Wite-Out

I think pretty highly of myself when it comes to little mistakes and errors that plague most people. In fact, I think I’m nearly perfect unless someone else negatively impacts me or I am the victim of some unavoidable circumstance. I think my organization skills, planning, cleanliness, and foresight make me this way.

As I was cooking dinner, Julia was looking for something in one of the kitchen junk drawers.

Julia: “Uh oh. Whoever put the Wite-Out away last didn’t put the cap on right and it spilled in the drawer.”

Me: “Well I know it wasn’t me. I’m perfect. I never make mistakes so I have never even used Wite-Out.” (For the record, that is pretty close to true. Wite-Out just makes mistakes look worse, so if I do need a correction I always figure out another solution.)

Julia (not believing me): “Oh yeah…you’ve never made a mistake?”

Me: “Yeah you’re right. I’ve made two.” I motion to Susie and then to her. Julia pretends to get upset.

Julia spent a lot of the night trying to point out some kind of mistake to pin on me. At dinner, a piece of penne dropped off of my fork.

Julia (finally thinking she got me): “Ah ha! You made a mistake!!!”

Me (not even acknowledging her): “Did you see that?!? I dropped that penne perfectly where I wanted to on the toe of my shoe. Nobody could have done that as accurately as I did.”

The Book of Mormon

book-of-mormon

Pam and I saw The Book of Mormon. It was an awesome day.

We started with brunch at Garces Trading Company. Because we were there for brunch, Pam ordered breakfast food (of course) and I ordered lunch (of course). We don’t venture into Philly for restaurants that often, but this would be well worth the trip.

The show itself was excellent. It totally was South Park or Team America: World Police…but in musical form. In fact there were some prerecorded voices that sounded just like Cartman and Mr. Garrison. (It’s funny to hear the Cartman voice say “This is Jesus”.)

Now because it was Trey Parker and Matt Stone, The Book of Mormon was as ridiculous and crude as you would expect it to be. And though I’m no Broadway expert, I think they really have the chops to pull off a musical. The experts must feel that way too, because the show won a lot of Tony Awards.

I don’t want to give away any of the plot, but in addition to the humor and music, I (of course) enjoyed the fact that the show makes fun of religion a lot. I don’t know if Mormons or other Christians feel this way, but I think Parker and Stone did this very tactfully. They managed to craft the individual characters in encouraging light even while cutting up the religion in a grander approach. It was a good balance.

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San Bernardino shooting

That title could really be “Any shooting”, but San Bernardino is the one happening now so I titled it that. Plus, this one is affecting me. No, I don’t know any of the victims. I’m not shocked or outraged or believe this will be the turning point in the gun debate. I’m affected the way Larry David finally started caring about the environment:

I’m affected because ABC is showing the man hunt instead of broadcasting Jeopardy. I know that sounds terribly callous – and if anyone actually reads this, feel free to be as faux outraged at me as you like. But the truth is, that’s where we are with these things now. They happen with such frequency they don’t even register. I mean look at this:

So with no Jeopardy, I decided to write. At some point in the future my ancestors may want to know what it was like to live through this era. I figured this would be a good time to document my thoughts.

First, let me note I don’t fear these kind of shootings. Even though they happen every day, I realize the risk to me personally or my family is low. It can happen anywhere, but as long as it continues to not be here it really doesn’t matter. Sometimes you think of a shooting affecting you, but it’s kind of like playing the lottery. Sometimes you hear that the Mega Millions jackpot is huge and you fantasize for a minute. Then you forget about it and go about your life.

So why am I so numb to this? Well, I didn’t always used to be. When they were less frequent I would get mildly upset. And that started waning. But then Sandy Hook happened. 20 fucking kids were murdered! That was sad. And it was the one that was finally *FINALLY* going to affect change. But then it didn’t. And more shootings happened. And we realized, “OK, this will never change.” Dan Hodges summed it up better than anyone:

Legislation is impossible. You hear that people on terrorism watch lists are not blocked from buying guns and you realize how powerful the NRA is. You learn that Bernie Sanders – the most liberal major Presidential candidate – is a “gun nut“. As Senator, he voted for a law that protects gun manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers from lawsuits. No other industry gets this protection.

