(no subject)

Sep. 18th, 2017 07:45 am
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[personal profile] copperbadge
Good morning everyone, and welcome to Radio Free Monday!

Before we start, a quick note because I've had a handful of issues with this lately -- if you want to bring a cause to my attention the best way to go about it is to fill out the Radio Free Monday form (also linked from the sidebar of my tumblr page). It's not just that I might not see a post tagged to me or that it saves me a ton of time, but also that it makes sure I get the information I need to describe the situation, link the appropriate pages, and name and gender people correctly.

The form doesn't ask many questions, doesn't pull any metadata (literally it doesn't even record the date you entered the information), and is as anonymous as you want it to be -- there are options for complete or partial anonymity for the person submitting the item.

Ways To Give:

[tumblr.com profile] prismatic-bell linked to a fundraiser for Congregation Beth Yeshurun and their attached day school, which were flooded by Hurricane Harvey, which hit two Jewish neighborhoods in Houston especially hard. The families are currently attending Temple Brith Israel, and the children from the day school have had to scatter among several schools temporarily. You can read more about the damage here, reblog here, give directly to the rebuilding fund, or purchase toys and learning materials or replacement books for the school directly through Amazon.

[tumblr.com profile] reesa-chan is preparing for surgery and gathering supplies to make recovery go as smoothly as possible, but they're coming up short on a few things and surgery is looming. They have a Amazon Wishlist available here and have their paypal giving page here.

Anon linked to a fundraiser for [tumblr.com profile] poplitealqueen, who is trying to help her mother get some experimental medical treatment which might allow her mobility without the use of a wheelchair. You can read more and reblog here (including links at the top to Patreon and Ko-fi) or give directly to their Ko-Fi here.

[tumblr.com profile] quinfirefrorefiddle linked to a fundraiser for [tumblr.com profile] niines9s, who is trying to escape an abusive home and needs funding for housing after graduation. They are offering commissions and also taking donations; you can read more, reblog, and find paypal information at their post.

Anon linked to news about a Christian group, Faithfully LGBT, who are fundraising to aid transgender people with gender-confirming surgeries as a way of atoning for religious discrimination against transgender people. You can read and reblog the story here or give directly to the Tithe Campaign here.

[tumblr.com profile] rilee16 is struggling to cover medical expenses after two head injuries last year, and has a fundraiser running to cover living expenses, previous medical bills, and a recent rent increase. You can read more and help out here.

News To Know:

Anon linked to a post called Saving Your Grades From A Mental Health Crisis, which is about what to do if you're in college and dealing with mental illness.

And this has been Radio Free Monday! Thank you for your time. You can post items for my attention at the Radio Free Monday submissions form. If you're not sure how to proceed, here is a little more about what I do and how you can help (or ask for help!). If you're new to fundraising, you may want to check out my guide to fundraising here.
[syndicated profile] overthinkingit_feed

Posted by Matthew Wrather

Peter Fenzel and Matthew Wrather have a wide-ranging discussion on the cherry subject of pain and aging. Pete has had dental surgery, Matt is meditating to accept the inevitable march of time, and neither of them believes that you are the self you think you are.

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Further Reading

Episode 481: Hyrule… My Own Head… Hyrule… My Own Head… originally appeared on Overthinking It, the site subjecting the popular culture to a level of scrutiny it probably doesn't deserve. [Latest Posts | Podcast (iTunes Link)]

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[personal profile] copperbadge
Wow, you guys, the me of 2014 was such a good bro, he bought an extra three years of premium-level warranty coverage on his laptop.

I wasn’t even looking for whether I was still covered by warranty, I just assumed I wasn’t, but I went to Dell’s website to get the model number of my laptop so I could look up how to open it up properly and fix the terrible groaning noise my fan is making. And Dell was like hey, here’s your model number, also your warranty is good through June of 2018. 

I’m still gonna try to open it up and fix the fan myself, but if I can’t, I can send it in and get the fan fixed AND get a repair on the housing that’s starting to crack. 

Good job, 2014 Sam. You had no idea the crazy shit that was ahead of you but by god you knew you’d need three years of warranty. You and me, buddy, we’re fucking killing it in the adulting department lately. 

