Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Bride Calls Off Wedding, Feeds Homeless at the Reception


Photo: Sarah Cummins, 25, who called off her wedding and fed the homeless at the $30K reception.

This story was just too good to pass up and not pass along. It's taken (as is the photo) from this msn.com article, which you can access by clicking here. The author of the article is Maureen C. Gilmer.

The nitty-gritty is that Cummins and her mother spent upwards of thirty grand to pay for the wedding and invitation. She worked overtime and long hours for years, she says, to pay for this. One wonders why the groom-to-be isn't said to have done the same thing, which is perhaps indicative of why the wedding was called off to begin with. Unfortunately, she's not saying. And kudos to Cummins for not airing out that dirty laundry once the press and the internet descended upon her, by the way. Many of us have been less than discrete about verbalizing the incidents that have greatly bothered us, and naming the names of those who did them to us. Mine's in the memoir, baby!

So she had a non-refundable contract with the Ritz Charles, which must be near Indianapolis, where this article was first published. Sounds...ritzy. All that food for 170 guests--and kudos to Cummins for sending out reverse RSVPs to those 170 people, and for even knowing 170 people to invite to her reception, I suppose. I'm not sure I even know 170 people. Well, okay, I do, but only about 5 of them would be invited to any reception of mine.

Apparently, this last-second wedding and reception cancellation has happened before. I know this because a) that has to be why this stuff is non-refundable to begin with, because last-second cancellations happen so often that it has to be paid for, period; and b) last year I was told a story about a woman of about this age, in my neck of the woods, who called off her wedding and reception. She and her mother paid over $40,000 for everything, including the reception spot in the Caribbean. But the guy turned out to be slime, which the teller of this story, and her parents, and the bride-to-be's friends, and possibly innocent passersby and concerned motorists--all told this woman that her husband was slime and she'd be better off not being married to him. This woman agreed with them about two weeks before the scheduled wedding and reception. Anyway, they went on the vacation anyway, and everyone who was supposed to go still went (except for the groom-to-be, who was apparently in a jail cell), and they all had a helluva time, as well they should, since the whole thing caused a lifetime of PTSD and stress, and cost over forty grand.

But I digress. What did Sarah Cummins do? Well, she called local homeless shelters and invited 170 homeless people to the ritzy Ritz Charles. They dined on...Well, I'll finally quote the article:

"On the menu are bourbon-glazed meatballs, goat cheese and roasted garlic bruschetta, chicken breast with artichokes and Chardonnay cream sauce and, yes, wedding cake."

Sounds good to me! And the surroundings?

"The dinner will take place in the hotel's garden pavilion because Cummins said she always wanted an outdoor wedding but didn't want to risk the weather...She and her mother will arrive early Saturday to set up the centerpieces they designed themselves — gold Eiffel Tower vases with roses."

And afterwards? What about the honeymoon?

"When it's over, Cummins said she's leaving on her honeymoon Sunday to the Dominican Republic — alone — before returning for classes at Purdue."

What a great idea! I suspect Sarah Cummins will get many more marriage proposals after this. An attractive woman with that much money to spend on a reception who's smart enough and rich enough to go to Purdue? Where in Indianapolis did this happen?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

They Lie #2 "Interest Free for 6 Years"



I'm no Warren Buffet. (See the photo. That's Warren Buffett. From his own Wikipedia page.) I have a tax guy and a retirement guy because I don't know enough about taxes and retirement portfolios to do them myself. (Or do I? Hmmm...) But at my age (Don't ask; I'm not telling), I do know a thing or two about saving money and not overspending, which is the same thing. And I know enough to know that people, businesses and organizations will lie to make themselves a buck. As House used to say, "Everybody lies." And as I say...Well, see the previous blog about lies by clicking here.

So here's how a local (and national, I think) furniture store lied in a mailing recently:

It sent me a red, white and blue (July 4th week, right? Plus I'll bet it works subliminally) offer that said I could get any mattress or piece of furniture I wanted, and I wouldn't have to pay any interest for over 6 years. That 6 year thing was shown twice, in giant multi-colored print, twice on the same one page of this thing.

So there's a lot wrong here.

First, I noticed right away that there was not one single photo of a mattress of piece of furniture. (See the photo below? Furniture, right? Not one single photo of something like that in this ad. The photo is from jordans.com/living-room, by the way.) So what's being sold here? Furniture and mattresses? Nope. The furniture store is selling its payment options. And the option here is to get whatever you want, interest-free, for 6 years. So that struck me as odd, that a furniture store was focusing on its payment and interest options. Why would it do that? Well, I'll bet that they make more money on the interest payments than they do on their own furniture. That's why car companies sell cars the same way in TV ads. You see the car on the road, but the guys babble about the interest payments, or the no-interest, or the leasing options. They make more money off the money than they do off the car. Same here with furniture. Good for them, bad for you. Why? Because if someone's making money off your money, you're paying too much money. If you weren't, there wouldn't be any surplus money for them to make money off of. You'd pay just the price for the furniture, for example, so the store, the supplier and the employees get paid, but that's it. They have to move on. If someone's making money off your money, which is what interest is, then you're paying too much money. You don't want to do that.



Secondly, and maybe more important, YOU NEVER WANT TO PAY INTEREST ON ANYTHING, EVER, FOR ANY REASON. That's so important that I put it in impolite and angry caps. But the word "interest" is a swear word, right up there with mother----er and the C-word. In fact, it's even worse, because like an STD, once you've got it, you're never going to be able to make it go away. Right? Do you owe interest payments on a credit card? How about your student loans? Look at your mortgage. How much are you paying in interest? Interest in mortgages are unavoidable if you want a house (I've got 2 mortgages, so I know), but in everything else it is very easily avoidable. (If I can't afford to pay the monthly credit card bill, I don't buy it. And come hell or high water, I WILL pay off that credit card bill in full, and I will not make monthly payments on it, ever, for any reason. I don't have a cent of credit card debt, and I had no life for a few years after I got my degree so that I could pay off my student loans all at once, so I don't own a cent of student loans, either. But I truthfully was lifeless for a few years as I saved to pay off that bad boy.) If it's not an emergency--and I'm talking someone is dying here, or your house is about to cave in--and if you don't have the money, you don't buy it. Period. This furniture ad in the mail was banking on the fact (See what I did there?) that people are so used to interest payments, that the real kicker of the ad was the interest-free option and not the furniture. That's crazy. Because, once again, if you're paying interest, you're paying too much for something. There's no second course. If you're trying to lose weight, there's no dessert after dinner. And if you're trying to stay out of debt, there's no interest after the one initial payment.

