Thursday, October 30, 2014

"We Made A Pie"


“Do you want to make a pie?

We have a number of fruit trees in our backyard.  Most of them are of the citrus variety, appropriate to the terrain.  But we also have an apple tree. 

A lot of our fruit gets picked over by birds before we get to it.  We have a large fig tree beside our driveway, but almost all the figs get eaten up by the flyover avian traffic, who later, figs being digestion enhancers, drop numerous unwanted deposits on our outdoor furniture.

The ten or so apples that our recently planted apple tree produced, some normal sized, some smaller, had so far been left untouched by the non-human inhabitants which whom we share the neighborhood though not always compatibly.  At Dr. M’s suggestion, we determined that, this time, we should beat them to the punch, extract the apples from the tree…

And make a pie.

Which I have never made or helped make, though I have observed pies being made in the past, and have most happily eaten the results.

At this point, let me inject a word about me and cooking.  Knowing I am in trouble here, whatever I say. 

In other writings, I have described myself as a member of an identifiable cohort that I have labeled, “The Men Who Lost Dinner.”  It’s a generational thing, by which I mean that in every generation throughout history – except mine – the women prepared dinner, and the men ate it.

It’s different now.

And to be honest, though that “change” is no longer recent, the consequent disorientation has not entirely worn off.  (It takes time when there’s a behavioral alteration dating back to when Eve cooked for Adam.)

You know, bigots – I like to bring in bigots to make me sound less disgusting by comparison – not meaning to be any kind of an apologist and certainly not for the “Implacables”, but some people were once bigots of one sort or another, they eventually saw the light, or had “the light” shone very powerfully in their eyes, and they changed.

But not overnight. 

Just because something is right does not mean the relocation to that position is immediate and automatic.  There’s a necessary “adjustment period” required.  And then, hopefully, you move on.

That is, more or less, me and cooking.  I am gradually (some might say too gradually) getting the picture.

So when I’m invited to join in the baking of a pie, I am skeptical, but unscoffing. 

“Let’s do it”, I reply.  (Almost entirely sincerely.)

And so we do.  Me, donning a protective apron with a Passover motif – it’s a matzo-designed print – and off we go.

Acknowledging an imbalance in our experience, I am inevitably the sous-chef, hauling out ingredients, leveling the measurements with the flat side of a knife (to insure accuracy), rinsing off utensils that will be needed again, and, my most challenging responsibility – peeling the apples.

Although we have a specific apple peeling apparatus, neither of us knows how to use it.  So I employ a carrot scraper instead.  It works acceptably well on the larger apples, but on the smaller ones…

INJURY REPORT  I slice the underside of my left, middle finger, which I immediately self-medicate with Neosporin and a Band-Aid. 

INJURY UPDATE:  I will not miss any games.  And, in fact, I returned courageously to this one.  Though reassigned to less dangerous activities.  (Turning on the oven.)

In the meantime, the chef, consulting two cookbooks, did all the fancy work.  Which included preparing the crust.  (Recently Learned Cooking Tip:  Hardened butter is recommended to hold ingredients together and avoid “crust crackage.”)

We work easily as a team – efficient, cooperative, productive and cheerful.  The entire effort (not counting the baking) takes an hour-an-a-half.  But to be honest, it felt like… I won’t lie to you.  It felt like an hour-and-a-half. 

There was something special about the collaboration.  I don’t know, it’s like there’s this natural, age-adjusted progression created for couples:

You start out – you produce children.  When you're done with that, you remodel your house.  When your house is finished, you take extended vacations.  And now…

A new pleasure of its own kind.

And in the end…

You get a pie.




*  We ate some of it.






Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Follow-up To 'Complaining'"


As I was writing yesterday’s post about how the people who run baseball have deteriorated the quality of the World Series – by making it take place almost a month too late, and by requiring a “World Series-Only” alteration of the rules – it came to my attention how many – and perhaps all – of the changes in the presentation of the game are a direct and inevitable consequence of baseball’s unilateral efforts to maximize its profits.

Immediate Disclaimer:  I am not a Communist.  Or a Socialist.  To be honest, I do not even know the difference between those two.   And I believe that a real Communist or Socialist would. 

