Monthly Archives: October 2010

In Which I Finally Write About The Giants

Editor’s note: this is a long and rambly post about baseball. Read at your own risk, and feel free to skip to the very end for my main point.

I’m an A’s fan, first and foremost. I’m from the East Bay and that’s where the A’s are, and to be honest, they’ve been a really likable team for most of my adult life. But, I’m also a Giants fan. This is something that’s generally frowned upon around here, but I don’t really care – it’s how I was raised. My dad saw the arrival of two teams to the Bay Area – the Giants in 1958, the A’s 10 years later – and became a fan of both. That’s how I was raised. That’s likely how it’s always going to be. I’m going to raise my kids that way too, and no one’s going to stop me.

The rivalry between the two teams was pretty much born in 1989 when they squared off in the World Series, infamous for the earthquake and for the horribly mismatched series it turned out to be – an A’s sweep. At the time, as a 9 year old, I didn’t prefer one team over the other – it was pure glee to be a fan of both. On one hand, I had Eck, Ricky, Carney, Dave Stewart, and on the other was Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, and my dad’s favorite player, fellow bald-headed Matt Williams. Both teams were really, really good, and having the entire baseball world focused on the Bay Area was incredibly special.

But it was also awful, in a way – because I didn’t want either team to lose. I decided I wanted the A’s to win in 7 games – probably the first time I shifted slightly towards the A’s. Instead, they swept in 4 games, taking a lot of the drama out of the series. I was incredibly happy for the A’s, but I was terribly sad for the Giants. The A’s, after all, had won three straight titles in the early 70s, whereas the Giants hadn’t (and still haven’t) won since moving out West.

I really do love ’em both. As their identities shift, as they go through rebuilding periods and phases of success, their players and managers (and stadiums and ticket prices and team-building philosophies) change but I stick with them. Though I grew tired of the Barry Bonds circus, I still got to see perhaps the most dominant player to ever hold a bat, and still got to see successful teams play in the best park in baseball; though the A’s have stumbled since 2006 and haven’t really developed a good hitter since then, I still believe in their philosophies and love their players. When they play each other, which they now do 6 times a year since the advent of Interleague play, it’s not easy on me. I don’t like to watch the games. And this is a time where, I admit, being a fan of both is not very practical. But to me, it’s a small price to pay.

But in the larger scheme of things, I get to root for two teams, and to be blunt, I do feel, at times, like I’ve got the fandom thing down cold. I get twice as much baseball to follow. I get twice as many players to root for. A’s fans who hate the Giants, and vice versa, well – they get on my nerves. There are rivalries in baseball – A’s-Angels, Giants-Dodgers, two name a couple – that are either deeply historical or more recent, but they make a lot of sense. The Giants and Dodgers have been butting heads for a long, long time, and the A’s and Angels have been battling each other for the AL West title since the late 1990s. But the A’s-Giants rivalry, to me, feels completely manufactured, based only on their geographical proximity. There’s no real rivalry there. I just don’t buy it. Maybe in 50 years, when they’ve faced each other in a couple more World Series, maybe then there might be a real rivalry. But not now.

There are several reasons I’ve identified more with the A’s in recent years, and it all began with Moneyball. At the risk of sounding amazingly nerdy, that book has influenced my life probably more than any other, for its fascinating account of how the A’s managed to field highly competitive teams with a small payroll. It introduced me to the world of advanced statistical analysis – Sabermetrics – and to Bill James, the genius who pretty much started it all. It helped me understand how teams are run, how they draft and develop and scout and trade for players, and how varying philosophies in building teams affect their success. It’s framed the kind of fan I am today.

Throw in the fact that A’s games are cheaper and more easily accessible, that they have a fantastic blog, and that in the late 1990s and early 2000s they were among the best teams in baseball, and it was a natural shift. Additionally, despite all the accolades he’s currently getting, I’ve always thought Giants General Manager Brian Sabean was (and remains) a pretty awful leader. His practice of signing old players to expensive deals, making questionable trades, giving Barry Zito a billion dollars a year for 30 years, well… he made it hard to identify with the team. He’s made some shrewder moves recently, and has wisely shifted towards a younger group of guys, but I still have major doubts going forward. What he (or his front office crew) excels at is drafting, evident in Lincecum and Cain and Posey and Sandoval and others, and that’s not to be neglected.

In any case, this run by the Giants into the World Series, two wins away from winning it all, has been pure magic. It’s been so fun that even some Giant-hating A’s fans have begrudgingly joined in. The Bay Area is abuzz with baseball, and it’s a blast. It’s more than a blast – it’s incredible. Casual fans have had a very easy time latching onto this scrappy team of weirdos, and the media has plugged into Lincecum’s Freakiness, Cain’s quiet underratedness, Wilson’s zany Beardery, Pablo’s lovable antics, and all the others. It’s not a hard team to love, because frankly, there isn’t a single person on this team I don’t like.

