This isn’t even about the serial comma, which has a subjective argument that can support it even if the objective argument doesn’t hold up. This, from the current New Yorker profile on Donald Glover, is just an abomination.
Category: Life (Page 2 of 8)
Every so often — frankly, all too often — I find myself drawn into a doozy of a debate on Twitter about the serial comma. Yes, really.
Also known as the Oxford comma, it’s specifically the comma that follows the penultimate item in a series: for example the second comma in “songs, tunes, and ditties.”
Usually, the serial comma is completely unnecessary, and consequently it’s almost completely absent from newspapers and nearly as much from magazines, outside of Old School holdouts like The New Yorker. (Not so much in books, I should note.)
Nevertheless, several people I respect, like and esteem are fervent advocates on Twitter, Facebook and the like for the serial comma, putting me in the odd, strange and divisive position of having to explain why I don’t want extraneous, supercilious and clunky punctuation in my writing.
Rather than re-explaining my position again and again on Twitter, I decided to put it here once and for all, so that I can simply point to this post and move on.
Eight years ago minus a day, I wrote the post “Why Lindsey Jacobellis rocks,” pouring out my joyful respect for how Jacobellis’ fun-loving response in the face of immense Olympic disappointment floored me in the best way.
Lindsey Jacobellis is my new role model. She threw herself into competition at a level few of us could possibly emulate, sacrificed so that she might be the best, and when that failed to yield the ultimate prize, instead of curling up in the fetal position, she had the self-esteem and presence of mind to appreciate the greatness of the effort and the joy of what she was part of, win or lose. I want my kids to be like her.
Four years later at Sochi, Jacobellis crashed and finished seventh overall. This video illustrates where Jacobellis’ state of mind was heading into 2018. To say the least, I was eager to see what would happen to her this time around.
Well, this was a good time — and really fun to play out on Twitter over the course of the weekend. In case you missed it there, I’m bringing it here. Keep scrolling …
In January 1980, we got our first VCR. About a month later, I set up a recording for what sounded like might be an interesting hockey game. pic.twitter.com/DJTq1P4xLK
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) February 11, 2018
Today, the memory-bot at Facebook reminded me, is the anniversary of my Dodger Thoughts farewell from Baseball Toaster and arrival at the Los Angeles Times. Most of the other Toaster blogs wrapped things up on February 2, 2009 as well, with Ken Arneson putting the final, glorious bow on things two days later.
It’s the eighth anniversary. Twice as much time time has passed than we spent at the Toaster, which was officially born on March 8, 2005. For 47 months, I’d put what the group of us did at the Toaster up against anything else on the Internet. We were fun, thoughtful, innovative, occasionally brilliant and in many ways ahead of the curve. And particularly remarkable in this feisty day and age, the Toaster in general and Dodger Thoughts in particular had perhaps the best community I think the Internet has ever seen. We showed how strangers could come together online and chat, debate, disagree — and still be friends in the end. I know for certain that several deep, lifelong friendships have been formed thanks to the Toaster comments section. Credit the no politics rule if you like, but even if we were arguing about the hot-button issues of today, I believe made online conversation something valuable that you could actually look forward to. Fortunately, the comments section lives on for the most part at True Blue L.A.
Despite being the sort who is often looking back and wondering about choices that I’ve made — I’m nothing if not a “Glory Days” guy — I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the decision to leave for the Times. The lure of the Times (yes, it had a lure) was one thing, the potential exposure was another, the ability to start earning money through the site for my family of five was the biggest of all. Obviously, I could not have predicted the journey that followed, from the Times to ESPN Los Angeles, then to independence, then to the Dodgers themselves. And then, in the past year, came a period of near-dormancy while I adjusted to life at Showtime and worked on a book.
But the Toaster remains the Wonder Years of my baseball writing career. It becomes briefer the farther it goes into my rear-view mirror, but I’ll always cherish it. And though it probably could never resurrect the magic, this morning I dreamed of a comeback someday. It’s the reboot era, after all.
