Category Archives: Other Stuff

More Baseball

Every year during MLB’s spring training I re-watch the amazing Ken Burns documentary Baseball. It’s a long tradition, meaning both that I have been doing it for a long time (this is year 7) and that it takes a long time to complete (the whole series is 22-23 hours long). But every year I do it, and every year I experience the same reawakening and rekindling of my love for the game. I get thunderstruck all over again by the beauty of the game, the depth of its history, the import of that history alongside the history of our country, and the fun of it all.

I am also reminded every year of what a huge tragedy it is that some of the greatest players who ever lived were never afforded the opportunity to receive the recognition they deserved. Because of the “gentlemen’s agreement” between white baseball owners from 1883-1947, many people have never heard of some or all of the following greats.

satchel paigeLeroy “Satchel” Paige is arguably the greatest pitcher of all time, bar none. He actively played professional baseball consecutively from probably 1926 (records are a little shaky…) until 1953, making his major league debut in 1948 at the ripe old age of 42. After 1953, he left the professional game until being called back into service in (and I swear I’m not making this up) 1965. It was a publicity stunt, but he pitched three scoreless innings – at age 59.

His official MLB win-loss record is 28-31, mostly as a reliever. He did start his MLB career at 42 years old, mind you. And, even though his official Negro League win-loss record is 103-61, he pitched in probably hundreds of barnstorming games that were never even recorded. We truly will never know the full greatness of Paige, or what a joy it would have been to see him pitch against the Yankees’ “Murderer’s Row” of the late 20s in his prime.

josh gibsonJosh Gibson was a power-hitting catcher who died all too young at the age of 35, the victim of a stroke or brain hemorrhage. He was a very good defensive catcher with a strong, accurate arm, but was best known as a tremendous hitter. Baseball hall of famer Monte Irvin said of him, “I played with Willie Mays and against Hank Aaron. They were tremendous players, but they were no Josh Gibson.”

Legend has it that Josh Gibson hit a home run all the way out of the old Yankee Stadium. That story hasn’t been verified, but there is a documented occurence of him hitting a 480-foot home run – when he was just 18 years old.

robe fosterAndrew “Rube” Foster was a pitcher, manager, and eventually owner and founder of the Negro National League. He gained his nickname after out-pitching the great Rube Wadell in an exhibition game. Legend has it that Foster was hired by New York Giants manager John McGraw to teach his fadeaway (screwball) pitch to Christy Mathewson, one of the all-time greats in part because of his fadeaway pitch.

Between his on the field exploits, and the impact he had on the game in the form of organizing all-black teams into the Negro Leagues, his contributions to the game cannot be overstated.

 

cool papa bellJames “Cool Papa” Bell was a switch-hitting center fielder from 1922-1946. His calling card was his unbelievable speed. Like, truly unbelievable. Contemporary players joked that he would turn off the light switch at night and be in bed covered up before the room was dark. Satchel Paige said of him, “Once he hit a line drive right past my ear. I turned around and saw the ball hit his ass sliding into second.” Another Negro League great, Buck O’Neil, when asked how fast Cool Papa Bell was, would always answer, “Faster than that.”

With speed and hitting ability like his, he would certainly have been a 3,000-hit guy in the major leagues. He slapped the ball all over the field like Ichiro. He stole bases like Ricky Henderson. And he played for almost a quarter of a century.

pop lloydJohn Henry “Pop” Lloyd played shortstop from 1907-1932. He was undeniably one of the greatest Negro League players in history. He was a slick fielder with great hitting ability and speed, often compared to Pittsburgh Pirates great Honus Wagner. Wagner himself said, “It’s an honor to be compared to [Lloyd].”

Babe Ruth, when asked to name the greatest Negro League player of all time, stated that Pop Lloyd was his choice for greatest player of all time – period, without distinction.

His career batting average of .340 is 12 points higher than Wagner’s, and only 2 points below Babe Ruth’s.

And the truth is that there are dozens more Negro League players whose names and baseball exploits we remember even less. The fact that these players were systematically prohibited from testing themselves against the Major League’s greatest players is a shame and a travesty. Because as rich and vibrant and colorful and deep and important as the history of baseball is, it could have been more.

