Amanda Gates
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A Musings - May 2012

When you’re a fan of a small market team like the Minnesota Twins, you have some heartache throughout your lifetime. We’ve never had a lot of money to spend (I think last year we had our highest payroll ever) on players; maybe we’ll get one or two big-money guys, but then the rest we build up through are supposedly awesome farm system. And hey, this is great, and perhaps the way the game should be played, but not when you have to compete against the Yankees and the Angels on a regular basis.

The Twins are very similar to the early 2000 Oakland A’s, on which Moneyball is based. In fact, it’s rumored the movie was going to be made—or the book was going to be written—either about the A’s or the Twins and the A’s won out. (Maybe because Billy Beane is a younger, handsomer man than Terry Ryan? Just a guess.) Here’s a team that loses its three best players, has no money to spend, and needs to win some games. The GM goes a little rogue and starts thinking in scientific terms (OPS) vs. attributes like all-around talent, good attitude, a pretty face, etc.

And man, does this sound familiar. How many times have we heard that a Twins player is a “leader in the clubhouse” yet hits .201 or something ridiculous? Why is Casilla still on our team, besides sometimes having an awesome defensive play? I’m guilty of it myself. I didn’t want Cuddyer to go because he seems like such a good guy, but then here’s Willingham (who could also be a good guy, I don’t know) who’s hitting more home runs than Cuddyer probably would’ve. But in the end, story of our life, we choke with men on base. So it does seem like OPS means something, doesn’t it? No bunting? No stealing? That’s crazy talk! Or is it?

The other part of the film that was quite interesting was the relationship between the owner and the GM and then the GM and the manager. At the end of the day, the GM and the manager just want to put a good team on the field, but the owner can’t fork over the dough. So the GM gets frustrated at the owner, yet swallows this and pushes his agenda on the manager, who then doesn’t think the GM knows squat and plays his players the way he wants to play them.

Is this the way it is in Minnesota too? Does Terry Ryan secretly beg the Pohlad’s for more money? Does Gardenhire sit on the bench just shaking his head because a manager can only work with what he’s got? (Where’s his pitching?!) The organization does a really good job at painting a pretty “we all get along” picture, but perhaps it’s not that way, like it wasn’t in Oakland in 2002? And the trades and fast phone conversations and sitting in the office of the GM of a bigger team and begging for player? (“We’ll give you Carlos Gomez.” Um, OK, I suppose it’s a deal.) How crazy and, sometimes, humiliating. Yet so interesting.

So, anyway, while I dislike Brad Pitt (he seriously plays the same smirky guy in every single movie), I could see beyond that to what’s a really good baseball movie. And for a baseball fan, Moneyball was wholly entertaining, a bit heartbreaking and quite enlightening. I won’t look at baseball, or the Twins, the same way again—even if I keep getting my heart broken.

Posted: Thu, 05/31/2012 - 14:03 | Comments: 1

Redhead Ranting's Inked post: I love how she correlated being physically tattooed with the emotional (or hidden) ink that we carry with us. She writes, "Screw the people who don’t like your ink – that’s their ink talking. Learn to wear yours, as it’s the reason you can stand in front of the people you love…and have them love you back."

Always Take Backup T-shirt: I remember when I first started streaming Veronica Mars a couple years ago. In the very first episode, her awesome dad said to her, "Remember to take backup." I had no idea what he meant until when she needed him, her awesome dog provided protection. Jennie mentioned this shirt over on Style Lush. LOVE IT. (I'd wear the East Dillon shirt, too.)

Michonne: EW gives us a first peek at Michonne on The Walking Dead. This is the only reason I want it to be October already, if it didn't mean summer would be over.

Skyfall trailer: Casino Royale kicked butt, Quantum of Solace was good if not a bit confusing... So, it's very exciting to catch a first glimpse at the next 007 movie. This is M's last one and I'm curious about her fate. And Daniel Craig is just the best Bond.

Liz Phair's new video for And He Slayed Her: She's hot. She can sing. The end.

Posted: Fri, 05/25/2012 - 07:51 | Comments: 4

Well. I mentioned in my post about The Tiger’s Wife that I was having a little trouble understanding why Swamplandia was named a 2011 Book of the Year. Why some critics claimed it “grabs you from the first page!”

I’ve finished it now and: Hi! Still wondering!

Wow, what a weirdo book.

Swamplandia focuses on a family in the swamps of Florida who have an alligator-wrestling-museum-amusement-park. When the mother dies and the attraction falls into disarray, the father leaves his three children to fend for themselves, basically. These kids have never been off this island for more than a mainland visit, so they’re quite the odd ducks. Brother Kiwi finds this out almost immediately after moving to the mainland looking for work. Sister Ossie gets involved with ghosts (ah, what?) and little sister Ava seems to be the only one who cares what happens to everyone.

