Reviews

Exhibit 1.9.2

New Story

 

summer-2014-cover

 

I’ve got a story in the summer issue of The Kenyon Review, and you can read the opening here. It’s mostly notable for being about a comedian (which I’m not). But the rest of the issue is great. Including a short credo by the great George Saunders. Pick up a copy maybe.

O, and I answered some questions about it (and other things) here.

Comment / Posted in Fiction, Journals, Reviews

Exhibit 1.4.24

Review of the Plains States’ Shapes

Look, I don’t want to get into a big thing here about what is and is not a Plains state. These are the Plains states as far as this exercise is concerned. Does it make any sense that Iowa is one but Minnesota isn’t? No, no it doesn’t. And what about Eastern Colorado? Well, since Colorado pretends there’s no Eastern Colorado, we will too. But what is Eastern Wyoming if not the Plains? Why it’s a desolate dust and despair factory we’d all be better off without.

So in no particular order:

Oklahoma


Okay, so Oklahoma is pretty cool looking. This brings us to our first and probably only real conclusion from this exercise: panhandles are cool. Unless they’re Florida’s. Then they’re the worst. But otherwise: cool.

Oklahoma also has the jagged lower edge which sort of makes it look like a whisky jug God broke and is using to fight off Texas. And by sort of I mean: this is happening.

South Dakota


The best thing about South Dakota is that little Minnesota tumor on the eastern border. I don’t think any of us would be surprised to wake up twenty years from now to look at a map and find the tumor had metastasized to cover most of the Black Hills.

I’m really not sure how in that metaphor Minnesota became cancer while South Dakota became an otherwise healthy body. There is nothing healthy about South Dakota except its appetite for the distasteful.

North Dakota


Or Kansas. Who the hell knows. Let’s just say that if this outline came up on a geography test, the answers would range from “Ontario” to “The capital of Oregon is Salem.”

Nebraska


I could talk about how Nebraska’s shape is the country’s best fusion of natural geography, history, and panhandle, but that would be to ignore that the greatest achievement of Nebraska’s shape is that it somehow connotes motion while the state itself remains stuck in 1938. And eastward motion at that.

I mean, it’s a great shape, but it sort of does look like the entire state is a 1992 Chevy Lumina minivan hoping to take a permanent vacation outside Virginia.

Kansas


Nope, wait, this is Kansas. You can tell because if you go east enough you find some personality.

(As a Western Kansan, even I’m offended).

I know a guy who has a tattoo of Kansas on one arm and a tattoo of Oklahoma on the other (presumably to let everyone know he hasn’t so much lived places as he has lost a fight against luck) and the tattoo of Oklahoma is instantly recognizable. The tattoo of Kansas, however, was a hand spasm away from being Colorado. My thought is, if you need to add tiny wheat fields and tornadoes and Judy Garland to make your tattoo recognizable, you were probably better off just getting Danny Manning’s face. Which, by the way, would make for an excellent state itself:I say, we carve out this shape in the middle of Kansas, give the rest of the land away, and tell the Missouri River we’re not going to pushed around by its whims anymore.

Iowa

This, actually, might just be Danny Manning’s face in profile. I don’t know. It’s just a good thing Kansas and Iowa don’t share a border because otherwise, we might have trouble. Danny Manning-related trouble.

Iowa is rightly proud of being the face in the Mississippi’s dumpy little person though as a child I always thought that person was probably Chef Boyardee. This didn’t dampen my enthusiasm any, just made me slightly disappointed when I moved to Iowa it wasn’t full of ravioli but fervent Ron Paul supporters.

Let’s face it though, Iowa is basically Ohio turned on its side and told to keep quiet unless it has something to say about John Wayne.

