07. 02. 12. 07:28 pm ♥ 3

Artist: The Modern Lovers
Title: Government Center
Album: The Modern Lovers

A Song You Don’t Meet Everyday: The Take Down the Government Edition

"Government Center"

I listen to “Government Center” by The Modern Lovers when I need to break up the tedium of a work day — which is every work day. Especially now that I’ve started commuting to a sterile office environment filled with repetitive tasks instead of the dingy student newsroom where any day someone could walk in with a tip that would start up an adventure.

“Government Center” is a song about the destruction of blandness with the power of rock and roll. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if long-haired rock bands dropped by the citadels of bureaucracy and made all the worker bees feel better while they’re sending out all that correspondence? If so, grab a guitar, and come by 920 Yonge St, Toronto, Ontario any weekday between 10am-6pm.

03. 05. 12. 05:48 pm ♥ 2

The digital doldrums

A number of newspapers gave an unprecedented amount of information to the Pew Research Centre about how the digital revolution is affecting their bottom lines. The news is bad: on average for every digital dollar gained, newspapers lost seven. Here’s some of the highlights. 

Cultural inertia is a major factor. Most papers are not putting significant effort into the new digital revenue categories that, while small now, are expected to provide most the growth in the future. To different degrees, executives predict newsrooms will continue to shrink, more papers will close and many surviving papers will deliver a print edition only a few days a week.

Beneath these broad numbers, however, are papers that buck the trend in significant ways and offer the idea that more can be achieved. One paper studied saw digital ad revenue grow 63% and print grow 8% in the last full year for which it had data. Another paper registered a gain of 50% in digital advertising.  

Some of these outliers also were having more success growing new categories of digital revenue, not just selling the traditional categories more effectively.One of the papers generating the most digital revenue, for instance, was having significant success selling targeted digital advertising customized based on customer online behavior. This is projected to be the biggest growth area in local digital advertising. Most papers studied had very little of this kind of “smart” advertising.

The growth in digital revenue is generally slower at smaller papers than at larger ones, though so is the decline in print advertising. That suggests that while the small papers that make up the vast majority of U.S. dailies are not changing as quickly as larger ones, they may have more time to sort out their way.

Of the papers sharing private data, advertising on mobile devices accounted for only 1% of the digital revenue in 2011. Executives are generally excited by the prospects of mobile, but for now it accounts for a tiny amount of revenue. Executives also believe that due to its ubiquity in the market, the phone ultimately could be more important to mobile revenue than tablets, a sign perhaps of some growing uncertainty about the ability to charge for apps, though some executives are already skeptical about how much money newspapers can make with smartphones.

Newspaper executives described an industry still caught between the gravitational pull of the legacy tradition and the need to chart a faster digital course. A number of them worried that their companies simply had too many people-whether it be in the newsroom, the boardroom or on the sales staff-who were too attached to the old way of doing things.

02. 21. 12. 05:31 pm

The Caging of America

Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker takes a stab at answering a puzzle I’ve often thought about; what is the great moral question of our time?

Gopnik argues in his concise, persuasive essay that, at least for America, it’s about how many people the country puts behind bars.

For a great many poor people in America, particularly poor black men, prison is a destination that braids through an ordinary life, much as high school and college do for rich white ones. More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States.

He also addresses the normalization of rape within American society—as long as the victims are male prisoners.

Prison rape is so endemic—more than seventy thousand prisoners are raped each year—that it is routinely held out as a threat, part of the punishment to be expected. The subject is standard fodder for comedy, and an uncoöperative suspect being threatened with rape in prison is now represented, every night on television, as an ordinary and rather lovable bit of policing. The normalization of prison rape—like eighteenth-century japery about watching men struggle as they die on the gallows—will surely strike our descendants as chillingly sadistic, incomprehensible on the part of people who thought themselves civilized.

I highly recommend reading the entire piece.

Some other possible candidates for most egregious moral harm done by Western society: factory farming, climate change, agricultural subsidies that put farmers in developing world our of business and restrictive international migration laws.

02. 21. 12. 04:51 pm ♥ 2

The Poetry of the knuckleball

In the wake of Tim Wakefield’s retirement announcement, Joe Posnanski ponders the virtues of the knuckleball, nowadays a rarity in baseball.