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[personal profile] donutsweeper
Dark Matter, which I had just started watching, was not renewed for a fourth season but Killjoys got a fourth and fifth (and final) season which does make me happy. There's so much world building in Killjoys, especially things that you didn't even notice until later on when other stuff is explained which always impresses me. It also features canon f/f, m/m, many POCs and had a large storyline which featured disabled actors playing disabled characters which is the kind of all encompassing diversity I definitely think is a trend that needs to be seen more often in mainstream media.

Unfortunately Stitchers, which I posted about several times, was cancelled as well, and on a rather big cliffhanger. *sigh*

The Midnight Texas finale will air this Monday. It's been a decent enough watch, but I'm not sure I'll care if there's a second season or not. (It's also possible it won't make sense for their to be another season, it kind of looks like it might be more of a 'television event' kind of thing rather than seasonal tv show.)

Yuletide is ramping up (nominations close soonish). I made my noms and am crossing my fingers one thing I nommed gets in (it's weird and rare and whether or not it's considered a fandom could be up for debate). One of the best things about yuletide is seeing the tagset and reading letters and discovering all sorts of new or forgotten fandoms. I doubt I'll be able to match the output I made last year, but I'm hoping to at least write my average of 10 fics or so. *crosses fingers*
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[personal profile] copperbadge
Me: R’s in town this weekend so we may meet up.

Mum: Send me a picture of you and R when you’re hanging out!

Me: Not sure when it’ll be yet but I’ll do my best. It’s a little uncertain right now.

Mum: If it were certain, I’d be worried it wasn’t really R.

She knows us both so well. 

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Posted by OTI Staff

“I’ve got more umbrage than Dolores.”

That message, typed by Peter Fenzel into an Overthinking It chat room, made us think, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a 90s party rap where every lyric was a reference to Harry Potter?” And that’s all it takes to get the OTI Crew to represent. Line by line, verse by verse, “The Sorcerer’s Cypher” took shape.

It might have ended there, were it not for The Notorious W.I.Z. and Huffle-Puff Daddy who created the actual track, and Overthinking It video producer Matthew Belinkie who animated the lyric video you see.

Please enjoy, and please share with everyone in the wizarding community!

Buy “The Sorcerer’s Cypher”

Get “The Sorcerer’s Cypher” as a DRM-free download to listen offline and take with you wherever your broomstick carries you.

Fantastic Beats Mixtape: Remixes and Instrumentals for Members

Overthinking It members get access to the lyric-free karaoke track of “The Sorcerer’s Cypher,” as well as several remixes of the song in the style of various legendary MCs and producers.

Become a member now!

Lyrics

Umbridge like Dolores, skeet like Rita
Flow like a Bertie Bott Bean but Sweeter
Trix like Bella, getting that strange
Weez like Ron, hitting that grange

In the streets I run it like Oliver Wood
In the sheets, I’m like Luna: Love Good
Not dead like Ced, but I stay humble
Can you Diggory? All my doors dumble.

All you sucker wizards with hands all maimed:
“Yo, who did that?” “He must not be named.”
Tough like Goyle, tough like Crabbe
“Expelliarmus!” Jab-Cross-Jab

Dark arts defense: mysterious
My crew like Black: dead Sirius.
Golden snitches? Nah, we never tell
Rhyme immortal like a Peverell

Don’t call her Nymphadora, she goes by Tonks
Chill like Brooklyn, rough like the Bronx
Crew see I just get nothin for free
Cruciatus got nothin on me

Potions and Hallows: we made ’em. we own ’em.
Doe in the bank like Expecto Patronum
Hog wild style, dress robes ‘stead of tuxes
Whole soul patrol, we don’t love them horcruxes

Prefect’s bathroom perfect for bonin’
I’m a Nimbus 2000, she’s Myrtle—moanin’
Slither like a Slytherin into the hood
“I solemnly swear I am up to no good”

Willin’ like a willow, I’ma womp a fool
You can call me Hogwarts; I’m the oldest school
Engorgio to the Lumos Max
Let’s make Fantastic Beasts with two backs

The Sorcerer’s Cypher — A Harry Potter Party Rap originally appeared on Overthinking It, the site subjecting the popular culture to a level of scrutiny it probably doesn't deserve. [Latest Posts | Podcast (iTunes Link)]

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Posted by Matthew Wrather

Matt and Ryan explore the many levels of irony of non-networked self on one of the best rap albums of the nineties. IN other words, they are talking about Fiona Apple’s seminal 1996 debut, Tidal.

