A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Manny Ramirez: A Turd For All Seasons

Game four of the American League Championship Series pitted the host Cleveland Indians against the Boston Red Sox with the Indians holding a two games to one advantage. Top of the 6th inning and Kevin Youkilis leads off with a home run! The next batter, David Ortiz, hits a home run! The Indians make a pitching switch and during the delay the on air commentators noted that no team had ever hit back to back to back home runs in the ALCS.

Next batter-- Manny Ramirez. He works the count to 3 and 2 and then smacks a ball DEEP into right center field. As the ball leaves his bat he pauses, drops the bat, and holds his hands up in celebration. Slowly, and very dramatically, he begins to saunter-- perhaps swagger would be a better description-- down the first base line and it is not until he has almost reached first base that he breaks into a slow jog. Still pumping his fists and wearing an F You grin for all the Indians' fans.

All of which would be annoying and egotistical and self-aggrandizing if Ramirez had just won the game. But at least you could sort of understand his celebration. The puzzling thing about Ramirez' reaction, however, was that his home run made the score 7-3... in favor of the INDIANS! All Manny's long ball did was to cut a late inning deficit in a crucial playoff game from five runs to four runs. The Red Sox failed to score from that point on and are now in a 3-1 hole in the seven game series heading into tonight's game.

It was truly the most shockingly blatant Me Me Me ME ME! first moment I have ever seen by an athlete. Which is saying something in today's world of overhyped, pampered and completely self-centered professional athletes. Honestly, Ramirez grandstanded almost as much as Barry Bonds when Bonds' broke the all-time home run record.

Yo! Manny! You super-sized turd of a man. The goal is to WIN you brain dead donkey, not celebrate individual achievements that have no effect on the final outcome of the game.

The very next day Manny pops off about how losing to the Indians won't "be the end of the world." While true in a cosmic sense, I have to say that this is not the attitude I'd want to see from the players if I were a Red Sox fan (which I am not, nor will I ever be). Actually, I'd have to say that this is exactly the OPPOSITE of the attitude I'd like to see from members of my team.

Simple math in my opinion: Individual Glory + Team Result Indifference = Complete Turd


Friday, October 12, 2007

The Death of Journalism

I agree with many pundits that "old" media is dying out. But I guess I disagree with them on some of the whys and wherefores. It's not so much the format-- I still prefer sitting down with a newspaper while eating breakfast to reading online versions at home or work-- as it is the content. Journalism used to be about being as objective as possible-- reporting the news and letting the viewer process the information as he or she saw fit. And there was a clear and well-defined demarcation between news and everything else.

Over time all journalism has gotten far less objective and the line between news (reality) and everything else (entertainment) has gotten progressively blurred until today it is often non-existent. The trend is most noticeable on TV-- local news anchors "report" on what's happening in upcoming shows on their networks. The trials and tribulations of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears receive greater coverage than what Congress and the President are, or often aren't, accomplishing. And "casual asides" between the various people on the news set become common place-- instant editorializing. Fox News is the most obvious example of the trend, and they have helped push objectivity nearly completely out of the realm of TV journalism, but they are a relative newcomer a trend that has been accelerating for decades.

The trend is less obvious in the print media, but it is definitely there as well. Thus does the online version of the Minneapolis Star Tribune have a lovely "Builder's Showcase" border around its front page. And my local paper's lead story is that Tony Romo's father has cancer. Tony Romo is a local boy-- born and raised in Burlington, Wisconsin here in Racine County-- and one of the hottest commodities in the NFL as the star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. So I understand that people are interested in Tony and his father... but the lead story?

And in my university's school paper a recent front-page article detailed the drastic changes made to the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Bill by Wisconsin's State Assembly. Which is fine-- it's an important issue for college students-- but the article doesn't even attempt to be objective. Words like "unfortunately" and "gutted" are scattered liberally throughout the piece and while the viewpoints of supporters of the legislation are included, there isn't a single reference to the viewpoints of those who supported the "gutting" of the bill. If this had been an editorial, then well and good-- editorials are all about opinions and espousing a particular side of an issue. But the front page is not the place to take sides-- it is a place to provide information and to frame the opposing viewpoints on a given issue. While I agree with the viewpoint of the reporter on the topic, I was appalled that it was so transparently obvious on a front page article.

Finally, there is the overall coarsening of our culture. This is not journalisms fault. Rather, I think journalism is increasingly reflecting a culture where there are no boundaries, where the individual is paramount and where everything is not only acceptable but also to be celebrated.
TV and films glamorize violence and shameless individualism. Reality TV blurs the line between fiction and real life. Everyone not only wants their 15 minutes of fame but feels entitled to it-- so that when it does not transpire in short order they feel a need to take things into their own hands.

