't lose sight of this. 

ADDENDUM: The piece keeps getting better. From Remnick: “This is the inescapable fact: on November 9th, the United States elected a dishonest, inept, unbalanced, and immoral human being as its President and Commander-in-Chief. Trump has daily proven unyielding to appeals of decency, unity, moderation, or fact. He is willing to imperil the civil peace and the social fabric of his country simply to satisfy his narcissism and to excite the worst inclinations of his core followers.”

On some level I'm like, “Of course! Why do you think we were all so fucking depressed?” But it's nice that it's out there.

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Posted at 07:23 AM on Aug 20, 2017 in category Quote of the Day
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Saturday August 19, 2017

Quotes of the Day in Another Crazy Week in America

What do you say about this week? I have no words. Or few words. Or fewer words than normal. 

OK, I have other people's words. That makes it easier. 

Steve Bannon got the axe yesterday, and he went out with a promise to bring his, you know, fire and fury back to his alt-right/white supremacist/neo-Nazi website Breitbart, which has been spewing bullshit for years. (I've mostly followed its shoddy reporting on, and attacks of, Hollywood and the American film community.) Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker has a good piece, “The Rise and Fall of Steve Bannon,” in which he parses the particular idiocy of the Trump administration:

“In previous White Houses, officials downplayed this sort of internal combat, insisting that everyone was united around the President's agenda. But in the Trump White House there is no Trump agenda. There is a mercurial, highly emotional narcissist with no policy expertise who set up—or allowed his senior staffers to set up—competing ideological fiefdoms that fight semi-public wars to define the soul of Trumpism.”

Is there a particular idiocy to Trump? Following Trump's doubling-down on defending the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Jimmy Kimmel had a great monologue on Tuesday. You can see it here. I particularly like the moment, at 7:20 or so, when he reminds us of the lowlights of this presidency. Because we tend to forget. Because there's so many of them. But here we go:

Then he moves into the White House. Right off the bat, he's angry at the media for reporting that the crowd at his inaugruation was smaller than it was. Which was weird, but not important, really. And he claimed it stopped raining when he was speaking at his inaugural address, which ... everyone could see it was raining. But OK, it was his first week, you give him a break. So he gets in there, hires his daughter, hires his son-in-law, demands an investigation of voter fraud even though he won the election; he calls the prime minister of Australia and hangs up on him, he won't shake Angela Merkel's hand, he doesn't know Frederick Douglass isn't alive; he claims he can't release his tax returns because they're under audit, then says he's not going to release them at all; he signs a ban on Muslims that he claims isn't a ban on Muslims; he compliments the president of the Philippines for murdering drug addicts; hours after a terror attack on London he starts a fight with their mayor; after criticizing Obama for playing golf he plays golf every weekend; he accidentally shares classified intelligence with the Russians; he tweets a typo at midnight, then wakes up and claims it was a secret message; he praises Jim Comey in February, calls him a coward in June, and fires him, and he lashes out at his own attorney general for recusing himself from the investigation; he hires the Mooch, he fires the Mooch, he bans transgenders in the military without telling anyone in the military he's doing it; he plays chicken with Kim Jong Un ... And that's just some of the list!

Trump just moves from disaster to disaster, declaring victory all the while. We've had bad presidents, incompentent ones, malicious ones, racist ones, but never all of those elements together in one clownsuit. The fact that we ever elected him remains a dark day for American democracy.

Meanwhile, infamous conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (9/11 was an inside job, Sandy Hook shooting was 'a total hoax') was on the streets of my city, Seattle, yesterday, apparently looking for someone to talk to. But not really. He just wants to spew. He and others on the right want to make Seattle the new Hollywood: a perennial right-wing punching bag. According to KOMO News, he said, “These people are bots, they're in a cult. 'Can you speak?' We're trying to see if any of these folks can speak out here.” Hey Alex, it's called the Seattle Freeze. Get used to it. Someone supposedly threw coffee on him but that was probably staged. He asked to talk to a city councilman but got this response: “I don't talk to racist fucks.” Love that. But my favorite part of KOMO's piece was this graf:

Jones also had plenty of defenders on Twitter, including @SeigHeil1, who asked people to pray for Jones as he was “surrounded by pharmaceutically deranged communists in Seattle.”

When you're defenders are @SeigHeil1, who needs enemies? 

Meanwhile, on Twitter, Dinesh D'Souza is still peddling his idiot “Democrats started the KKK” argument. He got this response:

But my favorite tweet of the week, in a week in which many were suddenly talking about taking down Confederate statues, and others, from Pres. Trump to Tucker Carlson, were arguing that this was tantamount to destroying our history, amid all that hubub, we got this:

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Posted at 11:08 AM on Aug 19, 2017 in category Quote of the Day
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Friday August 18, 2017

Monumental Shift

Stone Mountain, Georgia

Celebrating Jeff Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson. Who could object?

I remember the first time I saw Stone Mountain in Georgia. My sister lived in Atlanta in the late 1990s, I was visiting, and I'd already gone to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center (which disappointed), the Ebenezer Baptist Church (cool), and MLK's childhood home (intriguing for imagining a young MLK running around). I'd walked the walk along Peachtree Street and Auburn Avenue, and had seen—hadn't I?—the old SCLC office, next to some liquor store in a rundown section of town. I'd shaken my head over that. Shouldn't there be upkeep? Shouldn't that be preserved?

All of that I did on my own. Then one day, as a group, we did Stone Mountain, 20 miles outside Atlanta and referenced in MLK's “I Have a Dream” speech. From the get-go, I felt like I'd landed in an alternate reality or enemy territory. I suppose I had. There was this big bas-relief sculpture carved into the mountain of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis. “It's a Confederate Mount Rushmore,” I thought. But it was the walkway in the park that really got me. Different slabs indicated, as if they were points of pride, when each Confederate state seceded from the union. Here went South Carolina, there went North Carolina. This is when Virginia took up arms. And Georgia. 

Civil War history? Not exactly. The relief sculpture was first conceived by Mrs. C. Helen Plane, charter member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, in 1916, 50 years after the end of the Civil War, during the excitement following the release of D.W. Griffith's “The Birth of a Nation” and the subsequent rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan. All that rewriting going on. At the time, the mountain was owned by the Venable brothers, William and Samuel, the latter of whom was involved in the KKK, and they leased the north face of the mountain for the sculpture. Work started in the 1920s, stopped, stuttered. Decades went by. It gained momentum again during the civil rights movement but it wasn't officially completed until 1973, by which time the state of Georgia owned Stone Mountain. Not sure when the secessionist walkway was built. Either way, the thing is recent history.

