Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Rule 5 Draft

In addition to the traditional amateur draft that occurs in major league baseball, there is what is called the Rule 5 Draft that was created to prevent major league teams from stockpiling good young talent on their farm teams. The regular amateur draft is Rule 4 in the MLB's collective bargaining agreement. Rule 5 is the fifth rule on the agreement. This is where it gets its name. In December, MLB owners and management meet some place warm to the annual winter meetings.

During the meetings, any player that is not listed on one of the 30 team's 40 man roster, is available for the Rule 5 draft. So if you are a team that has a great farm system, like the current Boston Red Sox and New York Yankee's of the 1990's, you go into the draft without the ability to draft because you fill your roster with your young talent. All the players that don't make these rosters are available to be drafted by any one of the other teams that have opening hoping to pick up some decent young players.This year's meetings took place in Nashville, TN. The Red Sox lost two young pitchers to the draft. The SF Giants picked up left-handed starter Jose Capellan who was playing for the Single A team Lowell Spinners while the Phillie drafted right-handed reliever Lincoln Holdzkom who was playing for Portland ME's AA team the Seadogs.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Norman Mailer for mayor

The novelist/journalist, Norman Mailer, once ran for the mayor of New York City. He ran in conjunction with the columnist Jimmy Breslin who ran for City Council President. This was in 1969. One of the keys to their campaign was for the city to secede from the state of New York and to become the 51st state. Neither one of them won the election.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Pesky's Pole

I have been attending games at Fenway Park my whole life. Games at this park tend to be more exciting than most because it is a hitter's park. The green wall (the Green Monster) in left field turns a lot of shots that would be caught in other parks into doubles.

The right field dimensions are interesting as well. The right side boundary of the very low wall (just a few feet tall) is Pesky's Pole. If you hit the pole, ground rules state that it is a home run. Right of the pole ... a foul ball. Left of the pole and over the tiny little wall ... a home run ... which I believe is the shortest distanced home run in the baseball of less than 300 feet from home plate. Some say it is a bit longer.

The Pesky Pole was named for John Pesky, a slap hitting infielder that played for the Red Sox from 1942 to 1952. He took a couple years out to service in the military during WW II. Can you see Alex Rodriguez serving in Iraq? Anyway, Pesky hit a career 17 home runs. One of Pesky's team mates, pitcher Mel Parnell, named the pole after Johnny when he hit a home run just left of the pole to win Mel the game. This came into popularity only after Mel became one of the Red Sox announcers later in the 1950's. Now it is a part of the Sox lexicon.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Minnesota Starvation Experiment

During World War II, many conscientious objectors sought a way to contribute to the War without actually participating in the killing. For many, becoming a medic was an option. They didn't want others to believe that they were not patriotic even though they would not kill for their country or for the long term goal of peace.

A group of conscientious objectors volunteered for an experiment at the University of Minnesota where they were subjected to starvation in a controlled environment from November 1944 to December 1945. While they starved, the experimenters gathered their vital signs and studied the effects of starvation on their bodies. The idea was that once the war was over, the results could be used to help feed the starving in the war torn parts of the world, particularly in Germany and in Japan. The Nazi concentration camps at the time were not confirmed yet and were filed away, by many, as rumor. But these studies did help in treating victims of concentration camps after they were liberated.

Since the discovery of the attrocities of the Nazis during World War II, much has changed. There aren't many event that have changed the world more than World War II. Resistance to human experimentation is one of the effects on the collective human conscience that has not gone away. Nazis used prisoners in some attrocious experiments that I prefer not to know much more about other than to know that to this day, we resist even voluntary human experimentation. We do very control and mild experimentation and nothing like the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

To this day, some of the data that was collected is used to help treat humans affected by famine and the victims of eating disorders. It was quite a courageous thing they did and followed their conscience as well.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Colorado Rockies and the humidor

I am very impressed with what the Colorado Rockies did at the end of the baseball season this year. No one, including me, considered that they were going to be in the post-season this year. They just exploded and came out of nowhere at the end of the season. So if the Cubs and the Red Sox get illiminated from the playoffs, I will consider rooting for them or perhaps, I will root for any team playing against the Yankees.

In listening to the Rockies/Phillie game yesterday, I heard Rockies' stadium, Coors Field, referred to as the "humidor." I did some research and I found that they were not referring to the stadium but a device that is used to maintain the humidity of the baseball. Humidors are usually used by cigar shops to preserve the humidity of pricey cigars, the Rockies use it for baseballs. Coors Field has always been known as a hitter's park and conventional wisdom always pointed towards the altitude of the stadium. Apparently, it isn't the height, but the dry air. So the balls that they use in Denver, are stored in this humidor to keep the humidity of the balls constant so that they don't shrink. Since the introduction of the humidor in 2002, the offensive stats have decreased significantly at the park. But this is a trend that you could say about all of baseball not just Colorado. The decrease in the use of steroids probably have more to do with this.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ethnic Cleansing on Hispaniola

When I hear the term ethnic cleansing, I don't think of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. I think of the war in Balkans due to the collapse of Jugoslavia, I think of the genocides in Rwanda, Somalia, Armenia, Cambodia or even, Nazi Germany (way too many off the top of my head). But when I think of the Dominican Replublic, I think of baseball and some of my favorite players, like Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz among many others. Very cheerful and pleasant people! They are not only great athletes, but great citizens of the world and men of character.

