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Rooting Posture II
My team won it all, but I can’t celebrate.

Let me be clear: the San Francisco Giants are World Champions. The building they play in is the most beautiful in baseball, if not in all of sport. They have the best manager in Bruce Bochy, and though the awards have not yet been passed out this year, they have Buster Posey, the most valuable player in the National League.

Why, then, do I feel this unease? Their victory this year was, in many ways, more heroic than the title they won in 2010. Their best player, All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera, was taken away from them in midseason for using performance-enhancing drugs, and yet they persevered. They made two historic comebacks in the post-season, then swept Detroit’s team of behemoths in the World Series. Their efforts, at times, seemed to be touched by the baseball gods and their quest marked by destiny.

They did all this with a gutty, team-first approach that should be the ideal of any baseball fan. Their courage and selflessness was a complete ratification of my rooting philosophy over the entire season. They have done everything I could have asked for and more. And yet, something is missing.

2010 was an experience unprecedented in my rooting career. The most hoped-for outcome — an outcome that had never come to pass in 52 years — was finally a reality. Giants fans, including me, were over the moon with elation, delivered at last to redemption.

2012 is not like that. The Giants have won, capturing the one goal in sports that I value most as a fan, but I am not over the moon. I feel good, but not fulfilled in the way I was in 2010. I have told myself that it’s only natural that the first title is the sweetest, but I do not find that explanation satisfying. If I am a true fan, then each World Series should bring the same degree of elation, the same glow of all-men-are-brothers beneficence.

The problem, I know, is with me. I am jaded, apparently; bored with winning. Here, in the middle of a glorious win, I have lapsed into a loser mentality. This is not a happy realization. As a true fan, I believe, it is part of my duty to think and act as if I were a member of the team. What good can I be to my team in this state? How can they depend on me when the 2013 season begins?

Nor do I see an easy solution. I have lost my way somehow, wandered away from the true path that was once the foundation of my rooting posture. I have fallen from grace, and I cannot see a way back.

My goal is to find that path again before pitchers and catchers report in early February. It will be a long winter, I predict, a time of deep introspection and of questioning my most sacred rooting fundamentals. No, it will not be easy, but one simple truth will sustain me.

The San Francisco Giants are World Champions.
Alley Oop
Alley Oop lived a long, long time ago. Perhaps it’s time to let him die.

I can’t say that I’m a big, long-term fan of the comic strip, but it is one of several which are still around from my youth. As such, it has a special place in my cartoon universe. That’s what makes this so hard for me to write.

The attraction of the strip for me was its characters — particularly Alley Oop himself. For a Neanderthal, he is quite good-looking: thick chest, complete with hair. No neck, but a great haircut. And those forearms! They’re huge, like a gorilla’s. Alley is the original monkey man; for that, I give him high honors.

And he’s monkey strong, too. “He rides thru the jungle tearin’ limbs offa trees,” says the only rock and roll tune ever to star a cartoon character. “He’s the toughest man there is alive,” it goes; practically a super hero.

Or used to be. In 1971, “Alley Oop” began the slow decline that most strips suffer when their creators let them go. V.T. Hamlin launched the strip in 1932 and saw it through to its modern, evolved state. After he quit, it has continued under a number of hands. To my eyes, though, it is now nothing more than a cartoon zombie. No personality, no center of gravity, no reason for being. Even Alley’s monkey strength and toughness are gone. He languishes these days in the Classified section of my local paper — normally the last stop before the abyss for a comic strip.

I wish we could nudge him into that abyss and put him out of his long, attenuated misery, but that won’t happen. He’s still running in over 600 papers around the world, though I can’t imagine why. The NEA syndicate and Jack Bender, who currently draws him, will keep the zombie lurching forward as long as he can make them money.

I can’t fault them, I guess. That is the sad reality into which cartoon characters are born. But it does feel wrong for this noble savage to suffer such a fate — trapped in a twilight world of lame plots and edgeless characters, possibly forever.

The king of the jungle jive deserves better … including a decent burial in a deep, deep cave.
The End
I had a dream last night about the end of the world.

You know about the Gyre, don’t you? That’s the Texas-sized island of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean. It’s a vortex of mostly microscopic plastic bits: tiny pieces of styrofoam, polypropylene, and other synthetic refuse too small to be strained out and too unnatural to biodegrade.

It may even be Alaska-sized by now, and there appear to be four other, similar vortices growing in the South Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. In my dream, they are five gigantic mouths, like plastic black holes, relentlessly sucking in every other bit of plastic on the planet.

