Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Teixeira to the Yankees, My Head to the Oven

It looks like the Sox just lost the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes. John Heyman is reporting the deal is 8 years, $180 million with a no-trade clause.

At $22.5 AAV, the Yankees offer was worth an extra $1.25 million of the Sox (who reportedly offered 8 for $170M). The no-trade clause is another big bonus for Teixeira. The Sox have a standing rule that they don't offer no-trades.

So this sucks. Going over $20 million per year for Tex is way too much for his body of work, but the Sox have a huge hole in the cleanup spot after running Manny out of town. With Ortiz and Lowell question marks due to health, the Sox are suddenly facing a power outage.

So who's next on the wish list? Are we about to welcome the Bobby Abreu era to Fenway? I certainly hope not, although a stop-gap guy like Abreu may make sense if Joe Mauer is the next great hope next offseason. Other short-time solutions include Ken Griffey Jr . and Jason Giambi. That's some gamey meat right there.

Longer-term, what about Adam Dunn? His power is certainly welcome, but he's best suited as a DH, and we already have one of those. Even if you did play him in the outfield, you'd slow the growth of Ellsbury. But he could spot JD Drew during one of his several trips to the DL.

The irony is rich: The guy best suited for the Sox is the one guy they can't sign. Manny Ramirez winning two World Series for the team is no longer enough for us; a guy's got to run hard down the line, too.

The Sox could try a different tack and land some pitching help. Jake Peavy talk is about to heat up, I think. D-Lowe sightings, too. Derek was another guy the Sox talked down on his way out of town, all but calling him a drunk. I don't know whether that will have any impact on whether he'd sign here again.

You also have to wonder: Did John henry's statement  last week, essentially exposing Scott Boras as a liar, piss off the super agent to the point where he courted a Yankees offer similar enough to the Sox's offer? The details coming out of this deal will be fascinating. Look to see if the Sox were given a shot to match or surpass the Yankees offer. If not, you can bet that Boras was looking to embarrass Henry.

Banana Fort!

Man, Japan is really a world away. How can you not love shit like this?

(h/t to Jascha for pointing this out. Via Gizmodo)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Go see Milk

I went to see Milk  last night with my friend Nicole. Great flick. One of the year's best.

Milk is director Gus Van Sant's presentation of San Francisco activist and politician Harvey Milk, the first openly gay officeholder in America. The film follows Milk (Sean Penn ) from his initial introduction to long-time partner Scott Smith (played ably by James Franco ) in New York, though their arrival in San Francisco and abrupt introduction to the prevailing attitudes of The Castro. It's a traditionally Irish, working class community none-too-pleased with it's gradual transformation to a Gay Mecca. As Milk opens a camera store and introduces himself to a neighbor, he's told in no uncertain terms that he's not welcome. Nightly beatings administered to gay men by police officers show that The Castro in 1971 is not yet the safe area it will become.

Those initial setbacks and slights lead Milk to form a gay-friendly neighborhood business group. It's a savvy move by a man who at first seems a little burnt out and slackerish. The neighborhood's changing population rallies behind local gay and gay-friendly businesses. Soon, the Teamsters are asking Milk's group to support their boycott of Coors beer. Almost immediately, Coors is cut out of the area's bars and clubs, and the company accedes to union demands. Milk, though still a hippie, decides to take his newfound clout to City Hall, and runs for a seat on the Board of Supervisors.

He loses. A lot. The film, which certainly details with loving care the gay rights movement in the 70's, has at its core a character study of a man who's doggedness never leaves him. Harvey Milk's rise in politics comes after years of setbacks and failures. His stubborn refusal of incrementalism (a tack supported by The City's Advocate newspaper and biggest gay political players) moves Milk from Laughingstock to gadfly to insurgent to potent political force.

Arriving to City Hall with Milk is working-class politician Dan White (Josh Brolin ). White is an earnest guy who is clearly outmatched by the office he holds, and by the players around him, especially Milk. Milk immediately takes to White, trying to navigate the flustered Supervisor into his own way of thinking, and offering to trade support for White's vote on a gay rights ordinance. Milk backs out on the deal, infuriating White and setting into motion the emotional spiral that leads the the story's tragic ending.

