I write this in the midst of the COVID-19 social distancing era. If you are reading this generations from now, or even in a couple of weeks, put yourself in the intensity of the mood at the moment.
A virus more intense than the flu of 1918 that killed huge swaths of the world.
An economic upheaval that looks something like 1987 and 2008 combined.
An impeached president making things worse by the hour.
Amid all that, and the social isolation that we are all supposed to be doing to #FlattenTheCurve, well, we need some comic relief.
But where are our comics?
Nowhere to be seen.
Hi Folks. We have a new show tonight w no audience, but we cancelled next week’s shows before our scheduled break. I wish I could stay on stage to share this uncertain moment w you, but I don’t do this show alone, and I have to do what’s best for my staff. Hope to be back soon.
I get it about the staff, but this is freaking 2020. The writers could meet by video chat. The camera on one of Stephen's kids phones makes video in HD.
But he won't do it. Watching him without an audience was funny, but kind of cringy and awkward.
I get it that doing it without an audience is a different thing, but it doesn't make it impossible.
I understand it, but I do not understand it. How psychologically askew is Stephen and all of the others? How is it that without the immediate affirmation that comes from the audience, he becomes... mute?
Well, just as I agree with those who say that the world would be in much better shape if Elizabeth Warren were just running things right now, I think we would all be in better shape comfort-wise if some women would take over in comedy.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, for example, went from a world of audience-included sketch comedy on SNL to perhaps the two funniest no-laugh-track shows of all time, 30 Rock and Parks & Rec.
Perhaps the two of them can figure out a way to come on the interwebs every night for 10 minutes or so. Really, just the two of them talking each a night about the events of the day would be so helpful for me. I am quite sure I am not alone in this.
Tina, you helped your nation twice before. The first time was when you laid the Sarah Palin insanity bare, and the second was when you introduced the word sheetcaking into the vernacular of the day.
I am now asking you, on behalf of a desperate country, call up your pal Amy every night on video chat, and stream the whole conversation so we can have the catharsis that we need so much.
Thank you in advance,
P.S. I am not kidding. Start this right now. Thank you.
This blog has been fairly dead for the last few months, but I do think about it nearly every day. It's just that my main job -- ironically at a business blogging service -- has been so busy of late. That's a good thing, but it's also meant some things have had to slip.
You can see plenty of me over there, and you can see me around in Boulder, where BlogMutt's Offices are found in the old Daily Camera building, or in Denver, where I live and try to participate in startup events, such as Denver Startup Week.
If you don't believe me, watch the first 20 seconds of this video:
I also didn't want to write too much here because I wanted the post below to stay at the top of the page. It's become something of a touchstone. I just don't think there's enough written about the lack of work ethic of a huge demographic swath, so I like the fact that the post below was front and center. It prompted some Millennials to write in telling me that I'm full of it, and a couple of others to promise to become productive BlogMutt writers. They haven't, of course. It's just like them to complain and then not do any actual work.
One curious thing happens when I don't blog much: I get more inquiries wondering if I'd be willing to sell this domain. Maybe I should, I mean, I'm not nearly active as others in this neighborhood.
But I do still like it, and it will be hard to get me to part with it.
Anyway, for my regular readers, thanks, keep in touch, and have a very happy new year!
I've tried extending opportunities to these Millennials. I dish it up for them, and all they have to do is a little bit of work and…
Disappointment. Every time.
A little background: I run a blog writing service. We write blogs for businesses. Those businesses are run by people who are just too busy to write their own blog posts.
I thought when I started this that we'd have two great sources of freelance writers to help do that writing: stay-at-home moms and recent grads. The moms, I figured, have a spare hour every now and again and they are smart and some of them are good writers. They just lack an opportunity to write for pay. Zillions of them write for no pay on their own blogs, and that's all fine, but in general those are only read by the people they are already friends with.
That part has worked out very well. Many of our best writers are busy moms who make time for Blogmutt customers.
The other category is college kids, or recent college grads. They, right now, are either working at a coffee shop, or not working at all and either way living in their parents' basements.
I've been there. When I graduated the economy sucked and journalism jobs were hard to find, but you could always find work somewhere and I ended up at the Durango Herald and had some of the best times of my life.