The Gyres coalesce, joining to form one irresistible, all-consuming maw. And so, we too will be drawn in — slowly, inexorably — along with our entire plasticized civilization.

The end. Eaten alive by our own garbage.

Hey, it was just a dream; that could never really happen. Although, the Gyres will probably coalesce eventually into a single, swirling mass. It might even grow so large that it will make the Earth ever so slightly lopsided. That will be just enough, perhaps, to cause continental plates to be hurled into space and the Earth to spin out of its orbit and into the sun.

But I wouldn’t worry. Before that happened, we’d surely develop some super plastic-eating enzyme to devour the Gyre and save us all. But what would stop that mad molecule from then turning on us? Humans are probably half plastic at this point; the enzyme would simply do what enzymes do and catalyze us into extinction.

Still, I’m confident we could survive an enzyme apocalypse. As long as we all lived in perfectly airtight domes. And wore impermeable, double-walled suits. And traveled in hermetically sealed vehicles.

Made of plastic. So don’t worry.
My Apologies

First, let me say that, as a fully accredited liberal, I love my fellow men and women, all seven billion of them. I care about them, I feel their pain, I welcome them all to dinner at my place (please call first).

The tricky part of such a position, of course, is that so many of these people are hopeless boneheads. Let me explore a few areas of concern.

Religion. Let’s not talk specifics about religion; that would only end with hurt feelings. Let’s just say that all faiths have their share of crazy stuff you’re supposed to believe without question. That is precisely the problem. I distrust any system that requires me to do things without question. Do we really need all the dogma? What’s wrong with just trying to do right?

No offense, but I’m tempted to chalk it up to laziness. Doing right is a personal responsibility; you can’t palm it off on your spiritual leader, no matter how big his hairdo is. I worry when we consign all the tough thinking to someone else without asking at least a couple of questions. I suppose we do this all the time with experts of every kind. Still, shouldn’t we at least retain the veto power over an idea that seems crackpot on its face?

As it is with religion, so it is with economics. Some guy says we’ll all get rich if we give our money to rich people. Cut tax rates and the government will take in more money. When I first heard these supply side notions, I thought, “That’s too good to be true.” I still think that. Why is it that so many of my fellow citizens immediately swallowed them whole, without so much as a “Hey, wait a minute”?

This readiness not to think has got to be more than just laziness. We all hope we can find simple solutions to complex problems. We all prefer not to worry. But come on, people! We’re supposed to worry. It’s a democracy; we’re in charge. So get a grip.

Okay, I’m sorry I spoke in such a disrespectful way. As a liberal, I am not supposed to do that. I intend to apologize for this insensitivity, but first, let me discuss another disquieting problem area: reality TV. And by reality TV, I mean “reality” TV. I understand that this is a rather narrow topic, but it is emblematic of an ugly theme that permeates our culture: utter stupidity.

Reality TV. I hesitate even to mention this topic because the probability of offending people is so great. Everyone watches reality TV of some kind, be it sports or politics or these silly, scripted, poorly acted dramas in which ordinary people humiliate and degrade one another on national TV. It is the last category, though, that I am griping about here.

There are still good, honest portrayals of fiction available, even on the telly. We can witness degradation and shame just by going to the mall — without commercials, it should be noted. So why do we have to have clog up my TV with this stuff?

It may sound as if I’m a bit of an elitist, as if I think I’m better than everybody else. Well, yes I am and yes I do, but be assured that I know this and also that it is wrong to feel this way. Believe me when I say that this bitter self-knowledge is part of the pain I feel so deeply. Oh God, the pain.

All right, now for the apologies; first, let me apologize for this apology. I know they can make some people uncomfortable, and that makes me feel guilty, so I have to apologize. Sorry. Furthermore, I apologize if I have bruised your feelings in the slightest way, even if your feelings are a by-product of your own boneheadedness. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Those on the right are not burdened in this way. They feel superior and wear it as a badge of honor, as if they actually were superior. The tragedy of such a position is that the right (where it now sits on the political spectrum) is so often wrong. Worse, they do not sense the irony of their position (that capability is a left-wing exclusive, it appears). Let me say, however, that I even care about these misguided souls (with the possible exception of Newt Gingrich). It’s part of the liberal ethos.

That is, in fact, the great liberal dilemma: we care so deeply about people we don’t really like. We suffer by caring too much, both for our fellow elitists and for the hopeless boneheads. That is our cross to bear, and I accept that. I would only ask of those boneheads: haven’t we suffered enough?

Sorry, I had to ask.

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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee