The voice of an Angell

Roger Angell, longtime writer and truly the poet laureate of baseball, passed away last Friday at the age of 101.

Writing with a fan’s passion and Shakespearean splendor, he achieved literary prominence in the 1970s, when Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine clubs and the intensifying of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry helped elevate the game’s overall quality. Angell’s long-form pieces captured fans who appreciated deftly crafted, cliché-free perspectives of the game.

from this MLB.com article.

The piece referenced in the tweet above (and here) is about the Boston Red Sox winning their first World Series in nearly a century. I read it last night and, true WordNerd that I am, was blown away by Angell’s command of the English language. “La Rochefoucauld” and “fritillary”? That’s a true All-Star. His style matched the beauty of the game, and his prose could be as majestic as any towering home run.

But he didn’t just cover baseball. A fixture — an icon, though that word is overused — at The New Yorker for three quarters of a century, he wrote Talk of the Town columns, humor essays and the annual holiday poem… and was a stellar editor as well.

From The New Yorker editor David Remnick’s tribute to Roger

From this NPR article

Roger Angell cared about his craft, and he heartily endorsed the passion of true fans:

Roger Angell lived to be 101. We may not make it that far into the post-season, but we can certainly try.

“Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly; keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young.”

Roger Angell in “The Interior Stadium”

Valley Heat – the hottest podcast in the world!

I’m late to the game on this podcast (sorry, I lead a sheltered life), but Valley Heat is the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time.

It’s like A Confederacy of Dunces meets Arrested Development meets Fernwood 2 Night…. Doug’s deadpan delivery, a wacky cast of characters, fun music references, the bogus promo spots, and great theater-of-the-mind audio all combine to create a perfect storm of humor. Every element is note-perfect!

It’s a bit tough to explain because the folks responsible for the podcast have created a whole wacky world within a Burbank, California neighborhood. Tosthe protagonist, Doug, ostensibly is trying to crack the case of who is using his garbage can as a drug drop. But really that’s just a doorway to all sorts of shenanigans involving an accident-prone attorney, a house that’s also a nightclub/arcade/pizza parlor/car wash, a mean father-in-law (who also runs a muffler empire), a DEA agent who does stakeouts with his mom, legendary frisbee golf players, mean foosball players, Jan that Movie (listen to learn), and a weaselly optometrist. Speaking of which, here’s Doug talking about his teenage son, who was prescribed transition lenses:

I wound up binge-listening to all the episodes over a weekend and was cracking up the whole time. I don’t know what sort of mind can come up with a Simon & Garfunkel alternate version of the Cheers theme song, but I’m totally here for it!

The Patreon offers bonus episodes, which are equally entertaining. Here’s an excerpt about a new product that sounds perfect… other than the fire hazard:
Don’t just trust my judgment on this, trust Eliza Skinner:

Or my buddy Howard:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have some Jannie Cakes for breakfast…

The Wild, Wild West is in our backyard

Here’s a hot topic: your kid shouldn’t get shot while shopping at Hot Topic.

Your son shouldn’t become a target while shopping at Target.

A teenage party shouldn’t turn into two funerals.

A trip to the grocery store shouldn’t end in a trip to the E.R.

What do these shootings have in common? Well, they weren’t “random acts of violence” according to the police…

South Carolina: “We believe the individuals that were armed knew each other, and there was some type of conflict that occurred which resulted in gunfire,” Holbrook said in a Saturday afternoon news conference. “This was not a situation where we had some random person show up at a mall to discharge a firearm and injure people.”

https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/16/us/shooting-at-south-carolina-mall/index.html

Target store in Cincinnati: “The early stages of the investigation reveal the victim was targeted outside the store by the suspect,” a police spokesperson said. “This was not a random act of violence.”

https://www.fox19.com/2022/03/17/1-person-killed-shooting-outside-oakley-target/

Kroger store in Cincinnati: The March 25 shooting in the parking lot of the Hyde Park Kroger began as a “physical altercation” between a Kroger employee and another man inside the store, prosecutors said Wednesday. After the altercation, the man left the store. Prosecutors said the employee, 23-year-old Kevion Howze – who had a 9mm handgun – chased the man and shot at him four times in the parking lot.

