Saturday, March 31, 2007

reservation blues

Sherman Alexie's novel Reservation Blues (1995) tells the story of Coyote Springs, an all-Indian rock band made of of members of the Spokane and Flathead tribes in eastern Washington. Their adventure begins when the protagonist, Thomas Builds-the-Fire, meets blues guitar legend Robert Johnson, who gives his guitar to the band. Coyote Springs enjoys a brief period of minor notoriety before their career dead-ends in a failed attempt to record an album in New York City.

Alexie blends bitter humor, magical realism, and a nonlinear sense of time in telling this story. Much of the novel reads like this passage:
Just then, Big Mom played the loneliest chord that the band had ever heard. It drifted out of her bedroom, floated across the room, and landed at the feet of Coyote Springs. It crawled up their clothes and into their ears. Junior fainted.

"What in the hell was that?" Victor asked.

Bib Mom walked out of the bedroom carrying a guitar made of a 1965 Malibu and the blood of a child killed at Wounded Knee in 1890. (206)
The effect of Alexie's seemingly indiscriminate mixing of pop-culture references, traditional Spokane culture, and the history of white-Indian relations is bizarre and disorienting. Pepsi, spam, and bologna become artifacts of Indian culture. It is a story that renders the experience of cultural assimilation and resistance palpably unsettling for the reader. An excellent novel, one that deserves its recognition as one of the great American novels of the late twentieth century.

Friday, March 30, 2007

bread givers

Anzia Yezierska's autobiographical novel Bread Givers (1925) is the story of Sara Smolinsky, a young Polish Jew whose family immigrates to America and settles in the Hester Street district of New York City. Sara's father, Reb, is a deeply religious, patriarchal, and despotic man who tears his family apart through a series of disastrous arranged marriages and shoddy business deals. Sara resists her father's authority, works at a laundromat to pay her way through college, and eventually becomes a schoolteacher. Despite her troubles, Sara finds America to be a place of opportunity, and through great determination and perseverence, she succeeds.

I see this spirit of determination in the immigrants I know here in Reno. There's Francisco, the custodian in my building, who is always here when I come at odd hours to work in my office or pick up a book I've forgotten. He never fails to smile and ask me how I am. There's Delmi in the cafeteria, who cheerfully runs the cash register while her co-workers stand aside and gossip. There's Daniel in the foreign languages department, who has been extremely generous with his time in suggesting books for my research.

All these people are first-generation Mexican immigrants. Every time I hear some right-wing radio host, or some television pundit, going on about how lazy Mexicans are, or how they refuse to speak English, or how they don't want to assimilate, or how they reject American values, I want to scream. The immigrants I know don't fit these stereotypes at all; they love America more than many white Americans do. They understand the American Dream. They work hard. They value American ideals of liberty, justice, and equal rights under the law. So foolish, to imagine that we ought to build a 2000-mile wall to keep them out.

Monday, March 26, 2007

gonzales must go

Having watched the controversy over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys over the past few weeks, I believe that at an absolute minimum, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should be removed (assuming George W. Bush refuses -- as he has so far -- to fire him). I also think that the U.S. Senate should continue to investigate the matter to find out what others in the administration knew about the dismissals.

Why is this such a big deal? Doesn't the President have the right to appoint attorneys who will carry out his law-enforcement agenda? Yes, and in fact, when Bush replaced 88 of the 93 U.S. attorneys at the start of his first term, this was not seen as a major event.

The reason the recent firings matter is because the Bush administration and their Republican allies expected these attorneys to wield their power to indict as a political weapon. Senator Pete Dominici (R-NM) called U.S. attorney David Iglesias at home to pressure Iglesias to indict Democrats in Washington state in an effort to influence a tight gubernatorial race, which Iglesias refused to do. Another attorney, Carol Lam, led the federal corruption investigation against former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA). So they were fired. In other words, the Bush administration wants U.S. attorneys who will bring baseless corruption charges against Democrats and who will ignore allegations against Republicans. Using law enforcement in this way is unethical and damaging to democracy.

To make matters worse, Gonzales has repeatedly lied about his role in this matter. First he said that he knew nothing about the firings, reversing this stance only when memos revealing his involvement began to surface. Then he claimed that the firings were performance-related, which was contradicted by the performance evaluations of the eight attorneys. So the only way to get to the bottom of what really happened is to subpoena all the related documents and to have Gonzales testify publicly, under oath. Karl Rove should also be forced to testify, since he too has been implicated in this scandal.

