From Out of Left Field

You find wisdom in unexpected places, as in this provocative quote from Davy Jones, not the former Monkee but a WW I-era outfielder for the Detroit Tigers:

By the turn of the century, you know, we didn’t have the mass communication and mass transportation that exist nowadays.  We didn’t have as much schooling, either. As a result, people were more unique then, more unusual, more different from each other. Now people are all, more or less, alike, company men, security minded, conformity — that sort of stuff.  In everything, not just baseball.

From The Glory of Their Time: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It by Lawrence Ritter


Amusing Ourselves to Death, Part 289

It’s both sad and a little amusing that we never seem to learn a lesson permanently. We learn, forget, learn again.  For instance: In this morning’s NY Times, supercol Tom Friedman includes this lament within a larger lament for a government adrift:

At the same time, the rise of cable TV has transformed politics in our country generally into just another spectator sport, like all-star wrestling. C-Span is just ESPN with only two teams. We watch it for entertainment, not solutions.

Friedman’s right, of course, though I’m not sure I’d lump C-SPAN with Fox or MSNBC.  I rarely watch the cable bloodsport anymore, but I did for years, and I can’t recall a shouting match in which a  solution broke out.  TV is not the place to think, anyway. But all that was predicted almost twenty years ago in a still-worthwhile book called Amusing Ourselves to Death. The author, Neil Postman, saw it all coming: In our time, everything must be on TV or cease to exist. Subtleties that are not TV-friendly must go. So anything on TV is inevitably trivialized.

Decoding the Austin Terrorist

An analysis by a student of mass murderers shreds the self-serving and hypocritical  manifesto of the Austin terrorist pilot–and why wouldn’t we call him a terrorist, by the way? Key quote:

But this is not a man who rejected the system. He only rejected the idea of paying his taxes. He spent his life creating businesses, working the system, and constantly keeping score with his bank balance. Stack embraced capitalism and then convinced himself he was a dismal failure at it.

I won’t be at all surprised if it turns out that the don’t-tread-on-me pilot was hooked on the toxic ravings  of Austin-based conspiracy monger Alex Jones, profiled in the current issue of Texas Monthly. If you visit Jones’ site here, you can get your copy of  “How to Survive Martial Law.”

Where is the Alex Jones of Cuba, Russia, China, Germany, Iran, Egypt? In jail or dead.  Only in America do people have the freedom to build a prosperous media empire bemoaning the death of freedom.

“You Are Not a Gadget” Reveals Dark Side of the Web

The online world reminds me of President Obama. It has much to recommend it, but  fervent disciples have  vastly oversold its benefits and sugar-coated its shortcomings. We must always remember that the Web is a human invention and therefore shares all its creators’ tragic flaws. Garbage In, Garbage Out, even if the Garbage passes across millions of monitors  in a second.

The apostate techie Jaron Lanier has been thinking for a while about the dark side of the online world, and he’s put his thoughts down in a book that’s hard to read–he is not a natural writer–but too important to ignore.

My review of You Are Not a Gadget appeared in last Sunday’s Dallas Morning News.  Also, via The FabSage, here’s Lanier’s chat with writer Chris Hedges, touching on political topics  not covered in the book.

One Year Ago Today. . .

I recently lamented my inability to keep a journal and confessed my envy of those who do. I think it would be almost magical to have in front of me a year or a month or a week in the life of the person I was at 25 or 15. So much is done, but so much forgotten. . .

But on the bright side, a blog is not a bad substitute for a journal, and mine reminds me that a year ago today,  I spent Valentine’s Day planting a spring garden, which turned out, like most plantings, to be a mixed bag:  collard greens superb, lettuce good, broccoli harder to chew than it is to spell.

I’ll be putting in a spring garden this year as well, but not today: D/FW’s record snowfall has left the garden buried under 8 inches of snow, and I haven’t noticed any starter veges in the stores yet. I’ll get out there in the next few days and prepare the ground.

How Dat Drew Brees Does It

No wonder Saints QB Drew Brees tied the Super Bowl record for completing passes yesterday. Check out this film here to see a scientific experiment testing his accuracy.

The whole thing is interesting, but you can cut to the chase by running the counter to about 3:10 if you like. Granted, no killer linebackers are trying to dismember him  while he throws at the target, but this is still quite something to see.

Death by Karaoke–or is it Sinatricide?

A NYTimes story  here reminds us that no matter how strange we think the world has grown, it’s always getting stranger.

All I can say is, if you’re ever in a karaoke bar and somebody starts singing Sinatra’s “My Way,” get out of  the way. Fast. Especially if you’re in the Philippines. Key quote:

The authorities do not know exactly how many people have been killed warbling “My Way” in karaoke bars over the years in the Philippines, or how many fatal fights it has fueled. But the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime dubbed the “My Way Killings.”

Regrets? I’ve had a few.

But then again, nobody’s shot me. . .