I've always wondered over almost any kind of memoralization or romanticization of the Confederacy. “The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down”? Isn't that really about the end of slavery? So why does The Band make it seem sad? Why the Confederate flag on the Gen. Robert E. Lee for the good ol' boys of “Dukes of Hazard”? Isn't this a symbol of ... defection? Treason? It felt like a disconnect. It felt like the true meaning of the thing was always passed over, swept aside, handled with a wink.

Not anymore. Maybe we can thank Trump and the white nationalists for this. Maybe it's the one thing in this long awful year we can thank them for.

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Posted at 06:54 AM on Aug 18, 2017 in category U.S. History
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Thursday August 17, 2017

M's Game: Now Pitching for the Mariners ... Someone

Mariners game: Marco Gonzales

Second pitch. Pay attention, girls. 

Is it possible for even the most gung-ho fan to keep track of Mariners starting pitching anymore? This was our rotation at the beginning of the year:

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma
  3. James Paxton
  4. Ariel Miranda
  5. Yovani Gallardo

Now?

  1. Felix Hernandez (DL: 10)
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma (DL: 60)
  3. James Paxton (DL: 10)
  4. Ariel Miranda
  5. Yovani Gallardo
  6. Erasmo Ramirez? (traded for: July 28)
  7. Andrew Albers? (purchased: Aug. 12)
  8. Marco Gonzales? (traded for: July 21)

Iwakuma lasted just six starts (I never got to see him), Felix a lucky 13 (I never got to see him) and Paxton, who became our ace, 20 (yeah, never saw him, either).

All in all, we've had 16 pitchers start games this season. I've seen Miranda twice, Gallardo twice, and Andrew Moore, who made his Major League debut in June and was sent back to the minors in July, twice. I was there for Dillon Overton's only start in May (he lasted 3 1/3; he's now with San Diego), one of Sam Gaviglio's starts (he's had 11, the most for any of the non-five), and yesterday, against Baltimore, before the M's roadtrip for the rest of August, I was there with my friend Andy on a sunny Wednesday afternoon to see Marco Gonzales make his third start for the team since being acquired from St. Louis in late July. Previously he'd lasted 4 innings against KC and 4 1/3 against the Angels. The hope was he'd go longer. 

It didn't look good at the outset. O's shortstop Tim Beckham sent Marco's second pitch into the right-field bleachers. Then he settled down, the M's scored some runs—chiefly on new acquisiton Yonder Alonso's first homer as an M—and Marco took a 3-1 lead into the 5th. He needed just two outs to have his longest outing since Sept. 14, 2014, when he went 5 2/3 for St. Louis against Colorado. He got the first out fast: Chris Davis went swinging. This was followed by a single, a single, a wild pitch, a triple, a single, a single, and there went that chance. It's all Scott Servais could stands, he could stands no more. In came Tony Zych—the last word in M's relief. He got the next two guys and ultimately the win.

It wasn't a bad game. They had the lead, we tied it and took it; then they tied it and took it. In the bottom of the 5th, the M's scored 3 right back again (single, HBP, single, pop out, single, single, single, double play), then tacked on another in the 6th on Leonys Martin's solo shot to make it 7-4. In the 9th, with this cushiest of closer leads, fireballer Edwin Diaz came in and ... couldn't find the plate. Three walks in a row to load the bases. Then Manny Machado hit a sac fly (speared by Martin, nicely, in right center), and Schoop struck out, and he seemed nearly out of it. Until he hit the next two guys with pitches. That made it 7-6, bases loaded, and Servais went to the pen again. For Marc Rzepczynski. Who, as if to show Diaz how it's done, struck out Chris Davis on three pitches. Happy walk home. 

A week ago, when the M's were the second team in the wild-card hunt, the game might've felt important. But that was before the M's five-game losing streak, mostly to the Angels. No one can seem to hold onto that second wild card spot, can they? The Royals surged, claimed it, then fell back. Same, at various times, with the Rays, M's, Twins. Now it's the Angels turn. Even the Rangers are still in the hunt. The M's are just 1.5 back, but with three teams between them and the golden (brass/tin) ring, and with this rotation made up of wire and chewing gum, which is why nothing yesterday felt particularly urgent. Andy and I talked about a recent trip he'd made to the Olympic peninsula, politics, of course (to vent, more anything), and Charlottesville. We chatted up a wedding party seated next to us—half of them were from Balmer—then met up with our friend Paige, who had taken her boy and two of his friends to the game and were sitting 30 rows back of the M's dugout. Paige, a big Seahawks fan, didn't get that 9th inning, but that's baseball. It's certainly M's baseball. 

It was my ninth game at Safeco this year. They're 5-4.

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Posted at 08:55 AM on Aug 17, 2017 in category Seattle Mariners
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Monday August 14, 2017

Movie Review: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2002)

WARNING: SPOILERS

It would be tough to imagine a more light-hearted, lyrical movie about the horrors of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Normally I’d cry bullshit, but writer-director Dai Sijie based the movie on his own novella, which was based on his own experiences being re-educated in rural Sichuan province near the Tibet border from 1971 to 1974. Plus the movie is just lovely. Plus he gives us the lovelier Zhou Xun in the title role (not Balzac; the other one).

At times I was reminded of the Danish coming-of-age film “Twist and Shout.” In both, two boys, between capers, respond to world events (Cultural Revolution; Beatlemania) and feel the deep ache of first love. In both, there’s an illegal abortion. In both, you can’t help but fall in love with the girl, too.

I was also reminded of “Pygmalion”: men attempting to educate a provincial woman. There are layers upon layers of irony in this. The two boys, Ma (Liu Ye) and Luo (Chen Kun), are sent to Sichuan province to unlearn western values and learn the deep, simple truths of peasants as dictated by Chairman Mao. Instead, they steal western literature, Balzac chiefly, and inculcate the little Chinese seamstress (Zhou) on the very thing they’re supposed to be unlearning: western values. Near the end, they toast each other for doing this well.

How well do they do this? She leaves them.

What Paris is
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress movie reviewWhen they first arrive in the rural, mountainous village, one anticipates the worst. They’re out-of-their-element city boys whose very strength—their smarts—has been deemed a moral weakness, a plague upon the country and culture. A book they bring with them, a book of recipes for God’s sake, is torn up and thrown into the fire by the village leader (Wang Shuangbao) as being too bourgeois. He nearly does the same with Ma’s violin, too, which he thinks is a child’s toy, but Luo saves it. He says that it plays music. He gets Ma to play a Mozart sonata and lies about its provenance. He says it’s a mountain song entitled “Mozart is Thinking of Chairman Mao.” The violin is saved.

