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Who Hates Whom
Who Hates Whom:

Well-Armed Fanatics,
Intractable Conflicts,

and Various Things Blowing Up
A Woefully Incomplete Guide™

“Revelatory... Harris's sly wit and infectious curiosity make understanding world chaos fascinating... witty, horrific, and necessary.”

-- Boston Globe


"Brave... irreverent... charges into the thick of the globe's myriad simmering wars... hilariously relaxed."

-- New York Observer


“Fascinating, enlightening, and surprisingly: NOT TOTALLY DEPRESSING.”

-- John Hodgman,
author, The Areas of My Expertise and correspondent for The Daily Show

 


"A rollicking ride of intellectual discovery and emotional growth... his comic timing never fails"
-- The Wall Street Journal

"A surprisingly touching memoir"
-- Entertainment Weekly

"Effortlessly funny and informative... tender, human, and very wise... A must for anyone who loves Jeopardy!, or has ever seen it, or is breathing."
-- Joss Whedon, creator, Buffy the Vampire Slayer


You Tube Clips


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Who Hates Whom




Prisoner of Trebekistan


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Mike Irwin update PDF Print E-mail
Stuff I like
Friday, 09 May 2008 11:44
Sample ImageA quick update on my buddy Mike:

If all those Comedy Caravan gigs couldn't kill him, bone cancer doesn't stand a chance.

Home from the hospital. Still a long climb, but he's on the path.

Chip in a few for the family if you get a chance.

Thanks.
 
Friday pudublogging: Special Guanacoblogging Edition PDF Print E-mail
Pudu
Friday, 09 May 2008 11:39
"You know the Guanaco?" Fernando asked on the phone.  "It is like a South American camel.  You will love the Guanaco."

Sure enough, another awesome Andean animal.  Good natured, lovely, generally friendly, a bit batty.  These females all came bouncing out curiously at the sound of Fernando's truck.

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It was like being surrounded by a gaggle Red Hat Ladies, all of whom want to kiss you on the cheek at once.

You must love and support Fauna Andina, Fernando's hideaway.  I insist on it.
 
Chilean Volcanoes: Pretty Kaboom PDF Print E-mail
Travel
Wednesday, 07 May 2008 11:36
If you've read about that Chaitén volcano that just went kablooey in Chile, it's one of hundreds down there. It's an amazing part of the world.

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That's Villarica, a couple of hundred miles north of Chaitén, but it gives you some of the flavor. Of course, you have to be ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble.

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In the town of Pucón, they even have a Volcano Alert Signal on the town hall. You can tell the volcano is exploding when the little red light comes on.

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Alternatively, you can also look for the 20-mile plume of ash darkening the sky. Which makes it easier to see the little red light.

The only picture I have of Chaitén is this one, taken on the ferry to the island of Chiloe, from which the view of Andean peaks stretches literally across the entire horizon. (There's no way a jpg on the Internet can do this vista justice, but here it is, anyway.)

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I'm pretty sure Chaitén is one of the prominent white peaks closest to the camera on the left. If this picture were taken today, there would be a monster ash plume extending high above those clouds.

Very lucky that the explosion was in a relatively remote area. There are similar volcanoes near Santiago and Quito.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Still Unelectable, and Rightly So PDF Print E-mail
Voting & Debates
Tuesday, 06 May 2008 23:26
Clinton just celebrated a short-term victory -- precisely as everyone else is starting to see she can't possibly win.

Say, who does that remind us of?

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I wrote here on the very day she announced -- while she was still the presumptive frontrunner and the best-financed candidate by a wide margin, months before it was clear who might rise up and win instead -- that her campaign would probably founder largely on liberal opposition to Iraq, and rightly so. I had no idea Obama would rise so soon and so strong, but the math on Hillary's White House prospects seemed clear before this all started.  (Of course, if grade-school arithmetic were held in higher esteem, the nomination fight would have been recognized as basically over weeks ago.)

Bonus: thanks to her increasing desperation to win, Clinton's record now includes Tuzla, threatening Iran with genocide, bold lies about NAFTA, and dozens of other future campaign ads for the opposition. All while she has alienated much of the activist base of her own party in the process.

Clinton not only can't win this trip to the White House -- now she probably can't win one, ever.
 
CNN, meet Microsoft PDF Print E-mail
Media
Tuesday, 06 May 2008 15:44
Suddenly, the big touch-screen electoral map of the US goes kaplooey, for no discernible reason.

