The invasion of the instant replay into professional sports threatens to remove one of the essential components of the sporting experience: the capricious effects of human error on the part of referees and umpires. This spring’s baseball season has seen the introduction of a silly system where a team’s manager can challenge an official call made on the field and the play is then remotely reviewed at Major League Baseball’s New York City headquarters by some faceless judges who look at the television feeds.
Because the technology exists to determine the truth doesn’t mean it has a place in a sport that celebrates the feckless and accidental. From robotic line judges in professional tennis to strike zone graphics, yes, we can make sports more precise and ostensibly more “fair” by taking the foibles of a judge or referee or umpire out of the equation. No more cries of a “We wuz robbed!” No more fist shaking at the Gods for punishing the home team so unfairly. The obvious blunders that rob pitchers of perfect games, the miscalls that cause spectators to have conniptions of disbelief as they watch the slow-mo replay and see what the officials couldn’t see from the field ….are nothing compared to the bullshit politics of the so-called “judged” sports like figure skating and gymnastics where performance is subjective and evaluated by judges with nationalistic prejudices and even the potential to be bribed (sorry, but any “sport” with judges and costumes isn’t a sport in my book).
A huge part of the emotional attachment between fans and sports is the human factor, that indescribable sense of magic when the players transcend the boundaries of human potential and go beyond themselves in a clutch situation and become legends or scapegoats. Sport, like war, isn’t about precision and standards. It’s about luck and happenstance and umpires who should go get their eyes checked. Baseball is the only sport with the concept of an “error” — a subjective judgement by the scorer. I think it needs to embrace the misfortunes of fate that happens when an umpire misses a tag, or calls a ball fair that went foul by inches. Technology has no place in a ball park.
Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, told a page one meeting shortly after the launch of the national newspaper that if the editors ran a photograph of a pretty girl on the front page to, well, make sure her chest was visible above the fold so it would be visible on a stack or inside a vending machine. Using T&A to sell stuff is Advertising 101. After years of wondering why pretty women want to be my friend, I’ve had enough.
LinkedIn is becoming a cesspool of strange spam, endorsements, clickbait and general vanity. I get three or four requests a day to add a stranger to my network, sometimes really, really weird crap like a upholstery service in Newport Beach, California (who I am as likely to do business with as a cement factory in Malaysia. But what really gets on my nerves is the use of “pretty girl” pictures and cleavage shots for fictitious individuals such as the cute “Sophie Middleton” in the hopes I will accept their invitation to join my “network.” Am I really that predictable? I guess I must be. I notice it enough to blog about it.
I remember reading Yachting magazine in the 70s and 80s and realizing every single motorboat ad had a babe-in-a-bikini in it, so many that I began to wonder if motorboats came equipped with scantily dressed women as standard equipment along with boat hooks and bilge pumps.
Back to Ms. Middleton who is an “ambitious and driven individual who is passionate about Online Advertising solutions…” (who isn’t?)
This young lady was educated at the University of Manchester — where she earned a “1st” in Economics — hence her veddy British name. She works for ZingGaming, a London company, and she is looking for “Publishers CPI-CPL.” I don’t know what CPI means but I infer “CPL” is “cost per lead” or some other digital advertising acronym.
She is doing very well with her networking efforts and has over 500 connections. She is also already friends with a colleague and former colleague (both men) of mine.
Now she wants to join my network.
Ordinarily I trash these requests, but feeling grumpy this morning I grabbed her photograph and ran a reverse image search through Tineye.com.
“Sophie” can be found on sites such as The Naughty.com, Polydore, Speed Date, WattPad, Cavemancircus, and so on and so forth. Sophie gets around….
I’m tempted to fill out the contact form on ZingGaming‘s website and ask to talk to Ms. Middleton. But, knowing full well the world of affiliate marketing, CPL scammers, and the rest of the sordid swamp known as the digital advertising world where content is just so much cheese in the rat trap, I rather hit delete and move on.
I know everyone gets a ton of this crap — this is like writing about spam — so what? But I am intrigued by the spammer mindset that use bogus accounts on social networks to weave a web of inbound links and followers around fictitious people (with cleavage) to improve the siterank and visibility of their services. I realize it is a well known phenomenon to steal a another person’s photos to create a bogus identity. The imaginary girlfriend of the football player a year or so ago is a classic example. And I know behavioral psychologists have quantified the attributes of the human face that people find attractive — the facial characteristics and rations that make people ooh and ahh over cute puppies and babies.
