Yankee Doodles

I was sitting at my computer today reading about all manner of important issues like health care reform, the nature of existence, art and atheism when I came across a comment from a New York Yankees "fan" that lit my hair on fire. Luckily, my imaginary butler, Karlsson, was here to put out the flames and feed me milk and peanut butter cookies, but after he returned to his normal duties (inventing a cure for aging), I returned and read the post again. The so-called Yankee fan was using a word he couldn't spell -- hypocrite -- to describe the fans of other teams who spend money on players. And that's when my hair caught fire again. Yes, I thought, other baseball teams spend money on players. That's how it works. The money players are paid is called a "salary." But comparing any other team to the evil empire is like comparing dairy milk to soy milk: one is playing by a set of rules that involves cows and it's played by those rules for a long time. The other is masquerading as cow milk by mashing up some beans and mixing in some other stuff. Well, I'm not buying it. Wait, I am buying it: I love soy milk -- it's really delicious, actually, and whatever they're putting in there (probably sugar), I'm for it. I had a dream about soy milk the other night and... Wait, again, I seem to have gotten off on a tangent, which sometimes happens when my hair is on fire. The point is: there's the Yankees and there's everyone else. Imagine a world, if you have an imagination (I'd apologize for leaving Yankee fans behind just now, but I don't believe such creatures exist, only drooling bullies who'll do anything to anyone to bolster their sagging sad sack egos -- using the word "fan" to describe these creatures does disservice to real fans of real teams). Now, where was I? Yes, imagination. Imagine a world where the NBA limits the height of its players to 6' 5", but permits one team to recruit players over seven feet tall. That's the situation in baseball. From the team with the 2nd highest payroll (the Mets) down to the team with the lowest, there's a continuous slide: the biggest leap from one team to the next is a few million dollars. From the Mets up to the Yankees there's about a 70 million dollar leap. That difference is higher than the payroll of half the teams in baseball. So when Yankee fans try to pretend that it's an equal playing field, my hair catches fire. Poor Karlsson. Lucky for baseball fans that the Yankees have often been run by incompetent boobs (my apologies to cows whose boobs produce real dairy milk); and lucky it wasn't until the 90's when George Steinbrenner, the Yankees owner, figured out that it didn't make sense to buy one or two players when you could buy ALL the good players on the market every year. It's really a tribute to Yankees' incompetence that they haven't won every championship the past 20 years.

So: the Yankees are to baseball what bullies are to playgrounds. They're to baseball what people who kick cats are to cats. They're to baseball what Wall Street is to America. The Yankees are to baseball what Al Capone was to fair play.

Okay, I accept that. It sucks for baseball and for any real fans who might remain, but until baseball applies a true salary cap, this imbalance will remain. The Yankees have been buying championships since they bought Babe Ruth from the Red Sox and it looks like that's going to continue.

But let's not allow Yankee fans to pretend there's an equal playing field like they pretend when they play soccer against the special needs children in their neighborhoods. Let's not allow them to pretend that what the Yankees have accomplished they accomplished because they draft well or because they're smart or because their own players are better than other teams players. They win because they have money. The rest of the league is essentially developing their future players. If you doubt this Yankees fans, then ask yourself if they could have won without A-Rod (sorry, he's the team's best player, not the defensively challenged, overrated Jeter), Teixeira, Damon, Sabathia, Burnett, and even Swisher. And that's just this year: they would not have won any of the championships of the past 15 years without Clemens, Key, Cone and all the other players they bought. (Hold on: I asked a fictional character (Yankee fan) to ask itself a hypothetical question (something this imaginary character is incapable of doing)). That's my bad...

If you really want a fair assessment of what teams do well developing players, look at the league as a whole and see which teams have the most major league players. Which developed the most stars? It isn't the Yankees, whose "prospects" continue to flop.

No team can compete with the Yankees and no team will be able to unless New York disappears into the ocean (and maybe that will happen, since fans of the Yankees are, by definition, fans of the many Washington lobbyists protecting their clients right to pretend global warming doesn't exist -- anything for a buck). If that happens, at least I'll be happy: sinking into the ocean is about the only thing that will keep my hair from igniting again. Now where did Karlsson, go. It's time for my nap.


