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Monday night notes

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is sitting down and overstimulating himself. He is typing a blog post on his laptop. He is watching the end of Al Pacino’s movie “Looking for Richard.” And from time to time he is switching over to watch his beloved Washington Capitals get trounced by the Florida Panthers.

In the realm of hockey, the Capitals looked okay on Saturday night when your Maximum Leader attended the game. They (the Capitals) looked okay against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. But they are playing for crap tonight against the Panthers. They are down 5-1 and your Maximum Leader can’t bear it any more. He is switching off the game in favor of other electronic stimulation.

Your Maximum Leader never thought he’d be “one of those people” who would have the computer on while doing other things. Like watching a movie… But, alas, he’s become one of those people.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader is finishing up watching Pacino’s documentary about Shakespeare’s Richard III. “Looking for Richard” came out in 1996. As longtime readers of this space (if such a thing exists anymore with the lackadaisical updating that has been the hallmark of this blog for a while now) know, your Maximum Leader is a great fan of both the play Richard III and the actual historical Richard III. That might seem like an odd combination as we all know that Shakespeare’s play is a Tudor propaganda piece and real hatchet job on Richard and the real Richard was likely not that bad a king… Well… Back to the movie…

Your Maximum Leader really wanted to see the film back in 1996 when it came out. But time and location conspired against him. At the time he lived in Virginia Beach and the film was only playing in limited release. Needless to say, he didn’t see the film. Basically he has waited since 1996 to see this movie. The night before Thanksgiving your Maximum Leader couldn’t sleep and noticed that “Looking for Richard” was on HBO so he hit the DVR and recorded it. He was excited that after so many years he would now get to see the film.

Well… Reality did not quite live up to expectation. In 1996, Pacino was just starting to fall into his new mode of “yelling as acting.” So there was a little bit more yelling than your Maximum Leader would have liked. There were a few sequences where Pacino and the other cast (a great cast including Alex Baldwin, Kevin Spacey and Winona Ryder) were trying to “figure out” the play. Those scenes were hit or miss (and mostly miss) with your Maximum Leader. All in all it isn’t interesting, and can be downright annoying, to see the behind the scenes with actors figuring out their roles. Your Maximum Leader is looking for finished product. The process of getting to finished product isn’t all that exciting.

So, your Maximum Leader’s Monday night wasn’t quite as pleasing as it could have been…

Then again… He is blogging from his sofa… So he’s got that going for him…

Carry on.

Nice

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is writing this blog post on his new laptop. The laptop is perched on his stomach as he is lounging on the sofa watching his Washington Capitals play the hated Pittsburgh Penguins.

He could get used to this.

Carry on.

Bullet points - Dec 1

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader pronounced the word “rabbit” to you all as it is the first of the month.

He also wonders if Herman Cain will be out of the running for the GOP Presidential nod by tomorrow. Truth be told, he is already out. Your Maximum Leader wonders if Cain will officially announce he is out by tomorrow.

Your Maximum Leader is still waiting for Newt to fade. It is going to happen at some point, just when? Your Maximum Leader thinks Gingrich could coast in first place until about the middle of December. At that point he’ll start to fade. Your Maximum Leader is thinking that Rick Santorum is still waiting for his turn as the frontrunner…

Your Maximum Leader took a gentleman’s bet ($1 American) that President Obama will win reelection next year. Your Maximum Leader bet that Obama will be reelected. All things being equal, the math is in his favor. Your Maximum Leader knows it will be a very close run thing. But he thinks that the electoral math will break for Obama. It is conceivable that Obama will lose the popular vote and still win. In the states where Obama lost in 2008, he will lose by bigger margins. In states where he won big he will win by slimmer margins. It is in those handful of close states (Virginia included for a change) is where the battle will be fought. Your Maximum Leader thinks he’ll pull it out. But look for it to get nasty.

In other news…

Your Maximum Leader is worried about his beloved Washington Capitals. He expects the Caps to get plastered by the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight. New coach, Dale Hunter, will need a few weeks to get the team into whatever system he wants. All in all the Caps need to get performance from the big stars. By big stars he means Alexander Ovechkin. Your Maximum Leader wonders if Ovechkin is satisfied with himself right now? Really… Does Ovechkin believe in his own mind that he is doing all he can to play hard and win? If he really believes that, then there is nothing any coach or mentor will be able to do to help him. We’ll have to see how this plays out… We’ll have a better feeling about the team’s trajectory by January…

Carry on.

