Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pirate Guy

Thanks to Steve Perry for forwarding this ....

Thinking about getting some little gold hoop earrings. Just for the look.


One more for the Dodgers and they've won their division. Admittedly this is the worst division in baseball -- earlier this year it was in contention for the worst division in MLB history -- but hey, they're the Dodgers. This is progress.

BTW, you Brooklyn Dodgers fans -- I've heard it all. The reason I was born in Los Angeles in the first place was that my father followed the Dodgers 0ut from Brooklyn, fifty years ago this year ....

I am pleased for Joe Torrey. A year after being unceremoniously booted out of New York, he has the Dodgers in the playoffs -- and the Yankees are missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade or more.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Choking Dogs?

7 With 9 Left ...

The Dodgers magic number -- the combination of Dodgers wins and Arizona Cardinals losses that guarantee the Dodgers will make the postseason -- is down to 7, with 9 games remaining.

I've been called a front runner occasionally because I'm a Lakers fan (Celtics fans can skip the next clause in this sentence) and the Lakers have been the most dominant franchise in NBA history -- also because I'm a UCLA Bruins basketball fan, and there was that Wooden thing, I root for USC football and they've been pretty dominant lately ....

I'm an L.A. guy. You gotta cut me slack on that stuff.

I'm also a Dodgers fan, and it's been 19 years since the Dodgers won a playoff series.

19 ... years.

In 19 years the Dodgers have won one playoff game.

A couple years back one of my daughters had a pack of boys over to the house. They were good boys who said "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" and were on the track team at her high school, but there was a pack of them. At one point one of them mentioned the Dodgers and another kid said, sneering, "The Dodgers suck. The Dodgers have always sucked."

I was in the other room and the shock of hearing that brought me into the living room ... the pack looked at me, and I hesitated. Because they were young. 15 or so. And the Dodgers had always sucked, their entire lives. None of them had even been born the last time the Dodgers had won a playoff series.

"Never mind," I told them. "I forget sometimes that I'm old."

The Los Angeles Dodgers were the only team to win two World Series during the 1980s. They did it with two very different teams -- the 1981 Dodgers of Garvey and Cey and Fernando, and the 1988 Dodgers of Orel Hershiser, who won the Cy Young Award, and Kirk Gibson, who won the MVP that year and came up with one of the most magical home runs in the history of baseball.

Everyone expected the '81 Dodgers, if not to win the World Series, at least to threaten to win it. That team was a mini-dynasty and was loaded with talent. But the '88 Dodgers weren't -- before the World Series began that year, one of the announcers described them as the biggest underdog to play in the World Series in his memory. The Dodgers went to the World Series that year behind unearthly pitching by Orel Hershiser; everyone expected the Dodgers to win two games in that series, the two games Hershiser pitched, and to lose the series 4-2. Aside from Hershiser and regular season MVP Gibson, they didn't have much -- not a single position player made the All-Star team that year, for example. And they were facing the Oakland Athletics, which had amazing hitting and amazing pitching and had swept the Red Sox for the American League championship.

The Dodgers won that series in 5 games, but the moment everyone remembers is the end of Game 1. In the bottom of the 9th Kirk Gibson was sent in to pinch hit with the Dodgers down 4-3 and a man on base. Dennis Eckersley, the best reliever in baseball that year (and that era, for that matter) -- was on the mound when Gibson came up. Two outs, man on base, and Gibson had a badly injured knee and couldn't really run ...

I was at home, in an apartment complex of about a hundred units, watching the game with my wife Holly. I turned to Holly, said, "He's looking for a homer. He can't run."

Gibson worked the count to 3 & 2 ...

I turned back to her and said: "In a bad movie, this is where the hero smashes a home run and" --

-- while my head was turned away from the tv, a roar that rattled the walls of the apartment went up, a deep base bellow was like nothing I'd ever heard before. I turned my head back in time to watch Kirk Gibson trotting around the bases on those bad knees, pumping his fists. Possibly the most memorable moment in Dodgers baseball history -- I'd missed it, talking.