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Syllabus: Fiona Apple, Tidal

Episode 280: The Special Technique of Emotional Shadowboxing originally appeared on Overthinking It, the site subjecting the popular culture to a level of scrutiny it probably doesn't deserve. [Latest Posts | Podcast (iTunes Link)]

Vacation!

Sep. 11th, 2017 06:01 pm
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[personal profile] jenavira


I am back from vacation! I had a fabulous time, took way too many pictures, saw all kinds of fabulous things. Let's see if I can sum up halfway decently. Most pictures are linked, to spare us all the bandwidth.

The train ride out was gorgeous - lots of great views, and I met some lovely people. Spent the first afternoon in Powell's City of Books, which was just as delightful as expected, and I managed to spend less that $100, which is pretty astounding. We wandered around that night and saw some waterfalls in Ainsworth State Park, and the next day drove down to Florence.

I could've stayed in Florence for months. Sure, it's a tourist trap, but it's in a terrific location, right in between the sand dunes and Heceta Head, a glorious rocky outcropping with a cute little beach (where I picked up a driftwood sea snake) and a historic lighthouse. The first night we walked out on the jetty and saw jellyfish (I think they were lion's mane jellyfish) and a nice sunset; on the second day we went out on the sand dunes and then to Heceta Head. On the third day we sped through Sweet Creek Trail which was quite lovely even though it's been so terribly dry out there that there wasn't a lot of water in the waterfalls, and then came back to town to have afternoon tea. And I mean full tea: salad, sausage rolls, sandwiches (curry chicken, cucumber, pear and walnut, and salmon with dill), scones with lemon curd and clotted cream and fresh blackberry jam, and biscuits and petit fours. All made in house. If you're ever on the Oregon coast, I highly recommend Lovejoy's Tea House.

On the second of September we drove south, thinking maybe we'd go as far as California, but Highway 101 was closed because of the smoke from wildfires, so we took it easy instead, stopping at two more lighthouses (and the accompanying bays that I absolutely love) and Shore Acres State Park. The coastline down south of the sand dunes is stunning, rocky and dramatic - according to the interpretive signs, that's the Juan de Fuca Plate jutting up at a forty-five degree angle into the ocean. And I saw a whale! I took a video of it, but I'm damned if I can see the whale in it now. He was a ways off shore, but he hung around for quite a few minutes. The park itself used to be an estate, and they still have glorious rose gardens. At the end of the day we stopped to see the Darlingtonia, carnivorous plants that only grow in a tiny little area (usually in a swamp, but again, it's been very dry), and Mom's cousin Esther came over to visit for a bit.

And that was the end of Florence; the next day we drove down to Newport, which was a hell of a lot of traffic, but then again, it was Labor Day weekend. There was a rather nice sunset that evening (and, yes, another lighthouse), and we had dinner at Rebel Brewing, where I really should have bought a case of beer to have my parents bring home for me. Monday we went to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which was delightful in every way. Petting tidepools! Happy pufferfish! Carefully maintained shipwrecks! Dramatic eels! Shy eels! Pelicans! After that, Mom was wiped out, so Dad and I went alone to Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, which is exactly as advertised, and was probably my favorite place on vacation. There's another lighthouse, of course, and Cobble Beach, which is the opposite of the sand dunes at Florence: fist-sized volcanic rocks, which rattle together at high tide like music. Purely by chance we turned up about fifteen minutes after low tide, so we went tidepooling and wildlife-spotting. There were seals, lots of them, and a pelican, lots of cormorants, and another whale! This one couldn't have been more than a couple hundred yards offshore, feeding for the better part of an hour. The sunset was gorgeous, but my phone camera wouldn't do it justice.