So that was that. Shootings just became part of life in America. This excerpt from the Economist sums up the reality of our relationship to gun violence in the absence of any political will to address the problem:

Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard them the way one regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political reasons, the country is incapable of addressing.

But then in August there was a murder broadcast live on TV! That was different. It was in our faces. There was a sliver of hope that something would change. But only a sliver. And of course, nothing changed.

Through it all there was a lot of talk. Some were interesting ideas. I learned that Australia actually enacted a massive buy-back to reduce guns. And it worked!

Wow, at this point it actually sounds like a great idea. But mostly there was a lot of meaningless talk. I loved that these two tweets came though my feed within a couple hours of each other:

Thanks Representative MacArthur! Now that I know you have prayed, you got my vote!

A few shootings ago I had a conversation with Pops and Dave. Is there anything that could happen that would actually cause change?

One suggestion was if the President was assassinated. No. I don’t think that would do it. Hell, half the country always hates the President. They would be too happy that he was killed.

Another was if the head of the NRA was killed. No. I don’t think that would work either. Though I would personally laugh my ass off if someone put a bullet in Wayne LaPierre, I think the NRA would use it to double-down on their bullshit.

I got to thinking, there is no one individual person that could be murdered that would cause a significant change in our gun laws. So it would have to be a group. But if kindergarteners and people on live TV didn’t spur Congress to act, what deaths could? And then it hit me…a shooter would need to infiltrate Congress itself. The mass murderer would need to actually make it into the Capitol while they were in session and wipe out a chunk of these guys. Now I’m still not 100% sure that any gun law changes would happen, but it would get the attention of those that remain. Unfortunately it’s probably the only real chance to get those that can actually enact the change to have a real conversation.

Heels


I needed to ask Julia something tonight. She was locked in her bedroom. I knocked.

Julia: “Who is it?”
Me: “Daddy.”
Julia (as if I’m bothering her): “What do you want?”
Me (yelling because this has already taken longer than I expected): “I need to ask you something?”

Door unlocks and pops ajar. I hear Julia scamper as I walk in. She is sitting on her bed trying to act as if she wasn’t doing anything wrong. I notice she is wearing the dress for her upcoming recital.

Me (perplexed): “What are you doing in here?”
Julia (sheepishly): “I was practicing walking in heels for my recital.”
Me (now completely baffled): “And you needed to wear the dress for that too?!? Oh, never mind.”

Brussels Sprouts


Dave and I grab lunch at Forno’s a couple times a month. They have great pizza. Sometimes Pops joins us. He normally orders from their salad bar – olives, beets, peppers, etc. Once in a while they have roasted Brussels sprouts.

The first time Pops saw this he jumped back. He had a bad experience with Brussels sprouts when he was a kid. He was eating dinner at his Aunt Chubbie’s and refused to eat the Brussels sprouts she prepared. A definite no-no. Apparently it turned into a traumatic incident. He never ate Brussels sprouts again.

This perplexed me when I was a kid. Pops likes EVERYTHING. For there to be even one food that he refused didn’t make sense. I remember convincing Moms to buy them once. I had to try this. Pops walked through the door after a hard day at work and could immediately smell them. His acute sense for them was amazing! They really were his kryptonite. Needless to say, he didn’t eat them. (For the record, I did try 1…it was meh.)

So today at Forno’s, out of nowhere, Pops asks them to put 1 Brussels sprout on his plate. And he ate it. And it wasn’t horrible.

I guess I have mixed feeling about this. It would be like the Cubs winning the World Series. On one hand, yay for the Cubs and their fans who waited 100+ years for this. On the other, it’s kind of sad that a streak this impressive came to an end.

So what’s next? Will Pops drink to the bottom of his coffee!?! Oh, that…that’s a story for a separate post.

Playboy


Today Playboy announced that it will no longer show fully nude women in its magazine. This doesn’t affect me at all. I never subscribed to the magazine, never “read” it for the articles, and really can’t recall much interaction with it at any point in my life.

