Tim McCarver drinking game

I don’t drink much and never played drinking games (except that one time we played a Star Wars drinking game— the “drink every time Luke whines” rule alone will quickly get you hammered).

But here’s a Tim McCarver drinking game. Drink each time McCarver:

  1. Proclaims a Universal Law of Baseball (attempts to use an inconsequential play or minor occurrence to reveal some larger truth about cause and effect in the sport). Drink again if that Universal Law of Baseball conflicts with a previous Universal Law of Baseball.
  2. After gushing about a hot player and making him seem infallible, finally notes that player’s faults or weakness once it becomes self-evident. I admit this is as much a Joe Buck defect as a McCarver one.
  3. Speaks when the television screen depicts an action upon which no words could possibly improve.

Feel free to suggest more rules.

 

TV for free!

In between reruns of All in the Family and Diff’rent Strokes last night was the most stunning advertisement I’ve seen in a long time. It was more like a short infomercial, about two minutes long, selling… television antennas. Except the company called it “Clear TV” and they were pitching it as free, high-definition alternative to cable or satellite. No shit, you can watch high-definition broadcast television for free! This is sort of like selling watches by saying “No need for a battery, just wind it up!” While I admire the pluck with which this company was trying to resuscitate the dying television antenna business, I would be suspicious of any enterprise that had such a low opinion of its customers’ intellect.

Garum

Since tomato sauce and pasta post-date the Roman Empire, I’ve often wondered what ancient Romans ate. One staple of their cuisine was garum, a fermented fish sauce. Some researchers on a PBS show were trying out a batch of homemade.

I have a book a about the rise of sugar as a commodity and its role in colonialism and modern European empires, especially the British. In it the author notes that the British consume much more sugar per head than the French. “It is not necessarily naughty to suggest,” he writes, that if their food tasted better the British wouldn’t have incorporated so much sugar into their diets.

I reason that the same probably goes for garum. If it was any good perhaps the Italians would not have bothered with spaghetti and marinara.

He’ll never wear that shirt again

I noticed yesterday on both PBS and CBS that whenever one of the Democratic National Convention speakers mentioned legalizing gay marriage or repealing don’t-ask-don’t-tell the cameras showed a hipster-looking guy in the audience wearing a lavender shirt. The producers must have been like, “Get a shot of that guy in the lavender shirt. He simply loves gay rights issues. He must.”

Thank goodness for the mute button

Yankees-Sox this weekend. I haven’t been following the season very closely this year (and indeed I’ve been neglecting my fantasy league team). I don’t even recognize half these Red Sox. No wonder they stink. That and Bobby Valentine.

The game is on FOX tonight, so I hit the dipstick announcer jackpot: my arch-nemesis Tim McCarver, his sidekick and enabler Joe Buck, and their running-dog lackey Ken Rosenthal. Tonight McCarver was gushing about Robinson Cano’s defensive abilities. Which was interesting because I distinctly remember McCarver being dismissive of Cano in the past. Any fan who’s followed Cano’s career knows he has excellent range and gets rid of the ball faster than anyone, but I think he finally won a Gold Glove award last year so now McCarver’s all about Cano’s greatness.

Joe Buck earns my disapproval simply for not punching McCarver in the face once every half-inning.

As for Ken Rosenthal, my dad hates him with a venom that perhaps exceeds my own for McCarver. Rosenthal only appears on the broadcasts briefly to provide tidbits of baseball news, but he delivers these updates like he’s trying to seduce you with a really boring recipe (“The secret ingredient is… parsley.”).

Prometheus

This post is about a movie; avoid spoilers by not reading.

We don’t usually go in for the 3-D at the movie theater but Prometheus seemed like it would be worth it, and it was. It was probably the best movie we’ve seen at a theater in a while. The 3-D effects weren’t terribly intrusive. I forgot I had the glasses on and perhaps that’s as it should be. As for the rest of it, the story, character, and visuals all clicked very nicely.