The one positive development in all this is that the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, especially the committee chair, Patrick Leahy (D-VT), have taken their oversight responsibilities seriously (so far). Using law enforcement for partisan political purposes is a very serious matter, and although I have little confidence that the media will treat the issue seriously, I hope that the Senate will. The handling of this case will be a strong indicator of whether or not Democrats will have the stomach to confront the administration. It's not that this case is unusual for the Bush administration; the difference is that this time, hopefully, the Congress won't rubber-stamp the administration's blatant corruption.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

bunker hill

Yesterday Kyhl, Marian, and I hiked to the summit of Bunker Hill, at 11,473 feet the high point of Lander County. Our day got off to an inauspicious start in Kingston Canyon, where I tried to cross an iced-over creek in the Pathfinder and got stuck. Fortunately, before we even had time to begin digging it out, a mountain lion hunter in a custom rig pulled up, lent us a shovel, and helped push us out. We were on the trail within a few minutes.

I was grateful for the help, of course, so I had brains enough not to openly question the ethics of his hunting mountain lions. But I do have problems with it. It's exclusively a sport hunting activity -- the meat is unappealing even to the least discriminating of eaters. Unlike other game animals such as deer and elk, the mountain lion population, even in Nevada, isn't high enough to justify legal hunting. I suspect that the main reason why people hunt mountain lions is because they perceive them as worthless varmints, and they cite the occasional mountain lion attack on humans or livestock to support these claims (go to any hunting outfitter's website, and you'll see what I mean). The other problem I had with this fellow is that he used radio-collared dogs. The dogs seemed to be in good health, which contrasts with some of my experiences with bear hunters in North Carolina and Tennessee, but I think that hunting with dogs is something less than sporting.

Our route took us up Basin Canyon along an old road, which eventually deteriorated into a faint stock trail that switched back up to the ridge. We had to posthole through some thigh-deep snow, but we made good time and reached the summit with plenty of daylight for getting back down. The last few hundred feet to the summit were along a knife-edge ridge rimmed by dangerous cornices, so we had to watch our footing. I never felt unsafe, but looking over the edge gave me some intense vertigo. It was the highest I'd ever been in Nevada. Looking forward to going higher.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her --
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.
Appropriately, I've been thinking today about Mary Oliver's poem, "Spring," here on this first full day of spring, the day after the vernal equinox. While I'm not sure about Oliver's suggestion that a bear loves the world any more perfectly than I do, I think Oliver is probably correct to say that "how to love this world" is the one question that matters most. For those of us who doubt that there will be other lives after this one, and who question the existence of worlds beyond this one, it matters a great deal that we learn to love this one. And in a world where we have such an abundance of senseless wars, fear, hatred, anguish, pollution, poisonous language, and mindless nationalistic propaganda, there is reason to be cynical. But I take Oliver's side. We must find a way to love this world. It is the only one we can be sure of.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

the case for diplomacy

The latest move in the game of cat-and-mouse between the Iranian government and the Bush administration is Tehran's warning that they will pursue nuclear activities outside international regulations if the U.N. Security Council insists it stop uranium enrichment and uses tough sanctions to enforce these regulations. Russia has already said that it won't support what it calls "excessive" sanctions against Iran, and South Africa is proposing an amendment to soften the current (U.S.-backed) proposal before the U.N. Security Council.

I do think that the Iranian government is a belligerent one; President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust-denying conference last year was an offensive and antagonistic act. The Iranian government stifles dissent and has little respect for women's rights. It has one of the worst human rights records in the world today.

That said, I think that the Bush administration's posture toward Iran (#2 on his idiotic "axis of evil" list) has been -- and is -- incredibly foolish. The decision to try to isolate the Iranians by refusing to talk with them or negotiate with them has been a spectacular failure, forcing Iran to scramble to acquire nuclear weapons, thus further destabilizing the Middle East. When confronted with a potentially hostile situation, Bush has predictably chosen the same approach again and again: to puff out his chest in defiance, to make thinly veiled threats, and to refuse any sort of discussion. He follows this procedure with domestic "enemies" as well as with foreign ones. The only time Bush's foreign policy has been effective has been the rare moment when he has followed the same strategy of engagement and negotiation that the Clinton administration used (as in the case of Libya): the strategy he calls "appeasement" when others suggest it. The U.S. should be engaging with all the nations in the world, whether we like them or not. Diplomacy -- even when countries don't see eye-to-eye -- is almost always better than war. We should never assume that our military might is an adequate substitute for effective diplomacy. This assumption has been proven wrong time and time again (Vietnam and Iraq in particular come to mind).

