Thursday, October 09, 2003

No jinxes

I lost my Red Sox cap in Bali. Speeding down on a bumpy road in the middle of nowhere on a moped, looking desperately for help after the jalopy I rented broke down (it's the jeep model issued to GIs during WWII, I'm sure of it), my cap flew off. After finding some help, I got the moped boy to turn back so I can retrieve it on the road, but it was nowhere to be found. A bystander told me that another local happily scooped it up and rode away. So some Balinese rice farmer named Wayan has my cap and during this hour of need, he better tend to it like a newborn child.

The Balinese is my cap's keeper. Though I'm tempted to pick up a replacement cap this week, I just can't do it. Wearing new gear might jinx them. Ridiculous? Perhaps. But at least I wasn't wearing the same shirt three days in a row like the Sports Guy (funniest sportswriting I've read all year -- check it out).

Today, Derek Lowe, he of the shit-eating Lowe face, goes up against Big Game Andy Pettitte. Pettitte is always tough on the Sox, but he also blows up once every five games or so. Let's hope it's Pettitte's bad turn, and Lowe continues to roll.

Oh, for fans of great sportswriting, an exquisitely written piece on the Sox-Yanks matchup by Thomas Boswell.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Ahnold iz Govnuh

If the early exit polls are to believed, the vote wasn't even close. It's at least a ten point spread on the Recall question and a similar margin for Arnold. The race is to see if the "no on recall" vote is higher than Arnold's percentage, which would deprive the Gropenator of a mandate. Reportedly, a higher "no" vote will give various liberal groups a stronger rationale to then start a drive to recall Arnold. Ugh. Will people give it a rest already?!?

The problem is the process. This faux-populist madness needs to stop. This shit makes me wish I hand a billion dollars to bank roll the Initiative to End All Fucking Voter Initiatives Ever in California Ever Forever.

And contra most of my friends, I don't see the Gropenator being nearly as fucked up as Bush. Sure, he's a Republican, with a pathetically simpleminded worldview to boot. But he's inherited a 20 billion dollar problem (the size of the state budget deficit, after all the smoke & mirrors are removed), and he's mandated to balance the budget. Because of the idiotic initiatives that voters have passed, the governor's hands are tied anyway (many budget items are mandatory and he can't run up a deficit to solve all his problems like some people). Undoubtedly, the poor will get jacked by the massive spending cuts that are needed, but it'll be checked somewhat by the Democratic legislature. Plus, he commands no standing army.

Other questions: (1) will Arnold help Bush take the state in 2004? Actually, it'll be funny if the Bush people believe this and start throwing money into California's black hole. Unless things change dramatically, Bush has about a 3% chance to take California. (2) Will Arnold reinvigorate the moribund California Republican Party? Unlikely. I expect Arnold to have a Ventura-like term; lots of publicity and hot air, but his gradiose pronouncements frustrated by the agonizing horse-trading and compromising that goes into governing. Like Ventura, he'll end up not running for re-election. But if he does move the Republican towards the middle and revitalizes it as a viable party, that's only good for California politics. It'll keep the CalDems on their toes, so they don't stock their leadership with Kafkaesque technocrats. How in the world did a bloodless, charisma-free hack like Gray Davis become the Governor of California anyway?

What's worse? Arnold's win (a) starts a new trend of doofus-celeb candidates who run because they think they're entitled to public office, or (b) spawns a cottage industry of "post-modern cultural critiques" about celebrity and politics.

Late-breaking benefit! Mickey Kaus will finally shut the fuck up and go back to pimping welfare reform 24-7. Why I keep reading this knee-jerk contrarian blowhard, I have no clue.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Pins and needles

Oh, man. To be a Red Sox fan is about sitting solemnly in front of your TV in the middle of the 9th telling yourself that no way the Sox would pull this out, even with the team up by a run. To rest the season on the right arm of Williamson, wild the entire year and pushing his luck in his fifth consecutive game, after a 28 pitch outing the day before, was insanity. (Kim's shoulder is allegedly sore, but I think they've just lost all confidence in him. Kinda unfair, and it may come back to bite Little. After all BK was fairly dominant in September.) Another harbinger of doom is the Sox going feebly the last couple of innings, sitting on their lead. But unbelievably, against all expectations, DLowe, whose heart and cajones has been relentlessly questioned by Red Sox Nation, came through. What a fuckin' great series.