Peace.

What is a “Voice,” Really?

find-your-voice-blueSo, as an author or blogger or artist of any type, really, you’re constantly encouraged to find your “voice.” Your “voice” is supposed to be the slant or angle or worldview or lens that makes the work uniquely you and no one else. And I get it, to some degree at least – what value does a piece of music or some words on a page have if they don’t express anything new?

But the challenge I’m feeling right now is on a little deeper level, I think. See, I could write a piece on this year’s political situation, for instance, and make it scathing, or hopeful, or analytical, or anything else I want. I could make that political piece sound like a variety of sources from all over the political spectrum. And I could probably do any of those options pretty convincingly.

No, the challenge I’m facing right now is not learning how to express things using my unique “voice” – it’s discovering what that “voice” is in the first place.

Which leads me to another question – what in the world is a “voice?” If it’s my unique, personal worldview and lens on things, then shouldn’t it be the most natural thing in the world to speak with? Or if it’s a motif that I just try on for size and end up liking, then is it really my own “voice,” or just a voice that I like to speak with?

Like, for real, I feel like the fact that I struggle to define what my own “voice” is might be evidence that the idea doesn’t really exist…? Or that I just don’t have a “voice…?”

I don’t know. I DO know that I’ve started blogging again for several not-necessarily-related reasons. I like the structured exercise of creativity (if you want to call it that). I like the person that I was when I was blogging regularly. (Not that I don’t like who I am now… I just like who I was then.) I like the relationships I had developed with teacher/mentor types, and fellow blogger/friend types when I was posting on a regular basis.

Maybe I’ll keep blogging. Maybe I’ll decide that a “voice” is a really real thing. Maybe I’ll find mine.

Until then, peace!

(2 + 0 – 1) x 3 Resolutions for 2013

1) “Check-in” less. Post more interesting photos. – If you follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter, you’re probably annoyed by my frequent Foursquare/Facebook check-ins. At least I know I was annoyed the last time I looked at my own Facebook wall. So I’m going to post those Foursquare check-ins to Facebook and Twitter less. I’m still going to check in on Foursquare, because you sometimes get sweet deals for doing so. But I won’t post them to Facebook anymore unless it’s something new and/or interesting. Instead I’m going to try to do more interesting things in real life, and then post pictures of those things instead.

2) Take wall anchors seriously. – I’m the king of saying, “Oh, we can mount that on the wall, no problem. Just throw a couple of wall anchors in and screw it in.” Then when it comes time to actually hang the object, the process of finding and securing the proper size and type of wall anchor confounds me. It usually leaves me looking unorganized and kind of foolish. This year, I’m not just going to talk about wall anchors willy nilly…

3) Be creative more. – Thankfully, mercifully, I’m in a job that gives me avenues to explore and utilize my creativity. I think this coming year will only provide more opportunities to do that, and I want to take advantage of them.

What are you doing this year?

Mystery, Whimsy, and Soap

Have you seen these decorative soap dispensers that people are putting in their houses? I have. And for a long time I thought they were just kind of silly and redundant. I mean, they sell the soap in appropriately sized containers that already have a dispenser built into them…

But at some point, I started to see the mystery in the whole thing. The intrigue… So now when I go to someone’s house and they have a decorative soap dispenser, I sometimes stand there looking at it for a minute, trying to sense what awaits me. Does the soap smell like flowers? Or fruit? Or vanilla? Or is it unscented? Is it blue? White? Purplish? Clear?

Then I just wash my hands and rejoin the dinner party or whatever it is I’m there for.

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Bowdlerize

I learned a new word this morning – bowdlerize (pronounced bohd-luh-rize).

It’s a transitive verb that means to remove material from a work (such as a book or a play) that is considered improper or offensive, with the result that the work becomes weaker in some way. It started being used as a word a few years after the death of a guy named Thomas Bowdler. Surprise, surprise – the word is based on his name. Here’s why:

The Family Shakspeare

In 1807 Thomas Bowdler published The Family Shakespeare, in which he (or possibly his sister) edited out all the parts “which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family.” On one hand, it made Shakespeare accessible to a huge number of 19th century women and children who otherwise might not have been allowed to read his works due to some of their racier content. On the other hand, though, the resulting work was much less… Shakespeare… than the bard’s originals.

