Give a Little Bit Daisuke (Dice-K) Matsuzaka

Are there any Red Sox fans out there on WorpPress, I mean WordPress?  I was combing through the Boston Globe this morning and came across Amalie Benjamin’s piece on Dice-K Matsuzaka, the Red Sox hurler who strained his neck in Spring training and will make his 2010 debut Saturday after several rehab starts.  Dice-K doesn’t speak much English and his quotes are translated into English from Japanese.   I wonder if some of what he says or means is lost in translation.  If the translations are correct, you won’t find a more humble athlete.  As quoted in Benjamin’s article, Matsuzaka on target for Saturday, Dice-K says, “…I’ve been such a burden on this team…if by coming back I can help give the team any sort of little boost or change of momentum, I think that’s all that I can ask for…and I don’t mean that I single-handedly am going to make all the difference…” Mindful of the fact that the team has made a substantial investment in his arm, Dice-K said, “…I hope I can repay them a little bit, and hopefully do that throughout the rest of the season”.  I doubt he meant that literally, but if he did mean it, what is a little bit to a man who makes 8,333,333 a year?

When Dice-K goes out on the mound, the PA system should play the Supertramp song, “Give a Little Bit”.   At least 7 solid innings.

GM Debt Free? Not Yet

Ok, so GM paid off its 7 billion in direct loans from Canada and the U.S. ahead of schedule.  However, don’t forget that GM received 43 billion in TARP bailout money in 2009 which was converted into equity in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.  Now the U.S. treasury owns a little over 60% of GM; Canada around 12%.  When shares of GM go public, and this may come as early as the summer, the two governments can get out of the car business and recover some if not all of its investments.  And of course this would be good for taxpayers and another victory for the Obama administration.  But the success of the IPO depends on whether Mr. Whitacre can really turn around the auto giant, known in some circles as Government Motors.

Can GM turn the corner?  Are their cars good enough to win back consumers who turned to the Japanese in the late 70’s?  Would you buy a Chevy Malibu, Impala, or Silverado?  Or how about a Dodge Charger or Neon.  Do they even make the Neon anymore?  I’d like for GM to bring back the Dodge Colt and the Dodge Dart.  Now may be the best time ever for GM to pick up customers as ailing Toyota struggles to regain its reputation for quality.

Arizona Gets It Wrong Again

I’m not surprised that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law immigration reform that  gives cops the authority to stop people on the suspicion of being “illegal”.  This comes from the same state that refused to honor the federal Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday for 9 years until a tourist boycott pressured voters into finally changing their minds.

This law will bring immediate constitutional challenges on the grounds that it violates the federal supremacy clause and the 14th amendment which protects people from unreasonable search and seizure.  States do not have the authority to enforce federal immigration laws.  For supporters of the harsh Arizona immigration law who argue that the state must take matters into its own hands because the federal government has failed, remember this – we live in a democracy.  There is a process by which legitimate change can be made – voting.

One of the biggest disappointments in the debate is the position of Senator John McCain who once joined forces with Senator Ted Kennedy and sponsored sweeping immigration reform legislation which was ultimately defeated.  The bill certainly did not include a provision to allow cops to engage in racial profiling.  In yet another giant flip flop, Senator McCain now supports the new Arizona immigration law which requires cops to stop people who look like they might be in the state illegally.  What does an “illegal” immigrant look like anyway?  You can’t tell me that cops will turn a blind eye to anyone who looks Mexican or foreign and instead concentrate only on suspicious behavior.   In order to enforce this uncivil law, cops will have to engage in racial profiling.

The law is surely unconstitutional and will be struck down by federal courts. However, if it makes its way to the Supreme Court, who knows how the justices will rule. The court has a conservative majority.   It may take another boycott for the voters of Arizona to come to their senses and already Arizona Congressman Grijalva is leading the charge.

Brian Eno OnStar Collaboration?

I was watching this OnStar commercial, the one with the the airbags and crash test dummies and detected some background music that sounded familiar,  something I used to listen to in college while studying.  Ambient music.  It sounds very much like Brian Eno.  Ambient Eno pitching OnStar?  Would he? Maybe OnStar will begin selling its system with the Complete Works of Eno. That’d be a deal that could get me back in a Chevy.

Chrysler To Turn a Corner, Maybe

I saw this headline in the NY Times today – Chrysler Lost $4 Billion but Sees Signs of Improvement.  What?  Now that’s an optimistic outlook and refreshing.  A car company out to improve.  But how?