2 Comments / Posted in Plain Babies, Reviews, States

Exhibit 1.4.13

Stock Photography Review
Sadsack Businessmen

To honor Mathias Svalina’s I Am a Very Productive Entrepreneur–and at the long ago suggestion of one Jimmy Stockham–here are some some sadsack businessmen. But first, you should be sure to pick up Mathias’s book which is amazing and entrepreneurial and portable and here. I read it months ago and my favorites have stuck with me long after I should have been paying attention to other things like teaching or writing or whatever it is I do.

“Things are going to get better, Robert, things are going to get better. You’ve got French cuffs and this is going to be okay.”

“Makeup can make my cheeks shine, my lips pop, and my hair porcupine, but it can’t make Vanessa come back.”

“Why did I start a private architecture library? Nobody went to the one at school and nobody is going to this one either. I don’t even know what an architecture library is.”

“When they find me, I’ll have to say something cute like ‘I’ve got motherboard issues.’ Not the truth, not yet.”

“More like a notary sad.”

“When there was only one set of footprints, it was because I was claiming you as a dependent.”

“Dress for the job you want, they said, but I’m still here at the front desk and no closer to that handjob.”

“Hey, Cindy. Cindy! Are you having emotions?”

“Okay, keep it together. She might still want to buy the steak knives. What was her name? Vanessa something?”

“I hope it’s a nice day outside and not one of those this-hellish-white-landscape-is-a-metaphor-for-how-I’m-dying-inside days. O, goddamnit.”

“Every year I find a way to ruin the company Christmas party, and firing everyone to hire Prince to perform may have been the best way yet.”

“Stay calm, Robert, this is happening. We always knew it would. O God. Think of the cuffs.”

Bonus! Submit your own caption for this one in the comments:


And don’t forget to buy Mathias’s book at SPD.

4 Comments / Posted in Business, Reviews, Stock Photography

Exhibit 1.1.1

Stock Photography Review

So, in honor of this blog’s arbitrary system of numbering rolling over, I thought I’d post some stock photography from the Huffington Post, a great site to find this kind of nonsense. These are two I grabbed just now from the front page.


I love this one just because this photo could be used more logically for dozens of other headlines. Among them:

1) “Local Face Goes All M.C. Escher”
2) “Sexting. Time to Talk to Your Friends about It?”
3) “Listen Closely–Yes, That Close”
4) “25 Family Secrets (PHOTOS)”
5) “Are You Getting Good Advice about Your Sideburns?”

Apparently we’re supposed to think this is how insider trading happens, but I’d prefer to think this is actually how federal investigations happen. Like one long game of Telephone where the last agent just shrugs and says, “Martha Stewart? Well, okay.”

Guy in photo: So I’m the struggling American office worker, right?
Photographer: O, yeah, totally.
Guy: Because my Outlook’s open here and this Word document.
Photographer: Definitely, definitely.
Guy: I just don’t want it to be used for anything creepy.
Photographer: Let’s try one where you’re licking the screen.
Guy: Right! Because I’m hungry for a living wage!

2 Comments / Posted in Marthas, Reviews, Stock Photography

Exhibit 27.20

Film Criticism

My review of the Swedish adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo:

My review of the Swedish adaptation of The Girl Who Played With Fire:

Look, all I’m saying is there might be better languages to use when having conversations about terrible crimes.

It’s cool, I can say this because I’m sure it’s true.

Comment / Posted in Movies, Reviews, Tattoos

Exhibit 24.1

Reading List Review

Shakespeare’s Histories and Comedies
The Tempest (Oxford)
Measure for Measure (Bedford)
Merchant of Venice (Cambridge’s Shakespeare in Production)
The Taming of the Shrew (Norton)
Richard II (Cambridge)
1 Henry IV (Arden)

Nearly perfect though I could do without Shrew and maybe even Measure given the fact that we are only doing six plays. One more history wouldn’t kill us though I guess my choice, Henry V, would make the entire thing a little too Bolingbroke heavy. In any case, I think it’s a nice list given the course’s emphasis on critical editions of the plays which, although it might sound shallow, has been great. The comedies especially take advantage of this as, with the possible exception of Shrew, they don’t neatly fit with the conventions of the genre.

