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Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Fields of Dreams and Fantasies

Continuing the baseball theme of the last post, I happened to see yet another showing of the Kevin Costner baseball fantasy, Field of Dreams, on cable last night, to which Roger Ebert, obviously in a charitable mood, assigned a four star rating back in 1989 when it played in theaters. The first time or two that I saw the movie, viewing various segments, not necessarily from beginning to end (how else to "get into" a movie that does not instantly appeal) I wondered at the overt sentimentality and also how Director Phil Alden Robinson actually got these big name actors to say those goofy lines without breaking up laughing. Since the movie runs on cable ad nauseum, I have seen it a number of times over the years, and I must say, for reasons not fully understood, I have found that I have come to appreciate the flick quite a lot. Last night was pretty much a beginning to end viewing, and while I will never quite understand the fantasy (which the movie makes no attempt to explain, other than that it fulfills the Costner character's pennance), I think I am starting to come to grips with why this is such a popular movie that it eventually even draws those of us predisposed to avoid it.

First, there are a few really good performances. James Earl Jones brings his charisma and talent to the screen as usual. Amy Madigan, as Coster's wife, has this infectious positivity throughout, and really stands out in contrast to the mainly brooding Coster. Even Tim Busfield manages to play the heavy, such as there is one, with a pleasant likeability. Finally, though only in two scenes, there is Burt Lancaster. He had to be one of the truly underrated actors of his generation. Starting his career as a muscleman beefcaker, teaching a generation of American moviegoers what fun you could have on the beach (From Here to Eternity) even in wartime, he graduated to a breakout role in Elmer Gantry that perfectly suited his over the top, intense style of (over)acting. There followed the pieces with Kirk Douglas, especially Seven Days in May, where his brilliance comes across in more measured levels of intensity and then, as an older actor, the transformation to perfectly underplayed roles as in Atlantic City, the Louis Malle classic with Susan Sarandon. His work in Field is of the same quality - understated perfection.

Another likeable aspect of the movie is that we get to watch the ghosts play ball just for the fun of it and it's kind of refreshing. Reminds me of playing every day as a kid with my friends on the Rossiter Estate or those old pickup softball games at the Y.

Though Coster's monotone has never made him my favorite, he has a few great moments in this picture. Twice he is asked (once by Shoeless Joe's ghost and then by his father's) if his field is in heaven. "No, it's Iowa" he replies simply. I love that line and the way he delivers it. Also, the theme of how adolescents' leaving the nest can be so cruel and crude (since most are naturally rebellious and terminally self-centered at that age) and the main character's need for redemption because his father dies before they can reconcile, is a worthy one, and we can feel Costers' character's pain. Though his redemption scene overdoes the pathos/bathos, I have to believe it strikes an adult chord especially for those who have experienced both sides of those awkward years in the parent/child relationship.

How much better is this movie than that other baseball fantasy, The Natural, where there is this gaping hole in the story that is never explained, and frankly, who could care less? If it weren't for Kim Basinger and Wilford Brimley, would anyone ever make it through to the silly conclusion?

Well enough baseball. Although, if the blog's hit counter keeps going up the way it has, maybe this should become a baseball blog. Doubtful. Election day is next Tuesday, so when I get back from Dallas, politics should again be the dominant sport.


On 10/30, I sold 100 shares of KDN at 42.46. Since this was in the taxable account, it's another lucrative transaction for Washington and Albany. The shares were purchased for 25.16 on 4/2/01.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Wild Card Musings

Reportedly, Major League Baseball is worried that the Wild Card teams are doing too well in the playoffs. True enough, wild cards have done as well as any other position in the pecking order recently. This year, the wild card Tigers got through the AL playoffs and for some reason, were made strong favorites in the World Series. I considered the Cards at least even money, therefore a good bet, to beat the Tigers. People forgot how mediocre Detroit was the second half, blinded by their 7 game run through the Yankees and the overrated Athletics.

Suggestions for "solutions" to the wild card success problem seem to come down to giving them no home games in the first round. This is a ridiculous idea. In fact, the whole concept makes no sense. If you want the wild card to be eliminated before the World Series, just don't have one! Instead, return each league to two seven or 8 team divisions, and just have the pennant winners play 4 out of 7 to determine the league champion. That would be the proper way to treat a deserving champion over a 162 game season. It would also get things over a week earlier, avoiding some of winter's chill. How silly were some of those winter get - ups players and fans were wearing during the World Series?

