Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Borders' Web site offered free shipping with orders of $25 or more. The book I had in mind was John Krakauer's new one, "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman." I loved Krakauer's "Into the Wild," and I've been fascinated by Tillman's tale. So I put it in my shopping cart. Then I had some money left over on the gift card so I thought, what the hell, let's give Dan Brown's newest yarn, "The Lost Symbol," a try. (By the way, Mr. Brown - "The Lost Symbol"? Really? Couldn't you have thought of a more intriguing title?)
I placed the order. I'll admit here that I also get some kind of strange pleasure from tracking packages. I got my tracking number and the games began.
Now, a warning to you fellow online shoppers: BEWARE FedEx SMART POST! The "Smart Post" part is the key. What this means is FedEx ships your package to your city and then hands if off to the U.S. Postal Service to bring it to your door. So that means not one but TWO major international carriers get a chance to lose your package.
That's exactly what happened to me.
I've been on the phone with FedEx and the local post office (Oh, joy!), and they don't know where the hell my books are.
Just now, though, I called Borders' customer care line. A very nice lady didn't hesitate at all to ship me a new order at no additional charge. And, she's gonna ship it with FedEx express, not this lousy Smart Post option.
This was perhaps the best customer service I'd ever received from a major company, which felt especially nice after dealing with the Postal Service and FedEx for several days.
So by Friday I should have my Krakauer book, which I'll read for dinner. The Dan Brown book I'll savor for dessert.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
My question is this: Who is faster -- Butler or Betancourt?
Sounds silly, eh? Well, on paper it isn't even a race. But in practice... well ... on a ground ball potential double-play on the infield, Butler beats Betancourt to first base by two strides.
I don't know how the powers that be can stand to watch anymore of this kid at short. If they respect baseball, it has to be tough.
-- Lofflin, getting a chuckle out of one of the dumbest police chases ever.
The basics: Man steals tow truck in Johnson County, man gets chased through KCK by police, man drives into Missouri, man drives toward Kansas City International Airport, man wrecks into taxicab, man tries to flee on foot, man gets his ass handed to him by a tackling police officer.
What makes the story great is the driver's decision to drive into the airport. First of all, the only way to get out of KCI is to go back the way you came - right into the arms of the law. Second of all, KCI has its own well-trained, armed police force. Maybe he was planning to break into one of the terminals and catch a flight to Fiji.
Anyway, watch the local news tonight. It's a good thing.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The Chiefs will line up against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. The Eagles' starting quarterback, Donovan McNabb, is recovering from an injury, so McNabb's backup will start the game.
And you know McNabb's backup: NFL bad boy and convicted felon Michael Vick.
Vick is quite possibly going to tear the Chiefs and their weak defensive attack to shreds. If that happens, and if McNabb comes back and falters, then we got ourselves a good, old-fashioned quarterback controversy.
Remember the Kansas City quarterback controversies of recent years? Trent Green vs. Damon Huard? Elvis Grbac vs. Rich Gannon? Those ain't nothing compared to what would happen in Philly. Imagine a normal QB controversy. Then add a dose of soap opera and a pinch of reality television. Finally stir in an episode of "COPS" and the massive East Coast sports media.
It could be huge. And the Kansas City Chiefs could help get that ball rolling this Sunday.
At least then the Chiefs would have something to show for this season.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Today, I passed the seventy five thousand word mark.
I have three chapters left, too, which should add another 10,000 words or so.
After I finish my first draft, I’m going to put it in a drawer for a couple days. Maybe me and the missus will take a little road trip. Before I take a crack at the second draft, I think it would be wise to get away from these characters that have been swarming around my mind for the last six months or so.
Then it’ll be about time to see if anyone wants to publish this sucker.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Check out the used book sale at West Wyandotte Library, 82nd and Parallel in KCK. Today and tomorrow only. $1 for hardcovers, movies and CDs, 50 cents for paper backs. Jamie and I just spent $9.50 and left with a whole sackful.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Although my old-man eyesight is quickly fading and I have to be in bed by 9 p.m., I've also had time to do some reading lately. My most recent baseball novel conquest "Box Socials" by W.P. Kinsella.
Kinsella found success and fortune with his classic baseball novel, "Shoeless Joe," and he worked hard to make lightning strike again with his later novels, many of which also focused on the game. "Box Socials" starts with a little bit of baseball and ends with a little bit of baseball, but the middle is filled with a whole lot of something else.
Now, most baseball novels I've read aren't really about baseball at all. But most of "Box Socials" takes place so far away from the game, I'd be hesitant to call it a baseball novel if it was written by anyone else.
