I have done something highly illogical.
I signed up for National Novel Writing Month.
What are the odds that I'll actually manage to write 1,600 words a day for the next thirty days in between all the other things placing demands on my time?
Probably pretty much nil.
But I figured, "What the heck?" Maybe getting emails from the NaNoWriMo people will motivate me to do it. Maybe I'll actually write a novel this month.
Maybe. I'll keep you posted.
I have done something highly illogical.
As I expected, a Boston fan - the estimable Yank in Texas - has accused me of being a sore loser after my previous post.
I resent that. Really. In any contest, whether as a participant or an interested spectator, I pride myself on being a good sport. I feel I went out of my way not to be a sore loser, to simply and honestly express the way I was feeling after what were up until now my two favorite teams played one another in the World Series. Back in 2004, I was rooting for the Red Sox to win when I went to see them at Coors Field, because in deciding between two teams I loved, I chose the one that was in the midst of a Wild Card chase and had a shot at the division title, the playoffs and the World Series over the one that was wallowing in craptacularity and headed for its third straight 4th-place finish in the NL West.
In the days leading up to the Series, I really expected that if the Red Sox won, I would come away from it thinking, "Well, the Rockies may have lost, but at least the Sox won." Over the course of five days and four games, I really surprised myself by coming to despise Boston (the team, not the town, which remains awesome) and, to borrow a line from an e-mail from my brother, "wishing them ill."
To be a sore loser is to say, "We deserved to win" and make excuses for why we didn't. To say that the grapes were probably sour anyway, as it were. Eric Byrnes was being a sore loser during the NLCS when he griped about how the D'Backs were outplaying the Rockies but still losing.
The Rockies were outclassed and outplayed by a vastly superior baseball team, and I'll make no bones about it. Yankees North were the better team by far and deserved the win.
But they're a long way from the feel-good story of 2004. There's nothing to feel good about here, no breakthrough for the long-suffering underdog, no triumph for a team that did anything more noteworthy than pay more than anybody else. For fuck's sake, they paid $3 Million less than the Rockies' entire payroll for the season just for the right to talk to Dice-K, and that number doesn't even figure into their actual payroll total.
There's an immense dishonesty in the way Boston continues to sell itself - and, more to the point, the way their fans continue to see the team - as the Anti-Yankees, when nothing could be further from the truth. The ghosts of the past have all been exorcised, whether you were a believer in the Curse of the Bambino or just one who marveled at how one team could find a way to bungle every World Series appearance for 86 years. Boston fans will no doubt continue to see their team as a scrappy underdog always struggling to beat the Evil Empire from the Bronx, but it just ain't so. In their desperation to beat the Yankees, the Red Sox have become the Yankees. Nietzsche said, "Whoever would fight with monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster." Boston failed that test; they're the Evil Empire, too, now, just as much as Steinbrenner's pinstripes.
I congratulate them for winning the Series, fair and square. But I can't be a fan anymore. That's all. No sour grapes, no protests that they didn't deserve to win, no accusations of cheating. Just a sad realization that a team I loved doesn't exist anymore.
Timestamp: 10/29/2007 11:08:00 AM
Dear Colorado Rockies,
Let me start by saying that you broke my heart. I am, however, prepared to forgive you. That's kind of something you had to learn growing up in Colorado in the late '80s and early '90s. Watching John Elway, who you love like he's a member of your own family, getting his butt kicked in three Super Bowls in four years, you learn to deal with heartbreak and you learn to forgive. Here's the thing, though: I'm only currently going so far as to be prepared to forgive you. You guys have to meet me halfway.
Look, it was a great season by any measure, far greater than anyone could possibly have expected or predicted back in April. Very few people in Colorado thought you'd even be a serious player in the Wild Card chase, let alone win the damn thing. If anyone says they thought you'd even win a round in the playoffs back in April, much less win the NL pennant, they're lying like a no-legged dog. But you proved everyone wrong and made it all the way to the World Series. Sure, you played like the goddamn Bad News Bears once you got there, but getting there was a worthy achievement all by itself.