What’s goin’ on?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader thought he’d give you all a quick update on the blog.

Let us see how the past few weeks have gone…

They started with your Maximum Leader being in a car accident that totaled the Villainmobile. He should now remark that it is the late Villainmobile. Sadly his 2003 Mercury Marauder is no more. It was shattered on the Falmouth Bridge in icy conditions Halloween weekend. Your Maximum Leader is fine; but he is a little sad to see that great American made behemouth with its 400 horsepower engine leave his garage. Your Maximum Leader has a new Villainmobile. It is a 2012 Volkswagen Passat. Better mileage, sufficent space, 4 doors, German engineering. It is a wonderful change. So, there is that.

Also… The computer situation at the Villainschloss as improved - somewhat. Mrs Villain has a netbook computer she is using now (Thanks Kevin! I still owe you for this.) She is pleased with it. Villainette #2 saved up money from odd jobs and such and bought herself an HP laptop. So she is set with computing. Now Villainette #1 has also saved up money and decided to get a very nice HP laptop as well. It is a refurb from Woot in fact. Your Maximum Leader was a little weary about getting a refurb computer, but his experience (through his daughter) has been a positive one. So your Maximum Leader has been left to deal with his aging desktop. The desktop he built (with the help of a friend) back in 2003… It has served a long and distinguished life, but it is slow and beginning to be persnickedy. (The most aggrevating thing is the boot time - which has now topped 9 minutes.)

Your Maximum Leader contemplated buying new guts for the desktop and having it solider on, but in the end he’s decided to go with a laptop. So, he broke down and went the way of his elder daughter and bought a refurb off of Woot yesterday. It is a Samsung with an i7 processor, LED display, blu-ray, 750GB storage, a very high end NVIDIA graphics card and 6GB of RAM. And it was only $600. (He configured a similar laptop at Dell, Samsung, Sony, HP and Alienware and found the prices ranged from $1200-$1500 for new.) Your Maximum Leader figures he got a deal. He’ll find out when it gets to him.

Of course, all this laptop computing around the house leads your Maximum Leader to think that he needs to upgrade his 5 yrs old wireless router to something with a higher capacity…

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader has been following teh politics recently. He was pleased to see Rick Perry falter. Your Maximum Leader will vote for a no-chance 3rd party odd-ball before he votes for Rick Perry for anything. If you need to know why… 3 words. Cameron Todd Willingham. As far as your Maximum Leader is concerned, Governor Perry cannot retreat to Texas fast enough and from there proceed to obscurity.

Your Maximum Leader was a little disappointed to learn of Herman Cain’s troubles. Cain was entertaining and engaging, even if your Maximum Leader had no intention of ever voting for him. Your Maximum Leader was disappointed because of Cain’s handling of the sexual harassment situation. He’d hoped that Cain might just put everything out there and move ahead. You see, your Maximum Leader had a pet theory that in the post-Bill Clinton age old sex scandals weren’t going to derail a candidate. It appears as though Cain will not be the test case for this theory. To test the theory the candidate would have to fess up to everything and then say it was “all in the past” and that he’s learned and grown since then and then see if the mess blows over.

Of course it is possible that this theory might only be true for Democrats - who don’t seem to have problems with sex scandals by other Democrats any more.

Your Maximum Leader was taken aback by the sudden surge of Newt Gingrich in the polling. Great jeezy chreezy! Is every one of the candidates going to get a moment in the sun? Is Rick Santorum next? (By your Maximum Leader’s count the leaders have been: Romney, Bachmann, Paul, Romney, Perry, Cain, Gingrich. It would seem to be Santorum’s turn.)

The most crazy thing about all these changes in the polls is that they just reinforce the weakness of the field. One of the weaknesses of the field to your Maximum Leader (but he doubts it is a weakness to the great majority of poll-ees in the Republican party) is that none of the candidates seems to be terribly serious about anything except beating Obama. All in all they are not particuarly innovative thinkers in any sort of policy way. They don’t seem to have clear messages on any particular subject. And they don’t seem particularly presidential.

