Saturday, November 17, 2012

Then/Now: Bonds Have Less Fun

     Then                                              Now                                                                                                                              
Ursula Andress                             Paula Broadwell

Casino Royale                              Tampa Command Post

SMERSH                                          AARP

From Russia, With Love                     Putin

Dr. No                                                Viagra

Goldfinger                                        Jill Kelley

Berlin Wall                                      Angela Merkl

Shaken, Not Stirred                         On The Rocks

Foreplay                                            Foreclosure

  M                                                          O

Odd Job                                                FBI

Aston Martin                                        Camry

Pussy Galore                                   Natalie Khawam

Honey Rider                                        Petraeus

Moonraker                                       Home-wrecker

Blackmail                                              gmail

For Your Eyes Only                               LOL!

Bond/ERII                                       Dumb/Dumber              

Thursday, November 15, 2012

R.A. Dickey: DIY Hero


It is as if Bill Wyman had become the most famous Stone, Ringo the handsomest Beatle, and Lady Ga-Ga had won American Idol. One more time, against all odds, a frog has turned prince/ss and it is a beautiful and inspiring thing.

R. A. Dickey, the Mets', repeat, the Mets' knuckleball pitcher has won the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher of the 2012 season. Dickey went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA for a team that won a total of 74 games. In other words, he was involved with 27% of their wins. Additionally, he led the National League in strikeouts with 230, innings at 233 2/3, five complete games and three shutouts.

Here's a telling comparison: David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays won the 2012 American League Cy Young with pitches averaging nearly 96 m.p.h. Dickey's knucklers averaged 77 m.p.h. 

But, a pitcher who wins the Cy Young throwing the knuckleball cannot be defined by statistics no  matter how wonderful they are. A knuckleballer is the Tharp, the Jobs, the Rothko of athletes. The rest of us earthlings do not know how they know what they know, and they can annoy and confound us as they follow a higher calling. But, the world would be a much less interesting place without them.

The significance of Dickey's achievement goes well beyond the world of Major League Baseball. To those of us busy re-inventing and rebranding ourselves in this DIY Age, Dickey is a living, highly visible symbol of success gained against all odds. He met a great personal challenge, while also overcoming a MLB athletic and corporate culture meant to root out any threatening inconsistencies. It is a culture that, in some ways, treats doctored baseballs and suped-up muscle mass with less dismay than the act of throwing a baseball to home plate, which does not rotate, but flutters. Imagine the gaul of being truly different!

The knuckleball is the true oddball, the renegade pitch that looks too good to be true to overeager batters in either batter's box. Why? Because it is too good to be true. It is revolutionary precisely because it refuses to revolve on its journey to home plate, A master like R.A. Dickey does not know where it will wind up. Even the catcher, who has a strong desire to befriend the pitch, often gets jilted at the last second, falling down and generally looking as foolish as the batter. Umpires, even umpires used to inventing a new strike zone each night, which means all of them, despise the thing like Albert Camus despised filtered cigarettes.

But Dickey's knuckler's consistent inconsistency, rudeness, and allergic reaction near wooden things did not come easily. The Texas Rangers drafted him out of the university of Tennessee in 1996. His bonus was reduced to $75K from $800K after doctors looked at his weird elbow. That might have been a sign. He didn't quit.

It took five years before his major league debut. Things didn't pan out. He began to throw a knuckler (actually thrown with the fingertips). He surrendered six home runs in one game and wound up in the minors in the Brewers organization, which is very minor indeed. He went from there to the Twins, then to the Seattle Mariners. On August 17, 2008 he went into the MLB record books; he threw four wild pitches in the same inning.

Now perhaps you begin to see why a dedicated over-sixty DIY-er like myself and others like me could see a hero in R.A. Dickey. He still didn't give up, and I'm betting that there were a lot of mornings, evenings at home too, when that was very tempting. But what else would a knuckleballer do? How does a knuckle-balling English Major (true!) describe his skill in a resume; how do you avoid seeming both over-qualified by uniqueness and under-qualified by failures? How do you convince someone to give you a shot even though you'll accept less pay and a smaller job than the one you had before?

Sound familiar, job hunters and career-jumper? Thought so.

