Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Saturday, March 29, 2003 7:37 am

Take me BACK to the ball game …

Filed under: Braves — Lex @ 7:37 am

My post on the Atlanta Braves’ demotion of Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren brought this response from my neighbor Fred. It’s not directly related, but because the past is ever with us in baseball, I enjoyed it and thought you might, too:

Georgia’s team is long gone, but it lives on in the minds of some who were just young men and in love with baseball many decades ago.I was there in the stands or with an eye pushed up against the knot hole at Ponce de Leon Park in the late 1940s and early ’50s. It was the best of times. I met Ty Cobb and he signed my autograph book. Same for Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Roy Campenella, Don Sutton and Jackie Robinson when the Brooklyn Dodgers played an exhibition series against my Atlanta Crackers . I was 13 or 14 and walked right up outside their locker room and held out the book. They gladly obliged, to my great delight. I remember a young third baseman who would go on to the “Bigs” (and the Hall of Fame ), Eddie Matthews, also signing my book when he was a Cracker.

I used to listen to their road games, my bedroom radio close to my ear (so Mom & Dad wouldn’t know I was up past bedtime), with the hokey sound effects as the pitch-by-pitch results were relayed by the announcer from Western Union wire reports. The days and nights at PdLP were wonderful and mystical. Ed Danforth and Furman Bisher (of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution [this was when they were still separate papers -- Lex]) wrote about the exploits of the old Southern Association in legendary places like Nashville’s Sulphur Dell. Augie Donatelli was behind the plate calling balls and strikes; “Country” Brown was stretching a single into a double with daring base running. Chuck Tanner, Ky Ky Cuyler and Dixie Walker were managing. “Swish” Sawatski or “Babe” Barna would break our hearts with one of their prodigious home runs. I would take the bus downtown to pick up the latest copy of Sporting News.

Those were the good old days, and even if the Braves win another World series it will never surpass the fond memories of spring, summer and fall in Atlanta when my passion for the game, our national pastime, was all-consuming. Although the souvenirs and mementos have since been misplaced, I am still able to cherish those happy outings in the grandstand or the bleachers, always hoping for a foul ball to come my way. For some reason today the magic is now lost, although I would like very much to recapture it.

Thursday, March 27, 2003 6:26 pm

Two great tastes that, um, go great together

Filed under: Victoria — Lex @ 6:26 pm

So we’re shopping for a birthday gift for a friend of Victoria’s, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a SpongeBob SquarePants Barbie! Which is to say, two of Victoria’s favorite things in the whole world, combined into one product.

She’ll be wanting one of her own, I presume.

And given that I’m still getting at least a couple of SpongeBob-related hits a day from people looking for all things SpongeBob, I figure this entry ought to at least double my traffic.

Reason No. 5,684 why media consolidation is a bad idea

Filed under: Braves — Lex @ 6:25 pm

The Atlanta Braves, owned by Turner Broadcasting, owned by Turner Inc., owned by AOL/Time-Warner (I think I’ve got that hierarchy right), have informed announcers Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, who have announced Braves games on TBS for 28 years, that they won’t be doing that job this year.

The reason is that TBS is trying to make its major-league baseball broadcasts more “national” — i.e., it wants to be thought of as a “major-league baseball” channel rather than simply “the Braves channel,” although it nonetheless will carry 90 of the team’s 162 games this year.

Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution mentions some reasons why this is, if not a horrible idea (which is what I think it is), both odd and a betrayal of TBS’ roots. For one thing, TBS became a national network in the early days of cable in large part by convincing much of America that the Braves were America’s team. (Ted Turner originally bought the Braves to provide a source of programming for TBS.)

TBS owes its success to its identity as an outlet for the Braves, pure and simple. TBS and the Braves, combined, are a brand. And if a brand is successful, which this one has been, you don’t mess with it.

What has this to do with Caray and Van Wieren? Apparently company officials consider the two “too closely identified” with the Braves to be likely to succeed on a cable network focusing on “major-league baseball.” Skip, bless him, said: “I was told I am too closely identified with the Braves — which, if true, is a nice compliment.”

Skip and Pete aren’t being fired; they’ll just be relegated to radio, while Don Sutton and Joe Simpson, who have been used to splitting TV and radio duties with Pete and Skip, will do TBS broadcasts full-time.