You might think that you've got 6 years to pay that thing off, so you won't have to pay any interest at all. Fine--if that's true. But is it? What do you have to do to get the 6 years of no interest? What do you have to sign for? I'll bet you'll have to get that furniture company's credit card, and you'll have to get an account with them, or with whomever runs their financial backing. So someone's already making money off of you, and they're betting that you won't pay it off in 6 years. I repeat, someone's making money off of you, and someone's betting against you. That's inherently negative and should scare you away.

Well, let's read the fine print. After every "6 Years" there's an *. An asterisk means there's a catch, a stipulation, and it means someone's trying to screw you. If they weren't, the information would be in as giant, multi-colored print as the "6 Years." There's another * after "No minimum purchase" and a tiny crucifix (Why hasn't someone harped on that blasphemy, using a tiny crucifix symbol to screw people out of their own money?) after "No money down." They're also betting you won't read the fine print. No one ever reads the fine print. You should always read the fine print. So let's read the fine print. And I'm looking for the answer to the question: How much would the interest be?

Whoa! If you don't pay the amount in time, you'll be hit with 29.99% interest! Holy crap! That means you'll owe in interest $30 for every $100 you haven't paid. That's crazy! That's $300 for every $1000. That's insane. Is that worth the risk? Hell no! If you don't have any credit card debt, your own credit card has a lower APR than that. And, furthermore, you're already thinking badly because if you can't afford to pay it on your very next month's credit card bill, you shouldn't buy it at all. You can't afford to think that you have 6 years to pay that off. I can't. I can only afford to think that I've got 1 MONTH to pay it off, and if I can't do that, I don't buy it. Period. And, yes, my furniture's older, but it's comfortable enough. And, yes, I do deserve better--but that doesn't mean that I'm going to get it, or that I'm entitled to it. I have to earn it, and if I don't have the money for it in 30 days, I haven't earned it. Don't start down that interest-free road, because you don't know where that road ends. And "interest-free" doesn't mean "free." And if you're playing games with interest, you'll lose.



Photo: An asterisk in an early Greek papyrus. It's possible people were getting screwed with it then, about 2,000 years ago. From the Wikipedia page for the word "asterisk."

And it says here: "For $X a month you could redecorate every room in your entire home." No. No you can't. It takes a few grand to do that, and if you're like me, you won't be able to pay back a few grand in 6 years. If you can, then wait those 6 years and save and pay cash for everything so nobody makes a dime off your money and you're not in debt. Redecorating my home with brand new furniture would cost over $10,000. There's no way in hell I'd be able to pay that off in 10 years, never mind 6. And that'll be $3,000 extra in interest. So instead of $10,000, I'd owe $13,000.

And it doesn't say here that you can pay more than your equal monthly payment. Because you want to pay that off before the 6 years, right? To do that, you have to pay more than the equal monthly payment, every single month. If you're not allowed to do that--if you have to pay just the equal monthly payment so that you're stuck with this contract for exactly 6 years, then you're screwed. Because crap happens, and you're going to fall behind on a payment, maybe even the very last one, 6 years later, and your now in debt, or at the very least your credit takes a big hit.

No thanks. I'm throwing it away. Actually, I'm throwing it in the firepit, so I don't have to buy kindling. I'll save money off of the money this furniture company paid to mail this to me. So help me, I'll make money off of them.

And so that's how they lie. Misdirection, in this case. This furniture company is selling money with this ad, not furniture. Always ask yourself, "What would they gain doing that?" If someone were to call them up and ask them if they made more money off its payment plans or its furniture, I'll bet they'll say the payment plans. And that's how they lie. Not as bad as the flat-out lies meant to actually fool me like the last blog. This isn't for a power trip or for political gain. And everyone's got to make a buck, so this doesn't make me angry like the last one, but still...Ain't nothing for free in this world, right? Not even 6 years of interest-free payments. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Especially if there's money involved. (Some things, and some people, are actually as good as they sound. But not if there's money involved.)

Next time on "They Lie": A mortgage company insisting they're holding a really low interest payment percentage for me that's actually higher than the one I already have.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

They Lie -- Fake News on the Radio



Photo: Original 1st Edition of the hardcover, from the book's Wikipedia page

One of my (many) personal catch-phrases that I say (perhaps way) too often is: "It's not that I don't really trust anyone, or anything...It's just that I don't really trust anyone--or anything." Occasionally I've wondered if maybe I'm being a little too paranoid or cynical. But then this past week happened. The last 10 days or so have blissfully reinforced my outlook. I've been emboldened, and it seems to me that I'm right, sadly but surely, that everywhere around us are "Lies! Lies!" (Those quotes were for a friend of mine. Those two words are amongst his favorite catch-phrases.)

So here's one of the lies flung at me recently:

1. A radio station commercial that sounds like a newswoman reading a report, but which is actually a commercial for an organization that represents the National Republican Party.

If you're in RI, listen in to B101. (And, no, that's my better half's preferred station, not mine. I don't have a preferred station. I mostly listen to CDs and YouTube.) Anyway, here's what this woman says. In a newscaster's tone, she tells us that 80% believe that the news about Trump and Russia is overblown and that we should all just move on. (This is before we knew that Trump Jr. sold his soul to that devil.) She then says that 75% believe that it is wrong for a foreign leader to mock our president.

But...80% and 75% of whom, exactly? She doesn't say. Now if she'd said the 80% came from 8 out of 10 Republicans polled, I'd believe that. And 80 out of 100. Or 800 out of 1000. Or, hell, even 4 out of 5. That's the number of dentists from that commercial, right? (Watch out for numbers. They don't lie, but they can be manipulated. You ever notice that polls--during ballgames, for example, when they ask a seemingly random and irrelevant question and then tell you to text your answer--are always gauged by percentage and not whole numbers? Because they don't want you to know that only 5 people texted, or only 10 people were polled. So, yeah, 4 out of 5 and 8 out of 10 are 80%, but is that a relevant stat?

Photo: from qz.com, (which got it from the Associated Press), as is the quote in quotation marks:


"This meeting was the one in which Trump gave highly classified information to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and ambassador Sergei Kislyak."

Another thing: If that woman is saying that 80% of the country--across all political lines--think that we need to move on from this Trump-Russia thing (Notice I didn't use a slash there, like Trump/Russia, because those two really are connected.), then I assure you that's straight-up BS. Lots of Republicans are wary and leery of Trump & Russia, so I'll bet that more than 20% of them would say it needs more looking into. And I double-dog assure you that if even all of the country's Republicans believed the news is "fake news"--which is not the case--then you still need a very high percentage of Democrats and Independents to feel the same way in order to make the 80% stat accurate. Do you honestly think that about half of all Democrats and Independents think that way? That's a "Hell, no!" no matter what your opinion is on the Trump-Russia issue itself.

