Archive for June, 2005

Bernie and the Brewers

June 30, 2005

A Sorry Sight

It’s not quite watching Willie Mays play for the Mets, which I’m told was just dreadful, but watching the devolution of Bernie Williams as a ballplayer is pretty sad. Bernie, once a gold-glove outfielder, now looks lost in centerfield (when he actually gets to play out there). His play is so bad the Yanks are experimenting with Tony Womack in center. His hitting has also been paltry. He hit as well as .333 as recently as 2002, but is now stuck at .243. Once a fixture in the middle of the Yankees’ lineup, he is now relegated mostly to pinch hit duties for the ninth-place hitter.

This isn’t especially newsworthy; watching a once great player’s skills erode is one of the poignant countermelodies to sports’ celebration of youth. Yet, watching Bernie struggle seemed to me symbolic of the death of the great Yankees teams from the late 90’s. Bernie was part of the home-grown heart of that club, and did as much as Derek Jeter to produce for it in the postseason. Those teams had their share of free agents, but at the heart of it was a chemistry and professionalism that seems utterly absent from the current team. There was the fire of Paul O’Neill, the charisma of Jeter, the mystique of Mo Rivera, and the class of Williams. Williams wasn’t Joe DiMaggio, but he did carry himself with Joe D’s dignity and was as responsible as anyone in winning four rings in five years. He’s probably not a hall of famer, but he was a great player on some great teams and deserves to go out better than this.

Serving notice

If the Milwaukee Brewers are ever, ever going to be good, it will happen in the next several years. This is because perhaps the two premiere hitting prospects in the game have joined the Brewers and are ready to begin their assault on NL pitchers. Ricky Weeks and Prince Fielder both provided a taste of what’s to come this Sunday in an interleague showdown with the Twins this Saturday. Weeks, a second base prospect stepped in against Johan Santana waggling his bat like Gary Sheffield (who also began his career as a middle infielder with the Brewers), and proceeded to deposit a pitch from baseball’s best pitcher in the leftfield seats at Miller Park. Later in the same game, Fielder, who’s built like daddy Cecil but swings from the left side, hit a three run homer the opposite way off lefty reliever Jesse Crain.

These kids look like the real deal at the plate, and could form a Yount/Molitor-like foundation for the Beermen to build around. With Carlos Lee already swinging a hot stick and Ben Sheets anchoring the rotation, there’s reason for hope in Milwaukee; strange as that seems.

All Stars

Here’s my feeble attempt at an All Star roster for each league, including one from each team. You get a 32 man roster on both sides, apparently, so here goes:


C Paul LoDuca, Fla; Mike Piazza, NYM
1B Derrek Lee, ChC; Albert Pujols, StL; Nick Johnson, Wash
2B Jeff Kent, LA; Chase Utley, Phi
3B Morgan Ensberg, Hou; Aramis Ramirez, ChC
SS Felipe Lopez, Cin; Bill Hall, Mil
OF Andruw Jones, Atl; Miguel Cabrera, Fla; Preston Wilson, Col
OF Bobby Abreu, Phi; Jim Edmonds, StL; Moises Alou, SF
OF Carlos Lee, Mil; Jason Bay, Pit
P Dontrelle Willis, Fla; Roger Clemens, Hou; Pedro Martinez, NYM; Roy Oswalt, Hou; Livan Hernandez, Wash; Chad Cordero, Wash; Jason Isringhausen, StL; Billy Wagner, Phi; Brandon Webb, Ari; Jake Peavey, SD; Adam Eaton, SD; Cris Carpenter, StL; John Smoltz, StL

Close call between Matt Morris and Smoltz; gave it to Smoltz on ERA and wins. Usually more closers get picked, but there aren’t that many great ones this year. I don’t see how managers do this when they’re saddled with the ridiculous people fans vote on. I’d start Albie at DH. Cliff Floyd and Pat Burrell were hard to leave off, but I had to take a Rockie and Giant.


