Archive for May, 2007

Dudley-Do-Wright: Mets Player & Pitcher of the Month for May

The second month of the season saw a return to form for the Mets young ballplayer all-around great David Wright. While in the totals (see below) he looks like he’s running away with the lead, it should be note that there’s an overall offensive slump on the squad. Still, this does not take away from young David’s achievement.

Congratulations to David Wright, Mets Player of the Month for May 2007

The Mets Pitcher of the Month and sixth overall point receiver is Oliver Perez, the young pitcher who is proving his success is not a fluke and appears to be a burgeoning ace.

Congratulations to Oliver Perez, may you receive many more Pitcher of the Month Awards

 

Here are the complete Player of the Game tallies for May:

Wright 30.5
Delgado 23
Beltran 20.5
LoDuca 20
Reyes 17
Perez 16.5
Chavez 14
Easley 14
Glavine 13
Green 12.5
Gotay 7.5
Heilman 6.5
Newhan 6.5
Smith 6.5
Sosa 6
Maine 5.5
Wagner 5.5
Hernandez 5
Feliciano 4.5
Schoeneweis 4
Alou 3.5
Franco 3.5
Burgos 3
Gomez 2.5
Mota 2.5
Castro 1.5
Johnson 1
Pelfrey 1

And a running total for the season through May 31:

Reyes 48.5
Wright 43.5
Beltran 42.5
Delgado 35
Green 34
LoDuca 26.5
Perez 26
Glavine 22.5
Alou 21.5
Chavez 19
Easley 18
Hernandez 18
Maine 17.5
Smith 14.25
Valentin 12
Heilman 10
Schoeneweis 10
Castro 8
Wagner 8
Franco 7.5
Gotay 7.5
Newhan 7.5
Feliciano 7.25
Sosa 6
Sele 5.5
Burgos 5
Gomez 2.5
Mota 2.5
Pelfrey 1.5
Johnson 1

Book Review: Practicing History: Selected Essays by Barbara W. Tuchman

Barbara Tuchman, historian and author of The Guns of August and A Distant Mirror, is a darn good writer.  Practicing History: Selected Essays (1981) collects articles and speeches from throughout her career with a focus on the art of writing history.

Tuchman has a lot to say about written history.  Defying the academics that call her a popular historian, she states that good history must be readable.  Tuchman adheres to a “don’t tell me, show me” principle as well by finding appropriate quotes and incidents that illustrate what a country may be feeling on the brink of war or a general’s attitude toward failure. Tuchman feels that a narrative must be constructed from the historical events.  This requires being selective as opposed to comprehensive to avoid overwhelming the writing with trivial details.  She particularly opposes efforts to quantify history or making it a science, the human being an unquantifiable variable.  She makes her biases known, because she believes it is better to reveal them than to pretend to be objective. Most importantly, one cannot begin a historical work with a thesis in mind.  The thesis is revealed through research and writing.

Tuchman believes strongly in using primary sources for her research, turning her nose up at the suggestion that good history must contain long lists of references to previous historians’ work.  Even if the primary sources are flawed — whether they be self-aggrandizing journals or surprisingly unobservant of great historical movement — they still reveal much about the people and their times. Building on the use of primary resources, Tuchman likes to travel to the places where the subject of her research took place, getting a feel for events from the landscape.

Like Wordsworth who described poetry as “emotion recollected in tranquility,” Tuchman believes that distance in time is necessary to good history.  Even a comprehensive historical account needs a cutoff date to avoid the errors that come from not having an historical perspective.  Perhaps that is why her essays on contemporary Israel read like chamber of commerce booster pieces.  That flaw aside, Tuchman’s commentary on current events in essays from the 1930’s-1970’s tend to be as insightful and well-written as her historical work.  Her prescient and accurate evaluation of the war in Vietnam is particularly well-done, and eerily appropriate to current events. She also has an interesting proposal to replace the President with a six-person council to balance out the corruption of executive privilege.

For anyone interested in writing history or just reading good history, I recommend this book.

Favorite Passages

“The writer of history, I believe, has a number of duties vis-à-vis the reader, if he wants to keep him reading. The first is to distill. He must do the preliminary work for the reader, assemble the information, make sense of it, select the essential, discard the irrelevant — above all, discard the irrelevant — and put the rest together so that it forms a developing dramatic narrative. Narrative, it has been said is the lifeblood of history. To offer a mass of undigested facts, of names not identified and places not located, is no use to the reader and is simple laziness on the part of the author, or pedantry to show how much he has read. To discard the unnecessary requires courage and also extra work . . . The historian is continually being beguiled down fascinating byways and sidetracks. But the art of writing — the test of the artists — is to resist the beguilement and cleave to the subject.” — From “In Search of History,” p. 17-18.

