Major League Baseball and Selling Out

It’s Been Happening since 1919

Major League Baseball stopped being a game a long time ago (at least one hundred years ago since I’ll be referencing the 1919 World Series). MLB has been in the news of late due to current political issues. I’m not going to address MLB’s decisions and whether they were right of wrong (in any political sense at least). What I want to do is take a moment to look at the movie Eight Men Out and show how that movie can provide a long view of the business that is baseball and how MLB sold out the game.

Eight Men Out

I remember going to the theater way back in 1988 to see this movie. I didn’t know then or now how true and accurate the movie is to the actual events surrounding the 1919 World Series scandal, but the movie has a well written script and is played by an ensemble cast of talented actors. I viewed Eight Men Out as a good movie and an interesting piece of baseball history until 1994 and the MLB strike. The movie took on a different meaning for me after the strike and so did baseball. The idea of what Major League Baseball meant to me and/or could mean to me was lost after the strike (not even W.P. Kinsella could change how I viewed MLB after the strike). The MLB strike put Eight Men Out in perspective. I lost faith in the game and could better see how many lost their faith in the game after 1919. I don’t want to spoil the movie for you (you probably know how it ends) but the last ten minutes can really get you in the feels if you are fan of the game. A close viewing shows how the league treated the players and to some extent the fans. The league was more than willing to sell out eight men, and what has really changed in 100 years?

People still have a fascination with Major League Baseball, a desire to see it through rose colored glasses. It’s a fascination and view that the league banks (specific word choice here) on from the fans. MLB wants fans to think baseball is something more than a game, something other than a business. There was a time when fields and stadiums were compared to cathedrals, when poets referred to them as holy sites. There may have been a time when such views were applicable but those times have long passed. Today, fields and stadiums are nothing more than a variation of a big box retailer looking to take your money in exchange for a so-so product. Don’t be angry with MLB if you think they sold out. Give Eight Men Out a watch and you’ll see the league sold out the game of baseball a century ago.

-K-

Eight Men Out (1988) with John Cusak and Clifton James. Directed by John Sayles.

Koba the Dread

The Pinnacle of Unpersoning

In a time of unpersoning and a culture of cancelation it may serve us well to review (or view for the first time) a bit of history. History is a broad topic, but there is one individual from the last century that is worth a closer look if you are interested in the concept of canceling somebody. Joseph Stalin took canceling to levels unheard of in our current cancel culture.

Koba the Dread by Martin Amis

Martin Amis’ Koba the Dread is essential reading for anybody who wants a crash course about the reign of Joseph Stalin. Amis’ well balanced mix of personal experience and detailed research provides the reader with an engaging book (this is not your bland high school history textbook). Koba the Dread is required reading for anybody who wants to see what one man with unchecked power is capable of when he want to cancel a person, or several million people.

-K-

Koba the Dread (2002) by Martin Amis.

Pink Floyd and Pronouns

Some Scribbles Concerning “Us and Them”

It’s a pleasant afternoon out here in the Midwest with a glass of bourbon and The Dark Side of the Moon playing. Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” is a sincere and understated piece concerning war. One of the aspects of the song that always resonates with me is the subtle use of pronouns to dehumanize one’s enemy (I could also go on about the use of prepositions but that’s a topic for another time). “Us and Them” shows us how easy it is to unperson those we don’t like, or those we are told not to like.

The Dark Side of the Moon

The line “…It’s a battle of words?” shows the audience that pronouns are used to dehumanize and unify. By using words such as us, them, you, and me it is easy to dehumanize the opposition, and these same words are used to create unity, a collective spirit, for those on the other side. Propaganda runs deep through the song showing it’s easy (too easy, so easy it’s kind of scary) to convince people to march and die at the whims of generals or for anybody who holds a position of power or importance.

The talking heads on the news (I use term news with serious reservations) and other various media outlets revel in throwing around labels and pronouns these days. Before you step inside to chat with the man with the gun, ask yourself who they are and who you are (more importantly who you want to be and do they want you to be somebody different)?

-K-

The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) by Pink Floyd.

Orwell and the Unperson

The Importance of the Last Chapter of 1984

Considering unpersoned is the current topic of conversation I’m going to address the source, meaning, and an application of the word. The word unperson appears no fewer than five times in George Orwell’s 1984 and is one of those Orwellian words worth a closer look. It has a particular importance in the last chapter of the novel.

