Thursday, July 31, 2008

It was time to say good-bye to Manny Ramirez:

To Red Sox
Jason Bay

To Dodgers
Manny Ramirez

To Pirates
Craig Hansen (Relief pitcher, from Red Sox)
Brandon Moss (Outfielder, from Red Sox)
Andy LaRoche (Third baseman, from Dodgers)
Bryan Morris (Double-A pitcher, from Dodgers)

Bay is a two-time All-Star who owns a career .376 on-base percentage and a .282 lifetime batting average. He's hitting .282 with 22 homers and 64 RBIs this season. The British Columbia native and Gonzaga graduate was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2004, when he hit .282 with 26 homers and 82 RBIs. In 2005, he hit .306 with 32 homers, 101 RBIs and stole 21 bases. In 2006, he established career-highs in homers (35) and RBI (109). Last year, he again led the struggling Pirates in homers (21) and RBIs (84). Bay has one year left on a four-year, $18.25-million deal he signed in 2005. He is due $5.75 million this year and $7.5 million in 2009.

Ramirez, the MVP of the 2004 World Series, remains one of baseball's best hitters and has enjoyed plenty of big moments in October. But his relationship with the Red Sox soured -- again -- in recent months, prompting the All-Star outfielder to agree to the deal. According to, Ramirez agreed to sign off on any deal with the contingency that the team agree not to exercise the option years -- at $20 million per season -- on his contract. Ramirez will be a free agent at the end of the season.

But for now, Manny can be Manny on the West Coast.

I love Manny, but it's clear his antics were sapping the Sox morale. I won't miss Craig Hansen, but Moss was a good player. Time for the Sox to get to work.

UPDATE: Dan Kennedy disagrees with the local radio jocks that the Sox gave up too much to let Manny go:
I've been listening to WEEI Radio (AM 850) on and off for the last hour, and it seems that one early theme has emerged: it was time for Manny Ramírez to go, but the Red Sox gave up too much.

But did they? I don't think so. Clearly they weren't going to get equal value, because the whole world knew that the Sox were trying to dump Ramírez. Even so, they did pretty well — financially, too, despite their agreeing to pay Manny's salary for the rest of the season.

Let's start with the money. The Dodgers get Ramírez for free for the final two months of the year, as the Red Sox have agreed to pay the $7 million he's still owed. Jason Bay makes $7.5 million a year, and the Sox will have to pay him for the rest of the season, or about $2.5 million. So, in essence, they're paying $9.5 million to have a left fielder for August and September (and, let's hope, October). That's a lot of money.

But turn that around. Bay is under contract for next year — again, at $7.5 million. Up until a few weeks ago, it seemed possible that the Sox would pick up Manny's option for next year, which would have cost $20 million. Manny turns 37 next May. Bay will be 30. Given that differential, there's a good chance that Bay will put up numbers as good as Ramírez next year, and at one-third the cost. And the Sox may be able to sign Bay to a long-term contract at far less than they would have paid to keep Manny around.

So the Sox will take a hit for two months this year, but will benefit hugely next year and perhaps beyond.

