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Month: August 2003

Striking opinion

Actually, Dan, Pedro is not “the neediest 10-game winner in baseball history.” He’s the guy who’s giving the Boston Red Sox a chance to win a World Series. It’ll take Manny and Nomar and Varitek to get us to the playoffs, but if the Sox get there, it’s going to be Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe who take the team the rest of the way. This team — this city — needs Pedro.

I am wholly sick of the sports radio idiots who whine about Pedro’s 17.5 million. Most of Boston isn’t, in fact, paying Pedro’s salary. I didn’t buy any tickets this season, and I’m still getting the pleasure of watching Pedro pitch on television. From where I sit, it’s a freebie. Dan Shaughnessy isn’t paying for tickets — in fact, without the Pedros and the Nomars and the Birds and the Bradys of the world, Dan wouldn’t have a job.

It’s valid to criticize sports stars, but Boston takes it to a different level. There was a really telling segment on WEEI this morning with Dennis and Callahan. They were talking to a caller, a journalist, whose name I didn’t catch; they said something about how Pedro would find the same reception and the same criticism no matter where he wound up.

Said journalist pointed out that this was absolutely incorrect. There are plenty of markets out there where the fans don’t get this heated up. You don’t get the same excitement when you win, but maybe (he went on) Pedro doesn’t need that; maybe Pedro gets all his motivation from the inside.

That’s really the bottom line: Boston is hard on its sports stars. People talk a lot about Pedro’s track record of injuries and missing games, but there hasn’t been much talk about the track record of the Boston media. It would have been nice to have a healthy, happy Mo Vaughan around in 1999, you know?

Nobody bitched about Pedro missing the team picture when he made that relief appearance in 1999 against the Indians. He’s paying for the team’s lack of success over the last few years, because Dan Duquette isn’t around any more so there needs to be another target. I guarantee that the people complaining about Pedro now will be asking why Larry Lucchino and John Henry can’t find an ace pitcher two years from now.

Map of a life

Perhaps reaching new depths of geekiness here, but I added a relationship mapping feature to my local gaming Wiki. It shows how nodes link to one another; here’s Reese Beulay as a collection of boxes and lines.

This is actually pretty useful for visualizing how characters relate to one another. I’m going to play around with using it to do relationship maps for new campaigns, too.

There’s probably some clever way to use this to visualize blog connections, but I’m not sure that it wouldn’t just degrade into a black hole. Maybe I’ll play with it sometime.

Monday Mashup #6: Huck Finn

Today’s Monday Mashup inspiration is the classic Huckleberry Finn. It is perhaps the definitive American novel of juvenile delinquency, beating out Catcher in the Rye by a nose. (I added “American” above so no smarty-pants would say anything about Lord of the Flies. Hah.)

Huck, the quintessential youth, and Jim, the quintessential outsider, float down a river on a raft. They are not in control of their travels to any large degree, and they are willing to accept what comes as a gift from the gods. Adventures, in many ways, happen to them.

Sounds like the average adventuring party to me. Mashers, have at it!

More than one banner

Under the Banner of Heaven is the new book from Jon Krakauer, who appears to want to shed the outdoors adventure label. With this book, he does a pretty good job.

One thread of the book is the story of Ron and Dan Lafferty, fundamentalist Mormons who killed their sister-in-law and niece. It’s an exploration of how two relatively typical men became — pardon the freighted language, but it’s accurate — insane religious fanatics. The brothers believed that God ordered them to carry out the killings.

Krakauer intertwines this with the history of Mormon fundamentalism, which is not simply conservative Mormonism; rather, it’s a blanket term for Mormon splinter sects which reject the teachings of the current Prophet. He does a good job exploring the somewhat xenophobic history of Mormonism, shining light on what was once a near-civil war between Utah and the federal government. He also draws a connection between the Mormon tradition of direct revelation and the beliefs of the Lafferty brothers.

Along the way, he talks about the polygamist settlements still thriving in the United States and Canada. (For example, Colorado City, Arizona.) It’s interesting stuff, shedding light on a subculture that produces people like the Laffertys and Brian David Mitchell.

However, I think Krakauer fell short. He considered the phenomenon of fundamentalist Mormonism in isolation, which gives the impression that there’s something uniquely Mormon about the anti-government rhetoric of the Laffertys. He fails to make the link between the Laffertys and the similar views found in the Christian Identity movement. It doesn’t make Under the Banner a bad book, but I think he missed a good opportunity to be more informative.

Lee Benson writes, in the Mormon newspaper Deseret News, “Throughout history, perfectly respectable religions have been used as the jumping-off spot for hundreds and thousands of people aiming for an orbit outside what’s right.” He’s right: the factors which drove the Laffertys into isolation and madness echo David Neiwart’s material with chilling precision.

The same economic downturn drives the Laffertys and the Montana Freeman; the problems of Idaho and Montana are not very far removed from the problems of Utah. That should be no surprise — while Utah is separated from other Northwestern states culturally, the economic forces which act upon it are the same. The Laffertys would fit perfectly into the world Neiwart describes in In God’s Country.

On the other hand, the Church of the Latter Day Saints is in theory a moderating factor in hard economic times. That’s a pretty important difference; those who fall into the Patriot movement are often those who can’t find help or comfort anywhere else. In theory, Mormons help their own. Did the Laffertys just slip through the cracks? Or does the streak of Mormon xenophobia, to whatever degree it really exists, act as an isolating factor and thus balance out the aid available from the Church?

Always more questions. Still, it’s a really interesting book — definitely recommended.

Me so smart

Quote from myself: “Either the Democrats or the Republicans are going to come together behind one candidate. The winning candidate is going to have upwards of 35% of the vote.”

Advantage: me!

(Yeah, I spent too much time reading self-absorbed blogs while doing research on the previous post. I admit it.)