A Misunderstanding of How to Determine Greatness

Dick Allen

Dick Allen passed away today. He was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He is not in the hall of fame. He was the classic five-tool player – he could run, throw, field, hit and hit for power. He smashed 351 home runs in his career, walked a lot, won the NL Rookie of the Year for the Phillies, the MVP for the White Sox, and posted a little over 58 WAR in his prime 11 years of playing. His best years were truly great, his good years were damn good, and he never had a bad season until injuries and age took their toll at the very end of his career. His being overlooked is not conspiratorial, but rather an unfortunate combination of wrong place and wrong time. Or, maybe it would be better to say wrong places/wrong times.

Allen, a black man, played in Philadelphia in the 60’s. He also played before analytics came into vogue and lauded all that he did well (pretty much everything) and shrugged collectively at the things he did not (refrain from striking out, errors). And look, it’s a tough town on its best days, what with booing Santa and building a courtroom inside the new Eagles stadium to prosecute all the drunk/belligerent/violent idiots who attend games there, and the culture in the city is one in which athletes are the subject of intensity that defies logic, as witnessed below in the greatest trolling ever committed to local news.

Most of it today seems like harmless fun, if a bit obsessive. In the early 60’s? When Allen would play in the outfield – AT HOME – fans would throw batteries and horseshoes and god knows what else at him during games. The racist invective hurled his way goes way beyond what anyone outside of Jackie Robinson and other players of the era who crossed the color barrier experienced. He suffered through it, stoically, and still he was an all-star caliber player. Year after year.

If he was playing there now he’d make $20 million dollars a year and vie for the most popular player in the organization. As it was, he was run out of town. Quiet and withdrawn, some of which was because he was by nature not a showboat and also for obvious reasons of persecution and harassment, he was thought by the Philly fans to not care enough. Every error and strikeout dissolved the relationship a little further. He was uncommonly versatile in the field, could play third, short, left, first in a pinch, but because he was shuffled around so much the consensus was he didn’t fit anywhere. In today’s game he’d be Ben Zobrist but faster and with waaaaay more power. And he struck out a lot. That was the big one, and the biggest reason why sportswriter’s didn’t give him his due at the time. We’re somewhat immune in today’s game because everyone punches out with alarming frequency because the math says swing away, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. In the 60’s, it was deemed a failing, and he was crucified for it. Nowadays his walk/strikeout rates would make him the target of every GM in the league.

Allen’s power was prodigious. He once hit a home run whose trajectory was so low the shortstop jumped for it. He finished with 351 dingers, only ten less than Joltin’ Joe, which is good for the Hall of Fame, but not exceptional. This is the crux. He didn’t play long enough to amass the overall stats to get the invite. His eleven (ten and half really because of one mostly injured year) seasons are Hall of Fame worthy, but the longevity of racking up numbers in meh seasons to pad the overall stat line is missing. Don’t discount the blah years in the early/late stages of a players career to get them over the hump with voters. Take Andre Dawson.

Look, I love the Hawk. I wore number 8 in high school because of him. He’s my favorite player of all time. If you match these two up in their prime years, you might be able to make an argument for Dawson because of his superior fielding and base running to go along with their comparable offensive numbers, but strictly as an offensive player, Allen was likely better. Dawson was a good-to-great player from 1977-1992. It’s the length of his career that put him over the hump with voters, along with Sandberg’s push during his entrance speech (thanks Ryno!). The last 4 years of Dawson’s career are not good, but they were enough to push him over 400 homers, 500 doubles, 1500 RBI’s, and almost to 2800 hits. Arbitrary numbers, but that’s what baseball does, witness the 3000 hits qualification for automatic HOF entry. The point is not to tarnish Dawson’s accomplishments, he was above average/all-star/MVP level for 16 STRAIGHT YEARS and most of them on a bad knee. He’s a hall of famer.

But so is Allen. His peak years are undeniably great, but he didn’t have what most players get, the buildup of a year or two of okayness in breaking in to pad the numbers and/or the few years of decline where he could still post surface-respectable stats like Dawson’s 1993 in Boston – a .273/.313/.425 slash line. Nor did he have the luxury of playing in the modern game, with its quality medical care and lack of overt, vicious racism. Instead he was a man ahead of his time, someone who walked a ton, mashed the ball, whiffed more than most everyone in the league, could play multiple positions and was strong in both mind and body. I wish I could have seen him play.

