Monday, September 26, 2016

Infirm Glory

Where It Started

On September 26, 1960 the first televised debate between American presidential candidates was held in Chicago and was viewed by more than 70 million people. It changed our politics forever.

The quality of televised presidential debates has been somewhat spotty since the relatively dignified and content-focused series of debates engaged in by Richard Nixon and John Kennedy.

Unfortunately, they have been trending toward shallow spectacle lately, and what actually gets said seems to mean less than what is said and written about each debate after-the-fact.

As someone who spent 30 years teaching and coaching debate, I don't consider these joint press events "debates" in any meaningful sense. The folks putting them on do everything they can to prevent the candidates from interacting much, and the questions put to the candidates are usually slanted if not downright tendentious. Even more problematic is the tsunami of "fact-checking" which closely follows the debates these days, which is also decidedly partisan and unreliable.

Part of the problem, of course, is the confusion between "fact" and "opinion" in both
our thinking and our discourse, which philosopher Mortimer Adler identified in his  
Ten Philosophical Mistakes as one of the most persistent intellectual problems we face.

Tonight's "debate" between black-eyed skank Hillary Clinton and asshat Donald Trump will undoubtedly be a new low in terms of our political discourse, but I have no doubt it will get great ratings, which seems to be all that matters to the people who organize these things.

"You bipeds can be SO dumb sometimes..."

No argument from me...

Six Picks, Including a Pick-Six

My beloved Kansas City Chiefs bounced back from last week's loss with a dominant
24-3 win at Arrowhead Stadium over the New York Jets, improving their record to 2-1.

DT Chris Jones and the Chiefs defense made Fitzpatrick's day miserable

The story of the game was the performance of the Chiefs defense, which didn't allow a touchdown and forced eight Jet turnovers, including a record six interceptions of Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.

One of those interceptions was returned for a TD by LB Derrick Johnson in the 4th quarter, removing all doubt about the game's outcome.

Flying high for interception No. 1

Second-year CB Marcus Peters had two of those six interceptions, giving four total in the season's first three games.

"Paydirt, baby!"

The offense didn't have a particularly good game, and was even outgained by the Jets offense on the day, but the Chiefs managed the only offensive TD of the game. TE Travis Kelce caught a nifty 12-yard scoring pass from
QB Alex Smith near the end of the 1st quarter.


Calm down...that's a tough place to win, and the Steelers have a MUCH better offense than the Jets do...

Signs of Life

My beloved Kansas City Royals haven't been eliminated from the playoff chase yet, as they trail in the race for the final Wild Card playoff spot by six games, with six games left to play. Yesterday at Comerica Park in Detroit, they put a serious crimp in the Tigers' playoff hopes, beating them 12-9 to win the three-game series. It was their seventh road series win in their last eight.

26 saves, 2.01 ERA

It wasn't a great day for the pitching staff. Royals starter Edinson Volquez didn't make it out of the third inning, and every Royals reliever who pitched at least an inning gave up at least one run, except for All-Star Wade Davis.

Wade wobbled a bit in the 9th, but preserved the victory for RHP Dillon Gee.

The first four Royals batters of the game hit for the cycle, capped by All-Star C Salvador Perez's two-run home run that made the score 4-0 before the Tigers had recorded an out. The Royals batted around in the inning, giving them two consecutive innings of doing so since they batted around in their five-run 9th inning rally Saturday.

2B Whit Merrifield was 3-for-5, missing the cycle himself by a home run, and scored twice. DH Kendrys Morales also went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored. CF Paulo Orlando and LF Alex Gordon also had three hits, with Alex having a home run and three RBIs on the day.

SS Raul Mondesi and 3B Cheslor Cuthbert also homered in the game.

"That was a nice offensive outburst!"

Yes, but the dreadful Tigers pitching had a lot to do with it...

Happy Birthday!

On September 26, 1888 Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis.

A decidedly unatheletic boy, Eliot immersed himself in the world of literature in his formative years, and his love of literature (and language itself) would shape the rest of his life.

Although he lived most of his life in England as a British citizen, he often said that his early years in St. Louis made more of an impression on him than anywhere else he ever lived, including Cambridge (he attended Harvard) and Paris.

Eliot received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948, and in 1964 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He also won a Tony Award for his play The Cocktail Party, and two additional posthumous Tonys related to the musical Cats (which was based on some Eliot poetry).

His most lasting legacy for me will be his poetry: "The Waste Land," "Ash Wednesday," and Four Quartets are all deeply affecting works which repay close reading. Eliot's non-fiction (especially his literary criticism) also exerted a significant influence on my own development as a writer (and as a teacher of writing).

Good Call, Kid

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

Until Next Time...

My social life in high school and my first couple of years of college was the sort of train-wreck one often sees parodied in the movies. I was the quintessential shy, awkward bookworm. To the extent that I could, I tried to find something with which to connect with girls to whom I was attracted. I never had much success along those lines, but the least unsuccessful strategy I employed was finding common ground with music.

In particular, a young lady I had been interested in in high school (she graduated
a year behind me) took some romantic interest in me when she learned of my fondness for Jethro Tull, one of her favorites. When I took her to the band's concert at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City on June 15, 1972 I was beginning to get the sense that a long-lasting relationship might be developing.

That pleasant notion ended later that fall, when I took her to see one of my newfound blues-rock enthusiasms, The J. Geils Band, at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas.
She hated the experience, and not long afterward we had that awkward "we can still be friends" conversation us guys love so much.

I had wanted to go to the concert in the first place because I had just discovered the band thanks to a recent album release. That album has remained a favorite all these years, but whenever I listen to it I can't help but wonder what might have been had I not taken Kathy to that concert...

On September 26, 1972 the band had released "Live" Full House, which had been recorded in April
at a couple of shows they played in Detroit. The local FM rock stations began playing a couple of cuts from the album pretty heavily, and so
I picked up the album the first day it showed up in my local record shop.

The cover art is sort of an inside joke, as it does NOT portray a "full house" in poker terms, which is why the Queen is shown to be winking.

The band specialized in high-energy Chicago-style electric blues, and all but one of the songs on this album are covers of blues-rock classics like Otis Rush's "Homework" and John Lee Hooker's "Serves You Right To Suffer."

The album cracked the Top 50 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, and its success paved the way for the band's breakthrough studio album Bloodshot, which was a Top 10 album the following spring.

Today's send-off is the album's opening track, a cover of "First I Look at the Purse,"
a 1965 hit for R&B group The Contours. As with most of their covers, they give the song a high-energy blues-rock makeover. Enjoy...

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