It’s really, really fun. It feels like the bay Area has united to root for something, which is a pretty great feeling. And in a perhaps selfish way, I feel like I’m reaping the rewards of following two different teams, because I know this Giants team extremely well – I’ve been reading the minutiae of their season since before it started, and for the last several years.

I welcome the bandwagon fans, the folks who can’t name anyone besides Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum, the people who step into a bar just to join the cheering crowd. This is what it’s all about – a city, an area joining together to celebrate. Because we’re not just rooting for the Giants – we’re rooting for Northern California. For San Francisco.

Two more wins. Just two more.

More Notes On Motivation, Bloggery, And My E-Purpose

This morning I woke up, as I have a habit of doing each and every morning, and after situating myself and remembering who and where I was, yawning and stretching and all that, I was struck by the following thought: “Oh yeah – I have a blog!”

It didn’t used to be this way. I used to awake brimming with ideas, jokes, and material for posts. I used to have class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. Um, I mean: daily bloggery used to come pretty naturally. I’d occasionally go a weekday without posting, and I’d feel kind of dirty – like I was letting people down. Letting myself down. Plus I kept hearing that new blogs really need constant, near-daily content, in order to get established and draw in a readership and all that. Which I’m sure is true.

But slowly, I stopped having that daily urge, for whatever reason. Part of it, of course, is that we haven’t been planning our wedding as fervently as we were in the beginning, when it was all wedding all the time. I’ve gotten busier. There are baseball games on TV these days that require my undivided attention. I’m reading more, and thus spending less time in front of the computer, which is a good thing. I’ve become mildly obsessed with Michael Connelly books, finally joining the ranks of mystery novel aficionado – I’d been the last holdout in a family that’s been reading Sue Grafton, Peter Lovesey, Dick Francis, Tony Hillerman, Sarah Paretsky, and many many others for years and years. So yeah, Michael Connelly – I’m partillay blaming you for the slow demise of my daily blogging habit. Stop writing page-turners* and then I’ll forgive you.

[*In college, I once sat down for a meal at the dining hall next to a girl I knew – but I knew no one else at the table. She introduced me to everyone, and when we came upon a girl named Paige, I immediately said, “Hey, you know, if we got married, your name would be Paige Turner!” There followed a terrible silence. She was not amused, sadly. I ate my meal in silence and left.]

But I really do want to press on.* As other wedding bloggers can likely attest, there’s an ulterior, backup motive at work here – this blog will be a fun record of not only our wedding planning, but our lives together as young folks. Even if my readership dips all the way down to, say, 5 a day – or into the negative numbers, which I believe happens when you start paying people to read your blog – I still have good motivation to keep going. I imagine myself holding a nice, leatherbound (or depending on our future finances, plastic-bound) edition of “The All Things ‘Zilla Compendium” one day, remembering when I actually thought I could make pulled pork for 150 people. Ha! I was so young, so foolish. I thought the whole world was mine.

*[I almost wrote “But much like Lee’s nails, I want to press on.” But I thought better of it. But now I’ve typed it in an asterisk anyway.]

I have a whole post in the works wherein I speculate about how my kids, and my friends’ kids, will be able to see so much more of me and Jessica as young people – so I won’t really get into that now. But thinking about having this blog printed out as a book one day, and maybe when my future kids begin to develop an interest in what Jessica and I were once like, well – they’ll be able to read it. And not only that, but they’ll be able to see videos of us, too, and countless photos. They’ll be able to listen to the songs I’ve recorded. With my parents, I really have precious little idea what they were like as kids, as teenagers, as college students – I hear stories and I’ve seen photos, but it’s not the same. The technology wasn’t there to record their youth as it is now. Who knows – maybe that distance, between parents and their children, is a good thing in some ways. But I imagine that these parent-kid relationships will dramatically change along with technology.

You readers, you loyal, beautiful readers, you all make it worthwhile too. I am tickled that anyone, whether it be my mom or friend or someone I never met who blogs several thousand miles away, would want to read the words I spew forth into the ether, the disparate thoughts I have on weddings and life and love and baseball. That’s pretty damn cool.

And there’s a lot left of the wedding to plan – most of it, really. We have stuff in the works, and I have posts in the works.

Thanks for sticking with me. You guys are the best.

This Car Is From The Past, Man

The other day, something hit me: In our daily lives, Jessica and I rely on an electronic device and a piece of machinery made in the year 1986. Our dear Nissan, which I blogged about in loving detail way back in July, is still a very complex piece of machinery with electronic components and levers and gears and motors and pistons and processes I can’t even begin to understand – but it got me thinking: is there anything else I use regularly that’s so old?