But something tells me longtime Braves fans aren’t gonna care for this at all. I know I don’t.

Heard late one afternoon at the city desk of a medium-sized American daily newspaper

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 7:09 am

REPORTER: (NIGHT CITY EDITOR) just wrapped me in duct tape.

EDITOR1: Why?

REPORTER: Oh, no reason.

EDITOR1: Were you being punished?

REPORTER: No.

EDITOR1:
Was she trying to mail you somewhere?

REPORTER: No.

EDITOR1: I take it you were off deadline.

REPORTER: Oh, yeah.

EDITOR1: But there was no special reason for this?

REPORTER: Nope. She just said, “I think it’s time to wrap you in duct tape,” and I said, “OK.” And she did. Didn’t you hear it?

EDITOR 2: Oh! Well, I heard her unrolling the duct tape, but I didn’t realize what she was doing with it.

REPORTER: She’d probably wrap you in duct tape, too, if you wanted.

EDITOR1: (…)

EDITOR2: Nah.

REPORTER: Not interested?

EDITOR2: Oh, please, (REPORTER), I am so far beyond duct tape.

REPORTER:
How far? Or do I want to know?

EDITOR2: I know my rights. And I’m pretty sure I don’t have to answer that question without an attorney present.

REPORTER: OK. Well, I think she’s about to wrap (EDITOR3) in duct tape now. I’m going to go watch.

He’s in the house. He said so.

Filed under: Hooper,Woohoo! — Lex @ 7:07 am

My son finally said his name yesterday.

Monday, March 24, 2003 11:13 pm

And now for something completely different

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 11:13 pm

Wow, that last post was heavy, so let’s move on to something lighter. Here, in honor of the Oscars, is Fark.com’s list of movies we would see if the MPAA censored everything down to a G rating. (The Mel Gibson entry is my favorite.)

Arf!

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 10:19 pm

You heard it here first (well, OK, second, behind the inestimable Jim Treacher, who coined it): The new nickname for the French, soon to appear all over an Internet near you, is: soap-dodging appeasement poodles.

Thursday, March 20, 2003 11:30 pm

Want to jerk your spouse’s chain?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 11:30 pm

Whom am I kidding? Of course you do! So make ‘em deny this:

Most newlyweds experience a brief emotional bounce after their wedding, but they eventually return to the same outlook they had on life before they tied the knot, according to a study released Sunday.

“We found that people were no more satisfied after marriage than they were prior to marriage,” the researchers said.

Every kid needs one

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 11:27 pm

Man, I never got to build a real, moving, shooting tank with a 37mm potato cannon when I was a kid. The closest we came was making a submarine out of cardboard boxes, following a very vague pattern in the Childcraft: The How and Why Library kids’ encyclopedia.*

*If you want to kick major buttocks in College Bowl, Quiz Bowl, Trivial Pursuit and related arenas, find yourself an old set of these books and read ‘em, particularly Volume 11: Scientists and Inventors; Volume 12: Pioneers and Patriots; and Volume 13: People to Know. You will rule. It’s as if the people who write the quiz questions use these books as their source material. True story: My senior year at Davidson I was asked by an ex-girlfriend to fill in on her College Bowl team for someone who couldn’t be there that night for the competition. Not only did we win a double-elimination match after losing the first round, thanks to Childcraft, I did one of those buzz-so-early-the-audience-thinks-you-have-to-be-cheating deals, like this:

Moderator: In 1927 Charles A. Lindbergh became the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1909 — “

***BUZZ!!***

Moderator: “Prime Evils, Alexander.” (My teammates, including my ex-girlfriend, meanwhile, are giving me “What the F— are you doing?!?” looks.)

Me: “Bleriot?”

Audience: “Huh?”

Moderator: ( … )

Me (taking advantage of the lull to fill in the answer completely since I wasn’t sure exactly how the question would have been worded): “In 1909, Louis Bleriot became the first man to fly solo across the English Channel.”

Audience: (murmurmurmurmurmurmurmur)

Moderator (after long, puzzled pause): “That … is correct! Fifty points to the Prime Evils, and you have the bonus!”

I shoulda turned pro, but that’s a story for another time.