While the Herald is still there, the reality is that the entry-level jobs for writers are far fewer percentage-wise than they have been in generations. I know there's lots of writing being done, but my job at the Herald was "Staff Writer." How many jobs with that title are out there today? Not many.
So I figured that these young Americans would be interested in writing work. Our pay is right in line with the industry, and it would be a lot better than spending all day asking people if they want room for cream. Maybe they could even make enough to move out of their parents' house, get a place of their own.
I really did try to reach out. I would get myself an invitation to go speak to college students anywhere I could, and recently got what I thought would be a perfect invitation to a class specifically designed to help graduating seniors from what for now is still known as the J-school to find work after they graduate.
I then talked to them about the big idea in that video, that the most important thing is to work hard, to produce a body of work and to work regularly. As I looked around the room, I got a bunch of blank stares.
So I used the standard technique for engaging an audience, I started asking them questions. "Do any of you have anything lined up for after you graduate?"
After an uncomfortable silence, one of them asked, "You mean… a job?"
"I don't want to put boundaries on it," I said. "A job, an internship. Going into the Peace Corps. Anything in the works for after you graduate in a couple of months?"
More awkward silence.
I then pointed to one of them. "How about you?"
"Well, I hear there's lots of jobs in San Francisco, but my parents keep telling me that I'll get free room and board if I move back home to Minnesota."
So, out of this class of 35 people -- people who went to college to study writing, need experience in writing, and don't have anything at all lined up -- guess how many of them signed up to be writers? One. One guy was brave enough to apply. I put him into the system straight away. After a week he wrote one post. One. The writing was fine, the customer liked it. Nothing glamorous. The posts we write at Blogmutt remind me of the "briefs" I wrote every day when I worked at the Durango Herald. Nothing groundbreaking, just work.
But work, it appears, is not what Millennials do. I'm not alone in discovering this, by the way. I've had this conversation recently with a lawyer, a CPA, a cell phone exec, and others. They all say the same thing: I asked a new associate to do something recently and they told me "no." They told me they had volleyball or something. When I was their age I never said no.
This connected an important thread for me. I live by Wash Park and every weekday evening I see zillions of people in their 20s hanging out playing volleyball, drinking, having a grand old time. I've often wondered why there didn't use to be so many people hanging out in the park, especially people in their 20s. When this lawyer friend told me that about the associate who left work to play volleyball, it suddenly became clear: It used to be that young people worked. There was a time we were called "Yuppies" and that was short for Young Urban Professionals. There's nothing professional about the Millennials, so the term has just faded away.
Look, I don't have anything against volleyball. You want to be a professional volleyball player, that's great. Play all the time. If you want to be a writer you should be writing.
Now… I don't want to be scrooge. It's great that people can have some fun with friends, but you get good at the things you do. Read Malcolm Gladwell. If you spend a lot of time hanging out with friends doing nothing, that's what you'll get good at.
I don't totally blame Millennials. It was your parents who gave you a trophy for finishing fifth out of six teams in your soccer league. They are the ones who came to school every couple of days dropping hints about how brilliant you were. They were the ones who helicoptered over you. They are the ones who offer you free room and board if you move back home.
I was talking about this with a friend recently and heard about an office where parents regularly show up with their children to demand more for their children. This was not a middle or high school, or even a college office. This was the graduate job counseling office of a law school. These kids earn a law degree and still they have their mommies and daddies come with them to demand more from school because they deserve it because they are special! Is it the kids' fault for bringing those parents along, or is it the parents fault for going? Hey, there's plenty of blame to go around.
It was your parents who voted for Baby Boomer presidents (Clinton and GWB) who were just like them and those turned out to be the two worst presidents we've had since…
Yes, that's an interesting question. Since… I think, a similar pair in Wilson and Harding. Those were the ones, along with people of their generation, who were so self-absorbed and incompetent that they led us into the stupid first World War, left a screwed up Europe and eventually led us into the Great Depression. You know who got us out of the Great Depression and saved us from tyranny around the world? Well, now we call them the Greatest Generation. They don't like that title much. You know how they did all they did? There are still a few of them around, and they'll tell you if you ask them. They won't say they saved the world. What they will tell you is that all they did was work and work hard and work all the time and then work some more.
