Monday, May 31, 2010
Whatever one thinks about the United States of America, those of us who live here should be grateful. No matter how much one disagrees with the systems of the United States of America, we are lucky to have that freedom to disagree. It is our duty to treasure and preserve that freedom.
Today is not about indulgence: it is not about beer or barabeque or the beach. It is about the men and woman who have personally made an effort to preserve our freedom.
Please take some time to reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Please talk with your friends, family and other loved ones about what freedom means to you, and why you are grateful for it.
See the faces and read the stories of fallen North Carolinians here, including people from Durham, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, Garner and Oxford.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
The baseball deities have clearly had enough of the sabermetric hoo-haa. (Ask the Boston Red Sox.) They have unleashed the full power of their anger and retribution on the Kansas City Royals pitcher Zack Greinke. Last year Greinke set a new low: the fewest decisions ever won by a Cy Young award winner. Greinke was a mere 16-8, albeit with a lousy Kansas City Royals team. Morons, like ESPN's Keith Law, lauded his performance and defended his Cy Young with ridiculous statements like "Wins don't matter anymore." It is rocket scientists like this who are keeping Jack Morris out of the Hall of Fame.
Grenike fed right into the phenomenon telling reporters his favorite statistic. "That's pretty much how I pitch, to try to keep my FIP (fielding independent pitching) as low as possible."
Hey, genius, we have an idea, how about you try to win the flipping game? Nobody gives a rat's ass what your FIP is when you lose!!!
The baseball gods heard our howls and cries. They are visiting choice retribution on Greinke this season. He has a swell 1 win and 6 losses. But don't worry Royals fans, we bet, his FIP is great. Come see him lose 3-2 when the team is twenty-five games back in mid-August.
Nice work, Zack. All the baseball writers who voted for Greinke over King Felix for Cy Young last year, fifty lashes with a wet noodle!
Friday, May 28, 2010
Check out Duck and Cover at the Blue Pyramid.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Ahhhh, the revelry at a NASCAR event. Our correspondent is also an EMT, she verified that this woman was indeed still breathing, if hammered. Apparently her equally inebriated husband had left her on the ground and gone inside to catch the race. When asked if she was okay, the woman was able to nod her head yes, although because she was unable to lift her head while nodding, the process likely caused more grass and mudstains to appear on her face.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Premature death, the death of young or middle age people always kicks the Clarion Content in the teeth. As loyal readers know, the Clarion Content felt deeply the passing of actress Brittany Murphy. Earlier this week we were shocked and saddened to read of the death of Murphy's widower, Simon Monjack. Maybe we just don't read enough US Weekly, maybe we are not on TMZ as frequently as we could be, but dang, we did not see it coming and we cannot help but wonder and speculate on the interconnections of their passings.
Murphy's death from what is known as polypharmacy, the administration of excess prescription medications, was tragic and probably avoidable. Monjack's death has been called a heart attack, but one wonders what might have weakened his heart? Grief and stress have untold power. Self-medication is not the answer. People die anonymously from depression and prescription drug overdoses every day. All we can hope for is that these kind of sad passings are a lesson learned, not a life lost alone in a vacuum, or worse yet, a terrible course to be imitated.
When Google image searching the phrase, "Too many prescription drugs," images of Murphy, Michael Jackson and Anna Nicole Smith all come up on the very first page. Don't go that way! If you are depressed, get help.
Did anyone else hear anecdotal evidence of cell phone networks being strained on New Year's Eve? The Clarion Content had heard a little bit about it at the time, but over the last several months as we have asked around, more and more folks reported that their text messages lagged many, many hours behind, as everyone sent mass texts to everyone else in their phone, "Happy New Year!"
What does that tell us about the vulnerability of cell phone networks in crisis? How easily can those networks be overwhelmed? Does one need a landline or a CB?
The Boston Celtics had finished choking the life out of LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers. They cost Coach Mike Brown his job. They were slicing through the Orlando Magic like a hot knife through butter, heading towards an epic showdown with Lakers in the Finals. In all probability that showdown is still going to happen, but last night Celtics Coach Doc Rivers through a wrench in the works.
