Month: August 2009

It Breaks Your Heart

A. Bartlett Giamatti said it best. It breaks your heart.  It is designed to break your heart.  The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. Giamatti – the former president of Yale and the great commissioner of baseball who banned Pete Rose for life and then died of a heart attack 8 days later – was writing about an earlier Red Sox loss on the last day of the season many years ago.  But the “breaking your heart” line applies in all sorts of baseball situations. Friday evening, on the last day of my summer vacation before heading back to work, the MLB-worst Washington Nationals played the division leading St. Louis Cardinals like they were equals.  Young Nationals “ace” John Lannan matched recently acquired and crafty veteran John Smoltz pitch-for-pitch through a well-played ball game that took only a little over two …

All the King’s Men…and the Health Care Debate

On Saturday of our vacation it rained hard all day as the remnants of Hurricane Bill sent showers our way.  With no opportunity for biking or canoeing, Candice and I pulled out the 1949 Academy Award winning movie All the King’s Men starring Broderick Crawford and settled in for an afternoon with Willie Stark, Sadie Burke, and Jack Burden. I had a high school English teacher who loved Southern literature, so my first introduction to this powerful Robert Penn Warren novel came early in life.  I’ve read it on several occasions since then but it has been a long time since I’ve revisited the tale of political idealism gone wrong.  Seeing the movie – which won Best Movie, a Best Actor award for Crawford and a Best Supporting Actress award for Mercedes McCambridge as Sadie Burke – was a timely reminder that demagoguery is part of the American experience and not something new as part of the current health care debate. Willie has many memorable lines in the movie.  One that I’ve always remembered is …

The Sun Shines and the Nats Sign Strasburg

I went to bed last evening around 11:40 p.m. after checking to see if the Washington Nationals had signed #1 draft choice Stephen Strasburg.  They had not. I awoke this morning and checked the Nats icon on my blackberry to find…YES, they pulled it off!  And for ONLY a little over $15 million.  The sun is indeed shining over baseball in the District today. Writing in the Washington Post, Tom Boswell talked about Washington’s baseball redemption. Few teams have ever needed a watershed event more than the Nationals. And no town in baseball has needed a validation and a fresh start more than Washington. On Monday night, at 11:58:43 p.m., both the team and the town got their wish. Just 77 seconds before a witching midnight deadline, the franchise that so often gets kicked when it is down and the town that is constantly accused of baseball’s original sin (being Washington) proved that it could do something big and difficult and right. The Nats signed Stephen Strasburg, probably the most heralded young pitcher of the …

Good Roots Music On the Web

Even on vacation I can’t spend all my time enjoying the beauty of the river.  So I went online this morning and came across one new roots music blog and was reminded of another old favorite.  I thought I’d share them with you. The new find is called Fiddlefreak Folk Music Blog, written by a musician and artist on the west coast named Stuart Mason.  I found his recent post on singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz to be a great introduction to someone who seems worth checking out – just as his blog promised.  Visit the site and see if you find some new music that’s worth exploring. The old favorite is the website No Depression, which is the online version of the late and lamented magazine of the same name.  (The title is taken from the 1930s Carter Family tune, They’ll Be No Depression in Heaven, which could be just as appropriate in 2009.)   No Depression was a great magazine covering the broad area called Americana, alt-country, or roots music.  That tradition is bravely carried …

Summer Reading – 2009 Version

Last August I wrote a blog on summer reading lists, where I opined that summers are for checking out lighter topics than war, death and other such critical issues. But this summer I’ve back-tracked a bit on that perspective.  Perhaps it is the reality of the economy.  Perhaps it was the good reviews.  But in any case, I began my time off this summer with In Fed We Trust:  Ben Bernanke’s War on the Great Panic. David Wessel’s insightful look at how the Federal Reserve responded to the recession and Great Panic of 2007-2009 is informative, sobering – and a very good read.  Wessel is the economics editor for the The Wall Street Journal and writes with clarity and urgency.  It is all here – the rescue of Bear Stearns, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the government moves to take over AIG and Fannie Mae.  And the story is as fresh as today’s headlines.  For those of us who are not economics majors, this is a great introduction to understanding one part of the …

Mike Seeger Passes Away

I was saddened to read in today’s Bluegrass Blog of the passing of roots musician extraordinaire Mike Seeger. Half-brother to the more famous Pete Seeger, Mike was one of those people who loved old-time music and the people who played it.  He was a great musical scholar who worked to expand the audience for American roots music.  I had the chance to hear him play live on a couple of occasions after he moved to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and he was just one of the giants in the field. I found this wonderful clip on You Tube of Seeger talking about – and then playing – Elizabeth Cotten’s classic Freight Train. Rest in peace. More to come… DJB P.S.  – An update:  Here’s the posting on Seeger from the always informative, The Music’s Over But the Songs Live On blog.

Great Week to Be a Nats Fan

With the Washington Nationals heading into today’s game with a chance to sweep a home stand AND extend a winning streak to eight in a row,  I just couldn’t stay away from Nationals Park.  So when friends made plans to join me, it was a done deal – humidity and a hot sun notwithstanding. And am I glad I went.  Sixteen hits!  Adam Dunn’s 30th home run!  J.D. Martin’s first major league win!  Zimmerman gets 3 hits and scores 3 runs!  The offense continues to come through with timely hit after timely hit!  Happy friends and fans all around! A 9-2 romp. (How often do you get to use the words “Nats” and “romp” in the same column?) What a great week to be a Nats fan.  At the end of 25 straight games without a break, the Nats find their inner ballplayers and go on a tear.  As a vacationing bachelor this week (with Candice and the twins away), I’ve also had every opportunity to catch the games on TV and in person. You …