Funny ha-ha or funny strange?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 10:56 pm

If you’ve visited the government’s homeland security preparedness site, you might’ve been struck, as I was, by the urge to write alternative captions for some of the drawings. Now, I didn’t act on my urge, and I bet you didn’t either, but here’s someone who did. Warning: Blog on the Run will not be responsible for asphyxiations caused by attempts to consume food or beverages while reading this page.

Who hates America?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 10:52 pm

A couple of weeks back, some columnist or blogger or pundit took the position that anyone who protested the war/worried about the safety of Iraqi civilians/said or did anything in opposition to Bush’s policies “objectively hates America.”

Well, I think I know now who hates America. And you know what? It’s not Saddam (Well, OK, it probably is, but he’s not alone.), it’s not war protesters, it’s not Democrats. It’s not even you or me.

It’s Manny, Moe and Jack, that’s who.

The word made flesh … or, at least, fish

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 10:49 pm

Some people wonder why I stay in journalism despite the low pay, societal disapproval and other nonperks. Part of the answer is that you read a story like this and how can you not stay?

An obscure Jewish sect in New York has been gripped in awe by what it believes to be a mystical visitation by a 20-lb. carp that was heard shouting in Hebrew, in what many Jews worldwide are hailing as a modern miracle.

Count your blessings

Filed under: There but for the grace of God ... — Lex @ 10:24 pm

My man Herb is blogging again after a far-too-long layoff. But much of what he now has to say I’m already familiar with, just because I see it day to day. Lemme tell you, from where I sit, right now Herb’s life just flat sucks.

Herb is helping install our new multi-million-dollar computer system at work and training people to use it.
Meanwhile, he and Susan and the girls are looking for a larger house. They’ve already bid and lost on one house — right around the corner from us, dammit! — because they had to have a contingency in their contract about selling their current house and another buyer came in without a contingency.

Meanwhile, as they’ve put their current house on the market, they’ve found some … unique problems. For one thing, there’s a dead possum somewhere under the house. For another, it stinks to high heaven. Almost as disturbing to Susan as the notion that there’s a smelly dead possum under her house is the notion that it might have been there long enough to have, or make, some baby possums. (Or, as I put it to Herb in my never-ending and shameless campaign to boost the number of hits on this site, some hot possum-on-possum action.)

You can read Herb’s blog for the denouement of this little marsupial imbroglio, complete with an amusing penis-measuring contest, if you will, between the pest-elimination guy and Herb and Susan’s neighbor, The Contractor Who Knows What The Hell He’s Talking About.

I want Herb and Susan to get some rest, and I want them to find a very nice house at an incredibly good price right near us (as they did once already before the contingency thing reared its ugly head).

What I don’t want is to have anything happen to us on the scale of what’s happened to them. Granted, we’ve had a rough winter here at Casa Alexander, with practically everything and everyone getting sick, breaking down or both. But at least we don’t have anything rotting inside our walls at the moment.

Things, in other words, could be worse.

Rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules, or, Why international law matters

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 7:40 pm

The president’s father isn’t the only one worrying about the damage recently done to our international alliances. Business Week argues that our ad-hoc, unilateral foreign policy might well be bad for us in ways that even — especially — conservative business people would find troubling.

The first decade of the new century is beginning to feel like the 1970s, when the turmoil of the Vietnam War cast a long shadow over the U.S. economy. It may even get worse than that. Chief executives are beginning to worry that globalization may not be compatible with a foreign policy of unilateral preemption. Can capital, trade, and labor flow smoothly when the world’s only superpower maintains such a confusing and threatening stance? U.S. corporations may soon find it more difficult to function in a multilateral economic arena when their overseas business partners and governments perceive America to be acting outside the bounds of international law and institutions.

Victoria and the stars

Filed under: Victoria — Lex @ 10:11 am

Daddy, why did the space shuttle crash?

No one knows, sweetie. Right now they think part of the wing might have been broken, but they don’t know for sure and they may never know.

Was it because the astronauts were bad? Did they make bad decisions?

No, sweetie. It wasn’t their fault. They didn’t do anything wrong. But being an astronaut has always been dangerous, and they were getting ready to land, which is the most dangerous part of being an astronaut.

Daddy, did the astronauts have children?

Yeah, sweetie, some of them did.

What will happen to them?

Well, they will keep living with their mommies or daddies.