But not too long ago, in October 1937, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the murder of all the Hatians living in the Dominican Republic. In a five day period, anywhere from 17,000 to 35,000 Hatians were massacred mostly via machete. This event has come to be known as the Parsley Massacre.

Apparently, ethnic hatred is between the two groups of countrymen is common. Dominicans and Haitians share the same island, Hispaniola, but ethnic hatred between the groups is prevalent today.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Spain during WW II

I find it amazing everytime I see a film based in Europe during the mid-20th Century ... how incredibly unstable the place was. It reminds me of the Middle East today with the fanaticism more on political ideaology and less on religion. In watching Pan's Labyrinth today, I had to do some quick research to remember how Spain fit in since the film was based during 1944.

The Spanish Civil War ended in 1939 and things were still chaotic in Spain during World War II. Franco was still president and had taken side with the Axis early in the war sending troups to fight the Soviets at one point. Hitler offerred Franco membership in the Axis. He asked for food, military equipment, Gibraltar and French Northern Africa in exchange. He, of course, was turned probably due to the fact that he really didn't have a lot to offer in exchange for this. Later, in the war, Spain did offer sanctuary to Jews fleeing Nazi occupation, particular those from Vichy France. After WWII, Spain was orginally barred from entering the UN due to their intial support of the Axis. They went through years of isolation after that.

Pan's Labrynth was a phenomenal film but is quite graphic. It showed the leftist rebels being to tortured by the Franco loyalists. A great film to see how a child might deal with such a world. Might be what kids in Iraq might be going through now.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


In sports, particularly in baseball or boxing, the term southpaw refers to someone who is a left hander. I have always known this, at least since I've been a sports fan (32 years now), but I have not known until today where this term comes from.

In the early days of the sport, baseball parks were built facing the east. So neither the batter nor the hitter would have the sun in their eyes. This meant that right hander pitchers faced the north during their wind-up. Lefties ... of course, they faced the south.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Who was Tecumseh?

Tecumseh was a Shawnee leader who united Native Americans from several different nations against the US. Few of his followers were Shawnee. Aided by his brother's (Tenskwatawa) religious teachings he organized a resistance to stop the Americans at the Ohio River. They allied themselves with the British during the War of 1812 and were badly beaten.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Elk Cloned celebrates 25th anniversary

In 1982, some teenager created what we now know as the first computer virus that was released into "the wild". Elk Cloned was created on an Apple II and copied onto a 5 inch floppy disc. The disc was passed onto his friends, hence copied onto their harddrive. It was a joke really, something to annoy his friends. Every 50 times they booted up, their computer would compose bad poetry. It was a challenge and a lot of fun. Each of friends had to out do him ... now we all have to buy anti-virus software to prevent massive damage done to our data, lives and finances. An entire industry has been built on a handful of nerds playing tricks on each other.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Slovakia and Slovenia are two different countries

I was recently on a river cruise in Eastern Europe on the Danube River. The journey from Nuremburg, Germany to Budapest, Hungary was not only relaxing but intellectually fulfilling. We stopped at two other German cities (Regensburg and Passau) and three Austrian cities (Melk, Linz and Vienna). We passed by the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava but did not officially enter this nation. While on the boat watching this beautiful city go by us, conversation among the tourists ensued. Some were calling it Slovenia and some were calling it Slovakia. I said to someone that this was Slovakia, not Slovenia but I since I wasn't 100% sure that Slovenia was a different country and not just another name of Slovakia I didn't push the point.

Now that I have my internet access back, I double checked. Slovenia is a different country from Slovakia. Slovenia has a very long history, most recently it was once a part of Yugoslavia since 1945 and gained independence when that country broke up in 1991. It is east of Italy on the Adriatic Sea.

Slovakia became an independent nation recent also, when Czechoslovakia split up (often called the Velvet Divorce) into two distinct nations, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in 1993.

It is easy to see how this mistake is made since all this history happened within two years of each other.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Deadwood and comstock laws

I love the HBO series, Deadwood. When I watch the show, I always have to wonder ... did people really swear that much back then? I know we are all products of media that we are exposed to, but still, it is odd for me to see an old Western town with people talking trash. Apparently, people did speak that way probably worse than they do on Deadwood because these folks were not well educated and illiterate. They came west due to not having any opportunities in the East. We idealize their courage so why not their words.

Hollywood has certainly sanitized our impressions of the West but it doesn't stop there. Comstock Laws passed in the mid-to-late-19th century prevented "obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious" materials in the mail. With this in mind, historians could get a skewed view of how folks talked if they could never swear while writing. Comstock laws also restricted anyone from writing about any type of birth control, but that has since been deemed unconstitutional.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Pentagon

The construction of The Pentagon in Arlington, VA was started on September 11, 1941 ... exactly 60 years before American Airlines flight 77 struck the building on the historic day of the 911 attacks on 9/11/01. The Pentagon houses the US Department of Defense and is shaped like a pentagon if you see it from the sky. I have always found it odd that such an important building was so distinguishable from the sky. It was designed this way to help it fit into the ridge where it was originally planned. President Roosevelt moved it from that ridge to its current site because he didn't want it to obstruct the view of DC from Arlington Cemetery. The design remained after they changed the site of the project.