I have a pet peeve with space adventures, even ones I like: when arriving on a strange planet, the explorers always manage to land within walking distance of the its seat of power. In the case of Star Trek, The Original Series, the away team might land in what looks like a total wilderness (or as wilderness as a cheap set of foam rocks can get), but are guaranteed to find a representative of the whole big planet is just beyond those shrubs. It’s sort of like aliens landing by happenstance around the corner from the United Nations Headquarters. How convenient! Anyway, I rationalize that a planetary survey took place off-camera somewhere.

Radio men

I tuned in to the Brewers-Diamondbacks radio broadcast online and… is that Bob Uecker announcing the play by play? Indeed it is.

The Yankees exited the postseason with their dishrag-like performance last night. As usual, the Division Series was only on cable, so I subscribed to MLB.com audio in order to hear the games. It gave me a chance to hear John Sterling; a rare treat for me. I could do without all the hokey home run calls he’s developed, but he’s still a terrific announcer.

Of course we’ll all be stuck with Tim McCarver for the rest of the postseason. Somebody kill me know.

At the movies

It might be fun to write reviews of movie reviews.

I caught part of “Ebert Presents at the Movies” on PBS tonight. I haven’t seen this show since maybe the 1980s. It has the same look and feel as the old, old show though, just without Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. The reviewers are a couple of people I’ve never heard of. They’re like really harsh movie geeks. When they were done eviscerating “The Other Woman” they had a disagreement about what mumblecore really is. Actually, Rogert Ebert still offers reviews on the show, but he writes them and somebody else narrates them over clips of the movie.

As for his review of “Sanctum”: excessive use of the term “one-dimensional” (he used it once). Thumbs down! Don’t be so one-dimensional Roger.

Bottom of the Tenth

I didn’t write about baseball much this year. Didn’t watch it much either, for that matter. The Yankees sort of backed into the postseason, playing very badly in September. I didn’t have much hope for them in the postseason. In that sense, they didn’t disappoint me.

The great Yankees team of the late 1990s—home-grown players and veteran gamers I cared about, and headed by a great leader—feels very long ago. Now the old guard is just old (actually they are around my age), and the rest of the players are mere mercenaries. They have a guileless manager who seems out of tricks when the team doesn’t play well. My fanhood runs hot and cold these days. It’s just not the same.

I’m writing about it now because of something I’ve been avoiding for some reason: Ken Burns’ “Baseball: The Tenth Inning”. Tonight I stumbled on the second half, the “Bottom of the Tenth” which, as well as being a depressing chronicle of the sport’s doping scandals, is a depressing two hours of Yankees-bashing. Watching it, I had to relive the two worst moments in my life as a baseball fan: their losses in the 2001 World Series and the 2004 American League Championship. You would think from watching this documentary that Mariano Rivera did nothing in his career except blow important games. The first half better be really good, or no spare change for PBS this Christmas.

Eiffel Tower

We had a good flight to Paris. Everything was exactly on time with a take-off and a landing so smooth we barely felt them. We did a passable job of transporting ourselves around the city.

A tower casts a long shadow over a large city.
The Eiffel Tower casts a long shadow over Paris.

We needed a nap at the hotel, so we got to our first order of business in the very late afternoon. The Eiffel Tower was crowded and had long lines. It was also very cold and windy. We got to the second level for sunset and to the top as the city lights blinked on in the dusk. The passengers who crammed into the lift car to the top rode in total silence. We heard only the clanking of the lift car cable. Perhaps we were all in awe of the legendary city dropping from the copper-colored steel beams.

When we descended the steps to leave the tower, we were greeted by the legion of immigrants who sell cheap tower souvenirs on the plaza; five for €1, which they could say in many tourist languages. They displayed their wares on cloth blankets with straps, and simply scooped them up in one move as they scattered at the sign of the police, who passed by often.

A man in front of the Eiffel Tower lit in gold at night.
The obligatory Eiffel Tower photo.

By the time we got down it was night and the tower was lit in gold. For a few minutes at 8 o’clock the tower sparkled with thousands of bright white lights like camera flashes. It was literally and figuratively brilliant, as if the tower was taking pictures of us taking pictures of it. An amusing bit of playful mockery, I thought, probably dreamed up by some Paris intellectual to make a statement about spectacle-gawking.