Of course the primaries don’t engender a “presidential atmosphere.” They do promote the articulation of a plan and sound positions. They do promote the hectic and harried pace at which someone might have to actually be President. So, in a way, they simulate the job - without really giving you the trappings of the job. (The trappings of office which give you some respectability and decorum - two elements lacking in primaries.)

Your Maximum Leader believes that the Republicans will likely default to Romney (it is his turn afterall) and that it will be a close election. If the economy does not improve by next fall - it will be perilously close for Obama. All things being equal, it is hard to unseat a sitting president - and that is the only thing one can be certain of for next year.

Your Maximum Leader never did sum up his thoughts on the baseball season past… Since it is already well into hockey season he will give the short version. Congrats to the Cardinals! There is a lot to like about the Washington Nationals for next year and the upcoming years. Your Maximum Leader was worried that Davey Johnson’s day had past - but it apparently has not. Your Maximum Leader thinks the Nats could be a .500 team next year (or even a little better than .500).

Also, thank goodness that Wilson Ramos was rescued from his kidnappers.

That is about it for now… Your Maximum Leader is ruminating over a few other posts… So you might see more in this space in a little bit.

Carry on.

Winning ticket

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been meaning to blog for about a week now. He was asked some political questions by his best buddy Kevin. Your Maximum Leader has thought about many of the questions and has formulated an answer in his brain… Sadly, his brain and his PC are two different media. Your Maximum Leader thought this weekend would provide some good blogging time… It did not. When your Maximum Leader sat down to blog, he was preempted at the computer by Villainette #1 or by Mrs Villain (who somehow now needs 2 computers running simultaneously in order to complete her work).

So sadly you will all have to live with this modest update…

First off, your Maximum Leader’s beloved Washington Nationals have already won more than the 76 games he predicted they would wind. This is a great milestone. With yesterday’s win over the slumping Braves, the Nationals have now won 78 games. It is theoretically possible that the Nationals could post a winning record (or even .500 record) with a good showing this week in Florida against the Marlins. Your Maximum Leader will be watching closely and rooting for his team.

Speaking of his team… Your Maximum Leader was at the Villainschloss doing some housework and watching the Nationals/Braves game on the TV when his cell phone rang. The caller ID showed an unfamiliar “202″ area code number. Your Maximum Leader let it go to voicemail. Then about 20 minutes later the same number called back. He picked up this time. It was a young man named Carl. He identified himself as an employee of the Washington Nationals. He asked if your Maximum Leader was at the park watching the game. Your Maximum Leader said he was at home watching the game. Carl then announced that your Maximum Leader was one of 30 “Jersey off their backs” winners. You see, a few weeks (months?) ago your Maximum Leader bought some raffle tickets from the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. The prize being offered was the jersey off a Nationals player’s back at the end of the last home game. Well, it was the last home game, and Carl was trying to find out if your Maximum Leader was at the Park so that he could escort your Maximum Leader to the President’s Club seats with the other winners and determine who was getting which player’s jersey. Since your Maximum Leader wasn’t in attendance (and couldn’t make it to the park in time) he will get whomever’s jersey he won in the lottery… Apparently all the winners in attendance were polled as to which player they wanted. If a player had multiple winners - names were chosen by lot. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t know who’s jersey will be delivered to the Villainschloss, but he was assured it would be here by the end of the week.

Your Maximum Leader will post photos when the jersey arrives. He is giddy with excitement.

In other news…

Rick Perry seems to be melting down. He can’t speak clearly at debates and seems to not be doing well in a useless straw poll. This is a minor speed bump for him. If one is going to stumble while seeking the highest office in the land, it is best to do it early. Perry will regroup and rise back up to the top eschalon of contenders.