I kept expecting a comeuppance that never came. Yes, their job is to lug vats of liquid shit up the mountains, spilling it over themselves as they go, but soon the capers begin. They sneak to a nearby village to watch its girls bathing beneath a waterfall. One of them is the little Chinese seamstress, who becomes fascinated with the city boys. Soon they’re inseparable, and the boys take it upon themselves to educate her into the world beyond her own. They hear rumors that Four Eyes (Wang Hongwei), the son of an intellectual, apparently taking to reeducation well, has a secret cache of western literature. It’s true, they steal it, and in nearby caves they read her Dostoevsky, Dumas, Flaubert and Balzac. How much doesn’t she know? What Paris is; what France is; where Europe is.

More, because they have a talent for storytelling, they are tasked with going into town, watching North Korean propaganda films at outdoor cinema, then reenacting the story for the villagers. One time, Luo retells them a Balzac story instead. He gets them to shout out the title. It’s amusing. Rather than being re-educated from western influences, he’s educating them in western literature. And it has its effects. The seamstress’ grandfather, the old tailor (Cong Zhijun), creates embroidered garments. We see the seamstress trying on the first bra in the village. The world is opening up.

Both boys fall in love with the little Chinese seamstress, of course, but she begins a relationship with the more handsome of the two, Luo, who, at one point, leaves for two months to attend to his sick father. (There is much more mobility during the Cultural Revolution than I realized.) It’s then that she reveals to Ma that she’s pregnant. We’re walked through a series of Mao-era Catch 22s: Abortions are legal but only with a marriage certificate; but you can only marry after age 25 and our protagonists are just 18. So Ma, the son of a doctor, convinces one of his father’s colleagues to perform the service. For his help, he gives him Balzac.

What changes her
I love the way the movie moves. It ambles like a lazy summer afternoon but the story coheres; in the end, the pathway is distinct. It leads Ma, our narrator, to Paris, where he makes his living as part of a string quartet, and where, one day in the late 1990s, he hears news of the Three Gorges Dam project, which will flood the Sichuan village where he once lived. So he returns, with camera, to film what’s there, and to look for the little Chinese seamstress, with whom he’s still in love. Some of the villagers recall her, or the old tailor, but that’s it. There’s no sign of her. Then Ma flies to Shanghai for a reunion with Luo, who’s a doctor, married, and with a child. Years earlier, in 1982, he too went looking for the Chinese seamstress to no avail. They drink, watch Ma’s video, reminisce.

Then we get a flashback to the day she left. She leaves early and the grandfather wakes the boys, who run in pursuit. They catch her on the stone path between the verdant, vertiginous Chinese mountains, his hair cut short, wearing tennis shoes. Ma hangs back while Luo talks. We get this exchange:

She: I decided I’m leaving.
He: What changed you?
She: Balzac.

In a way it’s more poignant than “Pygmalion.” Henry Higgins shows Eliza the world and she returns to him; the boys show the seamstress the world and she leaves them for it.  

In the last part of the movie, this joint French-Chinese production, we see the video Ma took of the Sichuan village being flooded. The camera—Dai’s, not Ma’s—pans in, and we see the tailor’s old sewing machine, and the bottle of French perfume Ma brought for the little seamstress, being submerged. Underwater, the bottle twirls; it dances. Then, still underwater, we see a door open, and there are our protagonists as they were in the early ’70s: Ma playing violin while Luo reads Balzac to the little Chinese seamstress. The past isn’t buried, it’s submerged. It’s a final image so poignant as to be piercing.

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Posted at 03:54 PM on Aug 14, 2017 in category Movie Reviews - 2000s
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Saturday August 12, 2017

No. 11

Edgar Martinez

Our man Edgar: patient at the plate and in life.

On Saturday the Seattle Mariners are finally retiring the number of Edgar Martinez, our beloved 3B/DH, now hitting coach, a future Hall of Famer and a .300/.400/.500 man who knew only one team: us. I've written about him many times. I've also urged the organization to do this very thing for years. There was no reason not to. We treated him shitty, he never left us, he left his mark in the record books. But the Mariners are the Mariners. They keep doing the wrong thing. 

Tonight they'll finally get it right. 

I was going to go to the game, bought tickets, 300-level behind homeplate, but life intervenes. But thoughts go out.

Edgar will be only the second Mariner to have his number retired (after Junior last year), and I'd encourage the team that never listens to someday retire a few others: #51 for both Ichiro and Randy, #34 for Felix, and maybe #19 for Jay Buhner. Others? Moyers' #50?

This is a relatively new phenomenon, by the way. Teams didn't put numbers on players' backs until 1929 (Indians, Yankees), and originally the number was the order in which they batted. That's why #3 for Babe Ruth, #4 for Lou Gehrig. It was to let the fans in the stands know who was who. Since lineups change often, it probably became too difficult to maintain this conceit and things morphed into what they are.

The first retired number was announced on July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig Day, Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth day, when, with Gehrig suddenly dying of the disease that would bear his name, the Yankees basically announced: “No one is fit to wear this uniform again.” For some reason, the New York Giants retired Carl Hubbel's #11 in 1944, and four years later, Babe Ruth's #3, which seven other Yankees wore after Ruth was cut from the team in '35, was retired on the silver anniversary of Yankee Stadium. A month later, the Giants' retired Mel Ott's #4.

In general, particularly in the early days, retired numbers were reserved for either great players (DiMaggio in '52) or men dying young (Fred Hutchinson of the Reds in '64, Jim Umbricht of the Astros in '65). Don't see much of the latter anymore.

The '70s were the decade when the phenomenon really took off:

  • 1930s: 1
  • 1940s: 3
  • 1950s: 4
  • 1960s: 8
  • 1970s: 29

The last year when no numbers were retired? 1981. That awful strike-shortened, dual season year. The year I graduated high school.

This year, the following numbers have already been retired: #20 for the Indians (Frank Robinson), #34 for the Red Sox (David Ortiz), #56 for the White Sox (Mark Buehrle), and #2 for the Yankees (Derek Somethingorother). Now add Edgar. About time. He's been patient. He's been as patient with the Mariners as he was with every pitcher he ever saw.

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Posted at 05:20 AM on Aug 12, 2017 in category Baseball
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Friday August 11, 2017

The Curious Case of Cliff Mapes, the Greatest Numbers-Wearer in Baseball History

DiMaggio, Mize, Mapes, Berra 

Cliff Mapes (third from left) flanked by three future Hall of Famers: DiMaggio, Mize and Berra. 

If you're talking retired numbers in baseball, you have to talk about Cliff Mapes.

Now if you're a non-baseball fan, you're probably going: Cliff Who? And if you're a baseball fan, you're probably going: Wait. Cliff ... Who? But if you're a longtime baseball fan, steeped in its history and trivia, you're probably just nodding your head. You know where this is going. Although maybe not all of it.  

