Category: Uncategorized

In My Right Mind

Did you know that in baseball, a left-handed pitcher is called a “southpaw” because traditionally ballparks were built so the batter faced east? Hence the pitcher stood with his left paw toward the south. It kept the sun out of the batters’ eyes mostly. It didn’t help the pitcher any.

But I talk about baseball enough on this blog.

The technical term for left-handedness is “sinistrality” which, if you think about it, sounds like some generic deviant behavior. You couple that with the realization that left is the opposite of “right” and you might end up with a complex.

So it is nice that there is an International Lefthanders Day. It is today, August 13th. Mostly it is an opportunity for the left-handed to lament how writing with a pencil or pen always leaves their words smudged and the side of their hand all leady or inky.

To put a positive spin on things, International Lefthanders Day also gives us a chance to enumerate the many notable public figures who are/were lefties. It helps us to feel not so…you know…ten percent of society. Maybe we’re insecure and we need to be able to tell people “Hey, look! so-and-so is left-handed, so I could be a famous such-and-such one day too, you know!”

I used to just say “Well I’m left-handed so that means that I’m in my right mind,” a reference to each hemisphere of the brain controlling the opposite side of the body. Not only is the division of labor between the left and right brain at least a bit muddy, but I already told you how I feel about the implications of the word “right” in all of this.

Lefties do tend to be more artistic, creative dreamer type people, and righties tend to be more technical, analytical thinkers. But technical and analytical do not necessarily equal “smart”, and blanket statements like those can never be entirely accurate anyway. It’s like saying “girls are smarter than boys” or vice versa. You say it enough though, and some might start to believe it. And when left-handed kids start to realize how few of them there are in the world, they might start thinking there is something wrong with them. And there is a point in your life when being “unique” is a small consolation.

I was born with spina bifida. My parents were told early on that as a bi-product of the condition, I’d likely have difficulties with math and other analytical brain function, which proved very accurate. You take that, along with my left-handedness and it is no surprise that I became a writer and not an engineer or something.

There are a ton of other well-known mini-annoyances associated with left-handedness. Some things are just made for the 90%. It’s a fact of life for lefties. You learn to work around those things. In short, you get creative. Or, to put it another way, it’s a good thing you’re in your “right mind.”

The Field of Dreams Game As It Should Be

Did you know that James Earl Jones doesn’t even like baseball? According to cast members from “The Sandlot” it’s true. The man who played a small but integral role in that film, who also delivered a dramatic crescendo of a monologue in “Field of Dreams” does not get what the big deal is about the game of baseball.

Unbelievable. But true.

I found that out the same day the news came that Major League Baseball’s special game at the Field of Dreams movie site has been rescheduled for next season. The game’s match-up had already been changed due to the drastically altered schedule for this shortened season. Originally it was going to be the Chicago White Sox vs. the New York Yankees. After Covid-19 ravaged the 2020 calendar, it became a face-off between the White Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. Now that it’s been moved to next season, the Chicago White Sox will still be one of the teams, but their opponent is yet to be determined.

I have some thoughts.

If you are not familiar, the Chicago White Sox are essential to the event because the movie “Field of Dreams” revolved around the 1919 White Sox, infamously known as the Black Sox due to eight of the club’s players being banned from Major League Baseball for life for accepting money from gamblers to lose the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.

So my first thought is that in 2021 the White Sox should play the Cincinnati Reds at the Field of Dreams. I think that has never been the plan because while the movie makes the White Sox not the heroes, but at least the cautionary tale. Bringing the Cincinnati Reds back into the picture would possibly be hitting too close to home, opening up an old wound in baseball history. Given the off-season cheating scandal surrounding the Houston Astros coupled with the unpopular way the terms of the current season were negotiated, pitting the Sox vs. the Reds may be too much of a reminder of the first time the National Pastime almost completely lost its way. But it is also a chance to exorcise some old baseball demons.

Something Terrence Mann, James Earl Jones’ character in Field of Dreams said is relevant. That baseball “reminds us of all that once was good, and could be again.” That America had been “erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again” but that baseball had always been there and always would be.