But, as they say, I digress. Anyway — and I’ll admit to the anniversary timing being a coincidence — this week I decided to do some sprucing up of the current version of Dodger Thoughts. Rare as I’ve been in here in the past year, it’s still my home away from home in a sense, and it had been six years since it had received a fresh coat of paint. So on this anniversary day, why not indulge?
If you haven’t come up with a better way to achieve your goals than hazing, you are not trying hard enough. Period.
I wrote the following nearly three months ago, then decided to hold on to it for a little bit. Rather than put it in the attic, I thought I might share it with you.
It is the middle of August in 2013 as I begin writing, and there is a baseball team. For nearly two months, it has been winning every game, and that’s almost not a figure of speech. It’s somewhere in between a literary device and true reality. Eight losses in nine weeks in Major League Baseball is, essentially, winning every game.
It is a team that at once has been giving the lie to the idea that you can’t have it all, while also reminding that such feats of transcendence are precariously temporary. With every victory comes the question, “How can this possibly continue?” The question has an answer, which is that it can just keep on keepin’ on, same as it ever was, same as it ever is. But just as easily as it can continue – more easily, no doubt – it can stop.
How long, then? How long does all remain all?
That’s one mystery. In the case of this particular baseball team, if all remains all, or nearly so, for 2½ more months, and if it does, it will create an everlasting memory. What the devoted of this particular baseball team are waiting to learn is if they are having a summer fling – the wildest one of their lives, perhaps, but still a fling – or a relationship that will be theirs forever, even if future years return rocky times.
One of the lures of baseball, of investing passion into a passion you have no control over, is that little if anything can diminish a championship. No matter your present, there’s no guilt in romancing your past. Contrast that with everyday life, where if you think about your greatest year, the year you yourself had it all, there’s a gloom. It could be a sliver or a swath.
To avoid it, you’d have to be able to feel unadulterated pleasure over a time that is no longer yours, find complete solace that your best days are behind you or only speculatively ahead, that you had something and you lost it or you had it taken away from you, and that’s just fine.
People who can do that are remarkable.
I can identify two periods where I quite nearly had it all, two championship runs. One came from my earliest memories nearly through the end of grade school, growing up with a family that I loved, friends who were close and a belief that I could become whatever I wanted to become that didn’t involve being a pro athlete. Or tall. I was among the shortest in my class, and even as incompetence evolved into competence, there was never a chance. But with Vin Scully as an alternative role model, I could live with sports transcendence as a fantasy.
That period ended when I began having crushes on girls. I’m not sure there was ever a period when I didn’t like girls, but it didn’t begin to matter until fifth grade bled into sixth and I began to care whether one, and then another one, liked me back. Soon something happens inside of you and you start to envision real benefits, and it starts to matter more and more. And it was years before one really did like me back, for reasons we might be able to get into later.
By the time that did happen, I was an adult with goals. As long as those goals were unfulfilled, well, obviously having it all was out of the question, even if the other thing was falling into place. Not until after I turned 30, after some very up-and-down years in the intervening decade, did I come close to having contentment. A woman had fallen in love with me, and I with her. I was able to support her, with money saved. My relationship with my family was healthy, my family was healthy, I was healthy. And my career was in a good place. It had momentum.
That lasted … about a season. It was a championship year, a year that I’ve been chasing ever since.
In August 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers had been chasing their last championship for 25 years. The digits 1988 have a celestial feeling, any negativity washed away. It is impossible for a fan of that baseball team to feel anything but positive about that year, anything but pride, anything but love. That so many years have passed since that time is frustrating. But being a baseball fan is like being a like a little kid because it’s not your responsibility to make the joy happen. You’re waiting like a child, young as they come, depending on a parent for well-being.
Rooting for the World Series isn’t without a cost, but as much as you care, you’re a spectator. When you root for your own happiness, it’s your game.
Tonight, I’m going to my first Dodger game since Memorial Day. That’s right: I have yet to see Yasiel Puig in person, yet to enjoy the Summer of Gorge anywhere but on my TV, radio or cellphone.
This will be my fifth game of the year. When I got the tickets for my wife and me last week — and I’m not likely to go to more than one more regular-season game this year after this one — it occurred to me that this will be the fewest games I’ve attended in a Dodger season since … 1988.