I see this all the time on Soundcloud, Google+, and other networks … enough to the point where if the “will you be my friend” invitation shows any decolletage or winsome characteristics I ship it right to the spam folder. I wonder if beefcake photos of men are used to trick women into accepting friends requests, or is this just a male phenomenon as old and primal as cave paintings? There needs to be a name for these artificial humans, fake people with names and college degrees and jobs and pretty faces that belong to somebody else.
Anyway, just another digression into the seamy underside of digital marketing where manipulators know that a headline with an odd-number in it, the promise of some sex, and a pretty face will deliver another click to their pile of pageviews and SEO.
I launched the motorboat yesterday afternoon after two weeks of working on it in the middle of the yard. Some years the boat manages to go in early, other years it goes in late. This year was late because of the winter-that-wouldn’t-end. Some years the boat needs multiple visits to the mechanic, other years I get her running on my own. This year I tackled a few overdue projects and one nasty recurring problem which required a sledgehammer. As my Cousin Pete (who lives across the street in the western half of the Chatfield family compound) likes to to say, watching a Churbuck with an internal combustion engine (lawnmower, pressure washer, automobile, chainsaw, outboard motor) is like watching a monkey with a hand grenade. I know he likes to sit on his front porch with a cocktail and laugh at my best efforts to destroy anything that lives on gasoline and I am sure he noted my application of a sledge hammer to my Honda 40 horsepower outboard for future retelling.
Back in March, in a fit of optimism, I dragged the boat out from behind the garage, cut off the useless blue tarp that collapsed during the first snow storm, noted that the trailer’s ten year-old tires are still hanging in there (which is good because the wheels are rusted onto the axles forever), and started the familiar recommissioning process which is becoming second nature now that the boat is twenty-two years old and on engine #3.
The battery went onto the charger. I grabbed a broom and swept out the sticks and leaves, sand and shells, dragged out the clam rakes and baskets, and winced at the beard of dried slime along the waterline and the crust of barnacles on the keelson — proof I didn’t do much of a job last fall when I yanked the boat for the season. I had a feeling my neglect would mean the boat would bone me so I drove up to see Dow Clark, my mechanic and asked him if he could tune things up. He pointed out that there was a blizzard coming (this was last month), and he wouldn’t work on the boat if the temperatures went below freezing because he needed to run a hose through through engine’s water intakes in the parking lot and didn’t want to turn it into a skating rink for the other tenants in the little row of garages behind Peck’s and the Domino’s Pizza place.
The blizzard came and went, I returned to the boat (glad I hadn’t launched her in time for an evening of 60 mph gusts out of the north), replaced the battery, and lowered the engine. The first boat problem of 2014 emerged immediately: the steering was frozen, a common occurrence which meant the push rod system that pushed and pulled the motor on the transom was seized. Inside I went to Google and YouTube, read about the problem, watched about a dozen different possible solutions, and returned armed with a propane torch, a hacksaw, a length of rebar, a cold chisel, a ball-peen hammer, a mason’s hammer, a grease gun, and a spray can of white lithium grease, another can of “PB Blaster, and finally, a can of carburetor cleaner. I disconnected the motor from the steering assembly, got rid of all nearby gasoline, lit the torch, and started heating the steering tube. For the next six hours I feebly tapped at the end of the stainless steel ram with the hammer, tried a 2″x4” lever, reapplied heat, sprayed various fluids, and finally, in a fit of total despair and destruction, broke out a sledgehammer and started whaling away at the end of the pernicious steering gear.
That did it. If it is stuck, whack it. A couple applications of the precision tool and the ram started to budge a tiny bit with every smack. I finally drove the thing all the way into the tube, then continued the brutal repair with a piece of rebar, clocking my knuckles so hard when the sledgehammer missed that I was convinced I’d broken my hand. After countless attacks on the piece of precision Japanese machinery, the steering ram popped out and I performed a little Dave Dance of Happiness on the brown lawn. I reamed out the tube with brushes and carburetor cleaner, cleaned the ram piston off and regreased it, then reassembled the whole mess until the steering wheel spun back and forth with silken, greased ease. Success. I spared myself a new $125 steering cable and a trip to the mechanic.