They did such a good job that they built America into this amazing powerhouse that could put a man on the moon, build the world's biggest and strongest middle class, survive Vietnam and Watergate. The only thing that they didn't do a great job on… was raising kids. Most of those kids were OK, but some of them were the classic Baby Boomers, the ones who wanted to take over because they had better hair. The classic Baby Boomers, I would say were Clinton and George W. Bush. And just like Wilson and Harding they were so self-absorbed and incompetent that they wrecked the economy and got us into another crappy war: the War on Terror. (Not taking anything away from the supremely awesome troops.)
Now before you say Clinton was not bad because the economy did so well while he was president, and we had peace, may I point out that he had many chances to get Bin Laden, and missed them all. He had a chance to stop the Enrons of the world, and didn't. The economy grew, but much of that growth was fueled by people cheating, and it was headed downhill at a pretty good clip when he was wrapping up.
But it sure did seem like things were going well with the economy for a while there under Clinton... so much so that your parents thought they wouldn't really have to work that hard, and that's a value that you picked up on. It turns out that the most important formative years of childhood that most affect your attitudes about money come when you are about 10-11 years old.
Do the math. If you are 24 right now it means that you were 10-11 in 1999, right when the economy was the most frothy. You "learned" that if you just have a good business plan -- Pet Food On The Internet! -- you could make a zillion dollars.
Well, you learned wrong. What you learned is the stuff that screwed us up. Luckily it's not going to get too bad. We're not going to let it. Who are we? We're Generation X, and we are a lot like the X Men. There aren't as many of us as there are of you, but we can do these amazing things that you simply can't do.
First thing we did was elect a non-Boomer president. Politics aside, that last election was between a borderline Gen Xer and a borderline member of the Greatest Generation. Both parties rejected the classic Boomers who were the early favorites.
Can you imagine if that election had been between Boomers John Edwards and Rudy Giuliani? <shudder>
Once the primaries were over, those that read about McCain learned that he's all Boomer in his views about how special he is because… well, you know, because he is. For me, the 2008 election was less about politics than it was about generations.
Boomers were all intent on replacing "The Man" with themselves because they really know how to change the world because they trust their gut. Xers ignore "The Man" and just go out and change the world. This is well laid out in the excellent X Saves the World, really the only book I've seen that lays out the case for how Gen X is quietly keeping the whole nation from a giant suck-fest that it would be if the Boomers and their Millennial offspring were left in charge.
The Boomers sure aren't going to save the world, for as much as they talk about it. It's us, we're going to save it by just showing up and working hard every day.
And as for you Millennials, well, Stop Whining! We're sick of you telling us about how you need to find your work meaningful. We're sick of you telling us about how you want balance. We're sick of you telling us that you can't work Thursday after 4 p.m. because you have your Ironic Polo Club. We're sick of you working somewhere for six weeks and then asking when you will be taking over as management. We're sick of it all.
And you know what we can't wait for? One point in time. That point will come when you realize that you are expendable. Right now you think that you should have all the things that come with hard work, and you should have them because you've always had them. (Soccer trophies!) You just don't want to do the work.
But here's the rude awakening that's coming: The next generation. Our kids. My son comes downstairs every morning and finds me working, and he often falls asleep to the sound of my typing. He's started two businesses, and he's 8. We sit and watch Shark Tank together and he has a dead-on sense of which businesses will get an offer, and which will not. He has dreams about my current business, Blogmutt, in which he's solving business problems.
That's right. In his sleep he's better than you are awake.
And he's not alone. An 11-year-old relative of mine recently asked me if I was sad about Whitney Houston, "Because she's from the 1900s, like you."
Pause, and take that in for a moment. "The. 1900s. … Like. You."
She's not from the 1900s, she's from this century. She'll see you, born the 1980s or 90s as being essentially the same as the Xers born in the 60s and 70s. We'll all be lumped in together, and so you know how she'll judge us?
By our work.
Have you invented Google? No. Then get back to work!