…except one related memory did come back to me today. I was maybe 9 or 10 and Pops brought me home 2 pages. Apparently the issue at the time was at the fire house. In it they had an NFL logo puzzle. I was a typical boy sports junkie, so Pops must have figured that I would enjoy it. But he also wanted to be responsible, so he only tore out the 2 pages of the puzzle. To not corrupt me he took the added step of stapling the pages back-to-back. (Good security Pops!)

I’m sure he told me not to tell Moms. I don’t remember if he further instructed me to not look at the in between pages. I believe I did anyway and I think I recall ads for videos they were selling. There were so many of them flooding the page that the picture accompanying each was smaller than a penny. Not enough material to actually be better than the puzzle itself, so I actually focused on the reason I was allowed to possess the Playboy pages in the first place.

The puzzle took each of the teams helmet logos and tweaked them a little. The task was to spot what they changed. For example, I remember the GIANTS logo was spelled “GAINTS”. I got most of them pretty easy, except for one, the New Orleans Saints.

I finally figured it was the Saints because they were the last team I had left. It was tough to figure out because the colors were much different than their standard helmet. And, more perplexing to 10-year old me, they replaced the fleur-de-lis with a marijuana leaf. (Playboy knows no boundaries!) When Pops came to collect the pages from me, I asked him about it and got a short answer…probably accompanied with another “Don’t tell your mother!”.

Jeff Girgenti…ESPN Baseball Analyst

OK let me admit right from the beginning that “ESPN Baseball Analyst” is a bit of a stretch. And for those of you that need me to cut right to the end of the story, well, basically I was quoted in an article on ESPN.com. Here it is:

http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/64212/kudos-to-joe-torre-for-taking-a-stand-with-utley-suspension

So how did I get here?

It started Saturday during Game 2 of the NLDS game between the Mets and the Dodgers. In the 7th Inning Chase Utley made a dirty slide into Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada and broke his leg.

I’ve always appreciated Utley’s baseball abilities…even when he was with the Phillies. However he also always seemed like a punk to me. I understand that this is the kind of judgment people make of celebrities that we don’t really know. But maybe with Utley we have a better sense based on his World Series speech…

…or his All Star Game introduction…

…and there are probably more, but those are the first two that come to mind.

Anyway, even though some old timers want to call this a good, hardnosed play, I’m comfortable calling his slide dirty. You can’t be that far out of the base path AND start your slide that late. Though I will admit that I believe Utley’s intent was to break up the double play, not to break Tejada’s leg.

The next day the league even warranted that the slide deserved a suspension. Now as dirty as I thought the slide was, I didn’t think the league should pick this spot to start enforcing the rule. This kind of slide has gone on for years. Announce in the offseason that it will no longer be tolerated. Don’t impose a penalty during a playoff series.

Joe Sheehan is a Sports Illustrated writer that I follow on Twitter. He had the same point of view.

I replied to Joe:

Doing it now does bang home the point.

From the quote it seems as if I agree with the suspension even though I’m really just explaining its impact. Upon re-reading it, I didn’t like that so I actually deleted the tweet at some point later. It’s Twitter so nuance gets lost.

Apparently it was up long enough for David Schoenfield to read. He’s a writer at espn.com. And honestly I had no idea who this was. I had no idea that’s who Joe Sheehan was sub-tweeting at the time I replied. But he liked my quote and wrote about it. That’s how I became an ESPN Baseball Analyst!


So why do I care? …about an 8 word tweet that even I didn’t think was good enough not to delete?

I have no idea. But there’s something neat about it. I can’t quite figure it out. It’s not fame or celebrity…most of that kind of stuff annoys me. I think it’s just the fun of being able to say “Jeff Girgenti…ESPN Baseball Analyst”.

Leviticus 15:19-24

Yeah, that’s the Bible.

We were invited to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. During the service I started flipping through looking for a decent story. I did this a couple years ago too. Yom Kippur fell on a weekend so Pam asked if I would go with them. That was the first time I ever really tried to read the Bible. It was pretty eye opening. I don’t recall the specifics but I remember reading a number of passages in which God required people to do some crazy shit to prove their faith in him. I think somebody had to kill their son or wife. And somebody else had to sit on a hill for a long period of time. As someone reading this for the first time, it didn’t make me feel like God is omnipotent. Instead the character was an insecure, narcissistic ass hole.