After all, it's not like you're the New York Mets or the Los Angeles Dodgers, much less the New York Yankees or the Boston...well, we'll get to Boston (see below). You had the 5th-lowest total payroll in Major League Baseball this year. You made the series with a roster full of former Asheville Tourists, Modesto Nuts and Tulsa Drillers. That's awesome. In the era where the Hired Gun is king in baseball and we're all essentially rooting for laundry, a roster full of homegrown talent like Helton, Holliday, Tulo and Francis is the cat's pajamas, man.
I probably don't really have any right to be unhappy with your performance in the World Series. You got some bad breaks and you're at an inherent disadvantage because you're representing a league that still plays real baseball instead of 10-man pussyball. But I'm unhappy nonetheless, because I really believed you could do it, and not only did you not do it, you failed to do it in truly spectacular fashion, making all the asshole Sox fans who laughed about you being a bunch of no-names who got where you were based on nothing more than dumb luck appear to be right.
But, like I said, I can forgive this heartbreak. Here's how: If you, as an organization from the top down, don't for a nanosecond think that you've now got some laurels you can rest on. If you go out there next season and play like the team that scrapped and fought to get into the playoffs, like the team that won 21 of 22 and swept through the National League playoffs. If you don't think, "Well, we won one pennant, which is more than anyone ever expected of us, that's enough to coast on for a few more years." If the owners and the GM do what it takes to keep that awesome homegrown talent around.
That's the key - pony up the dough, Monforts. Make those guys happy, O'Dowd. I don't think I can hang in there if, in a few years, I have to watch the Rockies returning to perennial Cellar Dweller status and see Holliday playing for Boston, Francis on the mound at Shea Stadium and Tulo in Yankee pinstripes. Do what it takes to keep these guys, do what it takes to stay in contention for the playoffs every season, play like you want to win for yourselves and for all those fans whose loyalties you've reawakened this fall. Don't return to being a team that's content to sell 25,000 tickets to each game and just enough merchandise to keep your Dugout Stores afloat.
Do that, and I'm yours forever. Well, I'm always going to be a fan. But doing that will go a long ways towards putting this World Series debacle out of my mind.
Dear Team Formerly Known as the Boston Red Sox,
I've been a fan of yours for quite a few years now. It is with some small measure of regret, therefore, that I must inform you that we're through. I can no longer in good conscience support you.
Oh, I suppose I'll always have fond memories of the times we've had together...watching Pedro Martinez come in, injured, and pitch five perfect innings against the Cleveland Indians in the '99 Division Series. Pounding on the bar at Old Chicago in front of the idiot Yankee fan bartender during the '99 ALCS and chanting, "Where is Roger?" (thump, thump, thump-thump-thump) "In the shower!" after you ran Clemens out of Game 3. Watching your amazing comeback in the '04 ALCS against the Yankees. Good times, good times.
But it's gotta end. Why? Well, because you've become everything you once stood against. You've gone from that loveable, charming underdog, the American League's perennial hard-luck losers, to just another Big Moneyball team, winning because you can afford to pay more than anyone else. You're not the Red Sox anymore, Boston team. Who are you? You're just Yankees North.
Congratulations, Yankees North. You had the best team money could buy this year. I hope you're proud of yourselves. Over the next few years, you'll no doubt buy yourself a few more championships, and the people in New England will love you as the rest of the country continues to despise you more and more. You'll attract ever greater numbers of bandwagon fans and celebrity hangers-on. Hey, you've already got Dane Cook, and he's one of the most annoying human beings on the planet...so that's pretty good, right?
People from all over the country will continue picking Yankees North as their favorite team, not because of any genuine love but because everyone loves a winner, and you'll sell Yankees North hats and t-shirts by the metric asston. But me? I'm done with you.
