The Next Step After Charlottesville

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I haven’t published much of anything on this site in 2017. I’ve been busy; a wedding and honeymoon will do that to you. I’ve also had very little to say, though perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I haven’t figured out how to say it. I think I’m turning a corner.

It’s been a very uncomfortable 7+ months with a president who is equal parts inflammatory and incompetent. We’ve seen the widening rift between the American left and right grow into a daunting chasm. I’ve done most of my riffing on these topics on Twitter, which is admittedly not the best forum for rational and measured thinking. The current mode and tenor of anti-Trump rhetoric feels weaker than it ought to be. It’s neither persuasive to those on the fence nor transformative for those allied to him and his cause. It’s masturbatory virtue signaling. It accomplishes nothing but to make ourselves feel better about ourselves.

Charlottesville feels like a turning point for me. It’s time to work on campaigning with an outward strategy rather than an inward one.

There’s a venom growing within members of our society that cannot be tolerated. Call it white nationalism, the alt-right, white supremacy, neo-nazism — whatever. It stands against everything I am as a person. It stands against everything I believe America is as a country.

There’s a growing grassroots movement that stands in opposition to white nationalism. Its current form is a loose coalition of different people and groups intent on resisting fascism and racism.  It needs to strengthen itself through advocacy, activism, and a determination of why/how it pursues its goals. There’s a sizable gulf between staunch nonviolence and Antifa-style confrontationalism. I believe that nonviolence is the best approach, though the group should be prepared for a fight should self-defense be required.

I’m a big believer in the power of symbols; like-minded people need emblems upon which to strengthen their bond. It can be something striking like the famous Obama “Hope” poster or something simple like a red “Make America Great Again.” I guess you can think of it as branding, but I hate that word so maybe let’s not. Regardless, symbols are color of a movement, they are the motifs that ground a calling in consistency. Luckily enough, the perfect bits of iconography for a nation-wide counter-protest are already sitting right beneath our noses.

The next time white nationalists have a rally, I’d love if the counter-protesters drowned them out with Union Army hymns. They should come dressed in blue. They should wave American and Union Army flags. I think this would be a meaningful and persuasive approach to standing ground against a despicable ideology.

Here’s my rationale: Confederate fetishists love to see themselves as carriers of a torch lit by their southern forebears. Counter-protesters should demonstrate that they (we) too carry the torch of their (our) predecessors: Lincoln’s cause. The Union’s Cause. America’s cause. “As He died to make men holy / let us live to make men free!”

White supremacists seek validation and acceptance from the masses. The best way to deny them this is to employ the power of patriotic symbols to frame white nationalism as counter to American values. There’s nothing more patriotic than waving an American flag in the face of a Nazi. There’s no better way to troll a white supremacist than to blare songs about Sherman’s March to the Sea. There’s no stronger rebuttal of unamerican sentiments than a firm affirmation of what America is all about.

Counter-protesters should 1) refrain from violence unless pressed to defend themselves and 2) work on a campaign to persuade fence-sitters that their cause is the true American one. I find that “the resistance,” as it were, struggles because it has not found for itself anything consistent to rally around. The solution is to take back the concept of American patriotism and embrace our own cultural inheritance: The Union Forever.

Here’s All the Stuff I Read in 2016

bulldog wearing eyeglasses sleeping over a good novel

This is my second iteration of this annual post (you can find 2015’s here). Like a lot of people, I track all of my reading at Goodreads, a site that I’m still not convinced isn’t in the business of selling my secrets to mischevious bedouins, or something like that.

I read 46 titles in 2016. That’s one more than I read the year prior, though my consumption habits had shifted quite a bit. That’s because, in 2016, I discovered that the DC Public Library system has a treasure trove of graphic novels available for borrowing. I was thrilled. I had wanted to further explore this format, especially after having read some of the more seminal works (Maus, Watchmen, Batman: Year One) several years back. I took advantage.

That means quite a few titles out of the 46 on this list are graphic novels. Some may consider that cheating, given that you can power through most graphic novels in a few hours. I have no rebuttal, other than to admit that I rather enjoyed my reading in 2016. I don’t think I read anything I consider an all-time favorite, but it was an all-around solid year regardless. Lot of good books rather than a few great books, and what not.

To summarize my year of reading, here’s a list of all the titles I consumed, plus blurbage. I’ve ranked them in order of enjoyability. I’ve also marked whether I read the hard copy or listed to the audiobook.

This was also the first year in which most of what I read was non-fiction, which is what the kids call “adulting” these days. Continue reading

An old journal

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I found an old journal in a box in the closet and have been reading through it the past couple hours. I’m astounded by how the documented experiences (and the person who wrote them) can feel so foreign, like it all occurred several lifetimes ago. I’m also staggered by just how illuminating hindsight can be. So many frustrations, now clarified by distance and time.

I was very troubled once. Things are better now.

In a somewhat related topic, if you were around me from September 2007 to January 2008, holy shit am I sorry.

Thoughts on José Fernández, joy, humanity

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The sudden and tragic death of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez on Sunday has impacted me more than I expected for someone I never knew.

I realize there are plenty of reasons for this: He was young and full of joy; he was a Cuban-American who looked like me and my family; he was an elite athlete destined for greatness; he left a loving mother, abuela, girlfriend, and unborn child. And now he’s gone.

This enthusiasm has been extinguished:

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What a gift, to be capable of such unbridled happiness.

There have been plenty of touching tributes to Fernandez these past two days. The one linked at the top of this article is one of the best; Dave Cameron of Fangraphs explains why he hopes his son can grow up to love life as Fernandez did. I recommend it.