Why the ad that sounds like a newscast? LIES! That's for the people who believe what they hear (Mistake 1) and who don't think about what they read or hear (Mistake 2) and who then tell others what they hear and relay it as fact when it isn't (Mistake 3).

 Who made that ad? Well, who has the most to gain by it? C'mon, isn't that creepy? That's right out of Animal Farm, and it's scary. (And shame on you if you don't know the reference. Animal Farm and 1984 should be required reading right now.) That's shady people working for shady politicians who are shadily using the media (in this case, the radio) to spread falsity and lies to benefit themselves and to give themselves more power. That should frighten and anger you, and if it doesn't, well, that's what they're counting on.

And a fake newscaster saying fake stats like it's news? Yeah--that's literally "fake news," people. And from the very people who swear it's being used against them. These people are slimy. I need to take a shower just having to think about these people. But think I do, and you should, too.

Please let me know if you've heard this ad, or something like it. Share your story.

Next time on "They Lie": furniture mailings that push "interest-free monthly payment options" more than their furniture, and a mortgage company insisting they're holding a really low interest payment percentage for me that's actually higher than the one I already have.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

David Ortiz's Book, Papi, Is A Huge Strikeout


Photo: from the book's Goodreads page, here.

Very disappointing book, more notable for the stuff he leaves out than for what he puts in. This is mostly a gripe session, with a surprising number of motherf---er bombs, considering his younger fanbase. If you want to read about what a motherf---er former Sox GM Theo Epstein was while they talked contracts, and about how much of a motherf---er Twins manager Tom Kelly was all the time, and about how much confidence he has in himself, which is necessary because everyone will disrespect you and you have to defend yourself and tell them who you really are, then this book is for you. He even takes a few stabs at Terry Francona, who he never respected again after Tito pinch-hit for him in Toronto three or four years ago. Yet wasn't he hitting about .220 at the time?

But I'd been hoping instead for a bit more about 2004, about the postseason. Those were covered in a few short pages. Or about 2007, and Curt Schilling's bloody sock, or something about J.D. Drew or Josh Beckett or, hell, anything at all about any of the more important games that year? Maybe something about Youkilis, who nobody remembers anymore. How about how Colorado finished the season 22-1 and then got swept in the World Series? Nope. Maybe 2013? How about some stories about Jonny Gomes, or Napoli, or anyone else? What about that ALCS against the Tigers, when Ortiz hit the season's most important homerun, before Napoli hit his against Verlander in that 1-0 game? How about how the Sox hit maybe the Mendoza line combined for the series, yet won it in 6 games? How about anything at all about Uehara? Maybe the World Series, which had a game that ended with a runner picked off third and was followed by a game that ended with a runner picked off first. Nope. Maybe a paragraph apiece, and nothing at all about any of the specific ALCS or World Series games. Not even anything about his World Series game-winning hits, except that he hit them, and who he hit them off. No commentary; no in-depth analysis, nothing. He proves he had a helluva memory for who threw what to him months ago, which he'd then look for months later, but that's it.

You get a really short chapter about what a butthole Bobby Valentine was, which I already knew, and I detested him then and now and for that whole year. Valentine was a baseball version of Trump, and it's no surprise to me at all that they're actually friends--if either guy can be said to have a friend, as opposed to a mutual, leech-like attraction. But there's nothing new here at all. The few things that may be news to some, like how his marriage almost fell apart, is never given specifics. I'm not expecting The Inquirer here, but give me something. Didn't get it.

I'm telling you, this book is at least 75% about how he was disrespected by contracts and PED accusations. He never mentions HGH, of course, and he never gave honest accolades to people he trashed, like Francona and Epstein. It all comes across as very bitter grapes from someone you might think doesn't have much to be bitter about. He has a few decent points that non-Sox fans may not know, like how the Sox underpays its stars (Pedroia notoriously got a home-discount contract that this book never mentions; Pedroia is more underpaid now than Ortiz ever was, dollar for dollar) and yet overpays its free agent signings--like Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. And Carl Crawford. And Julio Lugo. And Edgar Renteria. And Rusney Castillo. You knew this already as a fan, but the sheer number of examples is staggering. Yet even this is harped on again and again, its repetition taking up space you wanted reserved for funny or interesting anecdotes about some players. Hell, how about Orsillo, or Remy, or Castig? How about how he was able to have the single-best last season of any hitter in history? How about any stories at all about fans he's spoken to over the years, especially in 2013? How about something besides how much of goofball and great hitter Manny Ramirez was? Or something about Pedro besides how smart and great a pitcher he was?

Nope. You get a chapter about his charity, but nothing about other players' charities. Very disappointing. Ortiz was one of my favorite players, and still is, but as a baseball memoirist, he swings and misses. This book is truly a money-making grab off his retirement. Even non-Sox fans won't learn anything new here, which is a mystery because it's clearly written for a common Sox fan. And believe me, I'm no baseball prude, but the loud volume of motherf---ers and other punches and jibes is shocking, considering he has to know that kids and pre-teens will want to read this. But, Dads out there, beware: They probably shouldn't. Also shocking because it's otherwise such a light read, you'd think it was meant for a light (ie--young and/or new) fan. The diatribes and whining don't make it any less light, so it's essentially a fluff piece with a lot of whining, swears and overall negativity.

Shockingly disappointing.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Quest for Mary Magdalene by Michael Haag -- Book Review and Brief Comments


Photo: from books.google.com at this link

Extremely readable history of Mary Magdalene, from the Bible to Dan Brown, that will teach you some things even if, like me, you've read a lot about her already, from the likes of Vermes, Ehrman, etc. For example, you probably know that nobody in the Middle East of this time had first and last names. Jesus of Nazareth was the Nazarene. John the Baptist, was, well...You get the idea. No one had last names. So it's also been known for awhile that Mary Magdalene was called that like Jesus was called Jesus the Nazarene. As he was a Nazarene, from Nazareth, she was the Magdalene, from Magdala. Well, not so fast there. Michael Haag, author of this book, posits that there was no Magdala at the time we're talking about, from 1 to 33 A.D. (or CE, if you will). (Except in Matthew 15:39, where after feeding the multitudes Jesus took ship to Magdala. But a Codex much older than the copy we have in use in our present Bibles [You know the Bible is thousands of years old and has been copied, and miscopied, millions of times, yes?] known as the Codex Vaticanus has the same village in that passage as Magadan, not Magdala. So why the last name? Haag says she was known as "the Magdala" (like John was "the Baptist") and that the word comes from the Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke) magdal and the Hebrew migdal--and that these words mean "tower." Like, how shepherds had a tower that they could use to see the miles of fields where the sheep grazed. Sound familiar? As Jesus said he was the shepherd who watched over his sheep, or flock, meaning his disciples and believers today, so too did somebody watch over Him. That, apparently, is the nickname (and Jesus did give a lot of nicknames, as he did to most of the disciples) Jesus gave to Mary Magdalene. She was the Tower. She watched over him.