The Celtics were leading 3-0, seeking the sweep, in Game 5, having not played their best for the first time in the series, they were rallying. They had come back from seven points down in the last two minutes. They had the ball for the last shot in the game, a chance to put the final dagger in the Magic's season. Doc's old guys had expended a lot of energy. They needed one more bucket to end it. Doc chose not to call timeout, not to give his guys a blow, not to draw up a play. Doc knows how great Paul Pierce is, he knows Pierce can usually get his shot at the end of the game. Doc knows Pierce has ice water in his veins. It is hard to criticize Doc, but... this time, the Celtics (Pierce included) looked a little winded.
One timeout and one bucket and Celtics could have been watching film and resting up for the Lakers. Instead, no timeout, no bucket, and a tired, older team goes on to lose in overtime. Now the Celtics have to travel to Orlando, and if they cannot win another one on the road, (theoretically difficult) they will have to play a Game 6. With an older team, to whom health and rest is so important, that one bad coaching decision could be tremendously magnified. The Lakers and Celtics appear evenly matched, if the Celtics are not fatigued or banged up. Can they take out Orlando on the road in Game 5 and get the rest they so desperately need? It would have been easier just to call timeout, let Pierce, Garnett, et al. get a breather and hit that shot at the end of Game 4. Done and done. As it was without a timeout, they were unable to even get a shot off.
Friday, May 21, 2010
His Majesty's Royal Navy scored one over the pirates off of the coast of Tanzania last Friday. The HMS Chatham, on pirate patrol, spotted a larger vessel towing two attack boats. The crew and their commander maintained a watch on the suspected pirate group and launched an attack at dawn.
According to NATO reports cited by the BBC, prior to boarding the boats, the suspected pirates were observed throwing items, including their weapons into the sea. The Royal Marines boarded the larger craft, ten Somalis and a large amount of fuel were found on board. The Somalis surrendered and the two smaller boats were destroyed. Both smaller boats had been fitted with powerful outboard engines and also had large supplies of fuel.
The BBC quoted the commanding officer of HMS Chatham, Commander Simon Huntington. He said he was "extremely pleased" the warship had "successfully disrupted a pirate attack group operating in the Somali Basin and prevented them from mounting attacks against merchant shipping." NATO noted the ten Somalis were left with only enough fuel in the larger vessel to return to Somalia.
Thanks to the Morris County New Jersey contributor who sent it our way!
Baseball is an every day game. One has to see it every day, day after day to admire it at its deepest level. It is a narrative, as each game it tells a story unto itself. A weekend of games is a series. A season full of games tells the story of a Summer and a year. As once upon a time in Brooklyn, and to this day in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Queens, the story of a franchise tells part of the story of a place.
But it to appreciate the baseball narrative, the long story, the slowly woven tapestry that it is, one must begin with the day to day and the realization that each and every day at the ballpark offers the opportunity for something entirely new and unseen. And so it was Wednesday in the Major Leagues. Fans at one game saw something that no one had witnessed during an MLB game in fifty-five years. Those at another game saw a scoring oddity that the Clarion Content's sports editor, before that evening, for all of his advanced years and hours whiled away watching baseball, could not ever recall seeing.
First, the event last seen performed in the same game in 1955, done then by one Ted Kazanski of the Philadelphia Phillies: hit an inside the park home run and participate in a triple play defensively. Mr. Kazanski once renown as "the Phillies $100,000 bonus shortstop," has been joined in the annuals by New York Mets centerfielder Angel Pagan. Whom Wednesday night in St. Louis, hit his inside the park home-run in the top of the fourth inning to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Then in the bottom of the fifth, Pagan participated in a bizarre triple play in which he caught a sinking linedrive in center, and runners on both first and second base were doubled-off thinking that Pagan had trapped the ball. Replays showed that it was indeed a sweet catch. The wild play would have been scored 8-2-6-3, centerfielder to catcher to shortstop to first. Now you don't see that often, let alone by a guy who hit an inside-the-parker in the same game.