Read into that what you will. I’m reading in a lot of hope.
That ’88 season began with me as a college junior, continuing through my trip to cover Stanford at the College World Series in Omaha, my summer internship at the Half Moon Bay Review & Pescadero Pebble and my late-summer job as a gofer for NBC’s Summer Olympics boxing coverage in Seoul. I saw not an inning of Orel Hershiser’s scoreless streak, and returned to the States a couple of days after my senior year began, stopping at LAX without venturing out of it.
I had been at Dodger Stadium for Tim Leary’s pinch-hitting heroics, but otherwise my Dodger attendance that year was forcibly rare. I saw all the playoffs on TV in the vicinity of Palo Alto. I saw Mike Scioscia’s home run from the Stanford Daily newsroom, Kirk Gibson’s diving daytime catch and Jay Howell’s pine tar while ditching classes, Gibson’s homer off Eckersley with friends who were mainly rooting for Oakland, and the final out on my own little TV in my senior suite.
It wasn’t a lifetime ago, but it kind of feels that way. By the same token, my last Dodger game in May — itself a bright spot countering a dreary start, in case you’ve forgotten — feels about half a lifetime ago. The team’s winning percentage when I’ve gone this year (3-1, .750) is still higher than it’s been in my absence (37-27, .578). Still, though my absence didn’t quite coincide with the surge, the Dodgers have gone 57-27 (.679) since I last attended. More than half the season has gone by.
If the Dodgers make the playoffs, this will be the first postseason for which my family doesn’t have tickets since 1981 (though I did attend an NLCS loss that year). So I might be watching those games on TV as well, even sneaking views from the newsroom where I work. If that’s what it takes …
I’ve been putting it off, but I’m soon going to have to find a new means of digesting the Internet to replace Google Reader, which is going out of business July 1.
If you have any suggestions, pass them on below. I’m not looking for bells and whistles (and certainly not looking to spend any money) – I just want the closest equivalent to Google Reader that will allow me to easily scroll through the hundreds of stories that come across each day.
Twenty years ago, I ditched my graduate school classes at Georgetown to watch the Dodgers’ season-opening game, which happened to be the Florida Marlins’ franchise-opening game.
That just ain’t right.
I was outlining my first screenplay and just beginning to dream of my second major life decision in a year, moving back from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles to pursue writing for the screen.
I was interested in a girl in school, whom the following month I would have my first date with, and soon fall in love with, greatly complicating the thoughts laid out in the previous paragraph.
I had already loved and lost, both in my personal life and my professional life, the culmination of which helped send me to Washington in the first place.
I was four years out of college and already so much had happened. In four years. And now it’s been 20.
How can this be?
I hardly feel any different from the 25-year-old on the futon in that Woodley Park apartment. But everything around me is so different.
On April 5, 1993, Charlie Hough and the Marlins beat the Dodgers, 6-3. Hough, almost impossibly old for a pitcher, was the same age then that I am now.
Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Luis Cruz, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Sellers, SS
Zack Greinke, P
Feeling Opening Day excitement and the writing bug late on a Saturday …
• I’m reasonably excited about this year’s Dodger team, but part of that is a perverse excitement about just how bad on offense that left side of the infield might be, at least while Hanley Ramirez is out. That makes the decision to go with Justin Sellers fun for kicks, however dubious. Still, I have always liked the idea of emphasizing defense where offense isn’t an option.
• It only just now occurred to me that I was in the stands last year at the game in which Sellers was hurt and the one in which Dee Gordon was hurt.
• Do you realize this will no doubt be the fourth consecutive year that Kenley Jansen isn’t the Opening Day closer but eventually moves into that role?
• One thing I don’t miss about baseball season is the whining whenever a save gets blown, as if it should never happen. Heaven knows, though, it will happen.
• I think lingering effects of his labrum injury will keep Matt Kemp below 25 home runs this year, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be productive.
