Wednesday, October 08, 2014


If there is anything that comes close to bringing an atheist into the 'flock', it's baseball.

First, let's agree that it's a game of physics. If you're looking for a way to teach physics to a kid, use baseball. It's a game of millimeters. With a pretty small bat and that tiny ball, the slightest adjustment of aim results in a vast change in elevation. The smallest adjustment of force makes the difference between the ball finding the glove of the shortstop, or the bleachers in the outfield.

Two people come to mind who can vouch for that tiny margin of error: Neil Armstrong and Clayton Kershaw.

Today, as the Los Angeles Dodgers fly home, the victims of what from the outside seems like the 'team of destiny' St. Louis Cardinals, they are undoubtedly overlooking those physical laws. They are more likely thinking of a superstar named Puig, and the biggest meltdown of his career. They are considering the inability of Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw to fool men named Matt. The befuddled Dodgers are thinking of goats, curses, and gods.

They fail to consider that the air was still warm when Matt Adams came to bat - a ball carries further in warm air than cool. They are not thinking about the trajectory of the bat, or the exact position of the pitch, or the force of the swing. They are thinking that Matt Adams has Kershaw's number, or that Kershaw is somehow vexed by Busch Stadium. Maybe there is some kind of 7th inning curse, a point at which it becomes impossible to rein in the Cardinals. Maybe they think the Cardinals, with the fewest homers in the National League, was due to somehow right a cosmic imbalance.

Surely that's all wrong, because there's no circumventing natural law. They lost, plain and simple, because of physics. Right?

Maybe. There is a compelling argument that most Cardinals fans (the most hated in baseball) understand well. It goes something like this: When September rolls around, in the House that Stan Built, laws of physics take a back seat to things like heart, hope, teamwork, and destiny. That men like Big City can swing bats in a special way and move the ball with more than just physics. That a strange bond extends between players, lending support... unseen and mysterious.

Fans of the Cardinals know that on cold nights far away from home, before an unfriendly crowd, with backs against the wall, down to a final out, even a final strike, and against all known laws of physics, something more is afoot. Something that pushes the ball a little farther and deeper than physics would dictate. It's almost as if a piece of Curt Flood, Stan Musial, Ozzie Smith, "Mad Dash" Slaughter, Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson and others become transplanted into whatever ragtag hero stands at the plate.

The Cardinals have had plenty of failures, but in the most unlikely of circumstances, and against the greatest of odds, they've surprised, shocked, and silenced their most ardent critics. They have rendered speechless the Brewers faithful, fans of the Cubs, and haters who are just gonna hate. They dig deep and find a way. One might think it's more than physics. It's soul.

Another set of natural rules that gets tossed aside this time of year - mathematics. Sometimes 235 million dollars in payroll means nothing. Baseball's post-season stage is the great equalizer, where players like David Freese, Clayton Kershaw, David Eckstein, Albert Pujols, Kolten Wong, Adrian Gonzales, and pick-any-KC-Royal, stand on even ground. Where a soul, a spirit, and an attitude, surpass any and all monetary advantage.

Natural laws are real, there's no debate. But, on one warm night at Busch Stadium, with Big City's mighty swing of the bat, maybe the temperature didn't matter. Maybe the bat's trajectory wasn't so important. Maybe grit won out over gravity. Intuition beat inertia. Spirit overcame substance.

Maybe that inch beyond the wall was as good as a mile. It's enough to make you wonder.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Michael Brown, Military Police, and Politics

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

It only took a few hours for the shooting in Ferguson to become a political football, to those who tend to make everything political. After all, Michael Brown, a black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white cop. To some, cops are always right, and since he's a white, male cop, he must be Republican. The dead man was black, so obviously he was in the wrong, and of course, a Democrat.

To others, all cops tend to distrust black people. Michael Brown was black, minding his own business, not hurting anyone, an easy target. Clearly the opportunity officer Wilson had been waiting for.

Apparently the facts of the case are clear. Stop the investigation and man the torpedoes!