The second anecdote from Wednesday night also revolves around a bizarre scoring oddity in a game between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. It was first pointed out by ESPN's announcer for the game, the venerable Chris Berman. It was so rare that we had to tweet about it. The Rays had achieved 1st and 3rd with two out, five batters had been to the plate, but nary an official at-bat had been recorded by those scoring the game. Come again? In the top of the Tampa Bay third inning this sequence of plate appearances led to the rare five guys up in a row without recording at at-bat: former Durham Bull, Reid Brignac led off with a walk, Jason Bartlett bunted, sacrificing Brignac to second, Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett hit Carl Crawford with a pitch, then walked Ben Zobrist to load the bases, the Rays clean-up hitter, all-star third-baseman, Evan Longoria hit a sacrifice fly and bam! Five up, two down, one in and no ABs. Sure hadn't seen that one before...
And so it goes at the old ballpark, where every day holds the promise of something new, something not seen in fifty years. Father's will be telling sons what they saw on the baseball diamond Wednesday into the distant future. Each day's game writes its own story, which is why baseball lives on in the cultural memory of our unfurling American tapestry.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Our esteemed guest correspondent recently returned from Ethiopia and you might think that a guy like that would not have extra time on his hands for speculation like this. But you would be wrong. Without further ado, we give you the lexicographical musings of J. Coop.
I recently took a flight from Cairo to New York. Now, on solo domestic flights I generally make a point of avoiding conversation with my seatmates. Experience has shown that there is at least a 70% chance that the person is from a Great Lakes state and that they are visiting their (great aunt / second cousin / parakeet phone pal) on account of the recent (birth of their third child / refinancing of their home / loss of their tooth). Not only that, but by replying, “Fine, thank you” to their “Hi, how are you?”, you may have unwittingly invited a lengthy recounting of their thoroughly unremarkable family history. Best to have a book handy. When the hilarious exploits of your seatmate’s house pet become tedious, the conversation can usually be ended with a brief sideways glare and something to the effect of, “What was that? I’m sorry, I was having trouble hearing you over this fascinating book I’m reading.”
On this particular day, I suppose I was feeling generous and friendly, because I did indeed enter a dialogue with my seatmate. After all, I figured the risk was reduced, as most people can’t afford the upkeep of international parakeet phone pals (to say nothing of the language barrier). My seatmate was a pleasant American woman, probably in her 50s, and incidentally from the Seattle area, so we had something in common. Given the circumstances, there were the natural questions about what had brought the other to Cairo. I told her I was sightseeing on the way home from a business trip, and she told me that she had been traveling with her . . . partner, the final word said not with a literal wink and nod, but with an intonation that implied it. Not being familiar with the established insinuations of her generation, I was at a loss. What could be the meaning behind this bizarre emphasis of a perfectly ambiguous word? Was she referring to a business partner, or was this more like a “pardner”: an ally in times of cattle-wranglin’, whiskey-swillin’, and six-shooter-shootin’? Was she trying to tell me that she was gay? The word choice had left me confounded.
Fortunately, I had the good sense to keep my confusion to myself. I was able to deduce from the continuation of the conversation that this particular usage of the word could be defined something like this: partner, n. [pahrt-ner]: A gentleman bachelor, close in age to the woman, with whom she is romantically involved.
Here, dear reader, is where I beseech you for your advice and assistance. We must find a word with a more specific definition to be used by ladies in the situation of my seatmate. This word must grant her the ability to better communicate the nature of her human relationships to louts such as myself.
I’ve put some thought into this, and have yet to come up with a satisfying solution. For more mature persons, it’s understandable why the terms boyfriend and girlfriend might not be preferred. Fortunately for the seasoned and sophisticated man, there is always the option of referring to his female counterpart as a ladyfriend. After all, a girlfriend may be cute and flirtatious, but a ladyfriend is experienced and knows what she wants. Rawr.
