Thursday, October 1, 2015

Permission to Speak Freely...

Final Jeopardy

One of the more amusing aspects of everyday life is the spectacle of people trying to parlay success in one field into a career of pontificating on unrelated subjects they clearly lack the capacity to understand. Who doesn't enjoy listening to movie actors holding forth on terrorism, musicians sharing their thoughts on economics, or novelists explaining their dotty notions about religion. They're so cute when they assume their celebrity makes their opinions more cogent or interesting.

"I'll take 'People Who Don't Understand Freedom' for $500, Alex."
Today's example is former Jeopardy champion Arthur Chu, who has been busy trying to make a career for himself as a pundit and social critic.

Of course, that job is much harder when you're stupid, which Mr. Chu manifestly is. He is living proof that success on a quiz show is not a reliable indicator of intelligence.

Mr. Chu's most recent brainstorm is a suggestion to ruin the internet by making it possible to sue not only folks saying things online that we don't like, but completely innocent third parties as well. I kid you not.

Mr. Chu is hardly alone in his lack of understanding about what the 1st Amendment (or the internet, for that matter) is all about, but his idiotic suggestion certainly qualifies him for the highest honor I can bestow...

"I find that image hurtful and offensive."
Bite me.

Anyway, the point of all this is just to say, yet again, that the protections Americans enjoy under the 1st Amendment are not subject to the whims of delicate flowers like Mr. Chu. As the famous editorial in Jyllands-Posten (the Danish newspaper that published the controversial Mohammed cartoons) put it: “Free speech is free speech is free speech. There is no 'but.'”

"Are you done yet?"

Not by a long shot, but we can call it a day for now...

Things That Make Me Happy: Resilience Edition

My beloved Kansas City Royals closed a mostly dismal September on a positive note last night, beating the Chicago White Sox 5-3 in 10 innings at U.S. Cellular Field. The victory assured them of no worse than the No. 2 seed in the ALDS, meaning they would have home field advantage against whomever they play in that round. They still trail the Toronto Blue Jays by what amounts to two games (because Toronto holds the tie-breaker) for home-field advantage through the ALCS, with four games left to play.

"It is SO weird to hear you talking about Royals and playoffs."
I know, right?

Anyway, it was a pitcher's duel most of the night. White Sox starter Jose Quintana pitched 9 innings and only allowed five hits while striking out eight batters, but two of those hits were home runs by LF Alex Gordon and 3B Mike Moustakas, the latter a two-run shot that broke a 1-1 tie in the 6th inning. Royals starter Edinson Volquez had to wiggle out of several jams, but departed after six innings with the Royals leading 3-1. The bullpen allowed single runs in the 7th and 8th innings to tie the game, and for the second time in three games the Royals were playing extra innings.

The decisive blow was 1B Eric Hosmer's two-run home run in the top of the 10th (his 18th on the season)...


All-Star Wade Davis, moved into the full-time closer role now due to Greg Holland's season-ending injury, only needed 11 pitches to record his 15th save of the season, and lowered his ERA to 0.96.

The series with the White Sox concludes tonight with Kris Medlen (5-2, 4.20 ERA) trying to bounce back from a disastrous outing against Cleveland. He'll be facing long-time Royals nemesis John Danks (7-14, 4.53), who already owns three victories over KC this season, the most recent a complete game win at Kauffman Stadium on September 4.

Year Three, Day One

Yesterday I completed my second consecutive calendar year as a non-smoker. As I begin Year Three today, I wanted to offer words of encouragement to anyone wanting to quit (I did it cold turkey, which in my opinion is the best way). I also wanted to thank the company whose product helped me deal with the habituation (which is the real problem anyway; it only took me a little over 48 hours to detox from nicotine itself).

There are lots of similar products
on the market. This is the one I tried, and it is the one that helped me quit successfully. I am deeply grateful for that.

I hope that Blu and other similar companies are able to thrive despite the idiotic opposition to their products.

21st Century Excuse

From the droll comic strip Zits, by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, which you should read every day, as I do.

Until Next Time...

When I returned to the classroom 20 years ago after a hiatus of a few years, I decided to have my students keep a daily journal in one of the classes I taught. At the beginning of each class period, they were given a short period of time for free writing. I would typically have a suggested journal topic written on the board (usually tied thematically to whatever piece of literature we were working on that day), but students were always free to write about other things instead, if they chose.

During the free writing period I played instrumental music, usually classical. There is research suggesting that listening to instrumental music can be helpful in getting students to express themselves freely. In order to do that, I found it helpful to build up
a collection of short instrumental pieces, typically between four and seven minutes in length (the amount of time I allowed for free writing varied depending on what schedule we were on on a given day, what else we needed to get done that day, etc.).

For the classical material I gravitated toward the concerto form, mostly because I was already familiar with a lot of piano concertos, but also because individual movements of such pieces usually clocked in at lengths that were useful for my purposes. Over the course of 17 years using journal writing in my classroom, I built up quite a collection.

One of my favorites is Franz Liszt's remarkable Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, 
S. 124, which took him more than a quarter of a century to write.

Today's send-off is a vibrant performance of the concerto's fourth movement by the incomparable Arthur Rubinstein, accompanied by the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Alfred Wallenstein. Enjoy...

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