Overall verdict: excited.
Comment / Posted in Reviews, School, Wills

Exhibit 23.1

The Road

I don’t have much to say about the book. It’s good. Great, even. You’ve probably read it. It’s the one where a guy and his kid wander around apres apocalypse and do things Oprah likes (which is weird because if there’s one thing The Road makes clear it’s that chicks can’t handle the end of the world). The prose isn’t as stylized as some of McCarthy’s other work but it’s still incredible, capable of making a 270 page book where not much happens seem tight and fraught and inexhaustibly sad.

The movie, however, is interesting insomuch as it follows the book perfectly, is beautifully imagined, and adds absolutely nothing to the world. All of that makes it fairly hard to hate or even dislike. If anything, I suppose I might even say I liked the movie in terms of it having done exactly what I would have wanted the movie to do. Unfortunately, what I wanted it to do was something profoundly boring, a kind of failure of my own imagination in wanting only ashy skies and leering marauders. Of course, the book had already given me those images only now I got to see what they would look like with Aragorn in the frame and Cheetos product placements. I got to have the old man turned from something strange and intellectually menacing to Robert Duvall, America’s favorite wily grandfather.

There’s a lot of complaining about any film adaptation of a novel but rarely is the complaint that it follows the book too closely. And I’m not even sure if that’s what happened here. No Country for Old Men seemed to treat its source material with similar reverence yet the end result seemed to please everyone. Perhaps it’s because that book was supposedly a screenplay before it was a novel before it was a screenplay. Perhaps it’s because the Coen brothers are better filmmakers. Perhaps there was just more to work with than the sparse, empty world of The Road. In any case, the problem here is not that there is a movie of The Road but that I wanted to see it. And I wanted to see it exactly as how I saw it when reading the book. Then I did see it and it was skillful but empty. Worse, I will now always see it that way. That old guy is forever Harry Hogge.

Maybe I’ve been grading too much, but hours after leaving the theater I wished I had some physical representation of the movie so I could write “Why do you want this to exist?” on it.

Comment / Posted in Fiction, Movies, Reviews

Exhibit 22.3


Bird Eating Bird

Today’s post leans toward the poetry side of this blog’s stock photography/dog pictures/gross food/sports/poetry theme. I have plenty more to say about street signs, but that will all have to come later. Naca’s book is simply one that you shouldn’t wait to read.

A National Poetry Series winner, these poems lend themselves to a variety of readings but for me it’s a book of distance. The poems here span the globe and cross languages and what makes it such a touching experience to read is that in all the traveling there never seems to be a home here, something that becomes clear long before the book’s center section “House” which agency to the object itself (the house, naturally, chooses to wander). Instead it’s a book of vagabond poems, poems that speak in different tongues and argue with each other, poems that seem anxious when forced to settle for even a moment. From “One Foot”:

Each footstep, I mill bones to chalk.
Then, sink in soot wherever I stand.
I dream I give up my cane and walk.

But it’s not a sad book, not exactly. The disconnection that gives the book a sense of longing gets used just as often for humor. A grandmother struggling with the ‘h’ in English cries, “My art, my art!” A girl receives junk mail offering her a ‘chance’ to become Miss USA. The house argues its own pronunciation. These same failings of language, half understandings and tortured vocalizations, can be as universal as they are isolating when with a guide and a funny poem like “Grocery Shopping with My Girlfriend Who Is Not Asian” sees itself undone by a poem like “Uses for Spanish in Pittsburgh” which loses any Virgils. It ends:

And then, if I choose to speak like this
who will listen?

The book travels to answer this question from Pittsburgh to Mexico City, from the present to the past, from English to Spanish and back again. It’s an impressive journey across great distances done with a remarkable amount of care.