America's most disgusting new trend is on display here, the politicization of everything. The root of this metaphorical weed is the media. Having taken a scorched earth approach to their own industry, they are now looking for a way - any way - to gain back listeners and viewers. They utilize a cheap method that requires no effort at all: shouting and finger pointing. If you can pit people against each other, all that's left is to fan the flames and feign disgust with the results. You know who you are. You are to blame.

A local television station broadcast video of officer Wilson's home. Whoever made that decision should be fired immediately. The broadcast media has a responsibility to the public, and they've completely forgotten that. The public owns the channel on which they broadcast, and upholding community standards trumps the few extra dollars they may earn for their stockholders.

This case really breaks down into two questions: Was the death of Michael Brown necessary? And, was the military-like reaction of the police reasonable and necessary? In simple terms, there is nothing political about these questions. They are questions we should all be asking, whether Democrat or Republican, NPR or commercial radio consumer, Fox or MSNBC viewer.

This is not about the President, and not about a political party. This is about a dead man and a police officer, so we can put away the political bullshit. We can put away predetermined notions about average black people, or average police officers.

Are there deeper questions that eventually need to be asked? Of course. Will there be political implications? Yep. As a society, we should always question authority. We should always self-analyze. When the dust settles, lessons should always be learned. Do we have the facts of this case yet? No. Has the dust settled? It has not.

In the end, police officers are charged with one duty: protecting citizens. That includes Michael Brown, a citizen, and those around Mr. Brown. Decisions are sometimes made in a split second. Those decisions can sometimes be wrong. Nobody is perfect. Officer Wilson and Mr. Brown are both human.

Was Michael Brown's death avoidable? It's not a political question, it's a question about a life. Nothing else matters here. Life is the only real thing of value that we own. The rest is window dressing.

So for everyone's sake, stop the name calling, stop the finger pointing, stop the politics. Let's figure out what happened.


Interesting background/perspective on the militarization of the police.

A perspective about black neighborhoods.

Background on the Michael Brown case.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The state of our political conversation

I can't help but think this guy knows what he's protecting and/or excluding in his position. He's being paid by the very entities who help to perpetuate the world's current economic state. I'm a bit disappointed that Mr. Moyers didn't ask about proposals beyond earned income tax credits. He mentioned several times that he had multiple ideas, I would have liked to hear them. But let's not forget that some companies are paying a living wage and still producing record profits, which flies in the face of his position that employers like Wal Mart can't make a profit and pay a living wage. That is preposterous and has been debunked myriad times.

In a perfect world, a reasonable mind understands that the government is us, and government regulation simply reflects a marketplace The People choose. Government is necessary because the desire of the desperately poor to buy the cheapest product (many times to their own demise, a la Wal Mart and other self-absorbed criminals) will trump doing the right thing almost every time.

Notice I said "in a perfect world", because in its current state, the government has become an inefficient, corrupt entity, beholden to those who fund re-election campaigns, and who can afford to grease palms in return for face time. It's evident in the lack of response to the financial meltdown of 2008. Reform has been lukewarm. The rules have changed some, but not enough to prevent greed from toppling the market again and again. Bailouts were offered with no strings attached. Common sense has taken its leave in the Capital, and the everyman is too busy worrying about his next meal to pay attention or understand.

So that is where we are. The right hates government because it traditionally places limits on rampant greed in favor of the good of The Many. The left hates government because it is failing in those duties right now, and to expect representatives to vote themselves less power, money, or influence, is like asking Albert Pujols to get base hits instead of home runs. Home runs are fun and fire up the fans, but base hits win the game.

We're fucked.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The value of a life

"May 20th marks the one-year anniversary of the Moore, OK tornado, which killed 7 children in a school building with no storm shelter. But that's OK, we can't afford storm shelters because we insist on paying the lowest tax rate among industrialized nations, and billionaires get away with paying 15% on most of their income (cap gains). Besides, those parents can just have replacement children." - Today's America

Friday, April 18, 2014

How they blew how I met your mother

I've heard a veritable cornucopia of reasons viewers were offended by the series finale of How I Met Your Mother. The mother didn't get enough screen time to get to know her. The last season drug out too long. If you were a regular viewer, you have an opinion. Some thought it was perfect. I did not.