No, seriously this time, Requiem for Moviepass

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I should tell you at the top that I loved moviepass and it made me very happy to go to the theater as often as I did for approximately $10 a month, but it was never going to last, we all knew it, and even if that’s true of everything in the history of ever, it’s still sad to be going to the funeral. The company tried to stay afloat after things fell apart a year or so ago, but it was only a matter of time before the revamped/relaunched all-you-can-movie subscription service went the way of the dodo, and this time it feels less like the ending of Friday the 13th Part 6, where they tell you it’s finished, but I mean, come on, you just know Jason Voorhees is coming back to epically fight his way through a telekinetic teenager in order to slaughter a host of morally compromised teenagers before being brought down by the protagonist’s dead father who has for the last 10 years been at the bottom of Crystal Lake and reappears at the last minute for…reasons, and instead more like Logan.

I know a lot of this movie doesn’t actually make sense, but what am I, made of stone? Oh, and spoiler alert.

Anyway, now that we really are at the end, here’s a final and complete list of the movies I saw in the final few months of moviepass. RIP.

Late Night

A series of badly written characters, highlighted by a protagonist without any sense of context for her actions, sinks everything in its wake and the movie collapses under the weight of its grand intentions clashing up against a near total lack of connectivity from scene to scene. It doesn’t help that many of the jokes fall painfully flat and the comedy world of late night network television is portrayed both unbelievably and as if it were taking place ten years ago. A movie that fails all the more when considering how good it could have been given the premise and cast.

Last Black Man in San Francisco

A movie with energy to burn. It doesn’t quite convincingly cross the finish line, but it balances so many spinning plates at once, it’s a minor miracle it stays upright at all.

My Son

A French movie that develops some decent tension and answers the question of what would have happened to Liam Neeson if the Taken franchise existed in reality.

Diane

An amiable journey through the back half of a woman’s oftentimes sad life. I can’t say I liked it, exactly, but it never dragged and many of the performances, including the lead, were very good.

Endzeit aka the German zombie movie with no subtitles

A minute into the movie, it was clear that me and the other three people in the theater were watching a version without subtitles, and a few minutes after that it was clear this was not a momentary snafu, but the reality of the feature presentation. Two people left at that point, but what the hell, I was already there and I’d gone to all the trouble of sneaking in my giant sandwich, so I stuck around. I can’t be sure, what with the lack of clarity on the talking parts and all, but the whole thing seemed pretty damned pretentious amidst the occasional bit of undead carnage.

Wildrose

Engaging enough, more than solid on the music front, but a lack of narrative drive and a willingness to devolve into melodrama kept it from hitting home.

Echo in the Canyon

A handful of good moments/music, but fairly self indulgent and it never digs deep enough for us to glean anything from the subject matter beyond a few amusing anecdotes.

3 Faces

Panahi’s movies are almost always interesting, if not exactly narratively gripping, but the fact he risks spending years in prison to make films at all makes the experience of seeing them a bit of a thrill. Here there’s a generational study within his typical allegorical framework, and it makes for a thoughtful, layered look into more than just the political landscape of Iran.

Shadow

Very good overall. A little slow to get going, okay, a lot slow to get going, but around the halfway mark it kicks into gear and then never lets up. Beautiful visual composition and color palette throughout mostly makes up for the minimal characterizations afforded the cast.

Requiem for MoviePass

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This is no longer true. Sad face. Wait, there’s a sad face picture thing you can use instead of writing ‘sad face’? (Looking) Are you sure? (Still looking) I can’t find it.

The way I see things, it’s mostly my fault. I bought into Moviepass last September and proceeded to see 67 movies in the next 11 months. It would have been more, but I was traveling here and there, plus the state of Hollywood sometimes pushes even my limits of acceptable fare now and again. Moviepass got $104 of my moderately hard earned money up front and by my calculation the value of the tickets (to date) comes to approximately $940. I still have a couple months left on the deal, for whatever it will be worth, so the final tally is yet to be laid bare, but the glory days are gone, and as the saying goes, they ain’t coming back.

So, anyway, this is my apology for ruining Moviepass for the rest of you. Now we’re down to 3 movies a month, the selection of movies/showtimes is extremely limited, the app doesn’t work very well anymore and seemingly every week the deal gets a little worse.

Wait, I don’t like that one as much as the Robot Chicken one.

Skip ahead to the 2 minute mark.

Anyway, Moviepass in its current bastardized form is still a good deal if you live in a big city on a coast, which just goes to show what a shitshow the 10 buck all you can eat business model was from the start. Seriously, people at Moviepass, did you not understand that people who go to movies enjoy going to movies? And, really, what else am I going to do with my time? Contemplate eternity? Work?