Apparently Chrysler-Fiat plans to reintroduce the Alfa Romeo and Fiat brands to the U.S. market and clean fuel efficiency technology including some diesel engines. Alfa Romeo would roll out an S.U.V. and a small roadster looking machine called the MiTo.  And Fiat has plans to sell the Fiat 500, which looks a little like a VW bug or one of those toy cars that you roll on the floor and then release.   Diesel, roadsters, S.U.V.’s, and a VW or Mini Cooper look alike. That’s the plan to turn Chrysler around?

First, Americans won’t buy diesel.  No way.  And diesel fuel is too expensive.  When I think of diesel, I think of a Mack truck.  And where can you buy diesel fuel?  No one wants to fill up a car at a truck stop.

Second, as long as we have a weak global economy and high gas prices, what kind of market is there for a new S.U.V., particularly an Alfa Romeo?  Most Americans are going to associate Alfa Romeo with exotic race cars.  No one is going to want to buy an exotic S.U.V.  And the MiTo.  I don’t think so.

Third, Fiat is not a brand with much of a reputation in the States.  Remember the Fiat X19 back in the late 70’s – early 80’s? I didn’t think so.  Japanese cars drove them right out of the market and the country.

I have an idea for Fiat.  Bring over the Fiat Panda.  Sell them cheaply.  Market them cleverly in urban areas where parking is difficult to find and expensive.  Do one in black with a white racing stripe or something.  Sell them to rental car companies and Zipcar.  And Fiat, don’t allow Chrysler to make cars anymore. Have them make boats, or outboard motors or skateboards, mopeds, anything but cars.   Have them sell Fiats (the Panda) anyway.  And maybe allow them to bring back the Dodge Dart and Dodge Colt, with Italian styling.

Looks a bit like a Yugo, no?

New Guys Save the Day for the Red Sox

The Red Sox finally win a home game and snap a 5 game losing streak in dramatic fashion.  And it was the new guys who provided the sparks.  Jeremy Hermida (HR in the 4th), Josh Reddick (2 RBI) and Superhero Darnell McDonald up from the minors for his first Red Sox appearance.  McDonald hit a 2 run homer in the 8th to tie the game and drove in the game winning run in the 9th.

For every bit of good news, there’s always some bad.  And for David Ortiz and J.D. the bad news seems to get worse every night.  Both struggled again last night.  Both struck out twice.  Drew is now batting a dismal .133; Ortiz .146.  Big Papi has been a Big Disappointment so far.  He can’t get around on a fastball and when he makes contact, he hits a grounder to first.  The only pop in his bat came after he popped up in the 6th and broke his bat over his leg, as if it were a pencil.  Papi struggled early last year too and finally picked it up in the second half of the season, but I don’t think Francona has the patience to wait until July for Papi to heat up.  We saw some of that last night when Francona pinch hit Mike Lowell for Ortiz in the 7th.  Ortiz was none to happy – Francona called him “prideful”.  He did high five Lowell when he came back in from the bases at the end of the inning, but I didn’t see him rush the field when McDonald hit the game winner.  And he was unavailable for comment after the game.

The Secret In Their Eyes Is A Dud

I saw the Academy Award winning film El Secreto De Sus Ojos, The Secret In Their Eyes last night, directed by Juan Jose Campanella.  I have to say I was disappointed.  My wife, a native Spanish speaker, thought maybe I got lost in translation.  But I don’t think so.  I just didn’t get it.  I understood most of the Spanish and was following along easily with the subtitles.  The thing is, nothing about the film appealed to me.  Well, one thing – the eye shots.  That was the most interesting and perhaps only interesting thing about the movie.

The film begins as a retired court officer named Esposito begins to write a novel about a gruesome murder case he investigated some 20 years earlier, a disturbing case he cannot forget.  As the novel unfolds, Esposito reveals his love for his newly appointed boss, Irene, an Ivy League educated woman of means who is considered an “untouchable” that is to say, out of his league.  As the retired Esposito recounts how he solved the murder mystery and tracked down the perpetrator with the help of his alcoholic friend Sandoval, he begins to regret not acting on his passion for Irene.

The camera work focused on the actors’ eyes which conveyed the characters true feelings and often contradicted the words spoken.   This aspect of the film was the only redeeming quality for me.  I found nothing else very interesting or captivating.  The acting was ok, but the casting was awful.  The chemistry between Irene and Esposito was not there and that there seemed to be a 20 year difference in age between the two didn’t help.

The setting could have been anywhere.  I didn’t get the feel for Argentina  except in the Spanish accents – I know Argentine Spanish when I hear it.  There weren’t many mate (the national drink of Argentina) references either.  The characters drank coffee mostly.  It was a period piece set in the early 70’s but there was nothing very 70’s about it, though maybe it was more 70’s to a Argentine than to me.