The next sightseeing was meant to be Mount Saint Helens, but...well. Hemmed in by wildfires on three sides, the view was absolutely nothing. Up at the Johnson Ridge Observatory, they were on the loudspeaker every ten minutes warning people not to spend too much time out in the smoke. It wasn't a wasted trip, though - the interpretive centers were excellent, and the trail at Coldwater Lake was really pretty nice, even in the smoke. (I left my octopus back at the RV, it didn't seem fair to bring him up into the smoke.)

So we gave up on central Washington pretty quickly, heading back up to Chimacum and Port Townsend, so I could see my parents' new summer home - a large "destination" trailer they bought in July and parked in their lot. (It's really pretty nice, although they're still getting settled in.) We went into Port Townsend in the evening, which turned out to be a terrific idea, because it was the night before the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, featuring all kinds of wooden boats, though of course I mostly have pictures of the tall ships. They actually have a School of Wooden Boat Building in town, so tons of their boats, of course. And I stopped in a little yarn store on the pier and bought some Washington wool.

We came into Seattle a little early for my trip home to see the Waterfall Park and the Yukon Gold Rush National Park, Seattle Division, since that was the park sending rangers on the train this year. And for my trip home I had a sleeping compartment, which was great because a) there was not much view, given the smoke; and b) I was pretty much done spending all my time with people. It was glorious to have a door I could close for privacy, and very nice to have meals provided for, although three restaurant-sized meals a day is really too much for me.

And now I am home and unpacked and very happy with my vacation. I was so proud I'd gotten all my photos organized already (I did quite a bit on the train), but I've just remembered I did a lot of sketching and I haven't gotten those scanned yet. Look for sketches soon, I suppose.
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[personal profile] copperbadge
You guys today I researched someone who is such a rank evil motherfucker that the person who was going to meet them to ask for money came over to my desk after seeing my research and was like “What a rank evil motherfucker.” 

And I was like I DIDN’T EVEN PUT THE WORST OF IT IN BECAUSE WE CAN’T PROVE THE WORST STUFF SINCE IT’S ALL TECHNICALLY SPECULATION BY LIBERAL WATCHDOG GROUPS BUT I KNOW THEY DID IT. They gave millions of dollars to climate-change denial (which I learned today is referred to as CLIMATE INACTIVISM) two weeks ago. 

But I am heartened that a) the fundraiser saw through my VERY CAREFULLY professionally neutral report to the truth of the matter and b) they called their boss and were like “I’m not taking this meeting” and THEIR BOSS read my report and said “Yeah this is a PR disaster waiting to happen, don’t take the meeting.”

And normally I’d be like “yes take their money, take it all, take them for everything you can wring from them” but what makes this one so unsettling is that their donations always come with creepy post-contract strings. If we take the money, we’re gonna pay for it down the line, so I’m just as glad we aren’t. 

Once in a while in my profession I come across someone who is such a force for destruction on an international scale that I genuinely hope they will die in some very public and ironic way. I yearn for the day I read of their demise.

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(no subject)

Sep. 11th, 2017 07:40 am
copperbadge: (radiofreemondaaay)
[personal profile] copperbadge
Good morning everyone, and welcome to Radio Free Monday!

Ways To Give:

Anon linked to a fundraiser for Melissa, a trans girl who recently escaped an abusive home and is struggling to make ends meet. She has been unable to get car insurance, and is also recovering from expenses and injuries from a recent accident. You can read more and help out here.

[tumblr.com profile] nivcharayahel and her sister are raising funds for help with September's rent, to avoid eviction; they are dealing with recent unemployment and underemployment. You can read more and help out here.

[tumblr.com profile] butnotinthisone is dealing with fallout from hurricane Harvey, including being unable to return to their apartment due to continued flooding; their apartment is on the first floor and they will likely be facing property loss and damage from the water. You can read more and help out here.

[tumblr.com profile] rilee16 is struggling to cover medical expenses after two head injuries last year, and has a fundraiser running to cover living expenses, previous medical bills, and a recent rent increase. You can read more and help out here.

