Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bossypants: Book Review

A couple of years ago, I went to see Date Night.  I did not know what to expect. I've had mixed reactions to Steve Carell and while I was wild about Tina Fey's Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, I thought that the movie might be silly. Still  it was at my favorite movie theatre only a few minutes from the house.

I laughed so. Others do not share my enthusiasm for the film, but I loved it.

So, I bought Bossypants, a memoir, something like an autobiography up to now, by Tina Fey.  The book had been on the best seller lists for some time. The first few pages of the book are filled with praise from all sorts.

I don't think the book is so extra. There is an advertisement in the back for an audio version, and perhaps listening to it might have made it special. As a read, the book seems like several--mostly disjointed--episodes in her life which are advertised as hilariously written, but seemed to me like listening to a gum chewing person in the next booth at the diner relaying one not so interesting episode after another to acquaintances who are smiling politely but who appear to be in some discomfort.

There were three aspects of the book that I did like. The first is that throughout she points out how women are marginalized in various fields and held up to different standards than men.  Some good examples in several chapters that should make the point unless you desire to hold onto previously held beliefs.  The second was her recounting of the experience doing Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live.   The third was what to me was a very funny section about her annual travels to her in laws. Somehow that tickled me in a way the other sections did not.

So, I don't really get the fanfare related to this book.  Not sorry I bought it and read it, but if you are a fan of SNL with Tina Fey and found Date Night funny, you might be disappointed expecting something similar. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Anthony Davis

So you're Anthony Davis. You are 19 years old and next year you are guaranteed a minimum of 4.3million dollars in salary.

Anthony turned 19 in March. Two months after my 19th birthday I got a job working for the Fuller Brush Company. I worked with my buddy Kenny as a picker. A picker stands on a conveyor belt. When a box for a customer arrives at your station, you read the order form on the box, and then pick the products off the wall that a customer has ordered. So, if someone orders a certain kind of toothbrush, you pluck say # 2145 a whiz bang toothbrush off the shelves and place it in a box. When you are done picking you push the box to the next picker on the line.

Two months after Anthony Davis's 19th birthday he was shaking hands with Commissioner David Stern and is able to buy every toothbrush in every CVS in the world and still have money left for floss.

Kenny and I lasted two days as pickers. We were temporary replacements anyway, and I dont recall a particular offense being the reason for our brief stint. I do recall it being pretty good money. About three bucks an hour.

What do you do with 4.3 million dollars when you are 19. I know that I gathered the money I amassed working at Fuller Brush and other locales to buy a 1963 Chevy Impala that got maybe 12 miles to the gallon.

Anthony Davis will probably work for fifteen years playing basketball. Unless all the experts are wrong, he will be a superstar.

Here is the question: Is there a downside to earning over 60 million dollars before you turn 35. It is a question that I have not had the good fortune to answer from a first person perspective, but let me guess. I think it could be painless. Nevertheless I do think there can be a downside not to have spent time working at Fuller Brush, or McDonalds, or the post office, or the Thruway or as a potwasher or a bus boy--all stellar jobs I held before getting rich making 9 grand as a high school English teacher.

If self actualization is the key for us all, I think it is tougher to become self actualized without having spent some time being concerned as an adult with having to pay the rent.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A helluva decision

It was, in fact, a helluva decision.

My sense is that there may be nearly as much relief in the Romney camp as Obama's.  Romney could not have delighted in the overturning of the same law he implemented as governor.  He already is being painted as a waffler, if the law had been overturned and he saluted the decision, democrats would have been merciless with criticism.

Very happy to have made an incorrect prediction.  Someone on the Republican side of the aisle stepped up. What is good, as I see it, about this decision is not so much that this particular law was upheld, but that supreme court arbiters did not let politics impede their own deliberations. It may seem as if it is a good day for Democrats, but it really is a good day for Republicans who stood up.  And if the health care plan turns out to be as successful as the Obama administration hopes, it will be a good day for the country in a number of ways. The health plan will work and our system of governance will have worked as well.


It is now a few hours since I originally posted this.  Once again, Carnac the Magnificent, I am not. Instead of exhaling with a sense of relief, Candidate Romney has used this ruling to argue more strenuously on the plank that if you want to get rid of Obamacare then you need to get rid of Obama, i.e. elect Romney.  I do not see how he will be able to combat the argument that he passed a similar bill in Massachusetts.

People on both the left and right must know of someone in their families who, without this health care bill, would be destitute and unable to receive treatment.  Will people really pull a lever for a candidate who might take away a health benefit.  Will the millions of baby boomers now in their mid 60s?

supreme prediction

I mentioned in a previous blog the family story about an acquaintance who announced that he "had a prediction to make" about a new television set. He told us who were trying to fix his set--in the days before cable--that the set would turn out to be "a helluva set."

I have a prediction to make about the Supreme Court decision that is to be announced in about two hours from this writing. It is NOT going to be a helluva decision.  I think it is going to embarrass the Supreme Court and the country.

My belief in the integrity of the Supreme Court was first jostled during the shenanigans surrounding the 2000 Gore-Bush election.  If you recall, the Florida supreme court--with a democratic majority--found in favor of what the Gore team desired.  The US supreme court--with a republican majority--found in favor of what the Bush team desired.  It was about this time when I started reconsidering the supreme court decisions in the past.  With the exception of Brown vs. Board of Ed--and I am sure many others with which I am not familiar--it seemed to me that the Supreme Court has not been the dispassionate arbiters envisioned by a literal interpretation of the country's founding documents. Instead they like so many of us seem to have been motivated by personal agendas as opposed to even handed review of issues in the case.

I hope I am wrong, but I believe what we hear later today will reflect the politically fueled debate about health care, not the inherent merits of introducing "affordable health care."  An irony, of course, is that even if the Supreme Court strikes down the obligation of citizens to purchase health care, my state will retain that requirement--a requirement that was put into effect and supported by the Republican candidate for president, then the governor of Massachusetts, who is currently riding the waves of his supporters who wish for the law to be eliminated.

My predictions are often wrong which, in this instance, will be a good thing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Playoff Steps

In early 1985 after the University of Miami's stunning upset of Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, the coach of the Miami Hurricanes was interviewed while he was, nominally, coaching in a college all star game.  The coach, Howard Shnellenberger, was asked if he supported a playoff system for division 1 college football. His answer was that it could be a good thing, but because of the bowl structure, "it will never happen in your lifetime."

