Saturday, April 14, 2007

April 15, 1947

Life is not a spectator sport. If you're going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion, you're wasting your life. - Jackie Robinson

Most of us were not alive in 1947. You would have to be in your late 60s to have even the foggiest memories of those days, but we only need books and video to know that baseball, and sports in general, were white men's occupations in the middle of the 20th century.
In those days, Major league baseball was played by 16 teams. In 1946, the National League pennant was won by the St. Louis Cardinals, who beat out the Brooklyn Dodgers by 2 games and went on to beat the Red Sox in the World Series.
That was the Cardinals team with players like Enos Slaughter, Joe Garagiola, Stan Musial and Dick Sisler. They also had 3 guys named "Red" and other players with names like Emil, Marty, Nippy, Blix and 2 guys named Del.
That summer, Jackie Robinson was playing minor league baseball with the Montreal Royals in the International League, and on April 1, 1947 he was signed by the Dodgers, with the intent of having him play in the Major Leagues.
Before that, Jackie played a season in the old Negro League. He wasn't their best player. Most people say that Monte Irvin was, but what Jackie had, in addition to talent was inner strength. In order to make the integration of baseball successful, the first black player would have to be strong enough to survive the taunts and physical threats of not only the fans, but some of his fellow players. That is what made Jackie so special. He recognized his place in history and realized that it was about more than just baseball.
On April 15, 1947, Jackie made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in a game against the Boston Braves at Ebbets Field. In October, they were playing the Yankees in the World Series, having won the National League pennant by 5 games, partly on the strength of Robinson's .297 batting average, 31 doubles and league-leading 29 stolen bases.
In those days, baseball was truly America's Pastime. The NFL existed, but it was a blip on the sports radar. Basketball and hockey were even less influential. Baseball was as romantic and immensely popular as James Earl Jones made it sound in his monologue in Field of Dreams. When I power-up my Delorian to 85mph, one of the days I am going to set it on is April 14, 1947. I want to be around on the 15th to feel all of those emotions that people were feeling then. Excitement, rage, anticipation, happiness and fear. Fear both for Jackie and fear for people whose ignorance did not allow them to know that being small-minded is no way to go through life.
What is sad is that it is sixty years later and we still run into people who think that way. What was truly exciting was that there was change coming. It was the good kind of change. The kind of change that makes people want to see it and be a part of it. It gave a lot of people hope and even though it did not change the way many people thought about racial differences, it gave people of color a symbol that their hopes and dreams could be realized. That's where it stopped being about baseball.
On Sunday, Major League baseball will honor Jackie. The Phillies are playing a game at Citizen's Bank Ballpark against the Houston Astros, and once again, baseball isn't the big story. Every Phillies player will wear number 42 in honor of Jackie.
Ironically, Philadelphia was one of the places where Jackie faced his toughest test, and the Phillies were one of the last to bring a black player to their team. His number has already been retired by the league, and they are wearing it now in his honor.
Even if you are not a baseball fan, make a point to check out your local telecast. Teams around the league are doing their own tributes to Robinson.
Sometimes, there are things on TV that are worth watching.
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Friday, April 13, 2007

My cat's feet smell like cat litter.

Ladyred said...
Wow, I like looking at your stat counter ...
Me too.
It isn't often that dirty pictures are associated with Disney, but I haven't been blogging all that long, so I suppose it was coming. Note to Google searchers: Use quotation marks and learn to spell. But hey, thanks for reading!

NOT FOR NOTHIN’, BUT:
EzCorp announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire the assets of the 15 Colorado pawnshops operated by Pawn One, under the trade name Jumping Jack Cash.
First, I always figured pawnshops were a creation of fiction, since I’ve never actually seen one. I’ve never been to Colorado, either, although I’m pretty sure it exists. It’s where they make beer and John Denver records.

