Archive for October, 2008

Cold Weather Batman Redux

Note: This is a revision of a column that originally appeared in 2003.

I think that I enjoy Halloween more as an adult than I did when I was young. Now, when I decide to wear a costume (this only happens if I am invited to a party), I can control what I look like, and follow my one rule of costumes: No masks, because I want to drink beer. In past years, I have dressed up as Mr. Incredible (a fat super hero!), a female stripper (with a goatee), a proctologist (My nametag had the slogan “If it won’t come out, we’ll go in and get it!), and I enjoyed being in control of the costumes, if you will. It wasn’t always that way.

One year, when I was about 8, my otherwise sane mother actually decided that it would be just darling for me to dress up as a GIRL to go trick or treating. I was horrified (and probably psychologically damaged as a result), but my mother was convinced that it would be “the cutest thing.” Despite my loud protests, my sister and mother gleefully dressed me in a bright red dress, liberally applied makeup, and gave me a red pocketbook to hold the candy. I was apparently adorable, if miserable.

That night produced the lowest candy yield of my entire trick or treating career. My unsuspecting neighbors opened their doors, expecting cute little goblins, vampires, and super heroes, only to be confronted with a sobbing miniature drag queen. Meanwhile, my friends were DELIGHTED to see me (thankfully they all moved shortly thereafter). I only lasted about a half-dozen houses, dragging my red flats from house to house like a prisoner to the gallows, before my mother took pity on me and took me home.

A few years later, when my self-image had begun to recover, my parents bought me a Batman costume – the old, gray, oddly form-fitting Adam West version, but in plastic! I was thrilled. This was my chance to be a super hero! When Halloween came, I waited patiently for dinner to end, then raced up to my room and transformed myself into the Dark Knight. I pulled on the gray suit and put on the big plastic mask (I’m not sure what species the eye-holes in those masks were made for, but it wasn’t humans). I ran downstairs and was almost out the door when I heard the dreaded words: “Wait, don’t forget your coat.”

Oh no. The “winter coat over the costume” rule was going to be enforced.

I tried to present the argument that the entire mystique of Batman, brooding crime fighter and generally cool looking guy, was ruined when Batman was wearing a parka with fur around the hood. My mother’s counterpoint was something about the fact it was cold out, and that I would catch my death, and that she was my mother and that I was supposed to do what she said, blah, blah, blah, and just like that, I was Cold Weather Batman.

When I joined up with the pack of my friends (This was back in the days when children were allowed more than 5 feet from a parent or supervising adult, so it was just us kids that year), I noticed that Cold Weather Batman stood out from the rest of the Justice League. Apparently, none of my friends’ mothers cared enough to make them wear jackets over their costumes (Amazingly, all of these people managed to survive the night, pneumonia-free).

Standing out from the crowd on that night was not a good thing, because there were some older kids, dressed like bullies, prowling the streets of my neighborhood. When one of these predators decided it was time to steal someone’s candy, which of the Super Friends do you think was targeted?
While my fellow Super Friends ran like scared rabbits (and I ran like, well, an elm tree in winter boots) the bully ran at me and pushed me down. He then tried to tear the bag of candy out of my hands, but Cold Weather Batman was equipped with the old Kung Fu Grip that night, and the steely determination of a fat kid who senses that his candy is in danger.

The bully – probably alienated from society and suffering low self esteem because of something his parents did – then began punching me with one hand while tugging at the candy with the other hand. I rolled around, keeping a firm grip on the candy, as his fists poofed into my thick, fluffy, jacket-like body armor.

The altercation gathered a bit of a crowd, and eventually an adult showed up and yelled something like “Hey!” This spooked my attacker and he took off, melting into the darkness in search of other prey.

Cold Weather Batman returned home triumphantly that night with a couple of bruises, a black eye, and the best tasting candy I have ever eaten.
Happy Halloween.

Back in the Day Tim 30 Oct 2008 No Comments

Spun

Politics fascinate me. In particular, I am fascinated by the strategy that campaigns use in order to advance the cause of a particular candidate. Public opinion is a shaky thing, and to watch the professionals spin issues to avoid pitfalls and accomplish goals during the political season is much like watching artists at work.