Before I read "Box Socials," I had a couple opinions of the novel to choose from. John says he didn't like it at all, but my wife - whom we've proven is much smarter than me - absolutely loves this book. Not surprisingly, I fall somewhere in the middle.
The first section of "Box Socials" works really well. We're introduced to a unique, rural area outside of Edmonton, Alberta, referred to as the Six Towns and the interesting and oddly-named people who live there through the eyes of a wonderful unreliable narrator. But in the second section, the previously-unnamed narrator is suddenly given a name. I'm not sure why; I think Kinsella could have easily found a way to write the book without revealing the narrator's identity.
Anyway. "Box Socials" tells the story - in a roundabout way - of Truckbox Al McClintock, a ballplayer in the Six Towns area who once hit five home runs in one game, four of them into and one clean across the Pembina River. Because of his display, Truckbox Al was given a chance to play in an exhibition game "against a team of genuine Major Leaguers, which included Bob Feller, Hal Newhouser, and Joe DiMaggio himself."
That's all set up in the first couple pages. The exhibition game takes place on the last couple pages of the book. Baseball is only mentioned in passing the rest of the way through.
But the stuff in the middle is not necessarily bad. It's just different. The writing style is at times delightful, but its use of repetitive phrases can be downright infuriating. I'd venture to say "Box Socials" is more well-written than "Shoeless Joe," which had its flaws in style, but of course Kinsella's most famous work had a much more classic and timeless story.
"Box Socials" is not your typical baseball book. In fact, it's not really a baseball book at all. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't read it.
I think if Kinsella had found a way to conceal the identity of his narrator, "Box Socials" might be his best work. But what we have instead is a novel that is complex and over-simple, beautiful and ugly all at the same time.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Maureen Dowd reads the Henry Wiggen Blog, too ... Welcome aboard, Maureen. Race is not just a factor in America -- it is America
Dowd's column yesterday, which vaulted like an Atlas rocket to number one on the Times most e-mailed list, was obviously written after reading "Message from a guy who feels alone sometimes in his fear of Obama and the shifting sands..." on this blog.
Dowd dared take our thinking a step farther. The money line in her column, buried pretty deep inside, was this: "Some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it."
You can read the assertions of the discussion board poster we featured in "Message from a guy who feels alone..." in a similar manner. If you recall, he was "personally" hurt by this line in President Obama's speech to school children: "There is no excuse for failure." Our poster guy who "feels alone" sometimes in his fear of Obama, told us Obama's line to the school children about failure was "snobbish." He said not having an education sucked bad enough without the president rubbing it in. He said there were reasons for his academic failure, but he was still a noble human being.
And, he said, he didn't have to prove himself to Obama. He might just as easily have said, "And I don't have to prove myself to some uppity black man."
Or, "how did HE get ahead of me in line?"
To borrow a catch phrase from Richard Nixon, ( Or Lyndon Johnson, can't remember which ... and if you can you probably weren't there) what we have here is a vocal minority and a silent majority. The silent majority voted for Barack Obama in a landslide, accepted his presidency, and left the driving to the bus driver.
The vocal minority, as Dowd points out, could not accept the outcome. This is somewhat unprecedented in American presidential politics. Except for the still too-close-to-call 2000 election, Americans have been able to elect their presidents and let them be -- for a time. Nobody has to leave the country on a midnight flight, nobody hangs, nobody goes to prison, and nobody is tried for war crimes (so far) if they lose. The winner is, well, the winner, the will of the people, and life goes on. In due time we begin criticising the incumbent and organizing for the next election.
It is a sign of a civilized democracy when elections are conducted in this manner.
But, not this time. And, you have to ask yourself a simple question. Why? Why not this time?
In my opinion, Dowd nailed the reason. Race. And, she also cut through the fog to nail the signs of race in this rancor. "I've been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer," Dowd wrote, " -- the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi, a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids -- had much to do with race."
I've long thought nearly everything in America has to do with race. Race is the cultural heritage of this country. (By the way, Henry Wiggen did not shy away from the role race played on the New York Mammoths.) First, no people, in my opinion, who deal in slaves ever recover fully from that stain. Second, the very nature of this democracy is diversity -- the delicate set of rules designed to allow the majority to rule and the minority to be protected. This is complicated for us because we have no idea what the perfect American society would look like. We are yet a dynamic nation -- perhaps the most perpetually immature developed nation on earth. I mean 'immature' in a good sense. Finally, race has just always been there nagging at us, underlying our whispers and our fears.