Of course, Baseball will never go in that direction, since eliminating the LDS round would be too costly. It's all about the money you know. So there will continue to be a Wild Card, and that means that Wild Cards will continue to win their share of series. The fact is, a short series of 3 out of 5, or 4 out of 7 for that matter, is almost a random event. Baseball is not like football where the better team almost always wins a playoff game, or basketball and hockey where the better team can be counted on to win a 7 game series. That's why Yankee fans sound so stupid lamenting the 2006 season or complaining about Joe Torre. They had a great year, and the fact that they lost in the playoffs doesn't change the fact that they were arguably the best team in the AL and that Torre did his best job, considering all of the injuries and the marginal pitching staff he had to work with.

Another thing - it's time to stop all this talk about the AL being the superior league. Yes, their game is different because of the DH, and AL teams usually have one more bopper in the lineup as a result. But NL teams play better small ball and run more. So each League does some things better, and though the AL has had more recent success interleague, this is just one of those phases like the NFL goes through, where the Conferences alternate being stronger over a period of years.

All in all, Baseball had a great year, and there is not much I would change, notwithstanding my earlier comments about eliminating Wild Cards and the LDS. For us Mets fans, it was a revelation. The Mets were consistently fun to watch, and you can see that the organization's brain trust really knows what they are doing. I suspect we will have a competitive team in Flushing for a long time.


On 10/23, I bought 200 NG at 15.10 for the taxable account. On 10/25, I took another taxable gain, selling 600 CNRD at 3.90, originally purchased on 8/23/04 for 2.19.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


HP Leaks; Iraq Civilian Body (Mis)Count and More

In Thursday's WSJ, Ms. Pui-Wing Tam wrote her story (the coveted left hand front page column plus another full page) about how HP violated her privacy by reviewing her phone records, trash, etc. as part of its leak investigation. She never denied being on the receiving end of leaks in pursuing her job of covering HP for the WSJ. No doubt, the leaky Board Director helped Ms. Tam with several scoops during the notorious Carly Fiorina era and its denoument. To her credit, Ms. Tam's story is written very matter-of-factly, with no obvious vitriol or appeals for sympathy. The tone is, these facts speak for themseleves, can you imagine that a Fortune 100 Company could invade someone's privacy in this way, and that's why this story has been a big deal, and resulted in the ignominious exit of Chairwoman Patricia Dunn.

As usual, Redwave's view is a little bit different. If I had been in Ms. Tam's place when approached by Mr. Leaker, I would have looked him in the eye and said, as follows: "I am certainly interested in your information, but before you start, please understand, that when you provide it to me, you may be in violation of Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure); if so, I will not be able to assure you that I will maintain the confidentiality of my source (you) when the SEC or the police come calling. Now, do you still want to provide this information to me?"

Presumably, that would have ended the conversation, the other (ethically challenged) papers would beat me to the story and I would still be able to sleep at night. Of course, I would also have the advantage that my garbage and personal phone and credit records would not be reviewed by HP operatives. If the Journal reporters are offended by such tactics (as they should be), they might also take a review class in their own company's ethical compliance course.

In short, I have trouble ginning up much sympathy for Ms. Tam or any other leakees. HP probably received advice from counsel that Reg FD had been broached on several occasions and that if the Company was to avoid implication, it had better do something about the leaks. That did not justify their reprehensible and illegal tactics used in the investigation. But it was important to find and oust the leaker.

Another question - how did it come to pass that our most important "constitutional" right in this country is the "right to privacy," trumping everything else? I know, it's in the penumbra of the constitution somewhwere. Honestly, I have read and reread my copy of the constitution, and just can't find the penumbra. I guess my version came without one.

Another pretty serious ethical shortfall that I noted occurred recently with the publication by a Johns Hopkins think tank of their estimate that some 600,000 Iraqi's have died as a result of the war and its aftermath. The shocking figure resulted from an extrapolation of the findings of a research project in Iraq where interviews were conducted on the basis of random sampling. Though this process is a widely accepted technique for arriving at such estimates (as I am sure you read in the mainstream media), what has not been widely disseminated is that the researchers based their findings on a ridiculously low number of clusters (47 compared to what should have been hundreds or even thousands to be statistically reliable) and also failed to note demographic data about the survivors interviewed. As Steven E. Moore pointed out on Wednesday's WSJ Op Ed page, these are mistakes that would never be made by any competent statistician. Yet, Johns Hopkins stood by its estimate, which differs from any reasonable estimate by a factor of at least ten! Apparently, the well-deserved prestige of the university is today less important than making a political statement.


Incidentally, another new blog feature is the reader meter you see in the left hand margin. This is merely a counter, I am not getting any info about where the reader is or who is reading. It is amazing that in the blogs I follow that use map cluster, you see readership from all over the world, even for semi-frivolous (though highly entertaining) blogs. In Redwave's case, I expect the meter will mainly be a narcissus gauge, counting how many times I read my own prose. Nevertheless, it would be fun to see how fast the number increases, and an occasional comment would also be welcome.

