Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How To Decide The Democratic Race

What we need here is an old-fashioned ass-kicking contest. All right, I know we've got one going on now as the two Democratic candidates flail at one another, but it's the wrong fight.

What the Democratic candidates ought to do -- from this point forward -- is decide the issue of who will win the presidential nomination by seeing which of them can tear grandpa McSame the biggest new asshole. That is to say, instead of trying to tear each other a new one, they ought to tear him a new one. They should focus on that which unites us and that which unites us is the overriding conviction that Straight Jacket Express will continue in the same direction the current Pretendident is taking America, that direction, of course, being right over the cliff.

Such a contest would provide we the people with the most useful metric possible. We need a fighter, first and foremost. So, show us who's the best at it.

We Democrats love our red meat just as much as the Rethuglicans love theirs and when it comes to Grampy, we are talking about a target-rich environment.

He, for example, hypocritically whines about Obama's minister saying "god damn America" while at the same time having sought and and won the endorsement of a pastor who said the same thing. Worse, even. John Hagee said Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment upon New Orleans for tolerating (oh, my God) homosexuals. What the "Reverend' Hagee is saying is not "god damn America", but rather, that God has already damned America.

Grampy is guilty of adultery. He started his affair with his rich trophy wife while still married to the first Mrs. McCain. Let's not forget that while he was in that hellhole of a North Vietnamese POW camp, she was back home living in her own kind of hell as she pondered his fate. Her reward? Her husband dumped her. Nice family values kind of guy.

And why hasn't there been a stink about his tax returns? His campaign released his but not hers, and she's the one with the 100 million dollars. He's the one living off her dime. He's the one with the nerve to call Obama an "elitist" while he himself (or, more accurately, she herself) owns eight homes. No wonder he's come to his senses and now supports the massive tax breaks for the wealthiest among us after voting against them in the US Senate.

And lest you think that it was that vote which makes him a "maverick", don't forget that in the past sorry seven years, McSame has voted with Shrub 85% of the time. Maverick? Maverick, my ass.

Stop kicking each others' asses, you two. Kick his ass. For the good of my country, kick it good!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Time To Panic In Detroit? You Bet It Is!

As we greet you for the first first time in 2008, let us say to those Detroit Tigers fans who insist that, "It's still early," or, "It's too early to panic," let me say, "You are wrong."

When you are the only team in the game which has not won a game, when you have been through one complete circuit of a five-man starting staff which was supposed to be one of the best in baseball and that staff has gone 0-2 with an ERA of 5.72, 12th among the 14 teams in the American League, yes, it is time to panic.

Until I looked at the stats, I was prepared to argue that it was middle relief, specifically the lack of effective middle relief, which was the main reason for Detroit's inability to keep the opposition off the scoreboard with sufficient frequency to enable the Tigers to win consistently -- or in this case, to win at all.  I suspect the image of Jason Grilli giving up three runs on three pitches when he came on to start the 7th inning versus Chicago Friday in a 5-5 tie that wound up an 8-5 Detroit loss is the reason for that perception.  But it's a false perception. 

The relief pitchers are, statistically speaking at least, doing their job.  Except for the 0-3 record they have posted so far, that is.  Detroit's cumulative bullpen ERA is 3.38.  Not exactly sparkling, but not terrible, either.  It's 6th best in the American League.

Last year, a 3.38 ERA would have been second-best among all American League bullpens, behind only the World Champion Boston Red Sox whose relief staff recorded an ERA of 3.10 in 2007.

Now, on the other side of the equation (when you are losing there are a maximum of only two things going wrong: you are a allowing too many runs, and/or you are scoring too few; this isn't quantum physics were are discussing here, you know) the big problem has a name: RISP.

Runners In Scoring Position.  Batting Average with Runners In Scoring Position to be exact.  Detroit's been awful when Detroit has had the chance to clear those ducks from the pond.  In fact, the Tigers may own the most remarkable stat in baseball as the first week of the 2008 Championship Season wraps up today.  Detroit is oh-for with RISP and less than two out!  0 for 18.  Somewhat curiously, with RISP and two outs, when it's really clutch in other words, the Tigers have done better, much better, really, hitting .250 (6 for 24).

But it's still not good enough.  You can get buried early in this game, buried too deep to come back and it can happen in a hurry.  The Tigers know it, too.  The question is, can they do anything about it?