Then to the greasy manual for a refresher in changing the engine oil and lower unit lube. I siphoned whatever water I could find out of last year’s gas and drained the fuel lines, changed the fuel-water separator, and tightened the drain holes on the three carb bowls. New spark plugs followed, a change in the fuel filter and I was ready to test it. Professional mechanics use these “headphone” sort of clamps that attach to the water intake of the motor and then run a hose through them so they can work the running motor on dry land. The last time I did that I melted the water pump. This year I hooked the trailer up to the car and drove the boat down Old Shore Road and backed the trailer in deep enough to lower the motor without launching the boat (I have learned that launching prematurely always means the boat will not start and will need to be paddled back to the trailer, winched back on, and taken up to Dow Clark two miles inland on a trailer with no lights and an expired registration that is one flake of rust away from collapsing.
I climbed aboard, lowered the motor, inserted the key, said a prayer, and started cranking. It astarted after 15 seconds, a feeble, barely combusting ignition that I nursed to life like a freezing man lighting a fire in a Jack London story. I let it strangle and shudder, then dared to give it a bit more gas, let go of the choke and it LIVED! Do another Dave Dance of happiness, feel like a master mechanic.
I let it run for 15 minutes on the trailer, relishing the opportunity to hog the entire boat ramp by myself on a Saturday afternoon ; a ramp that in three months would have a line of impatient boaters waiting for their turn to launch or haul their boats while some ass clown clogged things up by deciding to clean his Bayliner while everyone waited and honked their horn. The off-season in Cotuit is the season of the Townie Prerogative: when those of us stupid enough to live here from January to April get to put out our dinghies on the prime spots, get to hog boat ramps for as long as we want, drive fast in areas of the harbor usually confined to 6 mph, and then clam in places that get closed on May 1.
I let the motor run for a quarter hour because the second rule of Churbuck Outboard Failure is that a motor that runs well near the beach will fail as soon as it is about 500 feet away from the beach — generally because of water in the system, or a failed water pump that sets off the dreaded alarm sound which means a $500 repair bill is coming soon. A sub-rule of Churbuck Outboard Failure is that failure in the off-season means there aren’t any other boaters around to come to one’s rescue and the possibility of being stranded and having to swim in 40 degree water is very real. These are the lessons learned over 22 Cape Cod Springs, proof that wisdom is nothing more than the accrual of repeated failures.
I resisted the temptation to back off of the trailer and bomb around the bay. The bottom was unpainted and there was more work to do. Driving an unpainted boat would definitely draw the curses of the Gods of Maritime Failure and I only get superstitious when I am on the water.
Back to the yard and then off to the marine supply store for the annual BOHICA* (nothing will trash a bank balance faster than a can of bottom paint or any sort of marine hardware). The harbormaster nearly wrote me a ticket last August for being on the water without navigation lights. I had to invest in a new sternlight and green-and-red bow light, wire, connectors, switches, etc.. Back to the boat and my favorite liquid after a smoky peaty single malt scotch — Hull Cleaner — an evil solution that is swabbed around the waterline of the white hull which turns brown over the course of a summer like a smoker’s lungs. Hull cleaner must be washed off, so down into the cistern under the grape arbor I go — through a manhole cover into a dank dirt floor chamber under the birdfeeders to turn back on the outdoor faucets. Then back into daylight in search of the hoses, replacing washers and finding a working nozzle while the birds act inconvenienced because I dare interrupt their springtime binge diet.
Hull Cleaner magically bleaches everything away like a blessing from the Pope, but it also eats into the trailer’s galvanized frame one whiff of the stuff and the disconcerting sensation of burning lungs makes me believe it is an evil fluods. I hose it off, get the bottom wet, and drag my 55-year old ass under the boat with a scrub brush and scraper to vanquish 2013’s barnacles and slime. This results in my being crippled later in the evening, forced to lay on my back on the floor while watching 60 Minutes and moaning that I have strapping sons who should be crawling under boats on wet grass littered with stinky evicted barnacles.
