Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Heart of Darkness

Here's a great quote from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which I am making my way through:

"You know I hate, detest, and can't bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appals me. There is a taint of death, a flavor of mortality in lies - which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world - what I want to forget. It makes me miserable and sick, like biting something rotten would do. Temperment, I suppose...."



Friday, February 23, 2007

Game of Shadows

Started reading this incredible book about about the Barry Bonds' steroid scandal. It's been pretty well publicized, and I think the two authors got into some sort of trouble for being in possession of leaked Grand Jury testimony, but they really do a great job detailing the culture that led to this tremendous abuse of steroids in baseball. I'm about halfway through, and I'm pretty convinced that Sosa's, McGwire's, and Bonds' records, well they're tarnished to say the least. Should we pull them from the record books? I don't know. I guess, when you really think about it, Ruth and Mantle, for example, probably would have turned to steroids had they been as readily available back in the day as they were to these three guys I just mentioned. I'm not saying they were victims, but they were just playing the game, a big money one at that. It's the same game that track and field athletes, as well as football players (less so now I think) have been playing for years. Remember Lyle Alzado - the guy went from nobody to All-Pro defensive end, thanks to steroids and then died of brain cancer.

All in a life's work.


Thursday, February 22, 2007


I'll have to admit, I'm a Britney Spears fan. In fact, "Oops I did it again," was one of my favorite pop hits of all time. Catchy, sarcastic, and a really funny video, plus Britney was pretty sexy back in the day. Had a lot going for her. Now, it's all come apart. As Bill "Sports Guy" Simmons puts it, she's entered the Tyson Zone. Go Britney.

Here's my take: Britney is at a crossroads. He old life is gone, and she needs to make a call about what her future direction is going to be. Her days as a teen queen pop star are over, and she knows it. She's a mother of two now- a lady, not a girl, and is having a tough time figuring out how to deal with that. The shaving of the head thing - that was the external sign that she knows she's changed. But how is she going to come out of this? The best move she could me would be to pull a Demi Moore and back off everything for awhile. The other alternative is an Anna Nicole Smith and just keep running around as a has-been and deluding yourself into thinking you're not a joke. Drugs and alchohol help with that delusion.

Anyhow, I'm cheering for Britney to drop out, but I'm sure not betting that is the path she'll take. Bottoms up.


Monday, February 19, 2007

A Clockwork Orange

Spent the last week in Belgium and previous week in Vegas and parts of San Diego. Not a huge Vegas fan, but San Diego, especially if you've got a view of the bay, can be pretty relaxing. Anyhow, the two shots posted above are from Belgium. The top is from the town square in the villiage of Brugge, which is in the Flemish (Dutch) part of the country. The bottom is the Atonium or something in Brussels which was built for a World's Fair in the 1950s. We went up in it. Nothing too great. Brugge seemed pretty cool and only reaffirmed my desire to visit Amsterdam someday... Anyways, I was pretty sick the whole time I was there, with a stomach thing and a cold. It didn't help that I didn't get my luggage until Thursday night, after the gala meeting I attended in jeans and a shirt I bought out of some shop across the street from my hotel. Did I mention that European people like to wear suits, and I had packed one for the occasion? I came across as quite the "American" in my duds...

Then there is this thing about heat in Europe. It was about 40-50 degrees during the day in Belgium, which I understand was nowhere near as cold as it was here. But, Europeans seem to have something against forced air heat, as I could never get the temperature properly adjusted except for half of one night in my hotel room. Then, on Saturday, I went out for a "coffee" appointment and the gents I was with suggested taking it in an outdoor cafe. I think the key to this aversion to heat is the fact alcholic drinks run pretty much as same price as soft drinks, so you might as well go for the internal warmth and damn the heaters. Normally, I would have had no problem with this, but with my stomach, my drinking capacity was down substantially...

Anyways, I tried to rest a bit and did manage with the help of travel time to finish Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange. Quite likely, you’ve seen the movie version, which I did a number of years ago. However, for some reason, as it does from time to time, a bug had gotten into me to read the book. So, I checked it out of the Ridge Library and off I went.

Now, there appears to be a bit of a discrepancy, and maybe even a bit of controversy between the novel and movie. You see in the U.S. published book on which the movie is based, Chapter 21 is removed. Chapter 21 functions as sort of the denouement, or falling action. If you remove it, you end up with this real horror show (to use Alex’s terminology) ending, where the main character is pretty much back where he started. The extra chapter, in fact, shows him maturing a bit and growing away from this character.

Here’s what Burgess has to say about that (in the intro to the second U.S. book version.): “There is in fact, not much point in writing a novel unless you can show the possibility of moral transformation, or an increase in wisdom, operating in your chief character or characters….

“When a fictional work fails to show change, when it merely indicates that human character is set, stony, unregenerable, then you are out of the field of the novel and into that of the fable or the allegory.”

If this is the case then, it's my call that A Clockwork Orange works great as a fable or allegory, but not as a novel, because the last “extra” chapter seems forced and really doesn’t draw on the rest of the story very well. It’s like Burgess wrote 20 chapters to come to this perfect fable ending, then realized he hadn’t shown any change and tacked this last one on.

Burgess claims this 21st chapter was always planned, but it sure didn't come across as very connected to me. I’ll let the poor guy rest, as he’s probably dead now and did say in the intro he was a bit embarrassed by the novel and all the attention it garnered. He thought he had many works that were much better Poor chap.



Friday, February 02, 2007

1980 Browns- Cardiac Kids

Does anyone remember this team? I must have been 13 when they made their improbable run into the playoffs with an 11-5 record. I remember, we used their nickname for one of our street football teams that had a penchant for comebacks. The 1980 Browns were led by Brian Sipe, an undersize, and I believe undrafted quarterback who had beaten out first-round pick Mike Phipps a couple years earlier. He was a real underdog story, and their coach, Sam Rutigliano, was one of these rah-rah Italian guys that everyone seemed to rally around.

Anyways, the Browns met their demise in one of the coldest games in NFL history, played in January in old Cleveland Stadium. They were trailing 14-12 with time running out and had driven down the field against Raiders to well within field goal range-on a normal day. But the Browns' 200-year-old kicker, Don Cockroft, I believe, had already missed two extra points to create the deficit - correct me if I'm wrong - so they called a pass play, and Sipe threw into double coverage - for Ozzie Newsome - and it got picked off by in a great play by a Raiders' linebacker.

Maybe it's because the Super Bowl is approaching, but Sports Time Ohio has had a couple specials on this team this past week, with former WR Reggie Rucker, who was on the team, interviewing ex-players. They had the old middle linebacker on last night, and he explained that he had actually driven halfway to practice the following Wed. because he still couldn't believe the Browns had lost the game. The Raiders went on to win the Super Bowl and the Browns went 5-11 the next year. They're cursed I tell you...


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Cheever's Swimmer

Has anyone ever read John Cheever's, "The Swimmer?" Any thoughts on this disturbing piece of literature? Re-read it last night for the first time in several years. Even though I've gone though many changes since I first read it, it still came across as powerful as it did the first time I read it back in college. Maybe that's the definition of true literature - that it never ceases to have a profound affect on you, no matter when you re-visit it. (Yes, Cheever was the guy mentioned in the Seinfeld episode when Kramer burned down the cabin.)