Thursday, February 26, 2004

What T.O. Do?

So, TO may be stuck in SF. It looks like his agent can’t meet a simple deadline and so TO wasn’t able to void the final three years of his deal and won’t become a free agent. Of course all this is pending a grievance being filed as I type. Until now I thought the Niners should resign TO, or at least franchise him and try to get something if he leaves. I was one of those people that thought the constant distraction he brought was offset by his production. Besides, who did SF have to replace him? Tai Streets was a disappointment last year, and though Lloyd and Battle showed promise, well, so did Streets the last few years. But now the whole situation has changed.

If we can believe ESPN.com reports that Mike Williams is leaving USC that puts two top “can’t miss” receivers in the draft this year (the other is Pitt’s Larry Fitzgerald). If SF can parlay Owens into a top ten pick they may be able to get one these guys. If they can get a pick and a decent CB all the better. A move like this would also free up money to resign Ahmed Plummer and franchise Julian Peterson. How about this? TO for a 2nd round pick (or low #1, Philly?) and decent corner (Lito Sheppard, Bobby Taylor?), then trade a two and a one to move up and take Williams or Fitzgerald. Or how about a less realistic trade, TO for Phillip Buchanan and 2nd round pick?

49er fans can only hope that SF does something good with this gift. They have a chance to replace TO and fill other holes as well. After all, the domino effect could allow them to take a FS in the 2nd round to compete with the eternally fragile Zack Bronson.
4:52 pm est

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

It Sucks, but its not Censorship

There has been a lot of outrage recently bout the governments decision to only fund closed caption “educational” programs. This means that show that are not deemed so will no longer be captioned. The NAD, among others are crying censorship. I never thought I’d side with the Bush administration, but feeling both polemic and contrarian this morning I'll go ahead and play The Great Satan's Advocate.

The US government is not in the business of entertaining people. They are however (allegedly) in the business of "educating" and "informing" people. Yes, yes, all information is knowledge and anything can become a teaching/ learning situation. Even NASCAR I suppose. But the government doesn't sponsor me teaching my brother how to calculate OPS or WHIP while we're at a baseball game just because I say I'm teaching math. The government choosing to sponsor programs they deem educational or informational isn't censorship. The programs are still there.

It would be nice if the mystery panel would agree to caption Sports Center, but television is a market driven industry. The rest of us don't expect the government to subsidize reruns of our favorite shows just because we like them. The industry survives off advertising so allow me to suggest another option. Networks begin to caption their programs with advertising money. I don't know all the costs involved, but it may be in the best interest of the network, the NFL, MLB, and Hannah-Barbara to go ahead and caption the programs themselves. If not they risk losing viewers. I know plenty of Deaf people in that key male 18-45 demographic, and their money's just as good as anyone else's, if people hurt the advertisers they'll get their captioning.

In conclusion, entertainment is a private business, not a government function. If the government decided to caption all media I would be fine with that. As it is, I don't really care about Mars, and I wish we would stop fighting all these dang wars, at the same time its faulty to say that its NASA or captioning. It could very well be captioning or help for the homeless; captioning or school lunches, captioning or health care (I know we don't really have health care). The point is, captioning Scooby-Doo isn't the first thing I thought of when I mailed off my taxes.

Everything should be accessible as far as quality of life goes, but who incurs the cost may be a separate issue. The rest of us get TV for "free" thanks to advertisers, not the government. Maybe it’s not too much to ask for captioning to be the same way. We can all vote with our wallets. If the networks, or the NFL want money for captioning they can get it from advertisers. Not to mention, if it becomes a private sector issue, what network or company wants to be known as the one that refused to caption its programs? The major sports leagues are too image conscious for that and the networks should follow suit. Of course any programming that does get public money should have to be captioned as well.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Cross-Cultural Flirting

So, after five years or so Sir Rantalot has been cast back into the dating pool. At this point he’s staying in the shallow end, jumping around trying to get his ankles wet. The thing is, the dating scene has changed. Even if it’s only in the way the furniture shrinks as you grow up. Soon enough your Rant-writing protagonist will be thrust into a new world, one he has never experienced before. A world in which he is single, gainfully employed, and no longer wrapped in the snuggly confines of academia. (How in the world do you meet women out side of school?) But these are issues for later, say, May. The issue today is cross-cultural flirting. (Exit third person narrative)