An unperson is a nonperson, a person who has no rights, and a person publicly ignored (especially by the government and media). In extreme cases an unperson is an individual Big Brother executes and erases all traces of his/her existence. Now, if you haven’t read 1984 you will want to stop now and hopefully come back after you finish the novel. If you have read the novel, think about Winston at the end of the novel as he whiles away the hours at the Chestnut Tree Café. Winston fits the definition of an unperson. Big Brother has effectively made Winston a nonperson who is entirely reliant on the very government that has destroyed his life. Winston is beholden to Big Brother for his menial government job of no importance, acknowledges that he betrayed Julia after being tortured, and simply moves from one day to the next lost in a drunken fog of Victory Gin. Winston Smith exists but is of no importance, save to possibly serve as a cautionary tale for those who may question the authority of Big Brother.

1984 by George Orwell

The last chapter of 1984 shows the reader the extent of Big Brother’s power. It would have been easy to execute Winston, to make him disappear, and wipe his existence from history. Instead, Big Brother breaks Winston Smith and makes him an unperson. This life of being a nonperson, of being ignored, of being canceled (to use a modern variation) is a much worse fate than death.

-K-

1984 (1949) by George Orwell

A Discovery, An Affair, An Act of Violence

Prohibitions in Walker Percy’s Lancelot

Another February is upon us with its assortment of candy hearts, chocolates, flowers, and stuffed animals all in preparation for Valentine’s Day. In keeping with the topic of conversation about prohibition(s) but also taking a look at relationships I thought I’d write a few words about Walker Percy’s Lancelot.

This is not a romance novel (Hallmark fans be warned), but it is a love story (of sorts). The story is told through the perspective of the novel’s protagonist, Lancelot Andrewes Lamar. Lancelot recounts the events surrounding the accidental discovery that he is not the father of his youngest daughter and that his wife is currently having an affair. While recounting these events to an old friend Lancelot ultimately reveals an act of violence that lead to his current confinement to a mental institution.

Lancelot by Walker Percy

Lancelot addresses several cultural/societal prohibitions and one man’s reaction (and actions) regarding those prohibitions. The novel may be over four decades old but you’ll find much of what Percy has to say is still applicable today. It’s not your typical Valentine’s Day read, but it is a realistic look at relationships.

-K-

Lancelot (1977) by Walker Percy.

A Trio of Boozy Books

Some Reads Addressing Prohibition

I’ve been discussing a wide range of prohibitions over the past few weeks. Today I want to share a few books that, in one way or another, address America’s Prohibition of alcohol.

Bourbon A History of the American Spirit by Dane Huckelbridge

This one is for the armchair history buffs. Huckelbridge gives us an interesting view of American history through its relationship with bourbon (including Prohibition).

Chasing the White Dog An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventure in Moonshine by Max Watman

This one is for the DIYers. Watman provides first hand experiences along with an interesting history of that classic American spirt known as moonshine (some recipes and distilling advice included).

Moonshine by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

This one is for all the fiction, comic book, and horror fans. Azzarello’s words and Risso’s artwork is a tale a Prohibition, gangsters, lust, greed, and werewolves (yup, werewolves).

If you are looking to expand your reading list for 2021 pick up one (or all) of these books.

-K-

The Great Gatsby and Prohibitions

There is More Than One Kind of Prohibition

Many of us have encountered F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in one form or another, be it reading the novel or seeing one of the movies. I got to thinking about Gatsby when I was brainstorming ideas for the topic of Prohibition, and I found that are more prohibitions presented in the novel than the one covered in the Eighteenth Amendment. Here are some prohibitions I found while reviewing the novel.

Alcohol: This is the one most of us probably remember from reading the novel in high school. Prohibition (with a capital ‘P’) was a Constitutional Amendment, making it the law of the land. The novel shows us how easy it is for the government to make everyday citizens criminals by prohibiting something most people have no issues with.

Gambling: There is a brief mention of gambling in the novel related to fixing the 1919 World Series. The lesson is sports and gambling can be rigged, but the average Joe (or Jane) is prohibited from knowing the fix is in.

Making Money: The Great Gatsby shows us everybody is allowed to make money, but new money is prohibited from mixing with old money.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Friendships: Gatsby and Nick may be the only authentic friendship of the novel. Fitzgerald shows us most friendships are superficial at best, and friendships between classes are an illusion and are ultimately prohibited.

Affairs: Affairs can be tolerated if they are kept quiet. Affairs are prohibited if emotions are involved and/or they can damage social status.

Social Class: The most important prohibition The Great Gatsby teaches us is that not matter what you do, how much money you have, or how hard you work you are prohibited from moving up in social class. You can pretend, you can posture, you can even change your life but you will never be accepted by those of a higher social class.

The Great Gatsby works on several levels, one is as an observation of prohibitions (those things we can’t and shouldn’t do). Now that the novel is public domain it’s easy to get yourself a free or really inexpensive ($1.99 Barnes and Noble Nook) copy. Whether you have read or are new to the novel its well worth the read.