Photo: St. Peter, from Catholic.org.

No wonder Peter didn't like her. Peter wasn't Peter's real name. His real name was Simon. Peter is a nickname Jesus gave to him because it means Rock. And he was the first Pope, essentially, as he was "the rock" that the Church was founded upon. But now that you understand the thing about nicknames, which Jesus gave out like he gave out parables, well, now, it makes you think, right? No wonder Peter complained about Mary Magdalene all the time.

[The book lags a little in the last few chapters as Haag embarks on a quick trip through present day renditions of Mary Magdalene. Feel free to skip those. It's a little better when it describes Mary Magdalene in paintings from the Renaissance and the Middle Ages, though I think it worked for me more because I'm interested in those times, and not so much because of what Haag had to say about Mary Magdalene in those times. It's at its best when it covers the Bible and the gnostics--ironic, because Haag describes himself as more of a historian on the Templars and Crusades, and not so much as a biblical scholar. But that's where he's at his best here.]

Haag's research is exhaustive and he deals a lot in common sense--things you would think go hand in hand with historians, but that hasn't been my reading experience. Often they're either too much one or the other, but they need to be combined to make sense of something that happened thousands of years ago. Haag does that well with the Bible. For example, after I thought I'd read everything there is to read about Mary, the mother of Jesus, I see this:

"There are indeed hints in the gospels that stories were going round in the lifetimes of Jesus and of Mary his mother saying that he was a bastard and she was an adultress. 'Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? [A]nd are not his sisters here with us?' says Mark 6:3. In Judaism a son would be identified by naming his father even if Joseph had been dead for a long while, but Mark, who mentions every other member of the family, leaves Jesus' father unknown. Nor does Mark mention Joseph in any other part of his gospel. And in John 8:41 during a confrontation at the Temple[,] the Pharisees say to Jesus, 'We be not born of fornication', insinuating that he was."


Photo: from Pantera's Wikipedia page at this link. "Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera (c. 22 BC – AD 40) was a Roman soldier whose tombstone was found in BingerbrückGermany, in 1859."

I just looked those passages up again in my New Testament. Mine replaces Joses with Joseph, and Juda with Jude, but all the rest is the same. And you can't disagree with the logic Haag uses. I've known all the stories before: I don't believe there was a census, because at no other time in the history of the world has a leader told his people that, for a census, everybody had to pack up and move back where their original ancestors came from. Can you imagine that happening in America today? What a nightmare! And the story of the slaughtering of the firstborn? No other writers writing at the time--and even in antiquity, there were many--mention anything like that. You would think it would make headlines, that everyone would have a comment to say about it, even someone in a court, in his private diary, never mind actual historians (apparently there have always been historians translating history, even in ancient history). But nobody did, outside of that one biblical passage, Matthew 2:1-16. So, yeah, I'd already known and thought about that, [and just click here in my blog so you can read about my thoughts of Mary and Pantera], but this was the first time my attention was drawn to that one passage, of Jesus, "the son of Mary." Of course Haag is right. From ancient times, in the Middle East, in the Nordic stories, in Beowulf, in the Odyssey, possibly all over, a man is defined as being the son of his father, not the son of his mother. Beowulf and Odysseus were referred to like that long after their fathers had died. But when the father is unknown? Or the man had been born out of wedlock, for whatever reason?


Photo: from Pantera's Wikipedia page at this link.

Haag shows some good research and some good common sense, in equal measure. (And I have to add that, for a very long time, I've been put off by Jesus's only biblical conversation with his mother, at the wedding at Cana, in John 2:1-5.  Yes, she seems to have been nagging him, but he is still rather curt and annoyed with her. No other writer has mentioned the same slight surprise at this that I have always felt. Until now. So thanks, Mr. Haag. Just a little thing, but it bothered me. And how do we feel about that conversation being the only one between Jesus and his mother? Doesn't it seem like she's been rather scissored out? Mary, His mother, is venerated now, but she got short shrift then.

And the author proves rather conclusively, I think, that Jesus and his disciples were financially supported by Mary of Bethany, Mary Magdalene (if they're different; many scholars think they're the same, as Haag seems to), Joanna (possibly a former wife of someone relevant in the royal court, a man named Chuza), Mary, Jesus's mother, and a few other loyal women. I've considered this, but not for too long. But, yes, there seems to have been money flowing in, and it wasn't from Jesus himself, right? And his followers were fishermen (who were not necessarily poor at that time, but the Bible says these were) and others said to be destitute, so who had the money? Could the women be hiking all over the Middle East unless they had some money? And the women who were not from money, or who were not married to it, where did they get enough money, in that time, to be financially independent? (Get my, and Haag's, drift here?) But where do the robes come from? The food? The water? The sandals? Over the few years of the biblical stories? The Bible stays rather close-lipped about this, but it makes sense. These things cost money, and the guys didn't have any. Why else would these men, as worried about women as they were (Peter, for example, was apoplectic about them, especially Mary Magdalene; you can look that up), have these women along all the time, but that they were the bank?


Photo: from La Pieta's Wikipedia page at this link

So, yeah, makes you think. And that's why I read books like this. To think very seriously about a book that essentially controls my government right now, and yet none of those guys (and I emphasize the guys) seem to have actually read all of it. (Trump, especially, I assure you, has not. But a caveat: He's never said that he has. In fact, he's not very religious. But the southern gentlemen controlling him are. [The Russians controlling him may be as well.] Or, at least, that's what these fine conservative white men will tell you as they push their agendas along. Believe me, when Trump's impeached, these fine men will cut their strings with him very fast, and then say they never really liked him in the first place, that they had their doubts about him all along.)

Well, anyway, because I believe you have to know and study the weapon of choice of your adversary, I have read every single word of the Bible, Old Testament and New. Yes, every word. Twice. And countless times in close readings while reading books about it. Which is right, by the way, to read books like Haag's and not to just take the author's word for everything. That's part of the whole problem, right? To just take someone's word for something very important without reading it yourself? So I do that--I read the Bible, and I read about the Bible, and then I read the Bible again to better think about the things that I have read in books about the Bible.

Because, for God's sake, someone's got to. See what I did there?

