In which Derek Jeter should wipe that self-satisfied grin off his face

Baseball is built on rules. Unlike football, soccer, basketball, or hockey, baseball is not a game of possession. It is a game of elaborate conventions designed to ensure that both team have equal opportunity — both defenses must record 27 outs. Both offenses must field the same number of players. And so on.

But it’s also a game full of cheaters, men who would try to steal an out away from the opposing team by faking being hit by a pitch – it’s the exact opposite of “giving outs away.”

This tendency has a long history within the game, as Bill James reminds us in a fabulous article in Slate.

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Restaurant Week 2010, or, The week-long food coma (part 1)

I turned in this week’s column late because I was laying in my bed on Friday night, unable to move even my fingers to type, and contemplating never eating again. I thought the feeling of hunger was going to become a distant memory. I managed to drag myself out of bed this morning to go for a much, much-needed run and felt the last two weeks of food course through my arteries as my heart tried to pump blood through them. I’m recovering from Restaurant Week.

Every year for two weeks, Bostonians celebrate Restaurant Week, when restaurants all around the city offer fixed-price menus: two-course lunches for $15.10, three course lunches for $22.10, and three-course dinners for $32.10. This means that you get to try restaurants that you’d normally never walk into because their food looks more like art than something you want to ingest, or you can have a three-course meal (minus alcohol, and tip, of course) without falling into poverty for the following few weeks.

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The place where the river flows

There is such a thing as a flow of discovery. I once read a review of Ry Cooder’s Chicken Skin Music, a review that plucked the record out of the henhouse of obscurity and dusted it off for me to rediscover. As with all Cooder discs he had interesting guests, this time including the Tex-Mex musician Flaco Jiminez and the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar legend Gabby Pahinui. I enjoyed the LP very much, and it spurred me into one of my slightly predictable retail plunges. I bought Chicken Skin Music. Then I bought his first and second releases, Ry Cooder and Into the Valley. Then I bought Paradise & Lunch, which is an all-time great in desperate need of a reissue. When I stopped sucking up the Cooder I re-listened to Chicken Skin Music. This time Gabby Pahinui really caught my ear, so I did some research and discovered that Cooder played on Pahinui’s LP The Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band Volume 1. I bought it and fell in love with it. This opened the floodgates and I began absorbing Hawaiian music like it was air. I also pumped up the Hawaiian music section in the store where I worked. I must have had the largest Hawiian section west of Maui.

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September 13-18, 2010

This week, in “Dysphonia,” Mike Vincent traces his paths of discovery through Ry Cooder’s body of work, and wonders if similar discoveries are possible in the age of the internet. Read “The place where the river flows”

In “The Cinephiles,” Adam Simmons re-lives his 16-year-old discovery of Bob Guccionne’s lone foray into mainstream cinema, and Malcolm McDowell’s one porno. Read “Desperately seeking Caligula”

Also in “The Cinephiles,” Kevin Mattison accepts The Proposition, and finds that its violence goes far beyond guns and bullets. Read “What fresh hell is this?”

In “PopHeart,” Ana Holguin watches the Draper children, because Don and Betty don’t seem like they’re going to do it. Read “Mad childhood”

In “Diary of a Casual Gamer,” Gavin Craig compares playing video games to relationships. Make of that what you will. Read “Writing through the pain”

In “Rounding Third,” Angela Vasquez-Giroux is visited by the ghosts of players of the past, whose echoes remain on the field. Read “Ghost runners”

In “The F Word,” Jill Kologowski suppresses her gag reflex in “Consider the lobster”

Read posts from the week of September 6-11, 2010

Read posts form the week of August 30-September 4, 2010

Desperately seeking Caligula

Every May the Novi Expo Center hosts the “Motor City Comic Con.” It’s a gathering of geeks, most of who are in rare form. As a geek myself, one fateful year, I strapped on my camera, filled my wallet, and headed to the Con with dreams of buying some sort of action figure that I’d likely never remove from the box. After my usual perusing of vendors, I found myself at one of the booths selling VHS tapes. I scanned the table looking for nothing in particular. Caligula wasn’t even on my mind. I’ll never forget when I spied the box. Nestled in line with all the other tapes, it had unassuming cover art; it could have easily passed me by. I felt like my heart had stopped. I couldn’t believe it. After all these years, this was my chance. I was actually going to see Caligula. I paid twenty dollars for the tape and eagerly headed home. The ride had never seemed longer.