The knuckleball, Willie Stargell once said, is a butterfly with hiccups. Jimmy Cannon called it a curveball that doesn’t give a damn. Hitting the knuckler is like eating Jell-O with chopsticks (Bobby Murcer), like eating soup with a fork (Richie Hebner), or just plain impossible (“There are two theories on hitting the knuckleball … unfortunately, neither of them works,” Charlie Lau once said). Catching it is like trying to catch a butterfly with tweezers (Tim McCarver) or just plain impossible (“The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait for it to stop rolling and then pick it up,” Uecker famously said). Knuckleballs are like snowflakes — no two alike (Jason Varitek).

I’ve always thought of the knuckleball as poetry. When it’s really good, it’s surprising and deep and almost impossibly awesome — you just can’t believe something could be so cool. A great poem, like a great knuckler, feels like it’s breathing. And when it’s really bad — yeah, it’s really bad.

01. 02. 12. 11:58 pm ♥ 3

In praise of concrete

Thanks to Buchanan Tower, UBC students probably hate concrete more than any other group. But Charles Kenny at Foreign Policy magazine gives a good defence for the stuff.

Here’s proof: Starting in 2000, a program in Mexico’s Coahuila state called “Piso Firme" (Firm Floor) offered up to $150 per home in mixed concrete, delivered directly to families who used it to cover their dirt floors. Scholar Paul Gertler evaluated the impact: Kids in houses that moved from all-dirt to all-concrete floors saw parasitic infestation rates drop 78 percent; the number of children who had diarrhea in any given month dropped by half; anemia fell more than four-fifths; and scores on cognitive tests went up by more than a third. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, mothers in newly cemented houses reported less depression and greater life satisfaction.) By 2005, Piso Firme had spread to other states, and 300,000 households — about 10 percent of dirt-floor houses in Mexico — had taken part in the program.

Of course, concrete doesn’t just fight parasites, but also improves transportation (by the building of roads) thus bolstering economies. It’s important to remember that making concrete is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases, but Kenny makes a pretty good case for the stark substance.

11. 01. 11. 10:42 pm ♥ 7

Feng Shan Ho, Chiune Sugihara & the Righteous Among the Nations

The National Post just wrote up a story about Feng Shan Ho, a Chinese diplomat who saved thousands of Viennese Jews during the Holocaust by issuing them visas which they coud use to leave Europe. 

For two years, he issued visas. Five hundred a month on average, despite being ordered to stop by his superiors and being evicted from the building housing his office by the Germans. Dr. Ho opened a new office, and paid for it out of his own pocket when his Chinese boss in Berlin shut off the money tap. He kept issuing visas until he was transferred out of Austria in 1940. He died in California in 1997, having never met the people he helped save, beyond a fleeting, life-giving encounter in Vienna.

Feng Shan Ho was just one of many diplomats who used the powers of their office to save European Jews from certain death, the most famous of who is the Swedish Raoul Wallenberg.

Feng Shan Ho’s story, and especially his silence on the subject after WWII, is more reminicent of Chiene Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who helped save an estimated 6000 of Jews from occupied Lithuania.

From 18 July to 28 August 1940, aware that applicants were in danger if they stayed behind, Sugihara began to grant visas on his own initiative, after consulting with his family. He ignored the requirements and issued the Jews with a ten-day visa to transit through Japan, in direct violation of his orders. Given his inferior post and the culture of the Japanese Foreign Service bureaucracy, this was an extraordinary act of disobedience. He spoke to Soviet officials who agreed to let the Jews travel through the country via the Trans Siberian Railroad at five times the standard ticket price.

Sugihara continued to hand write visas, reportedly spending 18–20 hours a day on them, producing a normal month’s worth of visas each day, until 4 September, when he had to leave his post before the consulate was closed. By that time he had granted thousands of visas to Jews, many of whom were heads of households and thus permitted to take their families with them. On the night before their scheduled departure, Sugihara and his wife stayed awake writing out visa approvals. According to witnesses, he was still writing visas while in transit from his hotel and after boarding the train at the Kuanas Railway Station, throwing visas into the crowd of desperate refugees out of the train’s window even as the train pulled out.

In final desperation, blank sheets of paper with only the consulate seal and his signature (that could be later written over into a visa) were hurriedly prepared and flung out from the train. As he prepared to depart, he said, “please forgive me. I cannot write anymore. I wish you the best.” When he bowed deeply to the people before him, someone exclaimed, “Sugihara. We’ll never forget you. I’ll surely see you again!”

