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Sunday, August 30, 2009

A hearty F-U from the USPS 



The United States Postal Service has taken to giving Durham the proverbial bird all summer long. Ostensibly a government service, the inefficient, inscrutable, opaque USPS has decided not to offer service in many of its Durham branches this summer. The bums are closing the main downtown post office at 2pm. The losers fail to offer an automatic teller machine that sells stamps or stickers packages in this, the main Durham branch. For fuck's sake, there are 217,000 people in this city, the Postal Service can't come up with one automated machine at the main downtown branch!!!

They need to fire a few of their lax, lazy-ass supervisors and they could afford quite a few more machines.

Maybe there are those of you who think, well, they are closing the main post office three hours early and not opening at all on Saturday, perhaps we could go to the 27705 branch off of La Salle Street. Ha! Nope! They are closed at 2pm also. However, at least La Salle Street does offer an automatic postal machine. Unfortunately, the USPS specializes in finding new ways to inconvenience their patrons; the machine does not accept cash!

Perhaps the 27704 post office is better. After all, the USPS just spent the money to relocate that branch across the street to a new location, from the horrible dump with atrocious nearly impassable parking lot, where they had it. Of course it is not better, it is perhaps even more infuriating than any of them. During peak hours (when most of the other post offices in town have knocked off early) this post office is manned by a mere one counter employee. There is no automatic postal machine.

These jerks found time and money to sponsor a bike team for eight years!?! If the Clarion Content had its way, the Post Office would be forbidden from advertising, and forced to redirect those expenditures into improving service and efficiency with a particular emphasis on automated service machines. (Including one's that accept cash, seriously, the grocery store has them.)

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Nice work Arkansas 


The smiling face of Arkansas Football

The Arkansas football program has to just feel right proud of itself about now. They have truly done some fascinating work in the last couple of years. Sure was a good call driving Houston Nutt out of town so you could bring in the classy Bobby Petrino, Razorbacks. Hope you enjoyed going 2 up and 6 down in the SEC last year. It probably wasn't too hard to swallow the irony of Coach Nutt going 9 and 4 and winning the Cotton Bowl with perennial SEC doormat, Ole Miss. Now this year, Coach Nutt has the Ole Miss Rebels ranked in the top ten in the preseason polls.

What? Arkansas expectations aren't quite that high? You don't say.

Well, at least you can say that all this running off Coach Nutt happened over what was a good cause. The ever-whining Mitch Mustain has done an admirable job holding down the third string quarterback job at USC. He holds a clipboard real well.

Nice work, Razorback-nation. Reap what you sow.

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What are they watching...Episode I 

The Clarion Content is inaugurating a new feature in the Pop Culture section this week called, "What are they watching?" The they in questions refers to the adults of the future, young folks, under seventeen. YouTube is the venue of choice, and we are relying on input from our public to generate this column. We hope to feature a new video weekly. And as always, we appreciate your feedback.


This week we bring you, "A Word with Nathan..." from DesandNate of Sandpoint, Idaho.

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Is Oasis breaking up? 

The BBC reports that Noel Gallagher has quit the Manchester U.K. rock band Oasis. Brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher have had a long history of feuding. According to the BBC, "The brothers have always had a fractious relationship, and a string of tours have fallen apart over the past 15 years." This is however, the first time either brother has officially quit the group.

Noel was quoted, "It's with some sadness and great relief to tell you that I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer. Apologies to all the people who bought tickets for the shows in Paris, Konstanz and Milan."

Oasis has reportedly sold over 50 million albums since 1993.

Bummer. Read the whole story here.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Doubles record 



Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell broke a five way tie for most consecutive season with 25 doubles or more by a third baseman. In doing so, he removed some illustrious names from the record books. They included three legendary Hall of Famers, Wade Boggs, George Brett and Brooks Robinson. These third sackers all had nine consecutive season with at least 25 doubles.

The fourth fellow involved in the record, Harland "Darkie" Clift was much more obscure. Mr. Clift toiled for St. Louis Browns and the Washington Senators between 1934 and 1945. Clift was quite a player in his time. He held the single season record for most home runs by a third baseman from 1937 until 1952. He also apparently had a great eye, drawing more than 100 walks for six straight years. An All-Star only once Clift was third in the league in triples in 1934 as a 21-year-old rookie, third in the league in homers for 1938 and second in the league in doubles in 1942. Now, he is on one less page of the record book.