We wrapped up the night with crepes and coffee in Bastille. My crepe had Roquefort cheese and walnuts. The flavor was unbelievable. We didn’t see any strikes or protests, though there were some disruptions to train service. I did see more nudity in five minutes of late night French television than in my whole life on American television.

Lost

We’ve watched about half of the first season of “Lost” on DVD. The mysteries of the island are a lot more engrossing than the conduct of the characters. I wouldn’t want to be stranded on an island with any of these people. It’s nice that they have a doctor and a guy who can fix radios, but overall they are a frighteningly dysfunctional bunch, so I’ve drawn up some ground rules for them.

  1. It doesn’t matter who you were and what you did before the crash. They’re pretty good about following this rule, though Jack lets his curiosity about Kate get the best of him.
  2. If it belonged to you before the crash, it is yours. If not, it is for anyone to borrow. As wrong as Sawyer is to hoard supplies, individuals tend to negotiate with him as if anything was theirs to negotiate for. They should negotiate from a position of moral strength — that is, as a group.
  3. Don’t go anywhere alone or without notifying someone else where you’re going and when you’ll be back. They seemed to observe this on the first couple of days on the island, then forgot about it, though the jungle didn’t get any less dangerous.
  4. Don’t jump to conclusions. I don’t even know where to start with this one; it’s a universal character flaw on the island.
  5. Right and wrong are the same as before the crash. I would add the Golden Rule as a useful corollary in the event of a disagreement about right and wrong.
  6. Don’t keep information secret if it concerns the group. This is where the “leaders” fall down. How are others supposed to contribute if you don’t tell them what’s going on?
  7. Do no further harm. Jack should know this one as a doctor, but he seems to have forgotten it.

Even though Jack is emerging as their leader, I don’t have a high opinion of him in that capacity. He’s broken all of my above rules in ten quick episodes. There is a reference to the book “Watership Down”, which is also a story about survival. Jack is the exact opposite of the leader in the book. I hope he picks it up and reads it when he gets a chance.

Space

After we finished watching “Star Trek: The Original Series” a while back, we watched Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” miniseries. Since then, I’ve been reading various books about space exploration.

I finished “The Eerie Silence” by Paul Davies right before I went down to the Gulf for the oil spill, and so I didn’t get a chance to write about it. For a short book, it summarizes neatly the last fifty years of searching for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) and outlines some of the challenges ahead. Davies searches for answers to a simple question: if there is intelligent life beyond our solar system, why haven’t we heard from anyone? His suggested answers are reasonable and even-handed, and cover everything from “we are alone” and “we’re not looking in the right places” to “they’re not interested in talking to us” and “they were there 100 million years ago and now they’re gone”. The more I think about his book the better I think it is.

I also borrowed “The Physics of Star Trek” by Lawrence M. Krause. Krause thinks the known laws of physics can accommodate interstellar travel and a few other of the show’s futurisms. He also thinks the most exotic technology of “Star Trek” is the transporter device. After he’s done describing it, it seems pretty unattainable. I won’t be getting beamed anywhere in my lifetime. He gives “Star Trek” writers a lot of credit for being at least grounded in good science.

“Packing for Mars” by Mary Roach,  is an amusing book though the title is misleading. It’s only tangentially about traveling to Mars, and more about dealing with bodily functions in space. A manned mission to Mars would have to meet all the challenges of the Apollo Project or the International Space Station compounded over several years. “To the rocket scientist, you are a problem,” she begins. After detailing a lot of engineering problems like eating, defecating, and bathing in zero gravity, it’s clear that accomplishing a manned Mars mission is a matter of the political will to pay for it.

I’d have to go back to Carl Sagan and “Cosmos” to pull this all together. The three books are about overcoming the technical barriers to exploring space; “Cosmos” is about the inspiration to explore it in the first place. It’s clear Sagan felt space exploration was valuable on its own merits. I wonder if the materialistic, bottom-line worldview we’re adopting will stifle the impulse to acquire knowledge for its own sake, if it hasn’t already. Mary Roach concludes “Packing for Mars” by pointing out that money never goes into the things it should, like schools and hospitals, so if we’re going to waste money we should waste it on something amazing.