But what is the male equivalent of a ladyfriend? The obvious response would be a gentlemanfriend, but that doesn’t roll of the tongue. Also, the term manfriend is right out, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. Guyfriend, maybe? That’s still sort of boyish, but maybe could work. I dunno, I’ve got nothing else. So I’ll put it to you, standardized test analogy style:
Girlfriend : Boyfriend :: Ladyfriend : ???
(This should go without saying, but I better not hear a suggestion of “lover” or any phrase with “lover” as part of it. That term just makes me cringe, and it’s a word you just don’t want to hear come out of anyone, unless it’s Will Ferrell in an SNL skit.)
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Is anyone else irritated by all the Iron Man II advertisements? We do not mean the standard commercials for the movie, but rather the insidious product placement and fusion campaigns.
The Clarion Content has seen Ironman II footage and/or characters fused with ads for Dr. Pepper, Burger King, Audi and the NBA. It bugs that the movie is too present; it is everywhere, but because it is the sequel to one of the biggest movies of all time (sorta), we understand and expect that to happen. What is truly vile is the level on which these product placement ads cheapen the character and plot integrity of the movie.
This is not a new trend in the movies, the Clarion Content's editor grew up in an era where they ditched a planet of Wookies for a planet of Ewoks because they thought the toys would sell better. We would argue however that it is an additional iteration, another level, to see the Iron Man fused with the Burger King or to watch Tony Stark hop in an Audi like a real celebrity. This fusing of the fictional and the commercial eats at the core of story-telling. The willingness to suspend disbelief for a good story runs 180 degrees reverse course of humanity's hardened attempts to disbelieve advertisers. Getting sucked into a good plot is not supposed to make you one of P.T. Barnum's suckers.
This chafes our consciousness.
A picture says 1000 words, but takes considerably less effort to post on a blog. In the spirit of laziness and appeasing those clamoring for photos, let's proceed to the slide show.
Scroll along with me, won't you?
Here's a photo of me with my boss, Melissa, in front of St. Mary's Ethiopian Orthodox church on the summit of Mount Entoto.
This guy has probably never heard of Mont Sleets, the legendary innovator of celebratory hand gestures, but he still gave me a high five at Mount Entoto.
This is the view from the summit of Mount Entoto, around 10,000 ft. The weather's a little hazy, but you can make out Addis in the valley below (elevation ~7,400 ft.).
Here's a little better photo of downtown Addis from the balcony of my hotel room.
The Sheraton I'm staying at in downtown Addis is just a little nicer than the Motel 6's I'm accustomed to staying at in the U.S.
That's it for know -- I'll try to post another story later this week.
I begin my first post from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in a transparent attempt to appear cultured and worldly. Did it have the intended effect, my dears? What's that you say? "Stop being an obnoxious ass, and get the hell on with it." Oh. Right. Very well then.
So as I was saying, I arrived in Addis last night on business with my fantastic employer, Engineering World Health. Things have gone very smoothly with my travels, other than the part where my luggage decided to hang out in Amsterdam for an extra day. (But it's cool, luggage. Take your time, it's not like I wanted to change my underpants while I was in Africa. Hope you enjoyed the red light district, jerk.) The luggage should be arriving in an hour or so, and I'm staying up past my bedtime to blog about it before heading to the airport to retrieve it.
(UPDATE: So, apparently the bags decided to not show up tonight on the flight from Kenya. Totally not cool, bags. I can’t believe you stood me up like this for the second night in a row. Know what bags? We’re over. All I can say is you better not come crying to me, begging me to take you back after I have a sleek new suitcase with a hard body and wheels that ain’t busted. Oh yeah, one more thing, bags. You can say that zipper “extends your storage space” all you want. Let’s quit beating around the bush and call it like it really is: you’re fat. There, I said it. I feel so much better now. I just need to learn the Ahmaric phrase for “how much for these new tighty-whiteys?”)
(UPDATE #2: The bags finally showed their sorry selves around 2am this morning. They didn't even bother to offer an excuse. We're still not talking.)