The cafe in the center of the building is called ... The Ground Zero Cafe. This was named long before 911.

The Pentagon is so large that you could fit 3 Empire State Buildings in it.

This building was started just 3 month before we were attacked at Pearl Harbor. At that point, the President knew that the War was inevitable. He knew the building would be needed but thought they would never fill it so had planned on using parts of the building as a library. Ironically, this is one of the reasons why the attacks on the building in 2001 did so little damage. The floors of the building are irregularly thick, thick enough to hold the weight of a ton of books.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Cargo Cults

The term cargo cult is used to describe the religions that developed on Pacific Islands among the natives in 19th century and as late as mid-20th century that revolved around the delivery of Western cargo to the island. The power and mystery of such cargo like the radio or headphones affected isolated cultures so much that they built ritual and belief systems around the cargo and behavior of the Westerners in relation to the cargo with the belief that this behavior would bring more cargo. Cargo delivered from the gods from the sky (air drops) and from the ocean (ships).

The most famous of cargo cults is the John Frum movement on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu which is still around today and celebrated their 50th anniversary this year. John Frum is believed to come from "John from America" who is some unknown American service man who either convinced the islanders of his power to bring magic cargo or somehow did so inadvertently.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Sunday Tam-Tams

If you have ever been to Montreal, you probably noticed the mountain with the cross on it. This is Mont Royal the mountain from which Montreal gets its name. This is actually not a mountain, officially, with its highest peak at 764 feet. It has been called Mont Royal for so long that no one has bothered to changed it. Beth and I climbed it this weekend. We didn't plan on it and didn't go all the way to the top because we were already tired when we started, but we plan on going to the top next time we visit the city.

We stumbled onto Sunday Tam-Tams which is a huge drummers circle. We just followed the noise and the crowd to several drummers and dancers gathering for a really good time.

Parc du Royal encompasses the mountain and has some great accessible trail leading up it. This park is gorgeous. It was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who also designed Central Park in NY City, Jackson Park in Chicago and the Emerald Necklace in Boston.

I love that town!

Friday, April 20, 2007


A lot has been said lately about the rationing that we, as a nation, did during World War II and how much the average citizen sacrificed in regards to comfort and commodity. It is said that as a nation at war, presently, we have done no such thing. This is true. Life goes on here as many die in Iraq. Some of them our neighbors, family and friends. One has to wonder if the average citizen would go without some of their conveniences if it meant they could get the GIs in Iraq better armor.

I had to take a day off of work today, as a personal day, to watch over my dog, Max, recover from surgery. I was very lucky in that today happens to be the first beautiful day of the spring. I locked the gate on my deck, brought my laptop and my book out on the deck and spent most of the day watching him heal out in the sun while doing some of the things I enjoy most in life. I am a very lucky man. I have everything any reasonable person could ever want and I don't have a lot.

In the summer of 1945, President Roosevelt instituted rationing. Every person was issued a rationing booklet worth 48 points that was supposed to last 6 months. Such commodities like butter, meat, canned veggies, sugar and clothing were assigned a certain amount of points. One had to spend wisely and make serious choices. Much like the illegal drug trade today, black markets sprung up in every major city. If you had the money, you could still buy to your content, but you payed a lot for it.

Also, rubber and gasoline were rationed. No shortage of gasoline existed at the time, but it was believed that rationing gasoline would help to deter the usage of rubber tires and tires were badly needed by the army. The OPA (Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply) provided a list of essential occupations and those people with those occupations were allowed to buy gas. Cards were issued that fell within three categories: A, B and X. The A card holders received 5 gallons a week, while B's were given a bit more because they were either war workers or doctors or provided other essentials. If you had an X card you were given unlimited fill-ups. The shit hit the fan when the public discovered that all members of Congress were issued X cards. Pleasure driving came to a halt for most citizens ... while those who were most in the position to set an example, didn't have to sacrifice any such thing.

So things haven't changed that much. My father's generation still had their corruption and the market was still king. But one things certainly has changed, the leadership. Once rationing was in full throttle, the president hired outside consultants to criticize his administration so that they would learn from their own mistakes. Imagine that ... a president that sought out criticism rather than what we have now, someone who surrounds himself with cronies and makes himself impervious to who sways outside the party line.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

During his term in office ...

I was listening to a discussion today about John Edwards and whether the fact that his wife, Elizabeth, is in remission for breast cancer would have a negative effect on his presidency if he were indeed elected. Can someone be an effective leader if they have too much turmoil in their private life? Then someone brought up some other awful events that happened to some US presidents while they were in office, most of which I have never heard before.

President Lincoln lost a child during his presidency. Mary Todd's and his third son, William Wallace Lincoln, died of typhoid fever at the age of 12. Even at the time of Lincoln's death a few years later, he hadn't gotten over the lost.

President Kennedy's wife, Jacklyn, lost a child in childbirth during his presidency. Just 3 months before his assassination.

