24 July 2009

Back in the saddle

Sitting in my darkened apartment, watching SportsCenter's highlight reel of the Buerhle perfect game for the 290th time and glancing out the window into a gloomy, rainy scene straight out of my ancestral home back in the Highlands, it came to me.

I'm ... not a writer anymore.

Ye gads, you blurt out as a mammoth collective gasp works its ways through the Internets.

Well, maybe that statement was a bit strong. But I haven't written anything of substance for weeks. Torn news copy to shreds, then painstakingly rebuilt it 'Six Million Dollar Man' style? Sure. Pumped out jaw-dropping, eye-catching, ass-kicking headlines like a champion? You're goddamn right. Generally held down the news desk and dominated in my new role? Like it's my job.

My days of distilling crisp news stories at an alarmingly efficient rate, however, are - for the moment - over. I have surrendered my hard-earned nickname - 'Xerox,' the Copy Machine - and rambled on.

(In the interest of full disclosure, no one has ever called me 'Xerox.' I am known as 'Ace' in some circles, though, which is a reasonable consolation prize.)

So what does this all have to do with anything? As the rain fell, the light of day began to break and Dwayne Wise robbed Gabe Kapler for the 1,938th time, I realized just how much I miss writing.

This epiphany still fresh, I turned where I always do in times of tribulation or extreme boredom - the World Wide Web. The blog is back, as least for one predawn romp through the random subjects I have something (semi)worthwhile to say something about.

-Speaking of Buehrle's perfect game, I woke up Thursday just in time to click on ESPN and watch the crafty lefty get the last three outs. Pretty cool moment. Definitely the last way I thought I'd spend my waking moments. Wise's catch was pretty cool - at first I swore he'd trapped it off the wall - but my favorite moment? The White Sox TV guys screaming "YES! YEESSS!" in unison after the final out. One of the best celebratory, pandemonium-induced tandem screams I've ever heard.

In the all-time pantheon of screams, though, the White Sox' announcers have a long way to go to top the Gold Standard:

-Speaking of Buerhle, I couldn't help today but recall the strong rumors from last summer that, for a time, indicated the southpaw might be on his way to Boston. That, of course, never happened, and with Josh 'Fueled by Rage' Beckett hurt for the playoffs, the local nine saw their dream of repeat titles die in a craptastic ALCS Game 7 against the hated Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays.


I'm hoping Theo and the Yawkey Way Brain Trust don't make the same mistake again this year. There's another extremely durable, extremely effective pitcher on the market this year you might have heard of. (Hint: his name rhymes with 'Balladay.') A right-handed hurler who, teamed up with the likes of Beckett and Jon Lester, would form one of the most vicious postseason trios of all time.

What's it going to take? Clay Buchholz? I've long been an apologist of the wiry young hurler's, wondering why he was being left to rot down in the Bucket while the likes of Brad Penny got us five innings a night at 10 times the price. But after Buchholz reprised his 2008 deer-in-the-headlights routine in Texas the other night, I think I've finally turned the corner and deemed him officially expendable. The kid's never going to live up to his no-hitter expectations in Boston. Classic change-of-scenery guy.

So while his value's still stratospheric thanks to those outrageous Triple-A numbers, let's get this thing done, stat. Put Clay and a couple of his former Portland/Pawtucket teammates on the next plane for Toronto, and get a locker ready for the Doc. Otherwise, I have a sneaking suspicion Fenway Park will be awful quiet once October/November rolls around - while a certain squad from the Bronx is enjoying a group champagne bath.

-I like cold, rainy weather as much as the next White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, but this is getting ridiculous. It's fucking July, man. At least the unseasonably low temperatures have essentially eliminated the need for air conditioning. Funny how it took the ice caps slowly melting, pouring cold water into the oceans and screwing up global weather patterns for us to cut back on our energy consumption.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take a long, steaming hot shower while leaving my lamp, television and computer on and maybe, just for the hell of it, letting my car idle for a while.


