World Series Thoughts

As mentioned before I want to teach a class (group of 5-10, as usual, by Google Hangouts video chat) on what makes a great team (multiple World Series titles in a decade or consecutvely) as opposed to a very good team (a World Series win and a bunch of playoff appearances, or the like), by looking at baseball literature–Moneyball vs. Eight Men OutThe Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty vs. Before the Machine, and so on and so forth.  (Contact me via the box below for more details; I need a group of 5-10.)  I thought I had it all mapped out, even though one of my great skills–and the reason my students love me–is that I’m constantly learning as I go.

This World Series is changing that.  David Ortiz‘s performance suggests that if the Sox manage to close it out, he is the World Series MVP (and I’ll need to get an autographed ball to add to my collection).  And–again contingent upon one last Red Sox victory, which is by no means guaranteed–he would be the common link between three World Series teams in a decade.  Not only does that suggest something we didn’t know about great teams, in terms of the potential of the Designated Hitter, but it suggests something that we didn’t know about great players.  Ortiz would have to be a lock for the Hall of Fame, despite somewhat lackluster career statistics (largely due to time spent on the bench in Minnesota).  It is worth noting also that the common assumption about DHs and their defensive skills, or lack thereof, which have set the tone for their general exclusion from the Hall, would be seriously called into question.  To win 3 World Series titles, Ortiz would have had to play passable defense, even if only at 1B, several times when the Red Sox played in National League parks.

This is not to discredit the usual reasons for a great team: great pitching, solid defense up the middle, and the ability to hit the ball out of the park.  In each run the Sox have had some version of that, though I am not sold on Stephen Drew as a great defensive shortstop, just as I was never sold on Julio Lugo.  It is, however, to say that the pitching has changed–it is certainly not as great this year as it was in 2004, with Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez, or in 2007, with Schilling and Josh Beckett (one of the great postseason pitchers of all-time).  David Ross has never, so far as I can remember–and I remember him back in his Dodger days–been a great defensive catcher.  Neither has Mike Napoli (which is why he’s mostly been playing 1B).

Give it some thought.

Review of The Nobility of Failure

Here is the most recent book review I posted on Amazon (and LibraryThing and Goodreads)!  I will start posting these as a matter of course, but I admit my reading has slowed considerably.

‘This is an amazing book in its content. Morris’ study of the importance of sincerity–rather than success–to the formation of a Japanese hero sheds light on some cultural differences that may not appear obvious at first glance. As someone who has long since felt a deep connection with Japanese culture–I love Japanese baseball players and studied the Japanese language in high school (which despite what my students might think was within the last decade)–I felt like this cemented my feeling of attachment to it.

But I will also admit that in trying to form a distinction between Japanese heroes and Western heroes in terms of how the Japanese ones knowingly lead themselves to failure, whereas Western ones supposedly didn’t, Morris makes a pretty large mistake. Western literature is littered with heroes (both fictional and real) who know they will inevitably meet with complete failure, or who are self-sabotaging, only a few of whom are referred to in the text. Achilles, Socrates, Nicias, Brutus, Cato, Cicero, Beowulf, Othello, Robert E. Lee, Gatsby, Robert Jordan, and Winston Smith are some examples.

This particular version is after my own heart as it contains a typo in the Table of Contents–where it reads “Diety” instead of “Deity”. Some of the formatting is a bit unusual, too. Nevertheless I highly recommend it.’

Book signing on Saturday

I am having an essay launch/book release gathering on Saturday at 1 pm (lasting until 2:30) at Woodranch Park in Simi Valley.  That’s where I play basketball, and if anybody brings a ball I am also happy to teach you fellows a few lessons on the court–beware of three-pointers from way out yonder because I play like a huge guard offensively (though I’m not afraid at all to play the post and defensively I can guard all 5 positions equally well).  Lord knows if anyone cares enough to show up, but I have 40 copies at my disposal and will be signing them for those who please to buy them.

To get to Woodranch take the 118 W (if you are coming from the Los Angeles area) and get off at the Madera Road South exit, then hang a right onto Madera and go for about 2.5 miles to Woodranch Parkway.  Make a left there, pass the first light, and at the next small intersection (no light) there is a left-turn pocket; head in there and turn left, then make an immediate right into the parking lot.