Now it’s gone and dark days are ahead when I can no longer justify going to see the latest in the Purge franchise. In loving memory, here’s a list of the movies I functionally saw for the change in my couch cushions along with my quickie recollections on the quality of the feature presentation. And again, my apologies for ruining it for everyone.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Not good, exactly, but not awful. Meh, one might say. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Meh.

It

Fucking hell, I hated this movie. They changed stuff from the book to make it much, much worse and much, much more stupider. There’s a part two coming because it made boatloads of cash and fuck that movie.

Machete Kills

This movie is glorious, despite the queasiness of watching Mel Gibson be enjoyably evil in a Star Wars speeder. At least he’s legitimately evil in this, which feels appropriate, as opposed to that most recent Christmas family monstrosity sequel he did.

The Man with the Iron Fists

It’s exactly what it promises and the promise ain’t half bad.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Meh. I mean, Julianne Moore is pretty funny, and it has its hamburger moments, but still, meh.

Blade Runner 2045

It never finds its footing, the story doesn’t really work, and it looks incredible. Glad I saw it in the movie theater.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Solid movie.

Lucky

Zero plot and extremely engaging. Really liked it.

Thor: Ragnarok

Story and antagonist were perfunctory at best, but this was a very funny movie. I liked it so much I saw it twice back when Moviepass would let you see the same movie more than once.

Loving Vincent

More than its visual aesthetic, which is pretty engaging in and of itself. Really good movie.

Hostiles

Clunky and pretentious. What a waste of everyone’s time and talent.

Happy Death Day

A bizarre confection that never works but often threatens to. Could have been a lot worse, so you know, it has that going for it.

Marshall

Solid but unspectacular.

Jigsaw

This one was bad. Still way better horror movie than It. If I had to rank it amongst the Saw movies I’d say it is probably pretty much the same as all of the sequels but better than the original, which is another way of saying that I’ve seen all of the Saw movies despite none of them actually being good from beginning to end. What can you say? Mine has been a life…well, lived.

The Foreigner

Bleak and Jackie Chan was in full-on dour mode here, but Brosnan was great as the bad guy. I liked this quite a bit, but maybe that’s because my expectations were nil going in.

Thelma

So, so good. A great movie.

Coco

Okay movie by Pixar standards, good movie by any other. My wife fell asleep, so I got to tell her all the characters died in the end, which wasn’t entirely a lie, and that made it more fun at the end of the day. She still doesn’t know what happened in the movie and I refuse to tell her because otherwise she’ll think it’s okay to keep falling asleep in movies because I’ll be there to tell her what happens.

Ballad of Lefty Brown

Bill Pullman in grizzled veteran mode here. Solid movie, but it helps to have a soft spot for westerns.

Mudbound

Very engaging, but it didn’t really know how to wrap things up. Falls flat by the end.

The Disaster Artist

Not bad, but felt like it missed opportunities to be a much more interesting film.

All the Money in the World

Meh.

The Shape of Water

I liked it more than my sister, but it didn’t meet my expectations for a Guillermo Del Toro movie. Perfectly adequate though.

Darkest hour

Not bad.

Phantom Thread

Pretty good movie until the end, which was rushed and didn’t really work. In another downside, not the film’s fault, but still, now my wife refers to me as her grumpy tailor.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Better than it had any right to be, but keep those expectations low people.

Breadwinner

So, so good.

Call me by Your Name

Glacially paced and more impactful as a result when things do kick into gear.

2018 Oscar nominated Shorts

To shock nobody, the best of these did not win.

Lady Bird

Very good.

Black Panther

Painfully meh.

Early Man

Look, it’s not an insult to say this movie ain’t no Chicken Run. And yes, I know Mel Gibson does the voice of the rooster in that movie. Goddammit, why do people have to be awful and why do I have to know anything about them?

Annihilation

Blech. Story is crap, nothing really makes sense or connects. Looks great in stretches, but overall, pretty blech.

Game Night

Not too shabby.

I, Tonya

Excellent film.

Beirut

Great in spurts, not all that much when taken as a whole.

Isle of Dogs

Everything you’d expect and slightly disappointing for it.

Gemini

Not just bad, although it was bad, but boring.

A Quiet Place

It was okay. The big emotional beats mostly fell flat, but it was okay.

Rampage

This movie is a tonal disaster, it felt like the actors were performing in different films, but it somehow manages to be kinda fun. I don’t know how, because it’s not good, in any objective measure, but yeah, kinda fun. There’s a Pauline Kael line about movies so rarely being great that if you can’t enjoy trash there’s really no reason to be interested in film at all. That’s Rampage.