But I was offended by something entirely different that most people overlooked. Throughout the series, the story was narrated by Bob Saget, because they felt he had a voice that would sound a lot like Ted-of-the-future. Good call, no problem, it makes perfect sense. Most voices change as they age, and there's no way to get around that.

So when the final scene arrived, and it was Ted talking directly to his kids in the same room, it wasn't Bob Saget's voice, it was Josh Radnor's. WTH?

Bullshit! I mean, c'mon. The entire life of the show, Ted has been this slightly huskier, older-sounding guy, telling his kids the story of meeting their mother. Now, at the end, they couldn't think of a way to bring it all together? This is nine years of my life here. I needed something different. Dub the voice. Wear a mask. Something.

I'm not happy. As a voice over guy, I'm just pissed, and there's nothing you can say to make it better. Oh, what's that? Modern Family is coming on soon? Never mind, later gators.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Letterman, Colbert, and Col-BEAR

The Letterman era will soon come to a close, and nobody loved that period of late night brilliance
as much as me.

In the 1980's, I recorded Letterman's show every night, then dubbed the sweetest material onto a 'best of' tape I would later use, as needed, for inspiration. There was nobody like Letterman. He was fresh, edgy, and irreverent. People loved him, people hated him, and most didn't understand that those emotions are pretty much the same. Letterman elicited passion from his audience.

For those of us who love the Letterman of the 80's and 90's, the Late Show with David Letterman is kind of sad to watch today. After 32 years, and at age 67, I'm sure Dave is tapped for ideas and getting tired, but most of his interviews show it. He has had some amazing moments, but you don't see them as often today. He's doing the right thing. Late night television is transitioning to a fresh, young crop of entertainers, and Dave isn't motivated to compete with "the Jimmies", Seth and Conan.

But what a run. I'm sure Dave never thought he'd be as legendary as Johnny Carson, but he is. The Letterman era managed to move the goal posts. It will be difficult to beat, but that's the good part, nobody has to. Like Johnny Carson, nobody will fill the shoes of Letterman. It simply cannot be done.

Stephen Colbert will move into Mr. Letterman's Ed Sullivan Theater (I assume), and will bring a new dynamic to the show. It would be tempting to maintain his right-wing character persona, since his audience has become comfortable with it, but we must remember who Colbert really is. He's not the Bill O'Reilly wanna-be he portrays on The Colbert Report. (He refers to O'Reilly as "Papa Bear".) It's a shtick, a caricature of itself. Colbert is a real guy, a fantastic talent, an incredibly creative comedian, and a very good interviewer. His show will need to follow a more traditional late-night formula, and to me, that's precisely why it doesn't have to end.

As Carson did with Carnac, and as Jimmy Fallon does with thank you notes, Colbert can keep his persona alive. On Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he can do The Colbert Report as its own segment. His monologue, interviews, other bits and performances can follow the more formulaic talk show modus operandi. But the Colbert Report needn't be lost. It can remain as funny and relevant as ever within its new format.

See? No need to fret. Colbert can still be Col-BEAR and do the re-PORE. You're welcome. Now come in from the ledge.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Waffle Matrix?

Let me preface this by saying I've never made waffles using Krusteaz. By virtue of the name, I trusted that it would be, you know, eaz-y. In hindsight, my mistake may have been changing the recipe. Instead of 'just adding water', I added milk. I can only assume that was the cause of the explosion.

As I poured the milky batter into the waffle iron, I was careful to fill all of the gaps. You know, the gaps that, when unfilled, cause the final product to be misshapen instead of square. I once ended up with a waffle shaped like Hitler, but that's a story for another time.

As I poured, I noticed that the batter was rising quickly, so I hastened my efforts and snapped the iron closed. Immediately, the batter began oozing out of the sides, which wasn't troubling at all, considering it happens every time I make waffles. The sheer volume of batter-ooze was my only hint that something could be awry. Unshaken and unsuspecting, I returned my attention to the bacon, which was nearing the perfect crispiness. It's a crying shame to allow bacon to overcook.

About 2 minutes later, when 'it' happened, the sound was unique, and it was more surprising than loud. Nobody was looking directly at the waffle iron when it went off. Following the 'boom', we heard the sound of a ricocheting plastic latch-turned-projectile, and an odd sounding thud. It all happened so quickly, none of the witnesses - my wife, daughter, son, Cooper the Dog and me - were able to tell which direction things were flying. As we turned to face the waffle iron, this is what we saw:

The latch, under immense pressure, had given way, and the appliance had blown open. One of the waffles had been violently expelled (the 'thud'), and the lid was hyper-extended. The remaining waffles were smoking like Kirsty Alley's Mini Cooper.

But here's the troubling part. At the time of this writing, our hunt for the missing waffle remains fruitless.

The breakfast pastry is, for lack of a better word, gone. It's not under the table, on the counter, above the cabinets, or on top of the fridge. It's not on the floor. It's not in anything. It's not stuck to the wall somewhere. For all intents and purposes, it has completely disappeared.

Perhaps the waffle is now with the socks. Maybe it shot through a time vortex and now exists sometime in the future. I suppose it could have burst into individual molecules, which are now floating about the house, propelled by ceiling fans. Or, maybe it is now feeding the passengers on flight MH370, the Malaysian Airlines jet that mysteriously disappeared into thin air recently.

Other things we can't find include the blown latch, and anything on the Internet that says milk is combustible, except this one article.

The good news is, we can toss the waffle iron, instead of going through the trouble of washing it. So there's that. Maybe the cleaning lady will find the waffle when she comes Tuesday. Until then, the story is that, on this date, in this house, a perfectly aimed breakfast appliance exploded, at the same moment a waffle-sized slit formed in the fabric of the universe.

I hope whoever is on the other side has syrup.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Anatomy of a St. Louis snowstorm

A blow-by-blow account, as the snow piles up.

1 inch - TV stations broadcasting at 50 locations. File video of tires spinning. Reporters sporting Alaska-style parkas. Morris opens a bottle of scotch, while his neighbor considers putting a shirt on.

2 inches – Ada posts picture of stocked beer fridge, opens bottle of Drambuie, wishing he was a real scotch drinker.

3 inches – Morris opens second bottle of scotch. Dr. Mike considers calling Smuda to shovel his driveway.

4 inches – Fox 2's Dave Murray has mini stroke, slurs words like ‘apocalyptic’ and ‘polar vortex’.

5 inches – Morris wishes he had the hot tub heater fixed. Wishes he was a real Drambuie drinker.

6 inches – STL’s Channel 4 reports “KMOV has learned that ice chemicals are only effective above a certain temperature.” (Yes, they actually said that. Duh?) Channel 5 news director pissed that they got scooped again.

7 inches – Morris considers leaving couch to watch Emily shovel the driveway. Opens third bottle of scotch instead.

8 inches – Morris neighbor actually puts his shirt on, continues mowing grass. TV stations’ snow bunnies are now out in full force in tight ski suits, recommending military rations.

9 inches – White guys snicker and do that cocky sniff. Radio stations finally reporting snow is in the forecast. Dave Murray requires defibrillator but continues broadcasting.

10 inches – Is it time to buy another Hummer? Yes.

11 inches – Ada realizes his hot tub is also out of commission, does closest thing, farting in lukewarm bubble bath.

12 inches – Black guys snicker and do that cocky sniff. TV stations start fading. Is it snow on the satellite dish, or is Morris passing out?

13 inches – Dave Murray dies, is reanimated via a weird stew of stem cells and Irish cream, continues reporting that O’Fallon MO has 14 inches. Morris snickers and does that cocky sniff.

 14+ - Emily and Mike make snow angels in swimwear. Now a frozen ball, Earth slips out of orbit and begins drifting aimlessly through the cosmos. Dave Murray still doesn’t know how much snow we’ll get Wednesday night.