As for the prospects, well, Craig Hansen has been a monumental bust, and that's putting it mildly. If he's ever going to succeed, it's not going to be here. He needs a fresh start somewhere else. Pittsburgh will be a nice, quiet place for him to develop. It's only a slight exaggeration to say the Sox were lucky to find a way to get rid of him.
I agree.
Memo to Boston area scientists: invite Larry Moran to your parties!
Steven Stark, on why Obama shouldn't get carried away just yet.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I was never a fan of Brideshead Revisited (Waugh's The Loved One was more to my liking--and it made a hilarious film), and Troy Patterson is on the case as he rips the new Miramax adaptation:
But do not, when attempting any course of reading aimed at appreciating Waugh's wit, give undue attention to Brideshead Revisited, a misfit of a book, much loved, and often loved in the wrong way, as the vomitous stupidity of Miramax's new film adaptation attests. There's a comic novel in there, but it is not, as the common expression goes, struggling to get out. It's lodged there quite contentedly; the book's acid portraits of dull dons and rich oafs are enmeshed with its affectingly tender peeks at lost youth and also with its eagerly overwrought splendor and its sincerely bogus religiosity. This was the seventh novel Waugh published—the eighth he attempted—a grasp at grandeur written in a mere four months, during a leave from the British army in early 1944. "Waugh wrote Brideshead with great speed, unfamiliar excitement, and a deep conviction of its excellence," Martin Amis once remarked. "Lasting schlock, the really good bad book, cannot be written otherwise.
Ross Douthat assesses Adam Gopnik's recent essay on Chesterton in the New Yorker (not available online).
But the whole point of the "in the context of his times" argument is precisely that by the standards of the '20s and '30s, it was morally impressive for a political writer to reject both fascism and communism, to praise Zionism, and to speak out forcefully against Nazi anti-Semitism - and not in its eliminationist phase, but in its very earliest stages. (Chesterton died in 1936.) This does not excuse Chesterton's anti-Semitism by any means, but it makes him an odd target, out of all the writers and thinkers of that period, to single out for particular opprobrium. Here I think Gopnik is indulging the chauvinism of hindsight: The assumption that everyone who partook of the attitudes that helped make the Holocaust possible should be judged and condemned on the basis of what we know now, rather than what they knew then. It's the Goldhagen approach to assigning culpability, in which even people who opposed Hitler - even people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died fighting him - are to be judged, and harshly, if they failed to live up the standards that Western society only adopted after the Holocaust provided a terrible example of where these thoughts and impulses can lead.
This strikes me as about right.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Crisis Planet Earth Dept.

The more Al Gore talks, the less sense he makes....

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Self-promotion Dept.
Looking for a good audio book or paperback for your summer list?
Roger Scruton always brings some much needed clarity to the whole 'new atheist' thing:
Consciousness is more familiar to us than any other feature of our world, since it is the route by which anything at all becomes familiar. But this is what makes consciousness so hard to pinpoint. Look for it wherever you like, you encounter only its objects – a face, a dream, a memory, a colour, a pain, a melody, a problem, but nowhere the consciousness that shines on them. Trying to grasp it is like trying to observe your own observing, as though you were to look with your own eyes at your own eyes without using a mirror. Not surprisingly, therefore, the thought of consciousness gives rise to peculiar metaphysical anxieties, which we try to allay with images of the soul, the mind, the self, the ‘subject of consciousness’, the inner entity that thinks and sees and feels and which is the real me inside. But these traditional ‘solutions’ merely duplicate the problem. We cast no light on the consciousness of a human being simply by re-describing it as the consciousness of some inner homunculus – be it a soul, a mind or a self. On the contrary, by placing that homunculus in some private, inaccessible and possibly immaterial realm, we merely compound the mystery.

It is this mystery which brings people back to religion. They may have no clear conception of science; no theological aptitude, and no knowledge of the arguments, down the ages, that have persuaded people that the fabric of contingency must be supported by a ‘necessary being’. The subtleties of the medieval schools for the most part make little contact with the thinking of believers today. Modern people are drawn to religion by their consciousness of consciousness, by their awareness of a light shining in the centre of their being. And, as Kant brilliantly showed, the person who is acquainted with the self, who refers to himself as ‘I’, is inescapably trapped into freedom. He rises above the wind of contingency that blows through the natural world, held aloft by Reason’s necessary laws. The ‘I’ defines the starting point of all practical reasoning and contains an intimation of the thing that distinguishes people from the rest of nature, namely their freedom. There is a sense in which animals too are free: they make choices, do things both freely and by constraint. But animals are not accountable for what they do. They are not called upon to justify their conduct, nor are they persuaded or dissuaded by dialogue with others. All those goals, like justice, community and love, which make human life into a thing of intrinsic value, have their origin in the mutual accountability of persons, who respond to each other ‘I’ to ‘I’. Not surprisingly, therefore, people are satisfied that they understand the world and know its meaning, when they can see it as the outward form of another ‘I’ – the ‘I’ of God, in which we all stand judged, and from which love and freedom flow.

I think this is spot on. It also explains why so often the more militant of the new atheists don't want to discuss freedom or free will.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Scenes We'd Like to See Dept.
After All-Star Boston Red Sox Closer Jonathan Papelbon received death threats from furious Yankee fans during the All-Star Game Parade in New York yesterday, an outraged University of Minnesota Professor P.Z. Myers denounced them as "demented f*&%wits" on his blog and openly asked Sox fans everywhere to send him mementos of 'any active or legendary Yankee player' so that he could post digital pictures of himself defecating on them for his blog.