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Australian Fossil Field 



In the northern Australian state of Queensland, near the town of Eromanga, an area that once used to be a vast inland sea, is yielding a bumper crop fossils. According to the BBC, Australian scientists discovered a nearly complete fossil of a new species of dinosaur, a large plant-eating sauropod.

The scientists have nicknamed the fossil Zac. Zac, like other sauropods, had a very long neck, a small head and blunt teeth, and a long tail to counter-balance the weight of the neck. The remains are estimated to be 97 million years old. According to the Australian scientists the area, now a sheep farm, will yield many more fascinating fossil finds in the coming years.

Read more here.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Even the so-called countercyclical 



The Clarion Content has heard repeatedly in the midst of this nasty economic storm that certain vice industries are countercyclical. Alcohol is the most often cited example. We also hear that the lottery and gambling, in general, do well. While we haven't had time to do an extensive survey, we did run across an article in the LA Times about one big vice industry that is not doing so well, porn.

That's right, its tough times in the porn business amidst this nasty recession. Talking to the ladies at Hustler's 35th anniversary party the Times reports that fees performers are receiving per scene are down 30%. The actors and actresses are getting less because there is less competition for their services, naturally. The Times says, "Industry insiders estimate that since 2007, revenue for most adult production and distribution companies has declined 30% to 50%." They also report a sharp decline in the number of new productions.

The porn biz is getting nailed in more ways than one, its not just the economy, but the technology. There is so much free porn on the internet that who needs to pay for it? The Times says, "Sites like Pornhub, YouPorn and RedTube attract more users than TMZ and the Huffington Post." And they go on to quote the president Vivid Entertainment, he says, "The death of the DVD business has been more accelerated in the adult business than mainstream." Unfortunately for the industry, porn on the internet generates lots of traffic, but very little revenue.

The porn industry at its peak has been estimated to be as big as $13 billion annually. While on one level it will be interesting to evaluate the way it comes through these turbulent times, on another level, it is a reminder of just how wide ranging the implications of a bad economy can be. Because, no doubt, as the Times notes, performers are being pressured to more for less (as always in the porn biz, particularly women).

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Could be our Mayor 



Don't know if you heard about this one dear reader, but after reading the Associated Press story, we have decided that we would take the Mayor of Milwaukee as our Mayor any time.

As it unfolded, the Mayor, Tom Barrett, was at the Wisconsin State Fair with his family. He had his wife, his kids and his niece with him. They were leaving the fair grounds, walking across one of the huge parking lots that surround it when they heard a woman confronting an assailant yelling for someone to call the police. Mayor Barrett stepped between the woman and her attacker who was brandishing a lead pipe. The mayor tried to restore calm to the situation, and though unarmed he was attacked when he attempted to call 911.

He sustained a fractured hand, and stitches to the head and mouth. The woman was not hurt and the perp fled on foot from the scene. The mayor's one regret according to his spokesman was that was his family had to witness the incident that left him hospitalized.

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Not so welcome in Virgina 


from South Hill to Richmond

The sign on the interstate reads, "Welcome to Virginia" as one heads across the state line, the reality is tangibly different. Virgina, like many states post the despotic reign of King George the II, is grappling with massive and debilitating state budget shortfalls. Various states are dealing with these budgetary crises in a manifest number of ways, one may recall reading in these pages that the state of California was issuing IOUs. Delaware is trying to legalize sports betting. Virginia has a plan of its own, in short, super expensive speeding tickets.

Any speeding ticket in Virginia for where the driver is clocked at over 80 miles per hour is a minimum $412 including fine and court costs. Holy mackerel! One ticket equals $412 is a punishment that stokes the fires of the Clarion Content's libertarian furnace. The fact that the punishment is pecuniary rather than custodial, that is, monetary rather than jail time, makes it uniquely anti-poor. A second speeding ticket over 80 miles per hour in Virginia within three years is a $1000 fine. The same penalties apply at lower speeds if the driver is more than 20 miles an hour over the speed limit. Not only is a lower income person likely to be more effected by a speeding ticket with a huge fine, they are less likely to be able to afford a lawyer to fight it.

Interesting side note, one of the legislative sponsors for the bill state Delegate David B. Albo (R-Springfield), is reportedly a partner in a traffic law firm.