Anyway, I figured I’d give it another shot today. I didn’t find God being an ass hole, but I did find more stuff that makes it difficult for me to believe that anybody follows this stuff. Today I read the rules in Leviticus. There was a lot of stuff that didn’t make sense or was inconsistent, but the topper was Leviticus 15:19-24.

The commentary on the version I read said that the touch from a woman on her period can kill crops, rust iron, and make a mirror stop reflecting. Now that’s power! It also required her at the end to bring 2 turtledoves to her priest as an offering because of her uncleanliness. I wonder if this has anything to do with the “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. I always found cumulative songs and stories to be annoying, but maybe I have to pay attention.


Also during the services, there was a moment when we were all standing. The rabbi finished a prayer. She then directed us to remain standing while we pray silently to ourselves. When done, we should sit.

I immediately sat down. In fairness, I was immediately done. I don’t pray. I don’t even know how to pray. And if I did know how, I still don’t think I would do it. I think this tweet sums it up pretty well:


Final thing. Julia’s stomach was super growly during the services. Probably the loudest, longest rumbles I’ve ever heard. That kid is like me…always needs to eat. It reminded me of Ron’s funeral when she wanted to go up for communion. Maybe religious services make her hungry.

Parx

Yesterday we went to Dave & Col’s for Labor Day. While there we somehow got on a discussion about bringing the girls to Parx. Pops presumed that the girls would like to watch the horses. He also said that they have lots of activities. I looked it up…he was right: face painting, bouncy house, pony rides, crafts, live music, food trucks. A lot of it sounded too kiddie for our girls, but they wanted to go, so we went.

Me, Susie and Julia met Pop at Dave’s. Madi was down the shore, so only Trini went. The six of us drove over together. As we walked in we were handed Parx water bottles. Free stuff! Everyone loves free stuff!

We started the day with lunch and then Pops wanted the girls to see the paddock.
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Next he showed them the program and how to bet. It took a couple races for them to get the right balance…if a longshot finishes in the money it pays more, but it is less likely to pay anything at all as well.
parxAfter each race we went to the Winner Circle. The winning jockey would throw t-shirts into the crowd. Then the Parx mascot would throw some more. Pops snagged one. More free stuff!
IMG_20150907_125221054 The girls eventually did want to do some of the kiddie stuff.
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It was a great day. Parx was actually very family friendly. The kids had a great time and want to go back.

The Business of Religion

One of the things that bothers me about organized religion is the preferential tax treatment. Churches are treated like non-profit organizations and therefore are exempt from income tax. This is widely accepted to be OK. But really it shouldn’t be.

Religion is business. It’s a big business. Church is in the business of selling faith, spirituality, and a bunch of other bullshit I don’t believe in. But if you do, fine, good for you.

There are lots of people that need help to manage their mental well-being. Many can get by with the personal relationships that they have with their family and friends. Others turn to professional help, like therapists. So why should a doctor have to pay tax while the church remains exempt? I’ve thought this unfair for awhile, but a couple recent things have really crystallized this for me.

Pam and I recently watched Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. The documentary is mostly about how wacky Scientology is. (Side note: I told Pam halfway through the viewing that the stuff they believe didn’t sound that much crazier to me than any other religion.) There’s also a lot about how Scientology gained church status with the IRS. Basically they muscled, intimidated, threatened and annoyed the IRS into capitulating. To hear the director describe it, you would think he was talking about the mafia.

The other thing that left an impression on me was John Oliver. On Last Week Tonight he recently took a page out of Stephen Colbert’s playbook. Colbert created a Super PAC to prove how ridiculous campaign finance laws are. Oliver created a legally recognized church. The video below starts at the part where he discusses the exemption, but the whole show is worth watching. (The first 8 minutes are about sleazy televangelists.)

The only requirements in IRS regulations to qualify as a church are that “beliefs are truly held and are not illegal”. Oliver captures the ridiculousness of this by saying “truly held beliefs that are not illegal is almost every belief”. So if every belief can be a religion, then they’re all nothing. And if they’re all nothing, then the tax exemption should be repealed.