The most interesting one is that of Grover Cleveland. During his second term as president, he contacted jaw cancer. Due to the extreme financial depression of the country during the 1890's, Cleveland kept his surgery secret and had the tumor removed on his private yacht. While under nitrous oxide, his jaw was removed and never put back just right. This left him with speech problems there after.

Also, I knew that President Wilson had a stroke during his term and that his wife ran the country in secret for a while. If this had happened now, with the 25th amendment, he could have been removed from office.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kurt Anderson and Spy

I was reading a book review in the New York Times this morning. It caught my eye because it was about a book called Hey Day by Kurt Anderson and I had to check to see if this was the same Kurt Anderson whomI had h eard of (and whom I am fond of). I have been listening to Studio 360 (on Nation Public Radio and now via Podcast) for about 8 years now. It is a great show most of the time. They take one subject and attempt to show all sides of that subject. At least that used to be their format, they don't always stick to it. Their recent American Icons series was great where they took great American icons (like The Wizard of Oz or and The Great Gatsby) and really delved into them for the whole hour.

I did not know Anderson was an author, apparently a good one. But he is also the founder of the now defunct Spy Magazine. Spy was a spoof magazine, not quite as spoofy as The Onion and took on the entertainment industry. They took the name of the magazine from the fictitious magazine that employed Jimmy Stewart's character in The Philadelphia Store, one of my favorite classic Hollywood films. Spy was sometimes scandalous and was sued quite often. They also published a full frontal nude photo of the current governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and also published a picture of his father's Nazi Party membership card.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Halloween Jack and Todd Browning

A few years ago, I sold my old record collection. I had stopped listening to vinyl almost the moment I bought a CD player. They were collecting dust and everytime I moved they were a royal pain in the ass. So I broke down and sold them. I miss them so I am slowly buying them back in CD or digitally (sometimes song by song on Itunes). I rarely listen to CDs now that I have the digital wireless beaming thoughout the house. It makes me wonder what it is next with technology changing so fast. I can't imagine would could be better than having 3,000 songs with me throughout the day on my Ipod. I received a CD copy of David Bowie's Diamond Dogs (along with one of his newer ones Reality) in yesterday's mail. Immediately upon removing it from its wrapper I imported it into Itunes. I might not ever play this CD again. Now my CDs sit around and collect dust. At least they are smaller and take up less real-estate.

Now that I have the magic of the internet at my disposal, the mysteries of the lyrics on this CD can be explained. In particular, in the song "Diamond Dogs" there is a line: "Dressed like a preist you was, Todd Browning's freak you was". With the quick click in Google, I discovered that Todd Browning was the director of the cult film, Freaks. Years ago, I remember hanging out at my buddy Russell's apartment on Halloween and renting this film. After about five minutes, I made him turn it off finding it too disturbing. This had probably more to do with my state of mind at the time than anything else. I've been singing this lyric for years and only now do I know what it means.

Diamond Dogs is one of Bowie's masterpieces. It was originally supposed to be a musical version of George Orwell's 1984 but midway through recording, they were asked to stop by the Orwell estate. Many of the references to the novel remain including the Shaft-like song "1984" and the apocyphal "Big Brother." The references to the Orwell novel are still there but the narrative goes off in another tangent entirely. The main character of the album, Halloween Jack, lives on the top floor of Manhattan Chase in a post apacalyptic New York now named Hunger City. Like Ziggy Stardust before him, he plays guitar and has savior-like tendencies. In this album, Bowie says good-bye to glitter rock and to his guitarist Mick Ronson and the rest of the Spiders from Mars. He plays the lead guitar himself giving it a different sound than the albums before it. Change is the only constant that I expect from Bowie and I am looking forward to hearing his new Reality.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Jones and the Stones

When one thinks of the Rolling Stones, one can't help but think of the two most famous front men, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. But early on, Brian Jones was the star of the band. When the band first started getting gigs, they were billed as Brian Jones, Mick Jagger and the Rollin' Stones. The first names were eventually dropped when they realized tht name of the band was too long. I am not sure when the Rollin' was changed to the Rolling. Apparently, Jones is the one who created the name of the band. He was booking the band before they had a name and was asked over the phone what their name was. He looked down at a Muddy Waters album and saw the track named "Rollin' Stone Blues" and that became their name.

In the early years of the band, when they were unknown, Jones was the animated one on stage. While Jagger stood still to sing, Jones was running about the stage rarely using any one instrument back to back. He grew bored easily and was talented not only as a guitar player but with most string instruments and horns. He also sang backing vocals. It was this interest in such instruments as the sitar, tamboura and marimba that made the Stone's sound so much different than other bands of their era. If not for this, they may have disappeared into obscurity. Jones also played the sax for The Beatles on the song, "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" My favorite Brian Jones contribution to the Stones is probably his playing of the mellotron on "She's a Rainbow." Nothing like it in all of rock 'n roll. Also, love the harmonica on "Dear Doctor."

While most of the Stones where quite clean and their bad image was just that ... an image, Brian's was not just an image. He experimented with drugs early in his career and his drug arrests helped make their bad boy image easier to sell for manager, Andrew Loog Oldman. Oldman is the guy who created the phrase, "Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?" Jones' antics made his job easy.

