Monday, April 29, 2019

Are sports books still a thing?

When I was a kid I read every sports book that came out. I still have many of them.

I rarely read one now, I guess in part, because I don't find athletes as alluring as I once did. Plus, with the internet and social media, there's very little that isn't known about them. They aren't as mythical now.

But I put this book on my list: “K: A History of Baseball In Ten Pitches,” by Tyler Kepner, a New York Times sportswriter. The book was released on April 2.
 After two chaotic decades or so, the spitball was banned for 1920, the same year the country went dry under Prohibition. The rule simply turned the mound into a speakeasy, with many pitchers going undercover to get the same slippery edge as their predecessors.
Here's a partial list of some of the sports books taking up room on my shelves. I'd forgotten how big of deal some of these people were back in the day (1970-80s). See if you recognize any:

How Life Imitates the World Series - Thomas Boswell
The Herschel Walker Story
Mickey Mantle - All My Octobers
Who's on First?
Doc Ellis - In The Country of Baseball
Bob Knight: His Own Man
John Madden: One Knee Equals Two Feet
Vince Lombardi - Run To Daylight
Jim Brown
Super Joe: The Jon Namath Story
Brian Piccolo: A Short Season
Alex Karras - Even Big Guys Cry
John Wooden - They Call Me Coach
The Breaks of the Game
Pat Riley - Show Time
Wilt Chamberlain
Giant Steps - Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Steinbrenner - Dick Schaap
Yogi Berra - If There's a Fork in the Road, Take It
Ball Four - Jim Bouton
Jay Johnstone - Temporary Insanity
Bill "Spaceman" Lee - The Wrong Stuff
John Brodie - Open Field

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Tomatoes: All potted up and ready to grow

Finished: Block's 'Eight Million Ways to Die"

I was recently complaining to a buddy that I hadn't read a book in a while that knocked my socks off. Then I turned to Lawrence Block and I'm running around barefoot.

"Eight Million Ways to Die" has all the stuff you like in a murder mystery: Machettes, bars, hookers, boxing, pimps and murder. What made this one special was Block's character Matthew Scudder

He's built a series around Scudder, a private detective. But this one really delved into Scudder's mind, his alcoholism, his lostness (is that a word?). This is fifth book in the 18-book Scudder series. It's the first that really fleshes out Scudder and, I think, really made him into the long-lasting character he came to be.
Nobody knows better than Matthew Scudder how far down a person can sink in this city. A young prostitute named Kim knew it also—and she wanted out. Maybe Kim didn't deserve the life fate had dealt her. She surely didn't deserve her death. The alcoholic ex-cop turned p.i. was supposed to protect her, but someone slashed her to ribbons on a crumbling New York City waterfront pier. Now finding Kim's killer will be Scudder's penance. But there are lethal secrets hiding in the slain hooker's past that are far dirtier than her trade. And there are many ways of dying in this cruel and dangerous town—some quick and brutal ... and some agonizingly slow.
This 1982 book was made into a movie in 1986 starring Jeff Bridges, Rosanna Arquette, and, in a leading role for the first time, Andy Garcia. I haven't watched it, but will now.

If you haven't read Lawrence Block, do it. As Stephen King said: "A hell of a book!"

I gave it an 8 on the Haugenometer.

Friday, April 26, 2019

They're coming for you (no, not really, they're not that bored)

I'm not saying there's aliens out there, but I am saying we're kind of naive to think there aren't. And now the Washington Post seems to agree.

Enough Navy pilots have raised a ruckus to get the military to begin investigating some of these sightings.
 In some cases, pilots — many of whom are engineers and academy graduates — claimed to observe small spherical objects flying in formation. Others say they’ve seen white, Tic Tac-shaped vehicles. Aside from drones, all engines rely on burning fuel to generate power, but these vehicles all had no air intake, no wind and no exhaust.
Here's a good summary with video of sighting by Navy and commercial pilots.

