Thanks for nothing, NY Times

Well, hi there. Been awhile. Hope you’re doing well. A good deal to catch up on but first, my latest rant.

I was recently in Manhattan for the 47th Annual Convention of the Society for American Baseball Research. It was nice seeing old friends and meeting new ones made via social media for the first time face-to-face. (You can read about it on my other blog, Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf.) One of the high points for me was interviewing Claire Smith, formerly of The New York Times, who will receive the Baseball Writer’s of America Association’s Spink Award this summer at the Baseball Hall of Fame. That honor is bestowed for meritorious contributions to baseball writing, so kudos, Claire. What a gracious lady. I’ll be posting that after the holiday.

Another highlight was a session about Jim Bouton, author of the seminal Ball Four, the book that changed the way we perceived our athlete heroes. Sadly, Bouton has been in poor health over the past few years. He and his wife, Dr. Paula Kurman, were going to announce the he was suffering from cerebral amyloid angiopathy at the session because they considered SABR a part of their family.

Unfortunately that sentiment was made moot when the Times published this article by Tyler Kepner — which appeared in the print edition on Sunday — on their website on Saturday, a few hours before the program. Ultimately, it was a very bittersweet moment with Bouton receiving the praise he so richly deserves for his contribution not only to sports literature, but to literary culture in general.

I’m guessing the Times did not know about the Boutons’ plans, that this wasn’t an effort to “scoop” the competition. But it does annoy nonetheless. This was news that should have come from “family.”

It’s a very poor analogy, but it’s like letting slip to the guest of honor that he’s getting a surprise party. That almost happened to me when my wife said something on the way to a Mets game at the beginning of last month. She had arranged for a bunch of friends to join us and no one said anything to make me suspicious until she and I were on the train to Citi Field and she mentioned that she had told one friend the wrong subway stop. This was someone who would have absolutely no business coming to a baseball game, so I thought it odd for a moment before focusing my intellectual energies on something else.


Hey, I wear glasses!

Image result for bulliesIs this something else I need to worry about: getting body slammed by some politician who is seeking to have the honor of serving the public? Maybe I’m not part of that public. Maybe, being a champion of the alt-right, he sees me as the enemy, either because I’m a member of the media or perhaps because I’m a member of a non-favored religion. Although, to be professionally fair about this, here’s what the JTA wrote: “There was no indication that Greg Gianforte knew or cared that Jacobs was Jewish when he allegedly threw The Guardian political reporter to the ground on Wednesday evening and broke his glasses, leading to misdemeanor assault charges. But that has not stopped online commenters from making the connection on platforms frequented by the alt-right, a loose right-wing movement that includes white nationalists and anti-Semites.”

From a story in The New York Times.

After Greg Gianforte, the Republican House candidate in Montana, was charged with assaulting a reporter for The Guardian on the eve of Thursday’s special election, public reaction ranged from rank disgust on the left to mild chastening, and amused mockery, from many on the right.

Mr. Gianforte’s behavior, at his campaign headquarters Wednesday night, was either “outrageous,” as Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House minority leader, put it, or “totally out of character” — the tempered assessment from Representative Steve Stivers, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “We all make mistakes,” he added.

The Guardian reporter, Ben Jacobs, was deemed “a pajama boy journalist” by the right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, who said the reporter acted “insolent and disrespectful and whiny and moan-y.” The conservative host Laura Ingraham wrote on Twitter: “Did anyone get his lunch money stolen today?”

Bullies will always find a way to blame the victims. Perhaps it’s because Jacobs might look the part of the milquetoast journalist, who, unable to be a “real man” and make a contribution to whatever, has to content himself by observing from the sidelines and making snarky comments in an attempt to compensate for his perceived shortcomings. (I wonder if it would have made a difference had this incident taken place in New York of California rather than Montana.)

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At least I can take comfort in knowing that I spent the extra bucks to get the unbreakable variety of eye-wear.


Public Enemy #1

If you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s because of this call I received TWICE today:

“Hi. This is the tax crime investigation unit of IRS. The reason you are receiving this prerecorded message is to notify you that IRS has issued an arrest warrant against you. Right now you and your physical property both are being monitored and it’s very important that I do hear back from you as soon as possible before we proceed further in any legal manner. My direct callback number is 918-215-9125. Again the number is 918-215-9125. Thank you.”

First of all…”Hi”? Really?

Image result for irs phone call scamsSecond of all, I so want to call that number and see what the deal is. But as I know this is bullshit, and I don’t know about their technological capabilities, I don’t want them having my number come up on caller ID. Perhaps from a payphone…

No exaggeration, the phone must have rung at least eight times today. Thank goodness for caller ID; I never answer 800 numbers and pretty much have the same attitude towards any number I don’t recognize.