Now, sure, you will say that Millennials can work. Look at Instagram. Yes. Let's do. Those are not whiney kids, those are people who are smart and work hard. They said it themselves: They saw the "wantrepreneurs" all around them going to parties, hanging out around incubators playing video games, reading every story on TechCrunch and commenting on all the stories about how stupid an idea was and how unworthy it was of TechCrunch coverage. What were the Instagram guys doing while the Millennials sat around talking about changing the world? They were working. Solving problems. Focussing not on themselves but on their users.
Now, you may be asking how I can write such incendiary things. Three reasons:
First, I'm not worried about any Millennials reading this. If it's longer than a tweet, they can't handle reading it anyway and so they didn't make it this far. If they did read this far it's probably because they are one of the exceptions that are so amazing in part because they stand out so dramatically. Millennials like the "boys" pictured above working 14-hour days on an organic vegetable farm, or writers like Téa Obreht who taught herself English by watching bootlegged Disney movies and wrote every day for as long as she can remember. There are even a few entrepreneurs who show promise.
Second, Even if they did read this far they aren't able to do anything about it. It's like that scene from Bull Durham where Kevin Costner challenges the hot young pitcher to throw the ball right at his chest. The pitcher says he'll kill him, but Costner knows the guy won't come close. He doesn't, either.
Lastly, Let's say there's one Millennial out there who's read this far, is outraged at what I say, and decides that he or she needs to prove me wrong, so that person goes to sign up as a Blogmutt writer and writes 100s of great posts for dozens of different Blogmutt clients.
I've been fascinated for years by the concept of form when it comes to works that appear creative.
Like all callow reporters fresh from J-school, I had a mind to upset the applecart and write in totally new ways.
That didn't last long.
I started using some of the standard forms of journalism early on for two reasons.
One is that I read The New Journalism and then basically everything else that Tom Wolfe ever wrote. I've written in this space about how Facebook is like the newest form of New Journalism, but this was something different. My writing took on the forms of journalism that had gone on before me because it worked. Wolfe was the first to point out that the "new" journalism was really the exact same writing of Dickens and many others.
The second reason I started using the forms of journalism was that I discovered they were forms for a reason, and the way in which words get written can follow a form, and still sing. What matters most is that the content is compelling, and then after that the words must just do the job of getting the compelling bits into the craniums of the readers.
No less than Bob Woodward recently wrote a tic-tock, a story that is not breaking news, but goes back to recount an event in chronological order. Publishers turn to this kind of story quite often when the news isn't new, but is so compelling that they want to run the story again a few days later. It may contain some new tidbits, but it's really not news. In the chronological style, however, it clicks right along like a clock. But how to end such a story? Well, you need a "kicker," a quote that's so delicious, so authentic, and so encapsulating that you want to make sure every reader sees it.
When I'm consulting on communication topics, I always tell people that documents, paragraphs and sentences all have two strong spots: the beginning and the end. The start of a story is crucial for sure, but the kicker can help you walk away with real understanding.
Bob Woodward knows better than to screw around with that form, so at the end of his tic-tock on the Osama bin Laden story he ends with a quote from President Obama. "We donated a $60 million helicopter to this operation. Could we not afford to buy a tape measure?"
Yes. Just so.
There are plenty of other forms. The form of a story reporting on scientific discoveries gets used all the time, primarily because the people doing the writing have no freaking clue what it is they are writing about, so they fall back on the standard ways. That's what makes this satire so spot-on.
There's a form to good screenplays, too. I wrote here about movies that seem like they are all over the map and yet when looked at up close they indeed follow classic forms of three-act screenplays. Following a form does not mean giving up on creativity.
The other reason, by the way, that writers use forms is time. I remember struggling, on deadline, with a late-night crime story when working on the late, great New York Newsday. Someone came over to ask how it was going (maybe Peg Tyre?) and said, "Look, this is a cop story. First graf: What happened. Second graf: Where's the body. Third graf: Your best quote. Then just fill in details and quotes until you get to nine inches.
(Translation: graf=paragraph. inches=column inches in the paper. It never really works out to measure it that way because the columns always changed, so basically an "inch" was about 30 words. Also, there's always a body in the crime story. It's either in "fair condition" or "recovering at home" or "awaiting toxicology reports" etc.)
Why all this about forms for me right now?
