Sunday, June 30, 2019

Was That All it Took?

The Minnesota Twins are insanely good this year.  No one is more surprised than myself as at the beginning of the season, I was scratching my head wondering who half these guys were.  But almost by magic, rookie manager Rocco Baldelli has taken this rag tag bunch of players and turned them in a juggernaut.

The transformation is insane.  The Twins lead the major leagues in home runs (Home freaking Runs!!!) at 156, runs (471), total bases (1446), RBI's (453), team batting average (.271), and they lead slugging percentage by a mile (.498).  They're third in hits (787), 4th in doubles (169), and are 6th in on base percentage (.337).  [stats as of 10 PM on 6/30/19]

This...THIS from a team who has been known as the small ball capitol of baseball.  The Twin's legacy against power began under Tom Kelly and continued through Gardenhire and Molitor's regimes.  They were so committed to hitting only singles and doubles they gave David Ortiz to the Boston Red Sox for a bag of pebbles.  They literally were angry he kept hitting the ball out of the park.  You would've thought the shame of that bad decision would've changed things up, but it wasn't until the complete gutting of the team after last season did we finally get a major shift in coaching.

It'a almost as if Rocco has just told these guys "you see that fence out there.  Hit it over that!"  I'm at a complete loss for anything else which can explain this offensive explosion.

Well not entirely.  I think the mentality of where the Twins have been for the last 15 or so seasons has a lot to do with Joe Mauer.  The Twins fell in love with Mauer the minute they drafted him.  They conceived of a marketing strategy which placed Joe in the center of their universe as the sun, and everything else orbited around him.  Mauer was a great player, but their desire to keep him as the "best Twin" caused the organization to play a style of baseball which sacrificed the talents of many; as long as the shine never went off the Mauer apple.  Anytime a hot hitting player started to get some traction in the fan base, they suddenly were in a different uniform.  If Mauer was primarily a singles and doubles hitter, then sure as heck no one else could be hitting home runs.

I know some people will scream that's not true, many players had big hitting years with the team.  Yeah, and where are they now?  The reason the 2019 roster was a bushel of "who?" is because any player who started to garner some of the Mauer praise for themselves found themselves shipped off to another team.  The removal of the overachieving player wasn't instant, but it was consistent.

Now, with Mauer retired, and along with him the Mauer doctrine, players are coming out of the shadows and swinging for the fences. There are eight Twins with 10 or more homers by late June! Jorge Polanco is hitting .320. Six regular players are hitting .270 or better.  Eddie Rosario has 60 RBI's, Max Kepler has 53, C. J. Cron 52!  This team came out of nowhere and if the bats keep working for them, they will play deep into October.

Swing for the fences!  Was that all it took?  Apparently, yes...well that and the removal of the Mauer handcuffs which were on the rest of the Minnesota Twins.

Northern Minnesota Love, 2019

I love taking pictures of wildflowers in Minnesota.  It's a goofy hobby.  Here are some photos from my recent trip up north.  Not only did I get some of the early flowers (which were blooming because it has been much cooler than normal up there), I found a Lady Slipper, the Minnesota state flower growing near our cabin.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Friday Link for 6/28/19

I was on vacation this week, got back on Tuesday and haven't had time to write squat this week.  I do hope to have my northland flowers post up this weekend, plus one or two others soon.

For this week, I'm turing it over to Showtime's Our Cartoon President.  Three clips for you tonight, starting with their take on the Democratic Debate, followed by Bernie meeting Mitt Romney, and finally the Trump reelection kickoff rally.

The last one is particularly good because it lambasts Pelosi and Schumer pretty good too. Enjoy!

WARNING - more than a little bad language!  You've been warned...

Have a great weekend everyone.

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Friday Link for 6/21/19

This week I plan to make you smarter...well not me doing it, but rather two very smart people.

First of, if you aren't subscribed to Robert Reich's YouTube page, you are missing out on one of the best YouTube pages, period.  Not only are his videos chock full of information and knowledge, they are truly good videos.  Reich understands the YouTube genre and format, excelling at it.  The only downside is some of his videos will make you angry and sad, because they point you to stark reality, but he always offers optimism in the end.

Two from Robert Rich, one on Trump's economic failure, and the other is the sham that is the conservative chants of 'Made in America' today.

The second guy up tonight is Stephen Fry, who has been putting out lusciously thick explanations on the stupidity of Brexit for awhile now.  If you go back and watch all of his videos, you'll be impressed with the completeness of his explanations.  Even relative novices in the US can understand what is going on.  Here's his latest from a few weeks ago.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Ghosts

There's something which I need to hammer into the moderate Democrats heads.  Moderate Republicans DO NOT EXISTS ANYMORE!