From 1948 to 1952, Cliff Mapes was an outfielder for three teams in the American League: the New York Yankees, St. Louis Browns and Detroit Tigers. For his career, he appeared in 459 games, slugged 38 homeruns, and retired with the following BA/OBP/SLG line: .242/.338/.406. Right: Not exactly Hall of Fame stats. So if we're talking retired numbers, why do we have to talk about Cliff Mapes?

Because Mapes wore three of the most iconic retired numbers in baseball history. 

A little history. MLB teams didn't begin wearing numbers on their backs until 1929, and back then the numbers correlated to their spot in the batting order. That's why, for the Yankees, Babe Ruth was No. 3 and Lou Gehrig No. 4. It was an easy way to let people in the stands know who was who. The Indians and Yankees were the first to do it and by 1937 every MLB team was doing it. 

The first retired number belonged to the Yankees' Lou Gehrig, a beloved figure and the “Iron Man” of baseball, who died of a disease that now bears his name. In 1939, on Lou Gehrig Day, after he gave his “luckiest man” speech, the Yankees retired his #4. Essentially they were saying, “No one is fit to wear this uniform again.” Five years later, in 1944, the New York Giants retired Carl Hubbel's #11. Four years after that, on the 25th anniversary of Yankee Stadium, and as he was dying of cancer, the Yankees finally got around to retiring Ruth's #3.

Back then, numbers weren't quite as sacrosanct as they are now. Indeed, when the Yankees released Ruth in February 1935, they immediately gave it to the new right fielder George Selkirk, who wore it for seven years until he entered military service during WWII. Bud Metheny then wore it from 1943 to 1946, but he only last three games into the '46 seasons, so the number went to Eddie Bockman (who lasted four games), Roy Weatherly (two), and finally Frank Colman, a midseason pickup from the Pirates (five games). 

By now the number should've been a jinx. Allie Clark took it on in '47 and played 24 games for the Yanks, then was traded to Cleveland in the off-season. That's how, in '48, it wound up on the back of Cliff Mapes, a rookie outfielder. But then the Yankee organization threw itself a party for the silver anniversary of its stadium, not to mention its first championship (they'd won 11 by then), where it planned to finally retire Ruth's number. Here's how big of a deal that wasn't. This is the report in the May 25, 1948 New York Times.

Will Retire Ruth's No. 3

It's buried on pg. 34, lost amid the box scores. It got a bigger spread the day of (“Famous 'No. 3' to be Retired for All Time”) but we didn't get any highlights the next day. Nothing on Ruth's weakened state and cancer-ridden voice. Two months later, Ruth died. 

But back to Mapes. To replace his No. 3, he—as A-Rod would do in the 21st century—just added a “1” and went with 13. The following year, maybe figuring that 13 was unlucky, he chose No. 7. Which he kept through the '51 season, by which time he was in a limited role, coming to the plate as a left-handed specialist. Then a few things happened. In early July, rookie Mickey Mantle, of whom such great things were expected that he had been given No. 6—signaling that the Yankees expected him to be next in line after Ruth (3), Gehrig (4), and DiMaggio (5)—was sent to the minors for seasoning.  By the time Mantle returned in August, Mapes had been traded to St. Louis, and Mantle, figuring the No. 6 was a jinx for him, or put too much pressure on him, took Mapes' No. 7. Which he wore until the Yankees retired it on Mickey Mantle Day: June 8, 1969. 

So that's why we talk about Mapes when we talk about retired numbers: When he died in 1996, the fact that he shared numbers with Ruth and Mantle was the primary focus of his two-paragraph New York Times obit. Almost nothing else was mentioned. 

But you know what the Times inexplicably left off? Mapes wore the number of yet another Hall of Fame icon of baseball. In his last season in the Majors, with the Detroit Tigers, Mapes wore No. 5, which, throughout most of the '30s and '40s had been the number for the original “Hammerin' Hank,” Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg. What was his number still doing around in 1952? Well, the Tigers were late comers in the retiring-numbers biz. In fact, they were the 13th of the original 16 teams to retire a number—Al Kaline's No. 6 in 1980. By that point, the Yankees had retired nine numbers, the Dodgers six, and three expansion teams (Astros, Brewers, Mets) had gotten in the game. The Tigers didn't get around to retiring Greenberg's number (along with teammate Charlie Gehringer) until 1984—two years before his death at age 75.

So there you have it: Ruth, Greenberg, Mantle ... and Mapes.

Or is that it? As mentioned, Mapes' No. 13 was later worn by Alex Rodriguez, one of the greatest players of all time, if not exactly one of the most beloved of all time. A lot will have to be forgiven before the Yanks ever retire it, but it could happen. Meanwhile, the fifth number Mapes wore, No. 46 for the St. Louis Browns, who later became the Baltimore Orioles, was worn by popular O's pitcher Mike Flanagan. 

I've looked for others that might've shared the number of more, or as many, baseball immortals, but no one comes close to Mapes. He's the Forrest Gump of baseball.

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Posted at 05:11 AM on Aug 11, 2017 in category Yankees Suck
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Wednesday August 09, 2017

Quote for Donald Trump II

“The easiest thing to do with great power,” [Eisenhower] continued, “is to abuse it—to use it to excess.” The United States, he said, must not “grow weary of the processes of negotiation and adjustment that are fundamental to freedom” and slide into “coercion of other free nations.” To do so “would be a mark of the imperialist rather than of the leader.”

-- from pg. 99 of “Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower's Secret Campaign against Joseph McCarthy” by David A. Nichols

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Posted at 04:23 AM on Aug 09, 2017 in category Quote of the Day
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Monday August 07, 2017

Movie Review: Dunkirk (2017)

WARNING: SPOILERS

I’m glad it exists. I’m glad Christopher Nolan decided to cash in his considerable Dark Knight chips by making a World War II movie. But it’s not great. Sure, the sound; sure, the visuals; sure, the temporal dislocation. But the story? Who are these guys and why do we care?

I admit I was thrown off a bit by the time frame. We keep cutting between three groups of people in three different locations and with each we get a time frame:

  • The Mole: A week
  • The Sea: A day
  • The Air: An hour

It took me most of the movie to realize, oh, that’s how long we were viewing each of their stories. We got a week’s worth of the story of Tommy (Fionn Whitehead, looking like Ewan McGregor’s younger brother), one of the soldiers surrounded by the German Army on the beach at Dunkirk, and trying to get home, across the English Channel, by any means necessary. We get a day’s worth of the story of Dawson (Mark Rylance), who, rather than let the British Navy commandeer his boat to rescue the boys, makes the journey himself, along with his son, Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney), and teenage hand George (Barry Keoghan). And we get one hour of three RAF pilots, led by Farrier (Tom Hardy), who fly over and take on the Germans bombing the British troops on the beaches of Dunkirk.