I don't know the vintage of the interviewer, but it has happened and in my lifetime.  It is a long time coming.  Those who read my blogs know that I believe that the BCS which determines the champion in division 1 football (until 2014 when the new playoff system will begin) should remove the C to aptly describe its method.

What has happened and will happen again for the next two seasons is that a committee decided who were the two best teams to play for a championship.  This eliminated the opportunity for teams to compete head to head on the field for the right to play for a championship.

The new system is better, but only marginally so. In the new system four teams will compete for the championship.  These four teams will still be determined by a committee.  Since there could easily be more than four teams with the exact same records, some teams with legitimate chances to be champions will be unable to compete for the championship.  Six or Eight would seem to be a more reasonable number.  In Division 1AA, 2, and 3, many more teams are invited to participate in the tournament.

Still, this is better than the absolutely meaningless end-of-season exhibition games that are currently played during the holidays. The argument that an increase in games will increase chances for injury--particularly concussions--can be addressed.  The NCAA could simply reduce the number of regular season games. Typically division 1 teams play a division 1AA team during the season to sweeten records.  These contests could be eliminated if concerns regarding injury are legitimate.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Obama and Youk

Yesterday I wrote about Kevin Youkilis's last at-bat with the Red Sox.  When he left the field for a pinch runner, he received a standing ovation from the Fenway crowd and hugs from his teammates.   He was interviewed subsequently and said that it was the most intense emotional moment he had ever experienced on a ball field. This coming from a player who was on the field when the Red Sox won their last world series championship in 2007.

Last night President Obama was in town. He made two speeches at fund raisers, one steps away from where I work (and about 17,000 dollars a plate more expensive than my dinner fare), and the other not far from where I live.  Somehow I did not receive an invitation to either event. An omission no doubt.

Presidents do not typically get booed at fund raising events.  However, the President was booed in Boston last night by his supporters.  The President as we now know spent years in Chicago as a community organizer before beginning his political career.  During that time he became a fan of the Chicago White Sox.

In his introductory comments last night he thanked several people in the audience for their work with the party and for various actions that politicians often thank others for when they are beginning their talks.  He concluded the round of appreciations by thanking the Boston Red Sox for trading Kevin Youkilis to his beloved White Sox.

At that point very well heeled and polished dignitaries started to boo the president. It was good natured of course. The President stammered and said he knew he shouldn't have talked about baseball in Boston. The crowd changed their boos to the appreciative chant that Red Sox fans used when Kevin Youkilis came to the plate; "YOOOOK"  "YOOOOK"  Interesting sounds from a group paying 17 grand a pop for rubber chicken and pound cake.

Last night there was a rain delay in the Boston Toronto game.  After two hours, the game resumed at 1125 at which time I resumed watching the Sox lose to the Blue Jays 9-6.  I will bet that when many of the Obama supporters returned home and took off their duds, they flipped on the tube to catch the last few innings of the game.  I will also bet that more people in the 17K a pop audience know the nuances of the Red Sox lineup than the Obama health care plan.

Yook went 1 for 4 last night for the White Sox.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Private Lives

What a coincidence.

Yesterday there was an extra ticket to see the excellent production of Private Lives at Boston's Huntington Theatre.  It was the last show of the run, a matinee.  I grabbed the ticket and went.

The curtain goes up and the audience sees two adjacent balconies. Out comes one couple onto one of the  balconies. They are apparently celebrating their honeymoon. The new wife asks the groom about his first marriage. Does she mean anything to him, etc. He denies any vestiges of emotion. The couple leaves the balcony and goes back into their room.  Out comes another couple on the adjacent balcony.  They too are on their honeymoon. The new husband asks the bride about her first husband. Does she retain any feelings? Absolutely not she maintains.  They return to their room.

Out comes the husband from the first couple with a couple of drinks. The new wife has not yet entered.  Out comes the wife from the second balcony. She brings out a couple of drinks. The new husband has not yet entered.  A song from below brings the two to the railing of the balconies. The two see each. They're each the other's first spouse.

When they see each other, they are at once stunned. Then the passion of  what they once had returns.  What to do.

What a coincidence?  Or not.  Are such things meant to be?  Is emotional connection a real force that we cannot yet explain.

Before yesterday's Red Sox/Braves game, the rumors were pervasive that Kevin Youkilis, an admired Red Sox player, would be traded.  Youkilis batted in the 7th inning for what would be his last time.  He hit a fly to the outfield that should have been an out.  It wasn't. The outfielders misplayed it.  Youkilis wound up standing at third with a triple.  With a sense of the dramatic, the Red Sox manager sent a runner out for Youkilis.  As Youkilis ran off the field, 37,000 fans at Fenway gave the player a standing ovation.  It got, as they say, emotional. Players hugged "Youk" as he entered the dugout. The fans called out his name and he came out for an emotional goodbye.

What happens in Private Lives is what any person could predict.  There are some forces that inexplicably (at least it is inexplicable in 2012) account for behavior and phenomena.

Friday, June 22, 2012

shabbat shalom

I live near Brandeis University, one block in from the main street that runs by the campus.  Brandeis University is a non sectarian school but it started the year that Israel came into existence in 1948.  On its website the school describes itself as the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored college or university in the country.

Brandeis has a diverse ethnic student body,  but there is a large Jewish  population on campus and a percentage of these Jews--certainly not all-- are observant.  There's an old joke that if you have two Jews you have three opinions. At Brandeis and elsewhere you will have a collection of students who feel that they must attend religious services and another group that think it is absurd to attend the services.

In a few hours the Jewish Sabbath begins.  Every Friday evening and Saturday morning groups of college students who are observant walk from their off campus homes to services held on the campus.  I have seen this walk for the 25 years I have been living one block away from their route. Today it is 96 degrees in Boston.  A few weeks ago on a Friday and Saturday it poured so that you wondered if you might need an ark.  The weather forecast for today calls for thunderstorms just about the time that Friday services are scheduled to begin.

The weather does not and will not matter to these groups. Rain or heat, snow or crazy wind, every Friday evening and Saturday morning the observant groups--prohibited from driving on the Sabbath--walk along this main street to get to where they collectively greet the sabbath.  Shabbat Shalom.

There is something to be said for adhering to your beliefs, whatever they might be, no matter what the conditions.  Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

McGovern Eagleton

Earlier today I wrote that the Heat would lose to the Thunder. I felt that the Heat would not play as hard as the Thunder.

The Heat just won by 15 points and the game was not even that close.