Solo

The most thoroughly blah movie you might ever see, but it’s so blah, it’s impossible to even be angry about anything in it. Makes you appreciate The Empire Strikes Back, so there’s that, I guess.

Deadpool 2

A little like watching an episode of Family Guy. If you get the reference, you might smile for a moment, but there’s nothing actually to any of this save for one glorious sequence in the middle.

Avengers: Infinity War

As good as it could possibly be, I suppose. But really, who gives a shit?

Revenge

The lead actress shares screen time with her ass in the first half of the movie, and the gonzo slapstick of the finale is, well, let’s just say, interesting. Taken overall this was pretty entertaining stuff.

Upgrade

Pretty good, all things considered.

Hotel Artemis

Meh.

The Gospel According to Andre

Meh.

Tag

Not particularly funny at any point and an obvious but still depressing descent into maudlin, saccharine horseshit by the third act. Seriously, character who is obviously suffering a terminal illness, just fucking die already and save us from the life lessons.

Ocean’s 8

Shockingly stupid. The requisite twist we know is coming in heist/con movies is so awful here it can’t be believed. I was embarrassed for everyone involved with the movie. Please God let the next of these take five extra minutes to work out a plotline/characters that makes some semblance of logical sense.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Ugh. You just wanna go to the movies sometimes, but yeah, you pay a price for it.

Incredibles 2

Good enough, I suppose, but familiar territory.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

Painfully dumb and insulting with some finely choreographed action sequences. It stomps on the first movie, which was problematic in its own right, but still, why make a sequel with the same characters if you don’t want to continue the story? Oh, right, money.

Antman and the Wasp

Funny throughout, but the main antagonist’s progression is a tonal disconnect from the rest of the film’s bounciness.

Skyscraper

Not as bad as you might think. Not good, obviously, but still, take your tiny victories where you can.

Whitney

Engaging at times, but little below the surface.

The First Purge

Subtlety be damned, this wasn’t terrible.

Hereditary

Pretty good. Not sure the movie tracks, but whatever, Gabriel Byrne is always watchable.

The Equalizer 2

I actually liked a lot of this movie, which surprised me given how little this movie needs to exist, but it had no idea how to work its third act and holy fuck was the bad guy bad, and not in ways you want your bad guy to be bad, but in ways that make zero sense.

Leave No Trace

Engaging character stuff that neither slams you in the stomach with overwrought emotion nor lets you off the hook at the end.

McQueen

Handles the ending exceptionally well, always tough in documentaries where the subject’s life ends in suicide.

Mission Impossible Fallout

Meh. Look, nobody runs like Tom Cruise, but the plot in this movie is nonsensical, absurdly complicated and the run time grinds you down. Some fantastic set pieces, though.

Sorry to Bother You

Very, very funny in spots. Solid satire, clever story progression.

Blindspotting

Very funny and engaging, not sure the ending really worked for me.

Blackkklansman

One of Spike Lee’s best films. Handles the tonal shifts exceptionally well.

Slender Man

Borderline incompetent. We’re at the end of MoviePass at this point, and I just wanted to see a movie while I still could. Any movie. Literally anything. And this was my option. So you know, it was technically a movie, I guess, in that there were images on the screen and sound to accompany it.

The Meg

Not good, exactly, but it was both intentionally and unintentionally funny at various times throughout. That’s not easy to do. What the hell, let’s give it a thumbs up.

 

 

Page Ten

Page Ten

Page Ten


I generally hate Inside the Actors Studio, the interview show with actors on Bravo. I don’t dislike the host, the guests or the concept, and maybe it’s the edited version that fails rather than the in-person experience, but the end result on television is more often than not a series of questions that overwhelmingly eschews any actual insight into the craft itself or the life of a working professionals in place of celebrity chit-chat. Fair enough, but I don’t care what working alongside Brad Pitt was like. I’m sure he’s delightful. What does that have to do with the work? With the life? Who would actually go on screen and say that working with Brad Pitt was a gut-wrenching experience barely preferable to that of a good old-fashioned leeching?

Anyway, I’m interviewing screenwriters in Page Ten, the Hollins University Screenwriting Podcast. Take a listen with the link below. I don’t know, maybe it’d be better if I asked more questions about movie stars. Previous episodes can be found on iTunes and over at the Hollins Screenwriting site.

https://publisher.podtrac.com/player/ODQ4NDY1/NA2

iTunes

Hollins University Screenwriting Blog

This Is Not Normal

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What can I say? I’m sick to my stomach over this racist buffoon becoming president. I can’t spend four to eight years venting on twitter and facebook every day, and it’s clear by now how I feel to the handful of people online who read what I write, so endlessly repeating on a loop how awful and dangerous Trump is will accomplish nothing save to take precious time away from napping.