None of the boys in my house that day had been alive when that happened. All they knew was that the Dodgers were Choking Dogs, to quote local sportswriter TJ Simers, guys who played well in the summer, but not down the stretch when it counted: one year the Dodgers had the best record in baseball at the All-Star break, and managed to miss the playoffs. I doubt that's ever happened to another team in the history of MLB baseball.

Beyond that -- I've been annoyed at baseball ever since the World Series was cancelled by a lockout. I wasn't always the hard core basketball fan you've seen on this blog -- when I was a kid, I followed baseball, football, and basketball, and of the three, basketball was probably third. Roman Gabriel and Jack Youngblood and Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax hung on my walls when I was a kid, not Jerry West. (Some of that was my Dad, who had no patience with basketball -- and paid for the posters.) But more of it was me -- being a Lakers fan was a cross in those days, and Fuck the Celtics, you know what I mean? But in 1979 Magic Johnson came to the Lakers and the Rams left for Anaheim, and while I remained fond of the Rams, I stopped rooting: only someone who knows nothing of Los Angeles would think that a team behind the Orange Curtain was an L.A. team. In their place we got the Raiders, from Oakland -- and I hated the Raiders when they were in Oakland, hated them when they were in L.A., and hate them today. Then in '94 both the Raiders and Rams left -- the Raiders back to Oakland, the Rams to St. Louis -- and there was no football in Los Angeles, which admittedly was at an improvement over the Raiders stinking the place up.

It's been 14 years since there was pro football in L.A. -- well, except for USC.

1994 was also the year that the World Series was cancelled by a baseball strike. "A plague on both their houses" -- I couldn't tell you if the owners or players were at fault, and don't care to this day. World War II didn't interrupt the World Series, but greedy bastards on both sides managed it in 1994.

It's been 14 years since I've really cared who won the World Series, aside from rooting against the Yankees and Boston. (You'd think I'd really hate it when the Yankees play the Red Sox? Nope, because no matter what, one of them has to lose.)

But I'm still a Dodgers fan. And the last couple years, slowly, they've started to look like the old Dodgers -- despite being owned by a bastard from Boston, a real estate developer named Frank McCourt. Prior to McCourt, News Corp. had owned the Dodgers -- Rupert Murdoch -- meaning I had not one but two reasons to despise Rupert Murdoch, his politics and what his company did to my Dodgers during their ownership of it. Prior to Murdoch, the Dodgers had always been at least respectable; during the Murdoch era they were a joke and never got much past being a joke.

I'm not signing off on McCourt -- he's made decisions regarding the Dodgers I either don't understand or don't agree with -- but he cares. He's intensely focused on the Dodgers and while some of the decisions may have been goofy, having an involved and bright man as owner has plainly helped the organization regain its focus. They've actually developed young players -- the Dodgers farm system used to be the envy of the rest of baseball, and lately it's started producing again, which is nice to see. When Manny Ramirez became available recently, the Dodgers chased him, and Ramirez's presence has plainly energized this team ....

Which doesn't mean anything yet. I'm optimistic. I'm hopeful. The Dodgers have won 14 of their last 17 games, there are only 9 games left this season, and the Dodgers need some combination of 7 Dodgers wins and Arizona losses to make the playoffs.

Not even Choking Dogs should be able to screw that up.


Brilliant: Welcome to the Third World!,0,7282720.column

Most of what's wrong with our economy comes down to borrowing money rather than paying as you go. The extremely low interest rates that caused the housing boom & bust were directly related to the Bush Administration's need to keep interest rates down to help finance their massive borrowing. The oil shocks were coming anyway, Peak Oil has always been a reality, but the rest of this could have been avoided by sane fiscal policy.