Later in his life, Sugihara would settle in Kobe, at one point selling light bulbs to support his family. When he died in 1986, few of his countrymen were aware of what he had done. It wasn’t until a large Jewish delegation arrived at his funeral, including the Israeli ambassador to Japan, did his neighbours discover what he had done.

Shan Ho, Wallenberg and Sugihara have all been awarded the “Righteous Among the Nations” honorific by Israel, which is given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. 

10. 31. 11. 11:07 pm ♥ 11

Why most foreign charitable efforts make life worse for those they “help”

Foreign Policy magazine’s Charles Kenny explains to the west why Haiti, or the rest of the developing world, doesn’t need your ugly old goddamn t-shirts.

Bringing in shirts from outside also hurts the local economy: Garth Frazer of the University of Toronto estimates that increased used-clothing imports accounted for about half of the decline in apparel industry employment in Africa between 1981 and 2000. Want to really help a Zambian? Give him a shirt made in Zambia.

Even Bill Clinton has serious regrets about the food aid programs done under his administration.

Former President Bill Clinton concluded that the food aid program may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked.… I had to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did.

There’s two main points I think to take away from this.

Firstly, is that this is just another example of good intentions having a seriously negative impact on people’s lives. Many charitable organizations, as well as the aid arms of governments and international organizations, actually end up doing more harm than good. 

One important thing to remember about charities is that, when they do fall short, there’s no mechanism in place that will punish them. When a business doesn’t deliver, it’s profit margin takes a hit. Bad governments do badly at the polls.

But when charities fall short of what their supposed to do, whether intentionally or unintentionally, there’s no direct negative impact. People are likely to continue giving to the charity because the commodity that their purchasing is a sense of satisfaction for helping somebody. 

Charities themselves don’t have any easily understood signals to tell them whether or not their succeeding. And since charities are in competition with one another for funds from donors and governments, they have an incentive to portray their actions as effective.

Secondly, the article makes the point that the best way to help poor people is to directly give them money. Generally, people know best how to spend their own money. This is the principle behind programs such as microcredit and Brazil’s wonderfully successful Bolsa Familia initiative. Some charities are also getting on the bandwagon. 

Another point that doesn’t get discussed as often is the role that immigration plays in development. As I argued in my second published article for the Ubyssey, remittances from Haitian migrants can do significantly more to improve people’s lives than charitable aid.

The same principle applies to Pakistani construction workers in the UAE or Filipino nannies in California. 

If we really want to help people, let them help themselves.

(On a side note, I really hate Toms.) 

08. 05. 11. 05:56 pm ♥ 7

The Patron Saint of Pittsburgh

The past few days, I’ve become increasingly fascinated with Fred Rogers. The many articles, interviews and snippets out there on the internet about the man paint a portrait of someone truly heroic. 

A 1998 Esquire profile, in fact, was titled "Can You Say ‘Hero’?"

All in all, it is one of the most engrossing long-form pieces I’ve ever encountered and is an absolute must read.

Beloved by children in the United States and Canada, Rogers actually got his start at the CBC before moving down to Pittsburgh and working with PBS.

He’s not only popular with kids however. In the Esquire story, Rogers discusses an encounter with one of his inter-species fans.

The first time I met Mister Rogers, he told me a story of how deeply his simple gestures had been felt, and received. He had just come back from visiting Koko, the gorilla who has learned—or who has been taught—American Sign Language. Koko watches television. Koko watches Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and when Mister Rogers, in his sweater and sneakers, entered the place where she lives, Koko immediately folded him in her long, black arms, as though he were a child, and then … “She took my shoes off, Tom,” Mister Rogers said.

Here’s some more interesting facts about America’s favourite neighbour.

He’s so beloved that when his car was stolen one day, and the local media picked up the story, it was returned 48 hours later with a note that read “If we had known that it was yours, we never would have taken it.”

When Rogers died of stomach cancer in 2003, the Westboro Baptist Church protested his funeral because he had never said anything damning about homosexuality (Rogers is actually an ordained Presbyterian minister).

He was so completely disciplined that, through swimming every morning and abstaining from liquor, cigarettes and meat, he maintained his weight at exactly 143 pounds for the last 35 years of his life.

Also, he saved both public broadcasting and the VCR. 

03. 16. 12. 09:09 pm

The Fabulists

The shocking revelations that Mike Daisy fabricated large portions of his monologue “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” parts of which were adopted by This American Life for an episode on working conditions at Apple, should not be so shocking.

