Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Report: Rex Ryan's Wife May Have Rex Ryan Fetish

Rex Ryan has been no stranger to controversy during his tenure with the New York Jets. After his team's appearance on the HBO series Hard Knocks, Ryan faced criticism by no less an upstanding citizen than Michael Vick lackey Tony Dungy for his foul, sexist, homophobic and obscene language. That controversy reached new heights Wednesday after released a story suggesting that Rex Ryan's wife, Michelle Ryan, who may have been posted a number of foot fetish videos posted to the Internet, may have a strange and disturbing fetish for hulking tub and New York Jets coach Rex Ryan.

In a conference call with Chicago reporters and at his press conference later Wednesday leading up to Sunday's big game with the Bears, Ryan didn't deny the report showing videos of a woman who looks very much like his wife showing off her feet while a cameraman -- who sounds like Ryan -- talks to the woman in a fashion that could be construed as sexual.

"To be honest, and I get it, I know you need to ask and all that stuff," Ryan told reporters when asked if the idea of a woman engaging in carnal acts with him could render his players incapable of focusing during Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears. "But it's a personal matter and I'm really not going to discuss it, OK?"

Ryan said the matter was between him and his wife and would not elaborate.

"I'll be coaching, and I am ready," he said. "It's my job and I'm focused on the hand job -- I mean, job at hand."

When asked point blank if he and his wife had made sweet love, Ryan would not say one way or another.

"I understand I'm going to get asked this question from up front, behind, on top, underneath, and all this, but it is a personal matter," he repeated.
The New York Jets denied comment on the subject, saying ""This is a personal matter and Rex will have no comment."

I'm not touching this with a 52,800 foot pole.

Rex Ryan: my *!@@#! wife's *@#@!&*# participation in #@&*(!@ foot fetish videos is way less @#!&* disgusting than her Rex ^&*!#@ Ryan fetish.

Now I'm not a connoisseur of the lascivious arts, by any means. But the foot fetish is one that will perpetually elude me. They are feet. Anyone who's ever seen Vibram FiveFingers knows damn well that the human foot is not a thing of beauty. It should be as enclosed as humanly possible.

That said, given that all other pornography finds niches to make itself even raunchier and even dirtier, I have to wonder how foot fetishes fit into this. Is there a sect of depraved foot fetishists who won't watch a video that involves fewer than two plantar warts? Bunions? Corns? Is there Athlete's foot fetish porn?

If you can answer these questions, please never reveal yourself.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

54 books and counting

I'm back to posting reading lists. Here's 2010, which has been a whole lot of mediocrity. Looking at this list, I remember very few books that were exceptionally good. The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Soul of Baseball, Cardboard Gods, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone, and The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven are probably the top five for me. Not coincidentally, four of the five (not The Art of Racing in the Rain), I think I finished in no more than three or four days (or, in the case of The Soul of Baseball, about 14 hours). Born to Run is also an exceptional book, but since it also contributed to my returning to the Vibram FiveFingers (which immediately preceded my stress fracture -- though I'm reluctant to declare a causal link), I'm definitely docking it some points).

January (10)
9 Stories by J.D. Salinger
Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains by Jon Krakauer
White Noise by Don DeLillo
Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Hammerin' Hank, George Almighty and the Say Hey Kid: the Year that Changed Baseball Forever by John Rosengren
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Raise the Roofbeam High, Carpenters and Seymour, an Introduction by J.D. Salinger
You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers
American Lightning by Howard Blum

February (2)
The Book of Vice: Naughty Things (and How to Do Them) by Peter Sagal
From Here to Eternity by James Jones

March (2)
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

April (7)
Why My Wife Thinks I'm An Idiot by Mike Greenberg
2010 Baseball America Prospect Handbook edited by Jim Callis et al.
The Road to Omaha: Hits, Hopes, and History at the College World Series by Ryan McGee
The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America by Joe Posnanski
The Guinea Pig Diaries by A.J. Jacobs
Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Pop Apocalypse! by Lee Konstantinou