Speaking of sanity -- interesting couple of weeks coming. We've got family court next week -- they're apparently inclined to send my 12 year old son to reunification therapy with the baby killer -- and my daughter is talking about going to go see the District Attorney about things Alan said after Anthony died. I've thought Alan murdered that baby ever since I read the entire dependency doc, but apparently he said things she's sat on ever since. I don't think she wants to see Alan go to jail for the rest of his life -- I admit, I do -- but, like me, I think she's about reached the limit of what she's willing to tolerate.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gregory Mcdonald

Gregory Mcdonald died on Sunday, apparently. His website hasn't been updated yet:

Like too many writers, his later work wasn't up to the standards of his earlier work. Sometimes that's an actual decline, and sometimes it's merely regression to the mean -- an artist who's done something groundbreaking isn't likely to keep doing something groundbreaking. There was a little of both in Mcdonald's career -- "Fletch" is simply brilliant and not quite like anything I know of that came before it. I won't claim Mcdonald invented the dialog driven novel, but he surely perfected it. Kevin Smith's told people for years he learned to write dialog from Gregory Mcdonald; so did I. The scene in "The Long Run" where Trent meets Melissa du Bois for the first time -- that was me, trying to be Mcdonald. I won't claim I succeeded, but it's not a bad scene for something written by an 18 year old, and that's Mcdonald's influence almost entirely: if you're going to imitate, and at 18 you're going to, imitating the best is a great idea.

(I read an interview with Michael Jordan recently. He said, in essence, of course Kobe Bryant imitated him. As he, Jordan, had imitated the generation before him. It's how sports and how art evolves. Jordan influenced how an entire generation of basketball players played the game: Mcdonald influenced how an entire generation of writers wrote dialog.)

"Fletch" introduces Irwin Maurice Fletcher, who, sensibly enough, goes by Fletch. The sequel, the "Godfather 2" of the Mcdonald universe, is "Confess, Fletch," in which Mcdonald introduced Francis Xavier Flynn -- one of the great characters in literature, sharing space with Fletch, another of the great characters. That Mcdonald never had Flynn and Fletch together in another novel is one of the real missed opportunities in literature -- but the one novel in which they do both appear together will have to stand as among the finest mysteries ever written. (And personally, one of my favorite novels period.)

Within the last year, my daughter Andrea went hunting through the paperbacks on my bookshelf. She dug out the raggediest books on the shelf and went to pick out something to read -- the ugliest of the books was "Confess, Fletch," which was sitting on the shelf with no back cover and torn in half down the spine -- literally in two pieces. "Well," she said, "you've sure read this one a lot." So she took "Confess Fletch" and went off to read. When she got done, she said, "He reminds me of you, except, I liked it better."

"He reminds me of you" is a compliment I will happily take, even if it is wholly backwards. No surprise about the rest of it, either. :-)


The opening of "Confess, Fletch:"

FLETCH snapped on the light and looked into the den.

Except for the long windows and the area over the desk, the walls were lined with books. There were two red leather wing chairs in the room, a small divan, and a coffee table.

On the little desk was a black telephone.

Fletch dialled "0". "Get me the police, please."

"Is this an emergency?"

"Not at the moment."

The painting over the desk was a Ford Madox Brown--a country couple wrapped against the wind.

"Then please dial '555-7523'."

"Thank you."

He did so.

"Sergeant McAuliffe speaking."

"Sergeant, this is Mister Fletcher, 152 Beacon Street, apartment 6B."

"Yes, sir."

"There's a murdered girl in my living room."

"A what girl?"


Naked, her breasts and hips full, her stomach lean, she lay on her back between the coffee table and the divan. Her head was on the hardwood floor in the space between the carpet and the fireplace. Her face, whiter than the areas kept from the sun by her bikini, eyes staring, looked as if she were about to complain of some minor discomfort, such as, "Move your arm, will you?" or "Your watchband is scratching me".

"Murdered," Fletch repeated.

There was a raw spot behind the girl's left ear. It had had time to neither swell nor bleed. There was just a gully with slim blood streaks running along it. Her hair streamed away from it as if to escape.

"This is the Police Business phone."

"Isn't murder police business?"

"You're supposed to call Emergency with a murder."

"I think the emergency is over."

"I mean, I don't even have a tape recorder on this phone."

"So talk to your boss. Make a recommendation."

"Is this some kinda joke?"

"No. It isn't."

"No one's ever called Police Business phone to report a murder. Who is this?"