One is that I'm currently raising investment for my newest business, Blogmutt. When I put together a deck for my first business, MyTrafficNews, I wanted to break the mold and do something really different. With the second business I pushed some boundaries, but mostly stuck to the script. With this one, I'm following the form. I've seen a few different forms, including this one that's a MadLib for the one-sentence description, and this one for the overall slide deck. Garage.com says I should have 10 slides, I have 10 slides.
I'm coaching some companies right now that are headed to the Colorado Capitol Conference, and mostly I just tell them the same thing: Be creative, but be creative within the form of a slide deck that follows the form of a pitch deck. And I also tell them to just cut words.
The second reason I'm thinking about forms is also blogmutt. We will be asking a crowd of writers to come up with blog posts for small and niche business blogs. The pay won't be fantastic, but it should rival or exceed what spec writing jobs on the internet pay. It will certainly exceed what most bloggers make on most blogs -- that is: zero. I'm expecting that we'll have quite a few writers who perhaps studied English in college but have never been able to write professionally, and they just want to make some extra money for scrapbooking, fantasy baseball, or maybe to pay bills if they do really well. We'll be helping those writers to understand the form of a classic blog post. Some writers who want to work with blogmutt may want to try some fancy stuff and alter the very form of a typical blog post.
They can do that, but just not for Blogmutt. That's why even though I'm writing lots of posts for the Blogmutt blog these days, those posts in general follow the form of a helpful blog post.
It's only over here, on sco.tt, that I babble on about everything from Bob Woodward to a slide deck. This is my personal blog, and that's just what this is all about.
So, the answer to the question, "What's the right length for a blog post?" is that it's exactly long enough to do what you want the post to do. What do you want your posts to do?
What did this post do? Several things, even though there's not much form here…
I went looking for this list, and couldn't find it, so I decided that I needed to make it. Here are what I see as the best movies that play with your mind and an overall sense of reality while you are watching them.
I'm including it without going down the rabbit warren of time-traveling movies. How? Easy. The plot of Time Bandits marched forward in one straight line. The things that happened each night to the main character indeed happened all through history, but it never changed the movie's timeline. See the difference? Remember the last Star Trek movie? Answer me this: By the end, did Kirk know his father? You can't really answer, can you? That's because the timeline of the main characters got tinkered with. That's why those movies in general don't fit on this list because the movies on my list play with reality without violating the time-space continuum.
Not included because I say they violated rules of the movies on that list:
The Usual Suspects
What each of those movies did was violate the rules of the accepted movie-going experience. For instance in The Usual Suspects, the movie presented flashbacks that were not flashbacks, but were instead creations of the main character. As inventive as all the others on the first list were, they never violated the rules that we that movie watchers have come to rely on through the years.
Memento, for example, didn't violate any rules of the movies, it just fiddled with the structure of the timeline of the plot in a clever way. Memento was of course written and directed by Christopher Nolan, the man behind Inception. He said that he first had the idea for Inception while working on Memento, and that makes sense given how Memento both respected and tinkered with the rules of film at the same time.
(Notable for not being on the list is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I left it off for this reason: It just wasn't a very good movie. It's important to have some emotional connection to the characters. Without that, it doesn't matter how clever a movie is.)
As I mentioned, I was inspired to get this list onto the internet because I couldn't believe it didn't exist before, but two other things motivated me as well.
First was Roger Ebert's review of Inception. "'Inception' does a difficult thing. It is wholly original, cut from new cloth, and yet structured with action movie basics so it feels like it makes more sense than (quite possibly) it does. ... Christopher Nolan reinvented 'Batman." This time he isn't reinventing anything. Yet few directors will attempt to recycle 'Inception.' I think when Nolan left the labyrinth, he threw away the map."
I agree with Ebert that it will be impossible to recycle Inception, but I'm hoping that Hollywood will allow others who want to write totally original screenplays and then get them made into movies. If the genre of films that are truly creative grows, that's a good thing.
Taken together, both of those posts get me hoping that a whole new generation of filmmakers get inspired to create movies that take advantage of how much the ball has been moved forward with Inception.
Oh, one more thing, having nothing to do with anything, but I couldn't resist.
Consider these pictures in this order:
Those of you that had teenage crushes crushed... Sorry.