I have long lamented the state of society these days in which every other advertisement on the all-news station to which I listen seems to be some way of separating the listener from his or her money. You know the type (paraphrasing here but the sentiment is wholly accurate):

  • “If you have been injured, we can get you money…”
  • “If you have been offered a settlement, we can get you more money…”
  • “We can cure your pain from fill-in-the-blank…”
  • My old favorite: “If you or someone you know has died…”
  • My new favorite: “If you’re suffering from cancer and are running out of money, we can give you up to 50 percent of your life insurance death benefits…”

One person I find particularly annoying is Patricia McCann, a “radio personality” in the New York area. According to the page on her via

Patricia McCann is the personality commercial spokesperson for 1010 WINS. She has endorsed product on the station since 1992. Her delivery is uniquely personal and credible – she only advertises product she has tried and believes in – a McCann family tradition.

“The personality commercial spokesperson?” Is that what she puts on her resume? Does the “the” mean she’s the only one? The New York Times did a profile on McCann back in 2004, delving into her impressive radio pedigree and noting

For her commercials, which are occasionally broadcast in other parts of the country, she says she samples and researches every product. She has lost eight pounds on the Zone Diet, guzzled Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and stopped at an Aamco shop in New Jersey to learn that a car transmission has 700 parts. “How’s a girl to know?” she asked.

Pretty neat these days to have the same job for 25 years. Needless to say, she’s done numerous other ads since 2004, from replacement windows to painting services.

I don’t want to get into demographics here, but I’m guessing the audience for the news station I listen to is not comprised of millennials. Perhaps McCann is a soothing voice from the older listeners’ pasts.

I’m also pretty sure the reason phone calls like this come during the day is that the companies behind these schemes are counting on the recipients to be house-bound, retired, or older and, perhaps not as hep to scams.

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And I’m not even going to go into all the phishing that goes on via emails. I don’t know how many times I’ve told my family to never ever click on a link or download an attachment that looks suspicious, even if it’s from someone they supposedly know well. When I was working at the newspaper and saw something that looked a bit out of place, I would always send a note back to the originator asking if they had indeed sent the email and what was in the link/attachment. At least half the time, these were bogus missives.

I was going to write about this topic anyway after the Times ran this item — “From Wells Fargo to Fyre Festival, the Scam Economy Is Entering Its Baroque Phase” — in the May 21 Sunday Magazine. But today’s phone calls gave me added motivation.

On the other hand, if I am about to be arrested by the IRS, please look for an entry about where to send the cake with the file inside.

What are YOU worried about, Charley Pierce?

I “discovered” Pierce several years ago as a panelist on the NPR quiz show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and later as a commentator on the NPR sports show Only a Game. Of course, since then I’ve read his as a political commentator for Esquire. Here’s his latest.

Among his more eye-popping remarks:

What fresh hell greeted the sun on Friday?

There is no question in my mind that Richard Nixon is now and forever history’s yard waste. But, at the very least, he tried to bury the White House tapes. He didn’t go on CBS and do a half-hour with Walter Cronkite to explain how he’d erased the 18-and-a-half minutes. And it’s impossible to imagine the old crook’s capping off a week in which his primary descriptor was “Nixonian” by adding another count to the indictments—Witness Intimidation? Obstruction of Justice?—with a tweet like this one.

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At 8:30 a.m.? Is somebody running the country?

The more I think about it—and I’ve been thinking about it a lot—the more I think that the hard criminal core of this whole episode may have something to do with money laundering or something like it.

Sure, why not? It’s a good an explanation as any.

One of the things I will miss when I start working full time again is plopping down in front of CNN and watching “breaking news” and “developing stories.” These past few days have been especially mesmerizing as I watched the daily briefing with Spicer and Sanders, two of the oiliest personages I have ever seen trying to defend and deflect, continuing to bring up old, irrelevant issues (oh, and welcome back Kellyanne; I need to exercise my optics with eye rolls again). Of course we all know that who they work for so you give them a modicum of leeway, but after awhile, no, it’s them. They are low-level loathsome as they sneer at reporters.

Is it just me or is this whole “loyalty” situation sounding more and more like something out of The Godfather saga?

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Paper or plastic?

Had an interview a couple of weeks ago with a major grocery chain which was opening a new store not too far from home.

Stop rolling your eyes. Sorry, but I do not have the cachet of some of my colleagues, who have a great network, can make a couple of calls, and find themselves a new situation in short order.

I could keep holding out for a pie in the sky job in journalism that is going the way of the dodo, or I could suck it up and just try to get some “meaningful” work. I go back and forth between being embarrassed and needing to fulfill my responsibilities as a family man. Pride goeth before the fall.

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I first had a phone interview with this company — deemed one of the best in the country — that went very well. The questions were fairly cliché: “What would you do in X situation?” “Do you consider yourself a team player?” “Give me an example of x.” “If you were a tree…” (made that last one up). I gave what I thought were good (scripted) answers and sure enough, a few hours later I received another call from the company to set up an in-person meeting the following week.