I did relay, in the earlier blog, that I have not been especially successful predicting the future. I wrote:  "In the summer of  1980 I was flabbergasted when the Republicans nominated Ronald Reagan. 'Who will vote for him?' I asked anyone who was in my orbit. In the summer of 1976 I made what turned out to be a similarly inaccurate prediction of which I was certain."

I neglected to mention that after watching McGovern's acceptance speech in the summer of 1972, I thought we would finally not have Nixon to Kick around anymore.

Neither Obama or Romney have contacted me to work on their campaign teams.

Congratulations to the Heat. They played great. It was not so much James and Wade in the final game, but the incredible play of Miller and Battier. And Spoelstra deserves some love.

Game 5

When coaches ask their players to give 110 per cent, it must make math teachers upset.  You really can't give 110 per cent. Per cent means per 100, so 100 out of 100 is the best we can hope for. English teachers, similarly, must have a visceral reaction when they hear that some player, say LeBron James, is very unique. Unique means one of a kind.  Your e-mail address has to be unique in order for you to receive electronic mail.  It could not get any more unique than it already is.

I think the Thunder will win tonight's game. This prediction should be what any bettor needs to put down  a fortune on the Heat. My predictions are notoriously incorrect. In the summer of 1980 I was flabbergasted when the Republicans nominated Ronald Reagan. "Who will vote for him?" I asked anyone who was in my orbit. In the summer of 1976 I made what turned out to be a similarly inaccurate prediction of which I was certain.

So, the disclaimer regarding my fortune telling is out there, but here's the rationale.  I do not think the Heat players will play close to their 100 per cent capacity tonight. The Heat have played three grueling games in a row and won each of them. They need only one more victory to be champions.  I think whatever force compelled them to get close to 100 percent in the prior games will not be present tonight.  The sense of urgency cannot be the same as what it has been. If they lose, they will still have two opportunities to prevail in games 6 and 7.

The Thunder on the other hand, must win.  In addition to the victory what looms is the possibility that they will have home court advantage for games 6 and 7.  The difference in the last two games came down to a couple of bonehead plays, the temporary disappearance of James Harden, a non foul on LeBron James at the end of game three, and some outstanding performances by Heat players.  If the Heat take a little off the pedal, they may play at 90 per cent whereas the Thunder will play at 95.

It is one thing for a Heat player to say, we need the game because we don't want to go to Oklahoma City, and a Thunder player feeling that he needs the game.  That difference can account for a victory.  A similar phenomenon occurred in game 6 of the preceding Celtics/Heat series. All the Celtics needed to do was win at home to clinch the series and eliminate Miami.  But while they knew in their heads the game was important, the Heat knew in their hearts that if they were to lose they would be answering questions that they did not want to answer during the post game show.  The Celtics knew they would have another chance to win, the Heat knew that this was it. They played at 95%. The Celtics left their game at the pre game meal.

If the Heat/Thunder were not evenly matched, then a 90 per cent effort from one team could overcome a 95 per cent effort from the other.  But the Heat are not that much better than the Thunder. Of course  if Battier and Chalmers and Bosh or someone else unlikely continue to bang down threes like they are layups, the Heat will win.  But I don't believe this will occur.

By the way, this series has been unique.  Every series and game would have to be.  Which is a reason why many read the sports pages before any other section of a newspaper.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


liars, lawyers, Clemens, and the Hall

On Monday, Roger Clemens was acquitted. He had been accused of lying to Congress about his use of illegal drugs. Clemens has adamantly refused to acknowledge that he took performance enhancing drugs.  The government felt this was disingenuous and his repeated insistence to congress was a punishable crime.

During the last two days I have read some articles and heard sports commentary suggesting that it is a good thing that Roger Clemens was acquitted, but that his acquittal will not remove the obstacles that he faces in getting into the Hall of Fame. The argument apparently is that despite the jury's decision, the truth is that Clemens took the drugs to enhance performance.  Therefore his success as a player--which would  be the criterion for Hall of Fame admission--is so asterisked as to render him not sufficiently outstanding to be among the top echelon admitted to the Hall of Fame.

There is an article in today's Globe entitled, Clemens acquittal is justice served, which essentially makes these points. He should have been acquitted, but the Hall is another matter. There are a number of claims made in the article and in other communications arguing this point, that I find problematic.

The first is that lying to Congress about taking drugs is not enough of a big deal to warrant the government wasting resources prosecuting Roger Clemens. A corollary is that if he had lost, then he would have gone to jail costing taxpayers money which could go elsewhere.

I could not disagree more.  The use of performance enhancing drugs in sport is a problem. It is a problem primarily because there are those who don't take them and did not take them because it was illegal to do so.  Those that played by the rules were disadvantaged by playing by the rules.  The interest in sport lives and dies on the belief that the game is on the up and up.  People follow baseball statistics and can cite all time home run and rbi champions like most of us can recite our ABCs.  Is Barry Bonds really the home run king if he used drugs and Henry Aaron did not? How long will people care about sport statistics if the statistics are looked upon with skepticism.

As significantly, the screaming message advanced by cheering for Clemens's acquittal for any other reason than because he had, in fact, been telling the truth, is that cheating is condonable as long as you can get away with it.  I don't think this is a good message to promulgate especially when so many people who follow the game are kids.  The acquittal in the Clemens case informs the next generation that honesty is not actually the best policy.

I have also read that Clemens deserves to be acquitted because his lawyer was more effective than the prosecutor.  I am not sure I have heard a more fallacious argument in a while.  There is an old quip that a court case is held to determine who has the better lawyer. It may be, in actuality, that a not guilty verdict is more dependent on the quality of your representative, than the integrity of the evidence.  But to proclaim that Clemens deserved to be acquitted BECAUSE he had the better lawyer and because that lawyer was able to poke holes in the testimony of Clemens's chief accuser, seems, as my grandfather was wont to say, ridikalus.

A liar does not become a truth teller because she or he has an agent who can convince a body that she or he is telling the truth.  Liars are liars if they lie. If people argue that Clemens will not get in the Hall of Fame because he lied regardless of the jury's decision, then Clemens acquittal was NOT Justice Served.

I don't know for sure if Clemens told the truth or not.  I do know that he was a slim fellow when he started pitching for the Red Sox. Then he became a big fellow. Personally, I doubt that it was pizza and beer that tipped the scales.  Regardless, Clemens's acquittal should only be celebrated if he was innocent.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

food deprived rat

I lived in a traditional dormitory during my freshman year.  Two beds in a room, two desks, small bureaus for clothes, a couple of closets and a roommate. There was a long corridor with about twenty of such rooms on either side and a common bathroom/shower area.