So let me just write this and then I’ll (mostly) let things be.

Do not normalize this. This is not a Republican winning an election. There is no comparable event in U.S. history. As such, we must not treat it as if it were any other regular transfer of power in any other election year. We do not owe this man a clean slate, an open mind, a chance to lead, or any of the other numbingly idiotic suggestions given to us since the results came in.

We know who Trump is. He has told us again and again.

Trump is a bigot. He hates and demeans women. He despises Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, the disabled and anyone who he considers weak or has the temerity to oppose him. He is a bully. Incapable of empathy. Completely amoral. He is stupid yet convinced of his own superiority in all things. He is willfully ignorant and lacking in curiosity about the ways of the world and the people in it.

Informed of the facts, Trump will repeatedly double down on whatever asinine assertion he has spouted off the top of his head, despite the obviousness of the truth. The light is yellow, Mr. Trump. No, it’s green. Here’s a photo and twenty eyewitness statements verifying the yellowness of the light. Nope, it’s green, I was there, I saw it, it’s green.

What can you say to someone such as this? He is a fourth grade intellect with the temperament to match. An entitled, privileged egotist who has never once been denied anything, nor forced to pay a price for his behavior. Trump is the ultimate proof that a rich, white man can literally say anything and not only will he not be punished, he will often be praised and elevated.

He is unfit to lead a third grade field trip to a museum. That he has been elected is a national disgrace. I am ashamed to live in a country that would inflict his callous disregard for others upon those groups already marginalized within the United States, to say nothing of the rest of the world.

Nothing that happens from this point forward with Trump is normal. Acting as such legitimizes the words and actions of a man who would be booted from an Andrew Jackson kegger for being too much of a boor. It’s not a matter of political affiliation or disagreeing with policy, it’s a question of our fundamental values as a nation. Every time he speaks, remember he is openly and proudly racist. We elected a bigot.

That’s the part that cuts the deepest in all of this. A huge percentage of the United States is either racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and amoral or they simply aren’t bothered by any of those characteristics in an elected official. I live here. These people are my neighbors. Of course I saw the crazies in the dark corners, I’m not blind, but to think that there were enough to elect a president is shocking. How is it possible that I could be surrounded by such pervasive ugliness and not realize it? What fucking country am I living in?

We owe Trump nothing. He deserves no grace period, no clean slate, no chance to lead. He has not been ‘humbled’ by winning the presidency, as Oprah Winfrey so bizarrely wrote. The horrendous things he has said time and time again do not vanish because he has been elected – if anything they are magnified. We cannot make the mistake of thinking otherwise. Trump is who he has always been – the enemy of those who believe in the fundamental humanity of all people.

The End of All Things

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Look, endings are always rough. If it were otherwise, nothing would ever end. And so here we are, at the end of all things, minus Sam to help us through the dark patches.


The above clip would be the perfect expression of a Donald Trump America, except there won’t be any eagles in a few years to save us after they’ve been wiped out by the Chinese hoax of climate change.

But this isn’t about how Donald Trump is a disgusting piece of shit. Anybody with an internet connect knows he ran a white supremacist, xenophobic, misogynistic campaign that spewed an endless mix of lies and hate. It wasn’t subtle, either. He didn’t allude to these things as candidates had before, with wink-wink asides and heavy-handed language. His entire candidacy was predicated on racism and sexism – they were the issues he chose to argue before the public. You can argue about whether Trump is actually racist, xenophobic and misogynist, or whether he was playing to the crowd in an effort to win votes, and for my money, it’s pretty obvious where to land, but what you cannot argue is that his campaign was built upon such sentiment. His pitch was predicated on the idea that a dog whistle was too subtle. And who am I to argue? He won the presidency, after all.

We’ve got 4-8-12 soul crushingly brutalizing years to lament Trump’s presence in the political landscape, if the world survives that long. Lots of time to write about it while drinking heavily.

His opponent is headed out for the curb on heavy trash day. What do we make of such a remarkable public figure? What’s the epitaph? Well, first, and to be clear, Hillary Clinton is not a particularly good person. She is unethical. A warmonger. A money grubber. Yes, she was undone in this election by forces out of her control, by an assault of sexism that was painful to watch, but it does not alter the record of her time in the public sphere. She was – always – a terrible candidate for public office.

She is also a calculating politician and deeply ambitious, the two often going hand in hand. I don’t much mind these last two, after all, I’m not looking for a buddy to have a drink with, I’m looking for government service. Who in politics isn’t calculating or ambitious? My guess is it’s a pretty small number, and most of them are about to take their pension.