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You go to live election coverage with the technology you have.

Full disclosure: I'm an Apple shareholder. Not hard to see why, though.
 
Since Battlestar Galactica is on tonight... PDF Print E-mail
Travel
Friday, 02 May 2008 15:21
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The only snack that really seems appropriate.
 
Friday pudublogging: Horny pudu edition PDF Print E-mail
Pudu
Friday, 02 May 2008 15:18
Horniest little pudu you may ever see.  And smiling about it, too.

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Photo taken at Fernando's hideaway in Chile.

 
Third World Politics in a Nutshell PDF Print E-mail
Travel
Wednesday, 30 April 2008 18:35
I'm no expert, so I may be misreading things, but this image from Santiago seems to sum up the competition between expanding social welfare and international investment, not just in Chile, but in much of the developing world:

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That's Salvador Allende, the elected Marxist overthrown in 1973 after years of actions against his government by the CIA and several U.S. multinationals (ITT, Anaconda Copper, etc.).

Allende's memorial is right outside the presidential palace -- and right in front of Citibank.

Perhaps not quite what he had in mind.
 
Fun Chilean Billboards, part two PDF Print E-mail
Travel
Wednesday, 30 April 2008 02:51
Also on the side of the road north to Santiago: possibly the strangest billboard ad I have ever seen.

I should begin by noting that IANSA is a Spanish acronym for "National Sugar Industry," although it was privatized toward the end of the Pinochet years.

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There is nothing sweeter. 

That's probably true -- because Mom here is serving her daughter an entire bowl of pure white sugar.

While sitting on the kitchen floor, no less.  No chairs in sight.  Hey, I know what's sweeter -- buying some damn furniture, so your poor kid doesn't develop diabetes and lose all feeling in her butt in a single meal.

Can somebody please call Child Protective Services?  No one even looks surprised.  This is just how they roll.  I mean, look closely -- does that kid even have any teeth?  Mom does -- grinning like it's a  pepper filet broiled with minced scallions and stone crab claws in lemon butter, and not weapons-grade glucose in a kitty dish. 

Um, Mom?  Can you get this kid, I dunno, a piece of raw beef, just for balance?

The artist has done interesting things with the details, too.  That box has shadows and floor reflections as if it's actually in the photograph.  Which means Mom keeps a box of sugar in the house almost as large as her own child.

The weirdest thought, to me: that this image, which actually gets more psychotic the longer you look at it, actually sells sugar.  Successfully.  Not, say, an urgent national commitment to children's nutrition, mental health advocacy, dental hygiene, and, I dunno, gift certificates to IKEA.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm making breakfast, and I need to get another oil drum of syrup to go with my pallet of Bisquick.  And where did I leave my casket of jam...?
 
Fun Chilean Billboards, part one PDF Print E-mail
Travel
Tuesday, 29 April 2008 17:48
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Unbeatable Cydectin -- against the most resistant parasites.

I only pray the picture means that Cydectin is for parasites that attack cows -- not parasites the size of cows, wearing special protective headgear and gloves.

Because those would be some pretty damn resistant parasites.

Been meaning to post a ton of fun pics from South America.  Will try to trickle them up here regularly, maybe one a day or so for a while, now that I have a minute.  Regular visitors, thank you for your patience.
 
Friday pudublogging: Hiding Out Edition PDF Print E-mail
Pudu
Friday, 25 April 2008 13:25
Long time since I've pudublogged.  Pudublog backlog.  I must catalog.  Meanwhile, camouflag:

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Sometimes it's hard to see the pudu for the forest.

 
Pop-Up Double Talk PDF Print E-mail
Maverick, Schmaverick
Friday, 25 April 2008 13:20
John McCain's visit to New Orleans, in the style of VH-1's old "Pop-Up Videos":


 
Gratitude PDF Print E-mail
Stuff I like
Friday, 04 April 2008 03:56
Sample ImageUPDATE: I wrote the below before I was sure how public my friend and his family were with his sudden, bizarre case of cancer; I've previously been close to people who didn't want similar stuff to be public, since previous illness can wrongly affect their ability to get future work.