What he means, I suppose, it that past events cannot exist independently of the historian because without the historian we would know nothing about them; in short, that the unrecorded past is none other than our old friend, the tree in the primeval forest which fell where there was no one to hear the sound of the crash. If there was no ear, was there a sound.

I refuse to be frightened by that conundrum because it asks the wrong question. The point is not whether the fall of the tree made a noise but whether it made a mark on the forest. If it left a space that le in the sun on a hithero shade-grown species, or if it killed a dominant animal and shifted rule of the pack to one of different characteristics, or if it fell across the pat of animals and caused some small change in their habitual course from which larger changes followed, then the fall made history whether anyone heard it or not.

I therefore declare myself a firm believer in the ‘preposterous fallacy’ of historical facts existing independently of the historian.” — From “When Does History Happen?” p. 26.

Nothing that Wilson said about the danger to democracy could not have bee said all along. For that cause we could have gone to war six months or a year or two earlier, with incalculable effect on history. Except for the proof of hostility in the resumed submarine campaign and the Zimmerman telegram, our cause would have been as valid, but we would have been fighting a preventive war — to prevent a victory by German militarism with its potential danger to our way of life — not a war of no choice. Instead, we waited for the overt acts of hostility which brought the war to us.

The experience was repeated in World War II. Prior to Pearl Harbor the threat of Nazism to democracy and the evidence of Japanese hostility to us was sufficiently plain, on a policy level, to make a case for preventive war. But it was not that plain to the American people, and we did not fight until we were attacked.
In our our wars since then the assumption of responsibility for the direction, even the policing, of world affairs has been almost too eager — as eager as was formerly reluctant. In what our leaders believe to be a far-sighted apprehension of future danger, and before our own shore or tangible interests have been touched, we launch ourselves on military adventure half a world away with the result that the country, as distinct from the government, does not feel itself fighting in self-defense. . .

Two kinds of war, acquisitive and preventive, make hard explaining and the last more than the first. Although the first might be considered less moral, so far human experience abstract morality has not notably determined the conduct of states and a good, justifiable reason like need, or irredentism, or ‘manifest destiny,’ can always be found for taking territory . . . But it is never possible to prove a preventive war to have been necessary, for no one can ever tell what would have happened without it.” — From “How We Entered World War I,” p. 171.

“Basic to the conduct of foreign policy is that problem basic to all policy: how to apply wisdom to government. If wisdom in government eludes us, perhaps courage could substitute — the moral courage to terminate mistakes.” — From “If Mao Had Come to Washington,” p. 207.

“To me it is comforting rather than otherwise to feel that history is determined by the illogical human record and not by large immutable scientific laws beyond our power to deflect.

I know very little (a euphemism for ‘nothing’) about laboratory science, but I have the impression that conclusions are supposed to be logical; that is, from a given set of circumstances a predictable result should follow. The trouble is that in human behavior and history it is impossible to isolate or repeat a given set of circumstances. Complex human acts cannot be either reproduced or deliberately initiated — or counted upon like phenomena of nature. The sun comes up every day. Tides are so obedient to schedule that a timetable for them can be printed like that for trains, though more reliable. In fact, tides and trains sharply illustrate my point: One depends on the moon and is certain; the other depends on man and is uncertain.

In the absence of dependable recurring circumstance, too much confidence cannot be placed on the lessons of history.” — From “Is History a Guide to the Future?” p. 249.

“That is why the defunct principle that a nation should go to war only in self-defense is a sound one. That nation that abides by it will havea better case with its own citizens and certainly with history. No could misunderstand Pearl Harbor or have difficulty explaining or defining the need for a response. War which spends lives is too serious a business to do without definition. It requires definition — and declaration. No citizen, I believe, whether military or civilian, should be required to stake his life for what some uncertain men in Washington think is a good idea in gamesmanship or deterrence or containment or whatever is the governing idea of the moment.” — From “Generalship,” p. 284.

Boston By Foot Tour of the Month: Art Deco

In my spare time, I lead tours as a volunteer guide for the wonderful organization Boston By Foot. Right now I’m in my second year as co-chair for the Tour of the Month committee. I don’t actually lead these tours but coordinate everyone else involved from writing the tour manual, leading the tour to collecting admission fees and making sure the tourees don’t get lost.

Photos from the Art Deco Tour of the Month

I love the Tour of the Month because it gives our talented guides and researchers a chance to learn about the history and architecture off the beaten path in Boston. This season’s first Tour of the Month on Memorial Day weekend was no exception. If you asked me a year ago where to find Art Deco architecture in Boston, I’d tell you to go to New York or Chicago. But plenty of Art Deco structures are hiding in plain sight in Boston’s Financial District.

One of my favorites is the Batterymarch Building, now a Hilton hotel:

One doesn’t usually associate red brick with Art Deco architecture, but there are several brick Art Deco structures on this tour alone! Of course, brick is a standard building material in Boston, so the architects adapted brick to their own purposes.