DH David Ortiz, Bos; Travis Hafner, Cle
C Jason Varitek, Bos; Brandon Inge, Det
1B Mark Teixeira, Tex; Paul Konerko, CWS; Mike Sweeney, KC
2B Brian Roberts, Bal; Alfonso Soriano, Tex; Jorge Cantu, TB
3B Alex Rodriquez, NYY; Melvin Mora, Bal; Eric Chavez, Oak
SS Miguel Tejada, Bal; Michael Young, Tex
OF Vladimir Guerrero, LAA; Gary Sheffield, NYY
OF Manny Ramirez, Bos; Torii Hunter, Min
OF Johnny Damon, Bos; Jermaine Dye, CWS
P Roy Halladay, Tor; Mark Buehrle, CWS; Kenny Rogers, Tex; Jon Garland, CWS; Bartolo Colon, Ana; Eddie Guardado, Sea; Bob Wickman, Cle; Joe Nathan, Min; Matt Clement, Bos; Johan Santana, Min; Dustin Hermanson, CWS

One benefit of playing in KC is that Mike Sweeney’s virtually assured an All-Star spot every year. Biggest name missing? Ichiro! Just having an off year. Probably too many Rangers; Arlington inflates stats nearly as bad as Coors Field. Still, Teixeira, Young and Soriano are all excellent players, and I left off Dellucci and Mench. Lots of Sox of both colors.

NBA Draft

I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention, but a couple of things stood out to me. Ike Diogu at #9 is puzzling. He’s a solid power forward, but I think Sean May is clearly a better prospect and May went at 13. I didn’t see him in the first round on anyone’s draft board. I don’t understand the Rockets picking Luther Head at all. They have so many 2-guards they had to shift McGrady to the 3, so naturally they pick another shooting guard. Also, they could badly use a physical power forward, and Wayne Simien and Jason Maxiell were still on the board. I just don’t get it.

Punt and Let the Defense Hold

June 28, 2005

I was having trouble thinking of something to write about this week, but along came the Supreme Court and all my problems were solved.

The court handed down two decisions yesterday regarding public display of the 10 Commandments. So, what did they decide; are religious displays on state property constitutional or not? The Supremes’ answer: eh, maybe.

The court does this kind of thing every once in a while. They’ll take multiple cases on the same issue, then decide them like Solomon: half one way, half the other. Usually, they do it on issues that are politically or culturally hot. It’s a way of kicking the ball down the field and hoping it doesn’t come back at them anytime soon. They know their decision(s) will leave the lower courts, not to mention people who have to try to conform their behavior to the law, in the lurch. They know it will probably result in more lawsuits on the subject, rather than less. But they just can’t face up to the issue being contested.

It seems to me a better approach would be simply not to take the cases at all. Find a reason not to grant certiorari. There are lots of them available. I really don’t know what it accomplishes to take multiple cases on an issue, then decide them half-and-half.

The court did, of course, find ways of distinguishing these two 10 Commandments cases. One was outside and one was inside. One was old and one was new. One was put up explicitly for the purpose of proselytizing, one was not. The first two distinctions are silly. The last one has some substance, but I remain unconvinced of its sufficiency as a basis for decision. (Admittedly, I haven’t had time to read the full opinions yet.)

Here’s hoping the culture wars cool down soon, so our highest court can feel safe deciding cases based on logic rather than diplomacy.

Baseball bliss

June 27, 2005

Two of my favorite things came together perfectly on Sunday. Baseball and the Texas Longhorns.
How about those Horns? As a die-hard orangeblood, this was a great weekend. It was even better for me since the player I rooted for the most ended up being the CWS Outstanding player. Indulge me for a sec and see if you can follow this:

Texas 3rd baseman, David Maroul, is my wife’s sister-in-law’s first cousin.

Does that count as two or three degrees of separation? I’m not sure. But what it boils down to is that even though I’ve never met him, there was enough of a connection for me to take a greater interest in his play.