Some of rock 'n roll's greatest albums were recorded under the most chaotic settings. My favorite Stones album, Beggar's Banquet is no exception. Apparently, Jones was stoned the whole time either a total recluse or an obnoxious jerk. His playing was inaudible. There were times that other band members turned his amp down and let Richards play alone on a track. They let such guitarists like Ry Cooder play his pieces in later sessions. With the tempers flaring not only over his behaviour, but his problems with drugs was making it difficult for the band to turn the States, they forced him out of the band. They replaced him with Mick Taylor from John Mayall's Bluebreakers. He was found dead face-first in his pool within the year.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Jake La Motta is a real person

I apologize ole blog for not posting for such a long time. The winter blues has set in and it is difficult for me to wrap my head around anything.

With the Oscars coming at us today, I wanted to spend sometime talking about a film that actually deserves some accolades. I learned today that Jake LaMotta the boxer from the 1980 film Raging Bull is actually a real person. He was a middleweight boxer with an 85 and 4 records. After he was done with his boxing career, we was an actor. He appears in several films most notably in The Hustler, the great Paul Newman flick, as the bartender.

Robert De Niro won an Oscar for his intense portrayal of La Motta in Raging Bull. The Academy seems to have a record of awarding Oscars to performers portraying real mostly-famous people. This year (tonight), we will see. A few of the best actor nominees portray real people, but none as famous as Idi Amin portrayed by one of my favorite actors, Forrest Whitaker. Same could be said about the Best Actress category with Helen Mirren portraying Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. Guess who is considered the front runners this year? You got it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Presidential Libraries

The US capital moved to Washington DC from Philadelphia in 1800. When it did Congress earmarked $5,000.00 for the purchase of books that would become the Library of Congress. During the War of 1812, the capital building was burned to the ground by the British. In September 1814 Thomas Jefferson donated his personal library to the Library of Congress so that it could start over. Three wagons carried the over 6400 books fromMonticello in Virginia to the building in Washington DC.

Today, some of Jefferson's books are still used. On January 4th this year, when Congress swore in its first Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Jefferson's Koran was used.

Franklin Roosevelt was the first President to create a presidential library. He was president for so long, he accumulated a lot of books and documents that he thought should be preserved. So he donated them to a library in Hyde Park, NY upon his death. Since then, it has been expectation for a president to have a Presidential Library.

One has to wonder what W. Bush is going to be donating to his library. Can you have a library with only a kids section featuring My Pet Goat?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Why is crime going down?

Why is crime going down? No one seems to know.

I listened to Professor Franklin Zimring on KQED last night via the Forum's Podcast. He was talking about his new book The Great American Crime Decline and it was pretty amazing hearing him talk about what has brought about the American decline in crime since 1991. There has been some amazing examples of declines in crime, like New York City's crime rate dropping 75% in that time, but overall crime has dropped everywhere in the states and much of the industrialized world. New York's drop is twice the national average.

While conservatives will say that the increase in the number of prisons and prisoners is the explanation ... and liberals will say that it is the conditions of society (the economy, education, etc.) that brought crime down. Zimring says it is neither but combinations of these and a variety of other things. While all of these things did fluctuate throughout this time, crime steadily dropped. He is a professor of law at Berkley and the head of the criminal justice department, but he seems to be a statistician at heart. He says that a 5% change/improvement in the social fabric of New York City, resulted in 75% a decrease in crime.

The most interesting part of this program I found was when the public kept calling in with their own theories and he kept knocking them down.

Like the theory that the passing of Roe vs. Wade in the 1970s had something to do with it. The thought is that once abortion was legalized in the 1970's, by the 1990's we had much less adults who had grown up unwanted by their parents. This was very interesting to me but then Zimring mentioned that a similar drop in crime happened in a lot of countries around the world that didn't make abortion legal in the 1970's or country that it had always been legal. So pro-choice folks would love this to be the case, but it doesn't appear to be true.

Someone else mentioned the Brady Bill being passed that made for more gun control, but he pointed out that some states like California already had a bill that was/is even stricter than the Brady Bill and the drop in crime there was similar to the other states without such laws.

I am adding this book to my Wish List on but it is unfortunately I could not have called into this show. I believe that Internet helped decrease crime. I heard no one mention of this. I believe that loneliness is awful things and that when one is lonely there is no telling what someone will do just to remind oneself that one is alive. The Internet has been an amazing tool to connect people around the world. I realize sometimes it makes us more isolated, but overall, I can hardly feel lonely with there being people IMing all day.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The First 40-40-40 Man

In the 2006 Major League baseball season, one of the players achieved something that no other player ever has. Alfonso Soriano of the Washington Nationals became the first player ever to hit 40 home runs, 40 doubles and steal 40 bases in one season. There have 40-40 players in the past, quite a few have hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases, but never also achieving the 40 doubles as well.

I know some Cubs fans that are going to be very happy to hear this. Mr. Soriano went to the Cubs with a multi-million dollar eight year contract. He should be a good match for the great fans of Wrigley.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

If Genius is Kept Down, Does It Turn to Madness?