I often use – or imagine using – this analogy:  If one person is six-foot-five and another person is six-foot-three, does that make the six-foot-three person “short”?

The answer to that semi-rhetorical question is “No.”  When somebody is more of something and somebody else is marginally less of it, that does not make the person who is marginally less of it “the opposite.”  (Cable news commentators take note.)

I am still a Capitalist.  Just not as single-minded a Capitalist as Major League Baseball. 
Aside from what they did to the World Series – putting profit ahead of personal integrity and the love of the game – let’s examine Major League Baseball’s overall record, to determine, through its actions, if Major League Baseball believes that, paraphrasing the words of iconic Packers coach Vince Lombardi,
“Money isn’t everything.  It’s the only thing.”
Years ago, Major League Baseball got rid of “Doubleheaders.”  “Doubleheaders” offered two games for the price of one.  For Major League Baseball, financially, one game for the price of one was better.  So, good-bye “Doubleheaders.” 
Major League Baseball expanded the number of teams from 16 to 30.  All new team owners are required to pay “Entry Fees” of millions of dollars, thus increasing the earlier owners’ coffers, which is primarily why expansion occurred. 
Baseball, of course, can claim that they expanded to more cities to provide access to fans who were geographically excluded from attending the games.   
They did it for the fans.
Perhaps. 
But should attendance in that location be disappointing, baseball feels no compunction about uprooting that team and relocating it somewhere else, claiming now to care deeply about those fans.
As mentioned yesterday, in 1973, to increase the offense in the game and hopefully raise interest (and attendance), the American League instituted the “Designated Hitter Rule” (wherein a “Designated Hitter” bats for the pitcher), but the National League did not.  (Maintaining the purity, integrity and natural balance of the game.) 
What happened? 
I do not know overall what happened, but in 2014, the National League’s attendance was almost three thousand fans per game higher than the American League’s. 
Designate hit that, Purity of the Game Wreckers!  As Louie De Palma used to say, “Nyeh!
(And then, as also mentioned yesterday, the disastrous consequence of that decision – the flip-flopping of the “DH Rule”, during the course of the World Series.  This is unadulterated insanity. 
What if the “Designated Hitter” is the American League contender’s most essential player?  During World Series games played in National League venues, they cannot even use him, the player who arguably propelled them to “The Big Dance”, now relegated to talented “cheerleader”, while a pitcher, who perhaps has never once batted in his professional career, is forced to embarrass himself, whiffing helplessly at 98 mile-per-hour fastballs.)
For television purposes – baseball, acceding to TV’s needs in exchange for lucrative contract money – all World Series games are played at night (further coldening, as mentioned previously, the already chilly playing conditions of late October/early November, created by, let’s see…
Increasing the number of games played per season…
Abandoning “Doubleheaders”, thus extending the season further…
And extending the season even more by adding a three tiered post-season playoff format.  
Financially induced “Night Baseball” also increases the likelihood that young baseball enthusiasts who live in the Eastern Time Zone (and possibly even the Central Time Zone) will be asleep during the entire playing of the Series.
Business is supposed to try to maximize its profits ostensibly by serving its customers.  If, however, business maximizes its profits while simultaneously dis-serving its customers, there is, I submit, something askew in the system, a counter-productive conflict of interest that inevitably serves nobody. 
Do these ultimate dis-services affect Major League Baseball?  For an answer to that question, I offer a comparison of recent modest World Series television ratings to the burgeoning ratings of Yesteryear. 
I know.  There are more channels today.  But there are the same number of “more channels” when the Super Bowl is on.  And the Super Bowl is gigantic!
You know why?  (At least partly.)
Because they do not play the Super Bowl in August.   As I was writing yesterday’s post about how the people who run baseball have deteriorated the quality of the World Series – by making it take place almost a month too late, and by requiring a “World Series-Only” alteration of the rules – it came to my attention how many – and perhaps all – of the changes in the presentation of the game are a direct and inevitable consequence of baseball’s unilateral efforts to maximize its profits.

Immediate Disclaimer:  I am not a Communist.  Or a Socialist.  To be honest, I do not even know the difference between those two.   And I believe that a real Communist or Socialist would. 

I often use – or imagine using – this analogy:  If one person is six-foot-five and another person is six-foot-three, does that make the six-foot-three person “short”?