I arrived at the office a bit early. I was so out of step in preparing for an interview, I left my wallet at home. Fortunately, I wasn’t asked to produce ID at the security desk, because there wasn’t one. (Also, driving without a license makes you extremely cautious.)

Image result for police interview roomAfter a brief wait in the reception area where a video of the wonderfulness of the company was playing on a monitor, I was greeted by two young women wearing company polo shirts with name tags. S and M (not their real initials) escorted me to an office that was totally devoid of character. By that I mean there were three chairs and a table. It reminded me of those interrogation rooms you see on TV crime shows. All that was missing was the two-way mirror (although I couldn’t swear there wasn’t a hidden camera someplace). In fact outside of the large front room, the rest of the facility, from what I could tell, was empty. That seemed a bit odd since the company had been in that location for several years.

Image result for bad interviewS and M — whom I would estimate to be younger than 35 — were equipped with clipboards and questionnaires, from which which they took turns, a few at a time, taking down — literally — everything I said. Perhaps one was making observational notes; after all, what would be the point of the redundancy? Even though they had my resumé, they followed the script precisely, asking me things that had absolutely nothing to do with my former employments. There was no independent thought on their parts, no reaction to anything I said that I believed might warrant a smile or even a chuckle. No curiosity. When I mentioned that I had been busy preparing for the release of my new book… nothing, like they have published authors coming in every day to work in the produce department, which I was informed was the position for which I was being considered. There were long silences as they scribbled on the papers, heads down. Awkward. Like what am I supposed to be doing for two minuts while you’re trying to catch up?

Truth be told, I became a bit bored and got a bit more expansive and dramatic in my answers, hoping to make a good impression and tell them what they wanted to hear. After about 45 minutes later, they escorted me out, saying they’d be letting me know, one way or the other, in one two weeks by phone, email, or written correspondence, again not wavering an iota from their script.

Image result for rejectionThe email came a few days ago. Thanks, but no. No explanation why not, just no. Could it be my age? Could it be they thought I would jump ship after they invested time and trouble training me to stack oranges? Wish I still had the original from which I could cut and paste.

On the one hand, I was kind of relieved. Hate to say it, but I could see some in my circle giving me the cold shoulder once I changed my collar from white to blue. They can’t understand how someone with my background and accomplishments can’t find a job. So this rejection eliminated that possibility. For now.

On the other hand, I still don’t have a job and no immediate prospects, which gets more depressing each passing day. The only thing that brings a tiny grin is that the book is still new so there are author appearances, interviews, and reviews to keep my mind engaged.

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The agony of defeat

So much for applying to ESPN for a job. According to TVNewser on, “ESPN is Laying Off 100 Staffers, Primarily On-Air Talent.”

Image result for no espnThen again, I wasn’t looking for an on-air deal. Nevertheless, I can’t say I’m really surprised. Compare ESPN — which falls under the ABC umbrella, hence the reference to half of the slogan of the old weekly favorite Wide World of Sports — with the single-sport MLB Network. Aide from airing games, the latter saves a lot of money by using the same material over and over, whether it’s replaying their wrap-up shows or documentaries of feature films. I’ve been trying for years to get them interested in a half-hour weekly program about baseball and pop culture. Can’t imagine it would cost that much, but they seem content to just keep doing the same-old same-old.

According to the article, “These layoffs come as parent company Disney is getting ready to unveil an ESPN subscription streaming service. ” I don’t get that. If they’re losing an audience, do they really think they can save their bacon by charging for what people aren’t using for free? What’s the subscription fee gonna be, $1 million?

I’m not their demographic. The only show I watch regularly is Pardon the Interruption, with co-hosts 68-year-old Tony Kornheiser and 58-year-old Michael Wilbon, a couple of grumpy old men. I’ve been a fan of Kornheiser since his days as a columnist at the Washington Post, going back some 30-plus years; when he’s not on, I kind of lose interest.  I hope they don’t get cut in the layoffs.


Golden hour

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“Golden Hour” is a term used in film and photography to define that short amount of time when natural lighting is just perfect for what the director/photographer is looking for to set a mood. It’s usually at dusk and you will definitely know it when you see it.

For me, however, Golden Hour occurs every day, shortly after nine o’clock in the morning. Because that’s usually the time I get good news, relatively speaking, on the email account I use strictly for professional purposes. If you don’t use one, I strongly advise it to keep the tons of junk mail and spam away from the important stuff, so just give that address out to special and trusted sources.

I’m usually on the computer earlier than that to post the doings from the previous day in Jewish sports. But come 9:15 or so, I keep my fingers crossed that there will be some news about a job or something from my publisher regarding an interview or review of my new book — Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War — which just launched yesterday.