 I roomed with a studious fellow who hit the books hard studying to be a Biology major.   He is now a very rich man but not because of his work in the lab.  My roommate, a regular consumer of submarine sandwiches sold at a well frequented shop near the dorm, figured there were many consumers like himself, and now owns 25 sandwich shops.

Regularly guys from other rooms would barge into others' rooms relaying one saga or another.  Walk down the corridor at any time after dinner and you'd find clusters of guys shooting the breeze often in an attempt to avoid studying.

One day a fellow comes by and tells us that we have to read an excerpt in his psychology text.  He says that we will not believe it.  The excerpt is a description of an experiment.  The experiment is an attempt to assess how rats will react to food deprivation.  There is a long and comprehensive description of two groups of rats placed in separate cages.  One group is fed regularly with food deposited inside its cage. The other group is deprived of food.  After an interval, food is placed outside of the cages and the rats are let out.

The group that has been fed regularly goes to the cheese and nibbles.  The group that has been deprived reacts to the cheese ravenously. They attack the food, jostle for position near the food, and devour it.

The description of the experiment ends with the following words in italics:  Therefore we may conclude that a food deprived rat, is a hungry rat. 

Now my roommate subsequently made a fortune on the premise that a food deprived student is a hungry student, but I don't think the psych text produced his entrepreneurial epiphany.  The three of us were cackling as we looked at the italicized words.  A food deprived rat is a hungry rat.   Heavy.

Today as I was making preliminary moves to get out of bed I heard a report on the news about a study that was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.  I subsequently went on line to read about it.  The study was about the effects of loneliness on longevity.  The conclusion was that loneliness was linked to premature death.

The researchers wrote that possible reasons for the correlation could be that people who lived alone had nobody urging them to go see a doctor, or that the reason people were living alone in the first place might relate to a professional or social trauma.  Yet, there is no physiological reason why being alone should increase the risk of premature death.  Apparently, though, it does.

Nothing really remarkable about the conclusion.  When I heard the story this morning the first words that came to my half asleep head were a food deprived rat is a hungry rat.  Humans are nourished not only by the foodstuffs we consume but the natural interactions we have with others.  Life 101.

In a way sports provides a community for fans.  People look forward to going to the ball park not just to see a game, but to be with like minded others.  How attractive would it be to go to the game tonight in Miami if you were going to be the only person in attendance?  Would it be more attractive to attend if you knew the place would be packed with crazies like yourself.  A buddy of mine swears that his grandfather died when the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.  Sports and teams can be companions for us and it is one of the reason fans follow sports.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Terry, The Killing, and the Heat

Terry did it.

Last year, in the spring of 2011, we got hooked on the AMC serial called The Killing.  Every Sunday night we scheduled our day so that we could be seated at 9pm to see who had killed Rosie Larsen. In June of 2011, on the night when the last episode of the season was aired, the show had me thinking in the shower about who could be the doer.  The producers slicked us, however, not solving the mystery for a year, and in April 0f 2012 the show began again engaging us by introducing one red herring after another.   Last night, we found out who did it.

Terry did it.  

She did it for the same reason that there is no business like show business, Hallmark exists, Father's and Mother's Day can be joyful or painful, the Russian five year plans failed year after year, and your heart can break when love is unrequited. She did it for the same reason there are season ticket holders in sports, the people of Oklahoma City slept poorly last night, and people in Boston at 9 a.m. call in to sports talk shows worried about when Becket will come off the disabled list.

Terry did it because emotion runs our show. Logic is a dependent variable; what fuels the rationale for alleged logical decisions, is almost always emotion.  We decide to live in one place or another; we choose professions; we buy clothing or cars or plan trips--the driving factor for our decision making is emotion.  That is why Terry did it.  A completely irrational act.  Maybe then Ames will love her.  Maybe then Ames will want to spend time with her.

At the same time we found out that Terry did it, the Heat was overcoming a ten point deficit in the third quarter.  If you have not been watching the finals , take some time out to do so.  LeBron James is making ignoramuses out of people who feel he does not have the backbone to be a champion.  Even on his off day Kevin Durant makes shots that are other worldly. The players are just so remarkably talented. The teams are stacked with skilled players and are essentially evenly talented.

Emotion will determine the victor. The ability to channel emotional energy wisely will determine who wins the series.  Either team is capable. Sure, the strategies and substitutions will be significant.  Miami seemed to employ a very wise game plan last night getting many baskets in the paint.  But both teams are well coached.  What will determine the victory will be how players deal with emotional energy.

Terry did it, because she loved so much, however irrationally.  The Heat won last night because they used the fan support in Miami and were able to channel their emotional energy to play intelligently.  Emotion runs the show.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Beginner's Goodbye- Anne Tyler--Review

"In a way it's like the grief has been covered over with some kind of blanket. It's still there, but the sharpest edges are...muffled sort of. Then every now and then, I lift a corner of the blanket, just to check and--whoa! Like a knife! I'm not sure that ever will change."

Aaron Woolcott says this. He is the main character in Anne Tyler's latest novel, The Beginner's Goodbye.  In the first few pages of the book, we read that Aaron's wife had died in an accident.  The excerpt above is part of a conversation Aaron has with a colleague.  It is a while since Dorothy (the wife) has passed and the colleague asks Aaron how he is doing.  I don't think one has to lose a spouse to identify with that feeling.  

The book is about how Aaron copes with the loss.  Aaron and his sister own a family publishing business.  A successful component for the company is a series of thin volumes that superficially address popular issues. The series is called, "The Beginner's..." For example,  The Beginner's Guide to Marriage, The Beginner's Kitchen, The Beginner's Book of Birdwatching.   This novel, The Beginner's Goodbye,  is itself a thin novel (198 pages) and is, in a way, a beginner's guide to emotional loss as if Aaron's experience is an illustration of the inevitable stages.

I am a fan of Anne Tyler and enjoyed the read.  Not as good as Noah's Compass or a Patchwork Planet, or The Accidental Tourist, and probably not the book you want to be reading if your spouse has indeed left this life very recently. Still very good.  Tyler's characters are quirky yet we all know them.  The descriptions and dialogue are--as it is currently said by people twenty years my junior--spot on.  The excerpt that begins this post is an example. If you reread it, I think you will be able to identify a time when that sensation described exactly how you felt.