So if you're interested in this kind of thing--and if you're being unfairly controlled by conservative social laws in the U.S., you should be--then you should read this. It says a lot of right, and righteous, things about how women have historically had their importance stripped from them since antiquity. If it can happen to Mary Magdalene, and Mary, mother of God, then it can happen to you, right? Right?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

High Lonesome: 40 Years of Stories from Joyce Carol Oates


Photo: from books.google.com at this link

Better known for her Gothic stories, especially the heavily anthologized "Where Is Here?" and a few others, this is still an extremely readable and often striking collection of short stories spanning 40 years, from 1966 to 2006. As with all collections of this length, and shorter, you may find some swings and misses here, but there are far more hits than misses. At worst, a few stories were okay, unimpressive, but not bad, exactly. Some are stunning. Some are memorable, sometimes for the writing, sometimes for the things that happen. (In one, an unhappy woman in her early 20s allows herself to have a messy, unstopped period while she and her family spoke with a priest at a seminary, where her brother would've been kicked out but for that spectacle.) Other stories are memorable for what they don't show, or say. (In one, a young man kills himself in his car. In the glove compartment is found an object that may insinuate he also would've killed someone else, but for some reason didn't. The story ends with a character asking the other what that object had been for--and the story ends right there.) Anyway, there are 11 new stories here (as of 2006), one of them the title story. This one is also perhaps the best of the bunch--a nice comment to be able to make, considering Joyce Carol Oates has been writing now for over 50 years, and apparently hasn't lost a thing. If anything, she may be getting better. So these are all good, and highly recommended, though I prefer her Gothic stories, none of which are here.

A short bulleted commentary:

--"Spider Boy" is very good. Chilling and short, as usual about the unknown side of someone's personality.

--"The Cousins" is an award-winning story.

--"The Gathering Squall" has a nice metaphor, tying a painting in with the story's theme. I tried Googling the painting, couldn't find it. Possibly invented for the story.

--"The Lost Brother" is a good story about the hopelessness of having hope for a lost soul in your family. And perhaps why you shouldn't.

--"High Lonesome" motivated me to start my own story. The best part of the story--the old, desperate, lonely man getting pinched while only wanting conversation from a hooker who's not a hooker--isn't even the main part.

--"Upon the Sweeping Flood" is good and memorable, and has a recurring image of children suffering at the hands of insane adults.

--"At the Seminary" was referred to above. Not to be missed, if only for the scene I described.

--"Where Are You Going...?" is perhaps the most anthologized story here, one the author says she regrets having to include in this volume because it's so prevalent elsewhere. I have it in the tons of other sweeping anthologies downstairs. However, it continues to impress, even after a great many readings. Sly, slow, charming, disturbing, seductive (not in a sensual sense) evil has perhaps never been captured so well, not even by Hawthorne.

--The collection is broken down into the decades. Stories from "The 1970s" are all good, though representative (except for "Manslaughter") of John Updike. Maybe Cheever, too.

--"The Hair" was a very good, very John Cheever, expose of suburban couples and the illusion of social and marital perfection that one couple holds over the other, until the ending. Reminiscent of reality; been there, done that. Got away just in time.

--"Life After High School" was referred to above. Interesting. The woman in the story reminds me of someone I know.

--"Mark of Satan" was a story I was highly critical of on my blog, a long time ago, for reasons that now escape me. I'd read just the last few stories of the whole collection at the time, and responded in anger about this one. I think I mentioned I thought it was a rip-off, but it's not, and I can't even begin to tell you what the hell my problem was. Anyway, it's okay, not great and not bad.

The title, by the way, is a phrase that means "drunk" or "bender," but which sounds depressive to me as well. This all makes sense, because there's plenty of all three here. Most of the characters and stories inhabit upstate New York, Richard Russo's (Nobody's Fool and Empire) stomping grounds, or New York City, when the stories sound a bit like Updike and Cheever.

And I would love to know her writing schedule. She's so prolific, she makes Stephen King seem like J.D. Salinger or Harper Lee. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Wonder Woman -- A Rant within A Movie Review



Yes, I am a grown man who went to see Wonder Woman Sunday night with my better half. I'm okay with this, for a lot of reasons. I liked it a lot, and I'm going to buy it when I can. Loved, loved, loved this movie. Here's a rant within a review (and here's another, quieter one from Time Magazine, at time.com) to explain why: 

I was a little concerned about the hoopla about the movie being shown first to a female-only audience. Notice I'm saying I was concerned about the negative reaction given to the female-only showing, not about the movie itself, nor about the female-only showing. One: the moviemakers can do whatever they want with their own movie. Two: It sort of makes sense that a movie based on a television show (and comic) geared towards the theme of female empowerment should be shown to an audience of females. Three: I'm a little concerned, and tired, of men acting the victim. This is insulting and offensive not only to women, but to common sense and common decency. Men, of course, have been victimizing women since time immemorial, physically, emotionally, psychologically, culturally, and financially, in America and elsewhere; in the workplace, in the paychecks at the workplace, at home, at a debate while literally stalking them on a political stage, and, lately, on a tape with Billy Bush that was heard all around the world before the man speaking on the tape became President because he appealed to hate groups, hateful people, and powerful and computer-savvy Russians. I'm sorry, did I say all that out loud? I did. But enough of that shit, waddaya say? He gropes women, he's obviously assaulted women, he brags on tape about groping women and assaulting women, and occasionally he procreates with women, while insinuating that he'd like to do so with his own daughter, but let's not pretend for a second that he actually likes and respects women, okay? Had enough of that. He wants blatant truth and not political correctness? Well, there it is. Wonder Woman sort of gives an innocent little finger to all that, and it's about time.


Photo: Wonder Woman is not complacent, she's not weak, and she's not French. (Sorry.)

Women have gotten the short end of the political stick lately, so how about we all just shut up as they watch a damn movie, huh? And, funny how even a movie review becomes a sign of these political times, but that's how screwed up and Alice in An Effed-Up Misogynistic Wonderland these times are. 

Wonder Woman is a good action movie that, despite itself, says a lot of things, all of them well. And one of the things it says well is that women can be themselves without any shame. (Wonder Woman, unlike all of the other women from her enchanted isle, is not exactly a fish without a bicycle, per se, but she understands that she could be, that loving a man is a choice, not a mandate. [And shame on you if you don't get the reference.]) One of the things I noticed in this action movie--very different from the thousands of action movies I've seen--is that no man in the movie grabs the woman's hand as they run away from something. (Remember how Daisy Ridley correctly griped about this in the latest Star Wars franchise film?) Wonder Woman doesn't have to withdraw her hand from the guy who grabbed it, because no guy keeps up with her and grabs it. She kicks ass (apparently with a hairstylist on immediate standby) and the men have to follow her. She doesn't stop for them. She doesn't wait for them to act. She doesn't wait for them to save her. She doesn't wait for them to save others. She doesn't wait for them to solve ills or even to stop the war. She takes the lead. That they are willing to follow her, literally and figuratively, without any sexist misgivings (these are all incredibly good, well-behaved guys), is a victory in its own right. Yes, she looks better than Kate Beckinsale and Milla Jovovich and Angelina Jolie and Pamela Anderson (showing my age with that last reference) as they're kicking ass in their painfully tight black leather outfits, but that's not why the guys follow her into battle. You'll have to watch the movie to see why, but trust me on this. They follow because of who she is, not because of what she looks like. She is not a What. Perhaps that's a lesson there.



