Yankee Stadium flotsam and jetstream

Re: Homers by Bengie Molina and Josh Hamilton in Game 4 (addendum, 11:59 p.m.: and, another by Hamilton and one by Nelson Cruz);
To: Monstrous New Yankee Stadium boosters: When you build a bandbox with the dimensions of a Little League field, don’t groan when your opponents also sock multiple home runs to put a dagger in your hearts. You can’t move the fences out at the top of every inning.

Update, 11:07 p.m.: Was that Nite Owl (who also had the affair with the heavenly Kate Winslet in Little Children) singing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch?

Mad Men musings on creativity as a commodity

Among the meticulous historical details, brilliantly gripping story lines, and the spot-on commentary on America then and now, Matthew Weiner’s 1960s-set Mad Men is really a paean to the age-old battle of creativity vs. business, and how those concepts sometimes fit, sometimes don’t in America, yes, then and now.

Obviously, if you enjoy eating and having a roof over your head, you can write and paint as much as you like, but you still need to turn the heat on in the winter.

Still, the lament is that creativity always seems to still get the short shrift — even when creativity is what you are selling — often by devaluing the workers who produce it (through low salaries, under-staffing, or merely a general lack of creative freedom).

Don Draper, the ad man who keeps his firm in business through his much-sought-after creativity, is a proxy for the artist whose work is bought and sold, but whose creativity derives its business value through bringing in money. It’s not art for art’s sake, a point obviously made clear in that he’s in advertising, and not a starving artist. But he is an artist nonetheless, and though not a poet or painter, it’s a point worth noting.

“I want to work,” Don says in last year’s season finale, as he learns his firm is being sold to a larger corporation with even larger eyes on the bottom line (and, presumably, less on the creative aspects of the finished product, except, again, as a commodity). I commented on nymag.com‘s recap of the finale, and I wondered if that episode, and the entire series for that matter, expressed Weiner’s feelings about creative workers, including writers like himself. Don wants to create something — yes, a new firm, but he also wants to create new ads. It’s how he gains his self-meaning in the world. It brings him material gains, and it brought him a wife, kids, and house with a white picket fence — all those things that people expect to see. Don wants the freedom to create ads, and running his own agency will bring that as he railed (in that finale) about accountants wanting to turn a dollar into $1.10.

As much as it is about social change 45 years ago, Weiner’s show is as much about the search for creative freedom (for himself personally as a television writer and creator, but also for all creative types at large). But without being able to turn that $1 into $1.10, Don would be without his own firm and lose that creative freedom he so needs. Mad Men portrays that duality, nicely in a 1965 skin.

Tonight, in this season’s penultimate episode, as they further learn of the dire financial straits their new firm is in, Peggy asks Don, what are they going to do?

“We’re going to sit at our desks and keep typing while the walls fall down around us, because we’re creative — the least important most important thing there is.”

It’s not a new question: is creativity merely another commodity? Holding a mirror to society to reflect back what you see — it may give viewers greater understanding of the world, but how do you support a family on that? Don’s ex-fling Midge makes a guest appearance in this episode as a struggling artist and heroin addict — does her art have value to her beyond its ability to bring her money to further fuel her habit? Or does it inspire Don to continue the strategy laid out for him in the first episode of this season — to promote and sell himself (and his agency) in order to have creative freedom? Is that inspiration worth the $120 (in 1965 dollars) Don pays for it? Should we even put a dollar amount on it? But isn’t that what you do if you graduate college with a degree in English, Fine Art, Drama, and so on? If your degree can’t help you get a job (and thus earn money), is such a degree valuable merely through its intrinsic value?

Perhaps it is the least important most important thing there is. How do you eat off of that, and is it crass to even ask the question? Or is linking the two concepts mutually necessary?

Perfect drink; Near Perfect Game?

After a session of unbelievably unproductive writing/blogging last night, I stopped in at my neighborhood upscale bar and had perhaps the worst Old Fashioned I ever paid $7.50 for. Chilled water (a lot of it) dispensed from a shaker into what looked like a martini glass without the stem. No ice. Some muddled fruit in the bottom of the glass. I think there was a drop of bourbon. Maybe it was rye. It was hard to tell through the shaken, chilled liquid leftover from a Delmonte mixed fruit cup that I was sipping.

Whenever I order one of these and the bartender says “sure,” and then I see two bartenders huddled over their black-covered drinks book, I know I’m in trouble. It’s only one of the six basic drinks in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. I want to flag them down and replace my order with a Budweiser, or anything other than what they are about to attempt to pour, really.

So tonight, before a night of somewhat more productive writing/blogging (well, at least piling up my “drafts” folder), I stopped in another upscale bar (more of a restaurant, really) in a different but nearby neighborhood, and had perhaps the best Old Fashioned I ever had in a bar before. For $5.50. The bottom of the glass wasn’t a mashed fruit cocktail (a split cherry and a bare sliver of orange, which is how it should be — not, God forbid, a giant orange wedge). Good proportion of ice. Served in an Old Fashioned glass (the glass, after all, is named after the drink, something they perhaps missed in Pub No. 1; or maybe it’s me). Choice of bourbon (I went for Knob Creek), with just the right amount of booze to walk you up to the edge of putting you on your ass, but not over. Perfect. Don Draper would be pleased.