We have a long tradition of searching for Others to blame, probably because we are a nation composed of Others. When Woodrow Wilson wrote the history of America in five volumes, he provided a list of Others as virulently racist as anything any South Carolina senator might shout. "Ignorant and hostile Negro voting in the South should be stopped forthwith, though perhaps some of the methods (Lofflin -- lynching) were distasteful," he wrote.
But the soon-to-be-president didn't stop there. He could understand some of the prejudice against Asians, he wrote, with their "yellow skin and strange, debasing habits of life."
On a roll now, Wilson hacked into another set of Others. He saw yet more Others in the white skin of many of those in today's tea party revolution, those who sport long and complicated last names: those "multitudes of men of the lowest class from the south of Italy, and men of meaner sort out of Hungary and Poland, men of the ranks where there was neither skill nor energy nor any initiative of given intelligence ..." These men, he said, had often come to America, "to speak treasons elsewhere forbidden."
And, so, we come to a crossroad in America where a new president is, for some, an Other. They are so angry about this they can't believe it has happened. They discredit him by drawing Hitler mustaches on his picture or imagining him as the evil Joker from Batman comics, or questioning beyond all reason, his birthplace, in a desperate effort to roll back this unbelievable clock of history and disqualify him from the presidency before he even runs.
They need all this to soothe their anger and their fear. And now, even as we speak, he is telling young African Americans and Asians and Latinos (an emerging political force in South Carolina...) he sees no excuse for them not to succeed, for them not to be president. As our softball poster said, if you are white in America and missed out on an education, this just sucks.
-- Lofflin, saying 'Welcome aboard, Maureen.'
PPS: The Google advertisement on the page where this is written urges us to "Support Joe Wilson." Such irony.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I wrote last month that the best-case scenario for the Royals would be if they'd win every fifth game to give Zack Greinke a chance at the Cy Young Award and lose all the rest of the games. Since I wrote that, they've pretty much done the opposite, winning a lot but losing for Greinke, or at least winning but not getting the win for Greinke.
This is a disaster. The Royals are blowing their chance at a decent draft pick (or, at least, the one decent draft pick that's gonna matter next year).
But hey, at least we have Dayton Moore signed to a long-term extension and Trey Hillman coming back next year and Jose Guillen with one year left on his deal...
Saturday, September 12, 2009
I saw an interesting thread on there recently that may give some perspective on the state of the nation. Don't think of this in a condescending manner because it isn't meant to be. I'm sure plenty of the loud and rancorous conservatives gathering everywhere from the Capital to local parks have plenty of education and carefully considered opinions. And, I learned long ago the number of years a person goes to school has little to do with their intelligence or moral bearing.
But perhaps this thread provides insight. One poster who regularly posts angry-at-Obama messages, started a thread about the over-the-edge behavior of the senator from South Carolina. (Strom Thurman is dead, so it couldn't be him.) He said the senator spoke for him. Since when is it wrong to call a liar 'a liar?' he asked. He even had problems with Obama's plea for more civil discussion.
Well, a couple of more liberal softball posters happened to be on-line at the time and they let him have it, pointing out that he had not been able to supply any evidence Obama lied about illegal aliens not being covered by health care legislation. (I'm not proud of Obama for this, by the way...)
Obama "scares" him, he wrote back.
Some posters asked him why he was scared. The answer, of course, is because he watches Glenn Beck, but he didn't admit to such.
Finally, he sort of broke down, as much as you can break down virtually.
I guess one of my problems is sometimes I just feel really alone in the way I think, he wrote. He said he has a tendency to think he is the "only person on the planet" concerned about the things that scare him. Then he tries to regain his footing saying a lot of people come up to him and say they are scared of Obama, but since he has already told us how alone he feels, this ploy doesn't seem authentic.
You start to get a feel for him, and, just maybe, for these others who are actually finding community in their Nazi posters and Joker signs, their fear, and their hatred of liberals. And, of course, finding brotherhood in the way the earth beneath their feet has been shaking after a black man was elected president.
A few posts later, comes this about Obama's speech to the children. It really got under his skin, he said. I'm waiting to hear why because I could find nothing momentous in that speech.
Turns out the phrase that hurt him "on a personal level" was "there's no excuse for not trying harder."
What a puzzler. How could anyone object to that phrase in a speech to school children? What followed fills in the blanks.
It came across as "snobbish," he said. His "missing out" on an education sucks enough, he says, without the president rubbing it in. Then the president has to teach a whole generation of kids 'there's no excuse'? he asks. It is as if the president is saying people with little or no education are less honorable or dignified.