I'm a big fan of politics, and of movies, and I often think about politics in terms of what makes for a good plot.
The health care bill makes for a great plot. (Lots and lots of others will argue about if it's good policy, I won't do that here.)
First you have the whole political back story, the failure of Hillarycare. Now HRC is nowhere to be seen near HCR. Even a trip that she planned for the President had to be scrubbed so that he could push health care reform to home base.
But that's a minor backstory compared to the personal one: I really get the feeling that this fight was deeply personal for the president.
My thoughts turned to my mother and her final days, after cancer had spread through her body and it was clear that there was no coming back. She had admitted to me during the course of her illness that she was not ready to die; the suddenness of it all had taken her by surprise, as if the physical world she loved so much had turned on her, betrayed her. And although she fought valiantly, endured the pain and chemotherapy with grace and good humor to the very end, more than once I saw fear flash across her eyes. More than fear of pain or fear of the unknown, it was the sheer loneliness of death that frightened her, I think.
Clearly this was emotionally charged stuff, and while it's possible to get angry at cancer, cancer itself doesn't make a very good bad guy. Insurance companies make excellent bad guys. Here's what he said during the campaign in Dayton, Ohio, October 9, 2008:
This issue is personal for me. My mother died of ovarian cancer at the age of 53, and I'll never forget how she spent the final months of her life lying in a hospital bed, fighting with her insurance company because they claimed that her cancer was a pre-existing condition and didn't want to pay for treatment. If I am president, I will make sure those insurance companies can never do that again.
Think about that as you look at that picture above. To whom is his gaze rising?
He hasn't mentioned his mother in the speeches from recent days that I've seen, but I can see her looking at him in everything that he is doing, using the tools that movies have to pull off such things. And him looking back.
Consider this passage taken from his remarks the day before the final vote: "Every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself." Sure, we all have good hopes for ourselves, but nobody has higher hopes for us than our mothers. I think President Obama swore to fight back against those who dashed the hopes of his mother and made her suffer with such indignity. And he did.
Look, I'm not saying this was a giant Oedipal play, or that President Obama has an unhealthy grudge. Remember, the best movies become great when the hero does something that saves the world AND rescues the girl or saves his family at the same time.
There are dozens of examples, but Field of Dreams comes to mind for me. Remember watching that for the first time? You had no idea that Ray Kinsella was saving his relationship with his dad until it suddenly became clear that of course he was saving his relationship with his dad, and saving the reputation of Shoeless Joe and, by the way, Following Your Dreams, Farming and America's Love Affair With Baseball to boot.
Remember? Remember near the end when Shoeless Joe tells Ray, "If you build it, he..." nodding toward the catcher "...will come." Ray stands up, and says, "Oh, my God" and tells his wife that it is his father. You can see the lump rising in his throat. (I felt it rising in my own throat, I still do just writing about it.)
Ray then says a line that baseball fans can all appreciate for its profundity, even though he is so choked up he can barely whisper it: "Say it ain't so, Joe."
Joe responds, "I'm afraid it is, kid." Ray then quotes one of the lines from the corn that moved him to build the field, "Ease his pain" and begins to understand that it wasn't Joe's pain, but his father's pain. Joe then says, sounding a lot like The Voice in the final command from the field, "Go the distance."
Then the clip below picks up, but the part that's most related to President Obama is above.
So it appears that Gannett and the AP are having trouble with some of the restrictions of the press passes issued by the SEC to cover college football games.
This fight seems almost quaint.
On one side you have the SEC, which is saying that to get a press credential you have to agree not to blog about the game. On the other side you have the press, including the AP -- which has shown nothing but animus toward bloggers -- declaring that it has the right to blog whatever it wants to.
So, let's say that the SEC doesn't back down and the AP is forced to cover the game by buying a ticket or watching on TV. What would that look like?
Well... it would look like what the world looks like. Zillions of fans will be going to games or watching them, and blogging about what they are doing in real time. They don't need no stinking credentials.
The whole idea of the press credential already seems retro.
Harry Kalas died today, the day after leaving the Mile High City.