Friday, June 15, 2012

game 2

A large lead at the beginning of a basketball game often is no indication that the contest is over.  Usually--unless the teams are mismatched from the start--large leads evaporate sometime well before the final moments of a game.

Last night was atypical.  The Miami Heat went out to a huge lead and it was not until the final seconds when the Thunder put themselves in a position to contest the outcome.  Those who stayed up late to watch the end know that the Heat withstood the heat and prevailed.

LeBron James detractors and people like myself who wondered about his backbone need to reconsider their positions in light of what James has done in the last few games.  Last night, James made spectacular shots throughout and when the Thunder, with its fans screaming maniacally, put the pressure on, LeBron hit a beautiful (and contested) bank shot and then proceeded to hit two foul shots that barely grazed the net they were so perfectly aimed.

I've mentioned before that when I used to play tennis competitively I thought that if I could get my opponent to crunch time, then the victor would not be the person with the better game, but the player with the stronger spine.   This was not a 7th game, but had the Heat lost, it would have been very difficult for them to prevail in this series even with three home games looming.  If the Heat had lost they would have had to live with a second consecutive game when they lost a lead, this time having lost the lead in the last minute by falling apart.  So when James hit the bank shot and then the fouls, it was time for me to think this fellow might have not only talent, but it.  

Some other comments:

(1) My dad wrote to me this morning and remarked that Kevin Durant shoots threes like he (my father) used to shoot layups.  Very true.  Durant flicks them up as if they are effortless.

(2) It surprises me how many times we see a Heat player berating teammate Mario Chalmers.  I wonder if there is a pecking system on the Heat where the aristocracy of the big three--or at least Bosh and James--feel privileged to openly criticize the proletariat. This is not a good thing.

(3) If Battier stops hitting threes and Miller does not pick up that slack, I do not see the Heat winning more than one more game in this series.

(4) Basketball players are the best athletes in the world.  It is just jaw dropping stuff to see Russell Westbrook drive to the basket and make an acrobat like Dwyane Wade look second tier.

(5) When I listen to the coaches' comments during timeouts, I can't find much in terms of valuable wisdom contained in their talks.  It sounds as if they all have attended a cliche workshop as part of their training.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Van Gundy and Intangibles

There was an exchange on Tuesday night between Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, the excellent commentators who are doing the NBA championship series. The exchange was related to "intangibles." Van Gundy was commenting that some player "intangible" was really tangible.

It's common to hear broadcasters and pundits of all media stripes talk about an athlete's intangible abilities. Typically, they are referring to abilities that are not regularly quantified.  You can count someone's rebounds per game, assists, foul shooting percentage, three pointers, and steals.  Those who speak of intangibles refer to non quantifiable capabilities.  For example, ability to bring about team cohesion.

I can understand how the label got its traction, but I believe that many of the factors that are called "intangibles" may well be as tangible as those that have been quantified. Moreover, these so called intangibles are likely to be more significant than the tangibles.

There is a new statistic that has emerged, the plus/minus.  The plus minus refers to the "score" while you were on the court.  So if you played 27 minutes of a basketball game, and your team scored four more points during these 27 minutes than the opponent you would be a +4.  Because of this statistic something that once was an "intangible" has become quantifiable.  How does a player contribute to the overall goal of winning a game?  Maybe what the player does is set screens well, dive for loose balls, help on defense thwarting a drive that forces the opponent to pass the ball away.  These are all tangible. It depends on what you decide to count and determining a reliable way to do the counting.  Even if you cannot find a reliable way, it does not make the action intangible, just not statistically quantifiable.

In general, I believe that assessors of team sports do not do a good job of deconstructing success into its likely elements.  If I look at how many baskets a player scores and how many rebounds, and do not look at the plus/minus maybe I am looking the wrong way.  Some examples of factors that were or are not quantified but can affect success:

When Paul Silas played for the Celtics I am not sure the statisticians counted offensive vs defensive rebounds.  Silas was the best offensive rebounder I ever saw, better than Rodman.  An offensive rebound provides your team with an extra possession. If you score on a certain percentage of possessions, and you get more possessions because you have a Paul Silas on your team, then that is a very important statistic to consider.

Carmelo Anthony is a terrific player, but if everyone else on the court stands around playing jacks while he does his one on one moves, then the players who are stagnating will not force the defenders to move much, which may tire them less, which may allow for a shooter on the opposing team to have more legs in the fourth quarter to elevate for the jump shot.  So Anthony scores 40, but it is possible that his one on one style results in a deficit.

In team sports what are called intangibles are really those components to success that have not been identified clearly yet.  We don't know what we don't know and it is arrogant to think that what we do know and what we can count is all that there is.

Love is different. In South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein write about love, "Who can explain it, who can tell you why. Fools give you reasons. Wise men never try."  In sports, you can explain it, but you can't assume that what has been counted or can be easily counted will be wholly explanatory. There are likely other tangibles.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


In high school most of us took the SAT exams. SAT stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test. The exams, at least then, consisted of reading comprehension, math skills, and vocabulary.

I am a reader now and read then, but had difficulty concentrating on the reading comprehension portion of the SAT. The selections often dealt with something so beyond my world and uninteresting-- for example a species of pelican that sleep only on Tuesdays--that by the time I got to the end of a selection I could not remember that the mother pelican typically was a lefty so I had a hard time answering the important questions.  

The math for me was fun.  Always good with numbers, those questions were easy and I enjoyed trying to figure them out. Occasionally when I am in the library I pick up the SAT preparation books to try my hand at the math questions therein.

The most challenging portion of the test was the vocabulary portion. The comprehension was only challenging to the extent that I was challenged to stay awake during the selection. The math, as I wrote, was more like doing Sudoku than an academic exercise. The vocabulary though was something else.

Then, if not now, the vocabulary consisted mostly of a series of word analogies.  Winter is to Cold as X is to Y, and you had to pick out Summer is to Hot from a list of four choices. However, the questions were not nearly this easy. Often the words themselves were alien to me, but even when I knew them the trick was to understand the relationship.  So, resilient is to vulnerable would require that you could identify the relationship between resilient and vulnerable.  So it could be, someone who is resilient is less likely to be vulnerable and you had to pick out a similar pairing.  This could become very difficult and was made even more challenging because the test writers threw in questions in which the relationship had nothing to do with word meanings.  You might get kook is to civic and spend time thinking that the relationship is that a kook does not have an understanding of civic responsibilities, when the correct relationship/answer was another pairing in which both words, like kook and civic, were palindromes.  There was one I recall where the answer to "berry is to cherry" was not two words representing two types within the same category, but two words like lunch and crunch because the relationship was the rhyme.

