Wednesday, June 06, 2007

If Only For The Sake Of Updating

Most of the other bloggers I read seem to be on some sort of hiatus of late, so I guess that's my excuse to anyone who says that I should be more on top of things. Of course, perhaps they've also taken a break from reading blogs, and so my excuse will fall on deaf ears. Either way, I'm updating now, and have managed to spend two, wait--three whole sentences talking about nothing but updating, or not updating. Sweet. It's June now, for those of you who don't own calendars, Memorial day already seems like a distant memory, which in my book means that it's officially Summer. Our softball team is still whatever the opposite of undefeated is (repeatedly defeated, if explanation is needed), but I for one am still having a great time with it. I've been playing infield all season, which might have something to do with the team's woes (not to be confused with "whoas"), but I prefer not to think of it that way. I even played shortstop for a few innings a couple of weeks ago. I tried to protest with strains of "isn't that where the best defensive player is supposed to play?" but time was short (no pun intended), and to the infield I did go. Sigh. For no reason whatsoever, I'm going to spend the rest of the post talking about some of the media I've consumed of late:

I've been on something of a Band kick for the past week or so (capital B), after putting my seldom-used copy of The Basement Tapes in my car's CD player on a whim. It's one of the few Bob Dylan-related things I've bought that I didn't really like, in fact I don't think I'd played it more than once since purchasing it some years ago, before college. I hadn't even ripped it onto my computer. Since then, I'd become something of a fan of The Band, since checking The Last Waltz out of the college library a few years back, and purchasing their first two albums shortly thereafter. I can still hear what initially turned me off of The Basement Tapes when I first heard the two-CD set: Bob Dylan barely sings on the whole album, but he does speak on quite a few tracks, and many (perhaps most) of the lyrics on the thing are less coherent even than Dylan's previous three albums, which were filled mostly with psychedelic imagery and twangy Fender country blues, with some beat-poet aesthetic thrown in for good measure. Suffice to say that while The Basement Tapes were made between two of Dylan's best (and very different) albums (Blonde On Blonde and John Wesley Harding), they really don't represent him at his best, and I bought the CDs because I was a fan of Bob Dylan. Also, while it has been claimed that some of the recordings were doctored with overdubs later (neither here nor there as far as I'm concerned), the "album" is still essentially six guys goofing off in a basement with musical instruments and home recording equipment in 1967, so the sound quality is far from (shall we say) pristine. What surprised me was how much of the album (primarily The Band's numbers, and a few Dylan gems) I really really liked this time around. There's a reason that this thing was one of the very first (and almost certainly the most famous) bootleg recordings for years before it was officially released by Columbia. Anyways, I'm not going to tell you to run out and buy the thing as quickly as you can. The Band's music isn't (or wasn't for me) all that accessible on your first listen on nearly any level. There really aren't catchy pop hooks, polished (or, for that matter, Polish) vocals, or anything of the kind to draw you in at first. I just really like it, that's all.

At the request of my friend John, who now has a blog about baseball (and, specifically, Sabermetrics), I finally got around to finishing Moneyball , the only book I've ever read about baseball (or for that matter, sport). While I'm not about to move into my mom's basement and start a blog about baseball (or even get more books about it), I have to admit that I actually enjoyed the book. This may be because the Michael Lewis (the author) is a storyteller more than a baseball guy, and so the book is rather accessible to someone who probably watches less than ten whole baseball games in a year, and that's counting an extraordinary two trips to the ballpark, and in a year when the Tigers go to the World Series (I do like baseball, but I'm no die-hard by any stretch of the imagination). Perhaps what makes the book so likable is that for a book about baseball, very little print is spent talking about the events of a baseball game. Almost none, actually. What makes the book interesting is that it's basically about the Economics of putting together a baseball team, written by someone who is not an economist, nor does he work in baseball (this is a good thing: constituents of both groups tend to alienate and/or bore those outside of them). He just likes the story, which is basically the age-old sports underdog story, but this time it's about financial and strategic savvy. Rather than the "Little Team With The Big Heart That Won Against All Odds" story, you get the "Little Team With the Small Payroll That Won Lots Of Games By Hiring Good Players That Nobody Else Thought Were Valuable For Relatively Small Amounts Of Money" story. Doesn't sound quite as catchy as a made-for-tv-movie title, but it makes a far less over-told story. Along the way it allows one to chuckle at some of the conventional wisdom clich├ęs that dominate pro sports and their commentators (one of the reasons for my limited interest in televised sport is the idiots they always get to comment on the games). One of my favorite parts of the book is how Billy Beane (General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, and the book's protagonist) has to keep reminding his scouting staff that when hiring ball players, The A's are trying to win games, rather than sell blue jeans (the book suggests that guys who look good playing baseball tend to be paid more than those who don't, because people tend to think that they play better, even when this is verifiably not the case). Anyways, the book is fun and pretty easy to read if you're into that sort of thing (or, in my case, even if you're not). My only cautionary remark is that it is still about professional sport, and therefore occasionally contains the kind of language which you would expect from such a testosterone-fueled environment.

I've gone on too long to continue, I'll write about the rest of my doings and media consumption later...

1 comment:

John Lynch said...

Glad to see you've finished Moneyball. May favorite part is probably when Joe Morgan is talking about how the A's need to play differently in the playoffs as the A's are walking and homering their way to a lead. Great analysis, Joe.

Oh, and... First!