I was surprised to learn that many critics consider Marilyn Monroe not only a comic genius but a great actress. She was so overcome by her rolls that she tackled them with an intensity that sometimes scared the other performers. Due to her beauty, her incredible figure, blonde hair and out of control popularity early in her career, the good roles didn't come her way easily. The studios wanted to pay her to be the dumb blonde or the eye-candy behind the "big" talent which she found unchallenging and demeaning. After making, The Seven Year Itch, where she was filmed in the famous sewer grating scene with the wind blowing her dress up and showing her panties, she left Hollywood in a personal search. The film of the scene not only took four hours to film, but took place in front of a NY City street crowd of rowdy and sometimes obnoxious fans. Her husband at time, Joe Dimaggio, got so infuriated by the incident, many believe it lead to her hospitalization at his hands later that day and to the couple's eventual divorce. The marriage lasted under a year (the damned Yankees).

The Seven Year Itch was the last of such films. She fled Hollywood for the Actor's Studio in New York even though she had a contract for four more of these films. Her time among the New Year theatre world (where she met her third and last husband, playwrite Arthur Miller) not only helped her refine her acting craft, but helped her get some leverage from the studios in Hollywood. They needed her to make money. Her new contract was for more money and gave her the ability to chose which films she would make. This was unheard of at the time in Hollywood. It was in this time that she made her best fims with her best performances, including Bus Stop, Some Like It Hot and The Misfits (based on the Arthur Miller play).

Unfortunately for her, this success came too late. Many years of insonmia, paranoia and the popping of sleeping pills (Nembutal).... the outrageous demands on her time and energy ... contributed to making her quite mad. She was unruly and late to the sets of all her later films. She was enventually found dead in her own bathtub at age 36 from an overdose of Nembutal.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

She Was the First of Her Kind, He Was the Last

I just watched a truly excellent film called Stage Beauty. It really
surprised me. I heard it was good, it really was great. It reminded me
of Shakespeare in Love but with a better story, deeper theme and all
around better performance from the cast. It co-starred one of my
favorite new actresses Claire Dane (who was excellent in Shop Girl) and Billy Crudup (also excellent in Almost Famous and Jesus's Son.

The film takes place in the 1660's in London where it is illegal for woman to appear on stage in theatre. So male actors would have to take the female roles. Crudup plays a very famous actor of the time, Edward Kynaston. King Charles II did away with this law and such actors as Kynaston were without a job or had to learn how to act like a man on stage.

The real star of the film is Dane with her portrayal of Margaret Hughes the
first of the female actresses in London. I discovered with a quickgoogle search after watching the film that these are indeed real people. The film has Hughes and Kynstaon as lovers in the end but I have found no evidence of that. Later in life, Hughes married a Duke and I cannot find much about Kynaston other than that he became a very successful Shakespearean actor late in his live.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Rock N' Roll Chameleon

I don't hide it, I think David Bowie is probably the coolest person alive. I think the only person that comes even close to him in coolness is Beck and that is pushing it since Beck hasn't been around half as long as Bowie.

Bowie's been called the rock n' roll chameleon because of his ability to change along with music trends year to year ... decade to decade. But I don't think this analogy is altogether accurate because a chameleon changes itself based on its environment, the reptile doesn't change its environment. While Bowie does. Bowie may not have created glamour rock or acid rock nor did he introduce an element of theatre into the show (Peter Gabriel probably did that) ... but he made these things cool. When he did these things ... others could follow.

It is obvious from reading this that I have been a big fan most of my life so it is not often that I learn anything new about the Thin White Duke. Today, I learned a few.

* As a boy, Bowie's first instrument was the saxophone. He wanted to play for Little Richard's band. He still plays on some tracks today. I knew he played, I just didn't know it was his first.

* I knew the name of his early bands back in the early 60's were The King Bees, The Mannish Boys and The Lower Third. But what I didn't know is that the lead guitarist of The Mannish Boys was a young guitar player named Jimi Page which you hopefully recognize as the lead axe from Led Zepplin. I could imagine that The Mannish Boys is lifted from the Muddy Waters song but I have no proof of this.

* Bowie has always had some great guitarists on his records and tours with him. The three most famous of "Bowie" guitarist are probably Mick Ronson, Carlos Alomar and the vibrator wielding Reeves Gabrelle who are basically just famous for playing with him, but Bowie has also done work with such greats as Peter Frampton, Nils Lofgren and Stevie Ray Vaughn. What I learned today is that Stevie Ray was an obscure unknown musician before he played on the Let's Dance disc and toured on the Curious Moonlight tour. Stevie turned some heads.

* One of his eyes is partially blind due to a fight he had with one of his best friends in childhood. He has little depth perception in this eye (not sure which one) and little distinction of color. Something to think about next time you see him running around on stage or see something that he painted. I know that his eyes are different colors but I don't know if this has anything to do with this accident.

* He took his name from John Bowie of Alamo fame, the creator of the Bowie knife. Why I don't know. This was news to me. I know he had to change his name because his was already taken by Davey Jones of the Monkees and god knows, one wouldn't want to be mistaken as a Monkee.

* He is currently working on a rock opera based on the graphic novel, The Watchmen. Wow!