It is understandable for fans to be angry with several members of the Houston Astros if not the entire organization. It is valid to take issue with the Players Union for the way they fought over pay for what is going to be a little over a third of a normal season. Although, to be fair, given the risks involved with the pandemic, I am hard-pressed to not at least consider it from both sides’ perspectives.

Either way, the game of baseball itself is not to blame. It is timeless, above and beyond all of the controversy and haggling, and it has got us through things that were much more serious than any of these things, which was the point Terrence Mann was making. And it couldn’t be more relevant with America on the brink in so many ways in 2020.

I think the White Sox vs. Reds match-up would be a poignant reminder that if baseball could survive the 1919 Black Sox Scandal where players allegedly blatantly gave away the most Holy, the World Series, that surely it can survive a few guys banging on trash cans to signal pitches, or whatever devices the Astros used. The game survived the 1994 World Series being cancelled by a fight over money, so surely it can survive the same given that this time around part of the reason for the fight was because playing at all this season comes with a nearly unprecedented risk.

Secondly, a lot of people are happy that the game is going to be delayed until next season because by then hopefully a ballpark full of fans will be able to attend. A new park has been constructed on-sight for the event. But I think in the spirit (no pun intended) of the movie “Field of Dreams” it would be delightfully surreal if the White Sox and Reds put on the 1919 uniforms and went out on the original cornfield ball diamond at the movie site, and played a televised game with no fans, certainly no canned crowd noise, no music, and maybe even no play-by-play announcers.

Just the ballgame, as is, raw. And if you watch the game, and you squint just so, it could be like an old wrong being made right in the baseball Hereafter, or whatever.

Maybe this is all a bit macabre. Maybe it is saccharine. Or maybe it is just too spot-on. But it would be a unique moment in baseball history. We’re already getting a taste of it with the empty ballparks this year. This would just be taking the notion to its limits.

Okay Let’s Brainstorm

“Brainstorm” sounds like a hipster word to me. I don’t really know why I think that but I stand by it. It turns out the term was in the dictionary at least a century ago.

Then, the definition of “brainstorm” was “a sudden and severe attack of mental illness”, “a temporary loss of reason” or “a serious error in judgement.” In fact the Oxford Dictionary still supplies those as alternate definitions. These days, a brainstorm holds connotations of something more positive, creative and constructive, usually a group discussion designed to generate ideas.

It isn’t group hysteria though.

Funny though, when someone has an idea that they want to lay on you that is new and unique, and maybe even a bit unorthodox, they’ll probably – perhaps self-deprecatingly – present it as a “crazy idea.”

These are usually the best ideas, probably because they were the result of the person doing a little bit of brainstorming on their own. I’m not saying that every “crazy idea” is a great one. Many of them are just…well, loony ideas. But a really good idea is very likely at some point considered by someone as a “crazy” one. Everything that has never been done before looks crazy to someone. But a lot of things that have never been done before are exactly what a lot of people have been waiting for, maybe without ever knowing it.

You’ve heard that song that goes “what the world needs now is love, sweet love” right? Well what the world may need now is “crazy ideas.” Maybe we need risk-takers. To say we need a “paradigm shift” is a cliche, hyperbolic platitude. Like when people say society needs “change” but without offering any particular plan. Maybe it even sounds like a crazy idea.

So it’s probably worth looking into.

Baseball’s Unwritten Rules Aren’t Really Rules

I currently have a copy of “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton on my desk. If you don’t know, Bouton was a Major League ballplayer. The book is about his time with the short-lived Seattle Pilots in 1969. One of the unwritten rules of baseball had always been that one does not talk publicly about what goes on in the clubhouse or the team dynamic in general. “Ball Four” kind of tore the cover off of that one. I deeply question the validity of some “unwritten rules” in baseball anyway. Some are perfectly reasonable. Some of them need to be ignored.

I’ll start with the unwritten rules that I agree with.

1. Don’t bunt to break up a no-hitter – I am a fan of small ball. Home runs do not excite me, at least not with the regularity that we see them today. And the bunt is a perfectly valid way of getting on base or advancing a runner. But doing it with no one on base simply to break up a no-hitter is like kicking over the chess board when you realize you have no path to victory.