Friday, April 4, 2008

In Memoriam: Beth Frumpkin (1951-2008)

We buried Beth Frumpkin today.  And since Beth was Jewish, when we say "we" buried her, it's literal.  Jeannie and I had both been at the cemetery for the funerals of Beth's parents, but that was years ago and I'd forgotten that in a Jewish funeral the last thing that happens is that they remove the tarp covering the dirt dug up in the process of digging the grave, bring out some shovels, and invite everyone there to shovel some of that dirt over the casket.  The Rabbi said it represents the last favor that you will ever do for the deceased -- a favor which can never be repaid.

It was a cold, overcast morning and it drizzled throughout the graveside service, the only service held for Beth who died earlier this week in her sleep at her condo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Actually, that's not true.  While there was no funeral service held at a temple prior to burial, a small group of us got together for a memorial service in her honor at her aunt's home later in the day.  More on that in a moment.

I was very impressed by the Rabbi who officiated at the grave site.  His words were comforting.  And, as seems to happen at every funeral I'm at, I learned a few things about the life of the dead person that I hadn't known before.  In the instant case, I learned that Beth had once served as the secretary to the mayor of Jerusalem.  I did not know that.  I learned that Beth had earned a Masters degree.  I did not know that, either.

Laura was there, attending the first funeral of her life, and I know she was of greater comfort to Jeannie than I had been when, many years ago, another of Jeannie's bestest friends, Suzette, died due to complications from a liver transplant. 

Because of  the weather, a tent had been erected over the grave and because of that, there a very limited number of folding chairs available.  Jeannie was sitting in one of them, and I told Laura to go and stand next to her mother.  They held hands during the service. 

At the end, we tossed flowers into Beth's grave and then we went to work with the shovels.  There was no dirt to work with, however.  It was all mud.  Heavy if you dug in and got a full shovel load.  I helped Laura take a small amount, and she shoveled some of it in herself. 

Then I took her back to school.  She wound up having a great day after the sadness of the morning.  Laura had her friend Laura over after school and while Jeannie and I went to Beth's aunt's place, Laura threw the first dinner party of her life.  The menu included roast chicken from the deli at the Harvest Fresh market, stuffing which she made herself from scratch out of the Stovetop Stuffing box, fresh cranberry sauce from a can, and a bear claw from the bakery at the previously mentioned grocery store.

A dozen or so of us were there for Beth's memorial service at six o'clock in the family room of her Aunt and Uncle's condo.  Other than the fact that the book was printed backwards, the pages running from right to left instead of left to right, the liturgy -- at least the parts spoken in English, didn't sound much different than the things we say every Sunday during parts of our Lutheran service.  Which makes sense.  As Jeannie pointed out, and I think she's correct, we Christians tend to either forget or ignore the fact that the Holy Bible was written by Jews.  We forget that we, too, are from Israel.  The post-communion hymn, sung every Sunday in our church contains this lyric: ...A light to reveal you to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.

That said, much of the evening service was chanted by a rabbi in a language totally unknown to me.  Afterwards, I felt compelled to lean over and whisper to Jeannie, "There sure were a lot of misspellings in that book!"

I want to comment on the condo where the service was held.  Beth's aunt is an interior decorator, and I told her as I stood in her living room -- and I meant it, that it was perhaps the most beautiful room I had ever been in.  I wish I'd had a camera.  She took me on a tour of her home and she'd pick up a crystal bowl that you'd swear cost a couple grand and she'd tell me, to my utter amazement, that she'd picked it up for forty bucks at a garage sale.  There were dozens of similar examples.  A signed work of art by a known artist that she'd gotten for fifty dollars at another sale; a five-foot tall statue that had come from a building in Pakistan which was being demolished that wound up costing her a hundred bucks.  Every piece of furniture, every piece of art was something she'd found at an estate sale for pennies on the dollar that one would expect to pay at retail.  The woman has a remarkable eye for beauty, and an ability to find value that is amazing.

Later, we sat around and ate cheesecake and drank coffee and I did what I did best.  I made people laugh.  Sad as everyone was, I was able to make people laugh.  I hope Beth wasn't offended, and I don't think she would have been.  When we got home and I was talking about it with Laura, I told her that when I die, I want people laughing at my funeral.  In fact, I suggested to her that they prop me up on my couch in front of my TV set with my middle finger raised skyward and when mourners asked just what the hell was going on, she could answer, "Dad's flipping off the Lions, again." 