Get here

Comment / Posted in Kristins, Poetry, Reviews

Exhibit 21.24


Scary, No Scary

Zachary Schomburg’s new book begins with a choice between scary and no scary. Wisely, it advises you to choose no scary, but it’s an empty question. There is only scary here–scary jaguars, scary wolves, scary spiders, scary wolf spiders, scary black holes. And so it’s easy to say this is a book about fear, about a darkness in the world we recognize in our youth and, most of us, forget as we grow. Take the poem, “The Old Man Who Watches Me Sleep,” which ends:

If you have a soul
it may have been put in there backward.

There’s something so innocent in that “there.” After expressing uncertainty about the existence of the soul, the narrator accepts it as something physical with an intended space and, as a result, something malleable, something corruptible, something to be inserted, possibly incorrectly. Just like the old man who has wings coming from his chest rather than his back (“a mistake”), the easy readings here are warped by wonder. The old man is not an angel, he’s something else entirely, something terrifying not only because of his presence but because of what his flaws mean about the uncertainty in the world he shares with the narrator. This, then, is a fear that rises from imperfect comprehension and incomplete metaphors, the world as a cipher, its symbols dark.

Outside of a poem titled “This Is What You Need to Know about the World, Pretend Son,” the book pushes furthest in this direction during a section titled “The Histories,” an escalating series of short poems which sever understanding. Here’s “The Floor Age”:

The chandelier crashes.
There is no chandelier.

There is, of course, also something child-like in this sort of a game which seems to push into those dark places of the world to see how close one will allow themselves to get (like a child keeping a flashlight off for the rush of fear until they just can’t take the darkness). But the poems here create a beautiful, haunting world out of this fear and, ultimately, build toward a final long poem, “The Pond,” where the world is all the more scary seen through mature eyes. Our comprehension has never been made perfect nor our metaphors complete. We may not be afraid of darkness, but that does not mean we are not afraid of what we’ve become:

I haven’t done everything I’ve wanted.
I haven’t made one of those Viking ships
with a dragon the bow.
I haven’t raided Europe.

It’s a very different sort of fear, but, I think, equally capable of creating the horrors of the world here as ultimately these gaps in language and meaning are what give rise to imagination. And good lord is there imagination here. It’s a funny, brilliant book about how we can’t choose no scary. Ever.

From Black Ocean

Comment / Posted in Poetry, Reviews, Viking Ships

Exhibit 21.4

A Review of My Apartment Building

It’s good, I think, but I wish they had told me the location of the trash bins so I didn’t have to peer through my blinds hoping to spot a neighbor carrying a white Hefty bag. Because if I ever see such a neighbor I’m going to have to quickly grab my own white Hefty bag and follow them to wherever the trash bins are. Then I’ll have to pretend like it’s just a coincidence that I’m going to the trash bins at the same time. This will require me to make casual, walking-to-the-trash-bin conversation.

Neighbor: Hey, did you just move in?
Me: Yes, sir.
Neighbor: Cool, cool. How’s it going?
Me: I know where the trash bin is.
Neighbor: Great, so you won’t mind giving the password to the minotaur then?
Minotaur: Aaaargh!
Me: Skittles?
Neighbor: Awesome, I’m having a barbeque later.

Also, I’m sort of curious about how the UPS/USPS/FedEx people are getting through the gate. Do they all have keys? And, if so, is that complicated with all of the other buildings they have to go into? Does the minotaur let them in? I think about this as I wait for someone to take out their trash.

Furthermore, I find the choice of having sparkly, stenciled art on one of the building walls to undermine the otherwise self-conscious industrial-age penal features–exposed brick, cement floors, iron gate–which make the rest of the building a modern day workhouse with, ultimately, the gate holding us in rather than them out. These nods to an industrial-penal system acknowledges us, the tenant/prisoners, as holders of disciplinary careers who will continue to propagate the system which punishes us unawares.

Or at least that’s what the building would say if someone hadn’t spray painted a sparkly dragonfly on the wall.

I call him Henry.