In retrospect, the story was too good to be true. That one man, with no journalistic training or experience, would be able to uncover so much, in such dramatic fashion, during such a short trip to a country he knew little about, is more reminiscent of a bad made for TV movie than a series of actual events. 

And throughout his intense pseudo-confession to Ira Glass which aired in This American LIfe’s “Retraction” episode, Daisey clings to the notion that he did more good than bad. And though he states that his biggest regret was that he allowed his piece to be interpreted as journalism instead of theatre, the exchanges between him and Glass actually reveal an inherit tension between two oft-stated goals of journalism: to tell the truth and to instigate change.

Unlike the most famous of the recent fabricators that he will inevitably be lumped into, Daisey appeared to have generally decent motives. He wasn’t glory-hungry like Stephen Glass or wracked by personal problems like Jayson Blair. Instead, he appears to sincerely believe that his truth is the truth, despite any pesky facts that may get in the way. 

Unlike Glass or Blair or Janet Cooke, Daisey can’t blame a high-stress working environment that forces young writers to always have the next scoop.

He comes a little bit closer to Truman Capote, who fictionalized swaths of “In Cold Blood” for the sake of narrative. He made things neater. 

Regardless of stated motive, Jack Shafer at Reuters has it write about motivations of all fabulists such as Daisey.

1) They lie because they don’t have the time or talent to tell the truth, 2) they lie because think they can get away with it, and 3) they lie because they have no respect for the audience they claim to want to enlighten. 

For other compelling reading on the subject, take a look at Buzz Bisinger’s "Shattered Glass" and the New York Times’s retraction of Jayson Blair’s reporting.

02. 22. 12. 11:47 pm

Artist: Brian Eno
Title: Third Uncle
Album: Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy

A Song You Don’t Meet Everyday - Brian Eno Edition

Third Uncle is a freight train. Loaded with dynamite. Hijacked by that guy from the “Speed” movies that rigs buses to explode. At any moment, the jittery guitars and propulsive drum beat sound like they’re going to run the track totally off the rails. It’s only Brian Eno’s deadpan that keeps the song from exploding entirely.

02. 21. 12. 05:08 pm

The Justice Institute attacks

At the end of last year, I wrote about the bizarre shootings and arson attacks against people connected to the Justice Institute of BC. 

In September, the RCMP advised the public that 10 individuals linked with JIBC had been the victims of arson or shooting attacks throughout 2011. The people targeted included three JIBC employees, two former students and five others with loose links to the institution.

"[We] had determined that there was a larger issue here with regards to a variety of shootings and arsons and quickly determined that there was some commonality between them," said Sgt. Peter Thiessen.

Since then, three more people have been targeted, though none of the 13 suffered any injuries. The attacks occurred at or near the victims’ homes and vehicles.

Those attacks have continued into the New Year. Last week, Elaine O’Connor at The Province wrote the most comprehensive article on the subject to date. It goes in depth into the ICBC angle and brings to light many details about the actual attacks. 

It was a cold, overcast night in mid-January when residents of a normally quiet West Vancouver neighbourhood heard the wail of fire engine sirens.

A blaze consumed the front entrance of a home in the 1000-block Lawson Avenue at about 2:40 a.m. and rendered the house uninhabitable.

The Jan. 13 fire was deliberately set at the home of former West Vancouver police chief Scott Armstrong, who had served on the force until 2006 and had recently sold the property.

The story adeptly captures the absurdity of this situation; an unknown motive, a mysterious group of assailants and the only connection between the victims is a school. It feels like one of Agatha Christie’s lesser works.

“This is one of the most bizarre cases I’ve ever come to know about, ever,” said Prof. Darryl Plecas, a University of the Fraser Valley criminology expert and director of its Centre for Criminal Justice Research.

“It’s an extremely odd case. There is something not normal going on here. And, if you consider the number of victims, this is also extraordinarily complex.

“What is going on here? Is it a personal vendetta? A vendetta against the system or the institution, or is it broader than that? Or are we talking about someone who is ‘not all there?’”

Plecas believes whoever is behind the attacks is thoughtful and motivated, but acting too recklessly and committing too many brazen attacks not to get caught.

“You don’t fire gunshots recklessly without realizing that you could be putting someone in harm’s way,” the professor said.

01. 18. 12. 09:50 pm ♥ 13

What would it take for Nathan Cullen to be elected NDP leader?