May (8)
The Punch by John Feinstein
You're a Horrible Person, But I Like You: The Believer Book of Advice edited by Eric Spitznagel
Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas by Chuck Klosterman
Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards by Josh Wilker
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Big Hair and Plastic Grass by Dan Epstein
Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

June (3)
Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski
Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
For Love of the Game by Michael Shaara

July (2)
You Gotta Have Wa by Robert Whiting
Wrigleyworld by Kevin Kaduk

August (4)
U2 by U2 by U2
Catcher in the Wry by Bob Uecker
Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession by Dave Jamieson
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

September (5)
This Land Is Their Land by Barbara Ehrenreich
The View from the Upper Deck by D.J. Gallo
Long-Range Goals: the Success Story of Major League Soccer by Beau Dure
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

October (5)
Earth: a Visitor's Guide by Jon Stewart et al.
Odd Man Out by Matt McCarthy
The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven by Aaron Skirboll
Big Fish by Daniel Wallace
Kiss It Good-Bye by John Moody

November (4)
Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Ball Four by Jim Bouton
The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant
Actual Innocence by Barry Scheck, Jim Neufeld and Jim Dwyer

December (2)
Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
How to Lose Friends and Influence People by Toby Young

From the Worldwide Leader in Brett Favre/TO coverage...

Quelle surprise! Terrell Owens blames the Bengals' coaching staff for the 2-11 season.

You know, I hate to agree with Terrell Owens, but it's really hard to reach a different conclusion. The Bengals have gone 2-11, but they've lost 7 games by 8 points or fewer and they've blown second half leads in 4 games. Two of those defeats were absolutely incomprehensible (the collapse I witnessed against Tampa Bay and the disaster with Buffalo). Marvin Lewis doesn't want to keep his job, I'm sure, but I couldn't see how you'd justify keeping him on after this debacle.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bits and pieces

So I've learned the kitten's health problem may be related to feline corona virus, for which he tested positive. He tested positive with a level of antibodies that he might have the strain that is known to cause FIP, which is fatal to cats. And, since he has it, his litter mate brother is all but certain to have it, and the other cat has likely been exposed to it. But I haven't managed to get a straight answer as to what percentage probability there is that if a cat is testing positive in the range of antibodies that means it could be the FIP virus -- what's the probability that it actually is? 1 in 100? 1 in 10? 1 in 2? That makes a big difference when we're talking about a lifetime of medicating not one, but three cats.

After months of effort (whereby I started by acquiring the Master Edition add-on)I've just acquired APBA Baseball and finally gotten an opportunity to play it. (I'm a sucker for it because my brother and I had 1984 Championship Baseball Board Game by Milton Bradley.

It was a ludicrously simplistic, but wonderful board game that involved a very similar, though much simpler game play.

APBA is definitely the kind of thing that could be all-consuming for me if I could just find myself with free time. Now that I'm out of the walking boot and I can get back to exercising in earnest (and will have a renewed need to do so, given that I've basically just been at work for the last two months), it's unlikely it'll ever get that chance. But, still, it's a charming enough pasttime that just needs a few tweaks to really become fascinating to me. I haven't really looked over the Master Edition yet, so I'm hoping it has answers as to how you can introduce issues with pitcher fatigue in the absence of the pitcher being crushed by random chance or lefty-righty matchups, but even in its simplest form, it's entertaining. That said, I was a little concerned after 8 innings of the first game where the 1997 Reds had notched a total of one hit against Greg Maddux. Then they mustered a pair of runs in the ninth and I Brad Clontz had to come in to end the game. That made me feel a little better. The second game was much more offensive, ending 7-5, with the '97 Indians blowing 2 different 2 run leads.

Pros: simple enough to figure out in short time, mostly realistic -- the 1997 Reds were atrocious, Greg Maddux could have one-hit them, Jose Mesa damn near blew the save in the Indians game.