It happens that I am reading a little book  entitled The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips For Improving Your Skills by Daniel Coyne. Tip #2 is about engraving a skill in your brain by observing someone with whom we've made a connection do it over and over again. It recommends having photos of those with whom we strongly connect around our workspaces. R.A.'s photo is going up on my wall.

R. A. Dickey, master at failure, has won the Cy Young award.

It's like Santiago, Hemingway's fisherman who idolized Joe Dimaggio in The Old Man And The Sea, had managed to bring that huge marlin into port after all and, magically, it was whole, having defied every shark in the sea along the way that had tried to tear it apart.

Dear Fellow DIY-ers. Practice your knuckleballs. Practice is perfect. Don't even think about being denied.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


I made the above collage in 2008 with paper and Yes!Paste. It was one of a series of seven or eight collages made for Suffield Academy's newly designed Senior Room & Student Rec Center. The school hung all of the pieces, except this one, simply because they ran out of room.

The "Vote" sticker comes from a successful corporate registration drive I co-managed in 2004. Please note the use of both red & blue; it was, and remains, a non-partisan message.
For the record, here is the collage chosen to hang in the Senior Room. As far as I know, it is still there. I kind of thought they went together. Still do.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Small White Dog With A Red Leash


The Late, Great Hallie McDermott
I used to scoff at people who allowed their dogs to sleep in the same bed with them, until I succumbed to the same habit. Dogs have a way of taking up your usual spaces and adjusting your carefully arranged schedules in ways that mysteriously further endear them to you. If your own flesh and blood children attempted the same things, they'd be given the evil eye, banished to their own rooms, or simply ignored until they went away wailing loudly.

We try to make rules for our dogs, but, eventually, they do get to jump on the newly covered club chair, nibble a scrap or two as a family meal is prepared, and attach themselves just below your knees or curled by your feet in what used to be your very own bed.

After a while, not only do you realize that they can talk to you, but that you find yourself answering them too. You begin to understand the relationship between Wilbur and Mr. Ed in a whole new light.

Later in their lives, unable to make the leap alone, they will stare up at that favorite chair, your chair not the other one, until you notice and you will lift them up. When they are thirsty, they will parade upstairs into the bathroom and stare up at the sink. If you happen to still be downstairs, they will bark at that sink until you come up to turn on the faucet and fill their upstairs water bowl.

It is best not to ask why she did not simply drink from her bowl in the kitchen.

In return for your acts of kindness and obedience, they will ask no questions about how your day went; they already know how your day went and will adjust to your mood, although not necessarily in predictable ways. On our behalf, they subscribe to the Jagger-Richards philosophy of "You can't always get want you want, but if you try sometimes you get what you need."

When you want to sleep in, she will nudge your head until you are awake and have to roll over to look at the alarm clock, whose temporal news you’ve been avoiding. When you've just gotten cozy by the fire on a rainy day, she's ready to go out. When you're ready to take her out, she may take off at the sight of the red leash and race around the dining room like a four-legged Hussein Bolt, and she will require no medals for her trouble.

Can a space, a certain spot in a favorite chair or in her small wicker bed, or near the foot of your own bed feel emptier than just plain empty, after she’s gone? 

One September, more than thirteen years ago, we packed our two daughters, then thirteen and seven in the wagon to go "apple picking" up in Connecticut. They were not so amused by this surprise; in fact, they thought it was downright weird, further evidence of early parental dementia. Somewhere around Bethel, as we exited 84 East, it must have sunk in that we were entirely serious. 


We came around a corner in an area with fields and small houses but no orchards and they really began to wonder. “How would you like to get a new puppy, instead of picking apples,” my wife the DG (Darling Girl) said towards the silent back seat. "Really?" 


We all picked her out of the litter almost immediately. Her bigger brothers were jumping all over her, knocking her down, but she held her own, righting herself each time. She had that extra gene that most runts possess, the one that makes them try harder. More importantly, she had that face, the dark eyes and perfect dark nose set against the fluffy whiter than white coat that was only a little curly. A rather straight-haired bijon frise, the biggest-hearted little dog ever.

“What should we name her?” Before we hit the New York line on the way home she became Hallie, one of the Parent Trap twins, the English one I think.

All happy family dogs are happy in the same way, as Tolstoy may have put it. But, the true test of a great family dog is how she manages to exude happiness in the toughest of times. In this, she had no equal. Even as she declined with age, her constant vigilance over us, her persistent and insistent love for us, and her downright refusal to allow us to surrender to our various forms of 21st Century blues and blahs, was extraordinary.