"Look, would you take a message? 152 Beacon Street, apartment 6B, murder, the name is Fletcher. Would you write that down?"

"156 Beacon Street?"

"152 Beacon Street, 6B." Through the den door, Fletch's eyes passed over his empty suitcases standing in the hall. "Apartment is in the name of Connors."

"Your name is Fletcher?"

"With an 'F'. Let Homicide know, will you? They'll be interested."


FLETCH looked at his watch. It was twenty-one minutes to ten.

Instinctively he timed the swiftness of the police.

He returned to the living room and mixed himself a Scotch and water at the sideboard. He would not bother with ice. He concentrated on opening the Scotch bottle, making more of a job of it than was necessary. He did not look in the direction of the girl.

She was beautiful, she was dead, and he had seen enough of her.

Sloshing the drink in his glass as he walked, he went back into the den and turned on all the lights.

He stood at the desk, looking closely at the Brown. The cottage behind the country couple was just slightly tilted in its landscape, as if it, too, were being affected by the wind. Fletch had seen similiar Browns, but never even a reproduction of this painting.

The phone made him jump. Some of his drink splashed on to the desk blotter.

He placed his glass on the blotter, and his handkerchief over the stains before answering.

"Mister Fletcher?"


"Ah, good, you did arrive. Welcome to Boston."

"Thank you. Who is this?"

"Ronald Horan. Horan Gallery. I tried to get you earlier."

"I went out to dinner."

"Your letter mentioned you'd be staying in Bart Connor's apartment. We did some restoration work for him a year or two ago."

"It's very good of you to call, Mister Horan."

"Well, I'm very excited by this Picasso you mentioned in your letter. You said it's called 'Vino, Viola, Mademoiselle'?"

"It's been called that. God knows how Picasso thought of it."

"Of course, I'm puzzled why you came all the way from Rome to Boston to engage me as your broker. . . ."

"There's some evidence the painting is in this part of the world. Possibly even in Boston."

"I see. Still, I expect we could have handled it by correspondence."

"As I wrote in my letter, there may be one or two other matters I'd like to consult you about."

"Yes, of course. Anything to be of service. Perhaps I should start by warning you that this painting might not exist."

"It exists."

"I've looked it up, and there is no record of it anywhere that I can find."

"I have a photograph of it."

"Very possibly it does exist. There are a great many Picassos in existence which have never been recorded. On the other hand, the body of Picasso's work very often has been victim to fakes. I'm sure you know his work has been counterfeited more than the work of anyone else in history."

"I do know, yes."

"Well, I wouldn't be giving you professional service if I didn't bring these matters up to you. If such a painting exists, and it's authentic, I'll do everything I can to find it for you and arrange for the purchase."

Rotating blue lights from the roofs of police cars storeys below began to flash against the long, light window curtains. There had been no sound of sirens.

"Are you free to come by tomorrow morning, Mister Fletcher?"

Fletch said, "I'm not sure."

"I was thinking of ten-thirty."

"Ten-thirty will be fine. If I'm free at all."

"Good. You have my address."


"Let's see, you're on Beacon Street across from the Gardens, right?"

"I think so."

Fletch pushed the curtains aside. There were three police cars in the street. Across the street was an iron railing. The darkness beyond had to be a park.

"Then what you do is this: leave your apartment and turn right, that is, east, and go to the end of the Gardens. Then turn left on Arlington Street, that is, away from the river. Newbury Street will be the third block on your right. The gallery is about two and a half blocks down the street."

"Thank you. I've got it."

"I'll send someone down to open the door to you at ten-thirty precisely. We're not a walk-in gallery, you know."

"I wouldn't think so. I'm sorry, Mister Horan, I think there's someone at my door."

"Quite all right. I look forward to seeing you in the morning."

Fletch hung up.

The door buzzer sounded.

It was seven minutes to ten.


"MY NAME's Flynn. Inspector Flynn."

The man in the well-cut, three-piece, brown tweed suit filled the den doorway. His chest and shoulders were enormous, his brown hair full and curly. Between these two masses of overblown brown was a face so small it had the cherubic quality of an eight-year-old boy, or a dwarf. Even with the hair, his head was small in proportion to his body, like a tiny, innocent-looking knob in control of a huge, powerful machine. Nothing indoors had the precise colour of his green eyes. It was the bright, sparkling green of sunlight on a wet spring meadow.