Another stunning building is the New England Telephone Building on Post Office Square which includes this intricate detail work over the front door:

I never thought to go inside this building before, but it’s worth checking out. There is 360 degree mural over the lobby dedicated to the men and women who worked in the telephone industry. They’ve also reassembled Alexander Graham Bell’s laboratory into a nifty little museum with an audiovisual presentation.

The stepped, trapezoidal shape of the Second National Bank of Boston contains some of the most prominent Art Deco decoration in the city:

Of course I’ve passed the building hundreds of times without even noticing.

Check out more photos from the tour in my online gallery at Othemts.com.

The next Tour of the Month is of the Bulfinch Triangle on Sunday June 24 at 2pm, so come on out for a fun, educational experience.

Mets Week In Review: 21-27 May 2007

I’m way behind on Mets posts. This fourth week of may featured a disheartening Braves series followed by a more uplifting sweep of the Marlins. I suppose that if the Braves are the only team the Mets have trouble with, and the Braves lose while the Mets are playing other teams then it shouldn’t make too big a difference in clinching the NL East. Still, it would be nice if the Mets could win at Turner Field.

At least the Mets have found a Braves killer in Oliver Perez as pointed out by Greg at Faith & Fear in Flushing: Where Have You Been All Our Lives?

By the way, any time the Mets win, the Braves lose, and the Yankees lose all on the same day, it is a Triple Happiness. Unprecedented in recorded history, the Mets sweep of the Marlins began a stretch of four consecutive days of Triple Happiness. More on this astonishing feat at Mike’s Mets.

Players of the game (I award up to ten points, maximum of 6 points to one player, distributed among the Mets players who had the biggest impact in the game):

05/22/07 Atlanta 8, Mets 1

Beltran 1.5
Burgos 1
Green 1
LoDuca 1.5
Newhan .50
Reyes .50

5/23/07 Mets 3 Braves 0

Green .50
LoDuca 1.5
Perez 4.5
Smith 1.5
Wagner 1
Wright 1

05/24/07 Braves 2, Mets 1

Beltran 2.5
Delgado 1
Glavine 3.5
Heilman 1
LoDuca 1
Schoeneweis 1

05/25/07 Mets 6, Marlins 2

Beltran 1
Delgado 1.5
Easley 1
OHernandez 3
LoDuca 2
Reyes 1
Smith .50

05/26/07 Mets 7, Marlins 2

Beltran 1
Burgos .50
Chavez 2
Delgado 4
Maine 1.5
Wright 1

5/27/07: Mets 6, Marlins 4

Beltran 1
Easley 1
Franco 1
Newhan .50
Reyes 2
Smith .50
Sosa 2
Wright 2

This is why I love science

Not that I usually understand science, but I do appreciate that scientists are conducting research on deconstructing Twinkies and calculating pi by throwing frozen hot dogs.

Then there are these high-speed, slow-motion films of things getting smashed.

All wonderful ways to spend a holiday weekend.

Feeling Old Again

Star Wars* was released thirty years ago today. The movie is a cultural touchstone of my childhood and one that revolutionized cinematic special effects and the moviegoing experience (along with Jaws) creating the must-see blockbuster. Big movies don’t seem the same to me today probably because they are available on DVD & TV shortly after their cinematic release and even low-budget TV shows have decent special effects these days. That and I’m no longer a child and have become a curmudgeonly old man at the tender age of 33.

Anyhow, Star Wars was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theater, or at least the earliest movie I can remember. I saw the movie in the summer of 1977 with my father and sister at The Strand in Oak Bluffs, MA. I remember the seats that slide back & forth in the theater as well or better than seeing the movie itself. I’m also pretty sure that I fell asleep during the movie because I remember our heroes escaping from the trash compactor and in the very next scene they were getting medals. It wasn’t until years later when I saw Star Wars again on TV that I learned that a whole lot happened in-between those two scenes.

That didn’t stop me from loving the movie, looking forward longingly to the sequels, and playing with my Kenner action figures (making up new stories as I went along). The Star Wars empire has pretty devolved into a crass commercial venture and the prequels range from disappointing to downright bad, but there’s still a little kid in me that looks back longingly at the great movie that was Star Wars.


* Cranky Old Man Footnote: Yes, I call the movie Star Wars and I will continue to call it Star Wars no matter how much these geeky, pedantic whippersnappers insist on calling it Episode IV or A New Hope (or worse EIV and ANH). The movie was called Star Wars when it was released and people of my generation can distinguish it just fine without numbers or subtitles, thank you very much.

Great Online Tool for Walkers

Just a quick post to share the Gmaps Pedometer. Basically the creators of this tool have modified Google Maps so that one may draw a line on the map and measure distances for walks. Should be very handy for runners and bicyclists as well. Certainly a nice alternative to when I’ve tried to map a route online and have the mapping tool direct me to take an Interstate highway.

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