1 Imus ... to Go.
Meanwhile, the Don Imus controversy has taken on its own life. To me, Nappy-Headed Ho’s sounds more like the name of a snack cake than a racial slur. Chocolate cake with a white cream filling, sprinkled with coconut. They would taste great, but you couldn’t sell them.
While we’re at it, the fact that MSNBC cancelled the show probably doesn’t have as much to do with what he said as it does that big advertisers like Procter & Gamble pulled their advertising. After all, who gives a crap that a women’s basketball team is offended when there’s money to be lost? This is America, after all. If he still had ad revenue coming in, his hand would have been slapped and he would be back on the air. So, we can insult entire groups of people as long as someone will pay for it. When they stop, you have to stop. Is that the message? I'm confused, because I've heard far worse things on several occasions coming from others who are still gainfully employed.
I remember listening to his stupid 1200 Hamburgers album in 1972. I didn't think he was funny then, and I don't think he's funny now. CBS did us a favor by taking him off the air. I'm not sure it was for the right reason, but enough is enough.
What bothers me is the idea that we have become so Politically Correct in this country that stuff that passed as humor twenty years ago is now punishable by firing. Aren't rap records saying far worse things about blacks than anything that comes out of Imus' humorless brain? Ann Counter uses words like "faggot" and marches on. When is her next book coming out? If you fire Imus you should fire them all.

Meanwhile, the Rutgers basketball team is playing this to the hilt. Their coach appeared on the Oprah show, telling people that Imus stole their chance at glory. Sheesh. Get a grip. One stupid white person cannot steal anyone's dream. They have moved from the ranks of the offended to the cast of My Favorite Martyr. My question is, how long is this going to last? It has already gotten way too much attention, and if we have to hear about it as long as we have been subjected to the Anna Nicole baby story, I don't think there is enough Umphrey's McGee music to download to keep me occupied.
Speaking of which ...

EMI's Chief Executive Eric Nicoli told reporters earlier this month he was working on a deal to put The Beatles’ music online but refused to give a time frame.
"It seems like it is heading in that direction," Jupiter analyst Mark Mulligan told Reuters of the Beatles catalogue. "The conversation has changed from an 'if' to a 'when'. "The Beatles are a perennial (favorite). You can put the content out there and it will sell. If they put the Beatles catalogue online you will very likely see them having number ones again."


Ya think? Number one? That doesn't say much for the state of current music if 40-year old music can out-sell new music. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t either already have the CDs or, if they don’t have them it’s because they don’t want them. Of course, you can put it out and it will sell.
I like the parenthesis in his quote. That means that he didn’t say “favorite,” but the writer put it in. So, what did he say? Why wouldn’t they just print what he said?
I’m not sure, does Michael Jackson still own the publishing rights to the Lennon/McCartney stuff or did he sell it?
I sure ask a lot of questions for someone from New Jersey.
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Thursday, April 12, 2007

If you post it, they will come.

Remember yesterday? Me too.
I posted a story about a well-known tax preparer, hoping that they would read that instead of the personal story that was attached to the first one they found. As it turns out, the boys at the home office in Kansas City are still doing their blog research, and the bait has been taken. I hesitate to mention their name again, lest it come up in another search. I had my fun, now let's move on. I am easily entertained, as you no doubt can tell.
Their little Google blog search turned up 8,911 results, so I guess whomever is doing their googling was kept busy for most of the day. What I want to know is, how do I get that job? Getting paid to goof around on the Internet is my idea of a cushy job.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Taxing Season - Six Days to Go.