Photo: The picture referenced below, from Wonder Woman and another movie, best not referred to.

Having said all that, Wonder Woman is not a political movie. It doesn't try very hard (it does maybe a little tiny bit) to teach this lesson, or any lesson at all. It's actually a very good action movie. It's directed very, very well. The production design is very good. The script is reasonably intelligent (there's a tiny bit of emotional lovey-dovey crap at the end, which threatened to connect to my one or two feelings, but it gets a pass with me) and it even has a frame story technique. In fact, that involves the one thing--the only one thing--I liked about the last Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman movie monstrosity mess: the picture of her in WWI that Bruce Wayne finds. That picture was the best part of that movie, and I was looking forward to knowing the story behind it. This is it. I wish I could prove this, but I actually said that to my better half, that the picture was the best part of that movie. It's the starting point, and the finishing point, here, and that works very, very well. As I've said to people before: good writing is a frame story, a book-ending, a wrap-around. Good technique. Simple, but effective.

So, anyway, this movie doesn't try to be political. That it is, anyway, is yet another indicator of these incredibly, jaw-droppingly, Can't Believe People Voted for A Guy who Mocked A Handicapped Reporter on Worldwide Television and then Tweets more than a 12-year old black hole we're in.

This movie says we can be ourselves, anyway, even when our immediate environment is going to hell. Be yourself, fight against wrongs, and be strong, and don't wait for someone else to do it. This was an effective, stirring, moving, meaningful action film that looked and sounded great, that guys can enjoy, that, by God, may actually be saying something beyond itself that is true and worthwhile.

Wonder Woman, and Gal Gadot, who plays her, are immigrants, by the way. See what I did there?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Lana the Dog and Alien: Covenant

Thanks for coming back! I've been gone a long time, because of a stubborn chest cold and work overload.

So a few quick things:


--Lana has been saved! Thanks to those of you who told me you went to the shelter's Facebook page!

--Looks to be like the Trump administration--and I do mean all of them--have been to brunch with Russia, if you catch my drift. We can impeach a guy who slept with an intern, but not a guy who for years has been in bed with the Russians? It'll get uglier before it gets better, and I'm not sure I want Mike Pence at the con, either. Maybe if it's proved the entire election was rigged, they all go, and we do it all over again. The proof is there. Someone just has to type it up. Where's Woodward and Bernstein when we need them?

--And Jared Kushner is yet another thug in an expensive suit. He and all of his brothers-in-law.

--Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant, which I just saw today, is a visually stunning film of bleh! I'm really upset about how he chose to deviate from Prometheus's sense of ideological wonder and instead delve into monomaniacal domination, which we've seen plenty of times before. I'm also angry about what he did with Noomi Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw character, an awesome, riveting, strong women who deserved a helluva lot better than this. Like her, I also wanted to know about the Engineers, and about why they created, and then wanted to destroy, us. You'll see why we're now never going to know. Why would a very talented director waste so much time making a visual but morose film? And the captain...I swear, he must be the dumbest character this side of Friday the 13th movies. After seeing lots of death and destruction and aliens, he actually peers inside a hatching alien cocoon for several long moments. Deserved what he got, though Ridley Scott made him suffer for way too long, after he asked David, the Synthetic, philosophically, about what he believed in. Odd last question. Watch Prometheus again and skip this one.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Lana, "the loneliest dog in the world," Needs Our Help


Photo: Lana, from my blog entry in 2015, and from this week's article here.

Okay, let's help the underdog.

Lana, "the loneliest dog in the world," needs help. I've written about her before, so click here if you missed it. The bottom line now is that she's been returned to a shelter, and she only has until May 20th, or she may be put down.

Having read about her twice, and having now written about her twice, it seems to me that she suffers from excessive shyness and mistrust, and she may have been abused in her past. It sounds like she's been in a shelter for so long, so often, that being left alone in a house or apartment for a few hours may give her actual PTSD symptoms. My dog, a greyhound who was put in a cage for two years, gets like that around dog cages, so he can't ever go in one to wait for his turn at the groomer. One hallway at a building I used to work in must remind him of the track, or a shelter, because when he saw it, he reared up on his legs like a horse and actually came out of his harness. Dogs can have PTSD symptoms. Anyway, the article says that, when Lana's not around the people she trusts, she shuts down or becomes more hesitant. Well, hell, so do I. Who doesn't?

From the article:

Nearly two years after Lana the Labrador became known as "the saddest dog in the world," she's looking for a forever home again.
After an image of Lana cowering at an animal shelter went viral in 2015, thousands of applications poured in and she found a new owner.
But this week, animal rescue group "Rescue Dogs Match" shared an update: Lana is back up for adoption...She's now living at a boarding facility, but due to limited space, she only has until May 20 to find another home. After that, she may be euthanized.
The rescue organization says the best home for Lana, now 2, would be a farm where she can spend most of her time outside.
"The best family for her would be a mature couple or person that has the time, patience, determination and commitment to help her become more confident," the rescue group wrote on Facebook.
"She is sweet and silly, that is hard-wired into her character. She is timid, wary of strangers only at first. When she is not around the people she trusts, she has the tendency to shut down or become very hesitant."
If you’re interested in Lana, you can email info@rescuedogsmatch.com to foster or adopt her.

May 14 is Lana's Birthday ( she will be 3 ) Please help find her a Foster or Forever home. Lana only has until May 20th
Name: Lana Turner
Breed: Lab mix
Gender: Female
Size: Medium
Age: 3 yrs
Cat: NO
Dogs: NO
Kids: None
Fenced in backyard if in the suburb

Lana Turner is looking for a foster or forever home. She has made some improvements but there is still work to be done. The best environment for her would be a horse or hobby farm where she can be outside most of the time “helping” her person with the chores around the property. She LOVES to be outside no matter what the weather. For cold winter days a quality winter coat would keep her cozy. Lana loves to be part of whatever is going on but not in “tight” quarters. The best family for her would be a mature couple or person that has the time, patience, determination and commitment to help her become more confident. A family that would arrange controlled play dates with other dogs, without food or toys around. A family that has a routine she can rely on, and an active lifestyle that would banish the thought of endless hours in concrete bunkers with nothing to do.

She is sweet and silly, that is hard-wired into her character. She is timid, wary of strangers only at first. When she is not around the people she trusts, she has the tendency to shut down or become very hesitant. It is important for her to be in a home where she will continue to be exposed to new situations with lots of positive reinforcement. She is loyal and loving to the people she trusts.