Does it change much, knowing this beforehand? Dunkirk movie reviewAre there subtle connections that you otherwise miss? That I otherwise missed?

Three stories
Tommy is our protagonist at the first location but I kept losing track of him. That storyline keeps adding similarly sized, dark-haired boys in army fatigues: Gibson (Aneurin Barnard), first seen burying a comrade on the beach and possibly taking his boots; and Alex (Harry Styles), whom Tommy and Gibson save from being crushed by a sinking, listing ship along the mole/dock. At times, particularly during the action scenes, I couldn’t tell who was who. Is that the point? That one soldier blends into another? That they become interchangeable? But interchangeable also means replaceable. We care less about Tommy because Alex and Gibson are there.

For such a harrowing moment in history, their story almost becomes a comedy of errors. Tommy and Alex try to sneak onto a disembarking vessel by bringing a wounded man on board, but they’re ordered off. They hide on the mole, where they meet/help Alex. They manage to get aboard another boat, but that one, too, is sunk, and they return to the beach, which almost feels deserted, and hide aboard a grounded fishing boat, waiting for high tide. But first the boat’s Dutch owner arrives, and then Germans, who use the boat for target practice. As high tide arrives, the boat begins to sink, while Alex accuses the silent Gibson of being a spy. He’s not; he’s French. He goes down with that ship, I believe, while the others get aboard another, which is torpedoed. Is that the fourth ship he’s forced to abandon or the fifth? Either way, he, and I guess Alex, are eventually pulled onto Dawson’s boat and make their way across the channel.

While all of this has been going on, there’s been more tightly controlled drama aboard Dawson’s boat. In the middle of the channel, they rescue, off the hull of a downed ship, a shell-shocked soldier (Cillian Murphy), who doesn’t want to return to the battle, which is where Dawson’s ship is going. So Dawson lies to him and keeps going. But at one point he becomes violent, knocks George down the stairs into the cabin. At first he can’t see; then he’s dead. There’s a great moment, later, when the pilot asks after him, and Peter, anger in his eyes, is about to tell him off; then something like wisdom appears there, his father’s wisdom, and he lies. He tells him George is OK. It’s a gift he gives him; one less burden to carry.

Then they pull into Dunkirk and rescue Tommy, et al.

The drama in the third storyline is the drama of the gas gauge. Farrier keeps going even though the gas gauge reads low, then it’s knocked out so he can’t tell. Of the three planes, one is lost in an early dogfight, the second, piloted by Collins (Jack Lowden), is ditched in the channel after a second dogfight (Collins is rescued by Dawson’s boat). Farrier continues to France, shoots down more Germans, is hailed as a hero as he flies over the beaches of Dunkirk. Then back to the gas. Rather than ditch the plane, he lands it on the beaches, intact. “Won’t the Germans capture it?” I wondered. “Won’t that be dangerous?” Nope. He sets it afire, then surrenders to the Germans. Does he sit out the rest of the war? Does he survive five years as a POW? Who knows? We don’t even know who he really is.

We don’t know who any of them really are.

Oddly empty 
That’s the main problem I had. I’m not a fan of backstory but I wish I had something to distinguish these guys. Likes? Dislikes? Turn-ons? Of the three storylines, the most interesting was “The Sea,” because the drama there was at close quarters, involved moral dilemmas, and you had Mark Rylance aboard. I could watch him in almost anything. He’s got something like the wisdom of the world in his tone and on his face. He intrigues. Hardy does, too, in his inscrutability. The others? Not so much.

And the point of it all? Churchill hoped to evacuate 30,000 and they managed to evacuate 300,000. Except ... we don’t really see it here. By focusing so tightly on three stories, we don’t see the bigger picture.

It was a retreat that was courageous—that’s another point. Tommy and Alex return to England and guilt sets in; they feel the shame of losing. But then Tommy reads Churchill’s speech, “We shall fight on the beaches,” etc. from the local newspaper, and at train stations they’re hailed as heroes, and everyone feels better. Except ... In this movie, Dawson, Peter and George are certainly courageous, and so are the RAF pilots. But Tommy and Alex? They're just trying to do anything to get home. Which is certainly human, and involves courageous acts, but it’s not exactly full of the heroism and sacrifice of the others. Meaning the most important story in the movie felt the most ... pointless.

I’m glad “Dunkirk” was made, but I came away feeling oddly empty. I thought, like Peggy Lee, is that all there is? I longed for people smarter than Christopher Nolan making our movies.

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Posted at 06:27 AM on Aug 07, 2017 in category Movie Reviews - 2017
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Sunday August 06, 2017

Quote for Donald Trump

In a letter to his brother Milton, Dwight Eisenhower wrote that as president he had “never indulged in bitter personal indictment or attack. To my mind, that practice smacks more of the coward and the fool than the leader.”

-- from “Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower's Secret Campaign against Joseph McCarthy” by David A. Nichols

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Posted at 11:22 AM on Aug 06, 2017 in category Quote of the Day
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Saturday August 05, 2017

No. 500

Robinson Cano: double no. 500

No. 500, about to be launched into the right-field corner

I love me some doubles. My friend Jim and I are always talking it up whenever anyone challenges the single season doubles record, 67, set by Earl Webb in 1931, which, for a time, seemed like every other year—even though none of those guys wound up with even 60. The highest recent total was 59 by Todd Helton in 2000, which is tied for 7th all-time with Chuck Klein and Tris Speaker. But there's an asterisk there. Albert Belle hit 52 of them during the '95 season, which was shortened by a month by an owner strike, as was, obviously, '94, when Chuck Knoblauch was stuck on 45 with two months left in the season. We'll never know how far these guys might have gone. 

The Mariners' Robinson Cano has never hit more than 48 doubles in a season, but last night against KC he became the 63rd player to slug 500 doubles for his career. (He's currently tied for 61st with John Olerud and Goose Goslin.) And he's only 34. Where might he wind up? Only 17 guys have 600+ and I could definitely see him getting there. Since he averages 30+ a year, it would take a serious injury to stop him. What about 700? That's a tougher get. Only four guys have done that—the last Pete Rose, and he played forever. But top 20 all-time? Definitely. 

These aren't magical numbers like homeruns but they should be. Congrats, Robby. Keep it going.