At first I liked it a bit because the weird family seemed endearing. But page after page of reading about the swamp and alligators and the dirty, rival amusement park… well, it was depressing and, frankly made me feel kind of gross. Like I had just spent a week in the swamp myself. (So, A+ for setting, I suppose? Though is “gross” really the reaction Karen Russell was going for?)

I liked the heroine, Ava, to some extent, but she talked like she was 40 and then was so naive in other ways. Ava’s individual adventure went on for way too long and contained, I felt, a completely unnecessary and gratuitous scene that turned me off completely near the end. By then I was just powering through so I could say I finished it.

This book started from a short story; I’m curious about the short story now, if only to see why Russell thought it warranted an expansion. This is not the first time I’ve disliked something that many others enjoyed, so I won’t take offense if you loved it. It just wasn’t for me, and I’m a little disappointed I spent time reading this when I could’ve read something else. 

Posted: Wed, 05/23/2012 - 15:35 | Comments: 1

What did I love this week?

HIMYM Season Finale: I loved the 20 mini stories Ted & Robin used to distract Lily during labor, the Lily's in Labor video, the Cloud Cult song that made me pause the show so I could download it instantly, and the ending. (Also I loved the Bones season finale!)

Trailer for The Mindy Project: Yes, this looks VERY Mindy and yes, they pretty much show you the entire season of storylines in this three minutes, but you know what? I'll take this show over what's become of The Office any day.

Girls Gone Child Mother's Day post: She writes, "Because I'm not supposed to admit I have moments of selfishness. I'm not supposed to feel envious when I love my life. I'm not supposed to feel overwhelmed when I'm handling this just fine, thankyouverymuch."

27 Ways to Be an (Even) Better Person: Tweeted out by my dear friend, I loved this post... particularly Nos. 1, 5, 12 (you know who you are), 19, 26 & 27.

Your turn. What did you love this week?

Posted: Fri, 05/18/2012 - 09:55 | Comments: 2

Here's this week's picks:

Minnesota Vikings get a Stadium: My dad taught me all about football when I was in junior high. He also taught me what it means to love a team that never wins the big game. Even if they never win a Super Bowl, I'm really happy the Vikings are here to stay.

Against Chairs: This article had me in stitches. "Chairs suck. All of them. No designer has ever made a good chair, because it is impossible."

But it also left me less than thrilled that I spend a majority of my day in the seated position. "... long times spent seated are a contributing cause of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, and practically innumerable orthopedic injuries. It does not matter if you are young, eat well and live an otherwise active life. Just being seated, in excess, will hurt you."

Maurice Sendak & Stephen Colbert: It was sad to hear about Sendak's death this week, but it was fun to revisit his interview on the Colbert Report. If you haven't watched it, it's so great. The New Yorker also unlocked a comic by Art Spiegelman (have you read Maus I & Maus II? You should) that the artist created after spending time with Sendak. It's awesome, though I'm guessing the magazine will put it back in the vault soon - so, apologies if the link doesn't work.

Felicity on Netflix: I watched Felicity from the day it first aired. But it's been 10 years (how is that possible?) and I'm having a blast watching this show again. I may be in the minority because I fall firmly on Team Noel, but also, it's been so many years, I don't remember how it ends. So, it's like a whole new show! (If you remember, don't spoil it for me.)

Mother's Day: I Miss My Mom: When grief and loss is experienced differently by everyone, sometimes it's hard to find things to read that are comforting. This essay hit home for me. She writes, "The Mother’s Days since have been tinged with bittersweet longing. While I’m crazy about my boys and appreciate however they want to celebrate the day, I miss having someone to honor."

And, "I miss her most are during the highs and lows of parenting—when one of my sons reaches a big milestone like walking or learning how to read, or at the end of a long day when I’ve lost my temper. It’s at those moments that I wish I could hear just how proud she would be, or be reminded that having a bad day doesn’t make you a mom failure. I miss her take on it all." Happy Mother's Day to all the moms, on earth and in heaven.

Your turn! What are you loving this week?

Posted: Fri, 05/11/2012 - 08:33 |

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

I read The Tiger’s Wife a couple of months ago. This book made all those Best of 2011 lists (New York Times), so I thought I’d give it a try. I was reluctant because oftentimes I don’t agree with the lists (I’m reading Swamplandia, another on the list and I just don’t get why of all the books from 2011, this one made it…). But, The Tiger’s Wife was a definite exception; I get it.

