Sunday, May 1, 2016

Early Season Fantasies

http://cdn.newsday.com/polopoly_fs/1.11746394.1461989213!/httpImage/image.jpeg_gen/derivatives/display_600/image.jpeg(David Ortiz homers off Dellin Betances, from Newsday)

With the first month of the baseball season in the books, one of the favorite pastimes of many baseball fans (including THC) is projecting out full season statistics based on performance in the first month.  The fun is it always yields some outlandish, but entertaining, results.  Small sample size you say?  Nonsense, we're just having fun!  And did we mention that "fans" is derived from "fanatic"?

This is THC's favorite projection based on first month performance.  It's Big Papi's last season and he's off to a great start.  Right now he projects to a full season of 34 HRs, 121 RBI, .321 BA and 1.071 OPS with a major league record 74 doubles, making it the best last season for a batsman. Yeah, we don't think that's where he'll end up but let's enjoy the moment.

And here's an even better story.  Every baseball fan knows the story of Babe Ruth hitting a home run for Johnny Sylvester during the 1926 World Series.  On Friday night, David Ortiz beat the Yankees with a home run off of Dellin Betances.  It turns out that just before the game, Big Papi made a video with Kevin Millar for Maverick Schutte, a five year old Wyoming boy with a congenital heart defect who has undergone thirty surgeries, promising to hit a homer!

Mlb.com reported on how it came about:
Before the game, Kevin Millar, who was in town for MLB Network, made his former teammate aware of Maverick, a baseball enthusiast who has a congenital heart defect.

Together, Ortiz and Millar produced a video prior to Friday night's game which was quickly sent to Maverick.

"Hopefully you're doing great. Stay positive," Ortiz told the boy. "Big Papi right here with my boy Kevin. Remember that. We love you."

Then, Ortiz in a completely unscripted way, closed it out in poignant fashion.
"Always stay positive. Keep the faith. You take care, buddy, and I'm going to hit a homer for you tonight," said Ortiz, as he pointed emphatically into the camera. "Remember that. For you."
After the homer, Maverick sent a video back to Ortiz and Big Papi reflected on the event:
"This is baseball. You are facing another pitcher and you don't know what he's going to throw. But what you're trying to do with that video, I was trying to do was make Maverick feel happy and have that connection with him. You throw that out there just to make sure he has a friend he can count on right here."
You can watch both videos and Papi's home run at mlb.com.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Looking For A Mobile Home?

Try Cullman Liquidation Center in Cullman, Alabama.  Or don't. We don't care.

"My wife's boyfriend broke my jaw with a fencepost, so if you don't buy a trailer from me, it ain't gonna hurt my feelings."'

Thursday, April 28, 2016

(I Wear My) Sunglasses At Night


Recently heard this for the first time in years and realized it musically encapsulated the early 1980s.  Written and recorded in 1982/3 by Canadian Corey Hart for his debut album, First Offense (released in April 1983), it features a synthesizer hook similar to that of Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) recorded by Eurythmics in 1982 and released as a single in January 1983.  When he sings "while she's deceiving me, it cuts my security", the backing music sounds like something from producer Giorgio Moroder, the man behind many electro-pop hits of the late 70s and early 80s.  The guitar sounds like Eddie Van Halen on Beat It from Michael Jackson's Thriller, released in the fall of 1982 (the actual guitarist was Andy Barnett).  Topped off by a melody with multiple hooks and enigmatic lyrics and you've got a typical early 80s hit.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Better Call Saul Wrap


http://www.post-gazette.com/image/2015/01/29/ca27,21,2386,1600/20150129hoowen0206saul0208bmag-2.jpg
Better Call Saul just finished its second satisfying season.  The sort of prequel to Breaking Bad it features two of the subsidiary characters from that series, Saul Goodman, originally Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks).  Since we already know the ultimate disposition of both, Better Call Saul is about how they got to be the characters we met in Breaking Bad.  As it turns out, Better Call Saul is good enough to stand on its own and has now introduced us to new and interesting characters.

In an article in Slate, Julia Turner makes the case that, as the title says Better Call Saul Is Better Than Breaking Bad.  While THC will not yet go that far, she makes some interesting observations (no spoilers regarding either show):
Better Call Saul takes the style that made Breaking Bad distinctive—the astonishing cinematography, dark comedy, and brashly confident pacing—and elevates it by applying it with more beauty, subtlety, and moral sophistication.

Perversely, Better Call Saul aims higher than its progenitor by lowering the stakes. Through its first two seasons, the show has concerned itself not with murderers and kingpins but with the mundane dilemmas of Jimmy McGill, a silver-tongued man with a gift for conning people who is trying not to use it. The show’s emotional core lies in his relationship with his older brother, Chuck, a brilliant lawyer who doesn’t believe that no-good Jimmy can play it straight for long. Jimmy aspires to please Chuck and go legit even though his talents offer tempting shortcuts.