Below the break of his right trouser leg were a half-dozen dots of blood.

"Pardon my pants. I'm fresh from an axe murder."

For such a huge chest cavity, for anyone, for that matter, his voice was incredibly soft and gentle.

Fletch said, "You're an Irish cop."

"I am that."

"I'm sorry." Fletch stood up. "I meant nothing derogatory by that."

Flynn said, "Neither did I."

There was no proffer to shake hands.

As Flynn vacated the doorway, a younger and shorter man came in, carrying a notepad and ballpoint pen. He had the grizzled head of someone fried on a Marine Corps drill ground a score of times, like a drill sergeant. The rubbery skin around his eyes and mouth suggested his eagerness to shove his face in yours, tighten his skin, and shout encouraging obscenities up your nose. In repose, the slack skin gave him the appearance of a petulant basset. His suit and shirt were cheap, ill-fitting, but spotless, and his shoes, even this late on a drizzly day, gleamed.

"This is Grover," said Flynn. "The department doesn't trust me to do my own parking."

He settled himself in a red leather chair.

Fletch sat down.

It was twenty-six minutes past ten.

He remained waiting in the den. A young, uniformed policeman waited with him, standing at parade rest, carefully keeping his eyes averted from Fletch. Beyond the den, other police, plainclothesmen, moved around the apartment. Fletch wondered if any reporters had sneaked in with them. Fletch heard the murmur of their voices, but caught nothing of what they said. Occasionally, a streak of light from a camera flashbulb crossed the hall, from either the left, where the bedrooms were, or the right, where the living room was.

An ambulance crew entered, rolling a folded stretcher across the hall, towards the living room.

"Close the door, will you, Grover? Then make yourself comfortable at the wee desk there. We don't want to miss a word of what this boyo in the exquisite English tailoring has to say."

The uniformed policeman went through the door as Grover closed it.

"Has anyone read you your rights?" Flynn asked.

"The first fuzz through the door."

"Fuzz, is it?"

Fletch said, "Fuzz."

"In more human language," Flynn continued, "I ask you if you don't think you'd be wiser to have your lawyer present while we question you.

"I don't think so."

Flynn said, "What did you hit her with?"

Fletch could not prevent mild surprise, mild humour appearing in his face. He said nothing.

"All right, then." Flynn settled more comfortably in his chair. "Your name is Fletcher?"

"Peter Fletcher," Fletcher said.

"And who is Connors?"

"He owns this apartment. I'm borrowing it from him. He's in Italy."

Flynn leaned forward in his chair. "Do I take it you're not going to confess immediately to this crime?"

He used his voice like an instrument--a very soft, woodland instrument.

"I'm not going to confess to this crime at all."

"And why not?"

"Because I didn't do it."

"The man says he didn't do it, Grover. Have you written that down?"

"Sitting here," Fletch said, "I've been rehearsing what I might tell you."

"I'm sure you have." Elbows on chair arms, massive shoulders hunched, Flynn folded his hands in his lap. "All right, Mister Fletcher. Supposing you recite to us your opening prevarication."

The green eyes clamped on Fletch's face as if to absorb with full credulity every word.

"I arrived from Rome this afternoon. Came here to the apartment. Changed my clothes, went out to dinner. Came back and found the body."

"This is a dandy, Grover. Let me see if I've got it in all its pristine wonder. Mister Fletcher, you say you fly into a strange city, go to an apartment you're borrowing, and first night there you find a gorgeous naked girl you've never seen before in your life murdered on the living room rug. Is that your story, in short form?"


"Well, now. If that doesn't beat the belly of a fish. I trust you're got every word, Grover, however few of them there were."

Fletch said, "I thought it might help us all get to bed earlier."

"'Get to bed', he says. Now, Grover, here's a man who's had a full day. Would you mind terribly if I led the conversation for a while now?"

"Go ahead," Fletch said.