 Sleep with one eye open, my friends. One eye open.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A fairy tale to make Stephen King blush

In this article I learned a new term: tempus fugit. Basically "time flies." I was also reminded how dark this fairy tale was, and it used to be worse.
The queen wanted her internal organs, so the huntsman, in what historian of religions Norman Girardot suggests is a reminiscence of the “sacrificial rites of the virgin maiden”, kills a wild boar instead – in antiquity, these were frequently used as a substitute for human sacrifice to appease the gods.
The subsequent event has been largely forgotten – and rarely shown in film adaptations. When the queen receives her daughter’s viscera, she decides she’ll have them salted and boiled, then feasts upon them with epicurean pleasure, convinced that they’re Snow White’s. The root of her pleasure rests on two facts: she has obliterated her daughter, her rival, but also, crucially, this anthropophagic act preserves the essence of ritual cannibalism – the ancient belief that eating the enemies’ flesh was a source of spiritual and physical strength. By eating Snow White, she believes she will embody her characteristics. The choice of organs is relevant: lungs represent the breath, the spirit; and the liver is a symbol of purification, as it cleanses the blood. In The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Maria Tatar points out that different versions include different “gifts”: the most remembered one is the heart; but in Spain, it’s “a bottle of blood stoppered with the girl’s toe”, whereas in Italy, the huntsman must return with “her intestines and her blood-soaked shirt” or her eyes and a bottle of her blood.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

When we all think alike, nobody is thinking

Most know by now my thoughts on censorship and erasing history. In fact, my "Rockin' the Bakken" leather work binder features an "I Read Banned Books" sticker.

So of course this latest action by sports teams in New York and Philly to crap on Kate Smith caught my eye. This story argues that if Kate Smith must go, then so must go the New York Yankees. That's almost getting into a censorship/banishment movement I could get behind. Stinkin' Yankees. But I'm standing firm. Censorship bad. Free speech good.
The irony of this team cancelling Smith for actions she took almost a century ago that are only mildly problematic, while their own team refused to hire black ballplayers, is astounding.
So I've been thinking of a way to better make my argument that erasing history does not help anyone, because we won't learn from our mistakes if we don't teach young'ns what those mistakes were. Also, why are we punishing dead people who can't even defend themselves because they behaved according to the societal norms and mores of their day? Also, must everything good a person did (like sing "God Bless America") be erased because they (in some person's opinion) did something wrong?

So my new argument is this: Pretend (or hope) that in 100 years, abortion is considered wrong, ghastly and horrendous. Much like we now consider racism (or any other ism) wrong.

Will then every pro-abort politician, celebrity, singer who is currently pro-abortion, but otherwise excels in their field, be ostracized? Their music banned? Their statues torn down?

Even though by today's standard that is a position held by half the population of our country, and accepted by many, should they be punished a century from now if that changes? No regard paid to the times they lived in? No consideration given that societies might evolve for the better?

I don't know if that helps my argument or not, but I'll stand by my assertion that Kate Smith was a helluva singer, Thomas Jefferson a brilliant man, and General Robert E. Lee was a shrewd battlefield commander worthy of study. We can talk about their mistakes, their decisions, while still maintaining the value they brought in other aspects of their lives.

If we erase imperfect people from the history books and current life, there won't be anyone left to learn from.

Everything is not equal. Kate Smith is not David Duke. She's done less offensive things than the current governor of Virginia. Yet, he gets to keep his job.

The trouble with banning this, that and the other, is the scorecard is hard to keep given the hypocrisy of many of the judges, no measure of shades of gray, and no counterbalance given to the good those people may have done.

Do we not put up a statue of President Obama in Rapid City because up until a decade ago he believed marriage was only between a man and a woman? I think he deserves a statue despite having held that belief. But Chick-fil-a can't be in a particular airport?

We're riding on the crazy train here folks. This stuff needs to be shut down. Let people think, talk, worship and sing how they want. Ban censorship.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Free stuff for Arbor Day!

Arbor Day is Friday, April 26. If you want a free tree, you can click here:

I love trees but live in a tough spot to keep them alive, unless they are Ponderosa pine.

We have semiarid climate, clay soil, dry summers and my particular place lives in a valley where a cut in the hill provides a nice little wind tunnel for wind from Hades.

But that doesn't stop me. We had one tree on our one-third acre when we moved here fourteen years ago. Now, i'm guessing, we have 50 various bushes, evergreens and trees of various sizes and varieties.

The previously mentioned website to get the free tree is kind of cool. It zooms in on your property and shows you the best place to plant a tree to save on your heating and cooling bill. Also estimates the amount of money you save and some global warming gobbledygook.

Never one to turn down a free plant, I put in an order for an oak tree. Come by in 100 years and check it out.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The nightly routine

Like me, my dogs are creatures of habit.

About 9 p.m. most nights I go into my office/library/greenhouse/conservatory to read, write or play in the dirt, depending on the season and my mood.

Every night, the dogs follow me in. Stanley hops onto the bed and assumes his position. Eventually Huckleberry moseys in as well. When Huck was a puppy, he was too little to jump onto the bed. He would put his front paws on it and I'd lift him up by his haunches and give him a boost.