Their daddies?

Yeah, sweetie, two of the astronauts were women. Didn’t you know?

No.

Yep, they were.

Can you bring me a paper from work with a picture of the astronauts?

Sure, sweetie.

Were they the first women to be astronauts?

No, sweetie, women have been going up in space for a while, now. But just like the men, you have to be very strong and very brave and work very hard and study very hard. But if you do, you could be an astronaut, too. Would you like to be an astronaut some day?

I don’t think so.

Why not?

Because it’s too dangerous.

Well, sweetie, just remember, for one thing, it might not be so dangerous by the time you grow up. And for another thing, some of the most important things people ever do are very dangerous. Besides, you don’t have to decide right now what you want to be. OK?

OK.

***
That conversation took place two days after the shuttle crashed. On the one hand, it’s a unique conversation, and there’s every reason to think and hope we won’t have to have another one like it. But on the other hand, it’s not too dissimilar in kind from other conversations we have had about her future, about what she might do — not necessarily for a living, but just because it interests her.

There are far more opportunities for girls now than when I was a kid, and I want her to take advantage of all of them that look appealing to her. But she’s to some extent a timid kid, one who likes to spend a lot of time watching before she tries something new and one who has a lot of fears she can’t always name, even with her way-past-4-year-old vocabulary.

I don’t want her to be ruled only by her fears, and I don’t want to denigrate them, either, so I struggle with how to relate to her sometimes. I’ve always thought that every 4-year-old should want to be an astronaut, for reasons I can’t even begin to explain, and on some irrational level it bugs me that my 4-year-old might not want to.

Except that in the weeks since that conversation took place, she has watched and learned, and her attitude seems to be, well, evolving. She has seen astronauts on TV; she has asked questions about what astronauts do and how one gets to be an astronaut. These days, when we’re ready to go downstairs for breakfast, she begs us, “Carry me like an astronaut,” by which she means carry her upside-down so that her hair will float around her head like that of an astronaut in zero gravity. She knows that some of the astronauts were doctors, and coincidentally or not she has mentioned a couple of times in the past few weeks that she might like to be a doctor when she grows up.

She’s got the compassion and empathy to be a physician; whether she has the science chops is another matter, one for which genetics does not bode well. But that’s not really the issue or the point. The point is that in her own way, at her own pace, she’s examining her own fear, day by day.

And night by night, she looks for a moment at the newspaper section I brought home for her, the one with the photo of the disintegrating shuttle that everyone saw, run the full width of the page; with the word DISASTER in 3-inch-high letters; with the photo underneath of the seven astronauts in their orange flight suits, the five men and the two women.

And then, just before Bible stories and bed, she peeks out her window for a moment to look at the stars.

Thursday, March 13, 2003 9:51 pm

Miracle

Filed under: There but for the grace of God ... — Lex @ 9:51 pm

That’s what everyone’s calling it, the safe return of kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart to her family almost a year after she was abducted. And I’d have to agree.

When the story first broke, it chilled me to the bone, as I’m sure it chilled every parent, particularly the parents of girls: A stranger broke into the bedroom and kidnapped her from her bed. Our bedrooms are upstairs and the thought still scares hell out of me.

I also had been a cops reporter too long to have any illusions about where the story was likely to end: a shallow grave. If, that is, it ever ended.

There are still a lot of questions about how Elizabeth and her captors remained undetected as long as they did, and what might have happened to her during her captivity. I’m sure the tabloids are delving into those questions as I write. But to a large extent, I neither need nor want to know, unless there are lessons from that experience that my own children need to learn.

And they will have to learn them. While I was folding clean laundry last night, Victoria saw something on the news, and as any bright 4-year-old will, she raised a host of questions: What happened to her? How did that happen? Did the police find her? And, to V., the most important question of all, apparently, because before the night was over she had asked it at least seven times: Did they put that man in jail?

I was delighted to be able to tell her: Yes, sweetie, he’s in jail and will probably be there until he’s a very, very old man. [Victoria: "Will he die there?"]

Abduction of children by strangers is far less common than one might believe from watching TV news (or, for that matter, movies-of-the-week). For a victim to survive such an abduction is rarer still. But tonight we can hug our own children more tightly to us and rejoice in the reuniting of the Smart family … and in whatever small measure of hope Elizabeth Smart’s safe return might offer to the families of other abducted children who remain missing.