And proof that coolness begets coolness, I just discovered that Beck sampled a guitar riff off of Bowie's song Win on one of my favorite Beck songs, Debra. I will have to listen closer to this now.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

CSI reality check

I am not a huge fan of the television shows CSI (Vegas, Miami, NYC or otherwise). Their McGyverizing of science and their lack of interesting character development turned me off immediately. Due to its popularity, I have given it way too many chances and it has always failed to pull me in. This is just not a very good show and simply a twisting of reality. Their science is bad, they treat it like magic or a convenient tool for the twisting of plot. Forensic people just don't do the things that they do on this show. Why watch a bad cop show like this when there are so many good ones like HBO's The Wire or Barry Levinson's old show Homicide: Life on the Street.

The New York Times' Times Talk Podcast recently had a show that not only supported much of my complaints about CSI but also challenged some of my beliefs about the show. There are some good aspects of the show that I hadn't considered. The talk consisted of mystery writer Linda Fairstein, forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee and the creator of the show, Anthony Zuiker.

One of the many things Dr. Lee pointed out is that even the most wealthiest of police departments don't have the equipment or personnel available that the CSI departments do on this show (even if some of these technologies did exist). One of the problems he sees, because of the popularity of the show, the general public has some unrealistic expectations of forensics. He has had privates citizens tell him at crime scenes "to spray the luminol" on the scene. On the show, luminol is similar to a magic potion where any forensic scientist can spray it on the crime scene, it will show them whatever the writer needs to move the show along. Where in reality luminol only works in complete darkness. It works in a lab, not with a dead body on the sidewalk in broad day light. These unrealistic expectations are not only annoying in his opinion but downright dangerous when the public brings these expectations into a court room as a jurist. When they look for the magic bullet of forensics and it doesn't show, what else do they go on. One of the guests pointed out that some prosecutors say in their opening dialogues that "this is not CSI" ...

Forensic scientists never talk to victim's families, don't talk to suspect and don't do any crime busting at all. They spend most of their time in labs and they file the reports for the police to use. A show based on real CSI's would be very boring. You want to see such a show, check out the Discovery Channel or Court TV, but you're not going to get anything like reality on a big network. This wouldn't bother me so much if CSI did the drama thing better, but they don't do that either. Why is this show so popular? I don't know. Maybe you do. Maybe the belief that detectives with amazing Star Trek like prowess are behind our neighborhood cops makes some people feeling safer than NYPD does.

One other thing I found very interesting was that since CSI has been on, criminals seem to getting more careful. For example, many rapists now are using condoms which makes identifying them much more difficult by limiting the possibilities of DNA tests. But one could see this as a positive because rapists are also less likely of getting their victims pregnant or infected with awful STDs.

The positive I did hear from this podcast is quite positive. It might just wipe out everything bad I just said. Everyone wants to be a forensic scientist now! When people ask little kids what they want to be when they grow up, forensic scientist is a very popular answer now. Why is this good? As a life long believer is education, I found this to be awesome. Anything that is getting kids into science is a good thing. Some high school science teachers are using CSI in their curriculum, using this interest to spark hopefully lifelong careers in science. With so few people going into science these days, this is a very good thing. What All the President's Men did to journalism 30 years ago, CSI is doing for science today. This alone makes me love this show regardless of how badly I think it sucks.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Hail Mary

Beth and I went for breakfast this morning at Peggy's Kitchen in Jeffersonville. We went out in the beginning of our blizzard to check out this restaurant's breakfast fare. It was very low on service and food quality but high on ambiance. It is in a beautiful old wood beamed room near the ski areas and inns. Some great people watching there as well.

There was a very enthusiastic Patriots fan at the table next to us. We got into a discussion with him about football. Since Beth is a Bears fan this was a lot of fun, but the discussion got onto Doug Flutie and his famous Hail Mary pass in the 1980's when he was playing for Boston College. Mr. Pats said that the first Hail Mary pass was originally done at Notre Dame and that is why it is called a Hail Mary pass because they are a Catholic school.

Well, I didn't believe this, but I couldn't remember where the term Hail Mary pass came from so I didn't say anything. I googled it when we got back home and I am right ... Mr. Pats is wrong. The original Hail Mary pass was thrown by Dallas Cowboy Roger Staubach on 12/28/1975 in a game at the final seconds game, with no other play possible, he closed his eye, threw the ball into the end zone (apparently said a Hail Mary to himself) and the ball was caught by the receiver. This is the first Hail Mary pass on record in professional football or any other type of football. Doug Flutie's 1984 pass may be the most famous, but Staubach's is the first. I could not find any record of Notre Dame ever completing such a pass.

Go Pats! Go Bears! Both teams play today. Which reminds me, I got to get in the car and drive to the Essex Inn to watch the games on the big screen.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Iphone, Uphone, we all phone ... and much more

Yesterday, Apple's Steve Jobs announced the Iphone. Just a day after it was announce, Cisco could be sueing them because of the name. One of their child company's Linksys has an Iphone for VOiP phone. Not sure how they are going to make it through this but apparently they have an agreement written up and the lawyers are reviewing it. It kinda make you want to go out and copyright a bunch of product called I something (iChair, iBush, iHat etc.) or the other vowels a uPhone, an aTV or a yPod. You could be a vowel squatter.