1 Comment / Posted in Apartment, Henry, Reviews

Exhibit 19.15

Stock Photography Review

There have been or will be a lot of birthdays among some of the most important people in my life this month. My sister Kaitlin’s birthday was June 1st. My brother Jeff’s birthday is June 16th. Lincoln Saltdogs pitcher David Humen’s birthday was June 11th. Happy birthday, everyone. Especially you, David. You most of all.

In honor of the siblings (and, more importantly, some other guy) here’s some birthday-related stock photography.


I don’t really have anything to say here other than that I initially thought those were giant Mike and Ike’s which sent me to the Just Born company website to see if they also made giant Hot Tamales. Then I started looking at the Peeps and, well, it’s now dark out, I’ve got a day’s worth of stubble, and at some point in the last 18 hours I tried to send a text message to my parents’ home phone asking if I could borrow $1,800 in order to develop a gallon-size Hot Tamale mold.

This is better than the last time I looked at the Just Born company’s website when I woke up in the geographic center of the United States with an empty bag of Jet-Puffed marshmallows, a sticky pocket knife, and an army of poorly whittled marshmallow bunnies replicating Khalid ibn al-Walid’s famous flanking maneuver.

So I guess what I’m saying is, good luck, kid.


In most cultures, gifts are given by ascending height in a precisely ordered queue so as to increase the family’s odds of being used in an AT&T billboard campaign.


Which birthday is the whipped-cream birthday again? Oh, right, the last one.


Look, I know the kid is bummed because she only got half-inflated balloons and wilting flowers for her birthday, but the fact that they ordered a frowning cake leads me to believe this wasn’t totally unexpected.


Why doesn’t anyone like Julia?


Maybe it’s because she’s always changing clothes and eating flaming candles when we’re not looking. In fact, I’d say that’s exactly why we don’t like Julia. But it’s not why we hate her. No, that’s something only she knows.


Since this came up on a search for birthday, I can only assume this kid was born on December 25th. Hey, so was this guy:


Stock Photography Jesus is my favorite Jesus. All you need is a tanned white guy with a beard, a ghost costume with some rope tied around the middle, and access to an old stable.


This isn’t birthday related, but Stock Photography Jésus the Québécoise Gangster is my favorite Jésus the Québécoise Gangster.


See, I hate that. That takes all the fun out of guessing which box is the one crying.

It’s like how at your wedding I’m going to get you something from Crate & Barrel and you’re going to know it because of their boxes. Except this time it’s a baby rather than whatever is exactly $65 on your registry. I’m just going to stop typing now.


(still not typing)


Jésus the Québécoise Gangster had forgotten he’d planned the kidnapping on the same day as his birthday. I’ve just been working so hard it completely slipped my mind. It’s not easy to time an explosion at the stroke of midnight to distract the guards. Who has time to plan a soirée and an underhanded seduction? Besides, who would I invite, François the getaway driver? I don’t think so, he explained to the judge’s daughter. Do you think my son will remember to call?


I don’t know what’s going on with these two. They make Julia seem well-adjusted. Maybe we should set her up with blue-shirt guy.

1 Comment / Posted in Birthdays, Reviews, Stock Photography

Exhibit 19.14

Old Pictures of My Friend Ryan Review Summer Blockbusters

Up
1 Comment / Posted in Movies, Reviews, Ryans

Exhibit 19.6

Old Pictures of My Friend Ryan Review Summer Blockbusters

Terminator Salvation
Comment / Posted in Movies, Reviews, Ryans

Exhibit 18.23

Old Pictures of My Friend Ryan Review Summer Blockbusters

Star Trek
1 Comment / Posted in Movies, Reviews, Ryans

Exhibit 18.19

Old Pictures of My Friend Ryan Review Summer Blockbusters

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Comment / Posted in Movies, Reviews, Ryans

Exhibit 15.21

Things

* The Omaha-area radio show my brother and his friends do (and that I mentioned here) is now available in podcast form here. Understandably, as it was their first show, it gets off to a rocky start but then they turn my brother’s mic off and everything is okay until they turn it back on again. There’s some great stuff on using public money to build a stadium. Here’s a summary: don’t.