When I learned the word bowdlerize, it made me think of something that happened to me a couple of months ago. On a Sunday morning I got called into our 3-4 year old room because there was a poop emergency in the 2-3 year old room. It was near the end of service, so I figured I’d spend a few minutes just hanging with the kids and shooting the breeze.

One of the little girls brought me her tiny little pocket New Testament and asked me to read her a story. I thought that was a great idea, so I grabbed a stool and flipped to the Gospel of John. I happened to flip straight to John 8 and the story of the woman who is caught in adultery and brought before Jesus to be stoned. I really didn’t want to explain to a group of 4 year old girls (several more had gathered by this point) what adultery was. Or why people wanted to kill this woman by throwing rocks at her.

So I flipped again… to Mark 5, where Jesus encounters a man who is demon-possessed and runs around a graveyard naked, cutting himself with stones. I didn’t want to try to explain even a bit of that to these 4 year olds.

So I flipped again… Matthew 14 – John the Baptist is beheaded. I didn’t want the girls to be scarred by a story of a man being beheaded because a wicked king wanted to sleep with his sister-in-law’s (who he had also been sleeping with) daughter.

So I flipped again… Luke 22 – Jesus is arrested and Peter cuts off a guy’s ear. Geez…

By this point the girls were getting restless, since they’d been sitting patiently and I hadn’t actually read them anything. In desperation, I flipped to the book of Acts, where I knew there were a lot of good stories about the early Church.

I happened to flip to Acts 5, where a guy named Ananias and his wife Sapphira are struck dead because they were greedy liars.

I flipped again… to Acts 16, where Paul and Silas are in jail because they cast a demon out of a girl, and while they’re there an earthquake hits, and the jailer is about to kill himself because he thinks all the prisoners will escape…

Mercifully for me, the service ended and parents started showing up at that point.

That episode really reminded me that the Bible is not a children’s book. There is some heavy stuff in there, everything from theft and murder to rape and incest to suicide and demons. It is definitely a book written for adults.

So, back to bowdlerizing stuff… I think when people talk about something being bowdlerized, they usually mean that it’s been censored to the point of being weak, watered-down, having less meaning. I wonder how much we do that with the Bible. I wonder how much we should do that with the Bible. Is it better to share the whole Bible, even the difficult to explain parts, with everybody (including younger kids)? Or is it better to give young kids and people who aren’t believers yet a more sanitized, easy to digest, version?

Thoughts?

Why I’m Leaving WordPress

Just so we’re clear, this picture is sarcastic.

So, I’m leaving WordPress…

I started almost two full years ago here at joerob577.wordpress.com with no real intent. I didn’t have a purpose or a vision or a theme or a niche or anything else that tends to drive a good blog. Sometimes I tried to be funny, sometimes I tried to be inspiring, sometimes I commented on culture…

Then I got a little bit serious about blogging. I got connected with some great bloggers, started working on the look and feel of the blog, bought a domain name and had this blog redirected there. I sort of found a little bit of a niche writing about pop culture, faith, social commentary, and humor. Things were going well.

Then I got a little bit more serious about blogging. I purchased a premium theme and some server space, and switched my free WordPress.com blog over to a self-hosted WordPress.org blog. I set up FeedBurner feeds, Google Analytics stat tracking, and spent hours poring over third party plug-ins, add-ons, etc. I started pouring more into developing relationships with other bloggers, writing guest posts, building my platform, posting 4-6 times each week consistently, and basically doing all the other things you’re supposed to do in order to build a successful blog.

And somewhere along the line I think I just sort of lost interest in it. Somehow I lost track of what was fun and exciting about blogging, and it became more of a chore to try to churn out posts all the time. When that happened, I sort of just stopped altogether. Literally weeks and months have gone between posts for the last 6-8 months, probably. Honestly, I haven’t even kept up with how poorly I’ve been keeping up with things.

The reality is that my initial flurry of blog activity and interactions led me down a path that I’m not sure was ever sustainable for me long-term. I ended up spending more time writing about life and culture than experiencing it for myself. I pushed myself to post frequently enough that I often ended up putting out weak stuff. Then I felt bad for putting out bad material and ended up even more discouraged.