The less than bemusing flip side of the budgetary coin in Virginia has frustrating ramifications for driver's too. Not content with soaking motorists wallets, Virginia has been cutting back on highway amenities, as well. Virginia has closed numerous state operated rest stops. Interstate 85 between the North Carolina border and the capital Richmond features a series of rest stops with sand barrels connected by chains blocking their entrances from the highway. Not such a pretty sight if one is hoping empty the bladder!

Drivers beware, the sign says, "Welcome to Virginia," the evidence says otherwise.

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Funny or Pathetic? 

Ostensibly these are the winners of an International Pun Contest (unedited). They hold those? Really?


This man represents the average age of people who found these funny.

9. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The Stewardess
looks at him and says, ‘I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per
passenger.

8. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says,
‘Dam!’

7. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the
craft. Unsurprisingly, it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your
kayak and heat it, too.

6. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, ‘I’ve lost my electron.’ The other
says, ‘Are you sure?’ The first replies, ‘Yes, I’m positive.’

5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

4. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in
the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour,
the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. But why they asked, as they moved off. ‘Because,’ he said, ‘I can’t stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer.’

3. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named Ahmal. The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him Juan. Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, ‘They’re twins! If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Ahmal.’

2. A group of friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened a
small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from
the men of god, a rival florist across town thought the competition was
unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to ‘persuade’ them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he’d be back if they didn’t close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

1. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which
produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little,
which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad
breath. This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Oy vey!

Now that something you don't see every day 


No two exactly alike?

The New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies demonstrated one of the fundamentally great things about baseball yesterday. Baseball's continuing potential for uniqueness is almost endless. Of all the ways that baseball mimics life, this is one of the most pleasurable. In approximately, 173,000 baseball games played since 1900 never before has a team started a game with an inside the park home run and ended with an unassisted triple play.

With his team already trailing 6-0, centerfielder Angel Pagan led off the bottom of the first for the Mets with an inside the park home run. It was several hours later his teammate Jeff Francouer ended the game with a line drive to Phillies second sacker Eric Bruntlett. Bruntlett, who had made the misplays that led to the first and second, none out situation, recorded only the 15th unassisted triple play in major league baseball history. An unassisted triple play occurs when one defensive player records all three outs in an inning without help. As it did yesterday, it normally happens on a line drive to a middle infielder with a double steal underway. It is among baseball's rarest feats, just slightly rarer than the perfect game, just slightly more common than someone hitting two grand slam home runs in the same game. It had been merely 82 years since a game ended on an unassisted triple play.

Two other news and notes items from the Clarion Content's Sports Editor's desk.

First, it looks like the American League's Most Valuable Player race is coming down to the Yankee's MVP, as in, pick the most valuable Yankee and you have got the A.L. MVP. There is a groundswell of support in New York for Derek Jeter to get the award, as he has never won one. He is having a remarkable season in a Hall of Fame career. He is hitting .332, he trails only the mighty Ichiro in total base hits on the season, and is 5th in runs scored. He is playing better defense than he has in ages, stealing bases and providing the stability and consistency in a pressure packed Yankee clubhouse.

On the other side of the room, Mark Teixera has been impeccable. His Gold Glove caliber defense has made Jeter, Cano and the third baseman look so much better than old iron gloved Jason Giambi did. He is leading the team in homers and RBI, he is second in the American League in both categories. He is also second in total bases. It is hard to bet against the best player, on the best team for the MVP.

The other item from the sports desk is much less of a sure thing. For some reason we still have a feeling the Minnesota Twins are going to sneak up and steal the A.L. Central from the clutches of the Tigers and the White Sox. Those two teams have had a lot of time and chances to leave the Twinkies in the dust, but have been meandering around .500 for far too long. Minnesota is 4.5 games back entering play today. The White Sox have to face the Red Sox, while Tigers take on the A.L. West leading Angels. The Twins, on the other hand, open a set with the A.L. East cupcakes, the Baltimore Orioles. The Twins have the two best players of any of the teams in the Central, in Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. It says here they could be right there for first place by the beginning of next week and in the thick of the race the rest of the way.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

All Apologies 


We swear this picture was not taken at our offices...