Jonathan Kravetz interviews Jonathan Kravetz and it all ends with a scene from The Deer Hunter

JK: Jonathan, I'm very grateful you're taking the time to talk to our readers.
JK: It's no problem, Jonathan. I'm happy to do it.
JK: Good, then let's get right to it.
JK: Shoot.
JK: Some say you're a genius. How do you respond to that accusation?
JK: Well, first of all, Jonathan, I don't really take it as an accusation.
JK: Oh?
JK: No, I think it's intended as a compliment.
JK: But those calling you that -- they must mean it ironically.
JK: Yes, I agree, they mean it ironically. Still, I choose to take it as a compliment.
JK: That's cheating yourself out of an opportunity to get to know yourself better, isn't it?
JK: Yes.
JK: Fair enough. Then how do you respond to the compliment?
JK: With false modesty. Thus: If you talk to any of my friends, I'm sure they'd be happy to tell you that I'm no genius.
JK: Just the opposite of a genius.
JK: Exactly! So, although it's flattering, I suppose I have to say that I'm just lucky to be doing what I do -- writing plays -- and I'm just lucky that people respond to them.
JK: Are you avoiding the question, then?
JK: Yes.
JK: I thought you would. Let me ask you this: do you really think people are responding to your plays?
JK: I'd say yes, they are. After a performance, frequently people come up to me and pat me on the back and say things like, "I really enjoyed that," or "You're very funny, you should write for cable television."
JK: And you believe these people?
JK: Not really, actually, but I continue writing plays, anyway.
JK: You're a bit of a self-deluding sort, aren't you?
JK: Yes. But I believe a bit of self-delusion is necessary to get through life. If we honestly assessed ourselves every moment of every day, we'd probably jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.
JK: Ha ha!
JK: He he!
JK: What sorts of subjects inspire you?
JK: Hmm, that's a very interesting question.
JK: Thank you.
JK: Well, to begin with, I'm inspired by stories where the author creates his or her own world -- a place that lives in the author's head and only there -- in response to experiences in the real world. Sort of speculative/realistic? But maybe that describes all stories.
JK: Can you give examples?
JK: Sure. I really like the film Brazil.
JK: Oh, yes, of course.
JK: And Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Or a comedy like Groundhog Day. I think the late great Billy Wilder was also something of a master of this sort of thing, though he was much subtler. Films like Double Indemnity, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment -- they take place in a universe that's eerily familiar, but where people talk and behave in a heightened manner. All of these stories explore existential issues in gripping, intriguing ways. At least, to me.
JK: So you're concerned with existence, then?
JK: Yes, I think that's fair to say. Even my comedies. Take Better Lucky Than Smart, for example -- on some simple levels it's about greed.
JK: I love that title, by the way.
JK: Oh, thank you.
JK: No problem.
JK: It's about greed, but it's also about who we are when we simply become striving, dreaming creatures. All the characters in the play strive for -- they desperately desire -- something that they think will make them happy. It's the American dream, if you will -- and they're trapped, ultimately, by their dreams. They can't enjoy what's right in front of them. They can't simply live.
JK: Yes, yes, and it's only the childlike Duke who can see what's going on.
JK: Very perceptive, Jonathan. Yes, Duke, expresses the play's theme in the scene where he talks with young Tyler about the difference between luck and reality.
JK: It's quite captivating.
JK: That was a joke, right, because Tyler is tied up?
JK: Am I trying too hard?
JK: Not at all. I appreciate a good pun as much as the next man.
JK: Anyway, it is a thrilling scene.
JK: Thank you. And I hope it's funny, too.
JK: It's not Seinfeld, but what is?
JK: Is that a rhetorical question?
JK: You can answer it if you'd like.
JK: Well, I love Seinfeld. Many people do. However, I'm deliberately trying to avoid writing sitcoms. I think sitcom-ish writing has become a plague in the playwriting community.
JK: What do you mean?
JK: Simply put, too many writers think they can substitute situational writing for character development. The writing ends up flat and uninteresting.
JK: That does sound bad.
JK: It is.
JK: What else are you working on?
JK: I have a reading of my play, The Beast in My Pants, coming up shortly with Emerging Artists Theater. When I have the details, I'll post them on Facebook, but I do know the reading will be Sunday, October 25th at noon.
JK: Is that really the title?
JK: Yes.
JK: Wow, that might the greatest title in the history of theater...
JK: Well, I don't know about that, but...
JK: I just peed my leg.
JK: You did pee your leg, I feel it trickling into my sock. Jesus, Jonathan.
JK: Well, that's a funny title.
JK: Control yourself!
JK: It's funny!
JK: Oy.
JK: What inspired that play and what's it about?
JK: Well, it's similar to Better Lucky Than Smart, in that it's about people full of unfulfilled desires. In this case, there are six characters and each is trying desperately to learn to love. And failing miserably.
JK: Sounds depressing.
JK: Not at all. It's just human nature. The way we fly at each other in various ways and miss connecting. It's actually quite funny. There's an inane therapist, Doctor Adam Applebaum, who is trying to seduce his patient, Steve, who is in love with his wife and wants to earn her respect, only she loves men who don't respect her. The protagonist, Marlon, is confused by it all and is trying to learn to love Pam, a pretty college student, but she can only love a genius, like Adam Applebaum. Meanwhile, Marlon's mother, Mrs. Rivington, is threatening to kill the therapist -- she's killed five husbands already -- because she's afraid Marlon will blame all his problems on her. Doctor Freud, a puppet that Applebaum talks to, tries to sort it all out, but of course fails.
JK: That sounds horribly sad.
JK: No, really, you'd like it. It's funny.
JK: I'm going to kill myself.
JK: Wait, what?
JK: I'm pointing a gun right now at my head.
JK: Put that down.
JK: I'll do it, don't come any closer.
JK: I said... On no! Jesus! No! Jonathan? Jonathan, speak to me! Jonathan! Jonathan! Jesus! Someone call an ambulance! Hurry! Jonathan!!!