The advantage of getting in on Saturday night is that I had a whole day today to do some sight-seeing around Addis with my colleagues. First day's impression: Addis is a delightful and charming city. We visited Mount Entoto, the highest point in Addis at an elevation of around 10,000 ft. On top there is a museum with artifacts from the founding of Addis Ababa in 1886 by Emperor Menelik II, and Empress Taytu Betul, who named the city Addis Ababa, Amharic for "New Flower". I wish I could tell you I remembered all of the facts from the previous sentence and subsequent paragraphs from the wonderful tour, but truth be told, I had some help from Wikipedia.
On the summit of Mount Entoto, there was a stown hewn church and surrounded by the emporer's palace, eucalyptus trees, fantastic views of the city, and a Sunday school. The church and school belonged to the Ethiopian Church, a branch of Christianity related to the Coptic Orthodox church. The Sunday school happened to be in session as we were touring the mountain, and the most rockin' part of the day came when we got to visit the small one-room school. There were probably 30 to 40 kids in the school singing, clapping, and playing drums. The music was beautiful and the kids were adorable. I hope I'll be able to post some audio and video soon. The students were around 4-10 years old, with their instructors probably not any older than their late teens. The instructors led the prayers and songs, and for each song one of the younger girls would take a turn hoisting the huge drum onto her shoulders to keep time for the song.
After the mountain, we drove down to a festival celebrating "honey wine", aka mead. In Amharic, it's called "tij" with a short "i" sound (not sure on the spelling, but I do have a liter to bring home). At the festival, I also split an order of goat meat with our driver, Elijah. Interestingly, my colleagues who were leery of the goat meat and did not partake were the same ones who gave me grief on Mount Entoto over my reluctance to see a hyena in the wild. Seem logical that one's anxiety over eating an animal would be less than the anxiety about being eaten by an animal, no? During the snack, I was entertained by a view of the man behind the counter using a hatchet to chop the leg off of another goat that was hanging and drying. I’m not sure if this qualifies as entertainment, of if anyone else was enjoying it, but one thing I don’t see much of at American restaurants is butchers who double as food servers. Maybe I just don’t go to the right places.
Monday, May 10, 2010
The stubborn, short-sighted D'Antoni refused to play more than seven or eight guys a game when he coached the Suns to various playoff failures. He did the same thing last year in New York, when he banished the dynamic Nate Robinson to the bench. Robinson sat for fifteen plus games. Rookie Tony Douglas was also stuck on the end of the bench, as D'Antoni continued to force the limited Chris Duhon down Knicks fans gullet.
The Suns are playing tough defense, something they were never able to do under D'Antoni. The consensus used to be that Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire were soft defensive players. Turns out they just needed a better coach. Alvin Gentry has the whole Suns squad hustling on defense. D'Antoni's disdain for the defensive end of the floor was symbolized by the soft as tissue paper Italian jeans model he and Donnie Walsh drafted in the first round. The Knicks, like D'Antoni's Suns, play defense like Loyola Marymount used to, not at all. No matter how fun to watch this run and gun style is, it is a sure recipe for playoff failure.
If the Knicks are unable to get LeBron this off-season, another dark decade looms ahead. D'Antoni's philosophy is bankrupt, great for the regular season, useless in the playoffs. Los Suns terrific run this postseason underlines that reality.
Friday, May 07, 2010
Meet the new P.M., David Cameron
As we told you dear readers back in 2007, English Prime Minister Gordon Brown was a dour, pale shadow of his predecessor Tony Blair. We warned that the English public would so find out and bounce Brown to the curb as the economy soured. And so it has happened, thirteen years of Labor government ended with a 97 seat gain by Conservatives in the House of Commons.
The Tories did not win an outright majority, however. Negotiations are underway to resolve England's first hung Parliament since 1974. Think of the compromises that could result. Would that America could ever have a viable third party! Pragmatic rationality might finally trump ideology. Problems heretofore considered not only insoluble, but unbreechable even for discussion could be addressed.
The Charles River, lovely, but not safe to drink.