Washington DC is in fact an incredibly diverse place. I know what you’re thinking, “But Sir Rantalot, you are also from an incredibly diverse place, what’s the problem?” The problem my friend is that in Berkeley diversity is celebrated. In Berkeley even the white people dis on the powers that be, namely, other white people. But DC, indeed the whole East Coast from what I can figure is very different. For example, in California there is a feeling of solidarity between Latin Americans. Out here the Puerto Ricans Dominicans and Cubans see each other as unwanted step-siblings having to share the same bedroom. So what happens when a na├»ve Puerto Rican kid from CA tries to chat up a conservative Cuban gal from Miami? Well, he makes some witty remarks about racist white people only to find that the gal in question identifies more as White than anything else. Ah-ha! Though I had heard about Republican Cuban expatriates I had never actually met any. Still, at least that one was in my native tongue

The differences are even more pronounced when you find yourself flirting with people who come from an entirely different socio-linguistic background. Being bilingual greatly increases the number of people you can flirt with. Or so I thought. I recently realized that while I can be humorous, and charming in my native language, I’m not so clever in my second. I’ve never flirted in my second language., they just don’t teach that in school. I’ve always followed Anita’s advice form West Side Story, I’ve stuck to my own kind. The issue I’ve encountered recently is one of modality. What happens when the glances, and brief moments of eye contact that are a staple of North American spoken language flirting are an integral linguistic feature in the language of the person you’re flirting with? In my second language eye contact is how you initiate conversation, eye contact is in fact required for communication, it’s the opening signal to any exchange. So what happens when you’re just trying to make that subtle connection from across the room, or you want to steal a private moment in the middle of a group conversation? The effect is the same as if you leaned over to the other person and offered a non-sequitus “So, uh….” Followed by no other remarks. In a group situation eye contact during a group conversation is an interruption. After a couple of these you are reduced to the status of babbling idiot.

Trying to overcome these nuances is a fascinating exercise. Never mind that I don’t even know how far I’d want to take things if ever my flirting proved successful. At this point, after the safety and security of back-to-back long-term relationships I must admit to some apprehension at the idea of waking up with someone new. I had a point when I started this. I think it had to do with not knowing how the hell to meet women outside of school. Yes. That was it. At school you have at least one thing in common with everyone around you. Also, you have a high concentration of prospects in a confined space. Out there in the real world everything gets more complicated. Good luck to us all.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

How to Meet Women: Advice from a Gay Man By Joel C.

My (straight) brothers in arms ... please let me offer you one key secret about meeting women. You fear approaching beautiful women because you fear losing something you do not have. You must understand and accept that -- before you even lay eyes on a beautiful woman -- you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Once you do, you will find it so very much easier to meet women.

"Ah-hah!" you say, "But what about the pain of rejection?" Pish-posh! Rejection still costs you nothing. A bruised ego, perhaps even some personal dignity, depending on your level of drunkenness. Such wounds are slight and the concern of only lesser mortals. You, my friends, are confident! You are brave! No fear!

You must simply unlearn that which plagued you in middle school. While you were being acutely embarrassed on the playground for your awakening sexuality ("Stop poking me with that stick in your pants!"), we gay boys were simply relating to girls as equals -- sharing stories, plotting fan clubs, and making scrapbooks. Our shame and embarrassment were relegated to the locker room before gym class, but that's for another post. The point is that your early relationships with girls rested on expectations that you had no right to form in the first place.

You expected girls to want you right off the bat, simply because you approached them. And if they didn't want you immediately, you felt that you had lost something. But in reality, you lost nothing. In fact, the only time you do lose something is when you fail to pursue an opportunity that attracts you.

You expected the pretty girls to already have boyfriends. However, keep in mind that -- unlike high school -- women in real life are not constantly surrounded by dozens, hundreds, or thousands of men constantly clamoring for attention. In high school, all the pretty girls were taken because ... well, they had platoons of boys to choose from and could pick the pretty boys who were well-mannered.

My point is this -- fear breeds inhibition in relationships, even the simplest conversation among people meeting for the first time. Overcome your fear and you will free your inhibitions. You might try thinking like we do -- when we approach gorgeous women, we don't expect sex, a kiss, or even conversation. We simply see a vibrant person who might be fun to talk to. Try anticipating nothing, expecting nothing, and then being surprised if something does happen. Trust me -- it will work. It's worked for all of my straight friends so far, in fact.