Then the president made it seem, he said, like baseball and rap music are a waste of time and those are two things he enjoys. The president, he said, was making him out to be a villain.
Then some guy comes on thinking the problems with the dollar are just part of a conspiracy to "merge" the United States with Mexico and Canada. So much for rational thought. A small skirmish breaks out over this topic.
But the guy who started the whole thing comes back later. There were reasons for his academic failures, he says. Does this make him less noble? Does he have to prove anything to Obama? The president is passing judgment on everybody who has ever failed in school, the guys says.
Now, you can speculate on whether the word "uppity" fits in here before Obama in each reference. But, if the guy is sincere -- and you never know when you deal with people on-line -- you have to feel for him. And, you have to wonder if his sense of this changing world isn't bearing down on the folks who create these wonderfully original -- but often around the bend -- signs and get themselves out to tea parties. Just a thought. I wonder...
Friday, September 11, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Tonight the president of the United States delivered a long awaited speech on health care reform. Frankly, it is difficult to imagine he has not been reading the two most recent posts on the Henry Wiggen Blog. We, of course, welcome him as a reader and hope he signs on to follow the blog regularly.
The titles of our past two entries are:
What has this nation come to? and
We are, as a people, better than this
Read how the president translated our thoughts in those two posts for the stirring close to his big speech tonight:
"Because that is who we are. That is our calling. That is our character."
It was interesting to hear what a great speaker could do with our humble thoughts. We thank you, Mr. President, for doing this, just as we thank the late Senator Ted Kennedy for supply you with the interesting notion this health care debate is about nothing less than the quality of our national character.
--Lofflin, never shy about giving credit where it is due
Monday, September 7, 2009
As a people we are better than the misguided, misled souls who shouted down a woman in a wheelchair at a town hall meeting last week.
In fact, we are a better people than the fevered town hall shriekers shouting down their congressmen and congresswomen with this silly season's particularly effective mix of selfishness and fear they heard on the radio and the television.
As a people we are braver than this. We are braver than to believe in an America capable of the evil a few of us somehow imagine. An America with death panels? Come on. We are smarter than this. We are.
As a people we are not so selfish as to turn out backs on the terrible stories of the uninsured Americans. We hear about their plight and we do not look away. We are not a dog-eat-dog America. We are not going to let 47 million Americans go without proper health care. Or 37 million or 27 million or 17 million or 7 million, no matter how the critics want to whittle down the numbers. We are not a people to look away.
And, we are not a people to get mired down in whether illegal immigrants can be treated in hospitals at our expense. (After all, they are the ones climbing all over your roof in the heat of summer putting on fresh tar paper and tile. Do you have any idea what that new roof would cost if you insisted on only American citizens doing the job? They take the risk, you keep the cash...) We won't be distracted from the desire to provide good health care for all Americans by such an obviously contrived rat trail.
We are better than the frightened Minnesota senator who thinks AmeriCorp could become a front for re-educating dissidents after liberal fascism takes over. Take a breath and just think about this idea a minute and tell me you don't think we are, as a people, better than this senator.
This will sound funny to say, but we are, as a people, better than our politicians, better than our rich and famous few, better than our Madoffs and our Palins, better than our shouters and talkers on television and radio, and way better than our Idol judges and Millionaire contestants and all the real housewives you can round up. We are, as a people, better than our politics and we are better than our popular culture. Our politics and our popular culture are quite often an embarrassment to us, as a people, the crazy uncle you hope doesn't show up for Thanksgiving this year.
We are not a nation of Dittoheads and Beckites and Madoffs. We are a strong, sensible, caring people.
PPS: We are, by the way, prouder and stronger than the few folks among us who worry their children will be turned into socialists by an American president speaking to them at school. Of all the silliness going around, this is the most surprising. Surely we are better than this. And surely we think more of our children. And just as surely, certainly, we think more of the president, even if he is a person of color who wants everyone to have health care, no matter where we think he was born.
I am worried about the president's speech tomorrow. Hidden cleverly near the end is this: "Don't be afraid to ask questions." Oh my, is this what we really want for our children? Oh my. Keep your children home, for heaven's sake.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Are parents really concerned that President Obama will try to change their children in some way? That's just patently ridiculous. He's gonna tell them to study hard and stay in school. And when that message comes from the president, I think it might carry a little more weight with kids than it would coming from mom or dad or Mrs. Crumplebottom.
I've tried to pretend I'm impartial. What if I had kids in the school system when George W. Bush was president? Would I have minded if President Bush gave an address to my children and all their peers in school, even though I disagreed with many of his policies?