26 May 2009

What's goin' on?

Which of these is more likely to happen?

1) American troops are on the ground in Pakistan or Iran within the next 36 months.
2) American/coalition aircraft are dropping some serious payload on North Korea within the next 100 days.
3) The Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic meet in the 2009 NBA Finals, causing David Stern and a number of ABC executives to commit ritual suicide after seeing a "Billups! Turkoglu! It's the Finals on ABC!" promo.
4) David Ortiz hits another home run before the All-Star break.

Let's take a moment to ponder these scenarios.

The Pakistan/Iran thing is probably the least likely, if only because I don't know where we'd find the troops. We're also fortunate enough now to have a commander-in-chief who attempts to resolve situations through less destructive means, although I don't doubt for a second that he has the stomach to give the order if need be.

Taking action against North Korea is similarly unlikely, although I think it's more plausible because there's a greater chance of things escalating quickly and of there being some semblance of an international consensus that action is needed. On a related note, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank George W. Bush for so badly hindering our military flexibility, for squandering American blood and treasure on an unnecessary war and for generally contributing to the colossal mess we now find ourselves in.

The Nuggets/Magic finals matchup also seems pretty unlikely, although I desperately - and I mean DESPERATELY - hope it happens. The league needs its comeuppance for treating its fans with so little respect, and for consistently allowing horrendously incompetent officiating that directly affects the quality and outcome of games. I can think of no better way than knocking the remaining superstars/large TV markets out of the playoffs and costing those bastards a lot of money.

As I'm writing this, the LeBrons are about to go into a 3-1 hold against Hotlando - and King James is pouting and stomping around the court because the refs aren't quite shameless enough to give him the call on a desperation three with 10 seconds left in an overtime. Apparently, the obscene bailout he got with .5 left on the clock in regulation that led to overtime-inducing free throws wasn't enough.

I won't count the Nuggets out either, largely because their Legitimate Player-to-EuroTrash ratio is far, far lower than the Lakers'. Sure, maybe a bunch of their guys are dirty. But at least they're not soft. I can't wait to see Kobe's disgust and exasperation as his team fails him, and to watch him jack up unconscionable fadeaway jumpers just to prove a point.

Sadly, though, I know David Stern and his diabolically corrupt Association will never let both of its prized stars miss the finals. The under/over on foul shots for LeBron in Game 5? 20-1/2. And I'm taking the over.

That, I suppose, leaves us with David Americo Ortiz, and his ability to hit another dinger before the end of the fiscal year. It's got to be the most likely of these scenarios, simply because The Artist Formerly Known As Big Papi will, sometime in the next few weeks, step to the plate against some scared-shitless rookie without his stuff, and will muscle some meatball over the right field fence for another short-lived nostalgia trip.

I don't mean to sound hard-hearted. When Ortiz hit his first homer the other night, I had goosebumps. It was an awesome moment.

But the guy is in shambles, a shell of himself. It's extremely sad to watch. If this goes on much longer, dropping him down to the six spot won't cut it. He's going to have to sit, or platoon at DH.

But maybe - just maybe - he gets his groove back. Maybe this is just a phase, some mental block or anomaly that will suddenly correct itself just in time for the stretch run.

That's the dream. The reality, unfortunately, appears to be much different. So at this point, I just hope we get one more longball from the big man - even if it means enduring Kobe-LeBron.

20 April 2009

I guess we can: The importance of swagger

I don't know why clutch Ray Allen three-pointers tend to inspire me to write. It's like watching the same movie time and time again, but without losing even a trace of the thrill you get the first time you saw it.

Watching the C's tonight, I found my mind straying away from the game and toward dark contemplation of the team's future.

Garnett apparently out for the playoffs, perhaps never to be the same again. The defending champions precariously close to an 0-2 deficit in the first round, set to board a plane for the hostile territory of Chicagoland.