Help For Free:

[livejournal.com profile] rua_m linked to Zooniverse, specifically their Weather Rescue project, which allows you to help recover forgotten weather data by transcribing Ben Nevis observatory records. Zooniverse is a great site that lets people participate in citizen science and historical preservation by categorizing and transcribing documents; I'm actually a member and work on some of their animal-related stuff.

Anon linked to Halloween Lifestyle, a Halloween website recently put up (and so still a little sparse) by the mother of [tumblr.com profile] nextrrickanvils. You can read more and reblog here or go directly to the site here.

Housing:

[personal profile] in_the_bottle is looking for a new housemate in London, in Fulham SW6, bordering Hammersmith. Two professional females, at least one fandom friendly. You can read more and get in touch here; they also have an ad up on SpareRoom here with photos.


And this has been Radio Free Monday! Thank you for your time. You can post items for my attention at the Radio Free Monday submissions form. If you're not sure how to proceed, here is a little more about what I do and how you can help (or ask for help!). If you're new to fundraising, you may want to check out my guide to fundraising here.
[syndicated profile] overthinkingit_feed

Posted by Think Tank

Mark Lee: Curious to hear thoughts on this new Taylor Swift. First impression: I kinda like its dark weirdness.

Jordan Stokes: It seems like her EDMification is pretty well complete, I guess. Am I crazy for thinking that the beat is a Miami Bass solution to a Hollywood Treble problem?

Amanda Jordá: I thought it sounded kinda similar to early 2000s P!nk and Peaches, but bad.

Peter Fenzel: More like an L.A. face solution for an Oakland Booty problem.

Stokes: The received wisdom on this one that it’s about Katy Perry, right? Not some ex-boyfriend? I feel like maybe the problem with the song is that it’s NOT ultimately premised on a booty problem.

Amanda’s right on: start with Peaches, take away the booty (and the body more generally), what do you have left? An 808 drum machine and a sense of grievance? Which maybe isn’t quite enough to sell it.

(For all that it seems crazy to think of Tay-swift as a bodily lyricist, especially when Peaches is in the conversation, she often is pretty bodily. She has an eye for the grounding physical detail: “my head on your chest” in “Tim McGraw,” “she wears short skirts I wear t-shirts” in “You Belong With Me,” “the boy over there with the hella-good hair” in “Shake it Off.” I miss that here.)

Jordá: Isn’t the enemy the media (and Kim and Kanye) this time around? I agree with your point on the bodily lyricism, so that also supports the “this one is about the media” thesis. The whole snake imagery appeared when Taylor tried to lie about what happened with Kanye and the lyrics to “Famous” and Kim exposed that lie on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. And now she’s trying to own her “reputation” (oh, that’s the album title!) as a snake.

I just watched the lyric video for the first time and I did like the Saul Bass vibes animation, but the music is just a worse version of stuff from 14 or so years ago, like I said before.

 

Stokes: So the mission statement here is “you constructed this narrative where I am the villain, well watch out: now that I’m a villain, you’re going to get it.” (It’s kind of, kind of like the whole “I used to be liberal then a feminist sneezed on me and now I’m a literal Nazi” trope.)

Jordá: Yeah, because T Swift has always pitted herself against Kanye/John Mayer/Jake Gyllenhaal/who else, and played the part of their poor little defenseless victim. Which is a power move. She’s trying to get people to hate them and feel sympathy for her. Which in Kanye’s case was always SO questionable and problematic (sorry) because a white woman posing as a black man’s victim in this country is not a joke, as this whole Nazi revival has shown…

Stokes: So what’s the thing that they’re supposed to have made her do in this case? Is it the Famous kerfuffle? Or is it somehow this song?

Jordá: Turn into the villain? Openly? Admit that she’s been the villain all along? (It should come as no surprise that I am not a T Swift fan. But even friends of mine who are fans have reacted to this song with a “Oh, honey, what are you doing?”)

Stokes: The weird thing there is that the “villainy” in this case consists only in pretending that she’s pure as the driven snow. When Sheev Palpatine reveals himself as Darth Sidious, he can start busting out with the force lightning. It makes him more of a threat in some ways. But I don’t really see the equivalent weapon in Swift’s arsenal.