Still, it’s this last part that stands out to me. Ambition. Had she not run, Trump would not be in the White House. Does anyone doubt it? We come to the end of Hillary Clinton’s intensely driven political ambition at the moment it forced Donald Trump upon us.

This is somewhat unfair, of course. It’s massively unfair, actually. She did not operate in a vacuum. The DNC is as much to blame as Hillary, force feeding her to the electorate. Still, the culpability rests ultimately on her shoulders. It must. She chose to run, blind to her own faults. She could never see what was so obvious to everyone outside the Democratic party machine – she was a terrible candidate.

She had other options. Other paths to take. After 2008, she could have been a kingmaker. She wanted the crown for herself. And now she’ll live with the knowledge that she must shoulder the blame, partially or fully, for Donald Trump winning the white house. It’s sad, really. Part of me hopes that she’s immune to self reflection, that she’ll choose to blame her enemies (of which there are plenty to choose from) and the agents of chance rather than look inward.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, too. Our candidates, our elections, our public servants are all a reflection of who we are as a people, as a country. I should have done more. I should have shouted from the rooftops. Given more money. Volunteered more time. Convinced more people. We all should have done more to keep Trump from power. Collectively we will pay the price.

In the most cynical version of apportioning blame, it was her naked ambition that blinded her to the reality that her candidacy was always an uphill battle, that she risked the betterment of the country/world in her own mad quest for power, but this seems unduly harsh, an overreach. In the charitable version, which is the one I subscribe to, it was Hillary’s unwavering belief that she was the best person for the job. A genuine belief borne from a lifetime of struggle, persecution, hard work and passion for a better world. That she was never able to look at herself objectively and make the supreme personal sacrifice is hardly the worst thing to say about someone, and if anything, it makes her incredibly human.

I like to think that. It cuts a sympathetic figure. Someone who wanted something good and decent for this world. Maybe it doesn’t matter at all. We’re here. At the end of all things. And she did everything in her power to make it so.

Tilting at Windmills

This is a lie. Your vote does not matter.

This is a lie. Your vote does not matter.


Like the caption says, your vote in this year’s presidential election does not matter. Please don’t get mad at me.

This is indisputable. It carries with it no inherent bias or room to maneuver. It is simply a factual statement beyond reproach. Your vote does not matter. Again, please don’t get mad at me. It’s not my fault.

Presidential elections do not hinge on a single vote. The reality, of course, is that virtually no election at any level will be decided by a single vote, now or in the future, and certainly not for a presidential election, and for your vote to matter, this is precisely what must occur. So this November 8th, feel free to stay home, secure in the knowledge that your failure to contribute to the total number of ballots cast had zero impact on deciding the winner.

People get very upset by this, as if pointing out the blatantly obvious is somehow an assault on all that is good and decent in the world. I bring this up most every election, and most every election I’m subjected to people who argue vociferously on the importance of an individual’s vote. Al Gore did it recently with his, “Your vote, really, really, really matters.” No, Al, it really doesn’t. We all feel cruddy about the W years, but it doesn’t change the pointlessness of a single vote.

“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain!” “People suffered and died for the right to vote!” “Nothing will ever change if you don’t vote!” I added the exclamation points, but it seemed appropriate to sum up the typical arguments I hear expressed. This clip captures the prevailing attitude really well.


Could you make it through all of that? Holy shit, what a painful mixture of self-righteous smugness and preening knowitallness. It’s like watching California: The Guy.

He also makes the classic mistake of confusing the importance of elections with an individual’s vote. They’re not the same thing. One person staying home in Florida in 2000 would not have swung the election in any way, shape or form. Yes, elections matter. A lot. Large numbers of votes matter. A lot. Individual votes mean absolutely nothing. This is because what is true for the whole pie is not necessarily true for the individual slices, aka the fallacy of division. That people willfully argue against unassailable logic is just the most perfectly human/American response. Now, to be fair, the sort of crass appeal below makes a measure of sense:


An ad designed to encourage large numbers of people to vote against a particular candidate. Good for you, various celebrities, for using the same tired argument of ‘your vote matters’ in order to encourage lots of people to vote the way you want. That’s not sarcasm, either, this is likely a genuinely effective method of swinging elections because it aims to manufacture large numbers of votes through the use of Andrew from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But wouldn’t the world be a better place if people could be prodded to go the polls minus illogical and factually untrue arguments?