This guy is the NCAA baseball version of Big Shot Bob. He’s a very good defensive 3B, who barely holds his own with the bat during the regular season. Then he blossoms in the post-season. In 2004, he hit 2 HR in the regular season, but had 2 HR in the Big 12 tourney and another HR against Georgia in a CWS semi-final game that the Horns eventually won.

Fast-forward to 2005. He had another offensively lackluster regular season with a .243 average. Surely he wouldn’t have another post-season like 2004. He didn’t. He was even better this year. He went a combined 8-for-16 (.500) with three runs scored, two home runs and a team-best eight RBI over UT’s five CWS contests. That’s just sick.

It was a blast to watch, and I hope he can keep it up and make it to the big leagues. He’ll be the only SF Giant (23rd round pick) that I’ll ever root for.

Congrats Horns, and congrats David!

If you want something that you can disagree with, check my comments to Al’s Sunday post.

Triple the Fun

June 26, 2005

In response to Joe’s pity for the fact that ONE of us has to work Sundays, the good news is that I’m on vacation. I have, however, found a wireless hot-spot for my daughter’s new laptop computer, so I’ll at least throw in an article for your consideration tonight. This will not only make up for the fact that I won’t be able to post an article tomorrow, but also set an all-time DH record for three posts in just one day.

[Side note: I have not checked the veracity (is that the right word?) of this article. It is, however, an article, so it does meet the stringent requirements set forth in our by-laws.]

Published: June 17, 2005
St. Louis

IT would be an oversimplification to say that America’s culture wars are now between people of faith and nonbelievers. People of faith are not of one mind, whether on specific issues like stem cell research and government intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo, or the more general issue of how religion relates to politics. In recent years, conservative Christians have presented themselves as representing the one authentic Christian perspective on politics. With due respect for our conservative friends, equally devout Christians come to very different conclusions.

It is important for those of us who are sometimes called moderates to make the case that we, too, have strongly held Christian convictions, that we speak from the depths of our beliefs, and that our approach to politics is at least as faithful as that of those who are more conservative. Our difference concerns the extent to which government should, or even can, translate religious beliefs into the laws of the state.

People of faith have the right, and perhaps the obligation, to bring their values to bear in politics. Many conservative Christians approach politics with a certainty that they know God’s truth, and that they can advance the kingdom of God through governmental action. So they have developed a political agenda that they believe advances God’s kingdom, one that includes efforts to “put God back” into the public square and to pass a constitutional amendment intended to protect marriage from the perceived threat of homosexuality. Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers. But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.When, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube.When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors’ lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research, and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.For us, living the Love Commandment may be at odds with efforts to encapsulate Christianity in a political agenda. We strongly support the separation of church and state, both because that principle is essential to holding together a diverse country, and because the policies of the state always fall short of the demands of faith.

Aware that even our most passionate ventures into politics are efforts to carry the treasure of religion in the earthen vessel of government, we proceed in a spirit of humility lacking in our conservative colleagues. In the decade since I left the Senate, American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two. To assert that I am on God’s side and you are not, that I know God’s will and you do not, and that I will use the power of government to advance my understanding of God’s kingdom is certain to produce hostility.

By contrast, moderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God’s truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth. We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God’s work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today’s politics.

For us, religion should be inclusive, and it should seek to bridge the differences that separate people. We do not exclude from worship those whose opinions differ from ours. Following a Lord who sat at the table with tax collectors and sinners, we welcome to the Lord’s table all who would come. Following a Lord who cited love of God and love of neighbor as encompassing all the commandments, we reject a political agenda that displaces that love. Christians who hold these convictions ought to add their clear voice of moderation to the debate on religion in politics.

John C. Danforth is an Episcopal minister and former Republican senator from Missouri.

Take two: Grinding an axe

June 25, 2005

I’ve voted (2 to 1) to post twice today. Why the debate? Well the matter is personal. I find it much safer to discuss a fight in which I have no dog. But this one made me down right mad. The two links here provide a telling view of two decidedly different newspapers.