Also I am reading a FASCINATING book called The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan, by Ivan Morris, first published in 1975.  I enjoy reading about Eastern cultures every now and again, especially Japan, for which I have some bizarre deep affinity.  I think everyone here knows I studied Japanese in high school–or you should, because you should have long ago checked out my full reading list,and it’s mentioned right at the beginning–on top of a couple other languages.  (I have a whole chapter in The Decline of the Epic? on comparative linguistics and the consequences of the rise of the English language for epic poetry, which I was able to do well not because I’ve taken the subject but because I’ve studied so many languages of different linguistic groups.)  This book cements my feeling of attachment to Japan.  Here’s to the Great Books program succeeding and my being able to afford a trip to Japan in a few years.  Or to some rich young woman taking me there on an all-expenses paid trip with her.  Kinda like the latter idea.

A Papers, and then some!

So it’s been an interesting few weeks.  Obviously everyone here knows about my recent publication–if you don’t, see my last post–but the bigger part is that I’ve started to get my friends to allow me to help them.  For a long time they were resistant to it, and also wouldn’t refer me any work.  Now the big key is that I have to get them to do well, and that’s not always so easy when working with friends.

So how has it gone so far?

The first friend I helped was a basketball buddy–someone I ABUSE IN THE POST &c, and also from behind the three-point line–who needed to write a paper how character and setting contribute to meaning in Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron.”  I’d read this story when I was at Pierce College taking English 101 and remembered it fairly well, and we wrote it on the destructive nature of totalitarianism both in terms of Vonnegut’s own experiences and how he uses the story to bring those out.  It seemed that he didn’t quite understand how I brought the whole thing out, but he took my advice and wrote the paper as I recommended.  The result: an F-.  I kid, I kid.  He texted me this weekend to inform me that he had gotten a 92.

The second friend I helped was an old classmate of mine at Pierce College.  We took Environmental Science together in the Fall of 2008 and I had tutored him for the final, but this is different because it’s not peer tutoring.  He graduated from LMU, but he still has one more writing class that he needs to finish, and he’s in it now, with, apparently, a very boring old lady as the instructor.  He was asked to write a paper on Nietzsche’s conception of truth in Beyond Good and Evil.  Now I am not a fan of Nietzsche, and I find him to be not only arrogant but completely abstruse and unable to connect words with meaning very often.  I find teachers who teach his works to be dull, and I think they must know next to nothing because there are so many great philosophers out there who they have to overlook to teach this nincompoop.  But when it comes to writing, that’s my gift.  So I helped my pal out.  He got his score back tonight, and called me with the news: a 95.

If you ever wonder what my results are and whether I can teach writing, there’s your answer.

The Nature of Peace and the Terms of Its Perpetuation

This book is hurting my head! But it is a great book for teaching as it has lots of material. And it’s relatively modern (written in 1917). And it’s “out there.” It also goes very well with The Vested Interests and the Common Man. The problem is that Veblen’s language would (and likely did) make Orwell cringe. He uses lots of long words when he could use shorter ones, adds words that can clearly be cut out without any change in the text’s meaning, and uses lots of words whose origins/etymologies are non-English. So it is a classic case of great ideas clouded by bad writing.

30 Statistics About Americans Under The Age Of 30 That Will Blow Your Mind

This is why high school and college students need to come study from ME. Still not a single phone call. One has to wonder what kind of idiocy has conquered people. I know what the hell I’m doing, so get on the goddamned phone. (310) 592-5681.

End Time Bible Prophecy

Michael Snyder
Economic Collapse
October 4, 2013

Why are young people in America so frustrated these days?  You are about to find out.  Most young adults started out having faith in the system.  They worked hard, they got good grades, they stayed out of trouble and many of them went on to college.  But when their educations where over, they discovered that the good jobs that they had been promised were not waiting for them at the end of the rainbow. 

Image: Young Americans.