Your Maximum Leader mentioned earlier that Kevin had asked some political questions in the comments to another post… Your Maximum Leader will quickly address some of them here. The first one was asking if President Obama’s base is really threatening to abandon him. Well… Your Maximum Leader knows a number of strong liberal democrats and they are all upset to varying degrees with the President. The President is in some trouble with his base, in your Maximum Leader’s opinion. These highly motivated and dedicated supporters are upset that the President isn’t being an effective leader. In that they pretty much agree with just about anyone of any political persuasion. Of course, is this a problem for the President? Without a primary challenge it is not a serious long-term problem. And no one is going to challenge the President in the Democratic primaries. Certainly not Hillary Clinton. As Clinton said herself recently, the further away from the mudslinging you are the better you look. She is far from the political battles that are in the forefront of our national discussion, so she is the least affected by them. She wouldn’t look nearly as good if she were, say, Secretary of the Treasury…

Lookit, President Obama will have to start talking a good game and making some changes in his administration to show he is “serious” about winning a second term. Then, eventually, the base will come back. Mainly because they have three choices come next November. Those choices are support the President, support someone else (an unrealistic choice to make), or stay home. In the end the base (all in all) turns out (that is what makes them “the base”).

The President’s political problems are going to be with himself. If “independent” voters and “marginal” Democrats feel he’s not “doing enough” to solve our economic problems; then the Republican challenger (provided the Republican isn’t insane) will have a fighting chance of winning. There is still a long time between now and November…. So anything is possible…

Carry on.

Mostly baseball

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is not a superstitous person. With one noteworthy exception, he isn’t aware of a single supersition that he buys into.

That one exception is mojo in sports. The last time your Maximum Leader blogged about his beloved Washington Nationals, they started a big losing streak. That streak appears to be broken. But your Maximum Leader fears that by noting publically that the Nats seem to be doing well… You know… It could mess with their mojo…

Anyhoo…

The Nats western road trip started off well. Your Maximum Leader is hoping to more success. He particularly hopes for some Nationals wins against the Giants.

It is funny… Your Maximum Leader, for many many years, never felt anything towards the Giants. But one of your Maximum Leader’s good buddies is a big Los Angeles Dodgers fan. This friend - being a true Dodgers fan - has deep baseball animosity towards the Giants. Some of that feeling must have rubbed off on your Maximum Leader who now harbors some dislike for the Giants.

Anyhoo…

So your Maximum Leader sees on ESPN that apparently 9 of MLB’s 30 teams are out of compliance with MLB’s debt to earnings rules. Your Maximum Leader’s beloved Washington Nationals are on that list of 9 teams. According to the report:

The violations in question concern debt-service rules intended to limit a club’s debt to 10 times its annual revenue, according to the [Los Angeles] Times. Other teams named in the owners’ briefing were the Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Florida Marlins and Washington Nationals. [ML: The first teams listed were the LA Dodgers and the New York Mets. Others mentioned in the report are the Phillies, Cubs, and Rangers.]Selig’s predecessor, Fay Vincent, called the prospect of so many teams in violation of the debt rules “troublesome,” the Times reported. Selig declined comment to the newspaper.

On the one hand your Maximum Leader can see how the Nationals would make this list. The Lerners are still “young” owners, which is to say that they have purchased the team within the past 10 years. There was, your Maximum Leader was sure, quite a bit of leveraging to get the money to buy the team. (Also, your Maximum Leader is casually acquainted with people who were offered shares of the ownership group within the first year or two of the Lerners buying the team. He hears that those shares remain available to anyone who wants to pony up a cool million bucks to be a part minority owner of the team.)

Even armed with that rationalization, it is disturbing to see the Nationals on the list. Especially when you look at some of the other teams on the list. The two teams that shocked your Maximum Leader by appearing on the list were the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies. Your Maximum Leader knows that the Cubs have been for sale for a while now. But he didn’t know that the Phillies were so highly leveraged. That is a bit disturbing.

Well… Your Maximum Leader will anxiously await the first pitch of tonight’s game twixt the Nationals and the Arizona Diamondbacks. And he’ll hope for a good outcome…

The Nat’s curly “W”

Carry on.

UPDATE FROM YOUR MAXIMUM LEADER: Mrs Villain reminded your Maximum Leader of one silly superstitous thing he does persist in doing. If he leaves the Villainschloss and drives away, but then remembers something and returns within a few minutes of leaving to retreive something he forgot; he sits down in a chair and counts to ten before heading back out. It is something that his late beloved paternal grandmother made him do for years. The habit must have stuck.

Carry on.