I would find these questions exhausting, but I do see the merit in assessing one's ability to think about relationships between words and/or concepts.

Last night while I was watching the Heat succumb to the Thunder analogies came to mind.  Durant is to James as James is to Pierce.  Thunder is to creative as Heat is to staid;  Westbrook is to today as Wade is to yesterday.

These analogies do not do real justice to the quality of the Miami Heat. The Heat players are terrific, but I could not get over how good Durant and Westbrook were and how out of this world athletic the Thunder seemed to be.  When the Celtics played the Heat, Paul Pierce looked like an old man compared to LeBron James. LeBron James despite his incredible skill, looked long in the tooth compared to Durant. Dwyane Wade is a joy to watch but he too looked old school to Westbrook who had me shaking my head over and over.

One game does not a championship series make, but unless there is an injury or last night was a grand aberration, Thunder is to Plunder, as Heat is to Beat

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Five Minute Major

I did not see all or really much of the hockey game last night. I had important things to do.  I was playing a singles tennis match for most of the hockey game and had to blow a 40-love lead in the 10th and, what became, deciding game.  In order to blow the lead, I had to focus all of my energy on counting the victory, preparing mentally for the 11th game, so that I could lose the ongoing 10th game, and lose the set. First things first.  Not a happy camper at about 945 pm last night.

However, I did see one portion of the hockey game.  I saw most of the five minute major penalty. And that was enough. During that time the Kings scored three goals and essentially won the game during that span.

So, was that right?  Should one official's call determine who wins an entire game, and in this case, the Stanley Cup.

I did not see the offense until this morning. It was offensive.  The Devil's player slammed a King into the boards and he went down in a bleeding lump.  The rule in hockey for such egregious penalties is that the offending player is banned from the ice for five minutes. In five minute majors, unlike other penalties, even if the opponent scores during that time while a player up, the scoring team retains the player up advantage for all of the five minutes.  So, for five minutes the Kings had an advantage and scored three times during that span.

My general sense is that hockey needs to do more to ensure that players do not behave like thugs. For too long  hockey teams had what were called, "goons".  Players whose job it was to start a fight with a better player, getting both players to be penalized.  If a goon is penalized at the same time as a goal scorer is penalized then the goon did a good job.  The fights, I thought, took away from the excitement of the game and the strategy of starting a brawl for advantage seemed more like a pro wrestling gambit than something from a legitimate professional sport.

In a way, therefore, I am happy that the Devils lost the game because of thuggery.  This could be a message to any teams who employ goons that your season could be lost because of bad behavior.  However, what has given me pause this morning is that when I watched the you-tube recording this a.m. I saw that just seconds prior to the penalized hit, the Kings had boarded one of the Devils. Thing is, it was less of a crushing blow and/or the Devil player did not go down in a bloody lump.

I don't think the result of an offensive act should be a factor in the penalty for the offensive act.  If someone steals from me and I go broke is that more offensive than if someone steals from me and I had next to nothing in my wallet?  The act of stealing is the reprehensible act. It does not become more reprehensible because of the contents of my wallet.

I am delighted that the Devils lost. I do not like the Devils for a number of reasons related to the mania of sports fans.  And it is absolutely true that the Devils and their goalie needed to do a much better job killing off the penalty. They played weakly during that time and the goalie missed a really easy save for the third goal which just about settled the game.  But I wish the game had not been decided on one call made and another missed.

Of course the more important event of the night was my decision to hit a second serve softly when the score was ad in.  I tried to get the ball to the outside of the box and it went right down Broadway.  My opponent put me on the defensive. Eventually, as mentioned above, I lost 6-4.  Fortunately, the newspaper did not cover the game and I have a rematch scheduled next Tuesday.

Monday, June 11, 2012


I was in Chicago last week. I've been there before for various reasons. This time I stayed within the loop a couple of blocks from West and North Wacker, around the corner from the Goodman theatre, with the name on a huge vertical sign, and five blocks from Millenium Park where a remarkable statue called the Bean is located. If you have never seen the Bean, it is almost worth a trip to Chicago to check it out. In the right spot you can see your reflection and the city skyline behind you.

 I did not get to Wrigley Field or Comiskey park, but the cab driver who took me back to the airport regaled me with his opinion about the Cubs whom he did not like, and the White Sox whom he adored. He seemed personally upset that the Cubs who never in his words "won a damn thing" keep selling out and the White Sox do not get the respect they are due.

 "Who won the World Series in 2005?" he asked me rhetorically. "Not the Cubs. Incredible marketing is what they got, nothing else."

 My cab driver had begun our journey in good spirits. He told me how much he loved the city and how friendly it was. He talked about the White Sox and how the new ball park was better than the old one. The good feelings took a dive however when he had to make a phone call to the city licensing board. He told me that the day prior he had gone to the city to get his name off of a suspension list. He was successful, but at the time the computers had been down. So, prompted by seeing a police officer in the bumper to bumper traffic, he was phoning the city to make sure that his name was off the suspended list.

 "Good afternoon" my cab driver said into the speaker phone. "My name is x and I came in yesterday to restore my license. My license number is y. Can you tell me if my name is off the suspension list."

 "What time did you come in yesterday."

 "About 330."

 "I wasn't here then. Kevin was here then. Kevin will be here at 330. Call back then."

 "Sir" said my cabdriver politely. "Can you look to see if my name is off the suspension list."

 "I told you I wasn't here yesterday when you came in. Kevin was. You will have to talk to Kevin."

 "Do you have a record of my coming in."

 "What's your number again?"

 The cab driver provided the number.

 "Okay. I see you came in. Like I said you got here while Kevin was here. You will need to talk to Kevin"

 "If you can see that I came in on a computer screen. You can probably see if my name is off the suspended list."

 "How many times do I have to tell you that I was not here then. Kevin was here. You will have to speak to Kevin."

 The conversation ended then; that is the conversation between the cab driver and the voice from city hall. The conversation--actually monologue--between the cab driver and me continued. Now, no longer a representative from the chamber of commerce, the cabbie could not say enough about how rude, inconsiderate, unprofessional, the city was. He threw in some good stories about Mayor Daley and just sneered when I mentioned the new mayor, Rahm Emanuel.  The only Chicago things the cabbie had positive things to say about afterwards were related to the Chicago White Sox.