In the many columns written about the NDP leadership race, Nathan Cullen’s name usually appears side-by-side with Paul Dewar, Niki Ashton, Romeo Saganash and Martin Singh in the lower-tier of potential Stornoway residents.

I’m interested in Cullen for a few reasons. He’s the only leadership candidate from BC, he’s incredibly accessible (I sat down with him two weeks ago, check out the profile here) and he’s taken some very unpopular and daring positions in what has been a largely lacklustre race.

So what would it take for Cullen to pull out a victory in March? Well, a lot of things would have to go in his favour.

1) A Liberal Surge

What Cullen is best known for in this race is his proposal that to hold joint nomination conventions in ridings with the Liberals and the Greens in order to take down the Conservatives in a leftist-flood. Cullen maintains that this would be a one-time only deal and that immediately upon forming government, he would change the voting system away from first-past-the-post.

This idea hasn’t exactly had a lot of support amongst NDP partisans. But if Bob Rae and the Liberals start gaining some heat in the polls, being the senior partner in a centre-left coalition may start to look appealing to some.

2) Enbridge Gets Ugly

The Enbridge Pipeline hearings are about to get underway and Kitimat, where the pipeline would hit ocean, is in Cullen’s home riding of Skeena-Bulkley Valley. This is going to mean a lot of press on this issue, and if he plays his cards right, a lot of press for Cullen. He’s been an opponent of the project from the start, which is going to play well with environmentally-inclined NDPers. 

The Enbridge issue has already gotten him his first caucus endorsements from BC MPs Phil Donnelly and Alex Atemanenko.

3) Mulcair/Topp/Nash Get Ugly

One of the most endearing things about Cullen is that he comes off as totally earnest and gives off-the-cuff answers that don’t sound as if they’ve been processed in the PR-factory. If the top-tier of candidates start attacking each other hard, voters may start to find more value in Cullen’s genuine likeableness.

Just recently, Paul Wells gave Cullen some love for his generous and immediate response to Mulcair’s statement that he would hold his French passport even if he stayed in office. Cullen went on to say that he simply disagreed with Jack Layton on this issue.

I’m me and Jack was Jack. We agreed on almost everything. I think on this one we disagreed. Just different views on the world. Perhaps it’s a generational thing. My generation coming up, we’re global citizens. As a young politician getting into office, it wasn’t a problem for me because many of my friends work abroad and hold different citizenships it didn’t matter for me. As long as they prove themselves in action, that’s what I’m looking for. Are you a proud Canadian and do you stand behind the flag? That’s all I’ve ever seen from Tom.

That’s the type of forthrightness that could see Cullen win over more people the better they get to know him.

4) Debates

Cullen was credited by most commentators for being the most interesting in the first NDP debate and has generally kept that up ever since. His likeable demeanour combined with his ability to go off-script while staying on-message makes for, as Kady O’Malley tweeted today, “lively” performances. If he keeps on acting like a human being in a field full of grizzly bears and robots, Cullen may be able to eek something together.

Of course, Cullen isn’t without his liabilities. Many NDPers see working with the Liberals as anathema and he’s taken unpopular positions on the gun registry. But don’t be surprised if by March the name Cullen starts appearing alongside Topp, Mulcair and Nash.

(Photo Courtesy of Nathan Cullen)

01. 02. 12. 11:01 pm

Conservatives, reactionaries and all the rest

In his review of “The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin,” Mark Lilla traces the origins of terms such as “liberal,” “conservative” and “reactionary,” arguing that in order to understand these political movements, we must have an accurate taxonomy. The distinction that he draws between conservative and reactionary is especially helpful, since they’re generally seen as interchangeable.

Liberal” and “conservative” first became labels for political tendencies in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Like all polemical terms their meaning and usage shifted around in partisan debate, but the philosophical distinction between them was settled by the mid-nineteenth century, thanks in large part to Edmund Burke. After the Revolution, Burke argued that what really separated its partisans and opponents were not atheism and faith, or democracy and aristocracy, or even equality and hierarchy, but instead two very different understandings of human nature. Burke believed that, since human beings are born into a functioning world populated by others, society is—to use a large word he wouldn’t—metaphysically prior to the individuals in it. The unit of political life is society, not individuals, who need to be seen as instances of the societies they inhabit.