While Arizona is overwhelmingly a blue state, Tucson is the haven for liberally minded Arizonans (God bless ’em.) The larger Tucson newspaper (in terms of readership) doesn’t like the military and for someone in my business it makes life “interesting.” Enter my first evidence of what is IMHO truly poor journalism (if for nothing else see one of the dumbest quotes ever uttered by your humble contributor, and you may be shocked to know there was much more said and cut.)

To see the real news which readers of the Arizona Daily Star didn’t see read the same issue from a better newspaper.

May your weekend be sunny and mild.

Attorney speak translation: Kiss your property rights goodbye

June 25, 2005

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision has ruled in Kelo v. New London that the government can condemn your property, take it, and then transfer it to another private party. The dissenters were Justice O’Connor, who wrote the dissent, and the usual suspects, i.e. Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Scalia and Thomas. In the case at hand, the city of New London, CT, wants to tear down a neighborhood, and redevelop it for “economic development” purposes, using the power of eminent domain. You see, in 1998 Pfizer Pharmaceutical announced that it would build a huge research facility in the Fort Trumbull area. Evidently, the city fathers then began thinking, “Hey, if Pfizer comes in, we could rip out the surrounding residential areas, build a new park and marina, and sell the rest of it off after we rezoned it as commercial property. Pfizer could be the central hub of an exciting new business district. Man, imagine the tax money that would roll in! And sales taxes, as well as property taxes! Sounds like a plan!”Despite the fact that the plan was, as Justice Thomas puts it, “suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation”, Justice Stevens, in a sophistry of reason, argues for the majority that it’s a taking for public use anyway:

Those who govern the City were not confronted with the need to remove blight in the Fort Trumbull area, but their determination that the area was sufficiently distressed to justify a program of economic rejuvenation is entitled to our deference. The City has carefully formulated an economic development plan that
it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including—but by no means limited to—new jobs and increased tax revenue. As with other exercises in urban planning and development, the City is endeavoring to coordinate a variety of commercial, residential, and recreational uses of land, with the hope that they will form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. To effectuate this plan, the City has invoked a state statute that specifically authorizes the use of eminent domain to promote economic development. Given the comprehensive character of the plan, the thorough deliberation that preceded its adoption, and the limited scope of our review, it is appropriate for us, as it was in Berman, to resolve the challenges of the individual owners, not on a piecemeal basis, but rather in light of the entire plan. Because that plan unquestionably serves a public purpose, the takings challenged here satisfy the public use requirement of the Fifth Amendment

So, the city had a plan. They thought about it and everything. So they should receive deference.

It is further argued that without a bright-line rule nothing would stop a city from transferring citizen A’s property to citizen B for the sole reason that citizen B will put the property to a more productive use and thus pay more taxes. Such a one-to-one transfer of property, executed outside the confines of an integrated development plan, is not presented in this case. While such an unusual exercise of government power would certainly raise a suspicion that a private purpose was afoot, the hypothetical cases posited by petitioners can be confronted if and when they arise. They do not warrant the crafting of an artificial restriction on the concept of public use.

You see, they aren’t taking property from the homeowners to sell it to a particular developer, which would be wrong. No, they don’t yet know what private parties they are going to sell the land to, which is, like, totally different.

The disadvantages of a heightened form of review are especially pronounced in this type of case. Orderly implementation of a comprehensive redevelopment plan obviously requires that the legal rights of all interested parties be established before new construction can be commenced. A constitutional rule that required postponement of the judicial approval of every condemnation until the likelihood of success of the plan had been assured would unquestionably impose a significant impediment to the successful consummation of many such plans.

Besides, the the city claims that there’ll be new jobs and more property tax revenues, so there’s a valid “public use” element to economic redevelopment, even if all of the primary beneficiaries will be private entities. Because, after all, you don’t want to make the “public use” definition, too narrow. If you did, people couldn’t have the property confiscated by the state for hardly any reason. And then where’ll we be?!