But my friend Mike Irwin is perfectly happy with everyone knowing his family could use your help.  You may recognize him from frequent TV appearances during the cable comedy boom of the early 1990s.  Whether it was Evening at the Improv, Carolines Comedy Hour, MTV's Half-Hour Comedy Hour, and so on -- Mike did them all.  Now it's later in the story, and his family could use all the help, love, and support they can get.  Fortunately, not only are comedians already starting to line up to do benefits, there's also the Mike Irwin Cancer Fund if you'd personally like to chip in with a donation right now.

Incidentally, Mike never smoked a cigarette in his life, nor is there any other obvious cause to point to.  This could happen to you or me just as easily.  Just, bang, cancer, stage four, and good luck.

But I just came back from a few days with Mike in the hospital in upstate New York, and he has some serious crap to deal with -- stage four bone cancer is even harder than some of the stand-up one-nighters we went through together back in the day -- but if there's anybody I'd be willing to put money on right now, it's Mike.

My love to him, his wife Esther, and their large menagerie of offspring.



A personal thing.

I got some hard news last week. A guy I've known for 22 years -- half my life -- somebody I started out with in comedy, a guy who was my best friend for a while and whom I remained close to for a number of years... has cancer.

Last night comes the news that it's pretty advanced.

Won't mention the name here, but he's a dear friend, just a little older than I am. Good marriage, three boys, great attitude toward life, the sort of fellow who takes responsibility for his own mistakes and faces adversity with a shrug and a smile and a can-do attitude. I've seen him plow through some serious crap in this life. And now this.

Right this minute, he's in a hospital somewhere going through seventeen kinds of emotional and physical hell trying to plow through this latest -- and if anyone on earth can, he can, I assure you (and myself) -- and his wife is either right there next to him or home trying to get a few shreds of sleep before going back to on hope patrol. I've been through that vigil with loved ones myself a few times, sometimes with good outcomes, sometimes not. What her husband, my old friend, is going through, I can only try to imagine.

And here's the thing: I'm ashamed to realize that as much as I care for and admire this guy, we've been in gradually diminishing contact, geez, ever since I moved out of New York fifteen years ago. Adulthood and jobs sneak up, we move around, relationships change, and old friends sometimes phase nearly out of our lives unintentionally before we even realize it.

Now suddenly I'm here, and he's there. Somebody hit the fast-forward button when nobody was looking.

But we were young together.

The things that stick in mind are things that mattered for no damn reason I can think of, other than the sheer daily fact of friendship. There was this barbecue on his porch on a clear spring night on the south side of Chicago, him and his first wife and a bunch of other young hopeful comedy people, back when I couldn't afford my own place yet and they let me sleep under their stairs on the second floor. It wasn't much -- hell, it was barely anything -- but thanks to them, it was home for a while. Or doing stand-up comedy together, early in our careers, in this giant barn-like building in a small farm town in western Ohio, with picnic tables for the seats and a lone spotlight that was as blinding as the sun. In New York, finding a bowling alley in Brooklyn that had ancient lacquered lanes so we could spin the ball from gutter to gutter, often whether we wanted to or not. Working on our acts in the back of a Howard Johnson's hotel in St. Petersburg Beach, wondering where the odd life we'd chosen would eventually take us.

Strangely, as much as I find myself feeling fear, worry, and all those things for my friend right now -- what I also feel, maybe more than anything is... gratitude.

I hope he knows how much I love him. Even if I've been out of touch.

I told his wife that if they need me to pack up and go live under the stairs again, I'll go.

And when he makes it through this, I am so gonna drag his butt back to that bowling alley in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, my point for you, whoever you are, and whenever you may visit:

If you're reading this, and you have a few old friends you've lost touch with, maybe you want to find a minute and say hey.

Call them. For no damn reason. Be young with them, as young as you are right now while you're thinking of them.

And be grateful.
 
A Small Part of Why I've Gone Missing Lately PDF Print E-mail
High Weirdness
Saturday, 19 April 2008 18:36
Among the many reasons this blog has slowed to a crawl of late is the intrusion of a bunch of fun projects all at once, the sort of stuff I'd never have imagined I'd even try.

Sample ImageOne of them, El Pantera, is a Mexican action/drama series whose first season has recently begun airing in the United States on Univision every Sunday night at 8.

I've been in Mexico City a lot recently, acting as sort of a creative story consultant as they enter the second season.  Not sure when the second season episodes will air in the U.S., but for those of you who hablan the español, you might still enjoy a peek in the meantime.