NO! Of course I wouldn't have minded! As much as I didn't care for Mr. Bush, I still respected him as the President of the United States. I even went well out of my way to see the man speak once during his visit to Kansas City.
So let's give our president - who was elected by a landslide, by the way - the benefit of the doubt. Let him encourage your kids, for God's sake. Maybe they'll actually listen.
-- Matt Kelsey
Friday, September 4, 2009
"Immediate gratification" is your problem Royals fans; you keep expecting your team to win and your players to play with heart and pride...
Retaining his manager for next season was not his biggest mistake. Arrogance was his biggest mistake in speaking with the Kansas City Star yesterday.
Not taking personal responsibility was also indefensible.
His criticism of Luke Hochevar for providing this team's latest laughable moment was legitimate. (Of course, you should never turn down a good laugh in a hundred loss season...) But, throwing Hochevar under the bus just raises a really embarrassing question for Moore and the scouting system.
Who in the world would have thought Luke Hochevar a number one draft pick? Longoria and Lincecum were available. A simple question here: What, exactly, is Hochevar's dominant pitch? What, exactly, is his out pitch? What, exactly, did the scouts see?
Hate to open this can of worms again, but you have to guess Longoria and Lincecum's level of faith just wasn't strong enough (or visible enough) to entice the Royals' scouting department.
It is just hard to imagine what they saw in him otherwise.
And Moore has since stocked the team with veterans who make a baseball lover cry. You don't need a list -- you know already from Yabuta to Gullien. Good teams are strong up the middle. No need to say more, Moore.
But, unfortunately, he did.
“In our immediate-gratification society,” he said, “everybody wants to point fingers. But from what I’ve seen from everything that goes on in this organization, Trey Hillman’s leadership is one of the strengths of our organization... People can debate that, and I know they will, but it’s one of the strengths of our organization because the guy is a winner and he works and he cares.”
The arrogance of anyone describing the fans of this once proud franchise (20 years hence) in terms of immediate-gratification is obvious. But hidden in that gem is the real problem. The only ways you can call Hillman a winner are in his personal life because he has won nothing in Major League baseball on the field. His leadership on Sunday mornings is sound, and you have to applaud him for it, but he has not been able to lead a team of young men to play hard, or smart, or with heart, or to motivate them to master the fundamentals of a game that absolutely depends on the fundamentals unless you have the talent god mistakenly gave Manny Ramirez
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Somebody has to go: Yabuta and his 27.0 ERA a good candidate... Even if he is Hillman's buddy from his time in the Japanese leagues
Question: Will Yabuta (era=27.0) or Chen (era=5.54) still be with the team by 5 p.m.? Should they?
Yabuta just threw two-thirds of an inning and gave up five runs, five earned runs, on five hits.
Chen walked two, hit one and gave up two hits among the seven hitters he faced.
This is intolderable. Just plain intolerable. Help!
I laid out my arguments in a clear and concise manner. When I was done, she gave me a stern look.
"If my father had died," she said, "I would be a wreck. I'd need you there with me."
Of course, she's right.
While I still believe Trey Hillman was delinquent for missing part of Spring Training and some early-season games, I can't fault the man for cutting out now, when the season is a shambles anyway, to go to the funeral. Not for his father-in-law, but for his wife.
As usual, my wonderful wife was the one who set me straight. We'll be celebrating our sixth anniversary later this month. It's been the six happiest years of my life.
-- Matt Kelsey
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
According to the Royals Web site, manager Trey Hillman is going to be gone from the bench the next three games to attend his father-in-law's funeral.
Earlier in the season, Hillman missed three games to be at his father-in-law's bedside and, if memory serves me right, he missed a sizable chunk of Spring Training because of his father-in-law's sickness.
So that means Hillman will have missed six games this season as well as part of Spring Training.
I understand the need to tend to sick relatives, and the need to grieve the loss of loved ones. But... I'm sorry, this guy is the manager of a Major League Baseball team. He can't miss six games and part of Spring Training in a single season. That's just ridiculous.
I can't begin to speculate on the relationship between Hillman and his father-in-law. It must be pretty damn strong. I won't say he should miss less time because it's his father-in-law and not his actual biological father. But I do know a player would never get six days off to tend to a dying relative. Never, not even a star player.
There's something weird going on here. General Manager Dayton Moore, who just got the job security of a four-year contract extension, must be have a real soft spot for Trey Hillman. When the skipper left in Spring Training to be by his father-in-law's bedside, Dayton Moore went with him.
Trey Hillman is a religious man, and I don't blame him for saying family comes first. It just seems like a double standard is being applied.
-- Matt Kelsey