So this coming election, with all this in mind, understanding reality, seriously, feel no compulsion to vote. Don’t bother. Go see a movie instead. Or visit a museum. Lots of museums have discounts on Tuesdays. Your individual vote has as much value as Shawshank’s fart in the wind.


Now, for purposes of full disclosure, I’m going to vote this year. For the first time since 2000, I will step into a voting booth and pull a lever, or punch a ballot, or touch a screen or whatever the hell it is people do nowadays in the 21st century, not just aware of the meaninglessness of the act but rather precisely because my vote is meaningless.

Look, there’s nothing left to say about the 2016 presidential election that hasn’t been screamed in print, on television or in some dark corner of the internet. It’s all true, none of it’s true, but no minds are getting changed. I could write about it, I suppose, but who has the energy to explain to ‘undecideds’ why Donald Trump is a disgusting piece of shit and totally unqualified for public office or that Hillary Clinton is monstrously unethical and totally unqualified for public office. If ya can’t see it by now, there ain’t no help on the horizon, buddy.

So, yeah, stepping into a voting booth is nothing more than tilting at windmills. But screw it, I’m a romantic. Why not lash out in vain against my enemies? After all, I am helpless before raging insanity. A defendant in a Kafka court. Powerless. Impotent. Useless. There is literally nothing to do on November 8th but watch someone who was alive in the 1980’s and thinks Nancy Reagan started a national conversation on AIDS ascend to the presidency.

Nothing save for standing atop the hill and screaming into the storm. A pointless act of no consequence to protest the inexcusable, unpalatable and unforgivable. To rage against the dying of the light.

But you should stay home. No reason both of us should waste our Tuesday.

History in the Making

Ichiro

Ichiro


Ichiro Suzuki, a surefire first ballot hall of famer, is closing in on 3,000 MLB hits. This is a momentous achievement for any player, all the more so since Ichiro played in Japan for 9 seasons before making the trek to Seattle in 2001. Adding up his numbers from both leagues and you get the all time hit king of baseball. And even with all of this, as one of the greatest baseball players ever, he has found a way to astonish here in his age 42 season.

His walk rate this season is 11.3%.

Is your mouth agog? No? Really? It’s 11.3%. Still nothing? No reaction? This is not a player who walks much. It would easily be a career high if he maintains it for the season. Moreover, it is virtually unprecedented for a player of Ichiro’s stature to increase his level of production in any capacity so deep into his career.

Frankly it’s shocking for any player to produce at a high level at such an age. How shocking you ask? If we compare to the best age 42 seasons in the history of baseball, excluding the dead ball era, Ichiro, is on pace to have the best batting average, third best on-base percentage, seventh best slugging percentage and second most stolen bases to name just a few standard batting stats. The reality is, if we toss out the dead ball era and Barry Bonds, there have only been a handful of players at this age who were any good at all as regular or even part-time players.

Now, of course not too many guys played into their 40’s, so it’s a small sample size to look at his level of production in the proper context. But what if we look at every player in the 3,000 hit club during his final two seasons? This is with the exception of Alex Rodriguez, given his playing career continues despite the Yankees best efforts to the contrary.

Anyway, here’s a list of how many posted a career best in any major statistical category, which includes home runs, walk rate, strikeout rate, isolated power, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, WAR and wRC+ (according to fangraphs and with 150 minimum plate appearances).

Pete Rose (walk rate)
Tris Speaker (strikeout rate)
Lou Brock (strikeout rate)
Paul Molitor (strikeout rate)

And that’s it. Ichiro is on pace to do it in two categories (strikeout rate along with the walk rate) and he’s also knocking on the door of accomplishing it in OBP and wRC+. It’s not quite the all star break, so there’s plenty of time still to tank and/or start acting his age, but he’s positioning himself to have one of the greatest age 42 seasons in the history of baseball and one of the most impressive late-career seasons of his peers in the hall of fame. He’s always been a unique player, and now, in the twilight of his career, he’s adding value to his game we’ve never seen before. Incredible.

What makes the walk rate all so much more bizarre is that Ichiro has always had a pathological obsession with base hits at the expense of power and walks. In fairness, the latter is partly a result of his preternatural ability to make contact and put the ball in play, limiting the number of swings and misses and foul balls, and thus, limiting the number of pitches he would see in his at bats, a crucial component in drawing free passes. This is not necessarily a bad thing, given how exceptional he has been in reaching base safely through singles.

As to the former, much like Wade Boggs, another hit machine who eschewed (attempting) knocking pitches out of the ballpark for a few extra percentage points on the batting average at the end of the season, there isn’t as good a defense for choosing singles over (potential) extra-base hits. Brass tacks – both players likely hurt their teams by refusing to swing for the fences more often. A few more strikeouts, sure, fewer singles, definitely, but more home runs, doubles and triples (and the likely result of more walks with the threat of power) would almost certainly have increased their value.

