All posts by junesboy

Oligarchs vs the Dollar Dog

I stumbled across a genuinely interesting baseball game while channel-surfing.

It was a college game pitting top-ranked Texas against a UCLA team who lost ten players to the professional draft last year. This game was part of a weekend event; the Shriners Hospital for Children College Classic played in the Houston Astros’ major league ballpark.

Normally, in early March, if I stumbled across a game on the tube, it would be a major league spring training game, featuring players of whom I’ve never heard, wearing numbers on their branded, recognizable major league uniforms in the 80-99 range…numbers you’ll never see in the regular season. The same could be said of the players themselves.

But tonight, I’m watching players of whom I’ve never heard, wearing uniforms of unusual colors and logos — colors and logos you’ll never see in the major leagues. The same could be said of most of the players themselves.

Normally, the teams I’m watching this time of year would be playing in the dry sunshine and sere landscapes of Arizona, or amongst the palms of muggy Florida, on green fields, the geometry of which have been pretty much set for over a hundred years.

Tonight, they’re playing in a major league ballpark, the geometry of which was set over a hundred years ago.

Tonight, I watched a tiny batter with a tiny strike zone receive an unsurprising base on balls, steal second base, steal third base on the next pitch, and score on the subsequent sacrifice fly. To see two stolen bases in today’s major league season, I might have to watch two dozen games. Instead I would most likely be watching six strikeouts and a home run every three innings.

Be still my beating heart.

Why am I watching an interesting (and non-exhibition – it really counts) college game being played passionately before a crowd of about 20,000 instead of a meaningless spring training major league game?

Well, it’s because the billionaire owners and the millionaire players of major league baseball have decided to not play their game…their GAME…a pastime…once upon a time, the national pastime.

It’s probably good that I’m not the czar of baseball.

If I were, I would cap it all.

It’s the national pastime. It’s a game.

There would still be $1,000 tickets, but there would be many more $10 tickets.

There could be champagne and caviar (non-Russian, thank you very much), but the hot dogs and beer would be a dollar.

The oligarchs of baseball, the owners and the players, could still compete for bigger shares of broadcast money, but they couldn’t double-dip on the fans in the stands.

If this radical stance drove current baseball players from the game…well, I just watched that same tiny baserunner score on a beautifully executed squeeze bunt. I’d pay ten bucks to see him do it in person.

If this radical stance drove current baseball owners from the game…well, as I was growing up, watching Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek call the Saturday Game of the Week, and listening to Waite Hoyt and Claude Sullivan call the Reds games on radio, my dreams of the perfect career were to be an astronaut until I was thirty, and then become the owner of a baseball team. I suspect I’m not alone in those aspirations.

It’s merely baseball, whether it’s played in Dodger Stadium, or Castlewood Park.

It’s sublimely baseball, whether it’s played in Dodger Stadium, or Castlewood Park.

It’s not baseball if it’s not played.

You Say Hund & I Say Hound

Movie night!

I guess it’s hubris…or karma…or just a mess of “what goes around…”

I’ve written before about my delight in the imaginary languages one finds in the movies. Tarzan’s “Kreegah!” and Michael Rennie’s “Klaatu narada dikto,” don’t terrify me, they thrill me.

Well…

…this has been my week to be challenged by unknown-to-me real languages in movies without the aid of either subtitles or English dubbing.

I used to be inordinately proud to be able to rattle off the first lines of José Marti’s Guantanamera, but to truly be “un hombre sincero,” I should confess that’s about the sum of my mastery of Spanish.

Yet I found myself caught in in the sluggish whirlwind of Jesus Franco’s lesser known masterpiece; Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein. Sluggish, because any film featuring Howard Vernon as your action-driving monster has a lot of inertia to overcome as soon as the opening credits have run. Whirlwind, because you can always add an ineffectual fistfight with a non-titular werewolf at the end of the flick to liven things up a bit, and director Franco, consummate artist of the box office, knows this and complies.

Still, it might have been helpful to understand what few words were left in the script between the grunts, growls, and howls of the monstrous troika propelling this miscarriage.

And then there’s German?

Sigh.

I can mumble a few syllables of Stille Nacht at a noisy Christmas party and I can spin a few wine terms like “trockenbeerenauslese,” but other than that, I’m schnitzel.

But I have been eagerly anticipating viewing the 1937 German film; Der Hund von Baskerville since it arrived in my latest box of goodies from Sinister Cinema. Imagine my initial dismay when it sported no dubbing, no subtitles.