I had nothing to do with the current episodes, mind you; what you'll see for the moment is simply the deep end of the pool I dove into.  Y no podía hablar español mucho mejor que usted, lo prometo.  So this was fascinating and challenging and fun beyond words.  In either language.

Obviously, it's a completely different kind of storytelling than anything I've ever tried.  El Pantera is a major departure in many ways from the telenovela format which has dominated Mexican airwaves ever since they first got airwaves, but it's still steeped in various cultural traditions and expectations that I'm only now starting to appreciate.  I was brought in to help the producers push the show further toward North American norms, but I'd give you pesos to panes dulces that they did most of the teaching.

I'll probably mention this again as a heads-up when the second season starts airing here, whether that's in a couple of months or sometime next year.

I'll miss it, to be honest.  The folks there were as fun to work with as anybody in my whole career.

 
How tough is it to be a Cleveland Indians fan? PDF Print E-mail
Sport
Tuesday, 01 April 2008 18:05
Here's the local newspaper's idea of a fun flash-animated baseball game:

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No, this isn't an April Fool's joke.

Use the arrow keys on your keyboard or the buttons on the game to move the tarp out as low clouds bring snow, and back in again as the snow goes away.

Don't let the field get too wet or the ump will call the game. But don't leave the tarp out too long or there won't be enough time to finish!

This is really what April is like for Cleveland baseball fans.

I wish they'd win the World Series one of these years.  The fans deserve it.  They really do.
 
Sprint -- away, as fast as I can PDF Print E-mail
General Incompetence
Tuesday, 01 April 2008 14:13
I was a loyal Sprint customer starting in 1986, when "U.S. Sprint" had the cheapest rates I could find. I traveled constantly even then, so long distance was a necessity, and saving a few cents per minute could really add up.

For more than 15 years, I accumulated points in the Sprint Rewards program, eventually racking up enough for several round-trip flights to Europe. I never took those, however, because in July 2002, Sprint suddenly changed the rules, politely telling screwing hundreds of thousands of customers to go screw themselves. The company is now subject to a class action complaint.

Obviously, I stopped being a Sprint customer, but I would have left anyway. T-Mobile had a much better deal for international travellers at the time, although now Skype is the way to go.

Nonetheless, two years ago, in January 2006, I got an unsolicited email from Sprint, totally out of the blue, asking me to be a part of the Sprint Ambassador program. Google around, and you'll find that this was a klutzy attempt at guerrilla marketing, where Sprint shoved free phones at hundreds of bloggers, almost randomly, promising to engage our feedback while really just hoping we'd all be so blown away by a free phone -- yippee! -- that we'd froth pure joy to a cumulative hundreds of thousands of readers.

Thing is, the phone was OK, nothing more. Sprint hardly has a reputation for genius innovation. I put the phone on a shelf, figuring I'd give it to somebody who needed it someday. Meanwhile, the program didn't quite get the desired results, and they shut it down about ten weeks ago with one last email farewell, including a phone number for anyone with Ambassador-related questions.

Still, I have a friend who still has Sprint service (I don't let this come between us, though) and needs a new phone, so I figure maybe I can give her my old unused Sprint Ambassador handset.

So I contact Sprint today, hoping to get a few simple obvious questions answered. Or I try to. The Sprint Ambassador web presence? Gone; it now auto-forwards weirdly to some tech forum. The Sprint Ambassador customer service number, sent out just last January? Already dead.

OK, try Sprint's regular customer service... and not only had the guy not ever heard of the program, he all but accused me, basically, of making it up. And no, he wouldn't let me speak to a supervisor, not at first. When the supervisor finally came on the line, she hadn't heard of the program, either, questioning the program's existence even after I begged her to use that obscure research tool called Google.

Her actual suggestion: I should print out the emails from Sprint and take them to a Sprint retail store, and hope I could convince somebody there that the program actually existed.

Let's review: Sprint shuts down the contact mechanism for one of its programs so thoroughly that now I'm supposed to bring Sprint its own emails in order to prove to Sprint its own programs existed?

Wow. I don't want to call the Better Business Bureau. I want to call Franz Kafka.

This hereby completes my lifetime interactions with Sprint. I hope.
 
Del Close: The Funniest One in the Room PDF Print E-mail
High Weirdness
Sunday, 30 March 2008 19:32
When I was 22, I tossed my engineering degree away, moved to Chicago, slept in the YMCA (and worse), and took telemarketing jobs in order to study acting and improv comedy.