You gotta feel for the A's though. A small market team with likeable personalities like Zito and Hudson, and that talent. I would've probably pull for them the rest of the playoffs, had they pulled this out. But it's a moot point.

Bring on the Yanks.

NB: Marlins v. Cubs. Marlins have the superior lineup on paper, and they play sound defense. Their rotation is solid, though obviously less potentially dominant than the Cubs'. If you start lining up the players, the Marlins would have an overall edge. But the Cubbies rotation makes up for a lot of deficiencies. They're kind of like Arizona in 2001, with more starter depth and a less dependable bullpen. But if they can get either Zambrano or Clement to bring their "A" game, they'll be very difficult to beat. Predix: Cubs in 7.

Lost in Translation (Coppola) B+/B Demonlover (Assayas, 2002) B+/B

Sox-A's Game 5

Zito on 3 days rest. Pedro in Game 5. The Big Mo. Everything points to a Sox win. So why am I dreading this game with every fibre of my being? Oh, right, it's because I'm a neurotically fatalistic Sox fan.

Predix: this game will either end in a Sox laugher (9-1) or a tight A's triumph (3-2).

Some fabulous weekend baseball. Pudge was the Man. Ortiz came through as he had done all year. But Game 3 of the Sox series is likely the ugliest game I've ever seen. And those Cubbies -- with Prior and Wood (and the potentially dominating but less consistent Zambrano and Clement) this might finally be their year. Must be tough being a Braves fan come October, eh, Scott? Kinda cool to see the underdogs come out on top in the NL, but nothing in sports beats Bonds at bat or Smoltz's GLADIATOResque glare. Too bad.

Urban Tribes

My buddy Caroline wrote this terrific feature on the supposed social phenomenon of Urban Tribes, an article I had a little hand in. The idea is that due to various factors, including: (1) postponement of marriage due to economic and educational trends; (2) new telecommunications technology which results in easier organizing of groups; (3) disposable income and more cultural distractions; (4) shifting attitudes about institutions, the "tribe" (a group of close-knit friends) has become the central social unit for increasing numbers of late twentysomething/early thirtysomething urban types. The point isn't that this is somehow a new thing, but that "tribes" have expanded in far greater numbers in recent years.

Maybe "urban tribe" is just a fashionable tag for a old hat, maybe it's a real thing. But when folks are coming up with such lame terms as "quirkyalones", it tells you that the race to coin the "post-millennial yuppie" moniker has reached absurd levels.

Glad other folks can say it better...

My two big political betes noire -- Bush's anti-empiricism and California's insane initiative system -- are worked over in the op-ed pages of the big dailies. Neal Gabler's (time to pick up his book) "medieval presidency" piece might be the most rhetorically effective attack on this presidency I've come across. David Kennedy traces the initiative's origins in reformist populism to its use as a device to sabotage effective government today. Interesting thesis, though the disproportionate power of property owners with their libertarian instincts is only a corollary of the central problem with plebiscite rule -- that voters are simply not equipped to make a knowledgeable decision on most of the issues on the ballot.

The nadir of the California initiative system, as far as I'm concerned, is Proposition 211 in 1996, a convoluted securities fraud/attorneys fees initiative that utterly defies the understanding of laypersons. Heck, I took a Sec Reg class in law school, and I barely had a clue what this initiative entails even now. Of course, comprehension wasn't a huge deal for me because I vote "NO" on all initiatives as a matter of principle and have since 1992, but this ended up as a battle of misleading ads between trial lawyers and business groups. Say what you will about corrupt, career politicians, but at least you can expect them to be informed about the bill they're voting on -- it's the foundation of our republican form of government. The California initiative system results in wars of mass manipulation. May the group that puts out the best propoganda win.

Misguided populists on the left and right champion the initiative as "direct democracy" at work. Unless you have a hyper-informed and politically engaged electorate (that does not describe California), direct democracy is a recipe for disaster. Half the state's problems are caused by unintended (but foreseen) consequences of ballot measures that were ratified by the people. Come to think of it, that's probably the best reason to vote against both the Recall and Arnold. Never mind his other problems. The Gropenator insisted that he'll take all of his proposals to "the people" in the form of ballot initiatives if the legislature doesn't go along. Fuck that.