Does Another “Nightmare Sunday” Loom?

I’ve been a sports fan far too long to turn back now.

Or, to be more specific, I’ve been a Yankees and Cowboys fan since grade school, since the days of Mantle and Dandy Don,  and no 12-step program could shake me free of these addictions. Yes, I confess I’m a frontrunner. I love winners. I could never have been an Amazing Mets fan or a long, long, long-suffering Cubs worshiper. It’s just not in my makeup. T-shirt: “Futility is Not Amusing”

Analyst: Und vy thees symbiotic attachment to vinning dynasties?

Me: Hey, I just like to win, y’know!  It just makes me, uh, feel, I dunno, like I’m big and important too! Do I have to spell it out for you? OK? Satisfied now?

Anyway, that symbiotic attachment has brought decades of ecstasy, but when things go wrong in Dynasty Land,  it’s as if the very foundations of the universe are shaken.  Slightly paraphrasing the famous movie line, I often want to shout “Why can’t I quit you?” when my teams fail, as they both did last Sunday.

The day began with bright cheer. The Cowboys, after a somewhat disturbing opening loss to the Skins, would surely right the ship at home vs. the middling Bears. The Yanks had the revered Andy Pettitte coming back after 8 weeks on the disabled list.

Alas. The Boys stumblebummed their way to another loss, shrinking their playoff chances into single digits,  while Pettitte’s gallant six innings were wasted by a suddenly-suspect Yankees bullpen. As hope slipped away, I was glad I use an electric razor.

Now what about today? Will all the laughter die in sorrow once more, to borrow from the borrowed line used by disgraced former Boys’ star Lance Rentzel? We have the desperate Cowboys hoping to escape an 0-3 grave in Sweat City vs.  the Texans, who in this morning’s paper vow to take that “America’s Team” label and flush it into Buffalo Bayou.* All you can say is this: If the Cowboys have any unused Man-Up pills in the training room, they better gulp them down now.  This is it. Armaggedon awaits if they go 0-3 today.

And the beloved Bronx Bombers? They’re reeling through a 4-game losing streak as crunch time arrives, falling out of first place and now fighting to stay ahead of those hellhounds on their trail, the Red Sox. The noble Pettitte seemed to be lobbing beer-league softballs on his last outing, in which the Yanks hit six homers but fell anyway. This third game of the series tonight,  at the Stadium, is crucial. After this, the Yankees go to Toronto before closing out the season against the damnable Sox in Fenway.

Of course no just God would allow the defending World Champs to miss the playoffs–right? And the storyline of Cowboys-SuperBowl-at JerryWorld is too beautiful to be untrue–right? We’ll see as a potential Nightmare II unfolds.

*We must here insert the ritualistic disclaimer: The Cowboys did not dub themselves “America’s Team” in the early 70s. That was done by NFL public relations guys eager to whip up headlines.

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Fragging Franzen’s “Freedom”

So not every literate person in the Western World enamored of Jonathan Franzen and his latest epoch-definer, Freedom. Here’s a merciless dissection of not only Franzen’s ends, but his means as well. Key quote:

An idiosyncratic mix? Far from it. We find the same insecure style on The Daily Show and in the blogosphere; we overhear it on the subway. It is the style of all who think highly enough of their own brains to worry about being thought “elitist,” not one of the gang. The reassuring vulgarity follows the flight of pseudo-eloquence as the night the day. Like the rest of these people, Franzen should relax. We don’t need to find a naughty word on every page to know that he is one very regular Joe.

Message from D. C.: We Don’t Want Better Schools

That seems to be the main message sent by voters in Washington, D. C., home of the nation’s worst schools, where the pro-reform mayor Adrian Fenty was ousted yesterday. Still no word on the fate of his gutsy and innovative superintendent of schools, Michelle Rhee, hated by the featherbedding teachers’ unions. Among other flash points,  Fenty and Rhee opposed giving the  teachers tenure, which is really superfluous since D. C. teachers are almost un-fireable anyway, regardless of how many thousands of students have stagnated under their gaze.

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the District has its own version of New York City’s infamous Rubber Room, where teachers accused of educational malpractice literally spend years without working–at full pay–while their cases crawl through the bureaucracy.

How To Be Happy, #8 in a Series

When I first started to make films, I made Take the Money and Run, and Bananas, and every second you had to be working. Everything was the film, the film. And I said to myself, This is crazy. I have other priorities that are more important. I don’t sit there and do 14 takes till I get just the perfect one. Because I want to go home and watch the Knicks or the Yankees. I don’t care enough about my work to be that exacting.

–Woody Allen, The New York Times



The Year of Living Musically

Longtime lookers-in on this blog know that I’m awed and shamed by feats of heroic consistency (and no, heroic and consistency do not, in my thinking, form an oxymoron). Because most of our lives are daily proofs that consistency is very hard, and because most of us do not stay with any new regimen long enough to glean any of its benefits, I reserve high praise for  the stick-to-it crowd.

My admiration for this unglamorous quality of stickwithitness led me to praise Art Garfunkel’s amazing 40-year reading list. It led me to read and applaud Bob Greene’s Be True to Your School: a Diary of 1964, not because Greene is any rival of Faulkner or Proust, but because, as a high school student, he set out to keep a diary of an entire year, writing on every one of its 365 days, and did it. I’d give anything to have a diary of one of my high school or college years, or my first year as a teacher, or my first year as a professional writer. Alas, I’ve tried journals probably five or six times but never made it past a month.

Here’s a new feat of heroic consistency: A New York musician vowed on his last birthday  to write a piece of music every single day for a year. This is extraordinary (and no fair asking if he had a day job). Here is  his report and links to some of the music.

Googlin’ in the Basement with Bob Dylan

If you’ve been forcibly switched over to the surprising new Google Instant, as I was a few days ago, you probably thought whaaaaaa……… when it first start spitting out search results you didn’t even know you were searching for.

But you gotta give the Google Guys credit. They do innovative things in startling ways (and they don’t even charge for most of them–Maps, Picassa, Orkut, so much more.)

And they have now re-engineered Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” video, which, btw, should be recognized as the first real music vid long before MTV even had a pimple,  to explain how it works, or to explain as much as lyrics like “Maggie come fleet foot face fulla black soot” can explain.

So Google along with Dylan here.

Liver Spots, Rust, Frayed Edges: Do You Savvy Wabi-Sabi?

You really do learn something new every day. The only questions are, was it worth learning and can you apply it?

As one of the blessings of the work I do, I often learn 10 or 20 new things a day, some of which actually stay with me long after that particular assignment is said and done.  Here’s something I came across in the course of writing today–the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi. Key ideas:

“[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”

Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.

I like it. As opposed to the more Western concept of striving for perfection, Wabi-sabi recognizes the inevitability of imperfection, but tells us that our efforts may nonetheless be admirable and aesthetically satisfying.

More on the idea here and here. Skittering around the Web, you’ll also find a number of Wabi-sabi blogs, many suggesting that blogging itself is an inherently Wabi-sabi activity.