But each day just seems to bring more disappointment as Golden Hour passes and I hear no “dings” to alert me that “you’ve got mail.”

jacketIn the meantime, I’m preparing for an interview tomorrow. The good news is that I’m very familiar with the location it will be held, just down the road a couple of miles from my last job. The bad news is, I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t get it, even though (or perhaps because) it’s unlike anything I’ve done in the past. Things are getting fairly desperate. Yesterday I submitted an audition audio for a voiceover service and was rejected because my equipment was not professional grade. I wonder if I could rent studio space… Too bad; I have been told by several people that I have a good voice for that type of thing (“In a world…”).

The interview is in mid-afternoon, so there’s still time earlier in the day for that amazing job offer to come through. Here’s keeping my fingers crossed for that Golden Hour.

What the well-dressed interviewee will wear

Maybe that should be in the form of a question: What will the well-dressed interviewee wear?

After all this time, I have my first real job interview in… well, ever. As I may have mentioned in previous posts, I’ve basically worked for two companies since I got out of college and neither really required a formal interview. The first was an extension of an assignment from a temp agency and the second was a freelance gig transformed into a full-time staff job.

In olden times, men were required to wear suits and ties to interviews, almost regardless of the position. But I look at TV and, outside lawyer shows and work-place comedies, nobody dresses up anymore. It’s all T-shirts, man-buns, pork pie hats, untucked shirts, and tattoos.

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This is actually my second interview for this company, one of the largest in the country and certainly one I never would have considered a few years ago (desperate times, bro). The first was a 40-minute phone conversation. Now I guess they want to see if I’m presentable. Although I would get a bit suspicious, given the initial good impression I made (otherwise why another interview?) and being the paranoid I am, if they suddenly decided I wasn’t “the right stuff.” You guys talked with me before, you know my deal. So you changed your minds? Based on…? (Like I said, paranoid.)

But back to the problem of attire. I highly doubt I will be wearing a suit (or a tie) for this position, but do I go the formal route anyway? I’m thinking a bit less so: sport coat, shirt/tie, and khakis. I brought the jacket to the dry cleaners; sticker shock. I don’t know if I paid that much for it in the first place (shows you how old it is).

Maybe this is the way to go. At least they’d remember me.

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Success… and failure

Been trying to content myself these past few weeks with the fact that my new book — Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War — is scheduled for release next week. It’s been wonderfully distracting to consider forthcoming interviews and reviews and keeps me from getting too depressed about, you know, an actual job.

The novelty is quickly wearing off. I go back and forth, feeling somewhat good about the accomplishment but at the same time realizing how ephemeral it all is. The window of opportunity for the average author is very brief if s/he is lucky, there’s a little buzz and attention, but that quickly passes. I’m not manic about it, but when I have the need to include the Amazon link in a blog entry or email, I sneak a peek at the rankings. That it came in under 40,000 I consider a success and believe it will improve … albeit briefly… when it officially drops on April 25.

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The rest of the time, I’m plugging away, looking for employment. That‘s been discouraging. As I’ve said here before (ad nauseum?), there doesn’t seem to be a great demand for the kind of writing I have been doing over the last decade-plus, both in terms of quality and compensation. It’s kind of made me question my choice of career, although to be very honest, it never was a choice as much as something that dropped into my lap after my last lengthy period of “leisure.” How could I say no when the NJ Jewish News offered to take a chance on me even though I had no formal education or training in journalism? And although I am proud (a word I normally hate to apply to myself) of getting to the point where I won a couple of awards, it obviously wasn’t good enough to a) keep me from losing that job when the publication was taken over, and b) impress others to snatch me up when I became available.

Image result for lil abner, cloudSo I’ve had to start thinking outside the box simply because the severance ran out and unemployment insurance is very soon to follow. Thank goodness the mortgage is paid off, but I’ve still got to be bringing in something, if only for my own sense of self-worth. I’ve applied for positions I never thought I would, which could very well put me in a situation where I could be working for someone half my age who would mess with me just because s/he could (think Randy and  Hurley/John Locke on Lost). On the one hand, it’s honest work but on the other, I can;’t help feeling it’s a significant failure/character flaw on my part that I can’t find something more “appropriate.”

Today I had a preliminary phone interview for one of those possibilities. A highly rated company as far as work environments go. Took about 30 minutes and answered the kind of questions that seemed like no-brainers when it came to giving them what I thought they wanted to hear. They seemed to lead me in certain directions when it came to issues of flexibility regarding hours and minimum salary, but I know they have a script/flow chart to follow, so NBD.

Now I wait for someone to determine if I’m company-worthy. Jolly. In the meantime, I’ll keep looking. Maybe something will turn up at zero-hour. With my luck, I’ll actually find a great situation… and North Korean will drop a nuke over my house.

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