One of my current students is from Iran, although she refers to herself as "Persian" to clarify that although she considers herself loyal to her homeland and its people, she does not necessarily support the Iranian government. I suspect that there are many such young people in Iran (or Persia, if you prefer). The people of Iran have seen what happens when the United States comes to "liberate" people in the Middle East, and they do not want the situation in Iraq to be repeated in Iran. Moderates in Iran want the support of the United States as they push for more freedoms, more tolerance, and more engagement with the rest of the world. We should be doing all we can to help them.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

star peak

Today I hiked to the summit of Star Peak (9836 feet), the high point of Pershing County and of the Humboldt Range northeast of Lovelock. It was my fourth attempt on the peak; the first two times I was turned back by impending darkness and the last time by excessive snow. This time was relatively easy; I drove my Nissan Pathfinder into El Dorado Canyon, followed the road past the abandoned Blackjack Mine, and bumped and banged my way up to about 7000 feet. I probably could have gone higher in the Pathfinder -- but I had only a single, marginally inflated spare tire, so I decided not to risk it. As it was, I had a relatively straightforward route to the summit, hiking through only a few small patches of snow along the way.

On the way back down, I spotted a huge yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris) watching me through the sage brush along the edge of the canyon. We shared a moment before it scurried to a perch on top of a rock to watch me from a safer vantage point. I was struck by how fat the marmot was at this early time in the season, although I imagine this winter hasn't been particularly severe.

The juniper trees are thick with berries, and I saw several different species of butterflies and some swarming bunches of ladybugs. I also flushed a pair of sage grouse on my way up the mountain. A warm, sunny day, with a wintry breeze at the summit. A splendid day for a hike.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

thanks, number 80

The New England Patriots' offseason acquisitions of wide receivers Wes Welker, Donté Stallworth, and Kelley Washington almost certainly spell the end of Troy Brown's career with the Patriots. The Patriots now have nine wide receivers (Stallworth, Washington, Jabar Gaffney, Reche Caldwell, Welker, Chad Jackson, Jonathon Smith, Bam Childress, and Kelvin Kight) on their roster, and their trade with the Miami Dolphins for Welker is especially significant for Brown because Welker is a similar sort of player: not a spectacular athlete, but he can return kicks, play out of the slot, and make key third-down catches.

Troy Brown is my all-time favorite Patriot. He is the team's career leader with 557 receptions, all with the Patriots, for 6366 yards and 31 touchdowns. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2001, when he caught 101 passes for 1199 yards and five touchdowns. He won three Super Bowls with the Patriots. All this after being an eighth-round draft pick (the NFL draft now has only seven rounds, so today he would be an undrafted free agent) and being cut twice.

In 2004 he agreed to line up at nickel back in the Patriots' depleted defensive secondary, severely limiting his offensive potential (he only caught 17 passes that year). He became a key contributor on defense, intercepting three passes during the regular season and shutting down receiver Brandon Stokely in a playoff win against the Indianapolis Colts. During the 2006 preseason he lined up as an emergency quarterback; when questioned about this move, Patriots coach Bill Belichick joked that he had lined Brown up at quarterback "to develop his legend."

I think Brown's greatest -- and most telling -- performance came in the AFC divisional playoff game this year against the San Diego Chargers. With five minutes left in the game, the Patriots were down 21-13 and facing 4th and 5. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady uncharacteristically threw a crucial interception to the Chargers' Marlon McCree. Brown, making what teammate Tedy Bruschi described as a "quick mental switch" from offensive to defensive player, instinctively ripped the ball out of McCree's grasp. The fumble was recovered by Reche Caldwell, giving the Patriots a fresh set of downs. New England went on to tie the score with a touchdown and a two point conversion, and then won the game on a late field goal. As teammate Richard Seymour said after the game, "He wasn't just a receiver on that play; he was a football player. Troy always comes up with plays like that. If there's one guy I look up to, it's Troy Brown."

Hear, hear. I'll miss you, number 80. If it were up to me, there would be a place for you in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Instead, you'll probably have to settle for a spot on the all-American Tool team.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

must replace the tube in my front tire

According to a leaked report that will be given by scientists from the International Panel on Climate Change at a meeting next month in Belgium, "hundreds of millions of Africans and tens of millions of Latin Americans who now have water will be short of it in less than 20 years. By 2050, more than a billion people in Asia could face water shortages" as a result of anthropogenic global climate change.