One particular strategy I enjoy is the “release bad news early” strategy. The theory is that if a campaign can leak the candidate’s indiscretions early in the campaign (preferably while everyone is on summer vacation), the information won’t be held against the candidate later. In fact, it almost turns against the opponent for bringing it up. Here is an example of two imaginary candidates in a debate:

Candidate 1: Well, I think that the issue Candidate 2 experienced in Reno proves that he does not have the judgment or proper handle on his temper to be elected.

Candidate 2: How many times are you going to bring up that tired argument? I’ve been over this and over this since it was released on July 3rd, and I think that the voters are tired of rehashing old news. They want to hear what we have to say about the issues at hand.

Candidate 1: But…you shot a man just to watch him die.

Candidate 2: I made a mistake, and I learned from it. I believe it shows that I understand the use of deadly force better than my opponent, and I have learned the ramifications of using such force. As a result of my first hand experience, I would be less likely to use deadly force in an offhand manner than my opponent.

Candidate 1: Then you ran the man over with your car.

Candidate 2: I want to say that in my administration, we will take the money away from everyone who makes more than you do and give that money to you – the people I truly care about – directly.

Another strategy I find very interesting is that when there are questions about lowering taxes, politicians will generally make sure that the cuts are made in areas that will particularly hurt and are likely to receive press coverage – such as special education and prescription help for seniors. The cuts are generally not made to the bureaucracy. After all, the politicians go to all of the trouble of setting up the bureaucracy; it would be a shame to just dismantle it because the voters want to pay less in taxes.

I realize that in the latest cuts in the state government, local aid was not impacted, but watch what happens if ballot Question 1 is passed and the budget money is shuffled around. The politicians make sure that if the voters call for cuts, that those cuts are felt. This happens even locally; when local budgets are cut, the cuts go to the schools, and when school budgets are cut, it is teachers who are often cut instead of the higher ups. Parents are much more likely to rally for a Proposition 2 ½ override to restore teachers; it is not likely they would get so fired up about an administrator.

For example, in the recent round of budget cuts, the Massachusetts Library Commission sustained $388,000 in cuts (source: http://mblc.state.ma.us). Where were these cuts made, you ask? Over $100,000 of the cuts were made to programs for the blind, naturally.

Now, to be fair, it’s entirely possible that the blind people just weren’t using the resources and that the cuts actually reduced wasteful spending. But, it just seems a bit convenient. If some newspaper does a story on the lack of talking books at the libraries, the blame will be squarely placed upon the need for cuts (which wouldn’t be needed if only our taxes were higher), rather than upon those who decided to target that program in the budget.

When asked about the reduction of, and eventual elimination of, the state income tax proposed in Question 1; most politicians will say that now is not a good time for such cuts. After all, the economy has slowed. These are the same people who, when the state’s income was booming, said that the taxes had to remain high to protect against the bad times ahead…well, the bad times are here; are we protected? It is more likely that we have simply been once again misdirected by the masters of spin.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 23 Oct 2008 2 Comments

Done and done

Well, it was a good run.

I was actually in Maine from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon in a house with no TV, no internets, and no radio. We would go into town and ask about the previous night’s results each day, and I’m sad I missed those gutsy performances.

But, sadly, I was able to get back in time for last night’s game. A few observances:

This team played over their heads. They shouldn’t have beaten the Angels, and to take Tampa to 7 games was a real achievement. With Mike Lowell hurt and the bullpen taxed like that, it was really spoke to the character of the team that they were able to go this far.

This wasn’t Francona’s most shining series. His stubbornness with replacing veterans really hurt a couple of times (see: Beckett in game 2, Varitek for almost the entire series).

Jason Varitek, clutch homer notwithstanding, needs to spend some time in the cage this offseason. Honestly, he left a small village on the bases, and Terry Francona refused to pinch-hit for him last night with runners on and two out against David Price. Ok, so there weren’t any right-handed options on the bench other than Lowrie, but still…put Wakefield up there or something.

The team needs better relief pitching next year (who doesn’t?), a right-handed bat off the bench (goodbye, Sean Casey…not sure why we didn’t use you), and a catcher who can actually hit once in a while, whether it’s Varitek or someone else. I mean, I know the guy is great defensively, but when he hits eighth and leaves runners on base every time with bad swings…well, that just doesn’t work.

Anyway, I’m happy for the Rays, they deserved to win, but I hope they get stomped by the Phillies.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 20 Oct 2008 1 Comment

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