Upon further review, I have decided to just add BB King, James Jamieson, and Carlos Santana to the honorable mention list (see post of 8/31) of my favorite guitarists, and not remove anyone. More lists are on the way.

On 10/4, I bought another 100 shares of SHLM for the IRA at 23. On 10/9 I sold 200 more BAMM out of the IRA for 19.34, OK since I bought them at 3.65 on 5/10/02. On 10/11, my taxable account sold 400 HAUP at 5.76. 200 of those were bought for 2.585 on 5/14/01, the other 200 for 1.66 on 8/6/01. On 10/16, I sold 100 DOV at 49.71 from my IRA, originally paid 49 on 6/14/00. Sometimes you have to be patient to make $71 minus commissions. Then on 10/20, the market was kind enough to give my IRA 20.75 for 100 shares of B that cost 14.40625 on 9/25/97 (love those split adjustments!). The market rally broadened, which was encouraging, but I am still a bit skeptical. Mainly, it's a market of stocks, not a stock market, and it is gratifying to see some of mine treated so well.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Day of Atonement

I made my annual appearance at temple yesterday, and though one session is clearly not enough to buy ME a clean slate, it did provide food for (blogging) thought. The somnolent readings have been exacerbated at my family's reform temple by the substitution of sexless nouns and pronouns for the original text's assumption of maleness. So Lord has been replaced by Sovereign, Father has been eliminated, and our forefathers have been joined by our...foremothers, apparently. It reminded me how unpretentious and unconcerned about political correctness the Catholic Church is, feeling no guilt about worshipping the Father and the Son, etc. Of course, in exchange for that delightful innocence, one has to endure all those insipid hymns in major keys. Oh well, it's not as if Gershwin emanates from any pulpit I know of.

Of course, no one thinks much about sexless pronouns in a Temple where the congregation has thrown in its lot with an all female clergy, including an avowed lesbian Rabbi. In effect, there is enough sexual tension already present for any religious establishment.

I guess my favorite religious liturgy will always be that of The Society of Friends (Quakers) where there is only silence, unless any congregant is inspired to break the spell by speaking (on any suitable topic). I always hope for a totally speechless service where after 45-60 minutes of delightful and thought provoking silence, the folks at the front of the room turn to each other and shake hands, signaling the time for everyone's escape. To me, this seems utterly civilized and mature. I only wish I could believe in Quaker principles, then I would be all set. But Christianity has been a tough sell for me, and passivism is not exacly my political persuasion, as can be gleaned by alert readers of my previous posts. So I continue on, a man with a country but no church, which is just as well seeing how most church services represent an intolerable conflict with golf.


Speaking of homosexuality, I wonder what the Dems and their media friends would be saying if one of their avowed, or even closeted, same sexers was caught sending e-mail come-ons to pages. I can just hear the howls of derision at anyone who would restrict the free speech and lifestyle of the perpetrator. The double standard is always at work (please - allow me my paranoia).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------No one disputed my list of ten favorite guitarists (where ARE the comments anyway?) but I have to admit that I blew it, omitting BB King and James Jamieson, Motown's top bassist. I'll fix the list for the next post. Meanwhile, here come my 10 favorite pianists:

1. Bill Evans - Lyrical member of Miles Davis quintet, leader of his own trios
2. McCoy Tyner - Coltrane's foil in the Classic Quartet
3. Oscar Peterson - The Technician, spiritual descendant of Tatum
4. Art Tatum - Immortal soloist
5. Thelonius Monk - Stylist, Master of dissonance
6. Duke Ellington - Composer, bandleader, underrated on his instrument
7. Bud Powell - Bebop pianist of choice
8. Vladimir Horowitz - Classical virtuoso, cleanest technique
9. Wynton Kelly - Another Mile Davis grad, great with Coltrane
10. Tommy Flanagan - Giant Steps

Honorable Mention - Gerri Allen, Glen Gould, Bill Charlap, Nat King Cole, Vince Guaraldi, Diana Krall, Cyrus Chestnut, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck

On 9/27, I sold 100 shares of TMO out of my IRA at 39.73. They were purchased on 4/27/98 for 39.25. Talk about a long slog to get nothing. Yesterday, my IRA bought another 100 of PWI at 24.65, but it's already lower today. Anybody think we have hit all time (forever) highs in energy stocks? Not me. A good sign for the market is that no one was throwing a lot of confetti over the Dow's record today. The fact is, however, that the rally has been getting more and more narrow, with the blue chips in the lead. When the generals are out in front of the cannon fodder, that is always a sign of some kind of top in the market.

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