For those of you who don't know him, you probably know his voice. He was the announcer for the Phillies forever, and was also the voice behind those great NFL films, the ones that looked so great because they were shot on real film instead of video. They always seemed to show two rows of huge men with steam coming out of their snouts on some frozen turf. The voice just boomed out. I have a few of the choice ones on my iPhone that always make me smile when they come up in the random cue.
I got to meet Kalas, when Denver hosted the All Star game. I went with a pal to the Wynkoop back when Hickenlooper was still just a barkeep, before he went into politics.
Kalas was there on the patio with Hickenlooper, one of the world's biggest Phillies fans, and Hick was just soaking up every moment with this small, chain-smoking man. I didn't know who it was because when he was speaking in the group he just sounded like a regular guy. He was very slight, and was wearing a polyester suit. I figured maybe he was an uncle of Hickenlooper or something, the way he looked at Kalas with such reverence. Then I figured it couldn't be a relative because Hickenlooper must have been a foot or more taller than Kalas.
So I whispered to my buddy, trying to figure out who it was, and then learned it was Harry the K, the original "Outa Here!" guy. He had some amazing stories, very fun to listen to, but he was not at all boastful about any of it, he was just a very polite guy telling funny stories and then trying to deflect as much attention away from himself as he could.
And smoking non stop.
I wonder how much of his amazingly deep and powerful voice for such a small guy was actually just created by the damage of all that smoke.
Poor guy. Threw out the first pitch a week ago. Flies up to Denver because he's not the kind of guy who takes days off during the baseball season. Has some trouble breathing here but doesn't make a fuss. Goes with the team to the next stop and dies while writing out the lineup for that day's game.
This very well done story of his death doesn't specifically blame Denver, but it's hard not to make a connection when we've seen it so many times before here. You just need all the lung capacity you can get here.
Look, I just want to be the first to say it. Don Baylor is the man.
Pitching will always be an issue in Denver, but I'm convinced that the reason the ball hasn't been "popping" off the bat the way it did when Baylor was the manager has less to do with the "humidor" than it does with the fact that Don Baylor wasn't around.
Now that he's back, hitters are listening to him and the ball is leaving the yard a lot.
Yes, yes, we are only three games into the season, but the Rockies have not yet played in Denver, and already they are second in the league in hitting and second in homers.
Tulo is on pace to hit 120 home runs this season! Helton hasn't hit one yet, but you know spigot will open up soon enough.
So you read it here first: If the Rockies do well this season, Don Baylor deserves a LOT of the credit, and by the way it will be a lot of fun to watch and listen this year.
Several quick odds and ends before my next post, which will be a big and very positive review of The Unlikely Disciple...
Two excellent posts in a row from the FiveThirtyEight guys, showing how gay marriage and marijuana are on an almost inevitable march toward legalization. Those guys nailed it during the election, and they are still finding their footing now with no election to talk about, but with those two posts I expect to learn a lot from them in the coming years.
In the marijuana post, it points out -- without comment -- that my generation (X) smoked less pot than either the boomers or the millennials. Doesn't really surprise me... even at NYU in the 80s, I saw very little pot smoking. Maybe I just ran with a nerdier crowd. I'm not advocating for or against legalization here, but I will say that I think smoking pot in general is somewhat narcissistic, which is why it makes so much sense that both the boomers and the millennials toke up.
My post from April Fool's Day was, mostly, a joke. I am not crowdsourceing my life. I have to say, however, the idea was posted as a joke but the more I thought about it the more it grew on me. I guess I want it both ways: I don't want to do it right now, but I do want to be thought of as the first person to ever crowdsource his own life. Hmmmmm.
We are in day three of what might just be the last baseball game of the year.
I just did a blog search, and I can't believe I'm the first person to make this connection: This game might go on for months, just like that great game in the Iowa Baseball Confederacy.
In that book, the game went on for 2,000 innings.
This game between the amazing Rays and the Phillies may not go on for that long, but it's so delicious that there's a game that seems to be saying to the world that we don't quite want summer to be over.
It certainly feels that way here in Denver right now, it's been one of the most amazing falls ever, with blue skies and warm temps every day. Just like baseball, it's the summer that nobody wants to end.
I'm glad it will end, though, and that we'll have winter. It sharpens the senses, makes us feel our fragility.