Cons: it's not THAT realistic -- I had Scott Spiezio steal back-to-back bases, including home, against me; pitching skill seems to be of relatively minimal importance, lack of any sort of fatigue issue. It's really expensive if you consider the expense of the cards (all sets are $30 or higher) and even at that, the card sets are very thin -- 20 players to a team means the Indians don't have Jaret Wright, Julio Franco, Eric Plunk, or Paul Shuey. To get the expanded guessed it, more money (and then it's 30 players to a team, so if you're being realistic, you'd need to have five inactive).

Friday, December 10, 2010

...and Crawford makes 142 million.

That Jayson Werth signing looks great now. Werth may be older and be less "proven", in that he's been better than Carl Crawford in each of the last four years (but only four, which is the main criticism), but he's a much better bet to be a useful player in 7 years. For one, his game isn't based solely on speed. Second, he's not limited to one position (Crawford is solely a left fielder -- a great one, maybe, but he's going to a place where covering a lot of ground is worthless -- Manny Ramirez had adequate range at Fenway). Third, he's not receiving $20 million a year.

Crawford is a great player. There's little doubt about that -- though 2008 gives you some cause for concern, with the 89 OPS+ -- Werth's most recent season of that sort was 2005 (though he missed about half of 2005 and all of 2006 with injury). But he's a player whose gifts are so heavily skewed around one tool -- speed. That's a rare tool these days, fair enough, but it's also, as noted above, a tool that's not terribly useful defensively at Fenway Park and a tool that the Red Sox are certainly not lacking. Yes, Crawford may leg out infield singles, but when there are runners on, that just means there's a force at second instead of a double play.

Crawford doesn't draw a ton of walks, his defense is largely meaningless, and his power is good, but certainly not in the realm of $20 million a year kind of power. He's not Rickey Henderson. But the Red Sox are paying him as if he were. That this deal hasn't astonished everyone speaks volumes as to my prior theory. The Werth contract was crazy to people because it was the Nationals. Carl Crawford, who is one hamstring pull away from irrelevance and is coming off nine seasons of playing indoors (worked out great for Griffey) got the utterly insane contract. It may work in the short term -- to me, the Red Sox have to be World Series favorites in 2011 -- but I don't think the Crawford deal makes a substantive difference in that. After adding Gonzalez, they already had the best lineup and the best rotation (assuming Beckett does anything right this year. They even have depth in the rotation and at all the positions except catcher (which, of course, they may yet solve with Russell Martin). Their bullpen has some large question marks, but I have little doubt they'll cobble something together. I think they're going to end up bringing back Okajima or maybe even adding Arthur Rhodes, whose return to Cincinnati gets less likely by the day (in my mind, anyway). They are already giving away their first round pick to add Crawford, so there's not much disincentive to adding a Type A right-handed reliever like Grant Balfour.

Keith Law is coming out and saying that this deal will hold up, while saying Werth's couldn't possibly. I'd like to understand that logic, but I really can't. Since 1901, there are 201 seasons by a player in history between 30-35* stealing 35 or more bases; only 132 such seasons since World War II. Carl Crawford will be 30-35 for 5 of the 7 years of this deal.

*I originally forgot that I'd restricted it to 30-35 and thought that might have meant there were plenty of seasons where a player accomplished this feat after 35. nope. 22 since 1901.

There are 144 seasons by a player 31-35 doing the same feat; 98 since World War II. Carl Crawford will be 31-35 for 4 of the 7 years of this deal.

There are 94 seasons by a player 32-35 stealing 35 or more; 64 since World War II. Carl Crawford will be 32-35 for 3 of the 7 years of this deal.

I don't see much more of a need to belabor this. If Carl Crawford isn't stealing 35 bases a year, his game is what, exactly? He doesn't hit for prodigious power. His range in left field is a non-factor (and will obviously decay if he slows up at all). He doesn't have a great knack for getting on base through walks -- he's a lot like a player the Red Sox already have on their bench (Mike Cameron -- who's at least an exceptional center fielder). He's a great athlete, sure, but he doesn't have Darryl Strawberry/Eric Davis power in his wrists to just whip balls over the wall. So if and when he slows down, you're paying a load of money for a whole lot of adequate.