By far the most interesting, inventive, terrifying, brilliant, disturbing, and ultimately effective teacher I ever had was Del Close.

Sample ImageDel, who died in 1999, is a legend in comedy. Look into cutting-edge comedy almost anywhere in America in the second half of the 20th century -- from the Compass Players to Second City to the Committee to Saturday Night Live to the Upright Citizens Brigade -- Del was there.

Ever laugh at John Belushi, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Tina Fey, or Stephen Colbert? Del influenced them all.

But for a period in the late 1980s, when his personal struggles had briefly brought him to ground (again), Del was teaching night classes in the back of a poorly lit bar called CrossCurrents just off Belmont Avenue, practically under the thundering elevated train tracks. All you had to be to study with Del at that time was financially solvent, somewhat punctual, and coherent enough onstage to pass a preliminary class taught by his partner, Charna Halpern.

Suddenly a fidgety doofus like me, fresh from Dilbertland and with no legitimate training, could receive personal instruction from a guy who'd directed some of Second City's greatest revues and played sold-out shows with Nichols and May. I mean, holy crap.

So for about two years starting in 1985, my crappy disposable day jobs were just enough to pay for the YMCA, nightly chow at a horrid greasy dump called the Fleets Inn -- super taco (chili slopped into a pita bread), just $1 -- and my one big main expense, Del's classes.

Del was no hero to me, mind you -- aw, hell, no. He may have had a longer list of personal shortcomings than any ten ordinary people, and his teaching skill seemed to vary nightly with his chemical makeup. There were times I despised the man. But he also had the inspiration, adventurousness, and joy in high weirdness of any ten people, too, and when Del was tuned in, you'd suddenly find yourself doing better work than you ever dared imagine. He was like a brilliant and deranged uncle you knew could tell truths about things that nobody else would even discuss.

Eventually, in one of my first creative baby steps, I tried a one-man show at the old Roxy on Fullerton. Looking back, it was too long, not fully thought out, and mounted on a budget that would barely buy lunch. I'd been studying with Del for about a year at that point, and one night, to my surprise, joy, and horror, Del showed up unexpectedly. It was the first and last time I ever felt genuine peril onstage. Fortunately, he laughed heartily -- that big, bellowing, voice-of-doom-in-a-funhouse laugh -- in the exact places where I was secretly praying he might. And somewhere around that time I started to think maybe I might just have a career doing fun stuff after all. Two decades later, the memory is fresh, and I am still grateful.

It was at CrossCurrents that I met my old friend Kim "Howard" Johnson, the same guy I helped out on Millionaire. Howard just wrote the definitive biography of Del -- the Funniest One in the Room: the Lives and Legends of Del Close. Here's today's Chicago Sun-Times piece on the book.

If anybody reading this enjoyed Prisoner of Trebekistan, I never would have considered something as absurd as studying for Jeopardy! if Del hadn't taught that we're all capable of more than we imagine.

If you have laughed at anything in the last 50 years, and you'd like to know more about one of the truly tortured asshole genius humanitarian comic minds ever, I heartily recommend the read.

PS -- Del always considered improv as more than just an exercise -- done properly, it was an art form that could be extended into full 90-minute shows that audiences would willingly pay to see. Sound unlikely? Lots of his contemporaries, including bigshots at Second City, thought so.

But next time you're in New York, Chicago, or L.A., Baby Wants Candy does a full-length musical, accompanied by a live band, spontaneously and wonderfully, every single week -- all based on some random blurt from the crowd. Go. See. Laugh.
 
Baseball 2008 PDF Print E-mail
Sport
Sunday, 30 March 2008 17:18
As baseball season descends upon us, time for my annual pointless predictions and carping, 2008 edition.

Short version: good team, just like last year. But it’s a big ask for the team to win the division, much less the rest.

C. C. Sabathia, last year’s Cy Young pitcher, is hardly a lock to put up the same numbers this year. Few players are ever consistently that excellent, and while C.C.’s numbers have been improving for a long time, his workload has also been enormous, and that can catch up to a young pitcher (27 this year) in a hurry sometimes. Both he and Fausto Carmona lost their stuff badly at the end of last season, for obvious reasons – their 456 innings pitched was the highest total between 1-2 starting pitchers in the majors.