I had been in Chicago to lead a workshop for a very professional group whose offices are near the hotel where I was staying--between North Wacker and the Bean. During a break, one of the participants, appropos of nothing in particular started singing a lyric to a Simon and Garfunkel song: I Am a Rock. This was ironic because I have been listening to a Simon and Garfunkel CD that contains that song for about a week. I have a habit of leaving the same CD in my car radio until I realize that I have listened to the songs multiple times. And coincidentally I have listened to I am a Rock maybe a dozen times in the last week.

A particular lyric in that song keeps surfacing to my consciousness. "I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died. If I never loved I never would have cried."

 I think that many strange behaviors are a function of such slumbers left undisturbed. Take the fellow from city hall that my cabbie was talking to. He was irrational and rude. I did not think he was stupid, just rude. What is he doing answering the phone at noon if the world is on hold until Kevin comes back?

And this behavior is benign compared to others influenced by toxic slumber. I wonder about the repercussions of toxic slumbers in general. Do they affect how the people at the airport check your bags,the flight attendants' attitudes, the person who is sitting next to you on the plane. Do toxic slumbers create an illusion of normalcy, but infections that retard our pursuit of happiness and, actual, slumbering.

I think sports is often the anodyne, a palliative for the toxicity of slumbers superficially undisturbed,that are insidiously wreaking havoc with our consciousness. Go White Sox or whoever.

Friday, June 8, 2012

the catcher not the pitcher

There's an old Sergeant Bilko episode that wafted up into my head as I was thinking about tomorrow's 7th game between the Heat and the Celtics.

Bilko, ever the conniver, has come across a soldier who is an incredible baseball pitcher. Bilko, of course, imagines making some loot by getting the Yankees to sign this phenomenon.  The soldier (played by a very young Dick Van Dyke) is a rube and Bilko has to persuade the kid that he can play professional baseball. He also has to convince the scouts who typically are cynical of someone shouting about a prospect.  I cant recall the episode completely, but it would not surprise me that Bilko has earned a reputation as someone who will pull a fast one on the scouts, so they are cynical when Bilko calls them to see the pitcher.

Bilko knows that his reputation is not great, so he figures a scheme to get around this.  He tells the scouts to come see this great catcher.  He gets Doberman to be the catcher and brings Van Dyke along to throw to Doberman. Bilko keeps touting the catcher. The scouts see that the catcher is nobody talented and have their notions of Bilko as goniff confirmed. However, the scouts are astonished by the skill of the pitcher.

Of course, this is Bilko's ploy--talk about the catcher because if he talks about the pitcher the scouts will think there's something up his sleeve. Every time the scouts marvel at the pitcher Bilko says, "The catcher not the pitcher. The catcher. Watch the catcher."  Bilko, eventually, pretends to be surprised by the pitcher's ability, downplaying it--"But, I wanted you to see the catcher".   The scouts wave the comments about the catcher away and plead with Bilko to help them sign the pitcher.  Bilko pretends to be reluctant, but says okay--getting what he wanted in the first place.

Last night, LeBron James had a game for the ages. I have watched a good deal of basketball, but never have seen someone shoot like that or drive like that or, really single handedly, defeat a team.  Of course, the Celtics did not help their own cause by not being able to drop the ball in a bathtub, but James was astonishing.

The pundits, having predicted the Celtics to be victors before the game, swung 180 degrees after the game singing the praises of James and assuring that the Heat will pulverize the Celtics in game 7.

In game 7 watch the catcher not the pitcher.  The best player on the Heat is not LeBron James. the best player is Dwyane Wade.  Dwyane Wade has not had one of his incredible games yet and he is so due.  James will not play like he did in game 6. Nobody can and I don't know if anyone ever will. The key to a Celtics victory, besides buying some glasses to help them locate the hoop and occasionally putting the basketball there, is to watch the catcher not the pitcher.  Stifle Dwyane Wade and they have a chance.  And it will be difficult to stifle Wade.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I went to a hockey game once with a fellow who was a serious fan. We got to our level in the stadium and walked toward our section. Before reaching our area he put up his hand as if to say "wait a minute" and proceeded to walk into the exit side of the men's room.

 He was walking against the flow of traffic of course, but he went in that way regardless. I followed him and saw that he went to the sinks, touched the hot and cold faucets once, and then walked backwards out of the same exit that he had walked into frontwards. I looked at him puzzled. He explained, "Just a little something I do."

 Sports fans and participants are notorious for their superstitions. I have not polled the faithful but I would be a winner of any sum I wagered, if I bet that there are dozens if not hundreds of Boston Celtic fans who went to work today in a lucky shirt, or tie, or dress, or even some undergarment, in an attempt to give the Celtics some good vibes tonight in their pivotal fifth game of the series. And there are an equal number who will not dare to watch the game (a) with Charlie (b) in Lou's sports bar or, for example (c) while eating a blt because the last time they watched the game with Charlie, at Lou's, while eating a blt, the Celtics lost in overtime.

 Strange thing, superstition--and I am not above it. Far from it. I can find myself in a position in a chair which seems to bring good luck and not want to move a muscle while the good fortune continues. I might suspect that a good result will come of a tennis match if some unrelated activity, say juggling for five minutes without dropping the ball, is a success. Once in an attempt to get a read on what was real or a desired end, I went to the foul line and determined that if I could hit 8 out of 10 foul shots, the desired end was real. When I hit thirteen straight I knew for a fact that all was good in the universe.

 I am well within what is the normal range among superstitious sorts. Tonight when the Heat players go to the foul line in Miami, fans in Boston 1500 miles away will wiggle their fingers this way or that to affect a shot. If an announcer claims that a Boston player has a good foul shot, fans will scream at the broadcaster sure that the comment has jinxed the shooter. I don't know this for a fact, but I will guess that at least one of the players has not washed his headband in order to avert losing the something in the wash that permitted the overtime victory on Sunday. Some people will, and I do not exaggerate, do some extra good deeds today feeling as if there might be some quid pro quo from the almighty if the game is tight down the stretch.

Of course some players and fans will pray in order to get the same results. I find this a bit sacreligious since to pray for victory is to implicitly pray for someone else's defeat. I don't think if you are a believer you want to pray for someone's sadness. Seems to be contrary to any religious foundation. Standing on only your right foot while eating popcorn with only your left hand is far more appropriate.