Now, I know you’re an intelligent reader, so you’re probably thinking, “Okay, so why not just push reset and get back to a healthy place as a blogger?” Good question.

The answer is that it’s totally a me thing. I log into WordPress, and I see the oh-so-familiar dashboard design, and my brain immediately goes to a place of stress. Honestly, I can’t look at my WordPress blog today without feeling like I have to make it what it was a year and a half ago. And the truth is, that doesn’t feel right either right now.

Those of you who know me will say, “Well, you definitely aren’t going to stop outputting creative stuff. What are you going to do instead of WordPress?”

For now at least, I’ll be on Tumblr.

Yes, I know that WordPress and Tumblr offer pretty much exactly the same functionality. The big difference is that Tumblr looks fresh and different to me, and that’s what I need right now.

So that’s that. This might not be the end for joerob.com and my WordPress experience, but it might be. I guess my vanity would love for some of you to be sad that I’m shutting this blog down for now, but I know that most people probably won’t care. That’s okay. I’m looking forward to whatever comes next, and recapturing the creative spirit I used to blog with. Hopefully it won’t be too elusive…

Peace.

The Last Two Weeks of My Life…

More About GME…

I said a week or so ago that I would write more about GME, the autoimmune disease that our dog Penny was hospitalized for a couple of weeks ago. To be honest, I really don’t feel like doing this right now because there’s a ton going on and I’m stressed, but self-discipline… blah, blah… following through… yada, yada… whatever.

The Wikipedia page for granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME) is pretty good and thorough so if you’re into a lot of the medical lingo, check it out. I’ll try to explain in with smaller, less Latin-y words.

GME is a nasty little thing that somehow or another causes a dog’s immune system to think that it’s own brain is the enemy. The immune system starts attacking the brain/brain stem/spinal cord, and eventually the dog develops lesions on these areas. The lesions can cause a variety of symptoms, most commonly loss of appetite, extreme lethargy, and paralysis.

GME doesn’t have a known cause. There doesn’t seem to be anything in common from case to case that would suggest why GME happens to some dogs and not to others. It is not infectious, either. It is, however, more common in small breed female dogs of young and middle age (i.e., Penny had just turned 4 when this happened to her), but no one knows why.

GME has an extremely rapid onset. In Penny’s case, she went from completely normal on a Friday, to vomiting on Saturday, to total loss of appetite and lethargy on Monday, to right-side paralysis on Thursday. So, less than a week from completely normal to completely unable to function.

GME also has a pretty dim prognosis most of the time. With normal treatment, dogs with GME typically live anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years. There are cases with much longer survival rates, but they’re definitely outliers.

What all this adds up to is a really ugly, sad little disease that vets and pet owners alike hate with all their might.

We’re soldiering on, and Penny continues to improve with her little dose of steroids every day. We’re praying for a much time as we can get with a healthy, happy Penny.

Peace.

I Don’t Understand You If…

Dubya doesn’t understand, either…

… you walk into a coffee shop to have a meeting with two other people, look around at the five larger tables scattered around the coffee shop where you could have your meeting, settle on the table right next to the only other customer in the coffee shop (who is reading a book), then proceed to have your meeting at full volume.

What are some things about people that just don’t make any sense to you?

Baseball Quotes – Justice

“Baseball provides escape. Furthermore, there is no other place in our society that I know of in which the perimeter of play and the rules are clearly defined and known to everyone – in which justice is absolutely equal and sure. Three strikes, you’re out. I don’t care if you hire Edward Bennett Williams to defend you; three strikes, you’re still out. Baseball is an island of stability in an unstable world.” – Bill Veeck

“You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” – Earl Weaver

Amen, and amen.

Listen, I love football. I’m not so into basketball, hockey, or soccer… But in all four of those sports, you almost inevitably see the end of a game or match come down to one team with the lead trying to slow the game down and run out the clock. They’re not really trying to win the game anymore; they’re basically just playing keep-away.

You can’t play keep-away in baseball, and that’s one more reason I love it.

Peace.

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