Yeah, I’m pretty much back to normal this morning. I’m not planning on testing myself again until tomorrow, but it’s really looking like I’ve weathered my own personal COVID storm pretty well. I’m one of the lucky ones for whom it was “just a cold”. Since the worst of my cold passed on Monday, I’ve basically been enjoying what is turning out to be a lovely August week–albeit, a week when I can’t interact with anyone except my immediate family. It’s like house arrest, but without the ankle monitor. Oh well! Writing is also starting to go passingly well again, but more on that in another post.
Meanwhile, the open tabs are starting to pile up, so let’s clear out some stuff. That’s right, folks, it’s a GRAB-BAG POST! Yay!!!!
Pitter patter, let’s get at ‘er:
I love articles like this, because they justify this book-buying lifestyle of mine. I make no apologies. None! Give me all the books! (I do need to do some weeding soon, though. That’s a project for my annual Autumn Vacation.) This article justifies large numbers of unread books in a way that I’d not thought of before in quite this way, however:
These selves of unexplored ideas propel us to continue reading, continue learning, and never be comfortable that we know enough. Jessica Stillman calls this realization intellectual humility.
People who lack this intellectual humility — those without a yearning to acquire new books or visit their local library — may enjoy a sense of pride at having conquered their personal collection, but such a library provides all the use of a wall-mounted trophy. It becomes an “ego-booting appendage” for decoration alone. Not a living, growing resource we can learn from until we are 80 — and, if we are lucky, a few years beyond.
A large personal library as an expression of acknowledgment of our own ignorance? I like that.
:: On lesbians and overalls. (“Dungarees” in the article; I believe the author is British and that’s the word they use over there.) I don’t have much of anything to add, but I did note during the 2000s and the 2010s–when overalls almost completely disappeared after a solid three decades of their being somewhat common, and downright ubiquitous in the 90s–that the only people really keeping them alive were the gays. I thank them for that! I couldn’t do all the heavy lifting myself, after all.
:: Loose lips sink ships. A typically superb essay by Jim Wright, a former Naval intelligence officer who now writes about politics and current events on his own.
What did Trump take?
I don’t know. But the very fact that he could walk out of the White House with classified material shows you that we as a nation need much better oversight and control of this process.
Trump’s own supporters often talk about “our way of life.”
And that’s ironic, because the very foundation of our way of life is that the president is not a king and he can’t just wave his hand and make it so.
This material does not belong to him, it belongs to us.
The president is not above the law.
Shortly after the 2016 election–and by “shortly”, I mean, minutes later–I started believing that that single election might well turn out to be the biggest self-inflicted wound in American history. The ripples from 2016 will be echoing through history long after I’ve joined the Choir Invisible, and I see to this day a reluctance on the part of Americans to admit that in a democracy, the blame always should go to us.
I’ve been paying more attention to baseball the last few years than I had basically from 2000 to, oh, 2015 or thereabouts. In the 90s I loved baseball and I almost always had a game on the teevee if there wasn’t something else we were watching (and it was baseball season, of course). While I’m not much for televised sport anymore, I’ve found it appealing to follow sport the way people probably back in the days before television: they read about it! You can do this, after all. I find that I can know just as much about what happens without spending three hours watching various sporting events by reading the work of all the fine people out there who write about sport. And then there are the box scores! I’ll let Fox Mulder explain:
It’s like the Pythagorean Theorem for jocks. It distills all the chaos and action of any game in the history of all baseball games into one tiny, perfect, rectangular sequence of numbers. I can look at this box and I can recreate exactly what happened on some sunny summer day back in 1947.
Of course, no box score is perfect; sometimes you just have to see the weirdness that the box score can’t capture. Like this moment, which I just saw this morning: a minor league batter takes a swing at the ball, makes contact, and the ball goes…nowhere.
Back to the link above, this year there’s a player named Aaron Judge who plays right field for the Yankees. He’s already been known as a good power hitter, having hit 52 home runs in his rookie season in 2017. But this year he’s on an even more torrid (“torrider”?) pace. As of this writing he has 46 home runs already, which roughly translates to 64 home runs if he maintains that pace for the balance of the season. The famous single-season home run record for many years was Roger Maris’s 60 home runs in 1960, a record which stood until the late 1990s, when it was first broken by Mark McGwire and then also superseded by Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, who set the current record at 73.