Last year's impossible dream, it seemed, had run its course, the rude awakening of life and circumstance bringing the wild ride that has been the Big Three 2.0 era to a screeching halt. Hell, the Bruins had just gone up 3-0 against the hated Habs, and you know there just isn't that much good karma to go around one town.

I guess the point is that I came closer and closer to abandoning my faith each time Ben "Roaming Hands" Gordon drained another impossible basket, each time I buried my face in my hands and groaned after a blown chance or a foolish turnover. I, and the Celtics, were at the tipping point, that place at which confidence and swagger - if not salvaged, if not furiously maintained - irreversibly give way to the certainty of defeat.

It's a point we all reach at certain times, an inevitable part of life. Sometimes, it comes suddenly. Sometimes, it's a grind, something we see developing in the distance. We rarely have control of the circumstances that lead us to that tipping point, but we always remain in command of our response.

I suppose that using the travails of a professional basketball team to illustrate life's struggles somewhat cheapens this, but in a way the basic meaninglessness of sports is uniquely constructive in this discussion. Even in spiritual contemplation, I've always found the concept of life's basic meaninglessness as liberating, not because of some nihilistic outlook but because that perspective validates the human concept of goodness and morality.

If there is no underlying meaning or purpose, then what we do - what we choose to become - means everything.

In a world of dogma and extremism and narrow minds on all sides, we often fail to see the humanity of others. Indeed, we often fail to see it in ourselves. It's a planet that's growing ever smaller, one of limited resources and suffering and heartbreak.

One can't help but feeling sometimes that we're nearing our own collective tipping point. I see a society that has grown so insular and contented, yet also so paranoid and reactionary, and can't help but wonder if we're truly ever going to be ready to tackle the mammoth problems that confront us in this new century.

The American Century is gone, and the history of the next 100 years has, of course, yet to be written. We stand at a crossroads, at the precipice of what could be a steep fall into the unknown.

Perhaps we've already crossed the point of no return, or perhaps our fate is out of our control. But if I've learned one thing from Jesus Shuttlesworth, it's that you can have an O-fer for the night and still come up with the game winner if you just make sure to never lose that swagger.

(And to remember that, in the end, it's just a game.)


20 March 2009

Send in the clowns

Someday soon I'll start writing real posts again. Work has been all-encompassing, and it's drained my will to write afterward.

So until that day comes, I figured I'd share probably the funniest bit of video I've seen in some time. And that's not even counting the English jokes I don't get.

As an added bonus, here's some classic audio of my friend and yours, the 44th president, reading some choice quotes from his book Dreams From My Father. At least he didn't say any of this stuff on the Tonight Show.


13 March 2009

History on the run

I never really aspired to be a journalist.

I have, on the other hand, always loved writing, and that fact was largely the impetus for my involvement in newspapers throughout my school years. Then the fantasy land of school came to an abrupt end, and in need of some source of income to pay down my crushing debt, I began seeking work at - you guessed it - newspapers.

The experience has been a worthwhile one, an opportunity to write for a living and meet some good people. It's far from perfect, sure, but I suppose everything and everyone has some room for improvement.

This guy, for example.

But the long-term prognosis for journalism - at least in its print form - seems to grow more dire by the day.

Aside from the closure of the Rocky Mountain News and the Grey Lady herself turning to front-page ads and a $250 million bailout from a Mexican billionaire, there are ominous signs throughout the Republic that print media's time has passed.

There's talk of two-paper cities losing one - or both - of their outlets. Hell, even the Globe appears to be on its last legs.

Why is this happening? The economy, of course, has much to do with it, but I think the current circumstances are serving only to accelerate a process that's been in the making for a while now.

People these days, of course, have a lot of options in terms of where they get news, information and analysis. From the aforementioned likes of Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer, we can get our daily fix of 'edutainment.' From the likes of Rush Limbaugh or the left-leaning blogosphere, we can get our daily update with the comfort of an ideological tilt. On the Web ... well, we can get anything there.