One of the biggest problems we've had as a party is moderate Democrats taking an approach which dismisses a majority of the Democratic Party in favor of 'working with' moderate Republicans.  It's not hard to understand, as many moderate Democrats think they have more in common with the guy five feet away from them, on the other side of the fence, rather than the brother WAY over on the other side of the field.

The problem is moderate Republicans are no longer on the other side of the fence, rather five farms over.  To visit the moderate Republicans the moderate Democrats still think exist, they need a time machine.  The moderate Republicans they're trying to work with haven't existed in the Republican party for 15 years.

Moderates on the right began being phased out by their own party starting in the early 90's.  Back then there were pro-choice, and pro-social safety net Republicans, but when Newt Gingrich came around, everything started to change.  The party demanded no deviation from a standard group of beliefs, a platform which was much further to the right than moderates were used to.  The message was simple; become more conservative or retire.

Many moderates did retire.  But some, begrudgingly or not, moved further to the right.  Jim Ramstad managed to make it to 2008, but by then even he realized the party wasn't going to stop moving further and further to the right.  He abandoned ship, replaced by the eager far right yes man Erik Paulsen.

Local Republicans, like Jim Rhodes, my one time MN House Rep., found himself the face of a party which not only no longer represented him, it no longer represented the district he served.  The national party's movement had turned his district a solid blue.

Moderate Republicans have disappeared.  They're casper, vapor, a ghost.  Anyone who's an active Republican is so far to the right, there's no ability for them to claim they're moderate.  For goodness sake, the Minnesota Republicans just voted against an Emergency Insulin Fund, a non partisan issue which would save lives.  They all voted against it.  Where's the moderate there?  On the national level, the narrative is clear.  If you're not two steps further to the right of Trump, you're liberal.  Look at how people like Susan Collins have had to sell out their own morals to stay in the party's favor.

Moderate Republican voters have scattered.  If they silently kept voting Republican, they technically moved away from moderation the minute they checked Trump on the ballot.  Some Moderates became Democrats.  Others, who are too stubborn to even consider voting Democrat, stay at home on election day.  They know their party is dangerous, but to vote against them would mean they're betraying Reagan.  They'd rather sit it out.

Moderate Democrats, the Republicans who are going to work with you have already become Democrats.  Forget trying to appeal to a phantom.  Focus your attention in two directions; your party (even though they might be liberal progressives, they still have more in common with you than the moderate Republicans do) and on the 110 million who sat out the last election (many of whom are frustrated Democrats and progressives who have been turned off by the moderates who have been driving the party towards the right rather than focusing on Democratic strongpoints).

Moderate Republicans no longer exist.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Friday Link for 6/14/19

Since last week I had Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader in his Dateline NBC persona, I thought this week it'd be worthwhile to remember that Bill Hader was the best comedy skit game show host they ever had on SNL.

Now before people immediately scream Will Ferrel and his Alex Trebek from Celebrity Jeopardy or Kenan Thompson's Steve Harvey from Celebrity Family Feud, those were fantastic, but it was always the same bit.  I will also throw in Amy Poehler and Tina Fey in their one time sensational game show Meet Your Second Wife.  Great but it was only a one time deal.

Bader basically does the same host every time but tweeks it just enough to make each show unique.

Four for you tonight!

First up, the hands down best Bill Hader Game show host skit, Game of Game of Thrones!

Then it's the star studded It's a Date!

Then an underrated gem, America's toughest gameshow, Dylan McDermott or Dermot Mulroney!

Finally, We all ask the question, What's Wrong With Tanya?

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Cooling Off

The National Hockey League has a problem. They just had one of the most entertaining stories in years happen, a plucky St. Louis Blues team comes out of nowhere to win the Stanley Cup, and outside of hockey fans in St. Louis, no one cares.  Sure, I know there are some people who love hockey who are gushing about it right now, but the vast majority of us could care less.

And I like hockey!  Seriously I do. It pains me to see the consistent failure Minnesota hockey is.  I love a good playoff matchup, but I didn't watch anything past early May this year.  A lot of that has to do with a league which has some major problems that are only getting worse.  Here are three huge ones.

Every #1 seed lost in the first round of the playoffs.  What is the value of having a great record if all it gets you is a speedy exit from the playoffs?  Tampa, Washington, Nashville and Calgary gave you excitement heading into the playoffs, but all of them were shown the door.  Tampa, the best team this league has produced in years, was SWEPT by a lowly Columbus squad.  Not only do you send all the best players home in the first round, you force fans to have to familiarize themselves with teams they didn't pay attention to throughout the season just to follow what's happening.  If only one of the top seeds lost, then you would've had a much better playoffs. Instead, it was a championship of "who?"