Brolin gives White gentle treatment. He conjures a villain driven to desperate action by his own inner turmoil and inability to cope with the politics of his time. It's a subtle performance that may be lost in the thicket of strong work by the rest of the cast.

As Milk's star rises on the left coast, there's trouble brewing in Florida. Religious Singer and all-around nut Anita Bryant spearheads ballot initiatives to refuse gay and lesbian citizens to rights. Successful there, Bryant begins working across the country to repeal laws that protect gay rights.

Milk sees in Bryant's movement a chance to curtail to rollback of rights, and picks a fight to get her into the state. It works, and the second half of the film is powered by the movement against Prop 6, a state ballot initiative that would allow schools to fire gay teachers. Milk, having moved from well-meaning but sloppy activist to slick political operator, has Mayor George Moscone on his side as they work against the measure.

Milk's personal life is strained by the constant campaigning and activism, and the easy-going Smith becomes estranged from his partner. After Milk reneges on a promise to quit poliitcs, Smith leaves him. It's an emotional split left understated by Van Sant. Penn and Franco present a couple with unfinished business, and their interactions after the break-up are filled with longing and frustration.

If Smith offered Milk a chance at a quieter life filled with love and companionship, Emile Hirsch's Cleve Jones gives him a different opportunity. Jones is introduced as a young trick cruising when he first meets Milk. Over time, Jones is transformed by Milk from uninterested kid to disaffected rioter to potent activist. Where Smith offers Milk the chance to remain himself, Jones gives him the chance to create a lasting movement.

A second lover, Jack Lira (Diego Luna) is a frustrating, needy character disliked by Milk's staff, and sometimes by Milk himself. Jack's constant demands for attention and reassurance are symptoms of a larger problem, which leaves Milk utterly dejected during the difficult Prop 6 battle.

Penn is clearly inspired by the material at hand, and brings to the screen a Milk that is full of life and mirth. His performance underlines Milk's single-mindedness in acheiving fundamentally simple goal: To earn the same rights for everyone. The impish charm deployed by Penn serves well for a politician different even by the standards of a city that gave the world the Merry Pranksters and Emperor Norton.

As the movie came to it's tragic and inevitable climax, a woman behind us began crying in the theater. I mean sobbing, right through the credits. It was a powerful movie, and Van Sant's treatment of Milk's fate was deftly handled, but you know it's coming, so what's with the waterworks? When we turned around, we saw that she was in her late teens or early 20's. She was too young to remember Milk and must have never learned about him in school or elsewhere.

A lot has been made about the timing of Milk's release, and the crying girl made me wonder whether there's something to the idea that releasing Milk in the summer could have helped with California's Prop 8 battle. Would a movie about the struggle for gay rights have helped defeat th proposal? Maybe so. The portrayal of the gay rights movement is central to the theme, but it's presented as an almost inevitable conclusion for a society moving towards more rights for everyone.

The film's mantra is progress. It does not tut-tut anyone or present a syrupy dissertation on why it's important to support gay rights. Van Sant believes his audience already knows it's important, and that level of trust makes for a stronger story. A lesser film would have been seen as an attempt to sermonize and manipulate, and produced an anti-gay backlash. A late-Summer Milk release? We'll never know.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Stuck In My Head: Eli "Paperboy" Reed and The True Loves

Eli "Paperboy" Reed and The True Loves are a local act, and they are fabulous. I went to school with one of The True Loves. Ben Jaffe and I have been introduced at least five times, and he can never remember that we've met. Oh well, he's a nice guy and makes a hell of a jerk chicken. And his music kicks ass.

BONUS: I couldn't have a post with "Paperboy" in the header and not include a link to the old Nintendo game , which I obsessed over when I was 10. Enjoy.


Friday, December 12, 2008

The People In The Neighborhood

I have finally cleaned up the blogroll, getting rid of some stuff I haven't read in years. I moved it all into one category, saving only the incomparable Univeral Hub and the always-spot-on-except-about-casinos Media Nation from the old Boston list.

I've also added a few friends and their new sites to the list.

  • Jonathan Messinger's Shoot the Messinger is always a good read. If you wanna know about politics, writing, or the Boston Celtics, he's your guy. 

  • My pal Stephen is a college administrator, and has started Face Space is Crazy as a way to talk with the young'uns about keeping themselves from getting killed, exploited or otherwise saddened by social networking.

  • Color Collecting is a group effort by some friends to photograph the bold and evocative things all around us. Really cool stuff.

  • My buddy James just started up Daily Snaps, a Tumblr site where he sends a pic a day from his cell phone camera. He has a knack for wordlessly finding the witty in everyday life.

  • The News Peg is John Huston's feisty blog about all things Oak Park, his little corner of Chicagoland. Be sure to check out his "Face to Face" segments. This sort of creative, fun endeavor is what newspapers across the country should be doing, instead of crying in their beers about classified ad revenues.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Stuck In My head: HoneyHoney

honeyhoney - Little Toy Gun video

Sure, they seem a little image-conscious, but I like what I've heard thus far from HoneyHoney . They are signed to Kiefer Sutherland's new music Label, Ironworks , which explains how this teensy tiny lead singer could get the drop on Jack Bauer in the old West.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Gene and I, We're On A Mission From God

I had a weird dream last night:

I was at a diner, eating Boston Cream Pie and talking on the air with some radio program that was broadcasting live from behind the counter. The hosts kept calling me John from Winthrop, who was a guy that regularly called in, kind of like Butch from the Cape used to call WEEI. They had me sparring on air with another regular caller. At one point, I told them that I wasn't this John cat, and they were like, "So why did you let us go on and on like that?"  While answering, I accidentally dropped an F-bomb; I said, "You guys always assume that I'm him, so I said to myself 'Fuck it, just go with it.'" 

The radio guys were cool about it and said they bleeped it in time, but my friends Jason and Lisa said, "We totally heard it," and freaked me out that the FCC was gonna come look for me. Then they left, because Jason had to say goodbye to someone in Winthrop.

After that, I was working with Gene Hackman, who was trying to get revenge on this Burger King that had fired him. We ended up stuffing the end of a garden hose through a window, so the water would mix with the grease on the floor and the manager inside (played by William Fichtner) would slip and fall.

Except that there was too much water, so it was gushing in like there was a water main break or something, and people were getting swept away and hurt. Just then Jason and Lisa came back, and they had stolen an MBTA bus. We all got on the bus and sped away, but we wanted to help everyone trapped in the gushing waters at Burger King, so we stripped down the bus and converted it to look like a garbage truck, that way we could get around without the police getting wise. We went back and fixed the water problem, and then me, a bunch of my friends, Gene Hackman, and the crew at Burger King all got together at these long tables, like in the Harry Potter movies, and had a big meal. I woke up just as my cousin Rachel came out to serve us all chocolate chip Rice Krispie treats that were round like rice cakes.

 Of all that, I can explain the pie, because I had slice of Boston Cream at Kelly's Diner in Ball Square a couple of weeks ago. The rest? No clue. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Who's a Happy Dog?

I was out in Fitchburg for a wedding about three weeks ago. The wedding and overall weekend was great. While there, I couldn't help but notice there were quite a few dogs running around in the hotel lobby. On Saturday night, this sign showed up at the elevator bank:

Yeah, that's right. You read the top of the sign, and you think, "That doesn't mean what I think it means." The good people at the ICSB knew that disbelief would be the default position of any reader, so they used a little space at the bottom of the sign to say, "Yes, this means exactly what you think it means."

Also note the paper sign hanging to the side. There was a line of dogs and owners next to the registration desk when we checked out, all heading into a little room behind the counter. That, apparently, is where the magic happened.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Stuck In My Head: Camera Obscura

Maybe I'm a little late to the party, but I've been obsessing over Camera Obscura the last couple of weeks:

I don't know whether it's a function of getting older, or an expanding musical palette, but I find myself listening to more and more jangly indie rock than I ever used to. I feel like I need to crank through "Run To The Hills " every so often just to keep some cred.