Thursday, August 18, 2011

Congratulations to Jim Thome

One "club" has 28 members. The other has eight. Which one is more elite?
By exclusivity alone, Minnesota Twins' designated hitter Jim Thome's 600th home run was a far bigger deal than Derek Jeter's 3,000th career hit. Yet we heard about Jeter's milestone for months leading up to it, and Thome's 600 homers were only acknowledged after the fact.
For a star as humble as Jim Thome, the lack of a lead-up was fitting.
In an article I enjoyed thoroughly, Joe Posnanski argued that Thome hit his home runs in the wrong era, that they would have been more celebrated had he hit them a few decades ago. There's some truth to that. But I remember thoroughly the hype in the lead-up Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez's 600th home run, which he finally achieved on August 4, 2010. Baseball may have changed this past year, but I doubt it's changed that much.
Really, Thome's home runs weren't more hyped because he plays for Minnesota, my favorite team but not one that earns the same media recognition as a team like the Yankees.
Now, some might say that the heightened focus on Jeter's hitting is based out of human interest. He's the captain, a leader who has given New York five rings, some might argue. Personally, I think Jeter seems like a good enough guy, but if he were really a selfless team leader, he'd be the one playing third base right now.
Thome, meanwhile, is known only for power on the field and his humility off it, as Jayson Stark writes.
In wrapping up his article, Posnanski reflects on the oddity that Thome's place in the Hall of Fame is even a question, while quoting a conversation with Thome who says he'd like to be remembered as a good guy.
Fine with me.
Just as long as he's remembered.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dufner In Defeat

Golfing great Bobby Jones once said, "Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course...the space between your ears.” Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that the game gives us terrific examples athletes putting losses and setbacks in perspective.
Just yesterday, Jason Dufner blew a three-stroke lead with three straight bogeys before losing in a playoff to rookie phenom Keegan Bradley, leading golf writer Dan Jenkins to compare him to Jean Van de Veld and Ed Sneed. (Dufner's collapse is far more Sneed than Van de Veld as Dufner didn't shoot a seven on any holes.)
But while critics are busy figuring out just how awful Dufner's final three regulation holes were, the athlete himself, as well as his fiancé, Amanda Boyd, kept things in perspective, as Bob Harig notes in this article.
Boyd notes that the runner-up finish ensures more career security for Dufner.
"He's just happy to be here, really. Now he has next year. He's always worried about keeping his card and having next year locked up. He's got his schedule set for next year. He's got a lot of pressure taken off him. Maybe he'll win one of the playoff events. You never know."
Meanwhile Dufner, who, according to Harig, didn't start playing golf till age 15, reflected on his genuine love of the game and his desire to play it to the best of his ability.
Dufner isn't the first athlete this year to keep things in perspective. Then-21 year old Rory McIlroy made many fans with his interview after falling apart in the back nine of the Masters on Sunday. McIlroy emphasized focusing on the positives and learning from the experience. When McIlroy destroyed the U.S. Open later this year, the entire sports world, including his competitors, celebrated with him.
Only time will tell if Dufner will again flirt with a major title and if he'll hold on for the victory next time. But critics should keep in mind that Dufner did what was most important: ensuring financial security for his family, competing hard, and demonstrating sportsmanship. If he can remember all this in his moment of defeat, shouldn't we be able to notice as much when observing from a safe distance?

Monday, August 8, 2011

That's Sir Mick Jagger to You

I first heard the Rolling Stones when my mom received Forty Licks as a Christmas gift when I was twelve. Ever since then, I've been hooked. I basically refused to listen to anything but the Stones for the remainder of middle school, I've read most of According to the Rolling Stones, and I've seen them in concert. So you can imagine that I'm going to have an opinion about songs that either allude to the Stones or directly steal from their work. Here are some thoughts:
Moves Like Jagger
I didn't want to like this song. Who is Adam Levine to compare himself to Mick Jagger? There's a reason why the Stones released an album called Forty Licks. I figured Levine should try to at least hit 20 before he declared himself the new Jagger.
But I've completely changed my mind. Levine isn't declaring himself to be better than Jagger; he's showing that Jagger, even at 68, is still a sex symbol. I think it's more of a sign of respect than anything else. Plus, the song is catchy, perhaps the best new song I've heard this summer.
But let's me clear: no one has moves like Jagger.
Gimme Shelter Dubstep Remix.
Why mess with perfection? "Gimme Shelter" is arguably the Rolling Stones' best song, which by definition makes it on the short list of greatest songs of all time. I'm not sure why one would feel the need to tinker with something impeccable. I tend to think that artists who make remixes try to seize upon the brilliance of another to advance themselves rather than to contribute anything to the music scene, though I have been won over by a few well-crafted remixes and covers.
One of the great aspects of the Stone's music is their ability to create a scene. You can see boys charging into the streets while listening to "Street Fighting Man" and feel the pulse of New York City in "Shattered". In the opening of "Gimme Shelter", you can immediately sense the insecurity, so much that by time Jagger sings "If I don't get some shelter...I'm going to fade away", it's already understood. The remix completely loses this sense of setting by taking two lines from the song. Not to mention the fact that no understanding of the 'Gimme Shelter" vocals can be complete without listen to Merry Clayton belting "Rape, Murder, it's just a shot away!" or Jagger singing "I tell you love, sister, it's just a kiss away, it's just a kiss away."
For those just looking for a techno song, I suppose this remix is adequate. I don't like it, but other people seem to, and in the end, music is all about personal taste, right? But I, for one, will be sticking with the original.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Comic Relief