If you haven't seen it yet, here it is "Apple's Iphone". It is an MP3 player with a phone. Or is a phone with an MP3 player? It has email capacity, it has the Safari web browser and a nicer video screen for a movie if you like. It is a $500.00 cell phone but you won't need an iPod.

I don't know about you but I am having a geekgasm.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

One more thing to be worried about!

HPV is short for human papillomavirus. This is a virus that all sexually active adults will one day contract. It is an STD but because it is a virus, it will, in most cases, just go away with rest and good health. That is the good news that I learned today. Most of us will never even realize we have it.

The bad news (why is there always bad news?) is that some of us will get sick from this. In woman this virus can cause cervix cancer. Of the 120 types of HPV viruses, only 37 of them can cause cancer. The rest of them just cause warts (foot, hands, genital). Men don't have a cervix, hence the warts on the cervix won't lead to cancer of the cervix in men.

More good news (thankfully there is often more good news)! A vacine called Gardasil was approved by the FDA in 2006. Another one called GlaxoSmithKline is expected to be approved this year.

Thus ends my public health message.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Walk The Line

If you have already seen the film by James Mangold, Walk The Line, then what I learned today about Johnny Cash will not be a surprise to you. I enjoyed the film very much and I was very impressed with Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon's singing. I was also very pleased to see one of my newer favorite actresses, Ginnifer Goodwin from HBO's Big Love in the flim as Cash's first wife, Vivian. The differences in her character in this film compared to her performance as the third wife in Big Love shows how good of an actress she is.

The first thing I learned was that June Carter Cash was a member of the singing family, The Carter Family. I knew nothing about this group other than they were a country singing group in mid-century southern America. The film portrays them as having a lot of class and being very supportive of June and her beau, Johnny.

Vivian (full name Vivian Dorraine Liberto Cash Distin) was Roseanne Cash's mother. I guess I always assumed that June Carter was Roseanne's mother but apparently not. Vivian's other daughter, Kathleen Cash, apparently didn't like how her mother was portrayed in the film. I didn't see anything wrong with how she was portrayed since (1) the film was supposed to be from Johnny's perspective so anyone with half a brain would take that into account when watching it and (2) I don't really think she was portrayed that badly. She seemed to be someone really grappling with being the spouse of a travelling musician.

Also, June Carter Cash wrote one of Johnny's darkest songs "Ring of Fire." This is surprising because most of her songs are quite light.

I have always loved the songs I know by Johnny Cash but since I have not been a huge country fan throughout my life I don't know a lot of his songs. When I was young I did have the Folsom Prison live album but since it skipped, I didn't listen to it much. I just added it to my ITUNES shopping cart. I don't know a lot about this guy, but I know more now thanks to this film and to my fact checking on Wikipedia:

* I learned his brother Jack died at a very young age from an accident involving a table saw.
* I learned Johnny was an addict (amphetamines and barbiturates).
* He played with a band called the Tennessee Two that consisted of guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant.
* He auditioned with Sam Phillips playing gospel songs that Mr. Phillips wasn't very happy with.
* His first song was "Hey Porter" which didn't become a hit but the flip side made it to #6 on the country charts, "Cry Cry Cry."
* He was a member of the Air Force during the Korean War but was stationed in Germany so saw no action.

Currently, there are some country musicians I listen to but most of them are also considered folk or blue grass (Mary Gauthier, Eliza Gilkison, John Prine, Emmy Lou Harris, Dave Carter and Tracey Grammar and Vermont's own Smokin' Grass). I guess I can add Johnny to the list now.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Tolkien and the Elven language

When JRR Tolkien was attending Oxford University, he studied philology which is basically the study of language. It was there at Oxford he created the language of the elves that is spoken, written and often song in the Lord of the Rings. He wanted to write the entire book in the language of the elves, but realized that not even his closest friends would read such a volume written in a made up language. So he wrote it in English with the intent that his friend and colleagues to read it. One has to wonder what he would think of Peter Jackson's films and his current popularity. Maybe if he wrote the books in elven Mel Gibson would have taken the project on instead!

Luckily his colleagues did read his stuff because C.S. Lewis read The Hobbit and convinced him to publish it as a children's book. It was then then he decided that this elven project would be the sequel to The Hobbit. But evolved into a story geared more towards adults due to its complexity and darkness.

I also learned today that Tolkien was South African. He was born in Orange Free State (now name Free State Province), South African. His family moved to England when he was the age of 3.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

The Riot Act

The Riot Act was actually an act of British Parliament introduced in 1714. This was a time of unrest when George I had just become King. He was extremely unpopular and the commoners were rioting. Parliament introduced the Riot Act so that any official could read the Riot Act to any group of 12 people. Upon the completion of the reading of the act, the group had 20 minutes to disband. If they didn't disband, force could be used to do so. This is how the act read:

"Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God Save the King."

Hence, the phrase "reading you the riot act" was formed. The act was repealed in 1973, but the phrase is still used today for anyone that wants you to stop gathering. So if anyone is really pissed off at you and they reached to you (as if reading the Riot Act), this means you and your 11 friends have 20 minutes to disband.