2.If you hit one of our guys with a pitch, we hit an equal member of your team” – To some it is settling up of accounts. To others it is reaping what you sew. And to yet others it is a second wrong making things right. And of course there is the argument that all this does is escalate a bad situation. I am not for escalating tensions on the diamond but I think if one team’s biggest star player gets hit intentionally, the other team should expect that if there is retaliation, it will come to their own star player.

3. Don’t celebrate a home run – I have long enjoyed the creativity of the end zone celebration after touchdowns in the NFL, and more recently the elaborate home plate or dugout celebrations after a home run in Major League Baseball. I appreciate them as entertainment, but I agree that it is not something that should happen unless it is either a walk-off that wins the pennant or the World Series or something. Side note: There is another unwritten rule that a pitcher is not to celebrate a strikeout, but I’ve never really seen any pitcher do that.

4. No stealing a base or swinging at a pitch on a 3-0 count – Certainly with the runner on first, stealing second in this situation just screams to your teammate who is batting that you think they are going to find a way to not get walked. And the only redemptive value of swinging on a 3-0 pitch is if the batter knows without a doubt that this is their pitch to hit, and in doing so they can move the runner up more than one base by hitting it.

Then there are the “unwritten rules” that aren’t so straightforward.

1. Don’t step on the chalk line – I am conflicted with this one, so I am going to play both sides here. You should never step on the chalk lines because it messes up the beautiful infield. But throughout the game base runners are going to mess the lines up anyway. And not stepping on the baselines due to superstition? Well…yes, baseball is a terribly superstitious game over all. But catering to other people’s superstitions is no reason not to step on a bit of chalk.

2. Don’t talk about no-hitters – Again this is mere superstition and if you mention a no-hitter in progress and the pitcher goes out and gives up a hit on the next pitch, it isn’t your fault. He listened to you talking about no-hitters. He let it get into his head. He threw the pitch. He gave up the hit.

3. Don’t rub the mark after hit by a pitch – A batter is not supposed to show pain or weakness by rubbing the place where he just got hit by a pitch. But I think a pitcher knows he’s hurt the batter by hitting him with a fastball. If it was intentional, that was kind of the point. If it wasn’t you don’t have to concern yourself with whether he knows he hurt you.

4. Pitchers taken out of the game must stay in the dugout – What ever happened to a manager yanking the pitcher out of the game and telling him to “hit the showers!” To me “hit the showers!” means right now. He can come back afterwards to support the team.

5. Don’t run up the score – This includes stealing bases when far ahead. Look, the point of the game is to score more runs than the other team, and giant rallies do occur from time to time. So when you have a chance to score more runs, you take it. If you’re up 17-1 in the ninth, sure you don’t have to swing for the fences but you’re certainly not going to bunt either. That’d be breaking another unwritten rule. So all you can do is swing away. And if you happen to load the bases and you’ve got a good hitter up, he should be looking for a good pitch and swinging at it. Whatever happens happens.

6. Managers, don’t go against percentages – This one is complicated. Do you remember Moneyball? The Oakland Athletics were playing percentages to the extreme and it worked very well. But some of the best managers of all time had a sixth sense when it came to baseball. They knew their players, and they knew the opposition. Sometimes they saw things no one else did. Sometimes a managers just uses their intuition. Intuition is not necessarily logical. And besides, going against the percentages hold the advantage of the element of surprise.

Surely there are some baseball purists out there who will take issue with a good amount of what I’ve said here. I encourage debate.

Opportunity Comes Once Every 6,700 Years

Today my personal Facebook page gave me a bittersweet reminder of where I was as a freelance writer one year ago. That day last year I posted a link to a piece I did for my first on-going client of which I was particularly proud.

It is bittersweet because of how quickly a string of very promising leads this spring amounted to naught. It was partly a failure on my part to seal the deals, but it also had a lot to do with the emergence of Covid-19. I do my freelance work mostly from home, whereas the leads were customer-facing places of business. Surely they were keeping a very close eye on the unfolding situation.