Come playoff time, the goal of the underdogs is to cripple the other teams best players with scrub players, and they do it with amazing success.  Imagine five of the best players on a baseball team or football team were specifically targeted during a playoff game by some guy who was just signed to the respective team the day before.  No one would tolerate it, but watching 4th line guys go head hunting, tasked with a mission of ending a season, and sometimes a career, of the best players on the other side, is a tactic which is neutralizing the sport, driving away the fans.  And this is only getting worse.

The league has to get better at calling these games.  Game five of the Stanley Cup final was decided on a blown call.  Even the offending player knew they had committed a penalty.  The refs missed it, and there was no way for the league to get the blown call correct.  It's not diminishing the human referees to have available instant replay; it only makes the games better.

What can the league do?  As unlikely as these things are to come to fruition, I would suggest three instant changes.

  • Make the rinks Olympic size.  The more open ice means the best players thrive.  This alone would make it harder for underdogs to upset teams in the first round, but not impossible. The league should be looking to showcase their best teams and players in a given year, not have to send out addendum to update you on the no name wild card teams no one cares about.  The open ice would make CONSISTENT skill important again.
  • When a player injures another player, they sit until the other player comes back from the injury. If the player is assessed a suspension for injuring the other player, then the suspension begins the day the injured player returns, and they sit the entire time the player they injured is healing, and THEN the suspension.  If a player cripples another player and that player doesn't ever return to the ice, then the player who caused the career ending injury never plays again either.  This new standard would instantly stop the bloodbath the first round of the NHL playoffs has become.
  • Give the teams the ability to have a play reviewed, regardless of whether it's a scoring play or not.  If everyone in the arena sees the penalty, but not the refs, then you need to have the ability to right the wrong.  Give each team a review each period.
I would also make the argument the league needs to move some of these teams out of the far south. Nothing against Miami, Arizona, Carolina and Dallas, but these teams are lowest rung on the ladders in these major metro areas.  At least in Seattle, Quebec, Kansas City and Salt Lake City the communities would not have to have a tutorial to explain exactly what they are watching.  

The NHL can have a great story like St. Louis happen, but with its lousy playoff situation, it gets diminished and ignored.  Ice does indeed melt fast in June.

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Friday Link for 6/7/19

One of the funnier bits they did on Saturday Night Live over the last ten years was Bill Hader's version of Dateline NBC's Keith Morrison.  This impersonation is very good, a bit over the top but every time I've watched Dateline, there's at least one segment where Morrison sounds just like Hader's impersonation of him.

To do a good impersonation of someone, you generally have to be a fan.  Hader apparently loves Keith Morrison, and for that matter, Dateline NBC.

With that set up, the Friday Link this week is first Bill Hader doing an impersonation of Morrison on Saturday Night from a few years back (2011).  Warning, it gets a little adult:

Then a real treat.  The Sunday Today show convinced Hader to go visit the Dateline NBC studio and meet Morrison.  You can't fake the geekiness Hader puts forward.  He clearly is excited to meet the host.  For his part, Morrison seems to understand how the bread gets buttered and points out how Hader's impression of him actually extended his career.  The end of this clip is just so perfect!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Parental Advice from Matt!

Today, is the last day of the school year.  I'm so proud of my kids, how they're all happy, get great grades, are involved in sports and music, and seem well balanced.

I'm hesitant to give out parenting advice because one thing I've learned is there are lots of ways to raise great kids.  My way is not necessarily better or worse than anyone else's, and what worked for me might not work for anyone else.  That being said, here are three bits of advice which I think are pretty spot on.

1) Read to your kids when they're young.  Without a doubt, the reason my kids are good in school is because my wife started reading to them every night when they were young.  If she wasn't around, I'd read to them, but my wife carried the bulk of that burden.  There are many reasons reading to your kids at a young age is great (increased imagination, awareness of the world, learning important life lessons) but encouraging them to read on their own has paid us back 17 years later with straight A's.  If there's one thing I'd attribute to my children's positive outcomes, it's this.  Read a story to your kids every night.

2) Back in 2007, my wife and I made a decision.  I'd leave my Marketing Director gig and focus on working in radio, a schedule which allowed me to (technically) be a stay at home parent.  For 12 years, I've either dropped my kids off at the bus in the morning, picked my kids up from the bus in the afternoon, or both.  I'll miss that.  I understand having a flexible schedule like mine is a luxury, but making time for your kids, and letting them know you're a consistent presence, even when you're at work, is calming and reassuring for your kids.  Today, my youngest officially leaves elementary school.  After 13 years, I will no longer be taking my kids to the bus (big brother will drive them to school next year).  I feel like I accomplished something today.