So, if you have a home like one of the Kelo petitioners, where you were born, and where you have lived all your life, then you’d better hope the government doesn’t think Walmart or Pfizer could put it to better use. Because if the city wants it, it’s theirs.

Justice O’Connor wrote the dissent, and put it very succinctly:

Over two centuries ago, just after the Bill of Rights was ratified, Justice Chase wrote:

“An act of the Legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great first principles of the social compact, cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority … . A few instances will suffice to explain what I mean… . [A] law that takes property from A. and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a Legislature with such powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it.” Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 388 (1798) (emphasis deleted).

Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded—i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public—in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings “for public use” is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property—and thereby effectively to delete the words “for public use” from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly I respectfully dissent.

You can’t put it more clearly than Justice O’Connor does. Without a bright-line rule against using the government’s power of eminent domain to effectuate a property transfer between private parties, then property rights are dead.

Well, that’s not completely true. Bit of an overreaction, really. because, as Justice O’Connor also points out, some people will retain their property rights.

Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result. “[T]hat alone is a just government,” wrote James Madison, “which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.”

See, property rights aren’t dead if you’re rich and powerful enough to sway a local government into confiscating some else’s property for you.

TGI Wednesday

June 24, 2005

Floored by the whelming flood of responses (all four of them) to last Friday’s APB sent out by the lord of the houseflies, I have, to quote Douglas McArthur, returned.

Spurred (notice how I work in “Spur” references now that the deserving team won the NBA championship?) on by illegitimate (I could’ve used another word there, but why mention the Pistons?) claims in some of those aforementioned responses, you may question where I’ve been since last you read the Friday installment, scratched your head and thought, “And this the guy who’s supposed to be funny?”

Such spurious (spur-ious) responses – as well as those labeling me a “douchebag” (and what do the Lakers have to do with this?) – are best ignored, but I shall not shrink from these queries. (A quick criticism of the Spurs: What, other than Eva Longoria, does Tony Parker bring to the table? I’ve never seen him play well; his skills at the point are a curious blend of Mark Eaton’s agility and Kurt Rambis’ shooting touch. Still, Eva Longoria…)

Wednesday’s Friday absences are attributable to one – ah, but which one? – of the following scenarios:

  • Trying to establish a solid connection between Michael Jackson’s acquittal and the subsequent mysterious disappearance/reappearance of a young Boy Scout in (nearby) Utah.
  • Working as a consultant to help choose the next set of contestants on “Has-Beens Dancing on A Crappy Reality Show,” which is not the title (but certainly should be) of ABC’s summertime hit (it’s crappy, so of course it’s a hit) TV series in which the likes of Evander Holifield compete in weekly dance-offs. (Who’s judging this thing – Michael Flatley?) Future contestants may include James Dobson (who won’t even sway rhythmically as he harangues nearby contestants on why they shouldn’t dance and why they can choose to leave the dancing lifestyle), John Bolton (because he’s not doing anything at the moment), Rasheed Wallace (ditto… and cue Simpson laugh: HA-ha!), Russell Crowe (because hoo boy! – it’ll be fun if he doesn’t win), Courtney Love (because if anybody can wreck the Soul Train, it’s Courtney Love), and Tom Cruise (because he LOVES to dance… he LOVES it, and he doesn’t care who knows it… HE. LOVES. TO. DANCE. Tom Cruise: Kid tested, Scientologist approved.).
  • Quizzing Mark Felt as to whether he really kept quiet all these years because he knew the guys in his bowling league would mock him mercilessly if they knew his nickname was “Deep Throat.”
  • “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” hangover. Would you believe we haven’t seen it yet? Somewhere (most likely in a trailer park) Mark Hamill shouts to no one in particular: “Where could he be?”
  • Working to infiltrate and destroy, if possible, a paramilitary organization that once enjoyed the USA’s support but has, over the years, become an annoying, too-often-violent thorn in Uncle Sam’s fleshy derriere. Its covert tactics involve disrupting all forms of written communication while operating under its own constantly changing rules and guidelines, cleverly burying its key operatives deep within a sea of red tape and bureaucracy, effectively rendering them unreachable until the day they walk into a government facility in some Springfield somewhere and perpetrate random acts of violence. I’m talking, of course, about the United States Postal Service, an organization – and that term is oxymoronic when applied to the USPS – with which I’ve become all too familiar of late.