It's not just you and your new status as Yankees North. Mostly, but not entirely. I've come to realize that I generally dislike American League baseball overall, with its sissy 10-man rule and the over-emphasis on caveman-like bashing of the ball, where essentially useless "players" like Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz can be superstars even though they can barely play in the field, just because they can hit a ton. I'll probably throw some half-hearted support at the Oakland A's...though it's going to be tough in a couple of years to even care all that much about the Fremont A's or the San Jose A's or whatever the hell they're going to become.
Anyway, this isn't really about the DH or the A's and whatever south-easterly Bay Area community will eventually become their home. This is about how you've lost yourself more than one fan for good, Yankees North. I know it won't really matter to you, but that's what I'm feeling, and I had to get it off my chest.
Timestamp: 10/27/2007 08:50:00 PM
Here's another review of the new Schulz biography, this time from the New York Times' Randy Kennedy. This one takes as its focus the strange Euro/American preoccupation with the concept of the Tortured Artist. Once again, plenty of food for thought.
Kennedy quotes University of Minnesota professor Patricia Hampl, who offers a nugget of what I believe to be truth and wisdom:
“People don’t want to believe that someone like them could just sit down at a typewriter or a desk and create something great or timeless,” she said. “It’s got to be the product of a lot of misery and angst.” She compared the impulse to that of conspiracy theorists and their reluctance to believe in the banality of evil: “It’s hard to accept that a guy could just go up into a building and shoot the president.”
Very true, I think. this is related to a concept about which I've ranted before, the idea of Art as a Standard, which leads to the boneheaded idea that, "Well, I could do that!" is a valid criticism of a piece of artwork.
Kennedy also quotes City University of New York professor Morris Dickstein, whose comment is every bit as idiotic as Hampl's is insightful:
“People who have always had a happy life and lived on an even keel and haven’t had a lot of misfortune really don’t tend to be creative people.”
That's just pure horseshit, and if Dickstein doesn't know he's spouting pure horseshit, he doesn't really have any business teaching at CUNY. It's this myth and people like Dickstein who spout it from the bully pulpit of academia that leads plenty of young and talented musicians, artists and writers to any number of addictions and self-made miseries, simply because it's viewed as some sort of requirement for greatness.
Miles Davis shot heroin and Johnny Cash popped pills, Hemingway and Fitzgerald were self-destructive alcoholics, van Gogh was bat-shit insane and Picasso was a self-loathing womanizing asshole. Doesn't mean it's a requirement for creativity. It certainly doesn't mean that English professors ought to go off half-cocked, claiming that creativity = misery, and that people who aren't miserable can't be creative.
Timestamp: 10/14/2007 02:31:00 PM
If you have any interest in comic strips at all, do yourself a favor, take a few minutes and read Bill Watterson's review of the new Charles Schulz biography from the Wall Street Journal. First of all, it may pique your curiosity like it did mine and make you want to read the book.
More than that, it's interesting to me because of what it is. I am generally fascinated to hear or read artists discussing other artists. Publicity interviews with guys like Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese where they're just plugging their latest movie are usually dull, rote affairs. But in-depth discussions with them, the times the interviewer is able to get them waxing rhapsodic about Billy Wilder or John Ford, that's pure gold. Such a discussion allows you to see the films of both Spielberg and Ford in a new light.
And so it is here. Watterson is, of course, the creator of "Calvin and Hobbes," widely considered the best comic strip of its era. In the WSJ piece, Watterson makes it quite clear that he is one of the legion of cartoonists who learned any number of important lessons about the art simply by absorbing "Peanuts" as a kid. That "Peanuts" was influential goes without saying, but the direct influence of Schulz on Watterson becomes clear when Watterson explains it and gives you the opportunity to think about it. Look at that "Peanuts" strip above - could it not just as easily be Calvin (in a more sour mood, perhaps, than Charlie Brown) delivering the line in panel 2, and Hobbes, in some ways the comics page's philosophical heir to Linus van Pelt, delivering the line in panel 4?