But ya know…it didn’t matter.

I am an amateur Sherlockian. I have read and watched Sherlock Holmes stories for almost 60 years. I have seen so many film versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles, so many times… The best film version was written by a friend of mine. Hell, Janie and I even vacationed in a small cabin on the only moors in the US.

I know this tale.

The actors could bark their lines as quickly as they pleased and I corrected them even more quickly. I knew intimately what Sherlock’s rooms, and Baskerville Hall should be like. I knew the paths and the mists and the perilous bogs. This was terra familiar.

I delighted seeing Mrs. Hudson fussing over Watson’s experiments with tobacco ash. I despaired watching a ridiculous “hound” that might have been the inspiration for The Killer Shrews. I needed no explanation for Sir Henry’s imperious pique over his missing shoe.

I don’t know the German for “cognoscenti,” but I know it was me.

And I loved it.

Ach!

My Horrors Have Always Been Cowboys?

An in-depth viewing of BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA is on the slate for tonight.

I like horror movies.

I like cowboy movies.

I don’t like this.

That’s probably about as much in-depth analysis as the flick deserves but here are a few stray thoughts.

1. The film is directed by William Beaudine, whose nickname was “One-Shot Bill”. I’m thinkin’ that moniker is not complimentary to anyone involved with directing a film unless he happens to have a hot date waiting in the wings. This flick goes far in validating my thinking.

2. Virginia Christine appears in the film. Most of you know Ms. Christine, if you know her at all, as Mrs. Olsen in the Folger’s Coffee commercials of the 1790’s (feelin’ a little old this evening). But Ms. Christine had an acting career beyond coffee hucksterism, though frankly, this performance is probably not the best testimony to that fact. It’s certainly not “the richest kind.”

3. The costume budget musta been real tight. The two title characters never – I mean never – change clothes. One costume each for the whole movie. (One-Shot Bill = One-Shirt Bill?) I know that sounds picky, but it jars my suspension of disbelief. I can’t believe I just said that about a movie featuring a vampire fighting an American gunslinger.

4. Putting Billy the Kid in a sea-foam green chamois over-shirt might…just might…lessen his credibility as a tough guy.

5. Casting a thirty-plus year old actor as Billy the “Kid” more than likely damaged the film’s box-office appeal to teens. Perhaps if he had played a guitar and crooned a little cowboy/vampire/surfer ditty it coulda been redeemed.

I doubt it.

The Winter of Our Discontent

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this sun of…

…Puerto Rico?

Who knoo?

Good grief!

Snow last week, snow predicted this weekend…

Covid, Omicron, Boebert, Greene, Gaetz, Paul, striated stink bugs and a host of other such plagues in the air…

Tornados, floods, robo-calls…

Frettin’ ‘bout my non-existent student loan, the expired warranty on my 13-year-old car, whether I’m getting’ all the benefits I deserve, whether a jerk from half a planet away from our house will be allowed to play tennis and infect another continent another half a planet away…

It’s too much for a geezer to keep track of, especially with it all happening in a season bereft of…

Baseball.

And now it seems there may be a disruption and delay to the beginning of spring training if not the regular season itself.

What’s an old frettin’ fool to do?

Lo!

Behold!

Tonight on channel 261 (who knew there even was a channel 261?), the fifth game of the semi-finals of the Roberto Clemente Puerto Rico Winter Baseball (Beisbol) League is being televised live…on at least three cameras.

Yes!

On a TV station that may only exist in Diagon Alley, baseball is being played on green grass on a warm night in a place Trump can’t get to (it’s an island, you know). The Mayaguez Indios are leading in this best-of-seven series 3-1 over the Carolina Gigantes. Mayaguez is also leading in this game 4-1, and if they hold on, they start playing in the finals this weekend, unthreatened by snow.

Fierce

The game is being played in Mayaguez’ home stadium. I believe it seats about 12,000. Tonight it looks to me like a crowd of about 1,000 devotees (and me) are watching this titanic struggle.

And the announcers.

The announcers are enthusiastic and under the sway of the Puerto Rican Travel Department. There are frequent digressions extolling palm trees and ocean breezes. S’okay by me – I like those things. Besides, their digressions are not as frequent and distracting as the current trend of US baseball announcers trapped in their home studios with no ocean breezes. No, tonight’s patter is mostly about the baseball game they’re watching…I think.