Monday, March 10, 2003 2:28 pm

Project this!

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 2:28 pm

You may or may not have heard of the Lysistrata Project, an effort by more than 2,500 theater groups worldwide this past weekend to read aloud and/or produce Aristophanes’ 2,500-year-old comic play “Lysistrata,” which is frequently, though not always, understood to be antiwar.

Not everyone is on board, including the irrepressible Neal Pollack (definitely NC-17; scroll down to the first mention of “Lysistrata”) and the even less repressible Blogatelle (definitely NC-17).

Heavy metal lite

Filed under: Hooper — Lex @ 1:32 pm

Michele at A Small Victory does a bit of moonlighting here to suggest that we may be the first generation in history whose music is harder (as in harder-rockin’) than that of both our parents and our kids, a meme she credits to Henry Rollins, the poet/writer and former front man for Black Flag.

It pains me to see how soft our children have become. The Metallica generation is finally having their own kids and what happens? A surge of boy bands, blonde pop singers and punk posers take control of the airwaves. Our kids are swooning over this stuff.

Well, my kids are too young to have formed any impressions, but I’ve done my best to introduce them to the music of their people, i.e., Elvis Costello, the Ramones, Misfits, the aforementioned Black Flag, and so on. I have no idea whether any of it is taking. We’ve had better luck indoctrinating them into the cult of the Carolina Panthers: Whenever I point to any of the (numerous) Panther logos in the house and shout, “Hooper, what’s that?” he says, “Panther!” and when I say, “What do Panthers say?” he gleefully raises two hands (well, usually; sometimes only one) and shouts, “Touchdown!”

Homework

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 1:22 pm

Yeah, I’m blogging from home today … Hooper turned up with a high fever just after 11 this morning so I went and brought him home. No other signs or symptoms, and he ate a decent lunch; he’s napping now. Could just be the aftereffects of a very busy weekend.

Turnabout is fair play

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 1:14 pm

Recently, I blogged about a quiz that tells you how conservative you are. (No, I don’t remember when; go look through the archives. It wasn’t that long ago.) Now, as sort of a rough balance, here’s the Liberal Magic 8-Ball!

And now for something completely different …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 1:05 pm

… as they used to say on “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” here’s an altogether less, well, reverent take on Fred Rogers’ death, from the inimitable Amish Tech Support.

Saturday, March 8, 2003 6:26 pm

Fred Rogers’ walk of faith

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 6:26 pm

Yet another thing I’m late on: Mr. Rogers’ death. I was born a little too early to appreciate Fred Rogers when I was a kid — indeed, I got much more of a kick out of deejay Robert Murphy’s send-up of him, a regular feature of the “Murphy in the Morning” show on Charlotte’s WAYS-AM in the late 1970s. But I’ve met and heard from a lot of people to whom Mr. Rogers was a powerfully reassuring figure.

One of the most eloquent of these is Jeanne d’Arc, who publishes the Body & Soul blog. My politics are several notches to the right of hers, but of all the tributes I’ve read to Fred Rogers, I think hers illustrates best just how much of a difference Rogers could make in the life of a child … or the parent of a child.

I did not know until after his death that Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister. But in hindsight, perhaps it should have been obvious. “If he ever mentioned God on his show, I missed it,” Jeanne d’Arc wrote. “But he was one of the greatest witnesses to the power of a life of faith I’ve ever seen.”

Wednesday, March 5, 2003 10:25 pm

We’re BAAA-aaaack!

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 10:25 pm

Finally, Time Warner Cable has tracked down the bug and gotten me back online. I had to call their double-secret Level III tech support last night, and that guy in turn had to call in the engineers (I picture guys with both pocket protectors and brass knuckles), but when I got home from work today and rebooted the PC, we were at one with the ‘Net again.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA …

Monday, March 3, 2003 10:20 am

Only connect

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 10:20 am

If only I could. However, I’ve been without an Internet connection at home since late Thursday night (about 12 hours before we lost electrical power). Spent some time on the phone with my ISP last night while they did a route trace and determined that the problem most likely lies somewhere within Time Warner Cable’s network. So until they can get it fixed, Blog on the Run will remain dark. Sigh.

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