She very much likes to hang out with other dogs. However time, training and patience is required to continue to lessen her possessive issues around food . Every dog learns at their own pace, so best that she be the only pet in the home. No apartments and a fenced in yard is a must if living in a suburb. 

Her rescue team is committed to supporting her next, and hopefully final, adoptive family with training and time, as much as is needed to help her be truly forever home.

Help Lana by sharing her story. Please email info@rescuedogsmatch.com if you are interested in fostering or adopting.

(Me again.) Let's help Lana live beyond May 20th, and look more like the picture below. Please forward this blog, or copy and paste it, to your own blog, and to your friends. Let's pass the word and keep this dog alive. She'll be 3 on May 13th, and she hasn't had a chance to live. If I didn't already have a dog, I would've contacted them already.

Thank you.

Friday, April 21, 2017

This Week in Review: Trump, Bill O'Reilly, Aaron Hernandez, Tom Brady and Sean Spicer


Photo: from isitfunnyoroffensive.com, here (at your own risk). United's newest "passenger removal specialist."

Hey, it's been a few weeks! Mostly my absence was due to an illness that felt like a minor-league flu, but wasn't (I think). Fever up to 101 for a few days; really bad throat and ear pain; fuzzy and congested head (which I have normally anyway). I still have a lingering minor cough and fuzziness/congestion and ear pain, a few weeks and two different antibiotics later. Twice a doctor has shined a light into my right ear and said, "Whoa, there's a lot of water build-up there." Could've been worse, I could've met United's newest employee, pictured above, who calls himself a "passenger removal specialist."

Anyway, there's been a lot of crap lately to get my mind off it. Among these:

--Bill O'Reilly, who's made a (lucrative) living blowharding about "values" and telling people how to behave, has been paying off women over the last 15 years so they don't sue him for sexual harassment. To the tune of $13 million, that is, and I'll bet that's conservative. (See what I did there?) What a hypocrite! Is it me, or does it seem that everyone who makes a living telling others how they should live is a hypocritical dirtbag?

--And even then, Fox only let him go after the sponsors started pulling out. Which shows you it's, unfortunately, not about sexual harassment, but about dollars.

--By the way, O'Reilly's publisher, Henry Holt, has stated that it will still work with him. "Our plans have not changed," Holt said in an email, according to the New York Times. O'Reilly's latest best-selling book titles: Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, Killing Jesus, Killing Patton, and Killing Reagan. I am not making those up. Read into the similarities what you will, but you don't need to read books from Henry Holt Publishing anymore, right? I don't (if I do already). I don't normally advocate not reading, but we don't need to support this dirtbag. There's plenty of other things to read.



Photo: from his own Wikipedia page. 

--And in any dictionary, next to the word "smug."

--Bill O'Reilly was given a severance package as high as $25 million, by the way. Add to that the approximate $13 million Fox paid to women he sexually harassed, and that's $38 million Fox had paid to kiss his butt, not counting his actual salary. His latest contract, just recently signed, was for $18 million a year--which he won't collect. Fox had an out-clause: it was void if any new allegations and lawsuits were filed against him. Hmmm...You think Fox knew anything?

--And this is after Fox Chairman Roger Ailes had to resign over his own sexual harassment woes. Despite this, Fox was still willing to pay the money for O'Reilly and sweep him under the rug. Rather than clean house all at once, Fox was willing to let it go on.

--And Fox has been putting on conservative "news" for years about proper values and behavior. Sexually harassing women? Check. Gay marriage? No.

--Scumbags.

--Speaking of scumbags, so Aaron Hernandez was (somehow) acquitted of double-homicide, then hanged himself in his cell with a bedsheet, the same day the Super Bowl-winning Patriots visited the White House. If you think that's a coincidence, I want to drink your Kool-Aid. This is what narcissistic sociopaths do, right to the bitter end. That'll show them, he thought.



Photo: from the Huffington Post, at this website


--He also scribbled John 3:16 on his forehead. It reads: "For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in [H]im may not perish, but may have life everlasting." That's a narcissistic That'll show 'em, too. Again, all about him. That's not religious belief. That's self-importance. And power. Actual religious people are the ones not killing people. This act is an offense to every Christian out there. Narcissistic sociopaths will do anything, and believe anything, that benefits them. Unless you think he was actually seriously religious. Again, I'll take a glass of that.



Photo: Tom and Gisele, from the International Business Times, at this website. These two are so used to the limelight that they know they'll look better together if they're looking in opposite directions.

--I normally don't give a damn about the politics or beliefs of my favorite athletes, but I have to give kudos to Tom Brady, who at the last minute pulled out of a visit to the White House this week. He'll deny it was a political move, but a) Gisele posted an anti-Trump tweet this week (and as Gisele goes, Tom Brady goes); and b) Tom Brady has been quoted many times supporting Trump, speaking for him, and basically being Defense Exhibit A of why I don't care about the politics of my favorite athletes (See also: Curt Schilling). But to blow off Trump at the last second on a worldwide stage is a gutsy move, because we all know it will anger him. And it speaks very loudly, no matter what PC spin all three will put on it. I don't know why he did it (except, as Gisele goes, so does Tom Brady), but I'm glad he did. I might actually try his workout and diet plans, too. Which are really out there.

--Prince died a year ago. I can't believe I just typed that, but it's so.




Photo: from entertainment.ie, here





--There've been idiots in American politics since there's been an America, but Sean Spicer must be the most verbally handicapped one I've ever seen--and I've been keeping track since 2001. He makes Dubya look like he actually passed Yale with his own intellectual capacity. Dubya is an Oxford don next to this guy. If all the crap Spicer said before this week didn't open your eyes, drop your jaw and make you shake your head like a wet dog, surely this week's verbal diarrhea did it for you. Hitler didn't use gas?!? Holocaust centers?!? Bottom line: this is a national spokesman who cannot speak. And this doesn't just shock and awe Americans. It pisses off people across the world, including Germans, who haven't been our biggest fans since Trump refused to shake Andrea Merkel's hand, twice. What is it with this administration's problem with Jews, anyway? (Look up "Trump" and "National Holocaust Museum.") Now that O'Bannon is out, let's see what happens. If nothing does, we'll have to face the fact that it isn't just him, but the entire administration. (P.S.--It's all of them.)

Monday, April 3, 2017

Don't Believe Everything You Read and Hear: Ty Cobb, A Terrible Beauty



Photo: from the book's Goodreads page (and from my review)

I've got a major sinus infection and fever, that the doctor said looked like strep or the flu, and she just said she thinks I should be out of action for at least three days, so forgive the lack of structure here. Doing my best...