Six years later, with the ability to easily jump onto the bed, he chooses not to. He likes the little extra attention. He will put his front feet on the bed and stare straight ahead. Finally, if I haven't jumped out of my chair to lift him up, he'll turn his head and look at me and wait.

So I get up and lift his 60-pound butt onto the bed and he curls in next to Stanley for his pre-bedtime nap.

It's so silly it makes me laugh every time.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Word of the Day: Nutpicking

"the fallacy of choosing the craziest elements from groups you disagree with and pretend they are representative of that group."

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Thanks for the business

Just a quick thanks to those who took advantage of the offers made available by during Read an Ebook Week.

I "sold" over 70 books and was very happy with that. If you liked the books, please leave a review. If you didn't, well, never mind.

Hey, I get it. We all love Amazon. But they are monopolizing the biz right now and we can't let these other outlets be ruined by them. That's why I post most of my stuff on both. But most people default to Amazon because they already have an account there.(Authors get a much larger share on Smashwords.)

So getting more people signed up on Smashwords continues to be my goal. I love what they do there.

"Bags of Bodies" was the top download, which reminded me I haven't transitioned "Bags of Rock" over to Smashwords from Amazon. I will do that shortly. Keep an eye out for it.

Along those lines:

How to Fight the Commoditization of Books 
Smart indie authors can combat the devaluation of e-books caused by Kindle Unlimited

Friday, April 12, 2019

Newspapers aren't dead, but they're not helping themselves

A columnist cites Ted Koppel in an offering about journalism dying in self-importance and embracing its own biases. Who am I to argue with him?

When I owned the Tea & Harrisburg newspaper 15-20 years ago with a skeleton staff, people would ask how I could cover a Lennox School Board meeting and put a news story about it on Page 1, but then turn the page and find me ripping the same school board for its dumb decisions. I felt, wrongly or rightly, that I could present an unbiased news story on the cover and present my thoughts on the story on the opinion page. Koppel's point, and others, seems to be those lines of separation have been blurred or even erased in some cases: The news story contains the opinion of the writer.
When I started as a reporter years ago—we were known as “reporters,” never by the more pretentious “journalist”—I tried to use an adjective or an adverb now and then, in the wistful hope of making a story, well, colorful. The city editor, with a look of scorn, would ask, “Who do you think you are?” It was not for the reporter to characterize the facts of the story. He was to report them. Facts were sacrosanct—they had a hard-won integrity, an objective existence in the universe. They were to be approached with a certain scruffy reverence.
Back in the day at the Argus Leader, I remember legendary editor Dick Thien telling the newsroom the best sentence, in his opinion, contained a noun and a verb. That would make pretty boring copy in my opinion, but I understood his intent.

I think most local newspapers I read make an attempt at being unbiased, but understand how readers get confused when they see the paper state an opinion on the opinion page and wonder how that can't bleed over onto the news page. They usually don't understand how things work in a newsroom. People still assume the reporter writes the headline on their story.

I think the larger problem is when reporters go on social media and post political stuff, with their unfiltered snark and self-importance, and then they expect people to read a news story with their by-line the next day with an open mind.

While I think it's good for reporters to use social media to give readers or viewers a more personal look at them, some can't resist the temptation to be antagonistic egomaniacs.  While that is the personality of some, I doubt it's driving traffic to their newspaper.

Here's another take on the same subject:

Why Losing Our Newspapers Is Breaking Our Politics
Study finds newspaper closures are linked to partisanship
As local newspapers disappear, citizens increasingly rely on national sources of political information, which emphasizes competition and conflict between the parties. Local newspapers, by contrast, serve as a central source of shared information, setting a common agenda.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

More to Hepburn than met the eye

So there's a new book out detailing Audrey Hepburn's role as a resistance spy during WWII.

As a frequent viewer of old films on Turner Classic Movies, it's always struck me how beautiful and classy many of the mid-twentieth-century starlets were. If not for those movies I'd only know them as they were in old age. I suppose that's true of everyone. Lord knows I haven't gotten any more attractive in old age, and it's not like it would've taken much to improve with time.
“The first few months we didn’t know quite what had happened … I just went to school,” Hepburn would recall. “In the schools, the children learned their lessons in arithmetic with problems like this: ‘If 1,000 English bombers attack Berlin and 900 are shot down, how many will return to England?’ ”

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Did someone say the snow is about gone? Idiot

This guy seems about as enthused about Winter Storm Wesley as I am. Picked a bad year to skip our Florida vacation.