The answer to that semi-rhetorical question is “No.”  When somebody is more of something and somebody else is marginally less of it, that does not make the person who is marginally less of it “the opposite.”  (Cable news commentators take note.)

I am still a Capitalist.  Just not as single-minded a Capitalist as Major League Baseball. 
Aside from what they did to the World Series – putting profit ahead of personal integrity and the love of the game – let’s examine Major League Baseball’s overall record, to determine, through its actions, if Major League Baseball believes that, paraphrasing the words of iconic Packers coach Vince Lombardi,
“Money isn’t everything.  It’s the only thing.”
Years ago, Major League Baseball got rid of “Doubleheaders.”  “Doubleheaders” offered two games for the price of one.  For Major League Baseball, financially, one game for the price of one was better.  So, good-bye “Doubleheaders.” 
Major League Baseball expanded the number of teams from 16 to 30.  All new team owners are required to pay “Entry Fees” of millions of dollars, thus increasing the earlier owners’ coffers, which is primarily why expansion occurred. 
Baseball, of course, can claim that they expanded to more cities to provide access to fans who were geographically excluded from attending the games.   
They did it for the fans.
Perhaps. 
But should attendance in that location be disappointing, baseball feels no compunction about uprooting that team and relocating it somewhere else, claiming now to care deeply about those fans.
As mentioned yesterday, in 1973, to increase the offense in the game and hopefully raise interest (and attendance), the American League instituted the “Designated Hitter Rule” (wherein a “Designated Hitter” bats for the pitcher), but the National League did not.  (Maintaining the purity, integrity and natural balance of the game.) 
What happened? 
I do not know overall what happened, but in 2014, the National League’s attendance was almost three thousand fans per game higher than the American League’s. 
Designate hit that, Purity of the Game Wreckers!  As Louie De Palma used to say, “Nyeh!
(And then, as also mentioned yesterday, the disastrous consequence of that decision – the flip-flopping of the “DH Rule”, during the course of the World Series.  This is unadulterated insanity. 
What if the “Designated Hitter” is the American League contender’s most essential player?  During World Series games played in National League venues, they cannot even use him, the player who arguably propelled them to “The Big Dance”, now relegated to talented “cheerleader”, while a pitcher, who perhaps has never once batted in his professional career, is forced to embarrass himself, whiffing helplessly at 98 mile-per-hour fastballs.)
For television purposes – baseball, acceding to TV’s needs in exchange for lucrative contract money – all World Series games are played at night (further coldening, as mentioned previously, the already chilly playing conditions of late October/early November, created by, let’s see…
Increasing the number of games played per season…
Abandoning “Doubleheaders”, thus extending the season further…
And extending the season even more by adding a three tiered post-season playoff format.  
Financially induced “Night Baseball” also increases the likelihood that young baseball enthusiasts who live in the Eastern Time Zone (and possibly even the Central Time Zone) will be asleep during the entire playing of the Series.
Business is supposed to try to maximize its profits ostensibly by serving its customers.  If, however, business maximizes its profits while simultaneously dis-serving its customers, there is, I submit, something askew in the system, a counter-productive conflict of interest that inevitably serves nobody. 
Do these ultimate dis-services affect Major League Baseball?  For an answer to that question, I offer a comparison of recent modest World Series television ratings to the burgeoning ratings of Yesteryear. 
I know.  There are more channels today.  But there are the same number of “more channels” when the Super Bowl is on.  And the Super Bowl is gigantic!
You know why?  (At least partly.)
Because they do not play the Super Bowl in August.   

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Complaining"


I once shared an apartment with two other guys on Manning Avenue in Toronto.  Whenever our landlord Mr. Camarada had a problem with us, he would storm angrily up to the Second Floor where we lived, gutturally proclaiming a single word:

“Complaining.”

I begin – I am certain not for the last time – with that same word, infused with the same “Camaradian” disgust:

“Complaining.”

I am thinking about the World Series.
(Note:  This post was composed considerably before the 2014 World Series, so no specific team names will be included.  If I were to name the teams that ended up in the World Series weeks before the World Series took place, that would be, in the words of iconic sitcom director Jim Burrows, wee-id.  Okay, the Orioles and the Dodgers.  I took a shot.  Or the Nationals.  A shot and a half.  Or maybe the Tigers.  Though the Angels have a good chance as well.  And you can never rule out the Cardinals.  I think I am pretty much covered.  Though watch out for the Royals, the A’s, the Giants and the Pirates.)