The next day my son thoughtfully volunteered to crawl under the boat wearing a set of disposable Tyvek overalls to paint the bottom with antifouling paint while I masking-taped the boot top line. When we were done the boat looked about as good as it did the day in 1992 when I picked it up from the builder in Vineyard Haven (the best $7500 I have spent in my life).
The wiring of the lights was a sobering reminder that I am a terrible electrician. My first attempt succeeded in turning the new lights on, but my mis-wiring also turned the circuit into one big electric stove top that started to turn red, smoke and melt the plastic insulation off of the wire. Back to the Internet for assistance, but finally I figured out enough 12V electrical wiring theory to get the job done correctly.
By this point in time it is noon on Easter Sunday. Easter dinner starts at four pm. I look for volunteers to join me for the maiden voyage and a quick clamming expedition to secure enough littlenecks for appetizers. No takers, everyone is occupied with deviled egg construction. So I break out the new waders, find the VHF radio, cellphone, clam license, buckets, oarlocks, oars, temporary mooring float, throw it all into the boat, insert the drain plugs, connect the gas tank, back up the trailer hitch, and off I go under bluebird skies and a nice spring day.
The boat started on the first try. I backed off the trailer, brought the boat into the beach and left it there while I parked the trailer on the side of Old Shore Road. Back to the boat, off the beach, restart, back away and head for the winter stick that marks my mooring near the yacht club’s beach to tie on a temporary painter until the mooring guy can get out there and swap the wooden winter stick for the regular rode.
The alarm horn goes off just as I pull up to the mooring. SHIT! Off with the engine before heinous amounts of destruction occur. I tie the boat onto the winter stick before addressing yet another spring launching spoiled by Honda. I turn it back on. No alarm. I note the engine “pisser” is not squirting water. Proof the water pump isn’t work. Off with the engine, find the hidden paper clip, tilt up the engine, and ream out the little piss-port under engine cover. Restart, long satisfying stream of pee and no alarm horn.
I headed off to Sampson’s Island to clam, and opened up the engine all the way as I skipped across the chop of Cotuit Bay, the wind chill plummeting the temperature and bringing wind blown tears to my eyes. No alarm horns No surges in power as the carbs drink in water. Just a well working boat on a sunny day. One month of weekends and one boat is in the water in time for the first stripers, squid and bluefish. Now to start on the big sailboat and another month of messing around.
The Cape Cod Clam Caper appears to have been solved. A spate of thefts last year from commercial and municipal oyster grants from Dennis to Marstons Mills meant someone was stealing tens of thousands of clams and finding a way to fence them. Which meant someone was selling the public “transfer” clams being grown in polluted water before their transfer and cleansing.
Now comes the sad news that one familiar Upper Cape institution, Joe’s Lobster Mart in Sandwich, on the bulkhead of the Cape Cod Canal allegedly bought the clams from the alleged clam pirate, one Michael Bryant, 38.
The owner of Joe’s, Joe Vaudo, has run the place for the past four decades (I am an occasional customer) and is chairman of the Sandwich Planning Board. He’s been fined and is at risk of losing his lease from the Army Corps of Engineers who manages the canal.
In the 1960s there was an anti-litter campaign led by Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady of the United States. It was the first of its kind. People started hanging little litter bags on the dashboards of their cars. Public service ads with crying Indians and the message “Every Litter Bit Hurts” were part of the culture. In some regards the anti-litter movement and highway beautification efforts led by Lady Bird were a precursor to Earth Day and the beginnings of the ecology movement in the early 1970s.
When I moved to Cotuit in 1991 I was impressed by the example set by Professor James Gould — a retired college professor who is the village’s historian and a dedicated force behind the Peace movement on Cape Cod. Jim would take his daily constitutional from his house overlooking Little River, down Old Post Road past Mosswood Cemetery, and on into the village to collect his mail from the post office and stop by the Cotuit Grocery Store when it was run by his son Steve.