And now a few words about Beth.  The apt analogy for our relationship, that which describes it best, would be that of a mother who does not approve of her daughter's boyfriend.  Over time I came to appreciate that this was just a case of Beth looking out for her friend. 

I know Beth appreciated the fact that I made Jeannie happy when I made her my wife.  That I made her happy, hell, that I made her life complete, when I made her a mother, limited (necessarily) as my participation in that particular process was.

I can honesty say, and say to my regret, that Beth worked harder on making our relationship work than I did.  Perhaps it is that regret which will help me do better when it comes to dealing with others in the future.  It is a bit of wisdom I have tonight that I didn’t have yesterday and it’s just too bad that all it took for me to acquire it was Beth’s death. The lesson here is that learning life’s lessons is hard; that wisdom is indeed hard-won. 

Sleep tight, Elizabeth Gail Frumpkin.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Riding The Straight Jacket Express

I was  Instant Messaging with an old girlfriend of mine a couple of weeks ago when she told me she was "fascinated" by John McCain and, naturally, I thought to myself, "Why am I even talking to this broad?"

Since then, I've been meaning to bang out a few thousand choice words on why John McCain is such a hideously wrong choice for our country and our world, but you know what?  It's "Extra Innings Free Preview Week" on the dish which means I can watch every game being played in the majors tonight and the thing of it is, I'd really much rather spend my time tonight doing that. 

So, since a picture=1000 words, and since I don't feel like spending half the night banging on my keyboard, here's a picture  that makes my point exactly so I can watch the Dodgers play the Giants and listen to Vin Scully without feeling I've let myself and my country down by failing to do everything I can do to enlighten the electorate about the presumptive GOP nominee:

331_noconfidence2The point is this: If you like George W. Bush, you'll love John McCain.  Got it?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Two Days, Two Phone Calls

The phone rang at lunchtime yesterday. It was the principal of my daughter's middle school. He told me that he was on speaker phone and that Laura was in his office with him. I didn't hesitate. The first words out of my mouth were, "What's she done now?"

I can only imagine Laura's eyes rolling when she heard that. Until yesterday, Laura had never before even been in the principal or the vice principal's office for discipline or, for that matter, for anything else. She'd never once had a detention or a suspension or anything like it. This is because, as I've noted before, she is just like her dad-only with a good attitude.

Back in the day when I roamed the halls of the middle school (so long ago now that I think of it that it was then known as a junior high) it was not common, but still not unknown, to find the kid who would grow up to become Laura's dad in the principal or vice principal's office, busted once again for some trifling offense. Same thing in high school when from time to time I'd find myself doing hard time after school owing to a class which had been skipped in favor of a delicious breakfast at the Big Boy down the street or some such thing. Laura would never be caught dead at a Big Boy or anywhere else when she's supposed to be in class, no matter how good the buffet might be.

No, what Laura had done to earn her first-ever visit to the office was something remarkable. The principal told me that the administrators and the teachers held a vote to select the top three students in the school based on such factors as scholarship and what we used to call citizenship and the like, and Laura was voted one of the three. He went on to say that she and the others, along with similar awardees from the other middle schools in the district and the high schools, would be recognized at a special breakfast next month. So if you think this is a case of her doing the work and me getting the Eggs Bennie, you would be correct. In fact, looking as I do for teaching examples in everyday life almost every day, I shall use this very example to explain to her the concept of justice.

I felt my eyes moisten as I digested the news, partly because I really like free breakfasts, partly because I was so proud of her, and partly because I was amazed she could accomplish what she did while bearing on her slender young shoulders the odious and overbearing burden of having me as her father. And if you don't believe me about that, ask her about it sometime.

Jeannie came home while I was on the phone and I asked the principal to repeat the good news for her benefit. Jeannie scowled as I handed her the phone (really, you should have seen the look on her face.) She was hungry and in a hurry and not knowing who was on the other end, didn't want to talk on the phone. Her face brightened immediately however upon hearing the news. We spent our lunch together marveling over what our union had wrought. She kept saying, "How about that?" And I kept nodding in agreement. I think she cried a little, too.

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

The phone rang at lunchtime today, just about twenty-four hours to the minute after that call from Laura's principal had come in.

The result of this call was the same: Jeannie cried. But this time the news was not good. It was a friend of Jeannie's phoning to tell her that a mutual friend, Jeannie's best friend, in fact, was dead.