Here’s a personal computer from 1986, an Apple IIgs:

It cost $999 and had 128 KB of RAM, expandable to 8 MB. It weighed 65 tons and filled an entire warehouse and needed to rest ten days for every hour of use. My current computer, by comparison, is a 21.5-inch iMac that has 8 GB of RAM but can handle up to 16, has 500 Gigs of hard drive space, feeds my plants when I’m away and fits into the coin section of my Jeans pocket.

Here is a cell phone from around the same time:

And here is a calculator from roughly the same time the car was made, 2700 BC:

Anyway, the point is, we need a new car. This is nothing new; we’ve needed a new car since before we got the Nissan in a “family transfer” from my parents. Don’t get me wrong: I love our little car; its small, still has working AC, has a great turning radius, and fits right in our new neighborhood. But it’s not long for this world, and that’s just the truth. We need a new car, and we need one soon.

But the issue is: we also need a wedding, and we’re planning on dropping ten G’s on one, which doesn’t leave all that much money for a car.

From the modicum of research we’ve done, it seems unwise to spend under 5 or 6 thousand on a used car, and throw in DMV costs and a higher insurance rate, and we’re definitely talking more than half the cost of our wedding. And then it starts to seem like a whole lot of money.

But then, I start thinking about priorities. We need a car. Do we need a wedding? Not really. But in some ways, of course we do. We don’t NEED a lot of things. I don’t need the two shelves of alphabetized comics and graphic novels that I’ve spent my future child’s college fund on over the last few years, but I do love them and they do bring me immense joy, and I lend them out and they bring other people joy, and I’ll have them for my whole life if I treat them right. And that’s pretty awesome.

And anyway, I’m talking about this as if it’s an either/or situation, which it’s not. We’re going to have a wedding, and we’re going to get a car. But putting things in perspective can be a frightening prospect – sometimes it’s a lot more comforting to keep things out of perspective, the same way it’s nice not to check your bank account for a month.

When it comes down to it, well: we do need a wedding. Because sometimes when you want something bad enough, it turns into a need. A real one. Someone asked us the other day (it might have been Jessica’s mom?) if planning a wedding was fun or not, and we looked at each other and realized we had no answer to that question. We might not be able to answer it until after the wedding, or maybe never at all. And probably, the answer is “sometimes yes and sometimes no.”

But we are both excited about getting married, and about having a big ol’ shindig for our loved ones. Really excited. It’s going to be awesome, and it’s going to be worth every one of those million pennies we spend on it.* And though it is a little bit mind-boggling to consider the amount of money we’re going to spend on it, I firmly believe that it’s entirely worth it.

[*I recommend not converting your wedding budget to pennies. A million pennies is kind of a crazy thought.]

Our next car may last us 15 years; the wedding will last for a day. But we need them both.

I’ve got a feeling

In the last couple days I’ve seen two fantastic movies. On Tuesday, Katy and I went to see The Social Network, and last night I saw (for the second time, but first in many years) The Thin Red Line. I love both of these movies, and it’s fairly rare for me to really love a movie without any reservations.

First: it’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that The Thin Red Line is now 12 years old. It’s little tidbits like this that remind that while I’m not yet old, I am getting older, slowly but surely.  Jurassic Park was made in 1993, for crying out loud – that was SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO. Do you remember when it came out? It was kind of a sensation for its special effects, and rightly so, and in fact it holds up amazingly well today.

But Jurassic Park came out 17 years ago. 17 years. Most high schoolers today weren’t even born yet. Bill Clinton had just begun his presidency. I looked like this, and our dearly departed Bog looked like this:

But I digress. The point is, both of these movies are exceptional, and one of the reasons they each succeed so well is that they both are filled with real emotions that I, as a viewer, understand. You can feel real fear through the screen, real joy, real anger, and real pain. Someone who senses that the whole world has turned against him radiates a shaking, intense, primordial anger that envelops the entire scene. A young man with bullets flying inches above his head is so terrified that his brain is constantly on the verge of shutting itself off, and you wait, a nervous wreck, for that moment to come. A soldier, AWOL, hiding among a village of people in a strange land, paddles his canoe by some locals and grins ear to ear with the strangeness of it all, and it’s infectious – you can’t help but smile.

This, maybe more than anything, is what makes a movie great. It’s probably Film School 101 – make your audience care about your characters, and identify with them. Even the villains. Sometimes especially the villains. If your audience can not only identify with the characters and understand their actions, but can also experience the same emotion that a character is displaying, then I think you’ve succeeded.