It’s a moving story that takes place in the past and present of a war-torn Balkan country. The story revolves around the beautiful relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter. He passes on some legends, she searches for the truth—all at different points in time. Animals play a big role in the book, which is quite interesting. You learn of war and borders and death and mysticism.

The author leaves open a lot of loose ends. You close the book wondering just what actually happened. With some books, I hate that. Like, ‘I spent all this time reading and you didn’t wrap it up?’ But, this felt right. There was an author Q&A in the back of my copy and Tea Obreht addresses this issue—it was a difficult decision for her.

One of my book club friends read the book too, so we had a mini book club over email. I thought I’d include our discussion here.

AGAIN SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Me: I LOVED the Tiger's Wife, by the way. Even though I'm glad she didn't spell everything out, I still want to know if the Deathless Man knew who she was and if he did in fact come for her grandfather; but I guess that was left up to us to imagine.

Book Club Friend: Me too. I'm glad it was short because I kept thinking, wait did I miss something? and reread passages to see if the details were spelled out. And, no, they weren't. I still don't fully understand why the apothecary killed the Tiger's Wife.

Me: Yeah, I was wondering if it was because he knew as an outsider that she was in for a hard life in that town... Like he was actually saving her or something? A lot of loose ends left, but surprisingly, that didn't keep me from liking it like it might've with another book. The grandfather seemed amazing.

BCF: LOVED the grandfather. I loved the scenes between him and the narrator when she was a teen. So loving and so real.

I thought that, and perhaps as a way of aligning himself with the villagers who watched him die as an outsider anyway. "War makes us all outsiders" was a prevailing theme. So many loose ends ... which did suit the tone of the book.

Me: Can you imagine living that way? I know we've been at war for 10 years, but it's not on our soil. I can't imagine what it would be/will be like if someone was bombing us every day. For 10 years. Ugh. And to have a country divided, and to be "from" both sides of the border? Wow.

BCF: And to have ethnicity all of a sudden mean a lot more than cocktail party chatter ... weird.

I kept expecting the grandmother or even the mother to show up in the stories from the past because there were so many connections, like Luka's intended fiance, the tiger wife's sister, was also the girl that ran off with the deathless man. But the narrator's mother was so absent from everything. I suppose it just wasn't her story.

Me: I liked those past connections a lot. And she had no father? Did they ever mention him? I liked the monk and her friend and wish we knew more of what happened to them. And did she ever say if her grandfather paid his debt? Was The Jungle Book in with his belongings? It makes me want to read that book now! (I've only seen the Disney movie, which must've been way Disney-fied.)

If you read the book (and got to the end of this post), let me know your thoughts!

Posted: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 08:34 | Comments: 1

Here we are again! Some things I’ve loved this week.

50/50: Have you seen this movie? It’s (loosely) based on screenwriter Will Reiser’s experience with cancer at a young age. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the lead; Seth Rogen (Reiser’s friend in real life) plays the best buddy. For a cancer movie, this film is excellent. You see the stages of grief, the relationship struggles, the fear, the denial – all from a 20-something perspective. No feel-good anything. No schmaltz. Tons of humor. A fair share of sadness. All the actors were awesome. Anna Kendrick (who plays a therapist) continues to impress me in everything she does. We watched it on Vudu, but perhaps it’s available elsewhere too?

Mad Men: The season has been really good so far, but this last episode was the best yet. Juliette Binoche was a lovely and perfect surprise as Megan’s mom. I loved everything about her. Sometimes I get tired of seeing Don’s kids in the show, but Sally was in top form in this episode. (I think Megan does a very good job as a stepmom.) Roger continues to be one of my favorite characters. And Peggy’s fight with her mom was spot-on. She’s settling, and like her mom, I don’t like it.

Friends Oral History: When you’ve read every single piece written about your favorite show over nearly 20 years, it’s really hard to find anything you haven’t heard before. And that held true with this article. I’d heard these stories all before—Kauffman’s told the story about her rabbi asking about Ross & Rachel so many times—but I didn’t care. I love this show and I’ll read about it until they stop writing about it.

West Wing on Funny or Die: Great week for my old favorite shows! Loved this short West Wing reunion. Man, I miss C.J. and Charlie and the walking and the fast-paced dialogue and the way the President puts on his coat and the swelling music. It was a nice (if brief) return to my favorite White House.

Brandi Carlile’s That Wasn’t Me: I’m not one who’s up on the new music. But, I’ve loved Brandi Carlile since The Story started giving me chills 5 years ago. This is her new single off her upcoming album and I just love it. I love the cracks in her voice, the twang, the loud parts, the soft parts. She’s great.

What are you loving this week?

Posted: Fri, 05/04/2012 - 08:59 | Comments: 2