Not that I wasn’t. Maybe it was the idealist in me that kept plugging away at leads as though the world were not about to be drastically upended. Maybe it is the idealist in me that keeps me believing that I’ll have those opportunities again, and what keeps me promoting my freelance business. It was still fairly new when Covid came along, so it turns out last year amounted to its glory days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about all of this as the Neowise comet passes by this week. If you aren’t aware of it, the comet will be visible between now and July 24th, and will not return for 6,700 Earth years. If you’re doing the math at home, that is a once-in-almost-one-hundred-lifetimes sight to see.

We’ve all probably been told at some point that certain opportunities come once in a lifetime. Covid or no Covid, a lot of us can’t help but wondering what opportunities we allowed to shoot right past and burn out before our eyes before Covid came along and made it all kind of irrelevant. That’s not something one ought to dwell on, and I won’t.

I don’t think that last summer was my only window when it comes to local freelance writing. Because I know that commerce will bounce back, one way or another. It may not look like it did last summer, but we will recover. So I hope that when my fellow local business owners get back on their feet, I will be able to connect with them and help them in that recovery.

For tonight, I think I’ll head outside and sit under the stars for a while and take in a celestial spectacle. At least of that one I can be certain this week is my one chance in this lifetime. I don’t want to miss it.

“LIKE” a Prayer

You know those things that go around social media that say to give it a LIKE is worth one prayer, and to share it is worth five prayers? I mean the numbers are always different and sometimes a comment is worth a prayer too, which immediately boosts the value of the LIKE and the share of course.

I am not writing this to say anything about anyone’s belief system. Not at all. But I recently saw a variation of this thing on a Youtube video that made me pause for a moment. The guy in the video was in a rather harrowing situation, running away from an unseen horror when he told viewers to give his video a LIKE, because that would be equal to a prayer, of which he said he could use as many as he could get at the moment. Not because his channel was struggling due to COVID-19 or anything like that. He just casually tossed it out there because of whatever was chasing him.

Sort of like, “Hey guys, I might get killed by this thing that’s chasing me but make sure you smash that LIKE button if you want to see more of my crazy content!”

It was one of those videos demonstrating the Randonautica app. With the app, the user picks the kind of adventure they want to have basically. Some dark, some fun, some romantic even. Then the app generates a set of coordinates that the user heads over to. You’re supposed to think deep and hard about a certain thing that you want to find at that location, and allegedly one way or another you will. For the most part I think the power of suggestion, the stretch of the imagination and the seeing that which one wants to see are all at play here.

There are a string of videos on Youtube with people demonstrating it. Some are just silly, but some are “terrifying” and those are the ones I am interested in here. These “scary” ones, by the way, are almost always done at night and in many cases recorded by a lone “randonaut.” It seems like they always tell you that you should never go randonauting at night and you should never, ever do it alone. Then they proceed, of course, to do it at night alone to show you why you shouldn’t.

The app has been around a while now but the more of these videos I watch the more it is obvious to me that these videos are just very elaborate marketing for the app. I mean there actually were some people who legitimately did find a dead body while using the app. No joke. But these videos though…they are pretty much as dramatic as possible, much like the run of the mill supernatural explorer/ghost hunter videos that are all over YouTube. Many times when they get to the destination the app gives them, at some point they are met with some ominous sign. One time it said “Leave” on the wall of an abandoned hospital. One time they found a sign in a field that said “The End is Near”. Things like that, which are a bit more than coincidental.

We are supposed to believe the app itself is supernatural. I’ll just leave that one hanging there for you to do whatever you want with it.

If we don’t believe that, then we are supposed to believe that someone behind the app is leaving these signs to give the user the scare that they are seeking. But to believe that, we have to believe that there is someone waiting on call for someone in their area to play the app, beating the player to the spot in order to leave these ominous signs. Sounds like a very elaborate conspiracy.

You also may be wondering why they’d market the app this way. Well, people are into some crazy stuff right? There are thrill seekers out there, people who want to be horrified and they will pay money to be horrified. There is a whole genre of movies, certain theme parks and extreme sports that exist for these people. So it is no surprise really that this app was made for them, and that it would be marketed to them in such a way.

My guess is that when any random randonaut actually uses the app, not much happens. But I could be wrong.

This Post Is About Macaroni and Cheese.