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Which leads us to Carmona, the best surprise of last year. Again, hardly a lock to repeat after a year whose workload came close to endangering his arm. Meanwhile, aging veteran and #3 starter Paul Byrd has struggled badly this spring, although #4 starter Jake Westbrook has recovered his lights-out form of a few years ago. All of the #5 starter options have sucked all spring. On balance, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the starting staff is probably a notch below last year’s level.

In the bullpen, there’s no way a guy with an ERA over 5.00 belongs as the closer on an alleged World Series team. Joe Borowski is mentally tough and in terrific physical shape, but statistics don’t lie. Unless that ERA comes down sharply, look for lots more blown saves this year, and for Rafael Betancourt or one of the Indians’ other relievers to take over the closer role. Meantime, look for a few extra blown saves.

At the plate, expect continued excellence from Victor Martinez at catcher and Grady Sizemore in centerfield – Sizemore is a good dark horse MVP candidate, in fact – while rightfielder Franklin Gutierrez is growing into an above-average hitter. Elsewhere, however, there are clouds on the horizon.

First baseman Ryan Garko is solid, but at second base, there’s nothing in Asdrubal Cabrera’s minor league stats to indicate he’s more than an average major league hitter, and Josh Barfield barely belongs on a major league bench. At shortstop, Jhonny Peralta still has some upside to his above-average numbers, but Casey Blake continues to have no upside whatsoever at third. He’ll steal five bases, hit 18 home runs, and bat .270, but he’ll also hit his career .219 with runners in scoring position (and just .195 with two outs -- making him one of the great statistically consistent choke artists in baseball history). Since he’s still a starter, Blake must have naked blackmail pictures of Chief Wahoo.

At DH, Travis Hafner is coming off a year-long slump, and he’s still waving at spring training pitches, ringing up more strikeouts than hits. Against lefties, he’s pulling off breaking pitches and missing them by two feet. Something’s wrong, and I have no idea what. He’ll probably still bang 25 homers and 100 RBIs, but he’s not the monster he seemed just two years ago.

Left field remains a dead zone. The Indians wisely let go of the declining Kenny Lofton go at the end of the year, but that doesn’t mean they see the obvious solution in their own system.

(btw, some Indians fans seemed bewildered at my insistence that Lofton was on the steep decline, despite clear statistical evidence. Note, however, that as the new season opens, Lofton is already out of baseball entirely after declining a minor-league deal with the Reds and a bargain-bin offer from the Tampa Bay Rays.)

The Indians’ current plan is to replace Lofton with a platoon of two struggling veterans instead of one. Genius. David Dellucci, a 34-year-old .261 hitter with 90 career home runs and 38 career stolen bases, will alternate with Jason Michaels, a 32-year-old career .280 hitter for the Indians over the last two years while racking up the awesome totals of 37 home runs and 18 stolen bases over his entire career.

To make room for Dellucci and Michaels, the Indians sent 26-year-old Ben Francisco to the minors. Never mind that Francisco won the International League batting crown last year, stealing 22 bases on the side, and never mind a spring where he hit .362 with a .617 slugging percentage and a .401 on base average, giving him an all-star-caliber OPS number of 1.021. Never mind that batting skills peak at age 27, so this year Francisco would almost certainly go at least 20-20 and be a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year.

Apparently that's not enough. Francisco still has something left to prove.

As Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro, as he does every goddam year, prefers to clog up several roster spots with no-upside veterans, leaving the brightest prospect in the organization trapped in the minors.

If only Ben Francisco were only eight years older and had a batting average fifty points lower! He’d be a total lock to start in left field.

All told, the 2008 Indians will be above-average collectively -- 93 wins-ish, I'd guess -- but no more. Just like last year. Although this time they'll probably finish second to the Tigers, and possibly miss the wild card this year (to either the Yankees or the Red Sox) by a narrow margin.

Meanwhile, the AL Central is a stronger than last year. The Tigers are loaded this year and should be favorites to win the division, the White Sox and Twins are mildly decent, and the Royals have the potential to surprise people for the first time in many years. The Indians, on the other hand, have added… nothing.

That’s my guess, anyway. Check back in October. Most of what’s here will have been spectacularly wrong, as anybody’s spring predictions tend to be. I only hope the degree of wrongness should be entertaining.

World Series guess: Cubs over Mets in the NL, Tigers over Angels in the AL, Tigers over Cubs in the WS.