I love the StatCounter. It tells me things.
From the heartland (or so they tell us) the folks at H&R Block are snooping around to see what the blogs have to say about TurboTax. The big threat, I'm sure, is that people will find the courage to do their own taxes, thus depriving us of the privilege of paying through the nose for a service that generally isn't necessary.
What bugs me about the Block search is that they read that tiny reference to income taxes interspersed with a story about my personal life. I should separate my stream of consciousness posts a little better. LESSON LEARNED. So, let's give them something to read, shall we?
THE STORY:.
Until I got married (the time I refer to as "My Great Sickness") I always did my own taxes. Short form - no deductions - just the old single, 1040EZ form, the one with the big boxes to fill in like a 5th grader with a crayon. They even show you how to make the numbers. Sheesh.
When I got married, I was unsure of how to itemize and exactly how to fill out the hundreds of forms I was sure were necessary, now that I was a property owner and all. So, off the ex and I went to the local H & R Block office in downtown Mantua, which actually isn't a downtown.
We waddled in with our envelope full of W2's and property tax receipts, ready for the big finger up the ass. What we got was a bunch of questions from the tax preparer, who, the week before was probably selling shoes or driving a limousine.
I watched as he ran though all the questions, tapping on his keyboard and going through our paperwork. Eighty-five dollars later (this was 1991) we had a printed set of forms to sign and send in and a $1,200 check to write to the good people in Washington, D.C. The "D.C.", it turns out, stands for Doesn't Care..
What I left with, in addition to a lighter bank account, was the feeling that I was put through all of this as a by-product of fear. The fear that the government uses to get us to sweat-out the 15th of April and confuse us so that we feel like we have to use a paid preparer to do something that we should be able to do ourselves.
That was the first and last time I ever paid someone to do my taxes. It isn't that H & R Block is a bad service, because it isn't. What it is, is a non-related branch of the IRS. What galls me about them now is that they use games of chance and coercion to get people to take out loans against their income tax refund (which is actually an overpayment, but I digress) so that they can get their check sooner than they get it from the government. .
Now, however, we have e-filing and the luxury of software like TurboTax or TaxCut, which streamlines the process and asks ... ready? ... the exact same questions that the Block guy asks, only in the privacy of your home for a fraction of what you will pay the store. Why? Because TaxCut is an H & R Block product. My guess is, it's the same software that the guy in the Block office uses. Then, the money (provided there is some) can be deposited directly into your bank account in less than 10 days - interest free - for nothing more than the cost of the software. .
By the way, Intuit is a pretty cheap stock right now, if you're so inclined. .
So...
Do a lot of thinking about the process before you waddle into the Block office, or any other paid preparer. Think about the fear that the government uses to make you think that you have to pay someone to do something that you probably should not have to do to begin with.
The 1913 tax code took up 400 pages in its "Standard Federal Tax Reporter." By 2007, CCH filled more than 67,000 pages of that document with tax law intricacies.
"The law is very complicated and filling out the returns is somewhat mind-boggling," says Robert Simon, partner at Eisner & Lubin in New York. "The media keeps telling everyone how difficult it is and people just get panicky. They sit down and start (the filing process) with all this in the back of their minds. I can understand why people would be afraid to do it."
Do not be afraid. Buy the software and walk yourself through it. I'll bet that when you're done, you'll feel as foolish as I did 15 years ago..
Now, the boys in Kansas City have something interesting to read.
I feel better.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Four hours of my life I will never get back.

Too tired to go to the gym, so I decided to sit and relax in front of my friend, the TV. These were my choices tonight:
Nancy Grace debating for the one-millionth time, the controversy over the fate of Anna Nicole's baby. Holy crap, Nancy. Open a newspaper and find something else to talk about, will ya? Please.
Dancing with the Stars, which, in spite of the dearth of stars, continues with the dancing. Even Cheryl Burke wasn't enough to keep me tuned in. Seemingly, for three hours it went on - some "results show" or something. "Results" of what, I have no idea. Boring.
On several channels, the ongoing nonsense over some stupid remarks made by a radio host who long ago was irrelevant, and only now has found a voice, common sense notwithstanding. Anus, I think his name is. Meanwhile, the piling on continues, with bystanders becoming interested parties. Include me out.
Jim Cramer screaming about Charter Communications, and telling his viewers that if they bid this stock up to three dollars, he "would never forgive you". Before he was through with his diatribe, the stock was trading at $3.02. C'mon, Jim. Your stupid viewers bid up every piece of crap you talk up, did you expect any different with this one? The power of TV.
Something on Fox called American Idol. I have no idea. I still haven't seen it.
Glenn Beck, professional jackass, interviewing himself (that's right) over the stupid remarks issue. Jesus H. Christ, the people they give TV shows to. I have no idea.
Common sense told me to stay away from O'Reilly and Paula Zahn, since I was already irritated.
Over on TBS, there's the Braves and Nationals playing baseball, but I dislike the Braves commentators so, that it made a great pitching performance by Tim Hudson almost unwatchable. Cy Young award this year for Hudson.
What to do?
I downloaded another Umphrey's McGee album, Anchor Drops, and restored my faith in all that is good in the world. Music and good taste.
I think I'm on to something with these guys. So much so, that I'm considering driving to D.C. on Saturday to see them in the craphole that is the 9:30 Club. Ya gotta really like a band to go there, but that's where the band is.
Doors open at 5:30.
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What is in my head, spilled out on your computer monitor