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Posted at 03:48 PM on Aug 05, 2017 in category Seattle Mariners
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My Father's Original 'Annie Hall' Review from 1977

In March I posted my father's original “Star Wars” review from 1977, and in May, on the 40th anniversary of its release, the Minneapolis Star Tribune did the same. Then they got him to write a follow-up. Had he changed his mind? Of course not. And to be honest, his review is pretty spot-on. “Leave your brain at home.” Moviegoers have been doing that ever since. 

The 1977 movie he preferred to “Star Wars” was this one. He was right about that, too. No follow-up necessary.


At the Movies

May 15, 1977

Original review of Annie Hall from 1977If you’ve held off from seeing Woody Allen’s latest film, “Annie Hall, because of reports that it’s his first “serious comedy,” disabuse yourself of the notion at once. If “Annie Hall” is different from Allen’s previous movies, it’s only in being more personal, more autobiographical.

But its subject matter—Jewish boy meets goy girl, loses girl—is no more serious than, say, the Russian novel or a bank robbery. And the one-liners still fly thick and fast, particularly in the first half of the film.

I think it’s his funniest film yet, and his best, but I’ve thought that about his last three, which suggests either that his grasp of the medium keeps getting more controlled as he gets older or, more likely, that the last joke you heard is always the funniest, because it’s still fresh.

The film, especially considering the title, comes off mainly as a protracted valentine to Diane Keaton, his frequent costar and the actress with whom he once lived, just as Alvy Singer, the hero of the film, lives with Annie.

The strength of “Annie” comes from the unlikely liaison between the two, this woman who says things like “la-di-da” and “neat” and the comedian who says, “My grammy never gave gifts. She was too busy being raped by Cossacks.”

The contrast in lifestyles culminates in a family dinner at the Hall (Keaton) household in Chippewa Falls, Wis., at which Singer-Allen feels so much the outsider that he imagines himself bearded and garbed like a Hasid.

Allen develops his themes in a variety of ways, not all of them successful: time warps in which the current Allen looks at his childhood, subtitles that contrast people’s thoughts with what they say (I thought that went out with “Strange Interlude”), split screens showing both he Singer and Hall families at the dinner table, speeches to the audience.

There are lots of interesting casting assignments, too, and again some of them misfire. Paul Simon works out well as a rock artist attracted to Miss Keaton, and Tony Roberts gets to listen to Woody’s paranoia as if this were a remake of “Play It Again, Sam.”

If Allen wanted the epitome of Waspiness for Annie’s mother, however, he certainly shouldn’t have chosen Colleen Dewhurst, who is as Irish-looking as the Blarney stone.

After making love to Miss Keaton, Allen describes sex as “the most fun I’ve ever had without laughing.” Well, his films—and those marvelous essays of his in the New Yorker—are some of the most fun I’ve ever had with laughing.

He’s a national treasure, and if he wants to make more “serious” films such as this, fine. But not too often. My ribs need time to heal.

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Posted at 07:37 AM on Aug 05, 2017 in category Movie Reviews
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Friday August 04, 2017

No Nip for Tuck

I finally got around to reading Kelefa Sanneh's profile of Fox host Tucker Carlson, “Tucker Carlon's Fighting Words,” which was in the April 10 issue of The New Yorker—the one with the Barry Blitt drawing of a fat-assed Pres. Trump golfing on the White House lawn. 

Was it worth it? Did I learn anything? 

Well, I learned that Carlson's father was a former U.S. Marine who became a journalist and then, when Tucker was 10, married Patricia Swanson “of the frozen food Swansons.” (Tucker's mother left when he was 6 and he's never seen her again.) I learned that Tucker “loves rascals”—from Rev. Al Sharpton to Roger Stone—and that he sees himself in that light. I like this description of him by Sanneh: “'Old money' describes Carlson's aesthetic but not, exactly, his circumstances.” I learned that he often flummoxes guests on his show by asking them questions that are tough/impossible to answer—such as, to Bill Nye, what percentage of global warming is caused by human activity?—and that he's more offended by liberal reaction to Trump's incompetence/buffoonery than he is by the actual presidential incompetence/buffoonery.

But the piece wasn't hard-hitting enough. In the Jon Stewart/“Crossfire” contretemps, Sanneh seems to favor “Crossfire,” which is odd, and his descriptions of right-wingers are unseasonably mild. Milo Yiannopoulos is “the crusader against political correctness”; the Roger Ailes sexual harassment suits are part of “a series of embarassments” for Fox.

Bradlee: You don't have it.

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Posted at 10:15 AM on Aug 04, 2017 in category Media
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Thursday August 03, 2017

Movie Review: The Fate of the Furious (2017)

WARNING: SPOILERS

I really only watched this (Vinny) because at the moment it’s the 11th-highest-grossing film of all time—worldwide and unadjusted. That’s a comedown for this series, by the way. The previous iteration, “Furious 7,” is the sixth-highest-grossing film of all time—worldwide and unadjusted. It grossed $1.5 billion in 2015.

“Fate” lost about $300 mil off that total, grossing $1.2 billion, but that’s still, you know, astonishing, all the more so because it did it without much help from the good ol’ U.S. of A. You’d think muscle dudes in muscle cars would rule in the states, but “Fate” earned only 18.2% of its worldwide gross here. Is that low? Yes. There is no film in the top 100 worldwide grosses that has a lower U.S. percentage than that. Most aren't even close.

Basically, as the world has cared more about Dom (Vin Diesel) and his crew, we’ve cared less.

MOVIE Worldwide U.S. U.S. % Year
The Fast and the Furious $207.30 $144.50 69.70% 2001
2 Fast 2 Furious $236.40 $127.20 53.80% 2003
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift $158.50 $62.50 39.40% 2006
Fast and Furious $363.20 $155.10 42.70% 2009
Fast Five $626.10 $209.80 33.50% 2011
Fast & Furious 6 $788.70 $238.70 30.30% 2013
Furious 7 $1,516.00 $353.00 23.30% 2015
The Fate of the Furious $1,238.80 $225.80 18.20% 2017

It’s about the nicest thing I can say about American culture at the moment.

Punch in something
“Fate” isn’t all bad. The intro of Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is telegraphed but fun. You see him in close-up cajoling unseen troops, telling them he chose them because they’re the fiercest warriors on the planet. The Fate of the Furious movie review“Kids,” I thought. “Maybe junior high football players.” Better: girls soccer. Pre-game, on the field, he leads them in a Maori warrior dance that freaks out the other side, and when he’s visited on the sidelines by a government official with an assignment, he chastises the man for not knowing that a “Tay-Tay concert” means Taylor Swift. The Rock is good at this. I also like the official observing all the moms in the stands looking their way. Hobbs, with arms like oaks, says, yeah, they’re great at cheering on their kids. “Except,” the government dude says, “there seems to be more moms than kids. Way more moms.”