For now, let me just say it’s good to be home. Thanks so much for caring. If you want to send mail, please consider using UPS.

Big Shot Bob

June 23, 2005

Has there ever been anything quite like Robert Horry in sports history? The guy is just uncanny, and he proved it again Sunday night, singlehandedly pulling San Antonio’s (and, more particularly, Tim Duncan’s) fat out of the fire with yet another unconscious shooting display. There have been other clutch performers on Horry’s level, but they are usually superstars, Jordan, Bird, Reggie Miller; Derek Jeter or Tom Brady in other sports. However, I can’t ever remember another role player who sleepwalks his way through the season yet repeatedly finds a way to become a superstar in the postseason. And it’s not just hitting big shots; it’s also rebounds, passes and superior defense. The only somewhat-analogous player I can think of is Jim Leyritz, who had a knack for coming off the bench and hitting huge postseason homers for the Yankees and Padres. Still; just for the length of time he’s been doing it, I think Horry stands alone. Any one else like that come to mind?

And then, a strange lack of clutch

It was strange to see Tiger Woods miss big putts down the stretch Sunday (though he certainly had nothing to feel ashamed of considering the epic meltdown of Retief Goosen). You expect a competitor like Woods to stick it into overdrive when he’s that close to a major victory. It does make you wonder a little bit, though, since Tiger has still yet to come from behind to win a major. Not to say that he can’t pull out close victories; his playoff win over Dimarco in the Masters showed that. However, even then, he was in the driver’s seat most of the day, and wasn’t the pursuer like he was at the Open. It’ll be interesting to see how Tiger performs in similar situations in the years to come.

A hidden treasure

If you have some free time and are interested in learning some of baseball’s history, I’d recommend checking out anything you can connected with Buck O’Neil. O’Neil is a baseball hall-of-famer who played with Negro League legends like Satchell Paige and Josh Gibson back in the 30’s and 40’s. He’s also a masterful storyteller, and he makes the life of the Negro Leagues come to life in telling stories of the legendary players of that time. There is obviously great tragedy associated with the Negro Leagues, but there’s also a richness that even the major leagues at that time can’t quite match. Part of it comes from the fact that the leagues didn’t keep the same statistical records of the majors back then, so legends are more free to grow. Was Satchell Paige the best pitcher that ever lived? Was Josh Gibson as great a hitter as Babe Ruth? Sadly, we’ll never know, but it’s wonderful to hear the stories of that time. There are some websites where you can check out interviews with O’Neil. Wonderful stuff.

Books I Want to Buy

June 22, 2005

Too lazy to write an actual article this week, so I thought I’d just share with you my summer reading list (I know everyone is just itching to know). If I could afford to go to the beach, this is what I’d read on the beach. I can’t afford it, so I’ll read them on my deck (I will go shirtless, though).

The History of Love: by, Nicole Krauss. Okay, so I a) mentioned this book last week, and b) already own it, and c) have just a few pages to go before finishing it. And yet. If I could afford to, I would offer a money-back guarantee on this book to anyone who reads this post. I can’t afford to. (I did make this offer to this girl at the coffee shop the other day, but she was way better looking and nicer than any of you.) Buy it or check it out from your local library.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: by, Jonothan Safran Foer. His first book, Everything is Illuminated, was great and I haven’t really read too much about this one (so as not to ruin it for me), so I’m going on faith here that this will be a good book. (I assume there is tons of stuff about it on the web, though I haven’t looked.)

Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land: by John Crowley. Another book I’ll buy on faith. Crowley’s novel Little, Big blew me away, even if I didn’t understand everything about it. If I were smarter, I’d write a review of it, but I’m not. The bit I know about this novel is: Crowley’s book is a book within a book. Or something. One of the books in the book is a book written by Lord Byron, except that it is really not — it’s Crowley’s vision of what a Lord Byron novel might have been. Crowley’s imagination is incredible, and I’m itching to buy this book (I’m stranded in Arkansas right now and it is nigh on impossible to find an actual copy of some of the books I want to buy, seeing as our bookstores suck [yeah, I said it: they suck]. And even on the odd occassions they have books I want to buy, Juvenal is busy buying the last copy said books, such as this one.).

1776: by, David McCollough. Pretty much just because I got to meet McCollough once and he reminded me so much of my grandpa that I feel some sort of loyalty to him. Plus, if he could make John Adams interesting, imagine what he can do with Washington.

A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby. I seem to just want to buy books from the writers I like. Hornby wrote the novels that eventually turned into the movies High Fidelity, About a Boy, and Fever Pitch. He is funny and doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s probably one of the few writers who is a better writer than he thinks he is. Other than having a bad cover, I don’t know much about this book. So again, I’m going on faith.

Gilead: by, Marilynne Robinson. Read great things about this book and the first few pages were great. That’s as far as I got though, because I can’t read in a bookstore for one reason or other.

Harry Potter. I don’t plan to camp out dressed as Snape in front of the bookstore, but I am looking forward to the book.

The People of Paper: by, Salvador Plascencia. If you can find a copy of this book, pick it up and just thumb through it for a couple of minutes. The design of the book is worth a look. I hope it doesn’t overshadow the content of the book. He’s a friend of a friend, so there’s also some loyalty issues in my buying this book, but I am interested in it regardless.

Saturday: by, Ian McEwan. Atonement, his previous book, is one of the best novels released in recent years, I think. Another faith buy.

I’m trying not to buy a book until I’ve finished reading whatever it is I already own. I’m not very good at this and usually cave in and buy a couple a week. Especially when people tip well (tip your servers, people!, we aren’t all going to go straight out and buy drugs — and plus-wise, we have extremely good memories, so if you don’t tip well, hope you don’t get the same server twice). It’s one of my compulsions (buying books, in case that last parenthetical got you off course, as it did me).

Just thought I’d share.

A Rekindled Respect…

June 20, 2005

…For Bob Geldof.

Anyone else remember this guy? Personally, I don’t have to do much digging to bring him to the forefront of my consciousness. Being a child of the 80’s, I knew him as an icon on three different levels.

Video Icon

His band, Boomtown Rats, was one of those that worked its way into heavy rotation during the earliest days of MTV (when they actually played music videos and didn’t have that many to rotate). With a slight bit of concentration, I can still hear the melancholy sound of their one hit, “Up All Night.”

African jungle
Big City Street
The only real difference
is in the people you meet

It was one of those songs you saw on MTV, but never heard on Top 40 radio (I was much too young to be in tune with “college radio,” where these songs got any radio time at all). The tune was catchy and it had one of those hooks that stayed with me. In 1982, I didn’t yet know Geldof by name, but I knew his band, and I knew him by sight.
Humanitarian Icon

Christmastime 1984. The new single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was all over the radio and MTV. I was almost 13 and just starting to think that I knew a little something about the world. Then I heard this song:

At Christmastime it’s hard,
but when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window,
and it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing
is the bitter sting of tears

It opened my eyes to a world completely different than my own. And Bob Geldof made it happen.

MTV had the video in heavy rotation and made every effort to tell the story behind it. Bob Geldof saw a news report about the African famine in October of 1984. He was moved to do something about it. Even then, Geldof was pragmatc in his approach. He knew that he didn’t have a high enough profile to generate much interest on his own, so he pulled strings and called in favors and got some of the biggest names in the music business to help produce the single as “Band Aid”. It surpassed anyone’s expectations and became the biggest selling single in UK history (since passed by Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” tribute to Princess Di). Oh by the way, it raised millions for famine relief.