Oh for the days of Walter Cronkite.

Jeez I'm turning into an old fart.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Fun with Hate

Alright, maybe fun isn't the right word. But I did find this map of "active hate groups" to be quite interesting. A little disturbing to think there are that many KKK and neo-Nazi groups out there, but interesting nonetheless.

Things that struck me as odd about the results: Madison, the most liberal city in Wisconsin and probably one of the most liberal in the country has a KKK, neo-Nazi and white nationalist group in or near the city. Montana has an active neo-Confederate group. Montana? What are those southern boys doing way in tarnation up thataways?

Georgia, unsurprisingly, has a lot of neo-Confederate, KKK and neo-Nazi groups, but they also have a large number of black separatists. There are actually more black separatist groups (10) than KKK groups (8). And what's up with New Jersey? They have neo-Nazi and racist skinhead groups coming out of their ears! Just as an aside, however, isn't the phrase "racist skinhead" kinda redundant? I mean are there any non-racist skinhead groups? I'm sure there are non-skinhead racist groups, but I don't think there are any skinheads that aren't also racists.

Tennessee wins a... well, not gold star... puice star? for having the most active KKK groups (14), though Texas (13) and Ohio (12) are in the running (Ohio?). California easily has the most racist skinhead groups (17), though Pennsylvania's bunch of nutbag skinhead supremacists seems to be the most organized-- they have nine such organizations... all called the Keystone State Skinheads. It's a like a franchise.

As noted earlier, Georgia has a large number of Black Separatist groups-- the most of any state with 10-- and while there are a lot of Illinois Nazis (10) that number is only a close second to New Jersey's 11. There is no comparison when it comes to neo-Confederate. South Carolina has a staggering 29 branches of the "Stars and Bars" revering League of the South. Florida comes in a distant second with 16 League of the South franchises. Mississippi shows that the south still has it when it comes to white bigotry and intolerance, holding the most White Supremacist groups (11) of any state.

The hate of the Christian Identity group seems to lack focus-- Arkansas currently owns the title of most hate-filled Christian groups, but with only a grand total of four such organizations. And finally, California rules the roost when it comes to General Hate groups, hosting a whopping 20 such organizations to New York's distance second place of only seven.

So there you go-- betcha did not realize that intolerance, hatred and violence could be so much fun kiddies! And just so you don't think this sort of thing is limited to the U.S., please be aware that there is a lot of international competition to be the most hateful and intolerant. By international standards, we are sadly lacking. Based on this round-up, it seems that Iran is the clear front runner. What a surprise.

The Last Gasp of Summer

This past weekend it was in the mid to upper 80s. And humid. It was glorious-- the seven year olds on the soccer team I coach were panting during the game. Great fun. A small token to carry us through the long, cold, snowy months ahead.

Fall is my favorite season in Wisconsin. The glorious display of color that the maples and other trees put on in October is one of the things I most missed while living in California. Fall, like Spring, is capricious-- we had a high of about 58 just a week before the 80s rolled in-- but unlike Spring things don't get all wet, sloppy and grimy in the Fall because there isn't any snow to melt and make life soggy. And the crisp days when there is just a hint of winter coming but the sun still feels warm on your face make it fun to just... be. Just soak it all in.

Fall is also a time to reflect as the year winds down. So-- here is my report on My Summer Vacation.

I spent quite a bit of time with the family this summer, which is excellent. We went to Door County twice, I coached my son's baseball team and practiced with both kids on baseball, soccer and capturing fireflies. We went to Noah's Ark water park and also camping-- a rather soggy affair, but still fun. My wife and I went on a long weekend getaway while the kids banged around with the grandparents.

I saw two concerts-- a modest amount by many standards, but an absolute plethora of music by my norms. One concert every three years was probably about my average before 2007. Rush was good, not great, but Roger Waters was absolutely superb. Probably the best concert I have seen, though Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon and Eric Clapton were all in the running. Yes, I am turning into an old fart-- but this old fart can still rock! Waters was also during Summerfest, so I returned to the Big Gig for the first time in... well, over a decade.

Though they eventually blew it, it was great fun following the Brewers during the summer and a refreshing change of pace to actual care what happens in August and September baseball games. I should also note that I will sorely miss Bob Uecker when he finally retires as the Brewers radio announcer. He is quite simply the best announcer in baseball right now, and probably the best active sports announcer period. During the stretch run of the season I listened to a few Cubs games and the two donkeys they have calling the Chicago games were HORRIBLE. So bad I could only listen to them in short doses-- maybe two innings at a time, max.