I saw a story on the web today about a woman who is selling most of her belongings on Ebay. Something about having too much junk and getting her life back. She's keeping the basics - photo albums, towels, plates - stuff like that, and discarding the rest. It sounds like such a good idea, the whole minimalist lifestyle gig. I think we grow too attached to junk and it becomes such a part of our lives. The sad part is, most of it is buried under other junk and the only time we see it is when we're doing some big cleaning project and it is uncovered. Then, there's that "so this is where it is" moment - followed by another filing procedure and more lost junk that we don't use, need or particularly care about until we find it and realize that it was missing for all those years. I'm looking around at a collection of stuff that pretty much just sits here. It would look much better in a box being shipped to someone else's house while the money rested in a savings account for that next cat illness or set of tires that I actually use for something. Note to self.

Then, on the TV, there's this ad for Disney World. Something about an "affordable" vacation. A husband and wife sitting by the computer whining about taking the kids for a family vacation. The quick image of the Disney vacation flashes on the screen, while the words "Sixteen-hundred, we can afford that" go by as fast as the $1600 image on the screen. Then a Cinderella carriage stops by the house and the kids start screaming. What we are supposed to believe is that $1,600 is affordable to the majority of people watching Everybody Loves Raymond on TBS. If I had $1600, I'd be thinking about all the bills I had to pay, not some Disney vacation. Not to mention that $1600 is about one-tenth of the gross annual income of a great number of people in this country. Affordable is relative. I think the Disney people realize that, which is why the dollar part goes by so quickly and quietly. Maybe if I sold some of those old CDs on Ebay...

Soon, I'm going to have to sit down and do my taxes. I know. This is the first time since I've been working that I haven't had them done on February 1. I never have to pay, but I don't get the thousands of dollars that some of my goofy co-workers and relatives get. They prefer to give the government an interest-free loan and whine about not having any money to spend. Meanwhile, the 40 bucks they give the government every week could be better spent on infant formula, beer or a nice dinner instead of waiting until April to get a check. Maybe they'll go to Disney World?

I don't know why I've been procrastinating so. I have all my paperwork, my TurboTax software and free time. In the back of my mind, I'm wondering what would happen if I just didn't file. Screw 'em. They owe me a couple hundred dollars, so why bother? The TV ads for the software and tax prep services use fear as a motivator, with that panicky woman at the bus stop screaming "I know! I know!" when the guy asks her if she knows what time it is.

Some of us know but don't care.

.
Lately, I've been thinking about being alone for the rest of my life. There's some ad on the TV (the common thread here) where someone talks about being "the love of my life". I am almost 50 years old and I have never been the love of anyone's life. At this point, I suppose I never will be. If it was going to happen, it would have happened by now. I have been close a couple of times, but close is never good enough. The longest relationship I have had is with my cat, and I'm not always sure he's that excited about being here, either, but he knows where the food is. Generally, my little quirks that drew her to me become annoyances that push us apart. I've seen it happen, and it isn't pretty. It reminds me of this monologue by Lenny Bruce, recreated in the film Lenny:
The trouble is we all live in a ''happy ending'' culture.
A ''what should be'' culture instead of a ''what is'' culture.
We're taught that fantasy, but if we were taught ''This is what is'', I think we'd be less screwed up. Dig what l mean.
l'd like to show you dirty pictures that relate to your daughter, or mine.
These are some pictures of the Kennedy assassination.
Now... I say these are dirty pictures, because the captions are bullshit.
''Never for an instant did she think of flight.''
Now, that's bullshit. That's my conclusion. Time magazine's conclusion is that she was trying to get out of the car to get help or trying to help the Secret Service man aboard.
That's their conclusion, and we buy it.
But l think she did the normal thing, man!
When the president got it ... and the governor got it ... she tried to get the Hell out of there!
But they want us to believe this bullshit!
They want our daughters, if their husbands get their faces shot off, and they try to haul ass to save their asses, if they do the normal thing, then they'll feel guilty and shitty, because they're not like that good woman in the fantasy!
lt's a dirty lie to tell the people that if you're good you stay, and if you're bad you run.
Because she didn't stay!
Fuck it, man, she didn't stay!
People don't stay!
No ... people don't stay.
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The bigger part of me says that I should just abandon the issue and allow myself to be alone, rather than continue to fight the inevitable, because people don't stay. When the fantasy is over, they run. Simple.

