Friday, July 30, 2021

Tweet of the Day (Conan O'Brien, on the Two Kinds of Mexican Restaurants)

“There are two kinds of Mexican restaurants. Those that serve fresh authentic cuisine, and ones that serve the cheap, greasy junk I love.”—Comedian Conan O'Brien, tweet of Apr. 11, 2012

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Quote of the Day (J. Geils’ Peter Wolf, on Catching Great ‘60s Acts at the Apollo)

“It was an incredible learning experience of how the artist made himself connect with the audience. The performer and the song became one. They were almost preaching to the audience. If someone was singing a love song, it was like high opera. They’d tear their jacket off, get down on their knees. And you really believed it; it was total credibility.”—Former J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf, on catching the likes of James Brown, Otis Redding and Jackie Wilson in Harlem’s Apollo Theater, quoted in Rob Hughes, “Maximum R&B,” Classic Rock Magazine, Issue 188 (September 2013)

(The image accompanying this post shows, in performance, Otis Redding, one of Wolf’s objects of veneration.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Quote of the Day (Alice Hoffman, on Writing That Transforms Grittiness Into Magic)

“The idea of magic and reality intertwined is really appealing to me. I lived in a working-class suburb in Long Island, right over the border from Queens, so it was very gritty. Every house was the same. There were no trees. It was neither here nor there. It was the least magical place. And yet it felt magical. If you can view that place with magic, any place can be filled with magic.”—Novelist, short-story writer, and memoirist Alice Hoffman quoted in Hillary Casavant, “How I Write: Alice Hoffman,” The Writer, September 2013

(The image accompanying this post, showing Alice Hoffman at BookExpo in New York City, was taken May 30, 2019 by Rhododendrites.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Quote of the Day (Lisa Miller, on Politicians and Humility)

“When politicians start talking about humility, as they do ritualistically after elections, the warning light on the BS detector goes on. Surely no professional group has a weaker claim to that virtue than today's divided, self-righteous, and spin-savvy politicians. And too often the politicians (and religious leaders) who do make a case for humility have the least basis for doing so. In an August 2007 speech, then–New York governor Eliot Spitzer expounded upon Reinhold Niebuhr and the virtues of humility in the public square. ‘What I'd like to reflect on today, and this may come as a surprise to some of you,’ he said, ‘are the inevitable risks that occur when [political] passion and conviction are not sufficiently tempered by humility.’ Seven months later, he resigned, tagged forever as ‘client No. 9.’”—American journalist Lisa Miller, “Humble Pie Eating Contest,” Newsweek, Nov. 15, 2010

Ms. Miller does not mention that, well before Spitzer became “client No. 9,” he could very easily have been nicknamed “Governor Steamroller” for his snarled boast to a GOP Assemblyman.

These days, I don’t think that Spitzer is as eager to brag about his one lasting claim on America’s cultural consciousness: As an inspiration for the long-running drama series, The Good Wife.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Quote of the Day (Hallie Cantor, on a New Kind of Dating App)

“Are you on that one where you put your name, age, credit-card number, whatever on your profile and it matches you with other users who have bought the same paper towels and other household goods? And then you get the paper towels, too. It’s sort of a dating app meets, well, a Web site where you buy paper towels. But you save money by getting them every week.”—Writer-comedian Hallie Cantor, “Shouts and Murmurs: Are You on the Apps?,” The New Yorker, Oct. 7, 2019

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Spiritual Quote of the Day (Charles Spurgeon, on How Christ ‘Pulls Us to Shore’)

“Faith has a saving connection with Christ. Christ is on the shore, so to speak, holding the rope, and as we lay hold of it with the hand of our confidence, He pulls us to shore; but all good works having no connection with Christ are drifted along down the gulf of fell despair.” — English Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), Feathers for Arrows; Or, Illustrations for Preachers and Teachers, from My Notebook (1883)

The image accompanying this post is Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1695), by the Dutch painter Ludolf Backhuysen (1630-1708).

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Quote of the Day (Stephen Jay Gould, on the Stability Underlying ‘The Mythology of Baseball’)

“Nothing nourishes the mythology of baseball more than the stability that allows us to grasp the accomplishments of past legends because they played the same games under the same rules. I don’t know how to read the records of early basketball heroes who played in the age of the two-handed dribble and the center jump after each basket (and no slam dunks). But when Roger Maris chased and surpassed the greatest of all records in 1961, Babe Ruth’s 1927 mark of sixty home runs in a season, the whole nation watched during a summer of fascination—and understood. Moreover, although baseball is a team sport, all its actions can be dissected into components of personal contest (batter against pitcher, runner against fielder)—and individual performance therefore obtains an irreducible and measurable meaning. By contrast, achievements in other sports have no separable status, and myths about personal heroes cannot take similar root. Wilt Chamberlain once scored one hundred points in a basketball game—but only because his teammates decided to try the peculiar strategy, a grand joke really, of letting him take all the shots. (Does this theme of personal contest and achievement also help to explain why such a brutal activity as boxing also enjoys a substantial literature?)"—American geologist, biologist, historian of science—and lifelong baseball fan—Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002), “Dreams That Money Can Buy,” The New York Review of Books, Nov. 5, 1992

Unless it was under a different title, I did not see this piece in Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville, the posthumous collection of baseball essays by Stephen Jay Gould. The above paragraph is a good example of the author’s clear, even lively writing style and deep knowledge of his subject.

But its romanticism—a term that Gould did little to disclaim—may have already sounded dated by the time of his death, because of the use of the designated hitter in the American League and, we know now, the widespread prevalence of steroids in the 1990s and early ‘oughts.

Many fans like me have been watching other trends of the last two decades with concern bordering on disgust, including work-stoppage threats, batters’ lack of shame over strikeouts, defensive shifts, and the stress on strikeouts that may be taxing pitchers’ arms.

But in the last two seasons, COVID-19 has introduced new elements into games, such as placing men on second base during extra innings. To use an example that Gould might have appreciated: Under these conditions, how, then, can Gerrit Cole be compared with, say, Christy Mathewson?

More so than ever, I think, because of such changes, player statistics can only be compared with their immediate contemporaries rather than those in the past.

(Speaking of baseball “mythology”: the image accompanying this post shows Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs in the 1984 film The Natural. Though the movie adaptation changed quite a bit from Bernard Malamud’s 1952 novel, the Hobbs character drew on elements of Babe Ruth, Bob Feller, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Ted Williams, Sal Maglie, and Eddie Waitkus, a Philadelphia Phillies first baseman shot and wounded in a hotel by a crazed female fan.)