* I don’t think I have yet linked to The Home Video Review of Books. If you find my own book reviews pedestrian and unenlightening, you’ll like it. This review of Craig Santos Perez’s from Unincorporated Territory is my favorite:

I just like how it ends with the camera distracted by the bikers. If I were to review this review, I’d give it thumbs. If I were to review this review of this review, I’d do so in the New York Review of Books next to a caricature of John Updike.

1 Comment / Posted in Radio, Reviews, Updikes

Exhibit 14.7

So Zadie Smith wrote about the future of the novel in The New York Review of Books and one of the novels she sees as being along one of two diverging “paths” for the novel is Tom McCarthy’s Remainder (which I wrote about here). The other novel is Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, a book I feel like I have read a million glowing reviews of without once feeling even the slightest inkling to actually pick up. Smith helpfully explains why I might be such a case by setting up Netherland as the evolution of “lyrical Realism” whereas Remainder (a book I ordered the moment I first heard of it) is its antithesis, a book Smith associates with the avant garde (though I don’t think she ever gives this path a proper, oddly capitalized label). As a reader, like Smith seems to be, whose sympathies lie somewhere on the avant garde side of center (which really means I side with what’s innovative above all), it’s not shocking that O’Neill’s book doesn’t interest me while McCarthy’s I found immediately gripping.

(Although I have to say I’ve been a little taken aback by just how big Remainder seems to be getting recently. Not that it’s undeserving. Not at all, in fact. I just wouldn’t have pegged it as a book to capture the imagination of so many writers who seem to universally see it as a Very Important Book. Smith’s essay gives her reasons but I remain a little incredulous).

The entire essay is quite the read in exactly the exhaustive way you’d expect from The New York Review of Books (in other words, I no longer need to read O’Neill’s book or possibly any book ever again), but it’s worth it. I mostly agree with J. Robert Lennon’s take here which is that the Smith’s piece fundamental flaw is positioning the two books as opposites and absolutes. She does this in her opening and then spends most of the essay purposefully disproving (or accidentally ignoring) this premise.

At one point she writes:

When it comes to literary careers, it’s true: the pitch is queered. The literary economy sets up its stall on the road that leads to Netherland, alongwhich one might wave to Jane Austen, George Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Richard Yates, Saul Bellow. Rarely has it been less aware (or less interested) in seeing what’s new on the route to Remainder, that skewed side road where we greet Georges Perec, Clarice Lispector, Maurice Blanchot, William Burroughs, J.G. Ballard. Friction, fear, and outright hatred spring up often between these two traditions—yet they have revealing points of connection. At their crossroads we find extraordinary writers claimed by both sides: Melville, Conrad, Kafka, Beckett, Joyce, Nabokov. For though manifestos feed on rupture, artworks themselves bear the trace of their own continuity.

How then these ideas of the novel are in competition in an artistic sense (as opposed to a commercial sense) is a little unclear though I suppose it hearkens back to Smith’s opening which suggests that while in healthy times literature gets multiple paths but in the unhealthy present we get but the one blocked by the Balzac-like realism of Netherland. I don’t know what to say about this other than I don’t think it’s true or even nearly true. If anything, it’s only becoming less true as traditional publishers struggle and small presses, the Internet, and other alternative venues pick up the slack.

That said, it really is a remarkable essay and I don’t mean to suggest that Smith doesn’t do well by her own premise. It’s an interesting autopsy of two very different books, but it does assume an either/or that I don’t necessarily buy into no matter how well written the argument (or how much smarter the argument’s author is than me).