3) Make sure your kids get downtime. These kids schedules are insane.  When you get kids into junior high and high school, you'll be floored by the levels of time commitment required for academics, sports, music, theater; whatever regular or extra-circular activity they're engaged in.  Just like adults, make sure they get time to stop and breathe.  How you let them do so it up to you, but as they get older, you'll come to realize screens are how their generation communicates.  Where I used to try to extremely limit the amount of screen time they got, I now realize it's a necessary evil to ensure your kid is not a pariah.  What age you allow a screen is up to you, but 13 has worked for us, with social media sites being allowed according to their threat level (Snapchat Never!).  We allow screen time, but that's us.  How you regulate your kid's downtime is up to you.  And make sure they are going to bed at a reasonable time.  Downtime is not just during the day.

I'll shut up now.  You raise your kids how you see fit, but if you do versions of the aforementioned guidelines, you'll probably be very happy with the results.  Good Luck!

The People Killing Christianity are the Christians

Dear Conservative, far right wing Christians.  The other day I was reading a story about how some Evangelical minister was blaming the downward trend in church attendance on the usual suspects: Liberals, Atheists, Satan, and even a shout out to the Netflix version of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.  Over the last few decades, I've read this story multiple times and now I feel it's time for me to try to set you guys straight.

The people who are killing Christianity are the Christians themselves; far right zealots whose altered version of the religion, and demands for loyalty to certain politicians and political beliefs, are driving people away in droves.

You are!  You've managed to take a religion whose tentpoles are based on peace, welcoming, love and compassion, and have mutilated it into a weapon against your perceived enemies.  You've distorted Jesus' teaching to unrecognizable levels, and in some cases just made crap up, creating new far right Christian tentpoles intended to vilify, torment, persecute and condemn. Let me show you how your version of the religion is a mockery, and is devaluing the Christian faith as a whole.

Let's start with the demand any Christian adhere to a Republican only standard, and how you're making fools with such a demand in the age of Trump.  News break: Trump isn't a devout Christian!  At best he's the guy who begrudgingly wanders into a house of worship on the major holidays.  He loves to brag how Christian he is, but he does very little to show any religious habits.  He doesn't go to church on a regular basis.  HE DOESN'T!  He clearly has a very limited grasp of the Bible.  And when you compare his political agenda to the teachings from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John [the four books of the New Testament which make all Chrisitians Christian] it's as if he's purposely trying to do everything the exact opposite of how Jesus told us to live our lives.  Yet you Christians have anointed Trump a new biblical deity, commanding all Christians to support him no matter how anti-Christian he gets.

Meanwhile, the same exact people constantly vilified former President Obama, a man who was clearly a Christian!  You discounted and dismissed his faith because it allowed the Christian right to hate him.  Under the far right Christians' new Biblical rules, love, compassion an forgiveness for your fellow man could be negated as long as you labeled the person you wanted to hate a non-Christian. With President Obama, the right ignored his faith to feed their flames of hate.  And before you clowns on the right say "I never did that," you're lying!  Every Evangelical Chrisitan pushed the 'Obama as a fake Chrisitan' narrative, or at best you silently said nothing as you nodded in agreement.

You far right Christians watch Trump do the most unChristian things and you say nothing.  Jailing asylum seekers seeking safety, denying sick people life saving medical coverage, gutting social programs for the poor, and embracing a grossly unfair economic and justice system, things Jesus taught us to fight against, are all given a pass by the Christian right.  Evangelicals just hum their psalms loudly to drum out the cries and screams from young children, lost in Trump's chaotic immigration system, some of whom have been sexually assaulted repeatedly, some of whom have been handed over by Trump to sex traffickers, as these young children lose hope of ever being reunited with family.  And over a dozen kids have died under Trump's 'benevolence.'  Yes indeed, Trump has done all of this, yet you far right Christians say nothing, endorsing his evil behavior with silence.

And yet the far right/Evangelical Christians feel as if they are pious for one simple reason; they've created a hierarchy of sins.  For Evangelicals and far right Christians, their version of Christianity is that abortion is the biggest sin, then being gay, and the rest of Jesus' teachings are just lip service; great if you do them, but no necessary because "I saved a baby and condemned a gay man!"  For the record, that's not how Jesus or Christianity works.  There was never supposed to be a Lord of the Rings type of list, 'one sin to rule them all,' but that's what the Right's done with Christianity

Abortion.  As I wrote years back, I'm personally against it.  Christians, being anti-abortion is never mentioned in the Bible.  IT ISN'T! Not only that, the Bible says life begins at Breath (not conception), Numbers mandates certain women need to get an abortion, and God himself not only demands slaughter of infants and fetuses, he himself has killed them (you think Noah's flood didn't kill a while bunch of unborn and born kids?).  And for the record, Jesus never once mentioned abortion, but he did directly condemn the death penalty.

