Friday, July 23, 2010

Quotes of the day

... it's hard to do a really good job on anything you don't think about in the shower. ... Turning the other cheek turns out to have selfish advantages. Someone who does you an injury hurts you twice: first by the injury itself, and second by taking up your time afterward thinking about it. If you learn to ignore injuries you can at least avoid the second half. I've found I can to some extent avoid thinking about nasty things people have done to me by telling myself: this doesn't deserve space in my head. I'm always delighted to find I've forgotten the details of disputes, because that means I hadn't been thinking about them. My wife thinks I'm more forgiving than she is, but my motives are purely selfish.--Paul Graham

Marx helped tyrants and naive revolutionaries rationalize what they wanted to do, which is why for many decades Marx was considered the greatest intellectual in history (after the fall of the USSR, this now seems absurd, but that's hindsight). So, Paul, remember not to take offense, no intellectuals convince people to choose certain policies, rather, they help people rationalize their prejudices. Just break out of your intellectual echo chamber long enough to realize that emphatic reassertion is not argument, and if fiscal stimulus was the no-brainer you thought it was, it would have clearer empirical support.--Eric Falkenstein

Hitting 600 home runs is still amazing — and for Alex Rodriguez to do it before his 35th birthday (July 27) is beyond amazing. What does this 600th home run mean, though? A-Rod has, of course, admitted to using steroids during his home run prime. So to many, his 600th home run won’t even count, won’t even exist, a record-book mirage. But even to those who have come to grips with the Selig Era and the simple fact that all the numbers in the record books are distorted by one queasy fact or another, the 600 home run number STILL feels used up. It is like someone struggling to climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, reaching the peak and finding that people had already built a McDonald’s, a Home Depot and a Best Buy up there. Steroids are not the only thing that caused the home run explosion of the 1990s — I’ve long suspected that they weren’t even the biggest thing. Smaller strike zones, harder bats, body armor, smaller ballparks, weight training (not even including performance enhancers), money incentives, expansion… all these things and more pointed toward bigger power numbers. The game did not tilt… it was tilted. A lot of people wanted more home runs. And the men running baseball had to give people what they wanted. One of my favorite parts of the Ken Burns documentary — one of the things Burns does so well — is laying things out simply. Baseball was in huge trouble in the mid-90s. The strike and canceled World Series destroyed something inside baseball fans. The embarrassment of the replacement players made things even worse. It’s common thought that Cal Ripken’s streak helped reconnect fans and baseball… and it probably did for some. But I always thought that was overplayed. Attendance was stagnant, television ratings stagnant, the game felt stagnant. The common theory is that home runs — Babe Ruth’s home runs particularly — helped save baseball after the 1919 Black Sox. When players started hitting home runs at a preposterous pace after the strike, well, nobody really wanted to ask too many questions. And here we are, 15 or so years later, and the bills are coming in. The 400 Club has more than doubled since 1990. The 500 Club has 25 members… few people can name them all now. A-Rod is about to become the seventh man to hit 600 home runs. And none of it feels all that special anymore.--Joe Posnanksi

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