Application to P.C.U.

I was applying to several writing programs a while ago and had trouble figuring out exactly the right tone to strike: Dignified? Brilliant? Sweet and lovable? How do you impress evaluators? Finally, I decided to just tell the truth. So here is my application letter to all the places looking for the perfectly P.C. candidate:

I was born a poor black child in the south. My mother was a lesbian and I think about lesbians a lot. My father was gay and black and Chinese and he traveled a lot with the circus and, sadly, he was a midget. But being a midget and black and Chinese and married to a lesbian, didn’t stop him from pursuing his dream of forming an all-midget, black, Chinese, lesbian elephant taming troupe. His drive and determination has inspired me to pursue my own goals of helping poor, black, Chinese, lesbian midgets with my writing. I’ve been in writing groups before, but they’ve been made up mostly of tall, white, straight people and they have rarely been able to help me find my voice. I am hoping the Writers Program can help me find my midget, black, Chinese, lesbian voice, as I heard a rumor that the workshop will be comprised of a diverse group of Americans. And diversity is what I need – in spades! – to write about black, Chinese lesbian midgets.

Did I mention that I have a lisp? Well, I do, and it generally makes people feel sorry for me. But people with lisps are people too, and I hope, with the aid of the black, Chinese, lesbian midgets I’ll meet in your program, to teach a larger audience (teaching is what writing is all about!) that lisps are nature’s way of saying, “you’re thspecial.”

So in summary: lisps and diversity equal goodness. I equal goodness.

p.s. I own a monkey and sometimes I touch it in inappropriate ways. But people need to learn that monkey molesters… well, you get the picture! WINK WINK!


31 Days to a better blog Day 7

Since I started writing in my blog again (after traveling into the vast reaches of space over the last year), many of you have written and asked me to destroy my computer and return to Uranus. But there were two of you (thanks Mom and Dad) who wanted to know what this whole 31 days to a better blog dealio is. Mom, Dad, meet Darren Rouse. He has a blog called Problogger.net, which, coincidentally, is designed to help people write better blogs. Very lucky he picked the name Problogger when you stop to think about it.

Today's assignment is... oh, wait. I'm a day late. This is day 7 and it's day 8, so CrankyPants is actually catching up on missing a day of improving his blog. Yesterday's assignment was to link to another blog and say a few nice words about it. I did that above, as you can see. And most days CrankyPants would be satisfied with doing the absolute minimum so he could spend the rest of his day doing valuable things, like daydreaming and watching NBA basketball games and thinking deep thoughts (examples of deep thoughts: why do I exist? Is that really Dirk Nowitski's haircut? Does anyone not find Drew Barrymore adorable?). But today is not just any day. Today is the day after the day I was supposed to do this assignment, which makes today yesterday. And yesterday was a special day, because it's not today. Confused? Don't be. Or, as my Grandpa Schlomo likes to say, "Get to the point, you putz." My point is: I'm going to link to TWO blogs. That's right, two. Could you ask for a better deal? You could, but then you'd be greedy and I'd have to kick you in the shins. So here's the second link: Heymarci.com (You gotta click on "blog" to get to the blog, but I'm going to assume you can figure that out because you're a genius). Marci, a former New York Times blogger (yes, that's impressive) is the lovely and amazing and inspiring former lawyer turned journalist/teacher who convinced me to improve my blog. You should visit her site if you're interested in any of the following:

--Changing your career;
--Short women who grew up on the Jersey Shore;
--Classes in journalism;
--Drew Barrymore.