Smith also sees the end of postmodernism in her most bomb-throwing of paragraphs:

Yet despite these theoretical assaults, the American metafiction that stood inopposition to Realism has been relegated to a safe corner of literary history,to be studied in postmodernity modules, and dismissed, by our most famous publiccritics, as a fascinating failure, intellectual brinkmanship that lacked heart. Barth, Barthelme, Pynchon, Gaddis, DeLillo, David Foster Wallace—all misguided ideologists, the novelist equivalents of the socialists in Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man. In this version of our literary history, the last man standing is the Balzac-Flaubert model, on the evidence of its extraordinary persistence. But the critiques persist, too. Is it really the closest model we have to our condition? Or simply the bedtime story that comforts us most?

This, I think, is more true and a much more compelling argument. That said, I don’t think what Smith calls postmodernism is dead or necessarily even close to it (especially since I, for one, have a hard time seeing how Remainder is any less postmodern than the average DeLillo book). I like Lennon’s idea of acknowledging that what we call postmodernism is something simply inherent to narratives or our understanding of them and so a book like Remainder (or, say, The Raw Shark Texts) can be both referentially postmodern without being measured for its coffin.

Whatever the case, I think Smith’s right to say quite a good deal of literature (if not the best literature) comes from somewhere in between her two poles and, healthy world or no, I don’t see any reason why we have to choose.

Comment / Posted in Books, Fiction, Reviews

Exhibit 14.3

The Cupboard’s first volume, Parables & Lies by Jesse Ball, was recently reviewed on NewPages.com here.

So, you know, order it already. But only if you want to.

Thank you.

Comment / Posted in Reviews, Thank You, The Cupboard

Exhibit 12.23

Royals Season Review

2008 Kansas City Royals
75-87
4th Place!

It seems like just yesterday that I wrote my The Sound and the Fury-inspired Royals Season Preview but just as the leaves have begun to return to the Earth so too have the Royals begun to return their McMansions in Overland Park. Some will forget what it is they’ve done all summer. Some will eat a lot of buffalo wings. Some will follow in the family tradition of wearing their uniform all winter while cruising around Santo Domingo. Some will never return. None of will ever forget.

In case you haven’t been following along, the Royals went on a tear in September and redeemed their season in a matter of weeks. Not only did they prove themselves to be better than some truly awful teams (Oakland, Seattle), they also stood apart from the quitters (Detroit) and held their own against the class of the league (Minnesota). It was inspiring to say the least, almost enough to make me wish I hadn’t been bad mouthing the team after their horrific August. Here, to make amends I updated the chart I made then:

That’s right, the Royals crept into Hector Elizondo territory. Maybe not Necessary Roughness Hector Elizondo territory but certainly Beverly Hills Cop III. I’ll take it. Here’s their record by month:

March/April: 12-15
May: 10-19
June: 16-11
July: 12-13
August: 7-20
September: 18-8

(If it doesn’t match exactly with the chart, it’s mostly because I’m bad at charts. As evidence: I accidentally put a peak between May and June instead of June and July. I’ll understand if this means you don’t anything I have to say about the election seriously).

Obviously it’s a silly thing to drop entire months of the season in one’s analysis, but I will say that there are some positive signs in those positive months. If nothing else, this team was capable of playing pennant race-caliber ball at times as opposed to just being consistently awful as in seasons past. Think of it in terms of movies. Since the mirage season of 2003, this team has been like McG (by which I mean only capable of producing relentlessly awful suck). This season, I think we can optimistically say this team was more like Michael Cimino. Sure, there was a lot of sadness and flailing, but there was also at least one period of glory. In that sense, it was a marked improvement much greater than the six games over last season would indicate.

And 4th place is nothing to sneeze at either. I, for one, was stupid happy when the Tigers lost yesterday to grab last place for themselves.

Positives
Mike Aviles – This year: He’s very, very good. Like, one of the best short stops in the game good. Next year: We’ll see. He’ll decline, surely, but the question is how much.

Greinke, Meche, Davies – That’s three pitchers out of a five man rotation. Davies might not ever be this good again, but he’s a #5 at least.