The piece is also interesting for what it does not say. Obviously, this is a book review, so Watterson has to limit his editorializing. He is, however, able to slip in a few things between the lines. There is a certain wistful sadness lurking in there, but Watterson, who famously battled with his syndicate over licensing rights to "Calvin and Hobbes," is not able to say explicitly how he feels about the role of "Peanuts" as the progenitor of every "Dilbert" doll, every "Far Side" calendar and coffee mug and every single awful, soul-sucking "Garfield" poster with which awful middle school teachers wallpaper their classrooms.
Still, the admiration Watterson continues to feel for Schulz's work shines through. I'd love to read more from popular cartoonists of the present discussing, in greater depth, the work of popular cartoonists of the past.
Timestamp: 10/13/2007 06:03:00 PM
I was riding the shuttle back up the 16th Street Mall yesterday after a trip to LoDo get some footage for my video art class. Also aboard the shuttle bus were a gaggle of San Diegans in town for the travesty of a Broncos/Chargers game, heading back to their hotel after leaving the stadium.
Two in particular caught my attention, a fellow in a LaDainian Tomlinson jersey worn over a sweatshirt and a chick in a pink Chargers cap and fur-lined parka. Their conversation, held in loud, "Hey Everybody, Listen to Us" tones, was amusing.
He: I'm just not used to this cold weather!
She: I know! It is freeeeezing!
Yesterday's Denver weather: Overcast, occasional light rain showers, high temperature of ~55˚ F.
He: It's sunny and 75˚ in San Diego right now!
She: I don't know how these people stand it!
Yes, we get it, SoCal People. The weather where you're from is beautiful all the time, and us hicks are just too stupid to figure out how to make the weather here nicer, or to move someplace where it is.
Here's an idea - if San Diego is such an idyllic paradise, stay there. Don't come here and dress for the fucking Iditarod and complain about how cold it is on a mild Fall day and then go home and tell everyone about how you braved the arctic temperatures of a day with perfect football weather. Stay home and enjoy your perfect weather. You'll obviously be happier, and I guaran-goddamn-tee you that we here in Denver will be happier, too.
There does, of course, exist the tiny possibility that I'm just bitter about the embarrassing ass-kick the Bolts laid on the Broncos and disinclined to be charitable towards San Diegans and their weather woes.
Timestamp: 10/08/2007 03:33:00 PM
Today is the 2nd of October in Denver, Colorado. Two days ago, the Denver Broncos played what has over the last few seasons become their usual brand of mediocre-at-best football and were thoroughly trounced by the Indianapolis Colts. Denver is, without a doubt, a football town; people here live and die with the Broncos and the whole city is usually just a bit bummed out after such a humiliating loss. Amazingly, nobody cares right now about how the Broncos kind of suck, because the Colorado Rockies are going to the playoffs.
Today is the 2nd of October in Denver, Colorado, and the sports fans of this fair city and fine state are abuzz about baseball, which absolutely nobody expected back in April when the season began. Nobody is talking about how, in our desperation for the Second Coming of Elway, we perhaps ever-so-slightly over-estimated the abilities of our untried young QB, Jay Cutler. Nobody is talking about how, in all the talk during training camp about the Broncos' loaded secondary, we all merrily overlooked the fact that the D-line can't stop the run to save their lives. Nobody is talking about how the Broncos only just barely beat the Buffalo Bills and the Oakland Raiders, two simply awful teams.
Nope, everyone's talking about heroic triples and game-saving double plays and how Garrett Atkins was absolutely FUCKING ROBBED of a home run by inept umpires and therefore it doesnt, in a karmic sense, matter so much whether or not Matt Holliday actually touched the plate or not. They're not talking about Cutler and Champ and Travis Henry, they're talking about Holliday and Tulo and Todd Helton.
The "humor" columnist in the local free weekly rag wrote a week or so ago about how he would gladly trade a good Broncos season for a Rockies playoff run. Looks like he got his wish. And it looks like everyone in town agrees with him, too.
Including me. Go ROCKIES!
Timestamp: 10/02/2007 09:50:00 PM