Even in the lyrics there’s a sense that maybe she’s going to go back undercover: the press is going to move on to the next drama, everyone’s going to forget about this except for her, and then she’s going to strike back out of nowhere.

Is she maybe, with this beat, trying to hit Kanye where he lives on the pop charts? I doubt she’s going to peel off too many die-hard Kanye fans, but the beat is, at the very least, Kanye-adjacent.

Jordá: I think that could be her plan, but I don’t think it would work. On a not-so-related note, I literally just bought 808s and Heartbreaks and oh my God is that an amazing album.

Do you think she thought her album art was part of the weapon? Like, the visual equivalent of biting satire or something?

Stokes: Her whole new visual identity looks like a 00s redo of the 90s grunge aesthetic.

Richard Rosenbaum:

https://twitter.com/ZenDonut/status/901170251357978624

Stokes: “I will suppose therefore that not God, who is supremely good and the source of truth, but rather some malicious demon of the utmost power and cunning has employed all his energies in order to deceive me. I shall think that the sky, the air, the earth, colours, shapes, sounds, and video evidence of Taylor Swift giving Kanye permission for the ‘Famous’ verse are merely the delusions of dreams which he has devised to ensnare my judgement.”

Lee: The ouroboros imagery is a clear sign that Tay has been listening to TFT, by the way.

Jordá: It would make a LOT more sense if you told me her new image was an attempt to alienate and confound.

Matt Belinkie: It’s interesting to contrast this song with “Shake It Off,” which was also about the media, the haters, and evil exes. The purported point of that song was, “I totally don’t care about any of that, haha.” But I always thought the lady doth protest too much, so I feel like “Look What You Made Me Do” is a more authentic expression of Taylor’s insecurity. If “Shake It Off” was her claim at unflappability, “Look What You Made Me Do” is an acknowledgement that she’s shaped at least as much by exterior forces as she is by her own sense of self.

Meet the New Taylor, Same As the Old Taylor originally appeared on Overthinking It, the site subjecting the popular culture to a level of scrutiny it probably doesn't deserve. [Latest Posts | Podcast (iTunes Link)]

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Posted by Matthew Wrather

Matthew Belinkie and Matthew Wrather haven’t been on the podcast one-on-one in a minute, and they have a lot to catch up on. The meta-theme of the podcast, winding through children’s books, TV Commercials, and the adult pursuit of Waldo, is what it means to be a child and what it means to be an adult, which makes it appropriate that the topic this week is the surprise smash-hit film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel It.

One thing being an adult means is supporting Overthinking It. If you’re not a member, please help us out: Join now!

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Further Reading

Episode 480: Jason is Not Trying to Scare You originally appeared on Overthinking It, the site subjecting the popular culture to a level of scrutiny it probably doesn't deserve. [Latest Posts | Podcast (iTunes Link)]

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[personal profile] copperbadge
On April 1, 1985, a piece by George Plimpton was published in Sports Illustrated, called “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch”. It presented a new rookie pitcher for the Mets: Sidd Finch, an aspirant Buddhist monk and French horn aficionado, who could throw a pitch around 160mph. If you’re not familiar with baseball, a 90mph pitch is a good ticket to the majors, and the fastest pitch on record is around 105mph. The article was a joke, of course – April Fool’s – but the reaction especially among Mets fans was electric. Within sports journalism it’s widely considered to be one of the best hoaxes of all time.

Plimpton eventually expanded the article into a novel in 1987, and I finally got around to digging it up and reading it – it’s what I’ve been reading on the train to the last few Railcats games of the season. The Curious Case of Sidd Finch, as a novel, is in a way a time capsule; it captures a very weird era for the country and a pre-player’s strike, pre-Moneyball era for baseball. But it’s not really a book about baseball, despite Plimpton being primarily a sports journalist. It’s easily accessible if you don’t know a ton about the game, primarily because neither does Sidd Finch.

Rather, the book struck me as drawing heavily on what I think of as the “parable novel”, a genre popular in the seventies – part religious/philosophical treatise and part self-help book disguised as a fictional narrative (the most famous is probably Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach).