*Note: I thought the number of steals might be a bit arbitrary -- I picked 35 since it seemed like a number likely to land you into the AL's top 10 every year. It may be arbitrary -- but here's the ultimate reason to not be so intrigued at paying Crawford $20+ million a year -- his most comparable players are really not very good. Roberto Kelly and Ralph Garr are the good comps. The most similar by age is much more favorable -- Roberto Clemente for most -- but (1) I'm not seeing it, and (2) the next comparables are guys like Claudell Washington and Cesar Cedeno -- good players who have some combination of speed and power, but hardly superstars.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Whither Jayson Werth?

So Jayson Werth signing with Les Expos has brought all sorts of chuckles and condescension because the deal is really long and it's for more money than was expected.

But the uniformity of the response is puzzling. Do they really think this deal is so preposterous? One friend described it as "almost as bad as the Ryan Howard deal."

That, of course, would be more accurately characterized as "not even in the same stratosphere as the Ryan Howard contract, which paid a player who is not as good as Jayson Werth far more money than Werth will earn, two years before any extension was necessary. There is simply no precedent for the stupidity of the Ryan Howard signing. I'm not even sure there is a contract that rivals its sheer stupidity looking without hindsight (maybe Vernon Wells, Mike Hampton and Darren Dreifort, but all of those were contracts that conceivably could have worked out. With Howard's contract, that's not even a plausible scenario.) In retrospect, Mike Hampton, Darren Dreifort and Chan Ho Park might get to that level. Everything about Howard is already fading -- his eye (he's hemorrhaged nearly 50 walks over the last three seasons), his power (his slugging's down .154 points since its peak, and his home runs were down 14 just from '09-10), his durability (he hit the DL for, I believe, the first time ever in 2010). Werth is still in his ascendancy, even if he is old. Now 2010 may well be his peak year, but at least it gives Nationals fans a rational reason to believe he could still have years equivalent to it going forward.

As for Werth, I'm not inclined to agree that the deal is atrocious. It's not great, to be sure, but major free agent signings never look to be great deals. Any time there's a 9-digit offer, it's got a high probability of blowing up. Both the amount of money and the number of years make it a very high probability of being a disappointment.

But if we look at this contract through the lens of what it is -- a team trying to buy its way toward success, it's a reasonable investment. The Nationals had to offer more money and more years. That has to be a given. They had two alternatives -- overpay in years and dollars, or not sign any free agents that would represent a marked upgrade from Mike Morse. The Nationals have to overpay for non-marquee free agents like (ahem) Jason Marquis, so of course they have to overpay for a five-tool player. They theoretically had their chance to make a market-price deal and they said "no thanks, we've seen enough of Adam Dunn."

However, the Nationals are taking a serious risk of making this deal insane by deciding to trade Josh Willingham. Willingham is a genuine offensive producer. Letting him go would completely negate whatever gains the team had made by adding Werth to replace Adam Dunn.

Most of the backlash really strikes me as condescension. I managed to listen to about five seconds of WIP listener feedback before I reviled everyone who had ever been to a Phillies game (keep in mind I have partial season tickets). It was person after person saying "have fun winning 69 games for the next seven years, Jayson." In fact, I think that's why this deal is getting the response it is. If the Angels or Red Sox had signed Werth to the same contract, it'd just be an accepted overpayment to get a player that's basically in a sample size of three in this market -- Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, and Adrian Beltre were the only available free agents who really seemed like guarantees to make their teams better. They didn't have gaping holes in their games (Dunn), weren't on the verge of retirement/death (Konerko), and they hit over .200 (Pena). But the response to Werth's signing seems likely to be driven more by the team that signed the contract than the terms of the contract itself.

Werth isn't Ryan Howard. He's got a game that seems likely to age gracefully. Even as his legs go and he loses the speed and defense part of his game, he's still going to leave you with a solid power-hitting left fielder. He's got a lot of decay in his game to get down to the kind of player that the Phillies are still signing to 3-year deals (I think a 38 year old Werth is going to look a lot like a 38-year-old Ibanez, actually - better than average, but not the answer to any of your questions). So he'll decay to average, not decay to disaster the way that Boog Howard will.