The accents are foreign to my untuned ear (go figger). But I pick up an occasional word or phrase and their enthusiasm for their game and their obvious embarrassment for bad plays resonates with me. I sense my Spanish becoming better with every entrada (see what I did there?).

What else is foreign?

Uh-uh
  • There are no player names on the jerseys.
  • Every fourth or fifth batter gets a caption below his at-bat that shows his name and few hitting stats.
  • The hitters don’t look like transformers. The only hitting equipment I’ve seen is a tattered protector on the pitcher-facing elbows of a few hitters.
  • No pitching speed figures appear on the screen.
  • No moseying. The pitchers stay on the rubber, ready to throw. The batters stay in the box, ready to hit.
  • I just saw a foul ball land in a sparsely populated section of the stands. The nearest attendee let it lie. It was apparently too many rows away from the comfort of his beer.

I’m kinda wishin’ I was there.

Ocean breezes…

Baseball…

It’s an island, you know…

The Gadget Queen & the Dangling Conversation

I think it was about ten years ago.

Janie, the Gadget Queen, came home with a new ornament for the Christmas tree and began to install it. Three days and two outside independent contractors later, it was hung, swingin’ on an artificial pre-lit branch, hard-wired, synced, registered to vote, and fully protected by warranty from all annoying phone calls. It was a porcelain mouse with a porcelain top hat and porcelain conductor’s baton sitting in rabid anticipation on an open porcelain songbook. The sucker must weigh five pounds. When it dangles on its branch, the whole tree leans into a non-existent wind.

A protocol was soon established.

  1. I enter the living room and say in the most natural and un-sheepish voice I can muster; “Hello, Mr. Christmas.”
  2. The ornament answers with an enthusiasm I cannot fathom; “Well, hello to you! If you’d like to see what I can do, just say; ‘Play a carol’ or ‘Lights on.’”
  3. I quickly and meekly say; “Lights on.” Mr. Christmas’s renditions of traditional Christmas carols are harsh betrayals of the spirit of the season that rival those of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and the 101 Mantovani Strings. They are to be avoided.
  4. The tree instantly blazes with pre-lit illumination and Mr. Christmas chirps; “Ta Da-a-a-h! If you’d like me to do anything else, simply say; ‘Hello, Mr. Christmas.’”
  5. Then I slide under my electrically heated throw (a Janie gadget), with my synced morning paper (an electronic facsimile of the Lexington Herald-Leader downloaded on my Kindle…another Janie discovery), with my cuppa coffee Janie programmed the night before on yet another whiz-bang contraption she found. I ponder the subtle differences from memories of my first thirty years on the planet…and ponder a few choice suggestions for Mr. Christmas as to what else he might do.

But…

…to be honest…

…I kinda like the guy…

…mostly because of the amusing soliloquies he inspires from Janie.

If, perchance, Janie arrives in Mr. Christmas’s sphere of influence before I, she sings out; “Hello, Mr. Christmas!” to no effect. She then repeats the magic phrase into a silence. She then croons seductively; “Hello-o-o, Mr. Christmas…” Nothing. She barks it, shouts it, drawls it, accents it (British, Irish, Scottish), translates it (French, Spanish, Greek, Urdu, Latin-Classic and Pig). Nothing works. It is entertaining at first and then becomes triumphant when I call from the next room; “Hello, Mr. Christmas”, and the arboreal firmament shimmers and Janie simmers.

To quote that great motivator of men, Strother Martin; “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

This surreal reality show has unfolded now for ten years.

I hope it continues as long as he doesn’t play carols.

Queasy Rider

Rick the Smear was shallow and damned proud of it.

He bragged about it.

He repeated funny stories his friends created to describe his reading habits (Clair Bee baseball stories, Agatha Christie cozies, and the Sunday funnies) and viewing habits (Ed Woods’ DEVIL’S NIGHT ORGY, NBA regular season basketball, and reruns of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND…he was a dedicated Ginger fan……sigh).

He claimed he couldn’t even spell “conspiracy theory.”

He even invented his moniker; “I’m so shallow I’m a smear.”

Nobody was fooled, but it sounded great and you could riff on it forever.