(I know that sounds insane right now. Just a guess. But last year, probably by luck, I got the World Series outcome correct before the playoffs began, so this year I'm trying a little earlier.)

UPDATE: In today's opener, the Indians win 10-8, illustrating the above paragraphs fully with only one real surprise.

Sabathia was indeed human, giving up five runs in 5.1 innings. Not exactly Cy Young stuff. The Indians' offense, however, managed seven runs before he left, the biggest blow being a three-run homer by Franklin Gutierrez, the team’s second-best young hitter, who nonetheless batted eighth.

Jason Michaels, one of the Indians’ obligatory crappy veterans, for whom the team's best prospect remains toiling in the minors, batted second and got the same number of hits that you did.

Travis Hafner knocked a homer, but also struck out twice, missing several pitches by a foot or more, pulling off breaking pitches from left-handers like he did when he was a rookie. So more of the same from Travis.

The bullpen couldn’t hold the lead, so the score was tied 7-7 in the eighth. But when the Indians got two men on base with two out, the White Sox pitched around Franklin Gutierrez – walking him on four straight breaking pitches nowhere near the strike zone – specifically to get to world-class choke artist Casey Blake. The Chicago announcers mentioned Blake’s .190 average in these situations, explaining the thinking to the audience. First pitch to Blake: fastball down the middle, showing no respect at all. Blake watched it go by for strike one. So I'm not the only one who understands that Blake usually sucks here.

But something unusual happened next: with two strikes, the White Sox challenged Blake once again, with another fastball straight down the middle – but Blake actually hit this one, driving in the go-ahead runs.

Wow. So you never know.

But back to reality: the White Sox then walked hotshot Grady Sizemore to get to hitless Jason Michaels, who proceeded to strike out, ending the rally. And here’s the thing: he was still batting when I wrote that last sentence. The count was 2-0, in fact. (I swear.) Michaels then swung and missed at three straight pitches, my hand to your god, and I left that sentence intact.

Top of the ninth, World’s Most Overrated Closer™ Joe Borowski comes in with a three-run lead, gives up a solo home run, then with two out, walks a guy to bring a power hitter and the tying run to the plate. Borowski then falls behind 2-0, tempting fate as always. But this time the Indians escaped with a win.

Barely. Again.

UPDATE part duh: Next day, the Indians team website even features this article on how much Blake sucks in the clutch.  You don't see that every day.
 
Hillary in Tuzla, unpacked PDF Print E-mail
General Incompetence
Thursday, 27 March 2008 20:45



Clinton has a great deal of trouble distinguishing young girls greeting you as a hero from relentless sniper fire.

Of course, that's the same problem Cheney, Bush, and the Iraq war planners have had for years now.

Then again, maybe this footage proves she really was courageous under fire:



Hmm. No?

Maybe the proof she's telling the truth must be buried in all those tax records she has yet to release.
 
Less is more PDF Print E-mail
Site updates
Monday, 17 March 2008 14:01
For anyone wondering why this blog has bogged a bit:

• I'm crazy busy these days with multiple projects that (a) I enjoy, and (b) require large volumes of time and creative energy. This is fun, but it does push blogging way down on my priority list, while keeping my head out of the distraction-of-the-day timesuck on which blogs tend to thrive.  I could conceivably write about the work, but between respect for privacy and enforceable non-disclosure clauses, it's mostly stuff I shouldn't write about here anyway.

• There's also rapidly diminishing necessity. In the distant past of five years ago, there weren't 700 (if not 70,000) other blogs already posting most of the political stuff I'd post anyway. Now there are, often written by knowledgeable people who can devote ten times the hours that I can. There are also a lot more aggregators like Reddit, Digg, etc. to make accessing new and interesting stuff easy. There are even meta-aggregators like Popurls.com to simplify scanning these in one stop.

The Jim Cramer post just under this one is a good example. Worth a look, kinda sad and amusing, maybe has a point, but I'm guessing you'd probably see it a dozen other places in your normal surfing routine anyway.

• I do, however, occasionally have real original stuff to share, and that's what I should probably move this space toward -- first-hand experiences from what is admittedly a mildly odd life. The vagaries of Colombian airport security, tips on how and why to throw baby Icelandic puffins overhand into the ocean, and photos of confrontations with giant manta rays all still seem worth a minute here and there. So those are what I'll concentrate on.

Less is more. And with my schedule these days, it's also the most.

Thanks always for stopping by.
 
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