Today I’d like to talk about macaroni and cheese. I like macaroni and cheese. Always have. I’m 41 years old and I can still taste the very distinctive way my babysitter would make it. I couldn’t begin to describe it, and I have only recently begun to figure out how she did it. And that was by accident and I’ll never tell.

If I’d figured it out in college when I ate macaroni and cheese quite often, I may have been making it that way all these years just for pure nostalgia’s sake. But I do like variety. When it comes to my macaroni and cheese, though I like the tried and true, I have been surprisingly experimental over the years.

My personal favorites?

Curry Mac – I went through a stage in which I was all about the Indian food and always wanted to put a little bit of that flavor into anything I cooked. It didn’t always work but the first time I made curry mac I remember declaring to my wife that I’d never make it without curry again. That didn’t last. It was good though.

Macaroni and Sunflower Seeds – Yeah I don’t know what I was doing here. Again it was a period where a certain food item, this time sunflower seeds (out of the shell) kind of began to dominate my culinary persona. I would put them in everything. I liked to roast them a bit then chuck them in my macaroni and cheese. For texture and for protein because I was a vegetarian at the time.

Macaroni and Peas – This has been the most enduring version in my household. Whenever I tell my wife I am going to make macaroni and cheese she asks if we have any peas. I usually make peas on the side just to appease her (see what I did there?) even if I myself feel like having the original version.

Macaroni and Chick’n and California Blend Vegetables – I spelled it “chick’n” because that is generally how the vegetarian excuse for chicken is referred to. I honestly don’t remember if I ever made macaroni and cheese with real chicken strips before I went veg, and I haven’t since rejoining the omnivorous life. If you don’t know, “California Blend” is broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. This is one that I have not had in a very long time, but just writing about it, right now I kind of miss it. On a side note, I’ve been known to have this one either without the vegetables or without the “chick’n” in a pinch.

Tofu Chili Mac – This is an old classic with a twist. I don’t know if I ever had it with ground beef based chili before I went veg, but I would often make a chili with a dense tofu crumble in place of the beef, and for some reason at some point I started making home made elbow macaroni and Velveeta cheese whenever I made the chili. Inevitably they ended up in one dish when I was throwing together a lunch for work one day. It was kind of a revelation. Sincerely.

Macaroni and Cheese and Tomato Soup – Along the same lines but a little lazier, I used to make that same home made macaroni and cheese with Velveeta, and on top of that I’d pour on some tomato soup. I don’t know why. I think it is because when I was a kid we’d always have ring bologna with either macaroni and cheese or tomato macaroni on the side. I bet I didn’t have the bologna but for some reason I got the notion that I had to have both.

So you can see that when it comes to food, nothing inspires me to tinker more than macaroni and cheese. I hope you see at least one variety that you’ll have a go at yourself. Hope you like it.

Make World Social Media Day Every Day

Today, June 30th, is in fact World Social Media Day. I don’t know what that means precisely as most of the suggestions for how you can “celebrate” this day are things that people are increasingly doing anyway.

But I’d be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to remind you that if you own a business or are in charge of the marketing for such a business, you have to get serious about social media.

I’d call it “Social Marketing” but that is already a thing, and it’s different.

I am a freelance writer but I’ve always encouraged clients and prospective clients to take my work and unleash it upon the world via all manner of social media and let that wave of influence work the way it does. I find most businesses have a company Facebook page, maybe a Twitter account (or whatever the next big thing is this week) but they don’t always know what to post that is related to the business.

If you post the writing I do for you on your social media, odds are your followers are current customers – people who know your work, who trust and believe in you. When they, in turn, share my post, their endorsement should carry enough weight to inspire a number of the next wave to come see what you’re all about. If they like what they see, they will share the post with their friends. Ideally.

Then they tell two friends.
Then they tell two friends.
And so on. And so forth.

As “World Social Media Day” implies, you can get your message around quite literally the entire world in a day if you strike the right chord with the right people. If you do, well that’s gravy, but all you’ve really got to do is get people in your immediate area to share it with more people in your immediate area, depending on how massive you want to become.

Social media is the ultimate passive marketing, the most effective way to exponentially increase the number of people who hear about you, all with a good reason to trust the endorsement because they heard it from a friend. It is so much more personal than an ad or a local news article written about your business.