Go ahead. Check out her site. I dare you: http://heymarci.com/ Or check out Darren's if you have a hankering to improve your blog (or to make a living from blogging): http://www.problogger.net/

Now, one last very important... oh, wait. Grandpa Schlmo has gotten into the cole slaw again. I gotta run. Until next time, have a Cranky day...


a GREAT list

For the past year, CrankyPants has been traveling on a spaceship to the outer reaches of the galaxy. For those of you who have swamped this blog with letters begging for more posts, I have bad news for you: you don't exist (although I did get one letter from my Aunt Edwina asking me to leave my Uncle Abe out of my posts, because he's getting a swelled head). For those of you who have not swamped this blog with letters, I have this to say: I love letters. Who doesn't love letters? No one doesn't, that's who. So write me. According to my doctor, I do exist. And I'm lonely. Which brings me to the point of today's blog: blogs.

I'm writing today because I'm taking part in a "31 days to a better blog" program and even though there's no way my blog could be better, I have acknowledged that one way it could be better is if I wrote in it more than once a year (although several of my therapists vehemently disagree). So here I am. Today's assignment is to create a list. Thus, with no further ado, drumroll please... Here's a list of eight things CrankyPants could have been writing about the last year, but didn't because he was busy fliring with alien lifeforms:

1) Barack Obama. I love the guy. Except lately he reminds me a little of George Bush, who I love as much as I love that kid on Winslow Drive who used to beat me up every Saturday morning just to keep his nails short. More and more Barack seems like a member of the club. You know, THAT club. I'm no financial expert, but being a blogger and a jerk, I feel qualified to say that the financial system isn't going to get fixed by rewarding bankers who make money out of nothing in the first place. Give money to people who make useful stuff. Maybe stuff to improve our environment. Or solve our energy problem. Or keep dogs from pooping on my front stoop. Whomever! Just give it to someone who produces something good and useful in the world. Maybe give it to, say, a fabulous blogger playwright? I'm just thinking out loud here...

2) Slumdog Millionaire. A few years ago I made the claim that Crash was the worst Academy Award winner since Gigi. I was, of course, correct. But this year's winner has me pulling out my teeth and clipping my nose hairs. The nicest thing I can say about Slumdog is this: it's a heck of a good episode of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. At least that's what I told people for the first few months after viewing that sentimentalist, dreary, cynical crapfest (the kid plummeting into the shit got off easy since he didn't have to sit through the movie). But I've come around on my thinking: Who Wants to be a Millionaire has had some interesting guests. Some real people with real personalities. It's actually better than Slumdog most days. So why did the movie win? Because it's simple, stupid and really, really stupid. It's just stupid. It's... well, it's stupid.

3) The decay of modern civilization. See above. Plus, the closing of newspapers and the decline of the publishing industry, and the decline of the environment, and the rise of emotionalism and the decline of Tom Brady's knee.

4) Television. Amidst the decline of modern civilization, television has hit a golden age: Battlestar Gallatica, The Wire, Freaks and Geeks (okay, that's going back a bit), The Sopranos. And I'm leaving out a handful of others.

5) Angela Rommelcurd. She's this hot babe that hangs out around Jupiter. We had a little tryst last year, but I don't like to kiss and tell. (Hold up your hands if you thought I was going to use "Uranus" in the first sentence of this paragraph. You make me sick).

6) Dating. Actually, in a meta sort of way, I have written about dating. That is to say, I've said, by saying nothing, all there is to say about my romantic life. (Except for Angela Rommelcurd, of course, who exists only in my brain). Why is dating so difficult? I thought it was because I have high standards: half a brain, a whole body, emotional stability. But it turns out I have too-high standards. Oh, and apparently women have standards, too. Who knew?

7) Hair. How is it that the hair on my face seems to be getting grayer all the time? And my hip is aching? And don't tell me it's because I'm aging, because I'm not.

8) Bunions.