News at 11.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Church and Science
My post from late last year has been revised at the courteous request of Father Hugh MacKenzie in the UK, and is now online as part of the July issue of Faith, which he publishes six times a year.

Stop by for a visit.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The more I read about this guy, the more I like his plan. Not the slightest idea whether wind-generated power could provide the percentage Pickens claims, but at the rate of money this country is blowing per year on oil from countries that don't like us, it's worth serious consideration.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bigotry Dept.
I think PZ Myers has gone off the deep end. What exactly is a 51-year-old biology professor doing, openly asking his readers to send him eucharistic wafers so that he can video himself desecrating them?

Doesn't this guy, like, have classes to teach? know, some research to do?

I have heretofore cut him a lot of slack for his sneering attitude toward Christians--mainly because he's a good science writer. But this rant and it's follow ups (Catholics are 'fuckwits') is beyond the pale. If in fact the student in question had indeed received death threats for taking the wafer, his rant would at least have a point. Death threats are bad. But if you follow the links to the two stories he posts, neither explicitly contains any evidence that Webster Cook was threatened at all. Cook doesn't mention phone calls, or emails or actual confrontations with people who told him to watch out. One threatened to break into his dorm room and steal the wafer back.

That's a death threat??

I'm no fan of Bill Donohue, but if Myers gets disciplined for this irrational incitement by his University, he'll have no one to blame but himself.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Breaking news: The Virgin Mary had sizeable...well... you know. And she used them! Mark Shea is having some fun with the usual humorless types now taking offense at women who nurse their babies in church.

Good grief.
Via an email:

George Carlin's Views on Aging
Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about aging that you think in fractions.

'How old are you?' 'I'm four and a half!' You're never thirty-six and a half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key.

You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead.

'How old are you?' 'I'm gonna be 16!' You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16! And then the greatest day of your life ! You become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony. YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!!

But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're Just a sour-dumpling. What's wrong? What's changed?

You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are gone.

But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would!

So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.

You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it's a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday!

You get into your 80's and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn't end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards; 'I Was JUST 92.'

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. 'I'm 100 and a half!'

May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!
(This is truth: my 7-year-old repeatedly corrects me when I tell people she's seven. "No, I'm seven and a half!!")
Patrick Nielsen Hayden with more thoughts on Disch:
I certainly read him; his SF novels of the 1960s and 70s, particularly Camp Concentration and 334, had an enormous impact on me. But “least read” may be true: according to publishing legend, his SF masterpiece On Wings of Song had a 90% return rate in its 1980 Bantam paperback edition. Despite that, he went on to hit bestseller lists with his 1991 horror novel The M.D. Just as unexpectedly, his children’s book The Brave Little Toaster was adapted into a popular Disney cartoon.

He could be hard to take, both in person and in his public interactions with the SF world. He played the game of literary politics hard, and sometimes lost badly. He frequently seemed to have no patience for his allies, much less his enemies. Of his other career, as noted poet Tom Disch, I can’t say much, except that to my mind the poetry was often good. In his later years he wrote a blog; after he began to post frequently on the depravity of Muslims and immigrants, I became unable to keep reading it.

The Disch I prefer to remember was no nicer than that, but much smarter: a brittle and brilliant ironist with a bright wit and no optimism whatsoever. Here are the concluding lines of his 1965 SF novel The Genocides, a book wedged forever up the nose of overweening skiffy can-do-ism:

Nature is prodigal. Of a hundred seedlings only one or two would survive; of a hundred species, only one or two.

Not, however, man.

Joseph Bottum: Now we're talking!

In fact, the distinction seems simple enough: Vibrant cultures want something; exhausted cultures don’t. And what do we actually want, today? For a thought experiment, imagine hearing this on tomorrow evening’s new shows:

The Vatican announced today that it will soon begin colonizing the planet Mars. Many parts of the mission remain unclear, but the plans to launch the first rocket from a pad on the island of Malta appear definite, with a tentative launch date in July 2010. The goal will be to establish a colony capable of sustaining itself within 20 years, with the long-range aim of completing the terraforming of Mars within 100 years. Accompanying the initial group of 142 Catholic settlers on the 297-day flight will be a priest and an auxiliary bishop from the diocese of Rio de Janeiro.