What makes conservatives conservative are the implications they have drawn from Burke’s view of society. Conservatives have always seen society as a kind of inheritance we receive and are responsible for; we have obligations toward those who came before and to those who will come after, and these obligations take priority over our rights. Conservatives have also been inclined to assume, along with Burke, that this inheritance is best passed on implicitly through slow changes in custom and tradition, not through explicit political action. Conservatives loyal to Burke are not hostile to change, only to doctrines and principles that do violence to preexisting opinions and institutions, and open the door to despotism. This was the deepest basis of Burke’s critique of the French Revolution; it was not simply a defense of privilege.

The term “reaction” migrated from the natural sciences into European political thought in the mid-eighteenth century, thanks to Montesquieu, who had picked it up from Newton. Originally, though, it was not associated with the concept of revolutions, which were then thought to be rare and unpredictable events, not part of some process of historical unfolding. That changed in 1789, when partisans of the French Revolution squared off against those who spoke openly of a Counter-Revolution that would set the world aright. The euphoria of rebellion, the collapse of the Old Regime, the Terror, and the subsequent rise of Napoleon gave history a secular eschatological charge, which destroyed many of the remaining moderates. For European radicals, the French Revolution was a cosmic epiphany that began an unstoppable process of collective human self-emancipation. For reactionaries, too, it was an apocalyptic event, signaling the end of a process that had placed Catholic Europe at the summit of world civilizations. One group saw a radiant future, the other saw nothing but the deluge. But revolutionaries and reactionaries did agree on one thing: that thinking seriously about politics means thinking about the course of history, not human nature.

The problem with leaving political language as undefined is that it allows the proponents and critics of a policy to simply label it as “liberal” or “reactionary” and leave it at that. What this essentially does is toss the policy onto a heap of other often unrelated and dissimilar policies and call it a comprehensive political program.

Matthew Yglesias builds on this idea in the context of taxing the rich. 

 What’s bound to rub a lot of people the wrong way about Robin’s book is that it’s mean about conservatives, but I would say that we see historically that the “bandwagon with the elites” side of the argument isn’t always the wrong side. There will always be disingenuous, wrongheaded, or simply mistaken versions of the argument that “this thing that would be bad for rich people will also be bad for everyone” but it’s also often true that people dream up ways to stick it to the elites that are themselves counterproductive or worse than the disease. American society in the 1920s was wracked with inequities but the people who reacted to that by becoming Communists were dead wrong. If you want to evaluate policy ideas you do have to actually evaluate the ideas, a “which side are you on?” kind of analysis doesn’t suffice even though it’s descriptively accurate to say that kind of thinking drives much of politics.

11. 01. 11. 07:53 pm ♥ 12

The pitcher as medical practitioner

I came across this passage comparing two pitchers, Orel Hersisher & Jim Gott, in George Will’s “Men at Work,” which I’ve been tenderly plodding through for the past few months. It highlights the inequities amongst pitchers in talents, temperaments, glory and responsibilities.

In many ways Gott offers a complete contrast with Hershiser. Hershiser is intergalactically famous. Gott is not. No Bob Hope specials for him. Hershiser works in one of the nation’s two biggest media markets. Gott worked in one of the smallest of the 26 major league markets. Los Angeles is synonymous with glitter. It should not be. It is as much the home of gang war as of Hollywood. (Gott, by the way, was born in Hollywood.) Pittsburgh is synonymous with sweat and soot. It should not be. The image of Pittsburgh as the Steel City is more than a generation out of date. No steel is made within city limits. There is only one producing steel mill in the metropolitan area. The city’s largest employer is the University of Pittsburgh. But the biggest contrast between Hershiser and Gott is in what they do. Hershiser has a star’s job: starting pitcher. Gott’s job is to prevent disasters and sometimes tidy up messes that other pitchers have made. Hershiser has the glamour of a surgeon. Gott is one of those harried doctors you see—and are mighty glad to see—coping with crises in busy emergency rooms. When major league managers reach for the dugout phone to call the bull pen they should dial 911. The Book of Job—the relief pitcher’s handbook—got it right: Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.

10. 11. 11. 03:50 am

Artist: The Specials
Title: Pearl's Cafe
Album: More Specials

A Song You Don’t Meet Everyday - The Specials Edition

"Pearl’s Cafe"

Pearl’s Cafe is one of the few songs by the Specials that doesn’t start off with complete contempt for the song’s main character. Instead, the music is almost sympathetic to her claims that “It’s all a load of bollocks,” and agrees wholeheartedly when she says “And bollocks to them all.”

However, in typical Specials style, everyone eventually sees the warts around her chin.