More valuable, maybe. And yet, it would have made Ichiro less fun to watch. He’s a singular phenomenon, there really is nothing else like him in baseball. Watching him at the plate, slapping at the ball and beating out grounders to the shortstop, is one of those indelible images of the game for the last fifteen years.

Plus, I can’t complain now that the kid is walking at a healthy rate and getting on base at a rate 70 points above the league average. Now I get it all, the singles machine and an advanced metrics analyst’s dream come true. Good lord, at this rate of production, he might not need to retire until he hits 50.

Minor Adjustment

MA no gun

My novel Minor Adjustment is now out in paperback. Here’s a bunch of helpful links to various esteemed booksellers where you can read reviews and purchase many copies for yourself and loved ones.

Amazon

Mediander

Tower

Want to buy it but only wish to do so from a Korean language website? No problem! Just follow the link below.

Aladin

What’s the book about, you ask? Perhaps you’ve perused this site and you’re thinking it’s about baseball. Maybe traveling? Politics? Any of the stuff I write about here? Nope. It’s a story about a suspended homicide detective and her chiropractor fending off a bunch of mid-level mobsters running amok in Los Angeles.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

It wasn’t Susan’s fault. Not really. Yes, she accidentally shot a robbery suspect while he was in handcuffs, and yes, she subsequently managed to make the 11 o’clock news splattered in blood wearing only her bra, but that was just a series of unfortunate misunderstandings. Now she was suspended, quite unfairly in her opinion, her future as a LAPD homicide detective up in the air, her parents were driving her crazy about, well, everything really, and to make matters even worse, she’d thrown her back out during a night of heavy drinking and unnecessary violence. Also not her fault, Susan would be the first to point out.

Truth be told, Bob wasn’t faring much better with his life. Sure he was a successful chiropractor, but he was absolutely miserable. He just couldn’t shake the feeling he was stealing money from people who didn’t understand what a giant scam his entire industry was perpetrating on the world. A mid-life crisis in his 30’s seemed absurd on the surface, but Bob was certain there was something more to life than overbilling insurance companies for unnecessary x-ray exams.

When his father, a retired jewel thief, is shot and murdered by a rampaging mid-level mobster with delusions of grandeur, Bob is shaken from his malaise and inspired to not only find the culprit but change his life in the process. He does not, sadly, have the first clue of how to do this, but fortunately for him, one of his patients is a suspended homicide detective who despite her best efforts can’t seem to figure out a way to say no to Bob’s repeated pleas to take on an unauthorized investigation into a murder everyone else is convinced was just a simple mugging gone bad.

Amidst the ensuing romantic complications, Bob and Susan must navigate their way through the labyrinth of the Los Angeles underworld and a motley assortment of incompetents and reprobates with an assortment of personal problems of their own that would make a therapist of twenty years shake his head in disbelief, all in an effort to find the killer and bring him to justice.

The Greatest Lines in B-Movie History

theylive
The line of dialogue almost pales in comparison when brought to light against the backdrop of the absurd fight sequence between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David, as the former tries to force the latter to put on a pair of sunglasses in a last-ditch effort to save the world from evil aliens. This is the simplest, clearest description I could provide of the scene and is a fairly accurate summary of the movie as a whole. So yes, to answer the obvious question, They Live is an absolute must-see.

The joys of the film have everything to do with dark humor, satire and piles of genre fun. Directed by John Carpenter, whose exceptional body of work rivals the greatest American film directors without all the pesky corresponding critical acclaim, They Live is nowhere near his best effort (The Thing, Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13) but it practically defines the term ‘cult favorite’, which is praise enough. Aside from the forthcoming line, the highlight of the film is the aforementioned six-minute long battle royale in the alley that defies description. Here it is in its entirety.

Frankly, and I’m not saying Mr. David was right or wrong in his decision making during this scene, but for me, I probably would have put the glasses on.

Anyway, once the two men have settled their differences as scholars are wont to do, the story kicks into high gear, as we learn the aliens have slowly taken control of the Earth through subliminal messages delivered through a powerful signal broadcast from high atop the city. A plucky band of freedom fighters will try and disrupt it, which leads to a pretty cool ending. Before that, however, Rowdy Roddy Piper stumbles into a bank, for some reason that escapes my memory or perhaps because it simply happens for no good reason, and there he delivers one of those perfectly awful lines of dialogue that make movies so damn great.