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What fresh hell is this?

The Proposition begins with a shootout and it is the last one you’ll see. This is not your typical western and there are greater brutalities than gunplay here. When the shooting stops we are left with Captain Stanley (The great Ray Winstone, who also happens to appear in Sexy Beast, mentioned in my previous post) seated at a table across from Charlie Burns (Guy Pierce) and his little brother Mikey, both of whom are members of a notorious Irish gang lead by their eldest brother, Arthur. The gang has been charged with the rape and murder of a young woman named Eliza Hopkins along with her entire family. Captain Stanley informs the brothers that Mrs. Hopkins was with child at the time.

It is Stanley’s belief that Arthur Burns was the real catalyst for this atrocity and so he offers Charlie a deal: Charlie must find and kill Arthur before Christmas Day or they will hang his little brother and then come after him. For Charlie, there is no choice.

Mad childhood

When you think “Mad Men,” you most likely think of Don Draper all pressed and neat, dark secrets lining his smartly tailored jackets, beautiful lies lingering on his lips. You might think of Betty, the picture of grace (or Grace Kelly) quietly suffering her domestic incarceration behind the mask of perfect pink lips and expertly lined eyes. Or maybe you can’t get Joan out of your head. The way she walks down the hallway of the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offices you can’t help but imagine the symphony that accompanies her cool sashay and impossibly girdled buoyancy. But what about the little guys? Those little guys with reason to be mad who are hardly men or women? What do we make of the kids on the show? They certainly don’t seem “alright.”

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Writing through the pain

Playing a new game is like a first date. You’re interested but tentative. Something about the game is attractive, and you want to get to know it better. Most of the time, you’ve even shelled out a dinner-worthy $20-60, but you’re still figuring out whether the game is worth a more substantial, long-term relationship.

And sometimes you go on a lot of first dates before you get a second date.

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Ghost runners

Maybe it’s the Robert Fick jersey popping up at a road game, or a talking head mentioning the time Shane Halter played all nine positions in one game. Sometimes it’s my brother reminding me of the guy I dated that one summer who looked like Rich Becker, or how the name Chad Kreuter seemed to us as children both vaguely pornographic and slightly B-movie horror madman-esque.

However they’re called up, the specters of the players we grew up with (and had perhaps even entirely forgotten about until they were invoked, like disembodied voices at a séance) still linger near the dirt of the on-deck circle, exist, somehow, side by side with Miguel Cabrera even though maybe they’re now living in Florida or running a limo company or imprisoned in South America.

So when Binge (B + Inge = Binge, and describes, for this fan, his feast-or-famine approach to offense) poked one through the infield, turning his all-time hits ticker from 999 to 1000, it was only fitting that the leading edge of Bobby Higginson’s right forearm could be seen as his transparent self marked a cautious lead at third, his whole mouth stuffed with Big League chew and, of course, that fabulous goatee meticulously trimmed.

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Consider the lobster

Living in Boston, I feel like a complete loser at fancy restaurants because I don’t like seafood. “But the seafood in Boston is great!” says everyone. I know that, but I still don’t like it. I do eat some kinds of fish (I had a phase in childhood where I ate a lot of Orange Roughy, but I think I just liked the name), but only recently have I started liking shrimp and fried calamari. I studied in Spain in 2008 and was forced to eat lots of things that were completely unrecognizable because I was afraid of offending my host mother or the professor who took us out to a very fancy and very authentic seafood place. I tore apart a fish that had eyeballs and ripped meat off the spine with my fork. And to think only a few short years ago, I went to Red Lobster and ordered the Aztec Chicken. (Judge if you want, but the Aztec Chicken is really good.)

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