Friday, February 29, 2008

Hope Springs Eternal

Spring has sprung. Spring training has begun.

Well, I guess we’ve still got a few weeks to go before Spring really springs, but who’s counting? The Boys of the Summer-to-come are running, stretching, hitting, fielding, pitching. Getting ready to launch another season of our national pastime.

This is the time of year when the new season is supposed to look promising, when last year’s disappointments are supposed to have been forgotten, when we are supposed to be ready to embrace new heroes. But here – in the home of Youuuuuuuuuur San Francisco Giants, expectations are in the toilet.

But wait, isn’t hope supposed to spring eternal? Even though Bonds is gone and many guys who are back were terrible in 2007, and the only new guy anyone has heard of is Aaron Rowland, shouldn’t hope be springing eternal? The answer is yes, and that’s my challenge.

I’m ready for the challenge, and then I learn that Vizquel is hurt and Molina is hurt and Durham is hurting, and so is Aurilia. I’m ready for the challenge and I see that the Cubs walloped two of our starting pitchers in the first exhibition game. There’s something wrong with this picture. It’s our pitching that is supposed to give us a chance to win some games.

Our new Giants won’t rely on hitting. That’s very smart, since we don’t seem to have much in the way of hitters. It’ll be “little ball” that will pull us through. Speed. Aggression on the basepaths. Singles, not home runs. All backed up by great pitching. Other teams have won this way – why not us?

OK. I’m ready for the challenge. Hope springs eternal. No reason to make premature conclusions. The guys who are hurt will get well. The pitchers are young and will show the world how good they are. It will be teamwork and team spirit and savvy coaching that will get the job done. Don’t count us out 32 days before we play our first meaningful game.

Am I trying to talk myself into something? Yes, I am. I’m ready for the challenge. Hope springs eternal.

Play Ball!!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Old is Not the End

I had a birthday two days ago. Most would call it a big one. I think every birthday (every day for that matter) is worthy of celebration, but I have to admit that I had more attention than usual on this one. It was #75.

Sandra and I have a tradition around birthdays. We celebrate for a week. For her it is MarshWeek. For me it is MillerFest. A series of surprise activities is organized. The birthday boy/girl doesn’t know what is to happen until the last moment. The other handles all the everyday chores for the duration of the celebration. The one being feted is boss. It is a great tradition.

To acknowledge that this was in fact a big one, MillerFest 2008 was organized to last for 11 days. We had great meals. We drank extraordinary wine. We did fun things. We saw good friends. And it’s not over yet. There is one final special event scheduled for tomorrow.

About my more than usual attention on #75, my thoughts were:
There is no getting around it, 75 is old.
A lot of the obituaries I see are for people younger than 75.
And for those who die after 75, many of them aren’t much past 75.
Even though I’m not on the verge of expiring, I am entering the last act, the final
stage, the winter of my existence.
75 doesn’t frighten me, but thinking about it is a little sad.
And a few more . . .

In the weeks leading up to my birthday these thoughts recurred. I didn’t think they were uplifting, but there they were. This is just the way it is and there is no point in resisting it. 75 is old.

Then I had a new thought – one that acknowledges reality but is not morose or depressing. 75 is the beginning of old. With my new thought came a new context for the next phase of my life: Old is not the end.

To make sure I was not totally off base, I thought I should check out the definition of ‘old’. The dictionary has a lot to say about old, but the first definition is: Having lived or existed for a relatively long time. Perfect. That is at once both accurate and not loaded with negative interpretations. I have lived for a relatively long time.

Onward . . .

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I’ve been watching “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart for years, long before it became the ‘in’ thing to do. He appealed to my sense of orneriness and he did a great job of ridiculing people and situations that deserved ridicule. In years gone by his crew of ‘correspondents’ was amazingly talented – in particular Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, and Rob Corddry. Behind the scenes, of course, were the writers who came up with the ideas for most of what we saw.

When Colbert left in 2005 and began hosting his own show, “The Colbert Report,” I watched a few times and then decided to drop it. I thought it was OK, but not outstanding. I quietly assumed the “Report” wouldn’t make it and Colbert would go back to “The Daily Show” where he belonged.

The world didn’t agree with me. Colbert became more and more popular, and began showing up on magazine covers, “60 Minutes,” “Charlie Rose,” and more. About a year ago I relented a tiny bit and began watching Colbert’s opening monologue. Not the whole show mind you, just stuck my toe in the “Report” water and kept it there.

And so it stayed until the writer’s strike late last year when they both went off the air – for a while. After weeks of re-runs and replacement shows and with the strike in its second month, Stewart and Colbert came back with new shows without their writers. At that point, for some reason I can’t explain, I began watching both shows in their entirety. Maybe I’d just missed my daily dose of news spoofing and wanted to make up for lost time.

I began my new watching regimen with the same assumptions I’d had before – Stewart was a gem; Colbert was OK. After about a week I realized I was appreciating Stephen Colbert more and more. Even without the writers “The Colbert Report” was quite good. And he, in an extempore mode on many occasions, was outstanding. Stewart on the other hand was really struggling to get through his shows. At best they were “OK.” Often they were downright lousy. And he knew it. He seemed embarrassed to be a part of what was going on.