All our humblest apologies, dear readers. If you are one of our regulars, all the more so, because we know that the rate of posts herein has slowed from our ideal of daily, to a trickle over the last two months. We can but beg your forgiveness, dear readers, and announce that the time we usually devote to this space was otherwise well spent.

The Clarion Content has moved and retrofitted our physical Durham, North Carolina offices and changes are a foot. No, we are not about to say, "Go, go, Gadget Hardcopy," quite yet. But, we are one step closer and we will continue to keep you abreast as developments and evolutions occur. Our newest announcement is that we are bringing a superb photographer on staff, Casey Clark! We are delighted. And we welcome Mr. Casey Clark aboard! We will be featuring his work and local insights on our new Photos section, as well on these pages. His first two Durham photo essays have been posted. We are looking forward to sharing his unique perspectives and viewpoints with you.

We want to remind you that we are and will continue to be a journal of opinion. We make no pretense to be unbiased. We only hope that we and you can collectively identify our bias and use it as a lens through which to view our output. Recall too, that we reserve the right to be wrong. And though we endeavour not to be, we want to know when we are. The Clarion Content is at its heart a collective project, we actively want to solicit your comment and feedback. We hope to be conversation starters that build virtuous circles of ideas in our readership.

As you know, the Clarion Content has steadfastly held strong against accepting advertising from the beginning, especially anonymous advertising. We want to affirm and confirm that stance. In our effort to build virtuous circles, positive biofeedback loops, with our readership and our community, we are in the coming weeks going to take on a new project at our sister site, ClarionContent.com. (Currently, this link circles right back here.) This new project will attempt to fuse our ability to build good things among our communities, local and virtual, with our anti-advertising ethic.

More to come soon...

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Duke Gardens in the rain 


Splashes of color




Delicate





Photos by: Casey Clark




A view from cover




Water: what we all drink

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New Cowboys Stadium 


Jerry Jones

We got a few gripes with Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys. Despite a billion dollar budget the new Dallas Cowboys football stadium seems out of sync with the times. Jerry Jones and company also ignored an obvious physical flaw that surfaced in last night's pre-season game with the Tennessee Titans.

The way in which the stadium seems ludicrously out of touch with the times is the prices. Didn't Jerry Jones watch the debacle that has been Yankee stadium? The Clarion Content has followed the Yankee ticket story in detail, since the day they announced there were going to be $2,500 per game box seats. Jerry obviously doesn't read the Clarion Content, or apparently watch the news. Because if he did, he would realize that the richest folks and some of the biggest corporations in America got socked in the wallet over last twenty months plus. But not old Jerry, nope, he figures they still got mad cash stuffed in their mattresses. How do we know? Well, like we said the prices: at the new billion dollar Cowboys Stadium, Jerry figures if you got the jack to pay for a luxury box, you are ready to be soaked. In those luxury boxes food and drink is not free. In fact, a plain cheese pizza costs $100.00 and a six pack of domestic beer $67.00. Yes, you read those figures correctly, at Jerry's place, a six pack a beer and a cheese pizza is $167.00 after you kick down for the luxury boxes. If that isn't begging for comeuppance in these times, the Clarion Content doesn't know what is!

The other issue with the stadium also stems from Jones hubris. This one is an actual on field issue reported by the New York Times amongst others. The scoreboard is too low over the field. The Tennessee Titans back-up punter hit it with a kick last night forcing a do-over. Apparently, the "world's largest" jumbotron-scoreboard-thingamajig is hung too low. Better yet, the NY Times reports that Jones knew, helping set the height at ninety feet, even though tests showed that the Cowboys punter Mat McBriar showed he could clear regularly clear 100 feet.

Ingenious.

This is what a billion dollars bought?

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Mets are broke 



What other conclusion can Mets fans draw? It was widely reported that their ownership, the Wilpon family, was among those most bilked by the nefarious financier Bernie Madoff. This man destroyed lives and institutions.

Apparently, the New York Metropolitans were part of the collateral damage. The Clarion Content is not referring to this year when injuries and a third-world clinic quality medical and training staff torpedoed the Mets season. Rather, we are talking about the obvious cash tightening that appears likely to follow the Mets far into the future.

The New York Times reports that despite an abysmally weak farm system, the Mets spent less money signing picks from the recent amateur draft than any other major league ball club. They spent less than the Pittsburgh Pirates, less than the Kansas City Royals. And as one might expect, they got what they paid for, they were one of only four teams that ended up with more than one top-10 pick unsigned. They had no first round pick and signed only seven of their first ten selections.