With any film, as a viewer, there are three people involved in the experience of a character: you, the character, and the actor. When it’s only the character experiencing a certain emotion, it doesn’t work; if it’s clear the actor doesn’t care, you’re probably not going to either. Two of three can work. All three, of course, can be incredibly powerful.

So – this all got me thinking about how much of this applies to real life, and the conclusion I drew was this: one of the primary reasons that Jessica and I work so well, and likely a primary reason for any good relationship, is that ability to be tuned into the other person. She and I really cannot hide an emotion from each other – it’s just not possible. If she tries to pretend that she’s not frustrated with me, I can still feel it. When I try to pretend like nothing’s bugging me, I completely fail. We know what the other is feeling, and it doesn’t even really take much effort. And more than that, when she’s feeling something strongly, whether it be anger or sadness or joy or anything else, that same feeling usually creeps its way into me.

This is a fantastically long-winded and pretentious lead-in to the overall point of this silly Friday afternoon post, which is that tomorrow Jessica will be turning 28 – entering the approximately 2-month period wherein I am only one year older than her rather than two. Ages totally work that way, by the way. And though it’s a day early, I’d still like to wish her a happy birthday on this blog. Because after all, she’s the one I’m marrying, and plus she suggested I do this thing in the first place.

And of all the things that makes me love Jessica so much, the “I can feel what you’re feeling without even trying” thing we have is close to the top.

Happy birthday, baby.

Papa Turner To The Rescue!

My dear dad emailed me this morning – as a writer himself (I mean, a real one), he knows what it’s like to go through dry spells. So he swooped in and offered me a Guest Post, which follows below. Thanks Dad!

A dad feels pain when his son goes into a funk, as I believe he called it, or drifts into the doldrums, or finds the well dry, or runs out of cliches.
I once asked Jon Carroll, the brilliant San Francisco Chronicle columnist, what it felt like to wake up on New Year’s morning knowing that he would have to come up with 200-plus columns over the next year and he said you don’t think about it that way; all you do is think about the next day, maybe the next week.
And he gets paid scale.
So I thought I’d take one day’s-worth off the prodigal’s plate.
So what’s it like to be the father of a groom-to-be? And someone about to acquire a smashing daughter-in-law?
It’s pretty damn cool.
No, it’s sensational. Believe me. Seeing your son (or daughter, perforce) this happy is about all a parent could hope for.
One does wonder how much advice to offer. It’s their wedding, after all, and if they want to make it a pot luck, more power to them. I’ve offered to wash dishes (not really). We’re going to be hosts of a rehearsal dinner (do they really rehearse anything at dinners like that apart from drinking?). But one eschews meddling.
And besides, we’ve got the baseball playoffs to contend with, and they’re more important–for the next few weeks–than intricate matrimonial details.
Still, go you guys! And don’t fret if you miss a few days or a buncha days. We’re with you.

Funky Business

So maybe you’ve noticed: I’m in a funk. Blog-wise, I mean. Musically, too, but that’s neither here nor there. Well, OK – it’s there. Over there. See?

I have a huge supply on partially-written posts on hand, taunting me, mocking me with their potential. “Finish me, Bret!” they wail, in squeaky voices every time I log in. I should probably disable that feature. The subjects of those posts range from photography to jokey nonsense to my post about Andy (it’s coming, don’t worry) to some Groomzilla Watches and  Bridezilla Watch or two, a post where I try to connect wedding planning to Scrabble, and another where I make some vague baseball analogies.

I’m sure this happens to every blogger at some point, and only the true bloggers – ones who are pure of heart and virtuous of spirit – are able to overcome the hurdle and press onward. But for now, when I sit down at my computer to post, I come up empty these days. My mind draws a blank. I start writing “So I was thinking about food at my wedding and I was thinking about how” and then suddenly I’m like, “hey, baseball blogs!” and I click over to those. I leave a tab open with the blog post in edit mode, which is my surefire internal method of assuring myself that I will eventually click back to that tab and complete the post, but then it’s dinner time and I’m in charge of making salmon burgers with oven fries, and let’s be honest here: salmon burgers are gonna win that battle. Every time.

I’m sure it’s related in part to all the change that’s going on my life – a new house, new routine, a just-ended house/dogsitting gig that was fun but very challenging, Jessica’s new hectic schedule, and such. It’s also related to the fact that though we’re getting back on the ball, we haven’t done much wedding planning of late (other than hiring a photographer), and so there’s not much to talk about.

But, my loyal readers, never fear: I can feel it returning. “It” being the mojo, the je-ne-sais-quoi, the urge to write. It’s still there, and it’s getting restless. Listless, even. It cannot rest nor list.

So get ready, blogosphere. Get ready.