When I drove past him I noticed he was carrying a plastic grocery bag, the kind you feel guilty about throwing out, the kind that festoon tree branches around New York City. I figured at first it was for carrying the mail. But then I saw him bend over, pick up a piece of litter and drop it into the bag. A simple act done as a matter of fact as he walked along on his daily stroll. Usually you see the roadside litter crews in yellow jump suits followed by a Barnstable County Sheriff’s van, or the Cub Scouts earning a merit badge, not a guy getting his mail and cleaning up as he went along.
His example got me thinking about altruism and the notion of the unsung, anonymous donor, especially in a village like Cotuit where there are so many causes looking for money — from the art center to the Cahoon Museum, the library to the Kettleers — and a long standing tradition of charitable good works from buying open space to preserve the rural character of the village to banding together to ban piers, chase out commercial marinas, or trying (unsuccessfully) to have a historical district implemented to slow down the tear downs of the old houses.
A few years ago I took a plastic bag along with me for a walk and came home wishing I had brought four more. It became a bit of an obsession and I started crawling into the underbrush to fish out beer bottles or styrofoam coffee cup. The amount of empty nip bottles were staggering, indeed most Cotuit litter can be categorized in descending order of frequency:
Empty nips (this season’s most popular brand is “Firecracker,” some cinnamon flavored thing I guess)
Dunkin donuts coffee cups, lids, and straws
Poland Spring water bottles
Empty pints of vodka
Six pack rings
Builder’s trash, eg pieces of shingles, plastic shutters
The nips are easy to explain — they are cheap, they are easy to conceal and drink, and if they are tossed into the bushes there is no incriminating open containers should you get pulled over. The prevalence of schnapps, vodka, and cinnamon flavored shots points to the mouthwash qualities of those flavors, as opposed to the reek of whisky. In fact, scotch and bourbon nips are very rare.
The pay off is a clean walk and not that slightly shitty guilty feeling I was getting as I stepped over yet another yellow labeled empty shot of Firecracker during my constitutional. Beach clean ups, especially on the outside of Sampson’s/Dead Neck are far more rewarding, with a lot of washed up fishing lures in the wrack line which can be buffed up, given new hooks, and save me $10-$15 a pop during bluefish frenzy (in a month).
Beautiful video of Monomoy Island filed from the air last weekend. Want to know why I don’t bother surfcasting out there for striped bass anymore? Say hello to a solid mile of pinniped Great White Shark snacks.
He died on Saturday. He wrote my favorite novel: the Mister Watson trilogy that culminated in Shadow Country. He lived a remarkable life. The first striped bass of 2014 will go back with a kiss and an ave atque vale for Peter, who thankfully has one more novel at the publisher, his final words.
I’ve blogged here about Shadow Country and I am very proud that my Amazon review of the novel is ranked #1 by other readers. I have pressed more copies of Killing Mister Watson into more friends’ hands than any other book with the possible exception of Barry Hannah’s Geronimo Rex.
Here’s what I wrote on Amazon:
“For nearly twenty years I’ve been obsessed by Edgar Watson, the Everglades Planter known as “Bloody Watson” and “Emperor Watson” for the 50-odd murders attributed to him by a century of legend and myth.
Peter Matthiessen was way more obsessed than me, writing four novels about Watson. I read the first in 1990. The last just this past December. It, Shadow Country, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2008. It is Matthiessen’s masterpiece, and I have no qualms saying it is among the top novels in all of American literature, a book I would stack against Moby Dick, Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, Gravity’s Rainbow, White Noise ….
Matthiessen does several important things that won my admiration. First, his voice, his writing, is a very spare, zen language that is short on embellishment but poetic in its nature. Second, the structure that he brings to the narrative is very inventive. The first part of the novel is the tale of Watson’s death at the hands of more than two dozen of his neighbors who gun him down after a hurricane in the fall of 1910, hitting him with 33 bullets. That part, which formed the basis of Killing Mister Watson, is an succession of reminiscences by those on that Chokoloskee beach, a backwater Rashomon that bring some amazing vernacular, history, and drama. The book starts with the killing — and what follows is an utter mind-twister of why Watson was killed.
The second part of the novel is the story of one of Watson’s sons, Lucius, who tries to reassemble the facts and seperate them from the myths about his father, who, among other legends, was the reputed murderer of outlaw queen Belle Starr. Lucius compiles a list of those on that beach, a list which makes him a very suspicious figure to the survivors and their descendants, back-water plume and gator poachers who would prefer that Lucius not be asking so many questions. The detective work, the sheer genealogical complexity of Lucius’ quest is a reminder to the reader — this is a true story. Matthiessen’s research and attention to detail would shame a historian.