https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/crime/2022/04/13/deters-fight-involving-hyde-park-kroger-employee-led-shooting/9462077002/

Pittsburgh party: “Unfortunately, guns came into play, and we had shootings that occurred inside and outside the structure,” Schubert told CNN’s Kate Bolduan Monday. “We’re trying to piece everything together.”

https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/17/us/pittsburgh-east-allegheny-shooting/

So they weren’t random… that should put everyone’s minds at ease. Oh, other than the folks — many of them innocent bystanders — who were shot, or shot at, or had to jump out of windows to avoid getting shot. Oh, and their friends and relatives too, many of whom are attending funerals.

One other similarity among these “non-random” shootings? The people pulling the triggers were all under the age of 25.

Although brain development is subject to significant individual variation, most experts suggest that the brain is fully developed by age 25…. This means that some people may have major struggles with impulsive decisions

https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/02/18/at-what-age-is-the-brain-fully-developed/

Wait, there’s one other thing these incidents — and hundreds more across the country — have in common: unfettered access to guns. There’s a huge difference between a fight among teens and a gunfight among them. When “beef” meets bullets, when testosterone combines with Glocks, when bullets are flying instead of just fists, we all lose.

I’m not naïve enough to think that every argument among teens or young adults will end with some sort of West Side Story finger-snapping dance. But I sure wish that were the case. Kids and young adults make bad decisions – that’s part of the growing up process. But when their brains are clouded and their hands are on a gun, it turns deadly.

“People should be outraged at what is currently going on. No one should fear getting shot while they are simply trying to shop at their local Kroger.”

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, in the article cited above

Yes, we should be outraged. More than half of us are… and favor common sense restrictions.

Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/09/13/key-facts-about-americans-and-guns/

But… and there’s always a but… special interests have used political donations and fear-mongering to their advantage. In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine just signed a new law that allows adults (21 or older) to carry a concealed weapon without a permit or training. And they don’t even have to tell a police officer that they have a gun unless specifically asked.

“Passing Senate Bill 215 and repealing Ohio’s concealed carry permitting law is another dangerous step in the wrong direction and it is a serious threat to public safety in our communities,” the Ohio Mayors Alliance Board of Directors wrote in a statement this month. “Our bipartisan coalition of mayors has stood with law enforcement groups in opposition to this bill because we know it will make our police officers less safe, it will increase gun violence in our communities, and it recklessly blurs the line between criminals with guns and properly licensed gun owners.”

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/ohio-gov-dewine-signs-bill-allowing-people-carry-concealed-firearms-without-permit

DeWine is 75, so we can’t blame it on an underdeveloped brain.

Kevin Necessary editorial cartoon in the Cincinnati Enquirer

“By signing this bill into law, Mike DeWine has sold out Ohioans and law enforcement officers to special interest groups and extremists in the legislature. This bill will make all Ohioans less safe. Time and again, DeWine has promised to support law enforcement officers and ‘do something’ to combat gun violence in our state. Once again, he’s failed on both fronts, putting his own political interests over the safety and well-being of his constituents.” 

Ohio Democratic Party Chair Elizabeth Walters 

So, my rootin’ tootin’ gun-totin’ friends… how does this — the “constitutional carry” and the “stand your ground” and the fact that it’s easier for a teen to get a gun than to see an R-rated movie… make us all safer? Please let me know soon – I need to go grocery shopping.

Mission Unaccomplished

Here’s my horoscope from a couple of Sundays ago:

I’m pretty sure I’m the reigning champ of the world… nay, the universe… at goofing off. I’ve been practicing for decades. My job during the summer after my freshman year of college was lifeguard.

Yep, that’s pretty much how I looked…

Sure, we had to make sure the pool patrons didn’t drown (it’s bad for repeat business), but 99.9% of the time I was sitting on my butt…. or using tortilla chips to skim the crusty layer off the nacho “cheese” (using that term very loosely) in the snack bar.

The following summer I took the same gig .(I’m mean, who wouldn’t double down on the free nachos?).