As Shakespeare's Caesar showed us (and Orwell's Animal Farm), when someone in charge repeats something often enough, the masses believe it. (Defense Exhibit A: Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. Exhibit B: Everything Mr. Orange said to win the chair he never sits in.)  Charles Leerhsen's Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty attempts to show that everything we've thought, read and seen in a movie lately about Ty Cobb is either fiction, exaggerated, or misleading.

He largely succeeds, but he gets carried away with his own success. He inserts lame jokes into the text. He happily shows how he's correct and writers like Al Stump aren't. He's right, but does he have to be so gleeful and boastful about it? And most of the errors he points out about Cobb aren't direct falsehoods, but errors of degree. Was Cobb the psychotic we've learned about? No, he wasn't. But would you choose him over Honus Wagner to be on your team? No, you wouldn't. The Tigers desperately needed him, so they coddled him for as long as they needed to, but that was not a happy family in Detroit. Speaking of happy families, Cobb's mother did shoot his father, and Cobb apparently was emotionally and perhaps physically abusive to his kids, and perhaps his wife.

He favors Cobb with such a bias that he writes: "In Honus Wagner [the Pirates] had a marquee star who had almost all of Cobb's ability and none of his charisma..." (223). Now, there's a lot wrong there. Not so fast. Wagner had ALL of Cobb's abilities--including hits (Cobb 4,189; Wagner 3,420) average (.366 to .328) and stolen bases (963 to 897). The point isn't that Wagner surpassed the numbers; the point is we're talking about 2 all-time greats playing at the same time, amassing very similar numbers. And Wagner never saw the live ball era of the 1920s as Cobb did. Wagner retired in 1917 while Cobb hung up his spikes in 1928. Had they played during exactly the same years, their numbers would be closer. Though Cobb may have a slight edge with the bat, the numbers show that Wagner could have matched them, but didn't. Why? Perhaps the Pirates didn't need him to.

But the point Leerhsen never makes in his whole 400+ page book is that on defense for his career, Cobb owes 10 games to the Tigers (his defensive WAR is -10), while for his career Wagner gives his team +21 wins on defense. That's a swing of 30 games, which Cobb's 38 points of batting average, 700 hits and 66 stolen bases don't compensate for. (Cobb played 3 more years than Wagner, and Honus never saw the lively ball of the 20s.) Cobb was known as an average to below-average defender, at best, while Wagner made other players' jaws drop at shortstop. He played Gold Glove- caliber defense every day, according to his contemporaries, in The Glory of their Times. All of the players said Wagner was better than Cobb because of Wagner's defense, and that they all stood around and watched as Wagner hit. Nobody says that about Cobb.

Also consider Cobb's behavior. Leerhsen makes it clear that he was nowhere near the crazy butthole everyone thinks--but he also makes it clear that he was a pain in the ass to his own teammates, to anyone who got in his way on the basepaths (I can let that slide, as the players did. See what I did there?), to the team management that usually coddled him and adopted him, and to fans, both for him and against him. Did Cobb assault a black waiter? No, he didn't. Did he dislike African-Americans in general? The evidence says No, that he was indifferent, and that he was for them if they were good ballplayers, like how he spoke in favor of Jackie Robinson. Did he kill 3 people, as has been said? Nope.

But did he jump into the stands and beat the crap out of a paraplegic? Yes, he did! Did he slide with his spikes up? Yes, he did, but only if you were in his direct line on the basepaths. And if you were at a base, including home, he usually slid away from you. Did he say bad things to almost everyone, including his teammates, kids and wives? Yes. Did he drink too much as he got older and turn nasty? Yes, he did. You get the idea. Now, did Wagner do any of those things while active? Was the whole Pirates team against him? Did he piss off his ownership? Did he assault the disabled and chase after umpires and fight almost every guy he knew? Nope. And does that translate into a better team, so that it could be said that he helped his team by not being a butthole like Cobb was? You bet. (Though, like Cobb, Wagner drank too much when he got old. But while alcohol made Cobb angry, bitter and mean, the sauce just made Wagner babble incessantly, and start baseball stories that could last an afternoon.) In a nutshell, that's the argument Bill James makes when he says that Ted Williams was a better hitter than Stan Musial, but not a better ballplayer (or left fielder).

It's not clear by the numbers that Cobb was that much better than Wagner with the bat (though I'll concede the point that he may have been a little bit, like Ruth over Gehrig), but it's also very clear that Wagner was the much better defender and clubhouse presence. I don't give much credence usually to the latter, but I do when we're talking about a chronic problem like Cobb, though he may not have been the psychotic we've been led to believe he was. Having read this book, I see him now as a Jimmy Piersall type of neurotic, a nervous and anxiety-ridden guy, with an ability ten thousand times that of Piersall. But essentially the same temperament.

So that's what we've got here. The author makes the mistake of celebrating himself too much--ironic, since that's what he shows Cobb did too much, which made his teammates dislike him. He was better than they were, and different, and smarter, and faster, and that also made them dislike him. In fact, the T206 guys on his team actively bullied him, to the point that a few of them were suspended by the team. I don't criticize Cobb for this, though one would think he could have somehow handled it better. After all, Wagner was better than all of the Pirates of his time, and nobody taunted him or beat him up, even when he was a rookie. But Leerhsen says at least 12 times (I stopped counting) that Wagner (and Lajoie, and Elmer Flick, and other HOFers of the time) were grunts with a lunchpail, guys who would be in the mines without baseball, boring guys with no personality--I'm not making this up, or exaggerating. Leerhsen calls them these things.

Well, hell, I used to know a lot of people I thought were interesting, who did a lot of crazy things, who hurt a lot of good people, either emotionally, mentally or physically (or all of the above), but weren't they fun and exciting? But then I grew up, and I saw that stable and consistent behavior is a helluva lot more interesting than the crazy, destructive and self-destructive crap I saw the "exciting" people do. Those latter people flamed out, or exited from my life, stage left, (or both) and I replaced them with stable and consistent people with different things about them that were exciting and interesting.

Which ones would you rather work with for 20+ years? Exactly. Turns out, consistent and stable people make your job (and therefore your life) easier. Leerhsen gets caught up in his own cult of personality, like Cobb did in his, and it made them both pale in comparison.

So if you like the T206 era as I do, and you're interested in who Ty Cobb was, like I am, you should read this, and you'll find it interesting. It's informative, it sets the matter of Cobb straight, and it's a good read.

But like those guys who keep repeating the same thing, and it's believed because it's on the internet, or it's in print, or it's what you want to hear, or it's said by someone in some sort of power--Well, don't believe everything you read, you know? Ironic, because that's the point of this book, and Leerhsen proves his point in a way that he doesn't want to. But there it is.