The future looks anything but green to Mets fans.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

If you don't report it 



If you don't report it then we can deny it happened. So goes the thinking of the Afghan Foreign Ministry in the days before elections in the strife torn country. Huh. Can one sense this was a government installed by King George Bush the II, or what? Same attitude toward the media and the institution of the free press, "Hey can you muzzle yourself for the greater good? We got some things we need to take care of here and we don't want them too closely examined..."

According to the Associated Press
, fearing that violence could dampen turnout, the Afghan Foreign Ministry issued a statement Tuesday saying that news organizations should avoid "broadcasting any incidence of violence" between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on election day "to ensure the wide participation of the Afghan people."

"If we deny it, and the media doesn't report it, who's to say it ever happened?" Is there a more Dick Cheney-esque philospohy? And remember, these are ostensibly the good guys of Afghani politics. The Clarion Content (and Derrida) would tell you that any government that has to be imposed violently against the will of the people has already lost its legitimacy.

Of course, a unified Afghan nation only exists in the mind's eye of Western, external policymakers. Outside of the capital of Kabul, clan, tribe, and religion come first, there is no self-consciously recognized Afghani identity. One is a Pashtun, a Tajik, an Uzbek, or a Turkmen living in a state drawn on a map by Brit more than a 100 years ago. The map has not changed identities or loyalties on the ground.

Fortunately, what Afghani media there is, has stated that it is going to resist demands of the Kabul government for a news blackout, much as it would have resisted the same demands made by a Taliban government.

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A big tree in Watts-Hillandale 

This post is dedicated to one of the largest trees in Durham's Watts-Hillandale neighborhood, this tree will be familiar to local residents, as well as to anyone who has attended The North Carolina School of Science and Math. Our huge, green friend lives on Maryland Avenue. It graces a small field just across from what was formerly the hospital's and now is the school's driveway.


Across the field towards Maryland Avenue



Here one can see the school of Science and Math in the background



Some perspective on girth



Up the side of a monstrous trunk



Countless creatures must have traversed these microcosmic canyons.


Photos by: Casey Clark

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It is over for the cable companies 



We have glimpsed the future here at the Clarion Content during the last two weeks, and we can tell you, it is over for the cable companies. As they would say in Jersey, "Fuhgetaboutit."

The Clarion Content has been in the process of undergoing some reorganization and upfitting. One of the things we did during this time period was invest in some 3g laptop modems. These tiny USB devices look a lot a flash drive. They enable the user to get wireless internet service on their laptop anywhere the user can get a cellphone signal. This means that here in Durham, we are now paying our cellphone provider as much dough to get the internet anywhere we can get cellphone signal as we were previously paying our cable company for a signal that would only work in one location. Let's review. The internet everywhere and internet with the range of a single wireless router, say 80 feet, cost the same thing? Why would one want to be tethered when one can roam free for the same price?

Even better, by upgrading phone service and signing a new two year contract, the 3g hardware was free! Say goodnight to the cable companies.

And if that wasn't enough evidence for you, this month's Playboy magazine reports in their "Raw Data" column, (modeled on the legendary Harper's Index) that only 52% of Americans say a television in the home is a necessity. This is the smallest percentage since Pew Research began asking the question in the mid 1970's. The internet is subsuming television ever more rapidly, see Netflix and Hulu. The phone companies are now providing cheaper, better access to to the internet than the cable companies. Sounds like curtains to us.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Marines Ban Social Networking 



The United States Marine Corps banned its members from using social networking websites while on military networks in an order issued earlier this month from Washington, D.C. The Marines are not the only organization to proceed down this path. The Miami Dolphins of the National Football League recently banned attendees of the team's practices from Twittering. Despite rumors to the contrary, the NFL is not preventing its athletes from Twittering. The Marine Corps ban while apparently draconian does not extend to members of the Corps whom are off-duty and/or on their own computers. Of course, this then brings into question the ultimate utility or futility of the order.

Read more here. And here.

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Musical Communion 

This one comes to us courtesy of our northern most New Jersey reader. As she so succinctly summed it up, Bobby McFerrin Hacks Your Brain with the Pentatonic Scale.

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates...

