erik lundegaard

Wednesday December 07, 2016

Pearl Harbor + 108

I saw this at the Wing Luke Museum in the International District in Seattle last August when I was doing research on the actor Keye Luke. It was part of an exhibit on the internment camps of World War II:

Pearl Harbor + 108

When I took this photo, the internment camps for Japanese-Americans were still part of our national shame. They weren't yet considered a blueprint for future actions by a Trump administration or Republicans in general. 

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Posted at 02:25 PM on Dec 07, 2016 in category U.S. History
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Yankees Suck: Treating KC A's as Its 1950s Farm Club

Last week I read a not-very-good book about a very interesting baseball man, “Finley Ball: How Two Baseball Outsiders Turned the Oakland A's into a Dynasty and Changed the Game Forever,” by Nancy Finley.

Yeah, she's Charlie O's niece, and the daughter of Finley's right-hand man (the other baseball outsider of the title), and not a particularly good writer. Nor journalist. She's a “homer” in the worst sense, cleaning up after the family image. She spends way too much time, for example, tracking down dirt on poor Mike Andrews, who committed two errors in the 12th inning of Game 2 of the 1973 World Series, leading to an A's loss, and was then forced, by Finley, to sign a legal doc stating that he was injured and ineligible to play for the rest of the Series. Result: furor. A's manager Dick Williams objected, Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn objected (and reinstated Andrews) and the Oakland players particularly objected. Ms. Finley wants to show that Andrews was injured, and knew he was injured, and kept playing anyway, to the detriment of the team. That's hardly the point. An owner doesn't show up a player (nor a manager) the way Finley did. You keep it in the clubhouse. Finley lost his players not because of Andrews but because he didn't play by the unwritten rules of baseball. The team didn't like him because he wasn't a team guy. 

Finley Ball by Nancy FinleyThat said, she does give us some good dirt on the ways the New York Yankees used the Kansas City Athletics as essentially a major league farm club throughout the 1950s. Most of this isn't news to me, but it's more detailed than reports I've seen in the past:

  • In 1954 [Arnold Johnson] bought the Philadelphia Athletics and moved the team to Kansas City. Johnson also had financial interests in Yankee Stadium, and he seemed to pay more attention to the Yankees than to the Athletics. 
  • Early on, Charlie had heard rumors that Johnson had been stripping the team of its best players and trading them to the Yankees. He hadn't completely believed it, but after he acquired the team he discovered that the rumors were true and that [Kansas City Star sports columnist Ernie] Mehl was complicit. ... Charlie immediately announced that there would be no more trades to the Yankees, a decision that could only be seen as a slap at Mehl.
  • The cozy relationship between the Athletics and the Yankees became embarrassingly obvious. When the Athletics acquired the young slugging prospect Roger Maris in 1957, the American League president, Will Harridge—who had supported Johnson's efforts to buy the Athletics and approved their move to Kansas City—took the unusual step of publicly warning Johnson not to trade Maris to the Yankees for at least eighteen months. Johnson complied, but barely, trading Maris to New York in December 1959. The Athletics got little in return.
  • “Kansas City was not an independent major-league team at all, it was nothing more than a loosely controlled Yankee farm club,” Bill Veeck wrote later. He said that he heard the Athletics general manager, Parke Carroll—a former K. C. sports writer—boast openly in baseball meetings that he had nothing to worry about by trading away so many great players because the Yankees' owner, George Weiss, had “promised to take care of” Carroll in return for his help in making those lopsided trades.

In one game in the early 1960s, Finley, a true showman, actually organized a bizarre pre-game demonstration of how the days of shuttling talent to New York were over:

The fans were chatting, sipping beer, and waiting for the game to start. Suddenly, they grew quiet. They watched as a beat-up old shuttle bus lumbered onto left field. Exchanging perplexed glances, they wondered what was going on. Then Frank Lane walked out to the bus and splashed it with gasoline. An instant later it was engulfed in black and orange flames. Then an unfamiliar voice came over the loudspeaker. It was the team's new owner. Charlie introduced himself and explained that the burning of the bus was his way of announcing that the days of shuttling Kansas City's best talent to the Bronx were over. The Athletics would no longer be the Yankees' farm team. After a pause, a few fans started clapping, and soon the stadium was filled with applause and shouts of approval.