June 1, 2011

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader apologizes for his dearth of posting. Sadly, he’s been caught up in life. He determined this afternoon to jot down a few thoughts to see if anyone out there is still reading…

Your Maximum Leader did book hotels for his trip to Tennessee later this month. On the agenda for family sight-seeing are: The Hermitage, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry, and Graceland. Yes, your Maximum Leader is going to make sure to take the whole family on the pilgrimage to the home of Elvis. (NB to all readers: If you don’t know already… When the Mike World Order comes, your Maximum Leader will “lean” on the Pope to have Elvis Presley made a Saint. It will happen…) So he is looking forward to that. (Both the vacation and making Elvis a Saint.)

Oh yes… It is the first of the month… Rabbit!

Your Maximum Leader has found himself completely engrossed in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Although many people have commended the books to him over the years, your Maximum Leader has never read them. Now thanks to the magic of television, he’s been prompted to go to the devil’s own website (term tm’ed by Robbo) and bought the first 4 books of George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire.” (NB: Your Maximum Leader wonders - but is too lazy to google it to get some closure on the issue - if the “R.R.” in George R.R. Martin stand for “Robert” and “Reuhl.” Mmmmmm….) Anyhoo… Your Maximum Leader is particularly partial to the characters of Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf son of the powerful Lannister family, and Daenerys Targaryen, the last princess of her line and the wife of the Horse Lord Khal Drogo. He has invested himself in the story and now feels the need to learn the whole story. So when the books arrive he’ll get started on learning all there is about this world that Martin has created.

There is an element of “Game of Thrones” that reminds your Maximum Leader of Stephen R. Donaldson’s books called “Mordant’s Need.” The similarity is likely superficial. But the similarities have prompted your Maximum Leader to find his copies of the Mordant’s Need books and re-read them.

BTW, with this purchase from Amazon, your Maximum Leader has broken his promise to himself to not purchase a new book in all of 2011 and only re-read books he owns… He doesn’t think he’d mentioned this promise to himself before on the blog. But he was very good in keeping it - until now of course…

Your Maximum Leader is going through baseball DT’s. This is not to say that he’s not been watching baseball on TV. In fact he’s watched quite a bit of it. He has missed going to a game. It is now June and in all past seasons he would have been to at least one and normally two Nationals games by now. He has been to precisely zero. He has time to go this weekend. But the Nationals are going on an 11 day road trip tomorrow. Your Maximum Leader’s Nats were able to steal two away from the dreaded Phillies, and now they sit in the cellar of the NL East and only 7 games under .500.

Your Maximum Leader is likely going to end this little missive now, as the heavens are about to open with water and electricity in a few minutes. He’ll hope the passing storms does something to minimize the heat that has been affecting his area over the past few days. Odds are rain will only add to the humidity… Mother Nature must like saunas…

Carry on.

18-18 and other sporting thoughts

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader feels it is time for him to do a sports post. He’ll start off with the best news in his sporting fandom. Namely that his beloved Washington Nationals are playing better than he expected.

The Nats, with an impressive win last night in Atlanta, are now sitting on a .500 record. Your Maximum Leader was not exactly expecting the Nats to be at .500 at this point in the season. Why were his expectations low? Mainly due to the fact that Ryan Zimmerman is out, and will continue to be out for a while while he recovers from abdominal surgery. Jim Riggleman, the Nats skipper, has been moving utility men in and out of different positions and messing with the lineup regularly. In years past that type of movement would not have the intended result, namely of keeping the Nats on a good and upward path. This year all appears to be working better.

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t believe that getting Zimmerman back later in the season will result in a sudden win streak and make the Nats contenders. It should enable the Nats to keep playing well and not be an embarassment to their fans and the game. Your Maximum Leader isn’t quite ready to revise is earlier prediction of the Nats winning 76 or more games this year, but right now - very early in a very long season - it is looking good for the Nats.

So, your Maximum Leader is pleased with his baseball team. He is not as pleased with his Washington Capitals. The Caps were eliminated from the playoffs and your Maximum Leader is only now able to write about it. Your Maximum Leader, now that the Caps are out, will inattentively follow the playoffs until the Stanley Cup finals at which time he will half-heartedly root for the Western Conference champion to defeat the Eastern Conference champion. If your Maximum Leader were pushed he’d declare himself for the Vancouver Canucks. He would like a Canadian team to win it. But we’ll see how it plays out.