So ... if this little diatribe helps you in any way, just thank a gay guy the next time you see one of us.

Friday, February 13, 2004

The Death of Objectivity in Relationships: By AH

The title of this piece is a misnomer, of course. For something to die, it must have existed in the first place.
There was a great moment in Annie Hall when Annie walked in, and clearly says something. Woodman asks her about it, and she says she didn't say that. He turns to the camera and asks us to validate that he is not going crazy. Wouldn't it be great if it was like that in real life?

Because it is hard to see things as they really are. Sometimes it feels like you do nothing but work, and then all of a sudden your woman will wheel on you and call you lazy. Sometimes you lay out your carefully considered ideas, and she says "you couldn't be more off-track." Sometimes it feels like you do everything for her, and she asks "but what about me? Have you considered me?" And-after you get over the rage-you ask yourself "Am I the asshole?"
It is our nature to want to pinpoint root causes and effects. We are rational creatures by design (OK, that can and has been debated). We seek reasons and are probably unique in the animal kingdom in that we need meaning. Need it. Kill ourselves without it.

But in the quagmire that is relationship logic, accounting for who is really right and who is really wrong is, well, damn near IMPOSSIBLE. We have to live with the fact that sometimes things are true because your partner thinks they are.
Plus, bean-counting relationship's right and wrong denies the true nature of women. Call me old fashion, call me patriarchal, whatever. Women are magic.

Of course you guys get what I'm getting at. This is a meditation on God. Objectivity has been described as a God's eye view. But is the nature of God really objective, a sort of mountain top view, or is it the heart of subjectivity? Does God give you such trials because he loves you?

I think Chris Rock put it best - "When you are married, you want to kill your partner. When you are single, you want to kill yourself." Live with it, I guess - the alternative is worse.

Sunday, February 8, 2004

Hope Springs Eternal

Here’s Sir Rantalot’s guess at what the 2004 A’s will look like coming out of Spring Training this year.

Starters:
Hudson R 16-7, 2.70, .223
Mulder L 15-9, 3.13, .259
Zito L 14-12, 3.30, .219
Redman L 14-9, 3.59, .239
Harden R 5-4, 4.46, .259

Long Men:
Harville R 1-0, 5.82, .294, 21.2IP, 1sv-0bs
Hammond L 3-2, 2.86, .270, 63.0IP, 1sv-3bs

Set Up:
Bradford R 7-4, 3.04, .236, 77.0IP, 2sv-3bs
Mecir R 2-3, 5.59, .280, 37.0IP, 1sv-1bs
Rincon L 8-4, 3.25, .230, 55.1IP, 0sv-3bs

Closer:
Rhodes L 3-3, 4.17, .256, 54.0IP, 3sv-3bs

Lineup:
Kotsay L (CF) .266/7/38/.343/.726(482AB)
Ellis R (2B) .248/9/52/.313/.684(553AB)
Chavez L (3B) .282/29/101/.350/.864(588AB)
Dye R (RF) .172/4/20/.261/.514(221AB)
Durazo L (DH) .259/21/77/.374/.804(537AB)
Kielty S (LF) .244/13/57/.358/.758(427AB)
Miller R (C) .233/9/36/.310/.680(352AB)
Hatteberg L (1B) .253/12/61/.342/.725(541AB)
Crosby R (SS) .000/0/0/.143/.143(12AB)

Bench:
Karros R .286/12/40/.340/.786/(336)
German R .205/0/1/.295/.500(39AB)
Byrnes R .263/12/51/.333/.792(414AB)
McMillon L .268/6/26/.354/.812(153AB)
Melhuse S .299/5/14/.372/.957(77AB)

Comments:

Pitchers
-The rotation looks great. Hopefully the pitching plus improved outfield defense will negate the offensive additions of the Angels, M’s and Rangers. Despite the high ERA it’s heartening to see that Harden had the same BAA as Mulder, and that Zito, despite the odd W-L record had a lower BAA than anyone else on the staff.

-There are very few saves coming out of the bullpen. Of course Izzy had no experience as a closer his first year either. Still…

Line Up
-Kotsay needs to do better than last year, and better than his career averages of .281/12/63/.338/.756(582AB). Still, he’s better than T-Long on both offense and defense.