• At first, I thought that with no true right-handed outfielder in reserve, the Dodgers would need to keep Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier spaced out in their lineup, or lefty relievers will just crush the team. But Gonzalez has had success against left-handers, so that helps. It’s still not necessarily a bad idea to insert a right-hander between them, though – as long as it’s a decent one.
• My initial plan for any free writing time that emerged this spring was that I would spend it offline on a long-term project. I did begin work on that project early this month, but with baseball season starting, I’m wavering. What might happen is a mix, where I post on Dodger Thoughts not infrequently, but not comprehensively. The risk is feeling like I’m doing both things halfway.
• Another intervening factor in my life is that Youngest Master Weisman, now 5, is six days away from his first T-ball season, and he is raring to go. (His team: the Tigers.) After playing with a pretend ball inside the house several times, we made it out to the park for the first time, and he was knocking balls through the infield and reaching the grass. Also in the past day, I’ve begun trying to teach him how to scoop balls on defense. It’s crazy.
• Older brother Young Master Weisman, now 8 1/2, took a few swings, but piano is his game. He’s composing his own material for his May recital performance. Young Miss Weisman, a whopping 10 1/2, is also wonderful on the keys.
“Two years ago, I was afraid of wanting anything. I figured wanting would lead to trying and trying would lead to failure. But now I find I can’t stop wanting. I want to fly somewhere on first class. I want to travel to Europe on a business trip. I want to get invited to the White House. I want to learn about the world. I want to surprise myself. I want to be important. I want to be the best person I can be. I want to define myself instead of having others define me. I want to win and have people be happy for me. I want to lose and get over it. I want to not be afraid of the unknown. I want to grow up and be generous and big hearted, the way people have been with me. I want an interesting and surprising life. It’s not that I think I’m going to get all these things, I just want the possibility of getting them. College represents possibility. The possibility that things are going to change. I can’t wait.”
These are melancholy times for an old blogger …
I don’t feel capable of doing Dodger Thoughts right now, and honestly, I’m not sure how much I’d want to get back in the grind of it right now. But with pitchers and catchers reporting, I sure do miss the idea of it.
The site meant something to me, and as much as I’ve used the vacated time to focus on my paying job, spend some extra time with my family or occasionally relax (but unfortunately, not to exercise or reduce stress), I haven’t been able to really replace what it meant. Not for lack of trying.
Baseball is a mystery, and I’m definitely curious about The Hardy Boys and the Case of the Expensively Brittle Baseball Team. But most of the day-to-day stuff is amply covered elsewhere, even the stuff I have specific viewpoints on. If there’s anyone that needs to be told at this point that Lovable Luis Cruz’s lack of walks are a warning sign, or that money doesn’t necessarily buy baseball happiness (though it’s better than not having money), or that both Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley are medical red flags, well, just know that I appreciate your loyalty, because the other Dodger blogs have touched on these points. There were times, not all that long ago, when I might have been the only one. Not any more.
I still think I have something to contribute to the conversation on the Dodgers, but have wondered if it was worth the effort. For example, by now, I’d be working on the annual Dodger Thoughts Spring Training Primer, which I was always proud of, but the time commitment just seems disproportionately large.
Meanwhile, my position as Awards Editor at Variety has been interesting and fulfilling, but I’m the Jonny-come-lately on that beat, and it’s taken all my professional energy just to carve out my own insights. And I’m still missing things. I’ve done good work, but that doesn’t make me special.
With Dodger Thoughts, I felt special, once upon a time, though those days were fewer and farther between in 2012.
I’ve been poking around some new writing ideas that I think would be exciting to pursue, though I’ve had real issues of confidence over whether I could deliver them. And all the misgivings linger over whether I can afford to write something that would likely have no financial return. Still, I am getting closer to the point of throwing aside caution and just writing one for the sake of writing. That seems healthy, if perhaps wasteful. They are good ideas, if nothing else.
Mostly, I’m still not the person I want to be. Not even close. My main goal is to get there, and in September, I came to think Dodger Thoughts was becoming a hindrance to that. I’m less sure of that now, but I’m not sure of several things. I’m not sure what part of the equation writing is. If it ever seems like Dodger Thoughts is the answer, I’ll be back. It sure was fun while it lasted.