Christian Right, you care nothing for that baby when the baby is born.  You don't.  I know you'll say that's not true, but it is.  When was the last time you screamed at a politician for not feeding them, not offering them medical care, not sheltering them, not offering free daycare options?   Jesus would be for all of these things, plus much, much more, AND YOU KNOW IT(!), but yet you never get into a politicians face when they threaten to cut these programs or argue the poor are just freeloaders.

I know the Christian Right, when confronted with all of this, fall back to the "but I'm saving an innocent life," but two points: the death penalty and wars.  If all life is sacred (according to the Bible), why do you tolerate executions and wars?  Don't give me 18th and 19th century revisions to the Bible meant to justify corporal punishment in the lawless West.  "Because he deserved it" was NEVER valid reason to execute a person, according to Jesus.  And we have executed innocent people, something which has been proven.  How many politicians have you called about that?  How many sermons have you heard about the wrongful imprisonment and killing of an innocent man?  The entire sacrifice of Jesus at Easter was a condemnation of execution, period! And war?  Come on, you think wars are still fought with guys on one side and the other guys on the other, like WWI.  We bomb from the stratosphere, killing innocent civilians.  Modern war kills FAR MORE civilians (including woman and children, both born and unborn) then it does soldiers today.  Trump is now offering to pardon war criminals, people who murdered innocents in war zones, and you Evangelical Christians say nothing because your sin outrage hierarchy tells you their death is not as bad as an pregnant teen getting an abortion (and [let's be honest] you're not bothered because the dead in war zones are usually Muslims - you know, the non-Christians excuse I mentioned earlier).

While I agree (personally) a baby is innocent, I feel it's innocent both inside the mother and outside the mother.  But not you far Right Christians.  The baby is innocent until it's born, then it's a moocher "wasting my taxpayer dollars!"  And I'll even cut deeper, outside of cute caucasian babies, your world view embraces many non-caucasian kids living life in a harsh and unpleasant foster care system for 18 years, with no chance at adoption, as 'Christians' insist they don't owe those children anything after demanding their birth.

At best Christian Right, you're not pro life.  You're pro de-womb-ing only, AT BEST!

As far as your strange fascination with the LGBTQ community, a group of people who were made in the same exact manner as heterosexual people, never once did Jesus condemn gay people.  He didn't, no matter how much you try to say he did.  You're just elevating lesser teachings from the Old and New Testaments to OVERRULE Jesus, an attempt to validate your hatred.  Whose teachings make up Christianity?  It is Jesus or Paul?  Is it Leviticus or Jesus?  Trick questions, it was Jesus!  Your hatred of the LGBTQ community is not Christianity.  It just isn't.

And by the way, your hatred of gay people always seems to boil down to your fascination with the kind of sex the LGBTQ community has.  That's weird and it tells me far more about you than it does about them.  Instead of vilifying others for engaging in something you secretly think about, maybe you should try it, with a willing partner, either heterosexual or otherwise.  Maybe you'll realize God made us in this form, and he never gave us no fly zones.  ENJOY!  Explore the beautiful thing you've been given, yourself, and stop hating others who your seem to be jealous of.

This is the Evangelical Chriatian today. "Here's the Bible, now we're going to throw out 99% of it.  Seriously, completely ignore most of it!  In regards to the pro life potion of Biblical teachings, here's some fan fiction we wrote which overrides actual Biblical scripture.  The only lives that matter are babies, Republicans and those in your immediate family who agree with your politics.  And here are a random group of non-Jesus Biblical passages on why we have to stop the LGBTQ community from having sex.  Seriously, obsess over the types of sex those people are having.  And just remember when you hear a Bible passage which focuses on the needy or contradicts what we preach, nod you head with a smile and immediately ignore it!"

It's a mystery why you guys can't fill up the pews!

The reason people are leaving the church in droves is you Evangelicals and Far Right Christians.  Stop being jerks, stop weaponizing the Bible, stop validating your personal hatreds with a religion which supposed to be based on love and compassion, and embrace a welcoming spirit, screaming out loud "you are loved here, regardless of who you are!"

That's always been Christianity's strongest selling point.