The novel’s narrator and fictional author is Robert Temple, a former journalist living in Florida and suffering from a decade-long writer’s block; he literally can’t write anything, including shopping lists and notes to self. (I’ll come back to this.) By a chance of fate he learns that the Mets have a rookie player named Sidd Fitch who can throw a 160mph fastball with uncanny accuracy, but who is still uncertain he actually wants to sign with the club. After getting thrown out of his boarding house for bringing a girl over, Sidd and his girlfriend Debbie Sue end up living with Temple at the request of the Mets, who hope Temple can convince him to sign with the team while he attends spring training in Florida.

It’s a really compelling read with enjoyable characters, and there’s some good tension set up in the question of whether Sidd will sign with the Mets, and whether it would be good for both Sidd and the sport as a whole for him to do so. And I appreciated that the one full pro game Sidd pitches isn’t the climax of the book – this is not a book about sport but a book that uses sport to meditate on other matters.

It does have its issues, however. Temple, the narrator, draws the reader in because we understand that he was a writer and no longer is, but we don’t know why – we know he’s suffered some terrible psychological blow, just not exactly what: 

If he had taken the time to check it out, he would have discovered that I was not capable of writing a paragraph, much less a line of copy. I was a completely defused member of the communications industry. 

[….]

I took my sister by the elbow afterward and I said, “Well, that’s my problem, isn’t it? I’m not really alive. I’m perhaps a quarter alive.”

“You’re coming along,” she said. 

I think it would have been best for that information to come out slowly in drips here and there, perhaps eventually being told more fully when Temple explains to Sidd or Debbie Sue why he can’t write. Instead we get an early-on chapter about it – basically a brief autobiography where he goes to Vietnam to cover the war as a journalist, has a breakdown, and retires to Florida where he fills empty days with pointless tasks as a way of keeping himself alive. It’s…not the most interesting chapter. And then he can’t really explain it to the others because we’ve already sat through it once. 

This complicated history is also a problem with Sidd, our young pitcher – Sidd is struggling with both his faith and what his purpose in life should be, and that’s immediately something people can identify with. The issue is that Plimpton, the actual author, built on the biography he created for Sidd in the Sports Illustrated article, which was a joke and thus comedically complicated. Sidd is an orphan from England adopted by an English anthropologist who then died in a plane crash when Sidd was a teenager, and he found Buddhism while looking for his father in the Himalayas. Sidd also, randomly, is very good at the French horn. This is a complex backstory for a baseball player and it’s not entirely well-told within the boundaries of the book, though it’s also a pretty ripping adventure story as Sidd runs away from boarding school to look for his dad and eventually ends up an aspirant monk who uses Buddhists lung-gom teachings to train himself to throw a 160mph baseball.

We never really get to the heart of why Sidd walked up to a Mets talent scout one day and decided to get himself recruited; there are hints here and there, and it does lead to a masterful set of discussions about why baseball is a game for mystics:

“Why baseball?” Frank Cashen asked. “Why didn’t he go back to England and play cricket?” 

Dr. Burns put his fingertips together. “Baseball is the perfect game for the mystic mind. Cricket is unsatisfactory because it has time strictures. The clock is involved. Play is called. The players stop for tea. No! No! No!” Burns sounded quite petulant. “On the other hand, baseball is so open to infinity. No clocks. No one pressing the buttons on stopwatches. The foul lines stretch to infinity. In theory, the game of baseball can go on indefinitely.” 

[…]

“I got very interested in the idea of causing a commotion at Point B when standing a long distance away at Point A. To throw an object that connects those two points is a very heady thing to be able to do…especially if you can do it time and time again with accuracy. It is something archers and hunters know all about – the trigonometric closing of lines.” 