Even so, I’m cutting Jon Stewart some slack. I could conclude that he’s just not very good without his writers. And I could conclude that Stephen Colbert may be better when the writers are working but does quite well without them. But even with those conclusions I’m not about to give up on my man Jon. His track record is too good to write him off. We’ll see what happens now that the writers are back.

In the meantime I’m now a devoted Colbert addict. So for the foreseeable future I’ll be watching all of both “The Daily Show,” and “The Colbert Report.” Except this week – they’re showing re-runs while Stewart is off preparing to host the Oscars Sunday. Hummm – I wonder if they should have asked Colbert to do it?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Exorcism Redux

The title of the article is “Exorcism Making Comeback in Europe.”

The subtitle: “As more people are plagued by evil, priests say, the need grows to battle demons.”

This makes me crazy. It’s enough to destroy my serenity as I sip my morning coffee and look out to marvel at the deep reds that enlighten the Golden Gate as the sun rises. Makes me nuts.

This morning’s story, which appeared originally in the Washington Post, focuses on Catholics in Poland who plan to build a “spiritual oasis” dedicated to performing exorcisms. A sacred place where Satan, the devil, demons, evil spirits, whatever, will be driven from the bodies of those poor creatures who are plagued by evil.

Rev. Jankowski, an exorcism expert, says that typical cases include people who turn away from the church and embrace New Age therapies, alternative religions or the occult. Internet addicts and yoga devotees are also at risk.

Omigod, the devil’s after everyone. No one is safe. Lock the doors. Get offline. Light a candle. DO something.

Are we back in the Middle Ages? Is that the odor of a witch being burned or is someone flatulent around here? Is the Black Plague right around the corner? This must be some kind of joke. Just a few Catholics putting us on. Then I did a little research and found that I may be in the minority on this one.

Exorcism isn’t limited to the Catholics. It’s everywhere.
The Anglicans are trained in exorcism.
The Episcopalians have a provision for exorcism.
The Pentecostals seem to love it.
The Mormons are skilled at casting out evil demons.
The Jews are not exempt. Bad dybbuks can get inside you, and if that happens,
gotta get rid of the little bugger.
The Hindus do it.
The Scientologists use exorcism to deal with body thetans.
Muslims who are possessed by evil jinns are candidates for an exorcism.
Taoists do it.
Shintos do it.

Doesn’t anybody not do it? I looked further. Hurray – I found something.
Sikhs don’t do it.
Jains don’t do it.

Whew! For a while I thought I was all alone. As it is, I’m just almost all alone.

To be fair, obviously exorcism isn’t an everyday practice akin to taking communion. But you never know – let those guys get their noses under our tents and who among us doesn’t have a wee bit of the demon inside that they’ll want to exorcise.

Like I say, it makes me crazy.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Tomorrow Sandra and I will celebrate our anniversary. The date we use is the date we met, February 9, 1974. So this will be #34.

In the traditional list of gifts for various anniversaries nothing is named for #34. There is Coral or Jade for #35, but that’s still a year away. On the other hand the modern list has items for each year and #34 is Opal.

I couldn’t remember much about opals so I did a little research. I found that an opal gem doesn’t have a lot of color but does have a ‘rich iridescence.’ When something is iridescent it gleams with bright and changing colors, like a rainbow. I like that. I think it captures the essence of our relationship.

That the iridescence is rich says to me that there is a depth, a satisfaction, a maturity in how we relate to each other. That it is bright and like a rainbow says to me that it hasn’t gotten dull, that it is alive and still exciting.

We will celebrate as we always do with a quiet dinner at home. We have our private traditions and we’ll be true to them. I’ll barbeque a thick New York steak. It will be rare and delicious. We’ll open a bottle of one of the greatest California wines ever produced, a 1974 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard. We bought several cases of this wine long ago and have three bottles left. That it dates as we do, from 1974, makes it perfect. Like us it is getting on in years, so it may lean more toward the rich than the iridescent, but we’ll see. Each year is unique. We’ll have a great Sauternes with cheese to complete the meal.

Mostly we’ll just hang out with each other. We’ll enjoy and be thankful for the blessings we share. We’ll express our love and appreciation. It will be a perfect #34.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Havant & Waterlooville Update

I should have given you the results of the Havant & Waterlooville/Liverpool game before now. Sorry for my tardiness.

To everyone’s surprise the Hawks took the lead in the first half. Then Liverpool scored and tied the game. Then Havant & Waterlooville scored again and led 2-1. At the half it was 2-2. Was an historic upset about to happen?

It was not to be. Liverpool took over in the second half, scored three times and won by a final score of 5-2.

From what I could tell from TV and the press the non-league team’s fans were ecstatic and the results mattered little. They’d had a wonderful run and enjoyed every minute of it. Liverpool’s pub owners also enjoyed every minute of it.