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It is game on 



College football at Yankee Stadium is indeed happening, as one of our guest columnists rather sardonically warned you that it would a couple months back. The United States Military Academy at West Point, Army is signed on to play several games at the new stadium. Army will first play its traditional rival Notre Dame in 2010. Army and Notre Dame played 22 times at the old Yankee Stadium according to the New York Times.

In 2011, Army will taken on the school that played the first college football game, the rising New Jersey power in the Big East, Rutgers. Army is scheduled to play Air Force, the most successful of the military academies in football of late, at the stadium in 2012. In 2014 Army has scheduled Boston College, formerly of the Big East. Yankee Stadium is expected to have about 47,000 seats when it is converted for football.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Miller time 


Ali Kay

When the Clarion Content's Sports editor was a kid they used to say, "U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi." Reggie Miller we hope you got an alibi, because otherwise this is pretty "U-G-L-Y." If you haven't heard it, the story as it is being reported at NBA Fanhouse and various other sites is that somebody paid to have one of the light planes that fly along the beach trailing advertising banners carry one that read, "Reggie Miller stop pursuing married women."

Reggie, whoa. Alibi? Because whomever paid for this plane to carry the huge red lettered banner this weekend had it flying back and forth over several Southern California beaches near Miller's hometown of Malibu, CA, including Hermosa Beach during a major beach volleyball tournament. Lots of eyeballs.

Fanhouse and Deadspin speculate this may be related to the restraining order Alex von Furstenburg, and fiancée, Ali Kay, filed against the former Indiana Pacers star.

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Quick Phillies follow-up 



A quick follow-up to our question about what the Phillies are going to do with their starting rotation. It is old man Jamie Moyer going to the bullpen. Pedro Martinez starts Wednesday in Chicago at Wrigley Field against the Cubbies. The Clarion Content will be tuning in, if only for nostalgia's sake, Pete's starts were once don't miss affairs.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

What else is on going 



Earlier in the week the Clarion Content published a piece entitled, "It is happening" by which we meant, among other things, that if the greatest economic rupture since the Great Depression was underway there must be places where it was being felt with harsh severity. While we wrote about one such place, Mendota, California, President Obama spoke in another Wakarusa, Indiana.

The President had brave words for the northwest Indiana town that has suffered massive job losses in the face of an RV plant closure. Obama announced $2.4 billion in federal grants to boost U.S. production of electric cars. According to the Los Angeles Times, "In the nearby city of Elkhart, where more than 45% of the businesses are in manufacturing and one-quarter of those are tied to the RV industry, more than a dozen RV factories have shut down in the last 12 months." It is our contention that the President is efforting to do the right thing. However, the scale of the changes happening to manufacturing in the United States are far more than government can control. At most it can nudge, attempting to do much more is probably fraught with greater dangers, blowback and unintended consequneces.

The Clarion Content still has far bigger worries about the financial sector. This week saw the failure of three more regional banks bringing the 2009 total to 72 failed banks on the year. Two of the banks were based in Florida, the third in Oregon. Officers of a fourth bank, financially troubled Colonial BancGroup confirmed federal agents raided its Orlando branch Monday with a search warrant, the Associated Press reported. The bank has 355 branches in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and Nevada. Colonial is Florida's sixth largest bank. A recent deal to inject fresh capital into the Montgomery, Alabama based bank failed, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

CNN Money said late last week that Austin, Texas based Guaranty Bank could be soon seized by the government. They report that it would be the biggest bank failure of the year by assets. Guaranty Bank has has $13.4 billion in assets and operates 160 branches. Some estimates say the bank's failure could cost the FDIC insurance fund $4.9 billion. Guaranty was damaged by a giant portfolio of mortgage-backed securities, backed largely by option adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) in California and Texas. CNN Money reports according to filings the bank has negative capital of $748 million.

What does all this mean to you and us, dear reader? Well like the devastation of Mendota, California, it is unclear just yet. It adds credibility to the claims about the scale of successive waves that hit the American economy in the last ten years. We should be ever more grateful that we are not starving and ever more cautious, humble.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Phillies rotation decision 


Remember this kid?

The Philadelphia Phillies are facing a dilemma that is the envy of every team in their division, too much starting pitching. The Phils pulled a trade deadline swap to grab last year's American league Cy Young award winner, Cliff Lee, without parting with any of their major league level young pitching.