That said, a book like this needs to embrace the beautiful outsized idiocy of Charlie O, and it doesn't quite. I like the below, for example, except she doesn't need to constantly disparage the Other in order to enshrine her uncle. It puts a slight damper on an otherwise amusing anecdote:

By the late 1950s, baseball owners formed an exclusive club of old-money boys and nouveau riche businessmen, and they looked out for each other. Charlie was a self-made millionaire, but he was just an insurance salesman—not part of the club. When it became clear that Charlie might actually acquire the Athletics in 1960, the other owners assigned the Baltimore Orioles' chairman, Joe Iglehart, to investigate him. Iglehart reported back to the owners: “Under no conditions should this person be allowed into our league.”

So anyone know of a better book on Charlie O?

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Posted at 07:13 AM on Dec 07, 2016 in category Yankees Suck
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Monday December 05, 2016

Movie Review: Loving (2016)

WARNING: SPOILERS

What are the odds that in the federal case striking down state laws banning interracial marriage, the plaintiff’s name would be “Loving”?

I thought about that a lot as the Obergefell case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015. I mean, no offense James Obergefell, but Loving v. Virginia? That’s stark. It’s as if the case were called Love v. Racism. One wonders if that wasn’t part of the appeal for U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy and the ACLU. They had the right name.

“Loving,” written and directed by Jeff Nichols (“Mud,” “Midnight Special”), is good history but so-so drama. It’s as spare and quiet as its protagonists. Too much so.

Loving (2016)The first half works. We watch as the day-to-day love, and then pregnancy, and then marriage, between Richard and Mildred Loving (James Edgerton and Ruth Negga) of Caroline County Virginia, comes to the attention of the authorities. One of the most powerful scenes is when they plead guilty to, you know, marriage, and bend to the weight of an oppressive system. Standing in U.S. District Court before Judge Bazile (David Jensen), you see Richard’s eyes searching for an answer and not finding it. Some part of him knows he’s right to love as he loves. But he also knows he’s not smart—not book smart, like his lawyer Frank Beazly (Bill Camp, always a pleasure)—and he can’t find a way out. There’s almost something like Huck Finn in this scene. Huck acted on a greater inner morality to help free Nigger Jim, but felt immoral doing so because he was going against society’s norms. Richard is a step up. He knows society is wrong; he just can’t articulate it.

White, black, yellow, malay and red
He can’t articulate much. He does his talking with his hands—building rather than fighting. He works construction during the week and tinkers with cars on the weekend. He’s a maestro with both. Otherwise, he’s quiet, simple. At her family’s dinner table in 1958, one of her brothers, whom Richard helps with drag racing, asks him how many races he’s won over the years, and you see Richard tabulating in his mind. Then he comes back with: “A lot.” To dinner-table laughter, including his own. Another nice scene.

Richard is actually one of my favorite kinds of people—the quietly efficient man—and Edgerton, in an Oscar-nomination-worth performance, embodies him. He’s a man caught between love of wife and love of home, and he does what he can to try to make it work.

As a character, though, Richard disappoints in the second half, which is maybe why I found the second half disappointing. Inspired by the March on Washington, Ruth writes U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who forwards her letter to the ACLU, whose representative, a young lawyer named Bernard Cohen (Nick Kroll), contacts her at their home in D.C. He’ll take the case, no charge, but Richard is suspicious from the get-go. He never gets behind, never trusts, his legal team—which eventually includes Phil Hirschkop (Jon Bass)—and one wonders if it’s because they’re both Jewish, educated, or because he’s had enough of the criminal justice system. Or is it because they’re outsiders? Different? From Brooklyn? Richard still trusts the local. He thinks it’s enough to go before Judge Bazile again. He trusts Bazile more than he trusts the federal government. Plus ca change.

He shouldn’t. This is Bazile’s judgment on interracial marriage once the ACLU gets involved:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

(One wonders about that “Malay”; what color was “Malay”? Answer here. Not pretty. )

I could’ve used more of the legal arguments and precedents, to be honest. That’s a lot to ask from a movie, I know, but its point of view is ours: that the anti-miscegenation law is immoral. Yet it was still law for decades, and it still used the U.S. Constitution as a rationale for its injustice.