Looking at his watch, Flynn said, "It's been a near regular custom I've had with my wife since we were married sixteen years ago to get me home by two o'clock feeding. So we have that much time." He glanced at the glass of Scotch and water Grover had moved to the edge of the desk blotter. "First I must ask you how much you've had to drink tonight."

"I've had whatever's gone from that glass, Inspector. An ounce of whisky? Less?" Fletch asked, "You really have inspectors in Boston, uh?"

"There is one: me."

"Good grief."

"I'd say that's a most precise definition. I'm greatly taken with it, myself, and I'm sure Grover is--an Inspector of Boston Police as being 'good grief'. The man has his humour, Grover. However, we were speaking of the man's drinking. How much did you have to drink at dinner?"

"A split. A half bottle of wine."

"He'll even define 'split' for us, Grover. A remarkably definitive man. You had nothing to drink before dinner?"

"Nothing. I was eating alone."

"And you're going to tell me you had nothing to drink on the airplane all the way across the Mediterranean Sea and then the full girth of the Atlantic Ocean, water, water everywhere. . . ."

"I had coffee after we took off. A soft drink with lunch, or whatever it was they served. Coffee afterwards."

"Were you travelling first class?"


"The drinks are free in first class, I've heard."

"I had nothing to drink on the airplane, or before boarding the airplane. I had nothing to drink at the airport, nothing here, wine at the restaurant, and this half glass while I've been waiting for you."

"Grover, would you make a note that in my opinion Mister Fletcher is entirely sober?"

"Would you like a drink, Inspector?" Fletch asked.

"Ach, no. I never touch the dirty stuff. The once I had it, the night after being a student in Dublin, it gave me a terrible headache. I woke up the next morning dead. The thing is, this crime of passion would be much easier to understand if you had a bottle or two of the old juice within you."

"You may find that is so," Fletch said. "When you find the murderer."

"Are you a married man yourself, Mister Fletcher?"

"I'm engaged."

"To be married?"

"I expect to be married. Yes."

"And what is the name of this young lady whose luck, at the moment, is very much in question?"


"Now why didn't I guess that myself? Write down 'Andrew', Grover."

"Angela. Angela de Grassi. She's in Italy."

"She's in Italy, too. Grover. Everyone's in Italy except he who has just come from there. Make a social note. She didn't come with you due to her prejudice against the Boston weather?"

"There are some family problems she has to straighten out."

"And what would the nature of such problems be?"

"I attended her father's funeral yesterday, Inspector."

"Ach. Dicey time to leave your true love's side."

"She should be coming over in a few days."

"I see. And what is it you do for a living?"

"I write on art."

"You're an art critic?"

"I don't like the words 'art critic'. I write on the arts."

"You must make a fortune at it, Mister Fletcher. First class air tickets, this lavish, opulent apartment, the clothes you're wearing. . . ."

"I have some money of my own."

"I see. Having money of your own opens up a great many careers which otherwise might be considered marginal. By the way, what is that painting over the desk? You can't see it from where you are."

"It's a Ford Madox Brown."

"It's entirely my style of work."

"Nineteenth-century English."

"Well, that's one thing I'm not, is nineteenth-century English. And who with a touch of humanity in him would be?”

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Been busy ...

Much to talk about, but I've been a little occupied the last few weeks. Some of what I'm going to talk about is Alan Rodgers -- apparently the baby killer sued me recently for hurting his feelings. (Swear to God.) I've been waiting for a while for a defamation lawsuit from him -- since verything I've posted about him has been true, I figured that was a winning lawsuit. Apparently so did he. So (I haven't seen the lawsuit yet) he sued me, not for saying that I thought he'd murdered his infant son, but because I posted information from the Dependency Court which said a bunch of vile (and true) things about him ... and this hurt his feelings. "Infliction of emotional distress," I think the phrase is.

Alan Rodgers Experience will probably be back online shortly.

Also another chunk of AI War coming soon.


The Dodgers are in first place!

Kobe rocked at the Olympics. It doesn't make up for the collapse against the Celtics, but it was sure nice to watch.