The truth was he was a pretty sharp guy. His acting work was beyond superior and his painting and watercolors were beyond that. Plus, he could sing a little and his juggling was mesmerizing. The man could fling a half-eaten muffin twenty feet in the air, deliver an act-ending Oscar Wilde zinger, and then catch and swallow the soaring pastry in front of a full theatre house. I admit that last might not testify to his profundity…but YOU try it.

But now…

But now…he had bought a Vespa.

Topping out at about six-foot-five and pushing 70 years, he had indulged in a mid-life dream about thirty years late. He was ecstatic, living out the memory of a 22-year-old hippie-type art student zipping along the 1971 perpetually summer (but beautiful) coastal lanes of Santa Barbara, in the guise of a 70-year-old silver-haired mensch on the often stifling (but also beautiful) ocean-less county roads of Central Kentucky.

Yes…a dream.

A dream perhaps tainted just a bit by the heat and humidity, or the jacket-requiring chilliness of Kentucky’s changeable weather. And compromised a just smidge by the prudency of taking a quick inventory of every passing pickup (and there were plenty of those, given the restraints in velocity of what a Vespa can do) to ascertain the presence of a gun rack and a passenger with a free hand. We all know how that flick ends and it’s not with; “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Still…

…there was such glee…such jubilation…

…until…

…there was a beyond-inconvenient flat tire on a hunting-and-gathering foray to the Dixie Café.

Scrapes, bruises, an embarrassed call for rescue and a ride home, and a screwed-up reuben on rye…

<< sigh >>

The Vespa was sold the next week.

As Rick the Smear was fond of saying; “I didn’t say I was stupid…just shallow.”

Montana Joe & Weird Willie

“I am sure, as many as have good beards or good faces or sweet breaths will, for my kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell.”

Rosalind said it prettily and clearly and thus endeth our final run-through before technical and dress rehearsals and then opening night.

I was in the wings, muttering; “I’ll bid you farewell. There won’t be a half-dozen people a night that’ll understand that line.”

It was 2007 and the play was Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

My head-shaking over the prospects of decipherability of this closing line was not a singular bobble. I was doubtful about many such moments in the play. Moments? How ‘bout whole ten-minute segments of brilliant verbiage swirling over, around, and through a 21st century audience like Casper the Friendly Ghost, leaving them feeling like something remarkable had happened, but who knows what it was…and I guess it’s okay…it sounded impressive.

And most of those bewildering lines were mine.

I don’t like As You Like It, but I admire it.

The speech; “All the world’s a stage…” is worth the price of admission by itself.

I have seen the play four times and now performed it once.

‘At’s enuf fer me.

Bitterest Fool

I was playing one of the fools and was well on my way to crafting the bitterest fool in the history of theatre. I was too old to be flopping about in voluminous motley, toting elfin ingénues and scolding the audience in iambic pentameter.

But I did it.

Why?

Well…

…it was Shakespeare…

…it was a fine cast…

…and it was being directed by Montana Joe and he asked me to do it.

As I said, the run-though was now completed, and I could go home, flip though the script, and look for a bit of brightness that I was sure I was neglecting.

But no-o-o-o-o.

Montana Joe assembled the cast for a few notes.

Joe sat in the front row.

The cast sprawled on the apron of the stage.

Rapt and waiting.

Else, why would you show up for the first read-through, except to hear Montana Joe’s musings for the run of the journey?

Joe slouched and stared a hole in the carpet about three feet in front of his feet. He slow-tugged at the end of his not-quite-Fu-Manchu mustache. His eyebrows lifted to allow room for his pupils to beseech the firmament for le mot juste.

“There is a moment…when we are working on a play…probing and exploring…and playing…and stumbling…and discovering.”

Joe sank a little in his chair, his shoulders and arms and head folded in. We leaned in to hear.

Inherently, we are lost and looking. A director is pointing and guessing…we find things. Some finds are rejected. Some finds are clung to.”

Joe sank further in his sucking pit of a seat.

“Then…there is this moment…when the play takes on a life…when that life is taken on by the cast…and no longer belongs to the director.”

Seat A12

At this point, Joe’s seat (seat number A12, I believe) became a full-fledged black hole and began to whisk him away. His chin was curled to his knees and he plunged away butt-first, muttering…growling…crooning;

“What…a…joy!”

After the guffaws from the cast, we called the local fire department. They came promptly and managed to retrieve Montana Joe and we quickly established call times for the remaining tech rehearsals and headed home.

What a spellsinger.

Shakespeare in 5/4 Time?

Movie night!

Wanna hear Othello play the piano?

Wanna hear Desdemona croon the blues?

Wanna see Iago rattlin’ a hot drum solo?

It’s all in All Night Long, Basil Dearden’s 1962 jazz retelling of Shakespeare’s OHELLO.

Set in Richard Attenborough’s swingin’ two story Mayfair apartment, top jazz performers gather to celebrate Rex and Delia’s one-year anniversary with an all-night jam. Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, Johnny Dankworth, and Tubby Hayes are playing guests. Even Cleo Laine gets a shout-out as the guests arrive. Patrick McGoohan schemes and plays drums. Henry VIII (Keith Michell) blows weed and sax.

The acting in the film is generally sub-standard. The story is convoluted and implausible. It may be neither iambic nor pentameter, but the music is hot.

The movie is mostly a curiosity, but it looks great and the music makes up for considerable mediocrity.

There’s even bongos!

“Don’t worry man…everything’s co-o-o-o-o-l.”

I Vote Republican

Yes.

Yes, I do, not as often as I vote Democratic, but I do.

And will continue to do so.

I voted for Louis Nunn, Larry Hopkins, Linda Gorton, Ryan Quarles…

Had I the chance, I would have voted for Alice Forgy Kerr a number of times.

I voted for Ernesto Scorsone even though he answered my phone call with; “Rodge, I think the world of you, but you’re on the wrong side of this issue.”

Before I retired, I supported political candidates financially and wish I still could. My pitiful contributions probably ran 60% Dems and 40% Reps. The candidates I supported probably lost more than they won…about my same success at predicting today’s weather.

I support and vote for the best people I can identify, Democratic, Republican, black, white, animal, vegetable, mineral…

I’ve not had an absolute deal-breaker of an issue that has kept me from voting for the best person I could identify…

…until now.

I will never vote for Mr. Trump or anyone who supports him.

Everything instilled in me by my parents, by my Baptist Sunday School upbringing, by my public schools, and by my journey through life argues against it.

I guess I’m brainwashed.

Boar Hunting on the Brazos

That’s how I spent my afternoon.

Neal Stephenson’s new book, TERMINATION SHOCK, arrived today and we’re off to a flying start. Well, maybe not a completely successful flying start. In the first few pages, the private plane’s pilot, who also happens to be the Dutch queen, lands smack on the back of a herd of very large wild boars. This, as you would guess, proves to be a poor flight plan for both the boars and the Boer.

I now find myself looking over the shoulder of a Comanche Ahab on a vengeful prowl for Moby Pig in a drone-equipped pick-up. I’ve already learned what a “dually” is. I kinda want one.

Gimme another few pages and I may become your go-to for information you’ve been craving about the introduction and subsequent loss of control of European wild boars in Waco. Talk about your invasive species! If one must choose between pythons, Japanese beetles, kudzu, and Bradford pear trees…wouldja take wild boars? I’ll let ya know.

About the turn of the millennium, my delightfully bright friend Ave Lawyer mentioned how much she enjoyed a book she had recently read by a writer named Neal Stephenson; CRYPTONOMICON. I read it and was hooked. Ave moved on to twenty more authors as she inevitably does. I was happily stuck and for 20 years I have devoured each of Mr. Stephenson’s books ravenously, and basked in wonder and sometimes befuddlement.

Along the way I have learned so much…

  • I’ve learned techniques for permanently disabling underwater open sewer pipes in Boston Harbor.
  • The orbital dynamics of efficiently hooking up with a captured comet spun me for a loop, but I cheerfully went along for the ride.
  • I have followed the path of Schrodinger’s cat, and thus have a more nuanced understanding of why those witches of Salem may been scorched.
  • The history of cables and cabling I’ve mastered…just as the world goes wireless.
  • I have many interesting facts about coinage history, currency (current and crypto), and gold (Solomonic and Fort Knoxian). I know much about money…without having much.
  • I now know the practical intricacies of insect worship in India and fully understand why it has not caught on.
  • I now feel positively conversational with Norse deities in a way that Wagner never conceived.
  • The history of urban coffee vending is no longer mystery to me…and, I suppose, I now realize that it once was.
  • I have confirmed that Jack of “Jack and the Beanstalk” and Appalachian Jack Tale fame is someone I would be proud to be one day…and simultaneously, be afraid every day to stand too near.

Wow.

I’m sure I’m a better person for all this education.

Next page, please.