What was that rationale? It actually came up in this case. In 1965, Cohen and Hirschkop appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court, where the Virginia law was upheld, and among its arguments was one first put forth in 1883 in Pace v. Alabama: that what the state did to the Lovings was not a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment “because both the white and the non-white spouse were punished equally for the crime of miscegenation.” That’s some twisted logic right there; yet that logic stayed on the books for nearly a century. We need that reminder; we need to know the future isn’t secure.

Nor did the Loving case even end it. The South, being the South, kept rising up. From Wikipedia:

Local judges in Alabama continued to enforce that state's anti-miscegenation statute until the Nixon administration obtained a ruling from a U.S. District Court in United States v. Brittain in 1970. In 2000, Alabama became the last state to adapt its laws to the Supreme Court's decision, when 60% of voters endorsed a ballot initiative that removed anti-miscegenation language from the state constitution.

Yes. 2000.

Sparrows and robins
Watching “Loving,” I kept thinking of my grandmother, who grew up in Carroll County, Maryland, about 150 miles from Caroline County, Virginia.

I remember visiting her in 1989 after I’d been away in Taiwan for a year, and at one point she asked me if I’d had a Chinese girlfriend. I said yes. She absorbed this, and then with a head nod, added, “They make good wives: meet at the door, take off your shoes, rub your feet.” This devolved into a conversation about interracial relationships. She was still against the black/white variety, and, more, still made the same 1950s arguments they make in this movie. Sheriff Brooks (Marton Csokas), trying to be kind, tells Richard about God’s law, “sparrow with a sparrow, robin with a robin,” and my grandmother, in 1989, said something similar: “A big black bird don’t mate with a little yella sparrow,” she said. Then she smiled as if she were playing the trump card; as if that argument ended it.

The outrage of the first half of the movie almost demands something like the Ron Motley deposition scene in “The Insider” (“You do not get to instruct anything around here!”), but Nichols withholds it. Maybe it was undramatic but he certainly under-dramatizes it. Ruth stays quiet but polite but interested in the case; Richard stays reticent and distant and wary. The lawyers never really connect with him (nor Nichols with the lawyers), and neither Ruth nor Richard show up at the U.S. Supreme Court when their case is argued. The argument before the court isn’t fiery. Maybe it wasn’t. The best line is Richard’s, spoken on his front porch, after Cohen asks him if there’s anything he’d like to say to the justices. His response comes out more confused than determined: “Tell them I love my wife,” he says.

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Posted at 08:45 AM on Dec 05, 2016 in category Movie Reviews - 2016
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Sunday December 04, 2016

Washington Nationals on Verge of Breaking Dubious Record (M's Aren't Far Behind)

This isn't a well-known stat but the Washington Nationals are on the verge of breaking it.

That franchise (Expos/Nats) has played 48 seasons, and spring training '17 will be its 49th. The record for the longest it's taken a franchise to get to the World Series is 50 seasons: the Senators/Rangers, which were born in 1961 and didn't win a pennant until 2010. So if the Nats don't go next year, they'll have tied the record. And if they don't go in 2018? New record-holder!

Of course, my Mariners aren't far behind. And right now we're the only two teams still in the running:

TEAM Years to World Series Year of 1st World Series
Pirates 1 1903
Red Sox 1 1903
Athletics 3* 1905
Giants 3 1905
Cubs 4 1906
White Sox 4 1906
D-backs (1998) 4 2001
Tigers 5 1907
Marlins (1993) 5 1997
Mets (1962) 8 1969
Rays (1998) 11 2008
Braves 12 1914
Royals (1969) 12 1980
Phillies 13 1915
Dodgers 14 1916
Pilots/Brewers (1969) 14 1982
Rockies (1993) 15 2007
Padres (1969) 16 1984
Blue Jays (1977) 16 1992
Reds 17 1919
Indians 18 1920
Yankees 19 1921
Senators/Twins 22 1924
Cardinals 24 1926
Mariners (1977) 40** ??
Browns/Orioles 42 1944
Angels (1961) 42 2002
Astros (1962) 44 2005
Expos/Nationals (1969) 48** ??
Senators/Rangers (1961) 50 2010

* I include 1904 and 1994, years in which we didn't have a World Series. Just easier that way. 