The World Series is an annual first-to-four-wins competition between two teams, whose winner is anointed the champion of baseball for that season.  The World Series is baseball’s Super Bowl.  The NBA Finals.  The Stanley Cup. 

With one difference.

Unlike those other engagements for sportorial predominance, the World Series is treated by the proprietors of the game in whose hands it resides…

Like garbage.

Two points.  That is all it takes to indict these nincompoops.

Point Number One:

“The World Series is played almost a month too late.”

A little background:

Once, Major League Baseball was comprised of a National League consisting of eight teams and an American League consisting of eight teams, and at the end of the season, the teams with the best record in each league would play each other in the World Series.  The World Series was played from late September to early October.  (Invariably during Yom Kippur.  We had to race outside from synagogue, to check the scores on transistor radios.) 

Today, rather than sixteen teams, Major League Baseball consists of thirty teams.  As a result of this expansion, the leagues play more regular season games, and instead of teams advancing directly to the World Series, there are now three tiers of preliminary playoffs.

The ultimate result these extra games:

The World Series is pushed back.  By close to a month.

Consequence: 

One:  Nobody cares.  (Baseball is like a slow-leaving houseguest moving furtively about the house.  It’s like “Are you still here?”)

Two:  It’s cold.  A consequence of the lateness of the date, an inclemency augmented by baseball’s insistence on playing all World Series contests at night.  (What do you expect?  It’s almost November!)

Two B  (an Addendum):  When it’s cold…

The bat stings the batters’ hands when they make contact.  And the pitchers have a greater difficulty gripping the ball.  True, it’s the same for both teams, but that should not detract from the reality that in the most important contest of the year, both teams are trying to execute under the least advantageous playing conditions imaginable.

So there’s that.  Baseball’s “Marquee Matchup” is played in not anything at all like “baseball weather.”  (Disclaimer:  If this year’s World Series winds up being the Los Angeles Dodgers versus the Los Angeles Angels, please ignore “Point Number One.”) 

But not “Point Number Two”:

Baseball’s rules are the same in both leagues, with the exception of one rule:  The “Designated Hitter Rule.”

In 1973, in order to inject more offense into the game – because pitchers are (overall) notoriously terrible hitters – the American League instituted the “Designated Hitter Rule”, allowing another player (whose sole purpose it is) to bat for the pitcher.  By contrast, in National League games, the pitcher is still required to bat for himself.

Enter:  The World Series.  How is this discrepancy going to be handled?

In the World Series, it was decided that, when they play in an American League park, the “Designated Hitter Rule” would be in force, even though the National League teams did not employ a “Designated Hitter” all season.  (Except for rare inter-league “away” games played in American League venues.)

Conversely, when the games are played in a National League park, all pitchers are required to bat for themselves.  (Even though an American League pitcher was unlikely to have batted all season, and possibly – which happened in a recent World Series – has never batted at all during his entire professional career.

And these are the most important games of the year!!!

American League Pitcher Batting For The First Time (possibly ever):  “I know I’m a professional athlete and I am expected to maintain a positive attitude about things.  But I really do not know what I’m doing up here.  And I have a not entirely unrealistic fear of being killed.” 

Summary:  Baseball’s “Showcase Presentation” is played in characteristically inappropriate weather, using – unlike in any other sport- rules that are different from the rules the teams have played under the entire season. 

And the “Powers That Be” won’t do anything to change that.

Why then complain about something that is not going to change?  (Other than “That is traditionally what I do”?)

On the Supreme Court, they have these “dissents”, in which a Justice on the losing side gets to explain for the record why they voted contrary to the majority’s decision.  A subsequent revisiting of those “dissents” – which is not uncommon – has inspired ameliorative reversals of those decisions down the line.

I am not a Supreme Court Justice.  I am not a baseball executive.  I am not a person of consequence.

I am simply this guy.  Who, when it comes to baseball’s handing of the World Series, would like to today go on the record as saying,

I wholeheartedly dissent.