To put it bluntly, she saved us from all sorts of calamity and celebrated with us through all sorts of love and wonder.

Regular readers of my work will be familiar with the way she acted as a muse on early morning walks. TLWDWRL. The-little-white – dog - with -a - red - leash. When I had a great idea and wished to get to the keyboard quickly, she knew how to wander far down the hill, so I had time to refine the idea. When I didn’t have a clue, she’d make quick work of things, turn and get me back to the office and to work fast. Tough love from a great boss.

Certain people will think that such grief over the loss of a small dog is overly sentimental. I’ve got some sentimental news for them.

It turns out that happiness is a warm puppy after all. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Power to The...Folks

The author's beloved EtonWorld Band "wireless"
Doesn't it just bug you when people write these stories after a natural disaster like a hurricane/tropical depression trying to point out how these events  can actually be good for us in a strange way, because they reduce life to some essentials: safety, health, kindness?

Well, apologies, but I couldn't help myself.

Our powerful little devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops have given us a certain air of supremacy. Apple has become the world's most highly valued company and we sit on the edge of our seats waiting for their announcement of a new product. Got a homework question or lost on the road? Easy, just Google up the in-depth answer and the detailed map in seconds on your phone. A book you'd like to read? Holy Tolstoy! It's on your tablet at half price.

And, suddenly, life is no longer just a digital click away, it's in our cellars, on our roofs, in our faces. For once, all  the TV storm-hype comes true, and we sit in the dark without electricity, wifi, internet connections. We find out quickly that there is nothing more wired than a wireless system. Where's the serious hurricane-prevention app when you need one?

Before the TV went blank, did you notice how we'd become "folks" overnight instead of "people." Every reporter in the field, every reader at the desk talked about folks doin' this and that. Did you notice how all of these highly educated, highly paid folks all dropped their g's? Folks were hopin' and workin' and drivin' instead of hoping, working and driving. They tried so hard to be just folks that they sounded just a little ridiculous, although we must say that their actual reporting was excellent, far better than with Irene. But, next time, they should call us people and pronounce their -ing's as they were brought up or trained to do. Real folks can spot a phony talkin' at 'em fast. We the people.

Instead of the TV, we listened to the wind in the trees and the clanging of furniture left on porches. We watched while that damned "storm" door we meant to replace anyway came flying off its hinges. The chimney covers flew like maple leaves and fences leaped from their concrete moorings. And nature's marine panzer division, the ocean/sea/sound, demonstrated who's the real Boss, while rumbling over sea-walls and beaches, and across state lines at will.

We sat in the dark room, felt for the flashlights, lit the candles, and re-discovered our own stories, since we could no longer escape by watching someone else's.

Then, some of us without a generator might have remembered that old Eton transistor radio we kept in our beach bag for listening to Yankee games on weekend afternoons at the now torn and battered beach. Miraculously, the batteries were still good. Short Wave, Marine Band, AM, FM in our hands. CBS 880 News. And we remembered the other word for radio. Wireless. Hah!

We've  grown so used to companies, governments, candidates seeming to be in charge of everything. It's startling and, yes, refreshing in a scary way, to have the universe have its say, reminding us just how small we can be despite all of our technology and, let's face it, more than occasional arrogance especially at the highest levels.

Paying closer attention, we begin to think about light, water, shelter. We fall in love with the subway lines , commuter trains, and buses we previously loved to hate We wonder about the magical thing called ice. We think of food, cooking and how our neighbors are doing and what they might need. Human fear wanders in with the rain, but also human kindness, courage, and ingenuity. Out there in the howling wet dark, real people are doing really good, brave things for other real people. Our digitized - pixellized world goes analog. Real hands reach out to hold someone else's hand, instead of a cellphone.

Challenged by the elements we become elemental. Even some politicians look good to us. Holy Red & Blue! And some, maybe not so good. What sounds like good teamwork and planning today may become excuses and finger-pointing in the days ahead.

Let's try to hold on to that essential feeling as we try to bail, dig, pray our way back.

We're in the proverbial dark more often than we'd like to think. While we make repairs and dry our  homes, streets and tears, let's try not to forget that too soon.