The Occasional Tendown - YearEndDown 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dear Internet:

Tom Grunnick: What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams? 
Aaron Altman: Keep it to yourself. 

2012 was the best year of my life.

A year ago I had been dropped down to adjunct status ("rightsided" in the words of my Dean, losing my full time position after 8 years; he also didn't survive the year with his job as it turns out) and was spending a couple of grand in travel expense flying across the country looking for a full time job.  I had to pick up adjunct courses at additional schools to pay my bills and was losing my health insurance, which meant losing the health insurance for the other person in my house. The amount of pressure I felt in every waking moment was unbearable.

A year later - I not only have a new job, it's one where I can entirely work from home and at a healthy bump above my previous salary.  That's allowed me to move to a less expensive (but larger) home and given me a solid quality of life upgrade.

I got married on my 42nd birthday; I wish I could say that I intentionally waited, chose not to settle, until finding the exact right person but that's misleading; I stumbled blindly into finding the exact right person.  Every day is better than the one before.

And my baseball team won the World Series.  It took over half a century to get the first, and now we have two in three years.

A new job.  A wedding.  A World Series - that's 2012.

I know it's a snapshot; I don't recall when I learned how it was that Hemingway died, but I recall very distinctly taking away the understanding that all success was ephemeral, that if someone who achieved Hemingway's level of, not even accomplishment, but mastery, could still commit suicide, it meant that all good was impermanent.  All roads eventually lead to the same awful destination.

I make no prediction for 2013.

But 2012 was terrific.

(Yeah, we even won 400 bucks on a two dollar lottery ticket.  How about them apples?)

146 is here. This is Tendown 147. 

1. The Best Baseball Player Who Ever Lived

It will take time, but the wheel is going to turn in Barry Bonds's favor.  Sports On Earth did a piece calling him the best baseball player ever:

 If you trust Wins Above Replacement to provide a ballpark approximation of a player’s career value, and I do, then the top five players since integration are Barry Bonds (158.1), Willie Mays (150.8), Hank Aaron (137.3), Alex Rodriguez (111.4), and Rickey Henderson (106.8). I think these are the right names in the right order; the only other guys over 100 WAR in that time frame are Mickey Mantle, Mike Schmidt, and Frank Robinson, and I’m comfortable saying Rickey and Rodriguez are where they should be in relation to those guys. (Side note on Ted Williams: even though our endpoints have lopped off a significant amount of his value, he’s still 24th on the list post-integration. If we make a special exception and give him credit for those years, his career 119.8 WAR puts him between Aaron and Rodriguez. Not sure I disagree with that, either.)
Mays and Aaron are from early in the post-integration era, well before expansion began in the ‘60s, but both men had Hall of Fame careers that took them into the ‘70s, so we can keep them around. Henderson’s a modern-era player through and through, and Rodriguez is still active, but I don’t think they pose any credible challenge to the three guys above them. And as much as Hank Aaron’s shadow fell over Bonds in the later years of his career, Mays is really his only serious competition. On full consideration, the list has the guy at the very top correct.

2.The Sports City of the Year

It's the Bay Area.:

The Giants won the World Series and the 49ers came within a few plays of the Super Bowl; the A's continued to be scrappy and unkillable, and the Warriors are beginning to feel relevant again. The Sharks remain a force (albeit a perennially underperforming one) in that bygone thing called professional hockey. The Raiders continue to not fall into a pit of lava.

3.The Best Movie of the Year

I'm always a year behind with movies, and completely US-centric in my film watching, so I don't seriously warrant any of my film thoughts.  But the best movie from 2012 I've seen so far is Moonrise Kingdom.

Here's AO Scott's Top 25 films of the year and here's Greenwald's look at Zero Dark Thirty

The film absolutely and unambiguously shows torture as extremely valuable in finding bin Laden - exactly as they said it did - and it does so in multiple ways... In US political culture, there is no event in the last decade that has inspired as much collective pride and pervasive consensus as the killing of Osama bin Laden.
This event has obtained sacred status in American political lore. Nobody can speak ill of it, or even question it, without immediately prompting an avalanche of anger and resentment. The news of his death triggered an outburst of patriotic street chanting and nationalistic glee that continued unabated two years later into the Democratic National Convention. As Wired's Pentagon reporter Spencer Ackerman put it in his defense of the film, the killing of bin Laden makes him (and most others) "very, very proud to be American." Very, very proud.
For that reason, to depict X as valuable in enabling the killing of bin Laden is - by definition - to glorify X. That formula will lead huge numbers of American viewers to regard X as justified and important. In this film: X = torture. That's why it glorifies torture: because it powerfully depicts it as a vital step - the first, indispensable step - in what enabled the US to hunt down and pump bullets into America's most hated public enemy.
The fact that nice liberals who already opposed torture (like Spencer Ackerman) felt squeamish and uncomfortable watching the torture scenes is irrelevant. That does not negate this point at all. People who support torture don't support it because they don't realize it's brutal. They know it's brutal - that's precisely why they think it works - and they believe it's justifiable because of its brutality: because it is helpful in extracting important information, catching terrorists, and keeping them safe. This film repeatedly reinforces that belief by depicting torture exactly as its supporters like to see it: as an ugly though necessary tactic used by brave and patriotic CIA agents in stopping hateful, violent terrorists.