Of course, the other great thing about this crazy World Series game is the great writing about it. There have been plenty of great columns, but for me this one stands out.
Pulling on their last World Series breath, watching their brilliant season circle the dugout drain with expectorated sunflower shells and Skoal drool, and falling obediently to postseason force Cole Hamels, the Tampa Bay Rays had a single hope:
Skies had to open. Gods had to roar. Pitching staffs had to be blown into confusion. Third base had to become lake-front property.
The Philadelphia Phillies had to be knocked off what had been a downhill run since the series moved north. And not just the Phillies. The whole series.
Something, you know, apocalyptic.
Then Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena got hits in the same inning.
And that wasn’t even it.
It rolled in on winds cold and sure. It rose up over Citizens Bank Park, over the neon Liberty Bell, over giddy, expectant fans covered in red hoodies and trash bags.
Dressed in swirling curtains of rain, cloaked in a howling northwest breeze, it stopped the World Series at 80 minutes before midnight, the middle of the sixth inning, Game 5.
Here's another clip of me exercising my democratic privilege.
I would just put this on the Colorado Amendment 50 site, but that is on a free-hosted site because that campaign has no money, and the free site doesn't let me embed videos.
That's right, while I may look good on TV (OK, even that is a stretch), the entire campaign consists of a lawyer working pro-bono, a free-bee blog, my volunteer time and the truth. We are up against $7 million, lots of slick advertising, and some of the best in political consultants and lobbyists in the state.
I don't know what our odds are; I'm not the gambling type.
That said, I do like being an underdog. While I didn't run guns to Ethiopia, and I didn't fight with the Loyalists, I think of myself as having a bit of Rick in me. While it's true that the other side pays much better, I'm enjoying my time, meeting a lot of great people, and if I can do anything to stop the expansion of government into the regressive taxation of gambling, then it will all be for the good.
I don't want to underestimate the severity of the Mitchell Report, or the problems with steroid use in Baseball. I've read a lot of the huge raft of coverage. While there's been a lot, I think most of it has been more or less appropriate.
The one little bit I might add is this: Looking at the list of players, I'm not really shocked. Clemens has crafted such a great image, but I always thought it was a bit odd that he could do so well for so long without really seeming to try that hard. Randy Johnson is older but most stories about him contain a phrase something like "legendary work ethic" and they never really said that about Clemens. Johnson is also one of those guys who is so tough, I think he just eats nails for breakfast.
The thing I loved seeing is how clean the NL Champion Colorado Rockies were; one pitcher was named from the pennant-winning staff of -- I dunno, about a hundred pitchers.
The great young guys, Tulo and the rest of them, all came up in an era when college and low minor leagues tested for steroids all the time, and the educational effort about the dangers seems to have worked. These were great young players who knew they'd just have to make it on skill and work, and so they worked really hard and made it. The D-backs have a bunch of similar players, and a few other teams.
I was also happy to see Todd Helton's name NOT on the list. There were some crappy phony allegations against him a couple years ago, and with this it should be clear that nothing but hard work and natural ability has gotten Helton to where he is.
Another team with a lot of great young (clean) players, it pains me to say, the Red Sox. Sure, their great starting pitching was mostly poached from the NL, it was the young hitters who won the playoffs for the Red Sox. The most notable player on the list from the Red Sox is Eric Gagne, who gagged so badly during the regular season that he was a nonfactor in the playoffs.
So, while I think the Mitchell report is important, I also think that it's looking at yesterday's problems. The named players are all fading away, finally, and the game is getting better. The 2007 season, I think, showed that skill, hard work, good leadership and luck make for winning baseball and great entertainment. The whole Bonds/McGwire era is over. It was such a freakshow anyway.
When I asked a local "reporter" why he was covering this when he only had one side and he knew i wasnt going to give a response, he said it was because his "editors thought it had become a national story", I guess his bosses read blogs.. Then another media outlet, despite my no comment email response decided to take responses from months ago and present them in their story as if they were made in response to their current request. Nice.
I also know that the current state of the sport is nothing like some of the magical times, something that we mostly read about in books these days, or at least in blog posts about great baseball books.
I grant you all of that, and yet I read baseball stories every day, because every once in a while you get a game and a quote like this: