Sunday, January 11, 2009

Random Stuff

The Common Man is sitting around watching football, totally bored because he doesn't have a dog in this fight (hi, Michael Vick!), can't go outside (wicked cold) and wishing it was freaking baseball season already.
Here's what The Common Man has been thinking about today while randomly swinging a baseball bat in his basement and resisting the urge to throw a tennis ball against the wall over and over (this must be how Jack Nicholson felt in The Shining):

--The Common Man's favorite part of the old Transformers show, aside from Optimus Prime, was always Starscream. Starscream's whining, constant threats to overthrow his boss, and total ineptness were often hilarious and did much to move the plot (such as it was) forward. And, in a lot of ways, you couldn't help but root for Starscream, even though it was clear that he was in no way qualified to lead the Decepticons.

Over on, Greg Boose, has chronicled the reasons that Starscream should have been fired, and comes to the conclusion that the problem was Megatron's leadership. Megatron was too slow to react to Starscream's machinations, and never severe enough; and his inaction only led to increased dissension and backbiting among the Decepticons. As Boose points out,
"It's best to address a situation before it gets out of hand. At this point, just five minutes into the first episode of the show, Megatron should have already been asking himself if it was worth keeping Starscream on as a member of the team. The answer is clear. Megatron has many employees who are willing to listen to his orders without politicking for more power. He should have immediately terminated Starscream and had him escorted from the premises by Shockwave and Thundercracker. Or alternatively, he could have shot him in the back of the head with his huge arm cannon."

Boose's article is good, but as several commenters have pointed out, it's also incredibly lazy. While Boose claims "we've combed through the entire Transformers catalog," he really only provides five examples from the first episode, entirely ignoring Starscream's more active attempts to lead an insurrection (creating the Combaticons, for instance) and his successful assassination of the Decepticon leader in Transformers: The Movie.

--In news that, really, doesn't affect anyone, it turns out that Prince Harry, of the British Princes, is kind of a boob. The first indication came three years ago, when Harry was photographed wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party. But Harry was 21 then, dumb and privileged, and one would have hoped he'd learned his lesson about racial sensitivity in the media spotlight. And that his time in the military would have taught him the importance of discipline. However, a tape from 2006, recently released to the British "media," purportedly includes Harry calling a fellow soldier "Paki" (derogatory British slang for Arabs, Middle-Easterners, and Indians) and telling another that he looks like a "rag-head". According to, "a spokesman for Prince Harry apologized in a statement released by St. James's Palace Saturday after the videos surfaced online. The spokesman said the prince...'understands how offensive this term can be, and is extremely sorry for any offense his words might cause.'" Aside from Harry's prominence in the media, there is really nothing to take from the story, except that one of the royal princes of England is indiscreet about what he says, and that he's probably not a good choice to take over if his brother can't fulfill his (largely ceremonial) duties. It does, however, make The Common Man glad that the U.S. doesn't have a monarchy.

--With all the advancements in medical technology in the U.S. in the past hundred years, you'd think humans could at least live as long as a lobster. But you'd be wrong. Recently, a 20 lbs. lobster (named George) caught off of Newfoundland was returned to its native waters by the New York seafood restaurant that bought it, after quick calculations estimated that the immense crustacean was approximately 140 years old. Imagine all the changes that lobster has seen in his lifetime.

Actually not many, The Common Man supposes, he lives at the bottom of the ocean. Maybe he got caught on purpose just because 140 years just walking around the bottom of the ocean was so freaking boring. Anyway, The Common Man hopes that someone thought to ask the lobster about the secret to its longevity, since that's the only question reporters seem to ask centenarians in this country. Maybe humans should grow a protective shell.

--Finally, since The Common Man started with baseball today, it's only fitting he ends with it. One of the most successful things Major League Baseball has done in recent years has been to address the steroid issue (though not necessarily address the steroid problem) through the Mitchell Report. Public sentiment seems to be that baseball has done its due diligence to police itself in this regard, and as long as sacrificial lambs like JC Romero and Sergio Mitre are served up every now and again, the public will continue to feel that way (even as steroid and performance enhancing technology continues to outstrip baseball's ability to test for them). What has slipped through the cracks, for the most part, is baseball's long and colorful history with greenies (amphetamines) and other stimulants ballplayers use to get themselves "up" for 162 games a year.

Baseball has begun to test for illegal stimulants, but the testing has been underpublicized (players are not suspended for their first positive test, nor is that positive test announced to the public) and players are looking for ways around the ban. According to the AP, "A total of 106 exemptions for banned drugs were given to major leaguers claiming attention deficit hyperactivity disorder from the end of the 2007 season until the end of the 2008 season." That works out to almost eight percent of major leaguers legally taking otherwise banned substances to help them "focus." Meanwhile, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that "3 percent to 5 percent of children have ADHD." Not all of those cases, presumably, require medication and some will resolve themselves as the children enter adulthood (a report in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that 40-90% of childhood cases resolve themselves).

So baseball's rash of ADD and ADHD suffers is very greatly out of step with the general public. Like with steroids, players seem to be actively looking for doctors who will provide them with a legitimate-looking excuse for a stimulant prescription. The Common Man loves the game and realizes that it has never and will never be entirely clean of cheating, but it's time to stop pretending that baseball is successfully addressing its problems. It's just that the problems are more complex than everyone once thought.


Anonymous said...

Mmmmmmm, garlic buttah and lobstah.

The Common Man said...

Friend, you're not kidding. The Common Man did his undergrad in Maine, and lived there for two years beyond that. Lobster was both a treat to be savored and an obligation. McDonalds would add a "lobster roll" to their menus every year. It was an unbelievably delicious (and messy) six years.

Unknown said...

Hey dude,

Saw you linked up my Transformers piece from Cracked. Thanks.

Just wanted to state that I had submitted the piece with the title "Five Reasons Megatron Should Have Fired Starscream in the First Episode" and when it was published, they had that title instead.

As a huge Transformers fan myself, I was disappointed.

- Greg

The Common Man said...

Greg, your work was still excellent, and deserves commendation. As another writer told The Common Man yesterday, it's high time this country wake up and pay attention to the threat these Decepticons pose to the American way of life. Only by understanding what makes them tick can we hope to overcome them. Thank you for shining light on a highly underreported story, and exposing a chink in their massive metal armor.

Anonymous said...

lived there for two years beyond that.

ahh, well I see you are not too wickit smaaht but no doubt you mean well. maine. >shudder<.

back to the point though- on reflection I bet 140 yr old lobstah is no tastier or more tender than the slats of the trap it was caught with.

[oh, and Common, it is not really all that manly to still play with children's toys. until your child is old enough to develop an interest, that is. hth, hand.]