July 13th, 1985. Do you remember where you were? I know exactly where I was. Glued to the TV watching everyone who was anyone in the music business give one of the greatest concerts of all time. The Live Aid concert incorporated almost 80 acts in multiple locations and lasted for 16 hours. It raised almost $250 million for Ethiopian famine relief. Again, Geldof was the driving force behind the colossal effort.

I remember going to the opening of Houston’s Hard Rock Cafe in November 1986. It was a big event for an almost 15 hipster like myself. To me, the coolest artifacts on display were the shoes that Bob Geldof wore during the Live Aid concert.
Cultural Icon

It wasn’t until I got to college in the fall of 1990 that I saw what was probably Bob Geldof’s crowning artistic achievement. I had grown up with Pink Floyd in the background of my cultural consciousness. They were one of those bands that I knew existed, but never paid them much attention. I’d heard a few of their songs, but none that really grabbed me. Although, like any child of the late 70’s and 80’s, I could belt out “Hey! Teachers! Leave us kids alone!” with the best of them.

My roommate during my freshman year, Jack, was a music snob (a la John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity), and he found it absolutely abhorrent that I had never seen Pink Floyd’s The Wall . So we sat down one Friday night and watched it from beginning to end. As soon as I realized that Bob Geldof (playing the lead role of Pink Floyd) was involved, I was hooked. I can’t say I understand every part of the movie, but the visuals and music were definitely entertaining. I’ll echo what critics have said for years and tell you that Bob Geldof absolutely nailed the portrayal of the tormented Pink. To this day, when I hear a Pink Floyd song, even if it’s not from The Wall, the face I associate with the music isn’t Roger Waters’ or David Gilmour’s, but Bob Geldof’s.
Back in the Spotlight

Over the past twenty years, the world hasn’t heard much from Bob Geldof. He has steadfastly refused to try and recapture the magic of Live Aid with another concert. That is until now. Geldof, U2’s Bono, and screenwriter Richard Curtis are at the helm of next month’s Live 8 concert. The goal of this effort is to raise international awareness of the effects of extreme poverty and to push an agenda aimed at alleviating or eliminating poverty in Africa. The agenda calls for a doubling of aid budgets, the elimination of African debt, and a change in trade laws to allow for greater fairness. The timing of the concert is specific, hoping to catch the attention of the leaders of the G8 countries prior to a summit later in the month.
Why the Respect?

Some of you might ask why I am touting the rekindled respect I have for Bob Geldof. I’ve been quick to criticize the One Campaign and its supporters, and they’re basically doing the same thing as Geldof. What makes Geldof so different? For me, it’s the pragmatic approach he has taken to this effort. He really wants to see the effort succeed, and he knows that in order for it to succeed, he must draw the G8 leader’s attention instead of pushing them away. He has recently issued instructions to all of the performers to stay on focus. He reminds them that the point of this concert is to raise awareness of the effects of poverty, and that it is not a platform from which to proclaim their disdain for the Bush Administration’s policies in Iraq and on global warming. He’s getting a little pushback from the artists about their desire to express their “righteous anger” with the administration. They just don’t get it. But Geldof does.

He can cut through the politics and recognize good things when they are happening. Here’s a quote from him that appears in the recent Time article about the Live 8 organizers:

“Actually, today I had to defend the Bush Administration in France again. They refuse to accept, because of their political ideology, that he has actually done more than any American President for Africa. But it’s empirically so.”

Forget politics. Geldof cares about results. I won’t go as far as saying that I agree with every aspect of the Live 8 effort, but I respect it more because someone like Geldof is involved. Will he get the results he hopes for? I don’t know, but for someone that can get the original lineup of Pink Floyd together, I wouldn’t say anything is impossible.

p.s. You can sign the petition at the Live 8 website without putting your e-mail address in! But then, you won’t get any e-mail from Bono or Madonna. Suit yourself.