I shifted gears slightly the next summer – I was a summer camp counselor. Actually, check that, I was a summer day camp counselor. So I spent my days playing “Capture the Flag” with a bunch of rugrats (and got a free lunch) but then I could go home to a bed instead of roughing it in a tent or cabin.

Yep, that’s pretty much how I looked dressed.

None of those jobs involved night shifts. The pool was closed on Sunday. While the money wasn’t great, the jobs were decidedly “cush gigs.”

Once I graduated, my jobs were:

  • Marketing at a horse racing track
  • radio station
  • another radio station
  • travel agent
  • radio yet again
  • still more radio
  • writer at an ad agency
  • writer at a marketing firm

These dainty hands of mine have never known calluses. (Although there was that one time when the hot nacho cheese dripped on a knuckle… )

Writing takes up the lion’s share of my workday now. And with all due respect to the late great sportswriter Red Smith, who said:

Writing is easy. You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”

The type of writing I do (employee communications) isn’t exactly War and Peace. And the first part of writing is coming up with ideas, which is really glorified daydreaming. So I get paid to stare out the window. (I’m really really good at it… probably my 2nd best skill behind “nacho eating.”)

I do believe I’ve fulfilled my horoscope destiny. (It’s not being lazy if it’s written in the stars!)

However, I don’t want to take any chances. To increase my goofing off capacity, I need to make sure my well-honed do-nothing muscles don’t atrophy. Practice makes perfect, right? So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be the one napping on the couch, with a streak of nacho “cheese” trailing down my cheek.

Print’s not dead. It’s just dead to me.

Neil Sedaka said “Breaking up is hard to do” but I found it quite easy to break up with my newspaper. (Yes, I still read a newspaper… wasn’t the Neil Sedaka reference a huge clue?)

I enjoy cracking open a Sunday newspaper. There’s something very soothing about it. It’s a comfortable routine. (Step one: throw all the sales circulars in the recycling bin. Step two: read the comics.) I stare at a computer screen pretty much all day at my job, so it’s nice to go “old school” on the weekends. It’s tangible, tactile, decidedly not “meta.” Besides, you can “scroll” through a printed paper a lot faster than you can scroll through the articles online (thanks for nothing, slow-loading Metamucil pop-up ads targeted to my life stage).

The Cincinnati Enquirer, like most daily newspapers, has been slowly circling the drain for several years now. They’ve laid off most of their journalists. They shifted the printing to Columbus a few years ago, so any news that happens after noon won’t be in the next day’s edition. But there was still enough meat on the bones to keep me as a subscriber. Until they introduced their “special editions.” It’s an extra section in the Sunday paper for “special occasions” – recent ones have covered MLK Day and the Bengals Super Bowl appearance.

Each “special edition” means I’m charged about 50% more for that month’s subscription. And they’ve been trotting out “special editions” at a record pace… I wouldn’t be surprised if they put one out for Administrative Assistants Day.

There’s no way to opt out of these special editions. So they’re really no more than a flimsy excuse to try to extract a bit more cash out of their ever-dwindling subscriber base.

So I finally decided to send the Cincinnati Enquirer a special edition of my own – it’s called a “subscription cancellation.” Unlike their special editions, this one’s free!

[I’m keeping my print subscriptions to Cincinnati Magazine (best deal in town) and The Atlantic… for the tangible, tactile reasons mentioned above. And of course I’ll still be receiving AARP Magazine based on my life stage.. no pop-up ads in that one.]

Have you had your Berry today?

Here, let me serve it up for you:

I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love.

WENDELL BERRY
Photograph by Guy Mendes

Good ol’ Wendell. He’s just a Kentucky farmer who loves the land… and the people on it. Because the land and the people are like peas in a pod… or should be.

Seems like a lot of folks these days are trying to rule the world with greed, venom, hatred. That ain’t gonna work. Love wins. Always.

Speaking of love, the Wendell Berry quote above came from the Gratefulness.org “Word for the Day” email. I love getting a new inspirational quote in my inbox every day. You will too. You can sign up here.

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