** And counting

Interesting to note that, of the original 16 teams, the two teams that took the longest to make it to the Series were both St. Louis franchises: the Cardinals in 1926, and the hapless Browns in '44. St. Louis was also the southernmost city during this time, so not sure if the heat got to them over the course of long seasons or if it was just general incompetence. Since the Cards bounced back in such a big way under Branch Rickey, and have since become by most measures the winningest team in the National League, I assume the latter.

Also interesting to note: the Yankees, which became the winningest franchise in sports history, took 4th-longest to finally win a pennant. 

Here's the chart sorted by the last column: year of first World Series:

TEAM Years to World Series Year of 1st World Series
Pirates 1 1903
Red Sox 1 1903
Athletics 3 1905
Giants 3 1905
Cubs 4 1906
White Sox 4 1906
Tigers 5 1907
Braves 12 1914
Phillies 13 1915
Dodgers 14 1916
Reds 17 1919
Indians 18 1920
Yankees 19 1921
Senators/Twins 22 1924
Cardinals 24 1926
Browns/Orioles 42 1944
Mets (1962) 8 1969
Royals (1969) 12 1980
Pilots/Brewers (1969) 14 1982
Padres (1969) 16 1984
Blue Jays (1977) 16 1992
Marlins (1993) 5 1997
D-backs (1998) 4 2001
Angels (1961) 42 2002
Astros (1962) 44 2005
Rockies (1993) 15 2007
Rays (1998) 11 2008
Senators/Rangers (1961) 50 2010
Expos/Nationals (1969) 48 ??
Mariners (1977) 40 ??

Again, interesting to note that gap between 1907 and 1914 when there was no new blood in the Series. By this point, eight teams had gone, and the next six years they kept recycling in and out: Cubs, Tigers, Pirates, Athletics, Giants, Red Sox. Then the Braves snuck in. 

Oh, and the record for the longest time it's taken a franchise to win a World Series? That's still 78 years and it belongs to the Philadelphia Phillies (1903 to 1980). Nine teams still have a shot at that dubious record but no one is within 20 years. Look for an update in 18 or so years. 

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Posted at 10:17 AM on Dec 04, 2016 in category Baseball
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Saturday December 03, 2016

Trump and Taiwan: Bu Hao Yisi

On Friday, President-Elect Donald Trump took a phone call from the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, in violation of official U.S. policy in place since 1979. We don't officially recognize Taiwan. All three countries involved, in fact, have a “one China” policy: They all agree Taiwan is part of China; they just disagree on where its capital is, not to mention what form of government it has. 

Why did he do it? 

  1. The phone call came and he didn't want to be rude.
  2. He mixed up Taiwan and Thailand.
  3. He's working on a deal to put a Trump hotel in Taiwan.
  4. John Bolton

Yesterday, I assumed it was a mix of 3) and Trump's usual “Who gives a fuck” attitude about everything, but Evan Osnos in The New Yorker suggests a more worrisome reason. Yes, more worrisome than POTUS ignoring decades of policy to further feather his nest:

In the hours that followed, it became clear that Trump may have been manipulated into doing something he doesn't understand. Michael Crowley, of Politico, noted that the former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who favors a tilt away from Beijing, visited Trump Tower on Friday for undisclosed reasons. Bolton has argued for “playing the Taiwan card” to pressure Beijing.

Then Osnos makes it even scarier:

For a piece I published in September, about what Trump's first term could look like, I spoke to a former Republican White House official whom Trump has consulted, who told me, “Honestly, the problem with Donald is he doesn't know what he doesn't know.” It turns out that is half of the problem; the other half is that he has surrounded himself with people who know how much he doesn't know. Since Election Day, Trump has largely avoided receiving intelligence briefings, either because he doesn't think it's important that he receive them or because he just doesn't care about them. George W. Bush, in the first months of 2001, ignored warnings about Osama bin Laden. Only in our darkest imaginings can we wonder what warnings Trump is ignoring now.

Reminder: Trump is still two months from inauguration.

Trump and Taiwan

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Posted at 02:37 PM on Dec 03, 2016 in category Politics
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Creating Hate Against Hollywood

This is how you create right-wing propaganda.

Start with a comment that should be read with a grain of salt—in this case, actor Mark Wahlberg talking to taskandpurpose.com, a website dedicated to American veterans, during the publicity tour for his new movie “Patriots Day.” 