And what of the Capitals? Well… This playoff loss was hair-wrenchingly bad. It was made worse because your Maximum Leader really isn’t sure what could have been done to improve the Caps chances of going the distance. Player moves during the regular season worked out. The defensive scheme that Coach Bruce Boudreau implemented was one that worked. Basically, the Caps were outplayed by the Tampa Bay Lightning (a division rival - ack!) in the series. Your Maximum Leader thinks that the only thing that could have been done differently would have been to keep Braden Holtby (a rookie goalie in our farm system) playing for the team into the playoffs. But even that path is fraught with danger as rookie goalies rarely win it all.

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t know what could be done to make the Caps winners. They are already contenders. They will continue to be contenders… But they aren’t getting over the hump and your Maximum Leader doesn’t see a clear path to improvement.

And then there is football…

Your Maximum Leader is nearly gleeful at all the issues surrounding football right now. He hopes that it goes badly all around and both the owners and players are taken down a notch for hubris. All in all, if you forced your Maximum Leader to take a side, he’d come down on the side of the players. He is all for lower rookie salaries, keeping the 16 game schedule and providing more retirement money for players. But all the same he feels like both sides are being petulent and childish in risking their status as the premier sport in America by fighting the way they are. Frankly, your Maximum Leader would be pleased if football were supplanted by baseball as the premier sport in America, but it isn’t likely to happen - sort of a major regular season work stoppage. (A stoppage your Maximum Leader doesn’t see happening.)

It is particularly funny to live in the DC area during all this turmoil in football. DC is, afterall, a football down. It is the Redskins all the time. Redskins fans are on sports radio breaking down the draft. They are speculating on the QB situation. They are talking in a way that completely ignores the real (if remote) fact that there might not be a 2011-2012 season. If there are missed games (or a missed season) your Maximum Leader doesn’t know what Redskins fan would do. He wonders how they would make it through the winter…

Anyhoo…

The long summer is still all ahead of us and we’ve got more baseball coming than we imagine. Your Maximum Leader hopes the Nats continue to play strong and stay near .500. If they are able to it will be a turning point for the organization and a cause for rejoycing among fans.

Carry on.

Baseball, Badasses & Rabbit

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader had a very enjoyable (if too short time) time at a book signing last night. The author was the Amazing Ben Thompson - creator of the completely awesome web site Badass of the Week. The book being signed was his second “Badass: The Birth of a Legend”. Your Maximum Leader will enjoy reading Ben’s new book. If you like his site, you will love the book and should rush on over to Amazon and buy yourself a copy. Your Maximum Leader’s only regret on this meeting was that he couldn’t spend more time with Ben (assuming that Ben would have wanted to spend time with your (and his) Maximum Leader). Your Maximum Leader had to be fatherly and pick up the Villainettes from piano lessons and return to the Villainschloss to look after Mrs Villain and the Wee Villain (both of whom had little stomach viruses). Your Maximum Leader would gladly have bought Ben a drink or two. (NB to Ben Thompson: if you are back in the neighborhood let me know and I’ll buy…)

After meeting Ben, the second big event of yesterday was the beginning of baseball season. Sadly your Maximum Leader’s beloved Washington Nationals fell to the Atlanta Braves. One hopes that the Nats can recover and claw their way up to .500 on Saturday and surge to .666 on Sunday.

Since it is that time of year… Your Maximum Leader predicts that his beloved Nationals will will 76 or more games this year. We might even very close to being a .500 team. He would love to regale you all with predictions of a playoff berth, but it just isn’t going to happen. He’ll root the Nats on and will lookfor great improvement this year.

The Nat’s curly “W”
Play ball and go Nats!

One last thing as it is the first of the month… Rabbit.

Carry on.

Photos and sports musings

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader mentioned, a few days ago, that he’d been at a fancy dinner in DC recently. The guests of honor at the dinner were Cal Ripken, Jr. and Alex Ovechkin. The event was hosted by Lindsay Czarniak of DC’s own NBC 4 news. Your Maximum Leader sadly doesn’t have an impromptu photo with Alex Ovechkin that turned out okay. (Most were slightly out of focus.) But he does have a few others for your viewing pleasure.