Of course, naturally, there was no TV, which I prefer in my bars, generally (not because I don’t like TVs, just that they normally show the worst thing they can find at the time, namely a Yankee or college football game, or the local 24-hour news channel, typically headlined by cat-stuck-in-tree stories, but I’m digressing). So of course I missed the end of Roy Halladay throwing only the second no-hitter in post-season history. But as a recently minted Mets fan, that would’ve been salt in the wound (though I always liked Halladay with the Blue Jays), and I was enjoying my drink. So I had that going for me. Which was nice.

Cheering for baseball

It’s been a long time, maybe 25 years, to be honest, since I cared this much about baseball, since I followed every single game of one team. Why else would I listen to an afternoon game on a transistor radio in my office on the Friday before Labor Day for a sub-.500 team 12½ games out of first place?

Why else would making a pilgrimage to a stadium make me as giddy as a 10-year-old (and as disappointed as a petulant child when an earlier trip was canceled)?

It’s baseball.

The Mets pennant may be over, but that hardly diminishes my enthusiasm for my adopted team. Perhaps it’s the relative newness of following a National League club. Perhaps it’s still the early stages of a love affair, where everything bad is viewed through rose-colored glasses and notice only the good. Either way, I’m going to be sad when the Mets season ends in a month.

3-year-old poop. By the numbers.

Still on our Vermont trip and only one deer down. Here’s some random stuff Icepick Junior, age 3, said.

To me and Mrs. Icepick, in a roomful of lunchtime patrons in a diner: “I need to go to the bathroom. I have to poop!”

So pleased with the diner experience, Junior pretended to be a waiter later that evening, complete with a pad and red pen. Upon taking down someone’s “order” of a hamburger with lettuce: “We don’t have any lettuce. We only have numbers.”

Death in the pre-afternoon

My own Black Friday tragedy didn’t include the trampling of a 270-pound temporary worker at a Long Island Wal-Mart, or the more pedestrian fist-fights among shoppers looking for a $10 DVD player or whatever. Shit, I didn’t even need to heed Gawker’s advice. Instead, it included the mauling of a female deer on a winding rural road in the wilds of Vermont as we celebrated our New England country Thanksgiving with relatives and friends. But what the hell, I got two pair of khakis and a pair of dungarees at Old Navy. So I got that going for me. Which is nice.

On our way to partake in the annual American retail orgy that is the day after Thanksgiving, I hit a deer with our Pontiac station wagon. Mrs. Icepick and Icepick Junior, passengers in the car, were fine — Junior, blissfully unaware of the deer now convulsing eight feet in front of our car, asked, “Why did that kitty run in front of the car?” before falling asleep for his afternoon nap.

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We have met the enemy, and we are the Me Generation

I’ve been thinking about Sunday’s excellent post on Whiskey Fire about the nature of and trend toward violence and individualism and the American psyche. A lot of people hearken back to The Founders, whether they’re justifying their latest wingnut tea party or just generally popping off about American ruggedness and enterprise. And ruggedness and enterprise are good things, they really are. But Jake T. Snake’s closing comments about our focus on the American individual spirit, rather than the communal spirit, go back as far as cowboy movies, but they truly don’t go back to the Founders. Seems like you can’t espouse a point of view about working for the common good of society and helping your fellow citizen without getting labeled as a socialist, or worse.

But the Founders, for all their focus on freeing themselves from British tyrany and fighting for their right to self-determination, decidedly came down on the side of working for the common good. What the hell is a successful Revolution is you’re going it alone? The spirit of Civic Life was what motivated the Founders, to a point where they scarcely mentioned it, since it was such an obvious and ingrained factet of their lives. It was so ingrained, I’d argue, that they perhaps overcompensated (to our jaundiced, hindsighted eyes) by focusing on the individual.

Even the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, is written in the spirit of community and the protection of society, rather than of the individual. The amendment begins: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” says what it says. The right says nothing about protecting oneself, except for protecting this right itself.

Today, would you get enough people together to agree that George Washington would lead our Army? How about a veritable All-Star team convening to create a new Constitution, to create Congress and our system of checks and balances?

Sure, the Founders had their palatial estates, their Monticellos, their Mount Vernons, their Peacefields. But even there, they always seemed to be entertaining guests, engaging in civic discussion, planning the next movement, penning letters and books. They didn’t wall themselves off in their monstrous McMansions and get lost in American Idol and Facebook (ironically, the most social activity many Americans engage in on the Web, and it still amazes me how much Facebook is about talking at people, not with them; and I’m as guilty of this as the next Facebooker).

Even Washington, who, after the Revolution, just seemed to want to retire to his estate and be left alone, knew his duty lay with the people, for the betterment of society.

We’re a long way from there. We’ve collectively become a 130-year-old Me Generation.