So it makes sense, I would think, that something with a riveting nickname like the Grey Lady might be having a tough go of it these days.

But it appears to go deeper than that. Papers haven't just become inconvenient, or an afterthought - they are no longer trusted, or considered to have value as a source of information.

It's tough when you - and seemingly every other major cultural institution that doesn't involve carrying a gun - are not trusted.

But trust can be rebuilt. Overwhelming apathy, as our political process has demonstrated in the past three or so decades, is far more difficult to overcome. And it looks like that's exactly what print journalism is facing.

I don't believe newspapers will ever vanish completely, but the future doesn't look good. As the line between news and entertainment continues to blur, as technology continues to change our lives and as the older readership of most newspapers slowly disappears, it would seem that the stars are aligned and the writing - pardon the pun - is on the wall.

That's not a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. For all the benefits of new media like blogs, the controls in terms of quality and accuracy simply do not exist on Web as they do in print. Newspapers give us the definitive record, or at least the impression of it. Done well, print journalism is an incredibly valuable tool for society, and I don't think that can ever be replicated electronically or in any other format.

But the world is changing, and there's no way around it. There's no miracle solution out there to save the Grey Lady and her troubled peers. Papers like mine, that serve a much more targeted population, may have a longer shelf life, if only because the coverage they provide isn't replicated anywhere else. But I wouldn't bet on that, either.

I never aspired to be a journalist. And at this rate, I may not be one much longer.

But I hope I'm wrong, and that I didn't get to the party just before it got broken up.


26 February 2009

Time has come today

I've been on this strange kick tonight watching time lapse videos, perhaps because I slept about three hours last night and woke up at the (for me, at least) ungodly hour of 7 a.m.

Since I'm still essentially living a college lifestyle - one filled with late nights and post-noon risings - doing the whole "early to rise" thing always leaves me exhausted but with a sense of fulfillment at having had a full day, and seeing a skyscraper erected before my eyes in 20 seconds or watching 24 hours pass over some pristine lake in a minute's time seemed tonight like a fine way to celebrate that.

While doing this, I also realized (while half-watching Comedy Central, for added effect) that as of mid-March, I will have been at The Gardner News for a grand total of 30 months, or a full 2 1/2 years. That revelation, needless to say, provoked a complex reaction in me - parts astonished, depressed, terrified, liberated - and perhaps in an effort to sort out those disparate emotions I threw myself deeper into YouTube's collection of compressed segments of time in hope of spiritual guidance.

The Web, of course, is home to virtually any and all media that anyone could ever want, and its selection in terms of time lapse video did not disappoint. Here's a pretty solid one of the Northern Lights, which makes for a good starting point:

This one's my favorite, at least in terms of what I found during my ::ahem:: "research." This dude displayed some definite dedication in order to bring aimless internet trolls like myself two minutes worth of entertainment, and for that, I salute him.

(Note: I'm not sure if the music makes the video more or less strange.)

This next one was billed as "powerful," and I'd tend to agree. Really well done, with some cool locations and some real heartbreaking strings to accompany the visuals. Plus, it feels like it should be a promo for "OK Computer," and I can't really turn that down.

I won't keep going on ... I mean, there's thousands of these damned thing on the 'Tube, I'll leave it up to you to keep perusing if you're interested.

So did I find the spiritual guidance I was seeking? Hard to say. Being able to see the illusion of time unveiled in a 60-second digital video clip is pretty anticlimactic in a sense, but the point - the stunning ambiguity of it all - gets across just fine.

The lesson, or the message, of seeing time for what it is can't be truly explained - it resonates on a very basic level, too basic to understand or convey effectively with language or other conscious expression. Chasing it any further than that, I think, simply gets in the way of appreciating it.

My aim tonight is to dream that I win the lottery, buy the Celtics, solve the energy crisis and spend my spare time gallivanting across the globe with supermodels. I also hope to get some quality sleep so I'm not a total zombie come the weekend.

That's my kind of time travel.


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