Lastly, I think it's worth it to overpay because right now, there's a big credibility gap in Washington. They lost their opportunity to fill the seats when Strasburg's elbow blew out. Right now, their biggest dates for attendance are dates when popular visitors come to the stadium -- the Phillies fans outnumber the Nats fans for Phillies/Nationals games. And I think they recognize the shelf life of their team. If they don't get the fans in the next two or three years, it's likely that this franchise is never going to cut it in Washington. So it makes sense to go all in while they still have Strasburg and they still have Bryce Harper. The short-term fixes are the ones that don't make sense -- plugging in Pudge Rodriguez remains as irrational as the day they signed him. Signing Jayson Werth -- that makes sense.

I believe the Nationals have some really useful pieces. Their rotation isn't great, it's certainly patchwork. But Jordan Zimmermann looked electric at times before he needed Tommy John surgery. Collin Balester should bounce back and Strasburg will be back by 2012. But the pitchers aren't there on the market this year, so they can either push off even the slimmest hopes of .500 or try to shore up the difference elsewhere. And, in reality, I think this signing helps on the pitching front as well.

Before this signing, Cliff Lee signing in Washington was a 0% probability. Now, maybe it's a 1%. Maybe this is a tipping point for Brandon Webb to say Washington's a better reclamation alternative. Zimmerman and Werth is a good core to a lineup, both offensively and defensively. Nyjer Morgan will bounce back to 2009 level performance/non-insanity, Desmond showed promise in his first year, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen are a solid beginning to a bullpen.

I don't think Werth is a franchise player, so this is a lot of money. In the end, Nationals fans may live to regret the contract that's been signed in 2016 and 2017. But first, the Nationals need to ensure they have fans. This is a step toward that.

For all the condescension the bitter WIP callers had to offer, it's hardly a safe bet that the Phillies will finish ahead of the Nationals beyond 2011. They're an old team getting older with a lot of years on contracts that they are already regretting or will in the very near future. Jimmy Rollins may be the oldest 31 year old on the planet, Ryan Howard has regressed rapidly from the once-astonishing hitter he was, and Chase Utley began to appear human. They have pitching, yes, but Halladay and Oswalt are on the wrong side of 30 and have endured a lot of abuse and I'm skeptical there's anyone in the Phillies farm system that could come up and be as successful as Luis Atilano or Craig Stammen if Halladay or Oswalt go down. If Werth cared only about winning, he'd have gone to New York or Boston. While his Octobers will probably be free for at least four of the seven years of his contract, I'd speculate that the same would be true even if he'd stayed.

Thoughts from the veterinarian's office

Odd things about me.

I've never been called for jury duty. I want to be, though I believe it should rightly be regarded as unconstitutional. (To summarize my legendary seminar paper into a sentence, jury duty arose from a time predating the 13th amendment. Saying you are compelled to serve is contrary to the text of the 13th amendment, and de minimis compensation does not make it any less a case of involuntary servitude.) I don't know that I would be a particularly good juror; I make decisions about things very quickly and then have to be beaten nto submission to change my mind. This would obviously give the prosecution an edge, though my general disgust for how law enforcement is operated and suspicion of the effectiveness of the courts may negate it in the end. I don't know, and frankly, I likely will never know, since in an actual trial I would probably not be able to accurately perceive what results from my biases and what results from actual facts.

Odd thing #2: despite regarding myself as a very smart person, I let myself get fleeced constantly, while knowing I'm getting fleeced. Any time I deal with a person of expertise, I instantly yield to them. This trip is costing 600 dollars for that reason, because they want to do blood work and tests that, if they came back negative, would probably not matter to me anyway, since I don't think I really believe in euthanasia for animals. If Stamford can't communicate that he's sick to me for a couple days (possibly longer, but I hope not), how do I know he would really not want to be alive?