This is the headline: “Mark Wahlberg Thinks Celebrities Need to Shut Up About Politics.” Except he doesn't quite say that. Opining about politics, he says, “A lot of celebrities did, do, and shouldn't.” Opine, that is. Then he adds:

A lot of Hollywood is living in a bubble. They're pretty out of touch with the common person, the everyday guy out there providing for their family. Me, I'm very aware of the real world. I come from the real world and I exist in the real world. And although I can navigate Hollywood and I love the business and the opportunities it's afforded me, I also understand what it's like not to have all that.“

Wahlberg has been a star for 25 years now—a quarter century—and he thinks he's aware of the real world. Why? Does he carry a wallet? Does he have to work to get a date? Is he worried about paying rent/mortgage? No? Then what is he talking about? What is ”the real world“ to him and why does he occupy it and his colleagues don't?

More, the whole thing plays into a classic conservative POV with Hollywood and other left-wing institutions: They should shut up. Charlton Heston thought this ... until he began railing against feminists and Al Gore, and became president of the NRA. At that point, apparently, it was OK to talk politics.

Besides, Wahlberg does in fact talk politics. At the end of the piece, we get this:

Asked what he thinks of the president-elect's proposed ban on Muslims entering the country, given that the [Boston marathon bombing] Tsarnaev brothers were both naturalized citizens, Wahlberg decided to talk a little politics after all. ”I have a lot of Muslim friends who are really amazing people,“ he said. ”So anything like that is just completely absurd and unacceptable to me. I'm a devout Catholic. I have a lot of Jewish friends. I've got a lot of friends from all over the world. And I think a lot of good people have been mistreated for a long time and we need to fix that.“

Popping a few Cellfood dietary capsules (”It's enzymes, amino acids...“), he added that we need to do a better job of educating people about the real threats out there. ”There's a big difference between a Muslim and a terrorist. Big, big difference.“

I love Wahlberg for this last bit but he does keep contradicting himself. Other celebrities are out of touch but he isn't; other celebrites shouldn't talk politics but he can. It's the contradictions that make the piece (and the man) interesting, but it's what gets lost in translation to right-wing websites. I won't link to them but these are their heds:

  • Mark Wahlberg: ”Hollywood is Living in a Bubble... Out of Touch with Reality“
  • Mark Wahlberg Tells 'Out of Touch' Celebs to Shut Up About Politics

And it spreads. I just did a Google search on ”Mark Wahlberg“ and this was at the top:

Mark Wahlberg: Celebrities should shut up about politics 

I was on Twitter yesterday and someone with four followers (either friendless or a right-wing troll) quoted Wahlberg in telling actor Jeffrey Wright to shut up about the Confederate flag; he told him he was out of touch; he said he wasn't in ”the real world."

Wahlberg let himself be played here. He should know that telling a group of people not to talk politics is itself a political act. One of the worst ones.

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Posted at 09:15 AM on Dec 03, 2016 in category What Liberal Hollywood?
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Thursday December 01, 2016

He Ain't Wrong

“For a while I would check in with social media and I would interact with it. It was fun, for like a minute. And then it went horrible on me.”

-- singer/songwriter Mason Jennings in the Star-Tribune article, “Mason Jennings contemplates the future of his music career: The Minnesota musician struggles to make sense of social media and industry upheaval.”

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Posted at 03:27 PM on Dec 01, 2016 in category Quote of the Day
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Tuesday November 29, 2016

Never My President

“He will never be my president because he doesn't read books, can't write more than a sentence or two at a time, has no strong loyalties beyond himself, is more insular than any New Yorker I ever knew, and because I don't see anything admirable or honorable about him. This sets him apart from other politicians. The disaffected white blue-collar workers elected a Fifth Avenue tycoon to rescue them from the elitists — fine, I get that — but they could've chosen a better tycoon. One who served in the military or attends church or reads history, loves opera, sails a boat — something — anything — raises llamas, plays the oboe, runs a 5K race now and then, has close friends from childhood. I look at him and there's nothing there.”

-- Garrision Keillor, SF Gate, “Life after the election,” which is mostly about changing a light bulb but includes some earlier good political thrashing about, a “How many liberals does it take to screw in a light bulb,” and some more lovely, spot-on thoughts about being Minnesotan.

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Posted at 05:18 AM on Nov 29, 2016 in category Quote of the Day
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