Let’s start with a conversation to determine what you need your public to know:

What makes your business so shareable?

What will inspire your followers to turn around and say “Hey guys, you’ve gotta go check this out”?

Think about it and get in touch with me. Let’s go!

…But Listen To The Color Of Your Dreams…

Okay, full disclosure, I only titled this post as I did as an excuse to make a reference to the Beatles. This post has nothing to do with them or music or anything. It does have to do with the creative process.

Have you ever had a dream that was so vivid, so brimming with little nuggets of information that it is a self-contained story that demands to be told? I had one in about 2006 when I had a dream that I was in New York City outside the Dakota building waiting to get an autograph from John Lennon. No seriously this post isn’t about the Beatles. The dream turned into the first draft of a novel. I’m still not satisfied with it so it’s still a draft. I’ve had stuff to do. The point is that tiny little vignette turned into an entire novel.

I have another novel I started working on well over a year ago after a visit to New Orleans but set aside quite a while ago after hitting a brick wall creatively. Then, a few nights ago I had another one of those dreams that was so lucid that it demanded attention, and I knew as soon as I awoke that it was the next piece of the story I have to tell. Because the dream was a crystal-clear scene from a specific spot I’d been to in New Orleans, and a face in the dream was just as hauntingly clear. It was a New Orleans musician, a subject to which my story intimately relates. It was like the dream was grabbing me and shaking the next phase of my story out of me. I wasn’t about to ignore it.

Stories are like that. They come to you one chunk at a time. Each chunk, when it comes, gives you a giant leap forward. So listen to your dreams. Use them. Especially if a story you are trying to tell is really weighing on your mind but you can’t quite get it going. Your dreams are what is beneath the surface of your consciousness. Maybe these bits that come to you in a dream are so strikingly perfect sometimes because you’ve given them time to gel while you’re only sleeping.

Certainly I can’t wait around for that kind of inspiration to strike me while I am freelancing, but inspiration shows itself in various forms, thankfully. I listen for it.

A Dailey Freelance Exclusive! Ode To Cartwright, Adams and Wheaton.

When you write freelance material for a client, it is great to be able to give them something that no one else has. Kind of like getting “the scoop” before any other news outlet, to put it in olde-timey journalistic parlance. Really it is about giving them something fresh to offer their followers. Digging a bit deeper than anyone else bothers to.

To illustrate what I’m talking about:

This Friday is the anniversary of the day that, in 1846, the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York played the first known match under the official rules they had written up the year before. In the match they were destroyed by a club called the New York Nine, who thrashed the over-confident Knickerbocker Club by a score of 23-1 on the Knicks’ home turf, Elysian Fields in Hoboken, NJ.

I have noticed that history tends to come down to us in threes.

  • First there is the mythologized version of what happened.
  • Then there is “the real story.”
  • And then, when you dig a little deeper you get “the whole story.”

The myth was that Abner Doubleday had invented baseball in Cooperstown, NY seven years before the Knickerbocker vs. Nine match. The myth is the reason that to this day the National Baseball Hall of Fame is situated in Cooperstown. But it didn’t happen.

The “real story” is that Knickerbocker Club member Alexander Cartwright had written the rules the previous year. Often referred to as the “Cartwright Rules” it is a set of regulations so imperfectly perfect that they seem totally random and ordained from On High all at once.

But the “whole story” is that versions of the game were already being played by kids for probably hundreds of years before Cartwright. Though he probably played a huge role in the “invention” of baseball as it is played today, a great deal of the credit ought to go to another Knickerbocker Club member, Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams, and William Wheaton. As a matter of fact, Wheaton has claimed to have written up a set of rules for the Gotham Base Ball Club in 1837!

There is plenty of information, and there are plenty of accounts that have been dug up concerning their roles in early baseball that you can research on your own if you are interested.

That is “the scoop” I mentioned. That’s the “exclusive!” In the old days, in pursuit of “the scoop” a story would rarely reach the “real story” level, and certainly their was no time for the “whole story”. Fortunately it is a different time and Dailey Freelance can take the time to give you more depth. More substance.