This is clear in Saul’s understated, methodical, and deliberate plotting, and the suspense the show creates with each subtle turn. Why is Mike Ehrmantraut, the beloved Breaking Bad heavy, drilling holes in a garden hose with his granddaughter? Why does Nacho, a savvy drug-world apparatchik, pause to check out the leather seats in that Hummer? Why does Kim Wexler (Jimmy’s friend, colleague, advocate, and love) rip a business card with his name on it in half? Every modest moment in the show builds to a fascinating payoff. It’s also notable that the characters the show has introduced—including meticulous Nacho (Michael Mando), loyal and ambitious Kim (Rhea Seehorn), and conniving Chuck (Michael McKean, who like Odenkirk is a comic actor giving an authoritative dramatic turn)—are as compelling as the two we’ve watched for years.
If you haven't watched it, check it out. 

(Spoilers included below)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Hollies

Better remembered for their last three U.S. hits (all of which THC disliked); He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother (1969), Long Cool Woman With A Black Dress (1972) and Air That I Breathe (1974), The Hollies of the mid-1960s were a terrific pop band.  Though not as lyrically clever as two of THC's favorite 80s pop acts, Squeeze and Crowded House, The Hollies made up for it with catchy hooks and melodies along with soaring three-part harmonies.

The original band featured Tony Clarke on lead vocals and had a rhythm guitarist and high harmony singer named Graham Nash.  Like The Who, they were popular in their native Britain well before breaking through in the U.S.  From late 1963 to mid-1966, the band had eight Top Ten singles in the UK, all of which flopped in the US.  Looking back it's hard to figure out why the last two in that sequence were not hits in America.  Just listen to Look Through Any Window and I Can't Let Go.
You may recognize that chiming guitar sound.  Here's a similar one from that era, George Harrison (actually someone imitating him) on If I Needed Someone.

The US breakthrough came with the release of Bus Stop, the first time THC ever heard them (he still has the 45), and which reached #5 on the US Charts.  The song was bright, shimmering and innocently romantic.  A few years ago we had another song featuring an umbrella which was not quite as innocent - this time it was the girl with the umbrella.

Over the next year they followed up with three more Top Tens in the US; On A Carousel; Stop Stop Stop and Carrie Anne along with two less successful releases, which remain THC favorites, Pay You Back With Interest and King Midas In Reverse (Duran Duran borrowed the sound of the latter in the 80s).
In early 1968, The Hollies had a UK success and US flop with Jennifer Eccles, a trifling bubble gum tune.  Shortly thereafter Nash departed the group.  He'd wanted to take the band in a different musical direction, but the other members wanted to return to their pop roots.  Nash went off to Los Angeles to become a full time songwriter but ran into David Crosby and Stephen Stills and you know the rest of the story.

The Hollies went on to have two more Top Ten UK hits before He Ain't Heavy returned them to the US charts but the glory days were gone.  The final tally is impressive, 18 UK and 7 US Top Ten singles.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Bernie Problem

Donald Trump has taken a lot of mocking, denunciation, condemnation and outright hatred from large sections of the news and social media.  THC can understand that since he's also appalled by The Donald.

But what is puzzling him is why isn't Bernie Sanders getting the same type of reaction from these sources?  He's gotten as large a share of Democratic votes in the primaries as Trump has in the Republican contest.  Yet, most of what THC sees, even if mildly critical, is respectful, taking his ideas seriously and always careful to note that Bernie's "heart is in the right place".

Yet this is the real Bernie Sanders:
A man consumed by a lifetime of envy and bitterness which has led him to embrace some of most tyrannical and murderous regimes of the past century precisely because they have taken revenge against the people he considers his enemies.

A greedy man who wants more than a trillion dollars confiscated from his enemies so that he can spend it to gain other people's votes.

A man who does not believe in private charity, believing all charity should come from the state.

A not very intelligent man in thrall to old ideas demonstrated over and over again not to work.

A man confused by the very workings of the modern economy (if you don't believe THC read the transcript of his interview with the New York Daily News), yet confident enough to demand the right to order us all around.

A man for whom the very idea of individuals making the important choices in their lives is abhorrent.
When Trump and his followers are denounced for encouraging violence, THC asks where were those voices when Sanders supporters disrupted Trump rallies in Chicago and Phoenix?  THC has not seen Trump supporters disrupting Sanders rallies.

And don't let anyone fool you into thinking Bernie is a "European social democrat" instead of an outright Marxist who spent his honeymoon in the Soviet Union.  Just listen to what he actually says, not the label he and others apply to him.  He is so out of touch that he doesn't even know what how his role model Sweden actually operates.  Does Sweden have higher individual taxes than the U.S.?  Yes, but corporate taxes are lower and big business is encouraged in Sweden.  Sweden has also privatized many government functions and allows school choice.  In Bernie Sanders' world, the state must control all the reins.

THC cannot resist adding one other note, which is important in any comparison involving the U.S. and another country.  Descendants of Swedes who immigrated to the U.S. earn more and live longer than their counterparts in Sweden.  The same can be said of every comparison between descendants of immigrants from any country and those who remained and their homeland.  If that's the case, then why does the U.S. not always come out favorably in overall comparisons.  For that, you need to read about Simpson's Paradox which is not the same as Homer Simpson's Paradox.

The real question is why those news and social voices see Bernie Sanders as someone with respectable views in a society that values freedom and has brought prosperity to so many unlike the societies that Bernie idolizes.  It is a signal of something desperately wrong with a large segment of American society and that is a problem way beyond just that of Bernie Sanders.