Those players were all implicated in the steroid scandals that swamped baseball in the early 2000s, and therefore, a whole lot of people view their accomplishments and records as being tainted. None of those players has been elected to the Hall of Fame, despite near-universal acceptance that Bonds was one of the very greatest players in the entire history of Major League Baseball. This has led many to simply set aside the numbers Bonds and the others put up, and re-establish Maris’s mark as the real record to beat.
The linked writer, Will Leitch, disagrees. Strenuously.
You could make a plausible argument that Judge is having the best home-run-hitting season of all time. McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds all accomplished their feats during an age of unprecedented home-run and scoring rates. And in 2022, nearly every pitcher in the game is throwing 95 mph cutters with late movement, and ultra-specialized relievers mean your final at-bat of the night is usually against some 23-year-old kid who throws 102. Pitching right now is as good as it has ever been. The leaguewide batting average this year is .243, the lowest since 1968, a.k.a. the “Year of the Pitcher” — making Judge’s mammoth blasts all the more impressive. If Bonds and company had to face the caliber of pitchers standard in today’s game, would they have broken Maris’s record? I doubt it.
The thing is, though: They did. The record is not 61: It is 73. Unlike in Maris’s case, there is no asterisk. There is no footnote in the record book reading, “Sure, Barry Bonds is technically the man to beat, but a lot of people didn’t like him and he probably took cow tranquilizers and had a huge head, so not really.” If Judge doesn’t get to 73, he doesn’t get the record. It’s pretty cut-and-dried.
I tend to agree with Leitch. I always found MLB’s tippy-tap dance around PEDs rather disingenuous–“There’s a thing we’d like you to not do, but we’re not going to actually make it a rule that you not do it, nor are we going to undergo any procedures to verify that you’re not doing it, and if you happen to enjoy spectacular success that brings good teevee ratings to us in a time when wow, we could really use some good teevee ratings, well, what’s the harm!”–and I find the resulting annual moralizing bullshit by Hall of Fame voters really cloying and ultimately nauseating. Every year we’re subjected to thinkpieces about “Why I’m not voting for the steroid guys again“, and every year–even moreso, really, with the passage of time–this crap reads more and more like the protest nonsense of self-appointed gatekeepers and guardians whose mission in life is to make sure that baseball’s history is always and forever whitewashed with just the right shade of sepia.
(I also have some suspicions as to the degree to which the public’s distaste for honoring Barry Bonds’s accomplishments stems from his being a black man who, let’s be honest, never put much effort at all into being what white people consider “pleasant”.)
(Oh, by the way, the X-Files episode I reference above, “The Un-natural”, is one of my favorite episodes of any teevee show, ever. If you can track down just that episode, watch it. It’s a stand-alone that requires zero knowledge of that show’s weighty mythology.)
:: OK, I gotta talk about this a little.
I’m not going to get into all the many ways this “I am TOO a man of the people!” Dr. Oz moment is a campaign gaffe for the ages (but seriously, it reminds me of the 2000 Senate NY senate race when that nitwit Rick Lazio thought that storming across the debate stage to force a pen into Hillary Clinton’s hand to sign his bullshit compaign-tone pledge was a great idea). You can read about his failure to even know what store he’s in (resulting in his mashing together the names of two real stores into one name of a store that doesn’t exist), and his absurd notions of what constitutes a veggie tray, and his goofy ideas about prices and how to shop, in lots of other places. You can also dig elsewhere into the current Republican trend of ignoring that inflation is a global trend because they want to blame whatever they can on Joe Biden.
I just want to focus on…Oz’s shirt.
Who the hell wears a Henley shirt with all the collar buttons done up?!
The whole point of a Henley is that the collar opens! It’s why you wear one! There is literally zero point to wearing a Henley shirt if you’re going to button up the collar. At that point you’re better served wearing a long-sleeve tee or a sweater. Just go with a friggin’ button-up shirt, you weirdo–or, if you must, a polo or a golf shirt. (My own personal suspicion of men increases directly with the number of golf shirts in their wardrobes, but that’s just me.) It’s just one more detail in a campaign video in which every detail screams out, “OK, guys, I gotta go where and do what, now? OK, how do I dress for that? Fine, is that my size? Does this look OK? It does? OK, let’s go!”
After this, Oz said something about his bungling of the store’s name along the lines of “Getting the names right doesn’t say anything about my ability to lead the Commonwealth.” This shows that he doesn’t even understand what he’s running for. Senators don’t lead their states, Doc. They represent them.
Seriously, at some point Oprah Winfrey has to account for giving this clown the public life he’s enjoying now.
:: Finally, here are two cats being jerks.
That’s Carla’s bed.