The report predicts that polar bears will be extirpated in the wild by 2050, and that half of Europe's plant species could be threatened, endangered, or extinct by 2100.

The toll on the human population is likely to be severe. Conditions such as malnutrition and diarrhea are likely to be greatly worsened. Hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires will ratchet up the economic cost. The poor, especially in coastal areas, will --as always -- be the hardest hit.

Although it's clear that some negative effects of global warming are already occurring and that more are inevitable because the effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is delayed by years or even decades, I still hold out some hope.

Based on what I understand of global climate change, its effects can be halted -- or at least slowed down. This could make all the difference. Things everybody can do: buy energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs, lower your thermostat (and use clock thermostats), increase the insulation in your house, get window and door quilts, recycle, buy a hybrid car (if you can), ride your bicycle (or walk), use mass transit when possible, call your power company and ask them to use renewable energy, vote for leaders who take the issue seriously, write your congressman, plant lots of trees, call radio shows, write letters to the editor, insist that the U.S. freeze its carbon dioxide emissions and join international efforts to reduce global warming, insist that the U.S. reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, insist on raising fuel efficiency standards, and educate yourself and others about the crisis.

I've done the ones I can afford, although I need to start riding my bike to work more often, now that I'm over my month-long sickness and the weather has begun to improve. What are your plans for reducing your carbon footprint?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

speaking power

Speaking Power: Black Feminist Orality in Women's Narratives of Slavery (2006), the first monograph by Arizona State University professor DoVeanna S. Fulton, analyzes the use of oral traditions as a rhetorical strategy in the slave narratives of Harriet Jacobs, Sojourner Truth, Louisa Picquet, and others. She argues that, while scholars have tended to value written texts and literacy over oral narratives -- hence the privileged position of Frederick Douglass's narrative as the most canonized of all black slave narratives -- the oral tradition of black women in the nineteenth century provides a site for the empowerment of black women and the subversion of dominant ideas about storytelling and memory. It's a compelling and useful study.

I keep thinking about one of Fulton's techniques. At several points in the book, Fulton presents her own African-American heritage as a source of authority. This approach offers some interesting moments, such as her story about a white professor who, upon learning the names of his new students, commented enthusiastically when students had European names: "Kalinski, that's Polish[,] right? I love Polish foods" (xi). When his black students spoke, on the other hand, he moved on without comment.

Initially I wondered if Fulton's strategy somehow excludes me -- as a white male -- from the authority I would need to fully participate in the scholarly conversation she has initiated. Upon reflection, I think not. In my own home field of ecocriticism, there has been a movement toward so-called autobiographical criticism, or narrative scholarship. Fulton seems to be participating in a recent trend toward acknowledging and valuing the subject position of the researcher -- and this ought to be seen as a strength. It's interesting that many white scholars studying African-American history and literature tend to keep their white identities invisible in their scholarly work. Perhaps, as we come to recognize that white history and black history are really one and the same, this will come to be seen as unnecessary.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

the republican cult of manliness

As comically absurd as the above image may be, it was -- and is -- a hot item for followers of George W. Bush, particularly the people who attend the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Their ridiculous hyper-masculine fantasy about Bush helps to explain Ann Coulter's speech at this year's event, during which she called Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards a "faggot." As Glenn Greenwald suggests in this excellent post, Coulter's comment, while obviously offensive, makes a lot more sense if you understand that many conservatives love her precisely because uses this sort of hateful and vitriolic rhetoric, almost all of which is expressly designed to emasculate Democratic men.

I'm not going to rehash Greenwald's entire post. Please read it; it is excellent. But I do want to add a few comments.

The media narrative in the 2008 Presidential campaign will be largely founded on gender stereotypes. How do I know this? Because both the 2000 and 2004 campaigns were gender-based. In 2000, we had to listen to the media's endless fawning over Bush's alleged manliness, while Al Gore endured taunts from the likes of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who said Gore "is so feminized and diversified and ecologically correct, he's practically lactating." In 2004, the attacks continued against John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran whose masculine credentials were successfully tarnished by smears from the ironically named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and incessant jabs from the media about Kerry's supposed "Frenchiness." (And we all know, presumably, how effeminate the French are.)