The geopolitical ramifications would be fascinating and perhaps even dangerous. How would a wealthy Islamic country such as Saudi Arabia react? Or the European Union, so desperate to deny its Catholic past?

But geopolitics are always fascinating and more than a little dangerous. The greater impact would be on the human imagination. We seem to aim at so little today, to have such small interests in mind. No wonder the biotech visionaries have gained a hearing: They claim to be going somewhere. Where they want to go is the destruction of human nature, but at least they are calling us to something beyond ourselves.

To be a religious believer is to know that the hungers of the human heart will not find fulfillment without God, but even religious believers benefit from goals short of the ecstatic vision of the divine. A people without any temporal horizons—without any historical purpose or vision of the future—grow enervated and decadent, and they begin to follow strange gods, who promise them meaning.

The science-fiction writers had it better: Space is the obvious next horizon for human beings. Want to diminish the biotech revolution to its proper role as a curer of disease? Offer a more exciting goal. Build a rocket ship, and fly it to Mars.

Deal me in.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Two Steps Forward...One Step Back Dept.
NRO has over the past year improved its science coverage with articles by Jim Manzi backing up John Derbyshire when it comes to evolution, and suggesting conservatives need to be more science literate.

Unfortunately, apparently following the "equal time" bullshit approach that NRO would rightfully chortle at when it comes to any other subject, they continue to serve up the usual swill from the chowderskulls at the Discovery Institute. DC has it covered here.


Seriously--I would like to know just how many subscribers NRO thinks they would lose if they just came out and told the ID groupies, we've had enough of this crap and we're not publishing it anymore unless you back up your claims with some real science.
Joseph Bottum, on the sad news that novelist Thomas M. Disch is dead:

Endlessly talented, Tom was always a difficult character, with strange edges and an awkward, unbalanced and finally unbearably sad life. His friend and mentor, the science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick, once turned him into the FBI as a communist spy. He wasn’t, of course, and the incident probably tells more about the madness of Philip K. Dick than it does about Tom Disch. Still, it’s typical of the odd events that seemed to punctuate Tom’s life.

So much wasted, so many wrong turns, so much lost. This death has taken all my breath for speech.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Fifty Years ago....
I actually missed the date: May 8, 1958, when Hammer's classic version of Dracula was released in the US (as Horror of Dracula).

The film made Christopher Lee a star overnight. (It almost type-cast him to death as well.) But the effect it had on cinema is hard to appreciate now. Martin Scorcese has spoken often about the impression the baroque and bloody Hammer films made on him as a teenage movie-goer in New York. Gone forever were the days of grainy blank and white farces featuring Abbott & Costello as they confronted campy versions of the wolf man, Frankenstein's monster and a decrepit Bela Lugosi.

The above scene for me remains one of the all-time greatest endings in film.

According to Lee, to this day Hammer remains Britain's most successful independent film company. They came up with a formula they knew no one else could duplicate. Great locations, classy actors with stage experience (Peter Cushing was a protege of Laurence Olivier--and note Tim Burton's favorite Michael Gough), a signature film composer (the magnificent James Bernard, a protege of Benjamen Britten) and a blunt refusal to play it for laughs.

Virtually none of these movies are still scary in this day and age--but the best ones, like Dracula, remain classy.

Happy 50th.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Performance Art: Boston style:
Jay Fitzgerald beats me to this beauty. If you can stand the crappy camera work--no wait, just turn around from your screen and listen to the beer-soaked caterwauling. The guy's blood-alcohol must be 40%....

It should be beyond belief. But it's not. Because it's Boston.
Well, this is a shock:
A survey released last week found one reason America doesn't top the list: Baby Boomers are generally miserable compared to other generations. Further, a public opinion poll released by the Pew Research Center in April found that 81 percent of Americans say they believe the country is on the "wrong track." The response is the most negative in the 25 years pollsters have asked the question.
It's got to be those unrealistically high expectations we had....