Even in the midst of this so-called “economic recovery”, the full-time employment rate for Americans under the age of 30 continues to fall.  And incomes for that age group continue to fall as well.  At the same time, young adults are dealing with record levels of student loan debt.  As a result, more young Americans than ever are putting off getting married and having families, and…

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Kershaw’s Dominance

I think everyone is aware that I am a die-hard Dodgers fan (with due apologies to any Giants fans who may be reading this).  Today I want to make a note about the dominant performance turned in by Clayton Kershaw last night, which I didn’t see–I live without television–but most of which I heard on the radio.

I plan to use books about baseball teams to teach a course on what differentiates a great baseball team from a good one–you can find an explanation towards the bottom of I am not only going to teach books about classical literature, as my goal in general is to teach on how to process and absorb information of all kinds.  This course would discuss the early 1900s Giants, the 1919 Black Sox, the 1960 Reds, the 1964 Cardinals and Yankees, the 2001 Yankees and the 2003 A’s, among others, and would look at book-length descriptions of events surrounding the teams to explore everything from batting averages to power to defense and speed to pitching, looking at how they help determine who wins multiple World Series titles and who doesn’t.  They would also examine clubhouse attributes and managerial tendencies and roster composition.

One thing that would come up fairly frequently–as it is common knowledge and clearly true–is the value of starting pitching to a great team.  While I am not yet going to place the Dodgers in the category of great teams–they have not won one World Series, let alone multiple titles–what is increasingly clear as Kershaw develops (what do I mean develops–isn’t he already the greatest pitcher of the modern era??) is that the Dodgers have the right stuff to wind up in this class of teams.

And boy, am I a happy guy!

Driving Me Mad

I think the schools and some of the parents I work with are going to drive me to drinking.  Before work.  Swear to God.

I’ve already detailed some of the problems with my college student’s trig class.  It goes without saying that there’s more to that and I’m keeping my mouth shut unless and until I think it proper to say something.  Like the fact that all homeworks and quizzes are done by computer, so that the student has to do a ton of work and the teacher doesn’t have to do any work, and the problems are so convoluted that the smallest error (in some cases as small as .000001) will cause a problem to be marked wrong.  Why anyone would believe this would help a student is unclear.  They must be completely retarded in the most literal sense of that word.

One of my students has an English teacher who is telling her that she cannot use verbs related to “be”–so “it,” “was,” “were,” “are,” etc.–more than once per essay.  I told the student to print out a copy of “Politics and the English Language”–which we studied last week–and circle every use of “is” on the first page, then go to the teacher and ask her if all those “is”es makes the essay weak.  (This is in my opinion the strongest essay ever written and I believe it to be nearly unanimous that it is the strongest essay of the 20th Century.)  She’s decided instead to go to the principal of the school and duke it out there.

Another of my students can’t list 100 verbs in an hour in 5th Grade, and of the 89 he listed probably 79 are things a monkey can think to do, reflecting nothing more broad than an animal’s or brute’s existence.  The parent wants straight As by the end of the year.  Yeah, right.  (And I’ve been over nouns, adjectives, and verbs with him at least three times to no avail.)

One of my math students’ teachers says that his biggest problem is bringing a pencil to class (I have my own personal belief that using pen forces students to slow down and get things right the first time, but we’ll leave that aside) when in fact he doesn’t generally recognize when to find a common denominator, and his mental math isn’t terribly strong.

One of my students’ parents claimed poverty and refused to join my class despite his having a very weak vocabulary, a difficult time comprehending what he is reading, and almost no ability whatsoever to write a paper–they are also upset that he has no work ethic.  The student tells me his father is planning to get him an M3 for his 16th birthday–so clearly they are very poor.  One wonders why he would have a weak work ethic  when the parents will spend $58000+ on a car but not $480 on 12 weeks to learn how to select, organize, and use facts to write an essay.

And then there’s this one student–a college girl–who insists on having a bonfire to burn all papers with my glorious and brilliant handwriting on it.  And all my other students want to go!  I just don’t get it!!!!

Okay, okay, maybe that last one isn’t so bad–I do encourage my students to laugh at me–but you get the point.  I also have no doubts that even if you do not see the same things in your kid’s education, they are happening, and that you need someone like me to straighten them out.  So do us all a favor and get on the phone and call me.  (310) 592-5681.  You can even text me.  If that’s easier.  But I’d rather hear you speak.