That’s fun. Then the plot kicks in. And what an idiot plot it is.

You know a film series has run out of ideas when it turns the protagonist evil (see: “Superman III” and “Spider-Man 3”), and that’s more or less what they do here. Dom doesn’t become evil; but because he’s blackmailed by Cipher (Charlize Theron), the greatest computer hacker in the world, he’s forced to do evil things.

Such as? Well, the assignment Hobbs gets, for which he recruits Dom’s crew, involves heisting an EMP device that can knock out an electronic grid the size of a minor city—or something. It’s in Germany—or somewhere. How do they get it? Do they sneak into some facility, take down guards, and then...  Yeah, no. They just have it. It’s literally cut to the chase: They’re driving away, glibly jawing with each other, with the German police on their tail. There’s a stunt with a wrecking ball that probably killed a bunch of cops but whatevs. More important is when Dom sideswipes Hobbs’ car and takes the EMP. The announcement to the rest of the team is made with all the gravitas of a newsman reporting on the JFK assassination: “Dominic Torretto just went rogue.”

So that’s the first evil thing Dom does, but you really gotta wonder about the second. Cipher and her team (mostly her team) hack into cars throughout Manhattan, which divert and trap a Russian official in a limo who’s carrying a nuclear football. In the aftermath of being stopped cold by dozens of cars that drop like confetti from elevated parking garages (pretty cool scene, actually), Dom shows up with his big boots and big arms and holds a torch near the limo’s gas tank. The Russians surrender the codes meekly. Then Dom has to fight through his team, who are waiting for him, which of course he does. Cuz he’s Dom.

All of which makes you wonder what Cipher has on him that makes him take so many lives and risk billions more. His Google search history? Photos when he had hair? Video when he was in a choir singing falsetto?

Nope. Cipher has Elena (Elsa Pataky).

And she is...?

Uh, she was in the last four “F&F” movies.

I don’t remember.

Neither do I, really. But she played a cop in that “Fast Five” one.

Right, now I remember. But why is he risking everything—family and his wife and his friends—for Elena?

Well, Cipher also kidnapped Elena’s baby.

OK.

Which is Dom’s

Got it.

And not. Why doesn’t he let his team, or Hobbs, or his wife, in on it? Doesn’t he trust them? And who wasn’t he willing to kill so this son could live? I mean, nuclear codes? Isn’t it bad enough that Trump has them? Here’s what one of the team says after Dom gets away:

They’ve got an EMP and a nuclear football. I don’t’ know what it is, but they’re building toward something.

Brilliant, Brainiac.

Charlize is good, cooing to and threatening Dom’s baby in her arms. But as the world’s premiere computer hacker, she’s not exactly, well, hands on. She’s more Capt. Kirk spouting orders from command center. These orders include (and I shit you not) “Hack ‘em all!” and “Punch in something—it’s not right!”

Punch in something? Brilliant, Brainiac.

What is the fate of the Furious?
The final battle takes place in Russia—or someplace—and involves a nuclear sub which breaks through the ice and fires a heat-seeking missile at Dom in his muscle car. But Dom deeks out the missile (yes), and then, with it still on his tail, he drives his shit up and over the submarine, like Evel Knievel, causing the missile to do its chicken-coming-home-to-roost thing with the sub. Boom! And the good guys win. Again. Forever again.

There are, I'm sure, scenes more ludicrious in the long history of movies. But there shouldn’t be.

So why did Cipher need Dom? Who knows? Better question: How did Vin Diesel become a star? The Rock I get: arms like oaks and personality. Jason Statham, returning as Deckard, I get: parkour moves and personality. Diesel’s just a lug.

We’re stacked with players, by the way. Even without Paul Walker as Brian, the team consists of Dom’s wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), over-the-top comic relief Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Tej (Ludacris), who mostly insults Roman. Kurt Russell, chewing scenes, returns as secret agent Nobody. “Game of Thrones”’ Nathanlie Emmanuel returns as Ramsey, superhot computer hacker, while another “GOT” vet, Kristofer Hivju (Tormund), is Cipher’s right-hand man. The new blood—maybe the new Brian?—is Nobody’s by-the-book assistant, played by Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott, who learns to loosen up a little at the end. As all good white boys do.

Who do we lose? Elena, who is killed in cold blood by Tormund on orders from Cipher. Tormund buys it, too. Cipher survives for another day and another movie. 

The fate of the title? I guess it’s that: more movies. Less their fate than ours.

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Posted at 06:32 AM on Aug 03, 2017 in category Movie Reviews - 2017
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Wednesday August 02, 2017

Quote of the Day

“[In my books] I made fun of the people who deserved it: Newt Gingrich, I made fun of Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O'Reilly at Fox—that was ”Lying Liars.“ He and Fox sued me and it was just a misunderstanding. Bill O'Reilly didn't understand that satire is protected speech in the United States even if the object of the satire doesn't get it.”

-- Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), last night on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

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Posted at 08:17 AM on Aug 02, 2017 in category Quote of the Day
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The Curious Case of Frank Verdi, Yankees Shortstop

Apparently there are other Moonlight Grahams besides Moonlight Graham. 

For the non-baseball fan: Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham (1877-1965) was made famous by W.P. Kinsella, who included him in his novella “Shoeless Joe,” which was made into the 1988 hit movie “Field of Dreams.” Graham was the country doctor (Burt Lancaster), who, as a young man (Frank Whaley), made it to the bigs for exactly one game with the New York Giants in 1905. He was a defensive sub who never got to the plate so his career batting line looks like this: 1 G, 0 PA, 0 AB, 0 H, 0 R, 0 2B, 0 3B, etc. Basically a 1 with a lot of zeroes after it. He was a ghost—there and not. 

Frank Verdi, Yankees SS

As Casey said, you can look it up.

Turns out he's not the only ghost. The other day I was checking out retired numbers on Baseball Reference (don't ask) and was curious who else wore #44 for the Yankees (subsequently retired for Reggie Jackson). Turns out six other guys did, including, in 1953, Frank Verdi, shortstop. His career batting line? 1 G, 0 PA, 0 AB, 0 H, 0 R, 0 2B, 0 3B, etc. He was there and not. He was a ghost. 

But the great thing about Baseball Reference? You can find that game in the modern era. It was May 10, 1953, and the Yankees were down to the Red Sox in Boston 3-1 in the top of the 6th. But then McDougal and Martin singled, Silvera sacrificed them over, and future Hall of Famer Johnny Mize, in his last year in the bigs, pinch-hitting for pitcher Allie Reynolds, hit a sac fly for a run. Two outs, Martin on second. So Casey (yes, that Casey), pinch-hits again: Joe Collins for his leadoff hitter and shortstop Phil Rizzuto. Why pinch-hit for the leadoff man? Casey was probably playing the percentages, as Casey was wont to do. Sox pitcher Sid Hudson threw right, Rizzuto batted right, Collins batted left. A better shot. And Casey was not throwing away his shot.