Alex Gordon and Billy Butler – On the whole their seasons were slightly disappointing (if only because neither had an Evan Longoria-like explosion) but both ended the season very well and seem to be on the cusp of breaking out.

Dayton Moore – Still seems to know what he’s doing. Still named Dayton. I like that.

David DeJesus – Had the best season of his career and would be a key component of a winning team if the Royals weren’t dead set on keeping him out of CF. I’d hate to see him go, but he might be the best trading chip the Royals have.

Soria – The Mexicutioner.

The rest of bullpen – Seems like this is pretty much settled.

Negatives
Tony Pena Jr. – Thanks for playing, Tony! Seems like a great guy, but so does my upstairs neighbor, and I don’t want either one starting in the majors (or playing loud Evanescence).

Jose Guillen – So he wasn’t bad and I do it’s his desire to win that makes him an insufferable prick. That’s an admirable quality if harnessed. If it causes you to attack chubby Midwesterners jawing at you? Uh, not so much.

Trey Hillman – You know how sometimes you’re really excited to read a book/listen to an album/see a movie and then you do it and about halfway through you want to throw the book/go back to listening to Lyle Lovett/walk into Tropic Thunder on the way back from the bathroom to see what that’s all about/fire your manager? Let’s just say I’m getting worried.

Ross Gload – I like him on a good team. Just the second we’ve got one I’ll pull him out of whatever independent league team he’s playing for at age 52 and make him the second bat off the bench.

Brian Bannister – I still think he bounces back to being average in the A.L. and a little better should he get his shot in the N.L.

Somewhere in the Middle
Mark Teahen/John Buck/Alberto Callaspo/Miguel Olivo/Ryan Shealy – These are all the question marks on next year’s team and some, if not most, won’t be back. I think Teahen is becoming a rich man’s Ross Gload if he doesn’t put it all together, Buck is playing himself into backup duty, Callaspo can hit for average and take a walk but doesn’t project to any position other than second and the Royals don’t seem to like his defense, Olivo can only hit straight left-handed fastballs, and Shealy was great during his callup but is 29 with the body-type of an oak tree and an equal amount of agility.

My winter game plan is simple: Find a power hitting corner OF and make DeJesus the everyday CF with Maier/Gathright backing him up. If you absolutely must have DeJesus in LF then target a young, toolsy CF in a trade (Bannister? Davies? Rosa?). In either case, make Teahen a supersub with the understanding that he plays 1B if Shealy can’t handle it and Kila isn’t ready to move up from Omaha. He’ll get his at bats one way or the other. Aviles can stick at short as can Callaspo at 2B. The pitching staff is pretty much set, but add one reliable bullpen arm and, if a starter gets dealt and none come back, target a #4 type. Keep Buck for one more year.

No matter what, no deals over 3 years, no dealing Greinke, and no turning down reasonable trade offers for Jose Guillen.

2 Comments / Posted in 4th, Reviews, Sports

Exhibit 10.27

So Heather has started to review things on Yelp–you can see her reviews here–which I think is really fascinating and strange and scary. Apparently this started when some previously unknown archnemesis posted a negative review of a treasured family dining spot which she felt the need to defend.

(This, incidentally, is how I feel when reading this review of the Sands Motor Inn in North Platte. Two stars? Oh, you’re on my list Kristopher R. If you weren’t some lone warrior pointlessly trying to establish a Yelp outpost in North Platte circa 2006, I’d show you up by giving that nonexistent restaurant at least four stars just to balance out the universe.)

Anyway, it’s a short fall from defending restaurants to laboring over just how many stars to give to the mediocre Thai place where we eat. It’s fun to have conversations like this:

Heather: What if they read it?
Adam: Yelp in Lincoln seems to be you and one other person.
Heather: I hate that person so much.
Adam:
Heather: Three stars.
Adam:
Heather: Two stars.
Adam:
Heather: No, three stars.

The correct answer is two stars.

2 Comments / Posted in North Platte, Reviews, Two