We installed one of the blue vinyl pools in our backyard-- more work than I expected since the entirety of my yard slopes and I had to dig out a flat spot for the thing. Though not as deep as I would like-- only 3 foot-- the kids loved it and it is big enough that Jenn and I could jump in with them from time to time as well. The raspberry bushes I planted two years ago finally seemed to really take hold this year and the three little twigs I started with are now a pretty good little hedge of raspberry stalks that should bear quite a few berries next year.

On the negative side-- my grandma died, which was sad but not unexpected. She lived a good life and once you get to 90 (she died at 95) its pretty much a crap shoot. We almost burned our garage down, but thanks to a good samaritan and the prompt response of our fire department the damage was minimal. The MESS left behind was another matter. Soot gets on everything and is extremely difficult to get rid of. Jenn and I had to laugh the other night when a fire inspector was at a fire scene in a pristine white outfit. She looked around, determined the source and cause of the fire and walked out without getting a single smudge of soot on her lovely outfit. Laughable. Plus side, the insurance settlement was very good and Jenn was able to buy a Harley-- one of her longtime desires. So now I'm married to a biker chick-- which works for me. And I didn't get golfing as much as I wanted-- only four times all summer. But that's pretty minor.

Overall, I'd have to say that my 39th summer on this little ole planet of ours was a pretty good one. Still went by way too quickly. That's something that hasn't changed that much since childhood-- the lazy days of summer seem to slip through your fingers far too easily.

But now Fall is here and I'm okay with that. Fall is a good time of the year and soon pumpkins will be appearing on doorstops all around town.

Breathe in that air, my friends. It is the sweet smell of life.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Sheboygan's Shame

Sheboygan is a nice Wisconsin city on the shores of Lake Michigan. About an hour north of Milwaukee, it is large enough to have most of the amenities of modern life without having completely lost the essence of small-town Wisconsin. A very nice place to visit, and more than likely a nice place to settle down and raise a family.

But man do they have a dreadful judge on the bench up there. Two recent sentences from Sheboygan judge James Bolgert make you wonder what concept of justice this gentlemen believes in. He seems to value the lives and rights of the convicted (key point-- in both cases the defendant had already been convicted of the crime) over those of the innocent victims.

In the first case heard before Bolgert, a man and his brother made a woman's life complete hell for nearly a year. She feared for both her own and her son's life. Over the course of ten months she received over 50 threatening letters that got progressively more graphic and violent in their nature. The letters would include details of her daily activities-- the two men, brothers David and Thomas Goetsch, were watching her and knew her routines. They threatened to burn down the homes of her clients-- the woman was a real estate agent-- and subscribed her to pornographic magazines. Several of the letters threatened to kill her by a particular date.

Both men admitted to their crimes-- the only question was how long of a sentence they would receive. The maximum for David-- the chief donkey in the equation and "brains" behind the stalking-- was 12 years. David's brother Thomas , who merely helped and is apparently somewhat mentally slow, could have received an unspecified term that would have been shorter than 12 years.

This poor woman's life was turned into a living nightmare for ten months. She feared for her own life and her son's. Her business suffered-- would you want a realtor who was being stalked by two nutjobs threatening to burn down houses? She feared to open her windows and couldn't sleep at night. She was subjected to this for no reason at all.

The DA in the case was asking for the max of 12 years for David and the victim was at the sentencing to make her plea to have the two men put away for a long time. 12 years was probably unlikely since Goetsch pleaded for a second chance and appeared remorseful, but a sentence of at least 6-8 years seems a nobrainer, don't you think?

Judge Bolgert gave the accomplice, Thomas, probation and David, the chief stalker, 18 months. Minus time served. Hardly more of his life than he stole from this poor woman, not even factoring in the longterm effects his terrorism of her will undoubtedly cause her and her son. Pathetic and disgusting. Abhorrent. Despicable. Unbelievable.

But perhaps better than the result of another recent trial in Sheboygan overseen by Bolgert. In the second case a 28 year old man-- an illegal alien to boot-- pleaded no contest to repeated sexual contact with a 15 year old girl. A young girl who is now pregnant with the man's child. For that crime, Gregorio Dedios could have received up to 25 years in prison. For reasons unknown, the DA in this case recommended only 18 months of imprisonment for Dedios. For reasons completely unfathomable, Judge Bolgert thought that was too much and gave him only 8 months-- and then knocked time served off of the sentence meaning he will serve only an additional three months.

3 months. For repeated sexual assault on a 15 year old girl.

Ye gods, what a disgrace Judge Bolgert is to the concept of justice. I have to believe that a few tears were leaking out from beneath Lady Justice's blindfold after these two sentences.

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