And finally, the true masterpiece in the three tales is the first person account by Watson himself, a story that begins with his childhood in the post-Civil War Reconstruction of South Carolina (in the most violent county of the state), and his subsequent abuse at the hands of a drunken white trash father, his flight to north Florida and from there a descent into the American frontier, and Watson’s lonely home on Chatham Bend, the only house between Chokoloskee and Key West, literally the end of America.
Read it. Matthiessen won my respect decades ago with Far Tortuga, The Snow Leopard, Men’s Lives, but Shadow Country is my candidate for the Great American Novel.”
Every place has its native culinary specialties. Buffalo, New York has beef on weck; Cincinnati was five-way chili; New Orleans the Po-boy; North Carolina the pulled pork barbecue sandwich with coleslaw, and on and on and on. Turn on a food channel and there will be some overenthused fat guy on a culinary tour of the backwaters looking for the regional speciality.
Yet what of Cape Cod? What are the classic items that every tourist should seek out? Frankly the place isn’t famous for much — certainly not on the level of a Philly cheesesteak — and even within Massachusetts there are foods that get mixed up with Cape Cod but which aren’t really Cape Cod born. Take the fried clam for example — that’s a North Shore/Essex County speciality born in Essex at Woodman’s where in 1914 Chubby Woodman fried some soft-shelled “steamer” clams in batter at the suggestion of a customer. Sure, one can obsess about the best fried clams and search the Cape for the best examples (personally I used to favor Sandy’s in Buzzards Bay, but crave the ones from The Bite in Menemsha, even if you have to own a hedge fund to afford them).
Clam chowder is pretty Cape Cod, but apparently the dish came down from French-Canada and the word is derived from “chaudière” after the stove the stuff was cooked on in the Maritime Provinces. They serve Legal Seafood’s chowder at Fenway Park — frankly a kind of disgusting thought on a steamy humid day when a guy comes trooping up the stairs in the bleachers hawking what is essentially clam-flavored hot milk thickened with corn starch or flour. No one makes the clam chowder I grew up with, but if you want a sense of it, read Melville’s account of Ishmael’s dinner at the Spouter Inn in New Bedford.
One very Cape Cod dish is Portuguese kale soup, especially around East Falmouth where there is a big population of Cape Verdeans, Azoreans, and other descendants of the Portuguese sailors who settled on the Cape after sailing on New England whalers in the mid-19th century. Take chicken broth, a lot of torn up kale (the miracle food of the paleo-Hipster movement), some kidney beans, diced potatoes, sliced chorizo and you have a bowl of goodness.
If I had to nominate one dish as the official Cape Cod specialty I would have to go with the stuffed quahog, also known as the “Stuffie.”
Take big quahogs — the bigger the better, like ashtray sized monsters — grind up all the meat and clam juice and mix with some sort of bread crumbs, diced onion, celery and whatever feels right, mix into a filling like a turkey stuffing, pack into the open shells and bake until golden brown. The restaurants serve them with a pat of butter, a lemon wedge, and a bottle of tabasco.
Stuffed quahogs are big among Cotuit cooks for bragging rights. My step-sister, mother, aunts, brother-in-law …. everyone has their own take on the stuffie. Green bell peppers? Maybe red pepper flakes? There is no great restaurant stuffed quahog. Most bars that serve them as bar food get premade ones from New Bedford — nasty, very processed pasty things with no big clam chunks. Do not confuse a stuffie with Clams Casino — different thing altogether.
I confess I like a homemade Cotuit stuffed quahog, and even will go with a mass produced ones if I’m at the right bar and want something to go with a beer. My favorite recipe — which is total heresy because it is “gourmet” to some critical palates– is Chris Schlesinger’s “Ultimate Stuffie” from the Back Eddy in Westport. These suckers have ground Portuguese sausage, a ton of sage and oregano, and kernels of corn. I discovered the recipe in The New England Clam Shack Cookbook, (probably one of my most used books on my kitchen bookshelf.)