Another great one: Grant Brisbee at SB Nation, “Jose Fernandez was pure joy.”

The aforementioned Cameron appeared on the Fangraphs Audio podcast yesterday with host Carson Cistulli to discuss what Fernandez meant to baseball. They expressed their hope that Fernandez’ sense of joyousness represents the future of baseball, replacing the rigid “unwritten rules” culture of the game. I commented on the podcast page, but figured I’d put it up here as well:

Great podcast, guys.

While listening, I thought of Brandon McCarthy’s poignant tweet Sunday:

You get the feeling that there are so many players who wish they could display the enthusiasm Fernandez showed, but for any of a myriad of reasons, can’t. We often forget just how much work and strain goes into becoming a major leaguer. The sacrifices. The training. For a guy like McCarthy, the struggle coming back from injury. Baseball is special to people like McCarthy, but is it fun anymore? It’s their job, after all. The sheen must wane after a while for most.

So I think this is what made Jose special: It’s not so much that he chose to have fun playing Major League Baseball — something so hard that only a thousand people in the world are able to do it — but because we was *capable* of having fun. Something innate, not elected.

A very special case, and a ray of light far too soon extinguished.”


I want to share this tweet below, featuring what is also my favorite photo of Jose Fernandez. I think it demonstrates the incredibly likable person he was.


Anna and I watched the Marlins/Mets game last night. If you missed it, you missed some of the most touching and beautiful human drama I’ve ever seen. Fernandez’ teammates took the field for the first time without him, on the day he was scheduled to pitch, each wearing a jersey with his name and number on the back, and won 7 to 3. Dee Gordon came up to bat in the leadoff spot, took a pitch from the right-handed box while imitating Fernandez’ batting stance, and then hit a monster home run (his first of the year) from the left-handed box. We were speechless. Gordon cried all around the bases and then bawled his way to the dugout. Within, his teammates embraced him one-by-one.

That was just one moment in a very special night. In a show of empathy and brotherhood, the Mets walked out to the middle of the field pre-game to comfort and embrace the Marlins. During the game, several of his teammates imitated Fernandez’ over-the-top dugout celebration. After the victory, the Marlins circled the pitcher’s mound arm-in-arm before leaving their hats on the rubber.

I’m going to get a little sanctimonious here for a second, and I apologize for that, but much of this was happening at the same time as the presidential debate, which I’ve not been shy about decrying as a toxic spectacle.

And it struck me that this baseball game, which was a moving display of human grieving and catharsis, could be happening at the same time that a bloodthirsty nation watched (and hate-watched) a reality show featuring two candidates who more resemble totems of societal rage than anything else. I could put more thought into what this means as a whole (I’ve toyed with an idea that Aristotle would have much preferred the baseball), but I’ll leave it at this: I’m glad I skipped the depravity of #debateculture in favor of a night of humanity.


To an Athlete Dying Young
BY A. E. HOUSMAN

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

Here’s My Summer Reading List

Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Magic City by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Germania: In Wayward Pursuit of the Germans and Their History by Simon Winder

The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

After the Quake by Haruki Murakami

Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford

The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team by Ben Lindbergh & Sam Miller

Available: A Memoir of Heartbreak, Hookups, Love and Brunch by Matteson Perry

MLB Power Rankings: A Belated Opening Day Preview

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Rejoice, baseball fans: Opening Day has arrived.

Below I’ve compiled some 2016 Preseason Power Rankings, based on a fine-tuned amalgamation of gumption, ESP, and side-eyed glances at PECOTA and Fangraphs. Why is it being rolled out days after Opening Day? Who cares!

As an eternal reminder, yes of course I’m biased against your team. Your team sucks. And I hate it. And that’s why it’s ranked so low. Get over it.

(Special thanks to Geoff Young for his help.)

Continue reading

Failsafe 2016 MLB Predictions

2016-opening-day

You heard it here first, folks.

AL East
1. Red Sox
2. Blue Jays
3. Rays
4. Yankees
5. Orioles

AL Central
1. Tigers
2. Twins
3. Royals
4. Indians
5. White Sox

AL West
1. Rangers
2. Astros
3. Mariners
4. A’s
5. Angels

NL East
1. Mets
2. Nats
3. Marlins
4. Braves
5. Phillies

NL Central
1. Cubs
2. Pirates
3. Cardinals
4. Brewers
5. Reds

NL West
1. Giants
2. Dodgers
3. Padres
4. Diamondbacks
5. Rockies

Wild card: Twins, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Nats

DS: Giants over Mets, Cubs over Nats, Rangers over Red Sox, Twins over Tigers

CS: Giants over Cubs, Rangers over Twins

WS: Giants over Rangers

MVPs – Buster Posey and Mookie Betts
Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw and Corey Kluber
Rookies of the Year – Corey Seager and Jose Berrios

Here’s All the Stuff I Read in 2015

Dog-Reading-book1

Goodreads is a flawed website and I don’t entirely trust it not to sell my deepest, darkest literary secrets to the Russian mob, or whomever, but it’s still pretty useful in arranging and encouraging my reading habits.

According to my Goodreads stockpile, I’ve read an average of 45 books per year over the past five, with a busy 2014 being a down year (19) and an incomprehensible 2011 setting the curve (66). Thus 2015, with its 45 completed books, was, in a way, decidedly average.

To summarize my decidedly average year of reading, here’s a list of all the titles I consumed, plus blurbage. I’ve ranked them in order of enjoyability for your consuming pleasure. Early warning: There’s a lot of Game of Thrones and Freakonomics ahead. Strange bedfellows and all. This was also the first year in which most of what I read was non-fiction, which is what the kids call “adulting” these days. Continue reading