This time around, the narrative will be similar: the leading Republican candidates (John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney) will be cast as real men. According to Rowena Wall, McCain's "male energy -- his masculinity" makes it "clear that he wouldn't back down from a good fight." Giuliani talked tough after 9/11 (though it's a little unclear to me exactly what he did, other than piss off a lot of New York City firefighters). And according to Chris Matthews, Romney has a "great chin."

The Democrats, meanwhile, are girls -- or worse. Edwards is a "faggot"; Rush Limbaugh calls him "the Breck girl." Barack Obama's approach, according to Dowd, is "downright feminine when compared with the Bushies." And Hillary Clinton? Well, she's supposed to be a woman, but really she's not. She's actually a man. She's "ruthless," "calculating," "ambitious" -- all those things women aren't supposed to be. If this were the nineteenth century.

Expect to see much, much more of this storyline: Republicans are real men; Democrats are girlie boys, faggots, and ruthless bitches who don't know their place. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Friday, March 9, 2007

giving fox the boot

While I have not yet selected a Presidential candidate to support in the 2008 Democratic primary, I have to say that I am pleased with John Edwards's recent leadership on the debate that was to be held here in Reno in August. Inexplicably, the Nevada Democratic Party leadership made a unilateral decision to allow Fox News Channel to televise the event -- meaning that after the candidates were done speaking, they would be summarily torn apart by conservative commentators Brit Hume, Mort Kondrake, Fred Barnes, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, John Gibson, and Neil Cavuto. And in the process, the Democratic Party would be lending credence to the false notion that Fox News is a legitimate news channel. It would have been a win for Fox and a crushing loss for Democrats, no matter how the candidates performed.

On Wednesday, Edwards became the first candidate to say he would boycott the debate. He explained that Fox News Channel is a mouthpiece for the Republican Party and therefore an inappropriate host for the event. Progressive activists, myself included, have been contacting the Nevada Democratic Party to complain for the past few weeks, and finally, as of this afternoon, the event has been canceled. After Edwards's announcement, Fox News chief Roger Ailes -- after making several really bad jokes about Bill Clinton's marital infidelity and Barack Obama's name -- threatened, "Any candidate for high office of either party who believes he can blacklist any news organization is making a terrible mistake." So, Mr. Ailes, does this mean that your network is going to smear and attack every single Democratic Presidential candidate? Oh, yeah. I forgot. Your network would have done that anyway, and is already doing it.

While it's a shame that the debate here in Reno had to be scrapped, I'm hopeful that other such events can be scheduled, and that the organizers will find a legitimate news outlet to host them. Thank you, John Edwards, for your leadership. And boo to Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM), the only other candidate to respond formally to the invitation, who had planned to attend and bailed out only after Edwards had taken a stand.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

neon bible

Neon Bible, Arcade Fire's follow-up to their outstanding full-length debut, Funeral (2004), came out this week. I've only listened to it all the way through a couple of times, but it seems clear that the band has moved past the misfortunes that provided much of the grist for the barking art-indie-punk tracks that made Funeral so memorable. This album broadens its scope to include the state of the world at large, meditating on religion, war, evildoers, paranoia, and the media -- and the relationships between all of these. While not a concept album in the tradition of Radiohead's OK Computer (1997), the subject matter and emotional impact are similarly bleak.

There's a desperate earnestness to the lyrics ("Workin' for the church while your family dies" on the majesterial "Intervention") that might be embarrassing if not for the vulnerability behind Win Butler's delivery; each soaring chorus sounds as if he's choking back tears. From the hard-driving first single, "Keep the Car Running":
Every night my dream’s the same
Same old city with a different name
Men are coming to take me away
I don’t know why but I know I can’t stay
Keep the car running
The band has seemingly used every instrument but the washboard on this recording, and their sound especially benefits from the monster pipe organ the band members found in their church-house recording facility just outside Montreal. The band also utilize a stand-up bass, keyboards, mandolin, violins, horns, and a harmonium, in addition to their standard guitar-bass-drums lineup. The production, by the band members themselves, is meticulous but not slick. What Neon Bible lacks in the explosive energy of Funeral, it manages to compensate for with great hooks, surprising instrumentation, and expansive bombast. I don't know if I'll ever love it as much as I love Funeral, but this is a very strong sophomore release, and it's certain to show up in a lot of end-of-the-year top ten lists. Believe the inevitable hype.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