4. Constitutional Amendments, Ranked.
Courtesy of Deadspin, a ranking of all of the Amendments to the US Constitution.

Spoiler alert - the second is (correctly) ranked last.

From a law professor at the University of Chicago:

In many respects, the US Constitution has served as a model for constitutions around the world. Of the 188 nations that have written constitutions, the vast majority have adopted fundamental guarantees that were first fully articulated in the US Constitution.
Indeed, 97 per cent of all the world’s constitutions now protect the freedom of religion; 97 per cent protect the freedom of speech and press; 97 per cent the right to equality; 95 per cent protect the freedom against unreasonable searches; 94 per cent the right of assembly; 94 per cent prohibit arbitrary arrest or detention; 84 per cent forbid cruel and unusual punishment; 84 per cent protect the right to vote; 80 per cent prohibit ex post facto laws; 72 per cent protect the right to present a defence and 70 per cent the right to counsel. These freedoms, first constitutionalised in the US, are now widely recognised as fundamental to a free, humane and civilised society.
Yet, only 1 per cent of all the other nations of the world recognise a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The idea that individuals have a fundamental right to purchase and possess firearms has been resoundingly rejected by 185 of the world’s 188 nations. There are few, if any, questions about which the world’s nations are in such universal agreement.

5. Two Images
Those thoughts, that, like our not having universal health care or maintaining a policy of executing our own citizens, place us in the smallest possible corner among advanced nations will probably not be of interest to the people at whom the following two images were targeted.

That's the ad copy selling the Newtown gun.  There's all sorts of post-shooting chatter about responsible gun owners and self defense and the intent of the framers of the Constitution.   Are those the buttons being pressed by the good people at Bushmaster with this ad?  Or does this just prey on the same "you need to take your country back" insecurities that Fox News mines?  In a country where we still permit cigarette sales but have regulated and stigmatized marketing them to children, in a country where we still permit the sale of alcohol but have regulated and stigmatized driving while intoxicated - should there not be at least as bright a light on ad campaigns like this as there was on Joe Camel? 

And that's a t-shirt that, as of a week ago, had almost a million shares on Facebook.

All religious belief sounds like nonsense to me, so I always want to qualify criticism of anyone's particular conception of a god, but why would one want to believe in a god who is such a jerkoff?  There's not any type of national catastrophe, from 9-11 to a hurricane to this, when the theocrats don't come out in full force and blame it on gay marriage or Engel v. Vitale.  What is the message of this shirt or of this commentary?  God decided it was okay to let some six year olds get slaughtered to register his opposition to a 60 year old Supreme Court ruling.  That's God for you. Bit of a dick.  Hope God hasn't seen this picture yet:

All you toddlers better watch your ass come Christmas morning.  God's getting his man card back.

6. The Huskier Children

Here are some pieces on the Newtown massacre to consider.

The last mass homicide in Australia was in 1996 - wonder why?
Do armed civilians ever stop mass shootings?  Nope.
Do more guns mean more gun deaths?  Yes.
Are mass shootings increasing in number?  Yes.

And the weirdest of the right wing talking points this week (even weirder than the NRA blaming the shooting on American Psycho Friday; a reference so musty I expected the next sentence to be "don't forget how Feminazi Hillary emboldens killers by having Vince Foster bumped off") is the idea that we should be training kids to run at the shooters.  Here's Newsweek:

I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.  Would it work?  Would people do it?  I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.  

And, even better, the National Review:
...a feminized setting is a setting in which helpless passivity is the norm. Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak — but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel. Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on Lanza.

Got that fat kids?  The killer took just ten minutes to fire some 200 rounds (I can't tint my windows but I can buy guns that fire twenty rounds a minute) but if you can just put the Pringles down for a second and run right at him that would be a big help, mmkay?

7.More Greenwald
The piece I'd encourage you to read is Greenwald's take on the shooting.

8.  On a Lighter Note

This was the description for last Saturday's live SNL.  And you thought Eddie would be tough to bring back.

9. The Piece to Read This Week
Is actually two - from the NYT on a high school rape case in Ohio.
And as a companion, from Gawker, about the blogger referenced as "complicating" matters by the Times

10. Fox News Hates Jesus

I mean, it must - otherwise....

That's all for this time.  I'll be back next time.  If there is a next time...

Your pal,


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