This is an issue the Clarion Content has been banging on for some time. Infrastructure!!! Heads up America, we haven't done diddly since the Eisenhower administration to improve and maintain our infrastructure. The time to pay the piper is coming. (Which, of course, makes the warmongering of King George the II even more despicable.)
Among the most vulnerable parts of American infrastructure, even frailer and more vulnerable than our bridges and roads, is our water system. We saw a stark reminder of that last weekend as more than 2 million Boston area residents spent three days without drinkable tap water (or coffee). A break in 10 foot in diameter (3 meter) pipe triggered the emergency. The pipe in Weston, Massachusetts, a suburb about 15 miles west of Boston, burst last Saturday. The rupture, near the intersection of the Massachusetts Turnpike and Route 128, spilled more than 250 million gallons of water and pushed tons of soil into the Charles River. Most urban American water systems are built with infrastructure that is approaching 100 years old. Inevitably it ages and needs to be replaced.
To highlight how vulnerable we are to sudden disruption of our water supply, notice that, 136 miles away in North Conway, New Hampshire, the Hannaford Supermarket ran out of bottled water in the days following the disaster. Beware America, unless something is done this disaster is coming to a city near you. It is estimated that $8.5 billion is needed to update Massachusetts water infrastructure alone. Good thing America, didn't just waste more than a trillion dollars on rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq, only to see it get blown up.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Monday, May 03, 2010
One thing that appears to be little noticed by the Republicans or for that matter, the Democrats, debating immigration policy is that they are behind the times. They, led by the fascists governing the state of Arizona, are advocating the deportation of people for traffic offenses, in many cases, for simply not having a valid driver's license. The folks that they want to deport are mostly over thirty. Many have been in America for the better part of a decade.
The little noticed critical fact that they have been ignoring: 92% of Latinos under the age of 18 in America are United States citizens. And it will not be long until they are voting in huge numbers. The political parties ignore them at their own risk.
Ask Pete Wilson about how his support of Proposition 187 played out. Live by the sword and die by the sword. We hold with Florida Governor Charlie Crist. He said, "What Arizona did is wrong. I'm the grandson of a Greek immigrant. The notion that you pull over 'suspect' people and demand their papers is not American. That's strange. That's not what America is supposed to be about."
Damn right, Charlie, that's not how we roll.
Sunday, May 02, 2010
Guess which one of these guys is the establishment candidate?*
The Clarion Content was speculating last week on the possibility of a rupture in the Republican Party. Conservative activists have encouraged insurgent primary campaigns against establishment, more centrist Senate Republican candidates. Case in point, the Senator Jim DeMint wing of the Republican party is going to have its guy on the ballot as the Republican Senatorial choice in Florida. Marco Rubio will be the Republican nominee. But popular Governor Jim Crist who would have been the so-called establishment Republican Senate candidate is going to run as an independent. He played it cagey when asked which party he would caucus with should the people of Florida elect to send him to Washington.
*Governor Crist is on the left. Marco Rubio is on the right.
Unfortunately, it is irrelevant. The troops of the occupier are always blamed for civilian deaths. This operates on two levels. One the insurgents1 literally blame the attacks they perpetrate on United States forces. Car bombs become exploding rockets. Improvised Explosive Devices on the road become landmines. The propaganda battle is omnipresent and the insurgents have the advantage of speaking the language. The United States military has a giant propaganda and information operation that defends its name in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the globe. The second level on which the blame game operates is the one that makes it inescapable.
The problem is that anywhere Empire's bootprint is, it can be held to blame for the civilian deaths caused by the insurgents simply because the insurgents can say that they are fighting the external oppressor. Operationally, in the field, even when the insurgents blatantly kill civilians, they are able to attempt to rationally attribute the deaths to United States forces because the conflict would not be going on if they were not there. This tactic has been used to great effect in both Afghanistan and Iraq. "The imperialist oppressors presence is what made your son or daughter's death happen, ma'am."
And that is a very difficult battle of hearts and minds to win indeed, even if the facts are on your side. What does Sting say? There's no such thing as a winnable...
1Terrorist, rebels, nationals pick your moniker depending on your point of view.