-Dye clearly needs to bounce back. His numbers have dropped every year he’s been in Oakland. If Dye can stay healthy and get back to the numbers he had in 2000-2001 the A’s will be very dangerous. Dye could be the X factor for the A’s this year.

-Miller is a question mark for me. Since the playoffs I’ve become a big Adam Melhuse fan. Despite his choke in game 5 he showed ability to hit in the clutch. Who knows what he’d do over a full year, but his numbers .299/5/14/.372/.957(77AB) look good. Macha says that players write the lineup and I’m hoping Melhuse takes the job from Miller who is a big drop from Hernandez: .273/21/78/.331/.789(483AB)…

-…Which brings us to comparing the difference between Long/Hernandez and Kotsay/Miller:

L/H: .259/35/139/.312/.734(969AB)
K/M: .250/16/74/.327/.703(834AB)

Even with the difference in ABs Long/Hernandez come out with better production. The one place where this year’s duo beats last year’s is in OBP, which is the one stat the Moneyball A’s value over all others. The added defense that Kotsay brings better make up for the run differential between him and Long at the plate.

-Crosby did better at AAA: .308/22/90. He should be OK this year but his true impact will likely be felt in the years to come. It took Tejada three years before he really blossomed. There’s a ton more pressure on Crosby than there was on Tejada back in ’97. Hopefully he can handle it better than Carlos Pena did.

Bench
-Karros will likely split time with Hatteberg and Durazo at 1B and DH

-I put German in here because he’s been a prospect for so long that I really want him to get in there. He could get pushed out by the gritty and popular Frank Menechino. However, Frankie had a down year last year on offense and defense. I’d like to see the kid get shot.

-Byrnes will get some good PT and will likely be a late inning defensive replacement. He brings great energy to the team and a badly needed infusion of speed. If he could just remember to touch home plate he’d be invaluable.

En Total
The squad looks pretty good. This lineup reminds me of the one that went into 2000, one real super star some unassuming sluggers and some young guys with something to prove. The big difference between the 2000 team and this year’s squad is pitching, this year’s team has it. If Rhodes can close games this may be the best staff the A’s have had during their recent playoff run. Of course the rest of the division has gotten better too, and the East is a Beast now more than ever. In fact, it seems like the whole AL has gotten better. In February hope springs eternal and I can see the A’s playing in October once again.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

When is a Boob Just a Boob

People need to get off of Janets boob. Basically, we've all seen boobs before, we'll all see them again. You're children have likely seen them (with or without your knowledge or consent). Is the issue really a 1 second flash of boob that everyone seems upset about but many peolpe actually blinked and missed? Or is the issue improper depictions of sexuality on television?

For one, mammery glands are not, in and of themselves, sexual. Rather, they are seualized by society. Evidence of this can be found in many "native" cultures that do not blink at having their women go topless in public. This behavior is only catagoraized as "savage" or "indecent" by societies that have close ties to Old Testament based religions. The point being that a breast is not ovetly sexual, it is societaly sexual and as members of society we have responsibility to discuss these issues with our children. How much of the energy being directed towards CBS, MTV, Janet JAckson et al, could be better used to help foster within our chilren a healthy attitude towards sex and sexuality?

Finally no one is discussing what I see as the larger issue, depictions of sexual violence against women. Janet's unveiling had about as much to do with sex as sexual assault does. Sexual assault is often misconstrued as being a crime rooted in the act of sex or sexual contact. Though it does involve these things, sex crimes are infact violent acts perpetrated by people who want to control and exert power over another and choose to do it in a sexual medium. To quote Adam Carolla "Its the same thing as beating someone to death and then having an orgasam." Of course this is a largely debateable point. My main issue is that the real subversive effect Timberlake's act had on society is the reinforcement of the idea that it is acceptable to treat women in a violent and domineering manner, particularly in regard to sex and sex roles. The picture of a shocked Jackson trying to cover hersealf and a vicious Timberlake looking like a viagra crazed maniac says it all. The imagery of a man syaing "I'm going to get you naked" and then forcing the act himself is a powerful and damaging message to send not only children but adolecents and adults as well.