In addition to Lee, last year's World Series hero, Cole Hammels, is firmly entrenched in the rotation along with former Oakland A, Joe Blanton. The other two spots in the rotation are somehow supposed to be divided amongst three men, unless the Phillies decide they are ready to go with a six man rotation, which is most unlikely.

The candidates are 46-year-old lefty Jamie Moyer. He leads the team in wins, but has a 5+ era. He was a vital cog in last year's run, but he couldn't hit 80 mph on the radar gun if his life depended on it. However, it is not like the other two candidates are exactly fireballers. At this stage in his career, the recently signed future Hall of Famer, Pedro Martinez, reminds one more of Rip Sewell than Nolan Ryan. It says here that Martinez will be able to bring his baffling bag of tricks to the major league level and be a very useful contributor for the Phils down the stretch. The final candidate is young rookie J.A. Happ. Unfortunately for Happ, Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. didn't bring in Pedro to be a middle reliever. Notably, Moyer makes approximately fifteen times the salary of Happ. The gritty Moyer is unlikely to be pleased with the idea of being shuffled off to the pen.

On the field Happ makes the least sense of the guys to be shuffled out of the rotation. Sure Pedro just struck out 11 AA guys in a rehab start, but they are in the minors for a reason. Moyer just got shelled to the tune of six runs in five innings his last time out, ratcheting up his era another notch. Happ, on the other hand, threw a complete-game, 127-pitch shutout, ten strikeout performance at the playoff contending Colorado Rockies. What is Phils manager Charlie Manuel going to do?

The good news for the Phils is no matter what happens with the rotation decision the National League East is almost un-losable. They can coast home. Stick a fork in'em, the Mets are done. The Braves were never for real. The Marlins may have an outside prayer at the Wild Card, but they are not going to sniff the division. Lucky for the Phils, 85 wins will probably be enough in the NL East, that means the Phils could stagger down the stretch go twenty-five up and thirty-two down in August and September and still win the title. The question then, will become about a four man rotation for the playoffs, one more starter will have to be squeezed out. Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel has some tough decision his counterparts around the league would love to have to face.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

War is no game 



"The only way to win is not to play the game." These famous words were uttered by a computer in the 1983 movie War Games. In this movie the humans had to teach the computer that war, specifically global thermonuclear war, was futile via the children's game tic-tac-toe. The line above is the realization, when the computer, after running endless simulations, finally gets it, "the only way to win is not to play the game."

While the Clarion Content is not made up of dyed-in-the-wool pacifists, we are most disappointed with the pace at which the Obama administration is ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no narrative, no becoming, that is a United States win. And in the interim the real human cost is irretrievably high.

Take the painful story of Captain Kafele H. Sims, a thirty-two year from Los Angeles, California. Captain Sims, the fourth child of Jimmie and Michelle Sims, attended public schools in L.A. and graduated with honors from Birmingham High School in 1995. Two weeks short of wrapping up his second tour in Iraq Captain Sims, a physician's assistant, died June 16th in Mosul. Army officials have told his wife is that his death did not occur during combat and that the cause remains under investigation. They have ruled out suicide and homicide according to the Los Angeles Times.

The mystery is probably what brought this story to notice, most sadly the tragedy of the life that was lost is all too common place. Captain Sims left his wife, Masako and three young children who range from 21 months to 4 years old.

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The Unique 



Tim Lincecum reminds the Clarion Content's Sports editor of Gale Sayers. There is something about the unique, the never seen it done that way before guys. We had heard once, perhaps on an old NFL Films reel, that Sayers looked like a deer running through a minefield. He was at once beautiful and desperately vulnerable. This kind of beauty is fleeting and like a rabbit being chased by wolves, it all too often ends in a violent rending.

Lincecum beat the defending World Champion Phildelphia Phillies tonight
with his third shutout in the last six weeks. The other character from the sports world we might compare Lincecum to would be David Duval. He was another guy that people his field said, "Wow, never seen it done that way before..." While we see the implicit irony in comparing three figures' uniqueness, we would posit that sometimes there are reasons why it has never been done that way before that manifest themselves in the ability to sustain greatness. There is no questioning Sayers greatness. Duval was pretty damn good for a minute, too. Lincecum has pitched brillantly for a couple of years now.

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