The whole ordeal just makes me very concerned that I'm not paying enough attention to any of the cats. That's a hard thing to consider -- I obsess over pets -- but I work long hours, I've been going to the gym, I don't know whose poop is whose, I don't know whether he'd been eating during the work week, since I have to segregate the cats to keep Charlie from feasting on kitten food. The one thing that is nice about kids is that they'll always be able to communicate with you. They may lie, but you can at least ask them things.

I hear Stamford yowling in the other room. It's an awful sound to endure. It's just a great thing he's so good at the vet. If this were charlie, they'd have had to sedate him just to get his weight.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Skepticism, Fear, and Belief - Part 2 - Belief and Fear

So the last post was actually an aside that came up in discussing this question. I would recommend reading part 1 first. Last week, in London, my wife and I saw Ghost Stories in the theater. It'd received some very enthusiastic reviews, there was little available for Sunday matinees that didn't conflict with our plans for the day (we did a London walk oriented about James Bond and Ian Fleming, I suspect as a favor to me).

The production was well-acted, but had no present-tense effect on me. I saw its frightening moments for what they were – they weren't deep-rooted psychological horror or terror, they were cheap showman's tricks. (As someone who always aspired to be a cheap showman, I'm familiar with the ouevre.) Lights go out, noises are summoned from places in the theatre where there are no actors, and wee golly, there were lots of insufferably loud noises. In other words, it wasn't contemplative horror, it was disorienting horror. And frankly, it didn't work on me. The rest of the audience would gasp or scream and I would sit there wondering how this was effective when they simply had to know what was coming. He's driving in a car, of course someone's going to pop on stage suddenly and get hit.

Rather than reveal the “secret” of Ghost Stories here – a secret that, unlike The Mousetrap, which we'd seen on a prior trip – seems to be more irrelevant dyed-in-the-wool formula than “secret,” I write about it because of its opening. It has a professor of parapsychology questioning the audience as to who believed in ghosts (about 2/3 of the people raised their hands for that) and who'd experienced something they felt could only be explained through the paranormal (maybe 1/10 of people for that one). My hand went up nary a time. But, as I had decried, I knew that although my wife's hand was raised and mine was not, she would be sleeping peacefully that night, and I would likely be terrified out of my wits.

Why? And how? How is it that I can be afraid of something that I genuinely do not believe exists? Is that even possible?

As to the why, that's simple. I live a life that's got a lot of fear. It's probably one of the driving forces in my life. I could divulge a litany of reasons for this, but no need to lay blame right now. It's not of ghouls, goblins and boogeymen, but of making decisions that are perfectly rational now only to discover that in ten years, I'd be a walking piece of slapstick comedy to science:

Scene: 2020 – no flying cars, temperature appears to be about 3 or 4 degrees warmer, about 10 degrees warmer in the US. Thanks, President-for-Life Palin.

Doctor: He's only 40. What happened?
Doctor 2: It's simple really. He drank Pepsi One for two years and ran marathons.
Doctor: Didn't he know that Splenda caused instant spleen cancer and a certain death? I mean, the words “spleen die” are practically in the name.
Doctor 2: They didn't know back then. They thought it was healthier than high fructose corn syrup, which we know now to decrease the likelihood of cancer, diabetes, and increase penis size and girth by up to 40%.
Doctor: Poor dead fool, he probably used half of the life he had trying to “stay in shape”. I bet he regretted those abs when the Great Corn Famine came.

But that fear is rational. I believe that what I'm eating is generally non-lethal, but recognize that there is no certainty in that arena. But how can I be afraid of something in which I genuinely affirmatively and emphatically do not believe? And why don't I believe?

Ok, the last question is explained by the prior entry. I am a skeptic and I think I do far better at it than the so-called skeptics who have adopted full-on atheism, which is adopting a form of skepticism without doubt, which is...nothing. I also am fully convinced (take that, skepticism) that the human brain has a nearly limitless capacity.