I was telling one of my friends at work about my baseball adventure the other day, and he seemed surprised that I went to the game alone. I have come to realize that if I do not do things alone, I will be relegated to a life at home. It's either go alone or not at all. It's not much of a choice.
When the fantasy stops and the reality sets in ... People don't stay.

Not very funny today.
Sorry.
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Monday, April 9, 2007

Todd is God

Sunday was consumed with bad baseball (the Phillies) and a golf tournament ("I spent 4 days in Augusta, and all I got was this lousy green jacket") where the guy who wins receives an article of clothing so hideous that it could only be either worn on a golf course or given as a prize. Who's gonna complain about a bright green jacket in the midst of all that?

As faithful readers know, I am music starved. So much so, that I have taken to browsing the Real Player site for new and interesting downloads. My thoughts turned to comedy, and in my music starved state, I came up with the name Todd Barry. Todd's a funny guy, and a bit different than most of the comics working now. I saw him in New York in 2004 at a show that Mother Jones put on with Jeneane Garofolo, Will Durst and lots of other comics. Somehow, I wound up in the front row. If you are of a mind to, pick up Todd's Medium Energy CD.
Anyway, I pulled up Todd's listings on the Real Player store. Among them is one called Invite Them Up. I hadn't heard of that one. Could Todd have a new CD? As it turned out, the listing was full of issues.
First, as you can see, it clearly says that Todd Barry appears on Invite Them Up. Oh, so it's not a Todd Barry CD, it's a Todd Barry appears on CD. So, which tracks does Todd appear on? I don't know, because as you can see, every track on the CD is Invite Them Up. Either it's the same joke over and over, or Todd is out of comedy ideas. Either way, I realize that there are 5 more tracks on the CD. Could they also be called Invite Them Up? There's only one way to find out. I clicked on Next 5, and ...
You bet. It's not a great marketing tool, gang.

So [PLAN B] I downloaded Falling Off the Bone, even though I think the CD comes with a video or something, so a little part of me feels like I got hosed. At least the tracks had different names. It's easier to separate them on the iPod that way.
Moreover, it's a small victory over the popular crowd. Real Player's Top 25 is dominated by those Blue Collar guys [how did Ron White get mixed up with them?] and Dane Cook [a.k.a. Mr. MySpace 50,000 friends]. As it is with music, there is generally better stuff as you dig a bit further.

Todd Barry, Maria Bamford, Doug Stanhope, Mike Birbiglia, Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan, Kathleen Madigan, Dom Irrera, Judy Gold ...

Keep digging.
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Sunday, April 8, 2007

if Jesus was dead, he'd be rolling over in his grave

Bryan Ritter meets an Easter bunny on his way to compete in a Hunky Jesus competition on Sunday, April 8, 2007, in San Francisco. Ritter, a high school English teacher, grew his hair for the past year in preparation for the contest. His efforts paid-off as a crowd of several thousand revelers voted him winner the grand prize, $100, from a field of more than twenty would-be Hunky Jesuses. Ritter said he is looking forward to shaving his hair later today. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)..
Is it Jesuses or Jesui?

Fun with Golf