snow valley peak

Today on our hike to the summit of Snow Valley Peak (9214 feet, the high point in Carson City "county"), Kyhl and I saw dozens of tiny springtails in the snow. It's the first time this season that I've seen springtails, but I'm not so sure this is necessarily a harbinger of spring. In fact, I know that the name "springtail" has nothing to do with the season, but with a springlike mechanism -- the retinaculum -- on the underside of the animal's abdomen. (I say "animal" because springtails are not insects; they're classified as Order Collembola, a separate evolutionary line from insects and the other hexapods.) When at rest, the retinaculum is folded forward and held in place under tension by a clasping structure; when the mechanism is released, the insect is able to jump a distance many times its own length. Today most of them seemed content to mill around in the snow as we passed, rather than springing away.

We parked at Spooner Lake, rented cross-country skis, and skied the groomed trail up North Canyon to a place just south of Marlette Lake. From here we skied on virgin snow up some switchbacks to the Tahoe Rim Trail, where we took off our skis and switched to snowshoes for the last quarter-mile to the summit. A warm day: soft snow, hazy sun, and a relatively easy route to the summit. Stupidly, I didn't wear sunblock. Now I'm paying.

Saturday, March 3, 2007


Yesterday Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka made his spring debut for the Boston Red Sox in a 9-1 victory over Boston College. After giving up a double down the left-field line on a first-pitch fastball to Eagles leadoff man Johnny Ayers, he settled down and threw two scoreless innings with three strikeouts. It's hard to say, of course, how much this means, since this was probably like me pitching against a Little League team (if I could throw a fastball, changeup, curveball, slider, cutter, forkball and shuuto, all with pinpoint control, that is). Nevertheless, Dice-K mania will surely grow as the regular season approaches and as he prepares to claim the #3 slot in the Red Sox starting rotation.

I have some advice for Mr. Matsuzaka. We Red Sox fans see big-name pitchers come and go. Some succeed (Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling), while others flop (Heathcliff Slocumb, Matt Young). Fans in Boston can turn against a player quickly. But we tend to be forgiving of players who -- even if they are overpaid -- do their best, go about their business professionally, and "leave it all on the field," as the expression goes. We know, for instance, that our third baseman, Mike Lowell, is overpaid. But we love his defense, his professionalism, and his occasional clutch double off the Green Monster. We like Tim Wakefield, even though we know he'll never be more than a #4 starter and will never throw a fastball over 78 miles per hour. In short, we know baseball, and we know the difference between professionals and charlatans. So hang in there. In Japanese, Mr. Matsuzaka, that's 松坂さんは頑張ってください. Matsuzaka-san wa ganbatte kudasai. Do your best, Matsuzaka-san. And when things go badly -- as they inevitably will at some point -- try to refrain from destroying toilets in the team clubhouse (Jack Clark), or flipping the bird to the fans in the right-field bleachers (Byung-Hyun Kim).

Of course, there will be tremendous pressure. And when people catch on to what the kanji characters in your name (松坂大輔) actually mean -- something like "great savior on pine tree hill" -- the legend will only grow. So go for it. Keep at it. Ganbatte kudasai.

Friday, March 2, 2007

cave trolls

I should have laid down some ground rules about commenting before I ever posted anything about politics. I enthusiastically welcome comments, especially comments that inspire debate and discussion. Here are some guidelines for effective commenting:

1. I reserve the right to delete any or all comments as I see fit. It's my blog, you see.

2. Anonymous comments generally aren't a high priority. If you'd like to be taken seriously, one way to do that is to take personal responsibility for your comments by at least leaving your online alias.

3. Comments should be on topic. If my post is about the media's treatment of Hillary Clinton, for example, it's hard for me to see how John Kerry's military service in Vietnam is germane (except that it supports my argument that any Democratic front-runner will always be subject to vicious and dishonest attacks from the right).

4. Comments should show some signs of original thought and critical thinking. Pasted-in talking points should be forwarded to Fox News or the Sean Hannity Show.

5. Smears will typically be deleted. Why would I allow someone to use my blog as a forum for that sort of thing? Get your own blog and post it there. It's free!

6. Claims should be supported with -- or supportable by -- evidence. Call me a member of the "Factinista," if you like. It's a hallmark of good argumentation. Using logic is always a good idea, too.

7. I like to respond to every comment that comes in, if I can. With that in mind, if your comment has one error, I'll probably respond to it. I don't have time to respond to a post that is little more than a morass of errors and propaganda.

8. For all other questions, refer to Rule #1.