And, I think that this offers some explanation. I am afraid of ghosts, even though I don't think ghosts are real, because 1) one of my greatest and most omnipresent fears in life is being wrong, 2) I have lingering doubts about even the non-belief in ghosts (which cannot be categorically disproven, even if wholly illogical), and 3) even many of the quasi-rational (within the realm of possibility, if beyond the realm of plausibility) explanations for things that go bump in the night. When I hear something bump in my closet or rustle under the bed, it may not be the ghost of Blackbeard under there, but it may well be Earl Carter, the Dixie Disemboweler who escaped from prison. It's sure not likely he's been under my bed undetected since I got home, but it's not as if I regularly check under the bed either. (Actually, I would note that given that Wilmington (population 72,664) has had 28 murders in the calendar year of 2010, which is still about 1/13th from over, gunmen trying to kill me ought to be a substantially greater fear than it is.)

So I guess that raises a new question, which is really the old question. Does the fact that I am afraid prove that I actually believe in ghosts even if I don't think I do? Can you be afraid of something that you do not believe in? Or does it just prove that I'm a coward? (That, of course, is a fact about which my belief had reached a semi-religious fervor ages ago.)

Skepticism, Fear and Belief: Part 1 - skepticism

“I do, I do, I do believe in spooks.”
The Cowardly Lion, The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Yes, I haven't written anything in a blog in ages that didn't deal solely with sports or music. Rather than try and conjure an explanation, accept it as a given – anyway, this is a multi-part tome right here. We're underway.

I am a skeptic. I am skeptical of most things, I wrap myself in a blanket of cynicism. In fact, nay, it's a snuggie of cynicism; that's right, my cynicism has sleeves. Suck on it, Richard Dawkins. I'm so skeptical that I am skeptical of what has come to be regarded as skepticism. Case in point: a friend of mine expressed envy of her friends who met some famed “skeptic” at Skepticon.

Yes. There is a Skepticism convention.

This incenses me. I am ready to take arms against these people. As I commented, the idea of gathering together to share a common non-belief is something that I thought had been limited to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field or any sports arena in Cleveland – any alternative is just a profoundly self-congratulatory thing to do. Skepticon is a convention of true believers, their only belief, however, is a non-belief. To me, anyone with that much certainty that they are right is a grave threat to rationality. Given that any argument about the supernatural is necessarily removed from logic, you can never prove or disprove the supernatural and your beliefs are, for that reason, beliefs and nothing more. Rebutting the acccoutrements of belief (like religious zealots trying to cram theological beliefs into schools) may be a valid exercise of your time, but meeting to debate and disprove the unprovable strikes me as, for lack of a kinder phrase, the most pretentious and retarded idea of our times. And, of course, given that it's naked advocacy for a belief, it is the antithesis of skepticism.

Now, a defender could say that the point is not to celebrate non-belief, but that the point is to have debates with religious believers to point out that those beliefs are not rooted in logic. Fair enough, if there was someone who actually believed their religious beliefs were rooted in any logic other than Pascal's Wager, which, of course, would still skew heavily in favor of belief, given that one of its premises is that there is literally nothing worse than hell. If there's a person out there, they might decide to replace their false-logic-based religious beliefs with...religious beliefs?

Skepticism without doubt is faith, even if it doesn't involve a bearded guy in the sky, the evil lord Xenu, or the flying spaghetti monster.

Moreover, celebrating your non-belief in something because you regard the belief as illogical doesn't finish the answer. Why do you not believe? Not merely because you do not think it logical, that's not an answer. Why do you not believe it to be logical? Was it some heroic choice of free will? Isn't free will itself a silly idea, since it can't be explained scientifically? If all my belief and thought is comes from a different level of dopamine that's pushed out by my brain thanks to DNA I had nothing to do with assembling, aren't we back at a level of predestination that only a Calvinist could have concocted? Here, I don't have any answer. My best guess is...yes. And that's so depressing that the Catholic Church seems like a joyful celebration.

And so that explains why it's been so long since I posted. It's fatalism. Now the real explanation for how this came about will follow.