[…]

I suddenly had a clear image of what Sidd was doing to the game. It was what the listeners were suggesting – he was changing the properties and the essence of the ball itself. It struck me how often the ball is inspected during a game, as if anyone who touches it has to make sure the ball has not changed its properties. If the ball disappears over the fence, another, like a youngster’s dream pinball game, emerges from a black sack at the umpire’s side. He looks at it and gives it to the catcher, who rubs it briefly, and after a glance fires it out to the pitcher; he looks at the ball and rubs it with both hands, his glove dangling from its wrist strap, and then, as he stares down at the catcher for the signal, his fingers maneuver over its surface feeling for the comfort of some response – yes, this time it will do exactly as he wishes! […] Football players do not have this kind of kinship with their ball. Most of the players don’t even touch the thing during the course of a game. It sits stolidly on the grass. The center comes up over the ball from the huddle and barely giving it a glance turns it under his hands; his eyes are staring across the line of scrimmage at the unpleasant visage of the nose guard opposite. A defensive tackle is so uncomfortable with the ball that if he chances to pick it up on the practice-field he tends to throw it end over end to get rid of it. […] Tennis balls are not kept on the mantlepiece. Too many of them around. Who cares?
 

But there’s never that moment where Sidd says, this is why I came to America to play baseball. Especially since he knows so little about it going in. I suppose Plimpton had to make him a foreigner so he wouldn’t know much about the sport, but honestly, you can grow up in America and not know much about baseball, especially at the pro level. Though I do enjoy some of the eccentricities of the game that Plimpton chose to focus on: 

“They have shown me the heavy ring that one slides on the bat to make it seem lighter. I had thought originally that the heavy ring was a talisman to bless the wood. No! One has only oneself to rely on within the confines of the batting box.” 

There’s also some pretty lowered stakes in this book because everyone, even Sidd, is wealthy. Temple can afford to do nothing all day for a decade while still seeing an expensive private therapist about his writer’s block (and eventually supporting Sidd and Debbie Sue when they move in) because his family is rich and supportive. Sidd, an innocent who travels with very little, still has access to his father’s fortune and has a mansion waiting for him in England. Debbie Sue, the free-spirited beach bum that Sidd falls in love with, comes from a wealthy family and was attending an ivy league school before she left it all behind to windsurf full-time in Florida. Even the most desperate people in the book, namely the coaching staff of the Mets, are only desperate to get Sidd to play. Nobody’s life or livelihood is riding on anything in the book, which to me makes it slightly less effective as a philosophical treatise because everyone starts from a place of wealth and comfort. On the other hand, it does allow the reader to engage fully with the psychological side of things, and there’s something to be said for not having to worry about where Sidd’s next meal is coming from:

Rather haltingly, Sidd asked me if I would come to New York and see him through August and September…perhaps share an apartment. He didn’t feel he was going to feel at ease in the city. Over the phone he made one of his brilliant vocal imitations – the sound of a taxi horn, a police siren, and the sigh of a bus pulling away from its passenger stop.

“There are no mantras,” he said, “to take care of this sort of thing.”

All that said, it is a really fun book. Everyone in it is charming and funny, Sidd’s bewilderment over the rituals of pro baseball is touching, and there’s an interesting hint of threesome-ness (probably unintentional) to the bond between Sidd, Debbie Sue, and Temple. As a baseball fan I appreciated the thought Plimpton put into how and where the characters and the sport interacted, and you can tell he has a genuine love of the game. He also appears to have done his research about Buddhism – it’s not just a stand in for woo-woo esotericism, the way it was a bit in the original article. There is some of that, but there is also a lot of genuine discussion of Buddhism which seems, in my admittedly very limited experience, to be correct.

Sidd smiled…very much as Dennis Brain probably had on the stage of the Jubilee Hall. “There’s a saying of Buddha,” he said. “Be earnest in cessation although there is nothing to cease; practice the cessation although there is nothing to practice.” 

So yeah, do recommend The Curious Case Of Sidd Finch if you’re interested in baseball or just in a pretty good story about a baseball player. 

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Posted by Matthew Wrather

Ryan and Matt have a conversation about the multi-platinum Spice, the 1996 debut from the Spice Girls, which is frankly shocking in its sincerity. Spice advocates for pro-social, emotionally adaptive, and mature relations among groups of friends, between lovers, and with oneself. Indeed, it seems that everything we learned about love, we learned from the Spice Girls.

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Syllabus: Spice Girls, Spice

Episode 279: Sometimes You Just Need Zigazig Ha originally appeared on Overthinking It, the site subjecting the popular culture to a level of scrutiny it probably doesn't deserve. [Latest Posts | Podcast (iTunes Link)]

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