All of our collective societal energy is being directed at the issue of whether or not a 1 second boob is a sign of the downfall of America, God and the free world. Meanwhile, the structures and attitudes that are truly damaging our society go unexamined. Until we focus our attention on educating our children in our daily lives, until we can reveal the real demons of violence and patriarchy things will not change. The societal structures that allowed Sunday's events to occur were not based on fialing sexual morality, but on the true enemy of "family values," the underlying American belief that agression by men towards women is still covertly acceptable.
5:24 pm est

Monday, February 2, 2004

Greatest Ever? No Way.

OK, I’ve been hearing too much over the past 12 hours about how Super Bowl XXXVIII was the greatest ever played and how the Pats are the greatest team ever. Hold on here folks. Yes, the Super Bowl was exciting. Yes, the Pats are good. Yes Bill Belichick is the best coach in the league right now surpassing The Tuna, Gruden, and even Dennis Erickson. But lets gain some perspective here, the Pats of this season have a long way to go before getting into that “Best Ever” discussion and the game itself, while entertaining pales in comparison to some others.

First the team issue. Start by looking how the Pats compare to some of the other great single season teams in NFL history. The 1972 Dolphins still have to be considered the best team of all time. Sorry, but going undefeated gets you that cred. Next there were two 49er teams that were better one season teams than this year’s Pats. The first was the 1984 team that only lost one game, and that one was on a bogus pass interference call at the end of the game. Bill Walsh says the 1984 team was the best one he ever coached. The ’84 Niners went on to crush Miami in the Super Bowl.

The second 49er team that aces the current Pats is the 1994 team. The ’94 squad split their first four games, losing to the Montana led Chiefs and the famous 40-8 pasting by the Eagles. After that SF played only a few close games blowing out most teams they faced (42-3 at ATL, 41-16 vs. TB, 35-14 at NO, 50-14 vs. ATL, 38-15 at SD, 42-19 vs. DEN). The Niners lost the regular season finale 21-14 at Minnesota in a game where the leading passer for SF was Elvis Grbac and the leading rusher was the man all true Niner fans still despise, one Adam Walker. The point is the Niners rested their starters that day because, unlike this year’s Pats, SF had already clinched home field throughout the playoffs. The 1994 Niners went on to crush Chicago in their first playoff game 44-15, beat the two-time defending champion Cowboys in the NFC Championship game, and demolish the Chargers 49-20 in Super Bowl XXIX.

As far as looking at teams over a longer period I don’t think the current Pats can yet be compared to the Steelers teams of the 1970’s, the 49ers of the 1980’s, or the Cowboys teams of the 1990’s. The closest team to compare them to would be the 97-98 Broncos, and I would give those teams an edge given that they won their titles back to back. Also, the teams mentioned above were perennial playoff teams. The Pats missed the tournament last year.

So, while winning fifteen in a row is impressive it isn’t enough to get the Pats the moniker of best ever; now on to the game itself. It was thriller, no doubt about it. But the first 27 minutes were a bore. The only saving grace in that opening was that it allowed time for people to show up at the party and get to know the people they hadn’t met. From a football standpoint it was awful. After three minutes of excitement we were treated to a scoreless third quarter whose only redeeming value is that it allowed me to win the scoring pool for a second consecutive quarter. The fourth quarter had everything you want in a Super Bowl, lead changes, turnovers, big plays, scoring, suspense, dubious coaching choices, and a game winning kick. But there have been better games.

For one, the 2001 Super Bowl where these same Pats beat the Rams in a game that had all the same drama and a higher level of overall play. Also, the 2001 game had the added fun of seeing the plucky underdog backup QB and his band of B level free-agent castoffs defeat the big bad “Greatest Show on Turf.” Of course we all have our favorite Super Bowl moments, but bar none, the greatest game ever played on the last Sunday of the season was the 1988 game between the Niners and the Bengals. The game included goal line stands, and of course the 92 yard game winning “John Candy” drive which culminated in a TD pass to John Taylor.

Notes:

-It seems to be vogue to compare Tom Brady to Joe Montana. Sure, there are some similarities; and Brady is now a two time Super Bowl MVP, but lets settle down for a few years on this one. I for one am still feeling burned after anointing Terrell Davis the best ever after the 1997 campaign. Brady is good, maybe even great, but remember when everyone wanted to send Kurt Warner to Canton in 1999. Where is he now? Where will he be next year? How much does he have left?

-Why was Dr. Who singing about astronauts before kickoff?

-Was it just me, or is Janet Jackson’s nipple pierced? Vibe eat your heart out.