-K-

The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  

Chekhov on Solitary Confinementhat

Anton Not Pavel

When I started thinking about the topic of solitary confinement one of the first stories to come to mind was Anton Chekhov’s “The Bet.” I’ve read the story a few times over the years, and with each read I came away with some new and interesting insight. My recent reading was during the current Covid lockdowns and quarantines is no exception to finding something new to think about.

Anton Checkhov The Complete colection

The plot of “The Bet” is straight forward. A wealthy banker bets a young lawyer two million rubles (a large sum of money for the time) that the lawyer won’t commit himself to fifteen years of voluntary solitary confinement. This story is an insightful commentary on the long term effects of solitary confinement, but reading it in the time of Covid has me focusing on two points. The first is that voluntary confinement is much more difficult to bear than compulsory confinement. This is an interesting point when you see the spike in anxiety and depression in recent months amidst lockdowns and quarantines. The second point focuses on the lawyer’s reading habits during his confinement. His reading list got me thinking about what I’ve been reading during the past nine months and how confinement is influencing my reading list and impacting how I’m seeing the world.

Covid 19 lockdowns and quarantines have impacted all of us in varied ways. Fortunately none of us have been confined as long as the character of the story, but being able to relate to his self-imposed solitary confinement and the impact it has on him may help us better deal with our own lockdowns and quarantines. Anton Chekhov’s “The Bet” may help to put feelings of solitary confinement in perspective. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

-K-

“The Bet” from Anton Chekhov the Complete Collection (2018).

Horror Stories Are OK

…if They Are Educational?

What was you first experience with a good (that is as subjective of a word as you can get) horror story? I’m talking about the first time you read an adult horror story, not a children’s story. My guess is that some story by Edgar Allan Poe will come to mind for many of you, it does for me. Most of us had our first experience with Poe in junior high or maybe freshman year, and “The Cask of Amontillado” is often the first story we read and/or is the most memorable.

The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe

“The Cask of Amontillado” came to mind when I started thinking about this month’s topic concerning grave thoughts. I don’t want to spoil the story for the few of you out there who haven’t read it (well, maybe it’s not taught anymore but damn near everybody my age has read it). A grave, of sorts, plays an important role in the story so I decided to give it another read. I came away with a few observations. First, the exposition of the story discusses some of the finer points of revenge. Second, there is a whole of drinking going on in this story (hell, the title references booze). Finally, with proper planning and execution you can get away with murder. I’m not trying to disparage the story in any way. It’s a well written, compact story that incorporates many elements of classic gothic fiction, but damn I don’t remember these points from way back in junior high.

I figure my teacher all those years ago was more interested in teaching Poe the author (the man’s tormented life plays a large role in his appeal to many people, adolescents included) than really focusing on the content and context of the story itself. Either way I remember the class reading it and enjoying it. But I can’t help but think that today, in a world where people are easily offended and triggered, if teaching the horror classics of Poe would still be considered educational? Give it another read or first read and let me know what you think.

-K-

“The Cask of Amontillado” from The Best Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (2011) by Edgar Allan Poe.

The Cost of Being a Cowboy

Drugstore Cowboy and the Junkie Lifestyle

There is no shortage of movies that feature drugs and drug use. Most have an agenda regarding their portrayal of drugs and those who use drugs. Most movies either attempt to glamorize drugs or intend to demonize them. I usually find that these movies try too hard with their message or loose the through line somewhere in the second act, but there are a few movies out there that don’t romanticize, idealize, or patronize when it comes to drugs and drug use. Gus Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy is one of these few movies.

Drugstore Cowboy

There are a couple concessions I want to make before I recommend this movie. First, the movie is set in 1971, and it was released in 1989 so it does feel dated at points. Second, there are a few moments early in the movie when Matt Dillon’s character, Bob, waxes poetic about drug use. I don’t view this as romanticizing drug use especially when we hear what Bob has to say later in the movie (hope that isn’t too much of a spoiler for you). With these too minor points aside this is a sound movie that takes an honest look at drugs and drug use (as honest as you can get in the weird world of Hollywood). Drugstore Cowboy is an insight into the world and daily lives of four junkies, but Van Sant does not pass any sort of explicit judgement on their lifestyles (he leaves judgement to the viewer).

If you are in the mood for a well written movie with sound acting and solid directing that features drugs and drug use in a realistic sense then Drugstore Cowboy is worth a watch. Hell, you may want to watch it just to see William S. Burroughs acting.

-K-

Drugstore Cowboy (1989) with Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, James Le Gros, and Heather Graham. Directed by Gus Van Sant.

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