But Collins grounded to short. 

Now Stengel needed a new shortstop (Collins played 1st) and that's when he tapped #44, Frank Verdi. What was Verdi doing on the team at this point? Who knows? He'd had some good years in the minors, hitting over .300 for the Binghamton Triplets in 1950 and '52. When had they brought him up? And why? And how excited/nervous was he to trot out and field practice grounders and then set up behind Vic Raschi in the bottom of the 6th at Fenway Park? It was an easy inning, 1, 2, 3—ground out to third, fly out to center, strikeout—and Verdi jogged back to the dugout with the rest of the team. He didn't know it, but that was it for him. 

If the Yankees hadn't rallied, would that have been it? Good question. In the top of the 7th, Hudson got two quick outs, then gave up back-to-back singles to Mantle and Woodling. So in came Ellis Kinder ... who gave up a single and a double, and the Yanks took the lead 5-3. Then Kinder intentionally walked Silvera to get to the pitcher, Raschi, because that's what you do. But Raschi drew a walk to load the bases. 

Those intentional walks will kill you. They certainly killed Verdi's chances.

If Raschi had struck out, say, I'm sure Casey would've left Verdi in the game, and he would've led off the next inning and probably gotten his chance at the plate. But now the bases were loaded with two outs, and the Yanks had a chance to bust the game wide open. Casey took it. He told Verdi to sit and tapped Bill Rena to pinch-hit. Playing the percentages again, right? Nope. The new pitcher, Ken Holcombe, was a righty, as was Verdi, as was Rena. But at the time, Rena was hitting .353 in a limited role so maybe that's what decided it for Casey. 

And Rena grounded to third to end the inning.

Verdi (one assumes): Hell, I could've done that. 

Just think of the moment for a second. The Yanks were beyond powerhouses. They had won the last four World Series in a row, which only one other team, the 1936-39 Yankees, had ever done. It was early in the season. They were 14-7 and held a 1/2 game lead in the American League over perennial second-placers Cleveland. They were winning this game, 5-3. And Casey was still making moves like it was D-Day. He gave the kid a chance and then took it away: one game, no at-bats, no plate appearances, no chances in the field. There and not. A ghost. 

Baseball Reference has more on Verdi here. He's got his own Wiki page, too. Could a novel be far behind? Or, given the name, an opera?

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Posted at 05:53 AM on Aug 02, 2017 in category Baseball
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Tuesday August 01, 2017

Restraining Trump

From “Behind the Crazy Headlines: Three Truths About the Trump Presidency” by John Cassidy:

If [new Chief of Staff, Gen. John] Kelly and the rest of Trump's staff can't restrain him—and it seems highly unlikely that they will be able to—the onus will eventually fall on Republicans in Congress, who, until now, have largely acted as the President's cheerleaders and enablers, but who ultimately hold the power to get rid of him. On the face of things, there isn't any reason to suppose that Republicans will grow backbones anytime soon. Trump is still following their conservative agenda, supporting their efforts to repeal Obamacare and cut taxes for the wealthy. Even if this weren't the case, the thought of confronting Trump's angry supporters in primary elections is enough to keep most G.O.P. congressmen and senators in line.

The three truths per the headline, btw?

  1. Conflict and chaos are chronic conditions for this White House.
  2. The Russia story will not go away.
  3. Trump remains a serious threat to American democracy.

An example of all three was yesterday's Washington Post story on how Pres. Trump dictated Don Jr.'s misleading statement on the June 9th meeting with various Russians at Trump towers. This would be a major scandal for any presidency. Here, it's another day in crazyville. 

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Posted at 09:22 AM on Aug 01, 2017 in category Politics
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Lancelot Links: Trading Deadline Edition

  • I think it should be illegal for anyone to trade good players to the Yankees but particularly at the trading deadline—when you trade the present for the future. You give yourself a better chance in the long run and them a better chance now, and the Yankees should never have a better chance now. But that's what the Oakland A's did yesterday: Sonny Gray for three guys. You know the Yankees and their fans are charged about this one. 
  • No link, just a reminder of why we hate the Yankees via a trivia question I asked on Facebook the other day. From 1949-1953 the Yankees won five World Series titles in a row. How many MLB teams have never won more than five titles in their entire history? The answer is most of them: 24 of 30. The five non-Yankees teams that have managed to win 5+ titles are: Dodgers (6), Red Sox and Giants (8 each), Athletics (9), and Cardinals (11). The Yankees, of course, have 27 titles. And counting.
  • Another non-link (sorry, Lancelot), just an embarrassing stat of the day. This is the Yankees' record in the six weeks before arriving in Seattle on July 20: 11-22. And since arriving in Seattle: 9-2.
  • More from “the rich get richer” files: The seemingly unbeatable Dodgers got Yu Darvish from the Rangers. Don't forget to take your practice swings, Yu.
  • ESPN's David Schoenfield assesses the trading deadline winners and losers. Winners? Sonny Gray, who goes from the lowest-rent district in baseball to the highest. Also the Dodgers, who didn't stand pat. Losers? Red Sox, who had no future to trade; Houston, who didn't do enough to shore up their pitching/bullpen; and Texas, based on the last two trade deadlines (they gave up the future, and the future came faster than they thought). Virtually unmentioned either way? Your Seattle Mariners.
  • Here's a break: A lovely little piece from The Poz on more reasons to dislike the intentional walk. Good callout to “The Natural.”
  • The Chicago Cubs have given 2003 NLCS scapegoat Steve Bartman a 2016 World Series ring, saying, “We hope this provides closure on an unfortunate chapter of the story that has perpetuated throughout our quest to win a long-awaited World Series. While no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization. After all he has sacrificed, we are proud to recognize Steve Bartman with this gift today.” Classy move. 
  • And if you haven't seen Alex Gibney's 2011 doc on scapegoats in general and Bartman in particular, by all means. One of my favorite baseball movies. Yes, I made a list.
  • Dan Epstein, author of “Stars & Strikes: Baseball & America in the Bicentennial Summer of '76,” has an interesting point to make RE: Bartman and Gibney's “Catching Hell.” 
  • Finally, we're nearing Edgar Martinez jersey-retirement day, and it's about time. Here's a reminder of why he meant so much to us
  • ADDENDUM: Hot off the presses: The Poz on Bartman. Amen. 
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Posted at 06:54 AM on Aug 01, 2017 in category Lancelot Links
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