 Go Celtics. And I trust no fans will give the team the whammy inadvertently.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Proteus Prequel

Today I remembered what triggered the thoughts that led to my blog about Proteus and transformation.  Before I wrote the blog yesterday I could not quite recall why I was thinking along these lines. Not at all unusual now for me to forget something that happened seconds before so while it was a little frustrating when I could not quite recall the source of my musings, I have become accustomed to it.

But I remembered today. On Friday I was rearranging some books I had at work and came across one that contained some jokes.  I had, go figure, forgotten some of the jokes in the book which I'd read only a few months ago.  The good news about this is I laughed all over again when I got to some good ones. The one that made me think about the hazards of transformation went like this:

Shapiro one day walks into the bathroom looks at the mirror and does not like what he sees.  He is overweight; his hair an unkempt mess; his face looks jowly like someone who is not only chubby but sad, his clothes look sloppy, and on top of all this he notices that the short walk up the stairs to the bathroom has him breathing heavily.

Enough of this, says Shapiro.  He begins an exercise regimen, cuts down on fatty foods, gets a haircut, goes to a clothier and gets some duds that smack of class.  Two months later he looks in the mirror and he looks great. Thin, trim, handsome, well coiffed--just terrific.

Shapiro leaves his house, starts to walk across the street and is run over by a truck.  Lying in the street, about to perish, he turns to the sky and wheezes, "God, how could you let this happen?'

God responds: "To tell you the truth Shapiro, I didn't recognize you."

When I read this joke, it made me think of how we--or at least I at times--have accommodated who I was to meet a particular circumstance. And  while the analogy between Shapiro trying to get in shape, and someone copping a different persona to lose her or himself, is not quite apt--I do think that unlike contestants in a sporting event, we must be careful to stay true to ourselves and not continuously adapt to accommodate a changing environment.  Otherwise not only God, but we ourselves, will be unable to recognize us.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


I hear sports prognosticators hedging their bets when they identify the team they believe will win a game or a series.  "The Celtics can beat Miami depending on which Boston team shows up. If Rondo plays like Rondo then they have a chance.However, if  the real Dwyane Wade plays on Sunday then the Celtics can forget about it."

If Rondo plays on Sunday, well then Rondo will not only be playing like Rondo he will be Rondo.  The real Dwyane Wade will be in the Boston Garden tomorrow night.

Athletes performances will vary. The better players, like Jordan and Bird and Russell, are consistently great so the quality and style of their play will not vary much from one game to another. Rondo is difficult to predict.  He can go from a hall of fame player one night, to someone who seems uninterested the next.  In sports, there is this variability and it is one of the things that makes games interesting.  Can a player excel in certain situations and go beyond his limits.  Does an athlete in crunch time, run away from the ball, because he cannot take the pressure of the big shot?  When an opponent plays a zone, can a team adapt, changing its offense to combat the revised defense.

Proteus is a mythological sea god that had the ability to change shape.  The word protean is an adjective that  refers to changeability.  Someone who is protean can transform her or himself depending on a situation.  In sports, adaptation (as opposed to mercurial performance) is a good thing.  Not sure it is for the rest of us, especially if we lose sight of who we are what with the frequent wardrobe changes.

In the seventies and eighties I read a few of Kurt Vonnegut's books. He was something of a literary cult hero when I was in college, but it wasn't until I graduated that I began to read his novels.  My favorite (though I have not read them all, or even half of them) is Player Piano.  Great book, written in the early 50s with a remarkable sense of how technology would (and did), eventually, be omnipresent in organizations.

The main character in the book is Paul Proteus.  Proteus seems to be living the good life; he is a high level manager in the organization; has married a woman who seems to fit in with the society within which they live; has become a captain of sorts within his company by playing within the rules.  But something happens to Proteus. He begins to realize that he has somehow transformed and is not who he once was. He has copped the values of others, implicitly if not actively promulgating them, but he does not actually share these values.  True to his name, he has changed form to accommodate an environment, but he lost himself in the process.  I'll not spoil the read in case you're interested, but the question becomes can he change back.

If the Celtics continue to double team Dwyane Wade, he will have to adapt. But when we seem to be double teamed, we have to be careful to adapt or else we might become a chameleon, just a different person depending on where we are at and who happens to be our dance partner at the time.

I'm not a big short story reader, but one of Vonnegut's has stayed with me for thirty years. It is about two people active in community theatre. The man is painfully shy. He can barely say anything--except when he is on stage--then he can become whoever it is he is playing--a bully, a lover, a salesman.  Just tell him who he is and he can be it.  Another woman in the theatre group is interested in him, but offstage he can't seem to communicate with her. So their romance takes place on stage in different performances.

The story is called, "Who Am I This Time" and while it will benefit Dwyane Wade to adapt to the pressure defense tomorrow night and be protean in that way, I'm not sure it serves the average Jill and Jack to look back on their lives or look forward and ask themselves, who am I this time?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Caleb's Crossing: Book Review

Geraldine Brooks's novel is a tour de force. She manages to write as one might in the late 1600s and early 1700s. She captures the voice of a young woman--at the end an elderly woman--in a way that can make readers appreciate and understand another time. The author's use of vocabulary that was common then, but obsolete now, will be frustrating at times to readers because many of these words simply are not only not used currently but are not found in standard dictionaries. Still, Brooks's command of the language of then demonstrated how immersed she had become in the time and how careful she was to depict these times accurately. She also included events of the era which were essential to describe in order to explain the characters' decisions. I confess to not knowing or remembering anything about Metacom's rebellion/King Philip's war even though I have been living in New England for over thirty years. In many ways, this book was a beautiful history. Her description of landing in Italy and how a developed city must have looked to someone from the New World was worth reading the whole book.

However, the book is misnamed and not as advertised. It is not about Caleb. The book is about Bethia. She is the only nuanced character in the book. Caleb and Joel are peripheral characters and stick figures as is the grandfather, native americans, and the Cambridge characters. The father and Makepeace are multidimensional, but the point is that the book is allegedly about the crossing over of Caleb from native american culture to the other side. And while he is in the book, his journey is not central to it. The book is a remarkable depiction of the life and tribulations of a brilliant and courageous woman trapped in an era when brilliant women were suffocated by conventional values. It is not about Caleb's Crossing. It is more about how impossible it was for Bethia to cross over