The writing was mediocre, not what I expected from an Argentina with such a rich literary tradition.  Nothing Cortazar-like in the script.  The drama was not suspenseful, even as the ending did not end the way I predicted it would.  The ending by the way was just silly – right out of Jane Eyre.

Maybe I did get lost in the translation.  But I think the director failed to translate what he was after to the Big Screen.  If you are interested in things Argentine, here’s a secret – grab a copy of Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch, pour yourself a cup of mate and lose yourself in some terrific writing.

A Slightly Witty Look At Today’s Headlines

Goldman Sachs turned a profit despite charges of fraud.  Well, a name with Gold in it inspires trust.  What do you expect?

Charlie Crist running as an Independent for the Florida senate seat.  Good idea.  The Republicans bowing to Tea Party pressure have put their weight beyond Marco Rubio.  If Crist wins as an Independent, this weakens the Republican party and would make it easier for Crist to side with Democrats on some issues.  I say stick it to the Republicans Charlie.

Hugo Chavez gathered with some allies to honor the 200th anniversary of Venezuelan independence.  Chavez has allies?  Really?  In a few years, Venezuela will be celebrating independence from the dictatorship.  Then Venezuela will have plenty of allies.

European planes have been grounded for days by the volcano in Iceland.  The volcanic grit can lock up jet engines.  The airlines lose millions for each day their planes aren’t in the air, while frustrated passengers scramble to make alternative arrangements.  It’s the 21st century.  We’ve mapped the human genome, built space stations, simulated the big bang, come on, can’t we come up with something to protect planes from fine particulates?  A force field, or a giant fan to blow the stuff away or some sort of laser to vaporize the dust.

Have You Driven A Toyota Lately?

Toyota used to feature commercials with the phrase “ask somebody”.  I would simply ask this at a Toyota dealership to a salesperson:  Do you drive one?  I wonder how many in Toyota management do?  I might even ask:  have you driven one lately?…wait, I think that was a Ford commercial.

I’ve never owned a Ford or a Toyota.  I can’t remember ever driving a Ford – we were a Chevy family.  And I’ve only driven Toyota cars a few times.  I’ve had a couple of Toyota loaners, and have driven friends’ before.  The truth is, I never much liked Toyota styling.  I couldn’t see myself driving one.  I knew they were the most reliable cars on the road, but I just didn’t like how they looked – I didn’t like them then and don’t like them now.

I’m not one of these “buy American” hypocrites either.  I’ve never owned an American car.  The last American car I drove regularly was a 1978 Camaro.  It was my dad’s car but when he got his 1973 MG running, he let me drive the Cam off to college.  I drove the thing for years until it was rear-ended at a stop sign in Denton, Texas and transformed into an accordion.  No, I was not injured nor was my passenger, thank God.  I’ve been driving Japanese cars ever since, but never a Toyota…well, except for the loaners.

Ask somebody if they’ve driven a Toyota lately, or a Lexus for that matter.  Not that I mean to disrespect those who still have faith in the company.  After folks take their recalled cars in, I would hope the fixes make the cars roadworthy again.  But If I had a recalled Toyota, I’d trade it in for a Honda or a Chevy Malibu.

Red Sox Off to Mediocre Start

The Red Sox are 4-7, in 4th place currently in the AL east.  They’ve scored an average of 4 runs a game, allowing 5.  They’ve only won 1 game at home out of 5, winning 3 on the road.  Lefty power hitters JD Drew .139 and David Ortiz .177 are in a funk.  They’ve both struck out 15 times – Drew in 36  at bats, big Papi in 35.  The two have accounted for only 6 of the team’s 47 total runs.   I know it’s early in the season, but it may be time to platoon Mike Lowell and Ortiz at DH.  Drew is one of the least durable players in the league and may be ailing again, so I’d put him on the DL and work Cameron, Hermida and Hall into the outfield until Ellsbury returns.

The Sox have gotten serviceable starting pitching, but the bullpen has been a little shaky, particularly Ramon Ramirez, Manny Delcarmen and Scott Schoeneweis.  It’s too early to panic, but the team shouldn’t go with these guys for too long if they can’t get the job done.  When Dice-K comes back, I’d recommend sending Wake to the bullpen and pitch him before or after Bard.  That’d mess up hitters’ timing, wouldn’t it?  And why not bring Julian Tavarez back?  He’s not on a major league roster anywhere as best I can tell.

An interesting tidbit to reveal:  the cerebral Red Sox have 5 players whose last names are names of colleges:  Bard College, Drew College, Wakefield College (in the UK) , UMASS Lowell, and Seton Hall.