In the opening scene of Psych Season 4 Episode 10, young Shawn Spencer is sitting around watching tv when his dad comes in and berates him for sitting on his butt instead of going outside. At the time, a very effective ad comes on, and his dad asks, "What does that make you want to do?" with the flashing words "Join the Army" on the screen. Shawn answers "Go into advertising."
Advertising doesn't always send people running to buy your product, though there are notable exceptions, but a fun, catchy ad certainly stays in your memory. I've had more conversations than I can count recounting particularly funny Super Bowl and NFL Playoffs ads. What all this means, of course, is that if what you're trying to advertise is simply awareness, then a catchy advertisement could be pretty effective.
According to Dawn Walton's article in The Globe and Mail today, Alberta has been effective in advertising syphilis. Their advertising campaign essentially mocks dating ads and has led to 1,139 more people visit clinics for sexually transmitted diseases. I wonder if the ads would've had the same effect if they'd taken a more sincere tone. It's possible that America's had advertisements of a similar tone, but I certainly haven't noticed them. It seems that the US is more "PC" when it comes to these things; that was certainly my impression in high school when we watched driver safety ads from the US and from Britain.
Here's the website for anyone who's curious.

Muslim Sisterhood and Female Voting

The teaser for this CNN article, written by Shahira Amin, reads:
"The Muslim Sisterhood -- female division of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood -- has traditionally carried out charitable works. But after the revolution, it is venturing into political activism. Will it help change the organization's image?"
After reading this teaser, I couldn't help but make comparisons between the emergence of the Muslim Sisterhood and United States happenings, particularly the women's suffrage movement and modern debates between the intersection of religion and law. This article talks about how the Muslim Sister hood might be able to change the policies of the Muslim Brotherhood, the larger, well-known organization of which the Sisterhood is a part. According to the article, female members of the Sisterhood support Sharia but also advocate for reform.
One of the members, Manal Ismaeil, gave the following illuminating quotes:
"Justice, freedom and equality for all are the principles advocated by Sharia. There is no room for old penalty laws in our modern societies," she says. "Laws ruling that women who commit adultery must be stoned or that those who steal must lose their hands cannot be enforced in this day and age. Everything must evolve with time ... that is the movement's motto. Those who don't reform get left behind."
The reminds me first of the suffrage movement because many advocated for women's suffrage in the U.S. on the grounds that it would somehow clean up politics. In many ways, that is what these women seem to be promising to do. As the article indicates, it is far to early to tell what the impact of the Muslim Sisterhood will be, but regardless of whether or not the women end up changing the face of the party, it's exciting to see doors of political access opened up to them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Email Receipts

I wish I could say I was someone who kept and organized every last receipt. This morning's Globe and Mail article "Are you still stuffing those receipts in your wallet?" makes such a practice sound somewhat compulsive, but I think it's pretty admirable to keep a record of all of your purchases. I regret to say that I am not one of those compulsive hoarders, but email receipts become more widespread I may well become one.
This article by Dakshana Bascaramurty, for which I was unable to find a link, writes that companies are allowing customers to receive an email record of their purchases, which seems to me to be a brilliant idea not only because it saves a ton of paper but it means that purchase tracking no longer needs to be a hassle. With email receipts, it would be easy to sit down at the end of a day or a week and quickly calculate all of your costs for that week. Plus, as the article notes, companies would love to have customers' emails and customers might appreciate notices about sales (or they might appreciate the opportunity to press their delete button).
All in all, I thought this seemed like a pretty cool idea.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Moss Definitely

I know I'm supposed to hate Randy Moss. He seems to go against all the things we're supposed to value in athletes. He takes plays off, he smokes marijuana "every blue moon", and he supposedly quits on teams.
I don't condone any of that, but I love the guy. I'm not about to recommend him as a role model for my younger siblings or cousins, but I appreciate his honesty and his refusal to make nice for the media.
A few notes on Moss:
1. According to this Patriots Dailyarticle, Moss's "I play when I want to play" sound bite was taken completely out of context. Having discovered the context of the quote, I think I understand his meaning better. The quote came in response to how external factors might affect his motivation for a game. Reporters are always asking about whether an opponent or a teammate or a setting provides for extra motivation, but athletes are taught to ignore all that. The motivation is supposed to come from within. Moss didn't say something canned about how he always goes hard. He just went straight to the point and gave an honest answer: "I play when I want to play."
2. Moss hasn't forgotten where he came from, which is why you hear him saying "Rand University" when he introduces himself during football games. Before I knew better, I thought it was a reference to his name. In fact, it's a reference to his neighborhood in West Virginia, the place people never thought he would escape, as this Boston Globe article points out. So when he's announcing himself as a Rand University graduated, he's essentially saying that he made it where other people thought he couldn't. Except again, Moss doesn't elaborate. He just says where he's from and lets you fill in the rest. But few people ever do.
3. Most professional athletes show the public their best side while hiding bad behavior, with Tiger Woods serving as a famous example but certainly not the only one. Moss lets people see his worst side and then keeps quiet his better impulses such as his charity work. John Wooden once said: "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are." Many take the opposite tact. Moss doesn't appear to care what people think about him. Does he have admirable character? I'm not sure, and I'm not excusing Moss's shortcomings, but I think there's more to him than meets the eye.
4. Plus, I'm a Patriots fan and, by extension, a Tom Brady fan. Brady's records wouldn't have happened without Moss. That's just a fact.