Here is your Maximum Leader and Washington Capitals Coach (and hockey lifer) Bruce Boudreau. (Clicken to embiggen.)
ML & Gabby Boudreau

Here is your Maximum Leader and Cal Ripken Jr. (Clicken to embiggen.)
ML & Cal Ripken Jr

And here is your Maximum Leader with Lindsay Czarniak. (Again, clicken…)
ML & Lindsay Czarniak

Your Maximum Leader hopes that the official photographer was able to capture your Maximum Leader and Alex Ovechkin. And once again for the record… Lindsay Czarniak is both charming and attractive. She also shows a tremendous amount of patience with middle aged men who want to be photographed with her.

In the sports musing department…

Your Maximum Leader has been watching a fair amount of hockey of late. His beloved Washington Capitals are something of a puzzle. They are getting and taking shots. But they aren’t scoring. Coach Boudreau is mixing up the lines to good effect, yet the big superstars of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin are not scoring. The team is surviving on good play from the second and third lines.

The Caps have been playing a more defensive style of game, rather than last year’s (very exciting) wide open game. The defensive habits they are practising now should help the Caps if they make it to the playoffs. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t want to jinx the team, but right now they are in a tight race for the lead in the Southeast Division. The Caps can’t afford to assume that they will win the division and make the playoffs. After crushing the other teams in the division for so long those other teams have been able to build in the draft and are now showing significant signs of improvement.

Anyhoo… Your Maximum Leader is generally pleased with what he sees from his Capitals. They are on the right path and he is hopeful that they will continue to travel on this path for a long while.

In other sports news…

Your Maximum Leader is darn near estatic over how the football playoffs have been going. His much loved Green Bay Packers have found a running game to compliment Aaron Rodger’s great control of the passing game. Your Maximum Leader is giddy with anticipation over the NFC Championship game this weekend. The Packers and the Bears. The oldest and most storied rivalry in the NFL. The only way the game could be better would be if it were held at Lambeau and not Soldier Field. But Soldier Field in January is pretty good… Your Maximum Leader thinks the Packers can pull off the upset. But he will be watching very closely.

Lastly… Is it too early to be thinking baseball? Your Maximum Leader’s beloved Washington Nationals have been pretty active this off-season. They have been overpaying players to fill out the roster. Of course, when you suck for a few years and don’t show an inclination to win you have to spend some big bucks to attract good players to come to town and turn around the team. Your Maximum Leader thinks it is too early to judge if the moves have been good, but his early gut feeling is that the Nats should have kept Dunn. The offence Dunn produced for the team generally offset his defensive shortcomings. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure that LaRoche and Werth are going to fully make up those runs (but they will save runs on defense). Your Maximum Leader should probably engage in some advanced statistical analysis to figure out how the runs would change, but he doubts he’ll do that…

With that… Your Maximum Leader will cheer on his Caps and Packers and hope for the best for them.

Carry on.

La Serenissima & Bella Mara

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader hasn’t blogged much recently due to a chronic case of TV viewing. Of course when you have a new Panasonic Viera 54 inch Plasma TV you may want to spend your time watching it. If you want to know your Maximum Leader’s thoughts on his new TV here they come: this TV is awesome. Yup. This TV is completely awesome.

FYI… The first film he watched on his new TV, on BlueRay, in true 1080p HD was Zombieland.

Well my minions…

Your Maximum Leader has been completely infected by the bug again. The Venice bug. It has been in the forefront of his mind quite a bit over the past few weeks. He doesn’t recall if there was a particular trigger for the bug, but it is all-consuming.

For a city to which your Maximum Leader has never traveled Venice holds a strange manic fixation for him. He reads about Venice, he thinks about what he’ll do in Venice, he thinks about the future and past of Venice. This year he actually started worrying that when he finally does get to Venice that he’ll hate it or find something to dislike about it. But even those thoughts can’t keep him from thinking about visiting La Serenissima. He worries that Venice’s problems will ruin the image of the city he has in his mind.

Venice has so many problems and so few viable solutions to any of them. The first problem is, well, the water. As your Maximum Leader has highlighted on this blog many times (and he’ll do so again now), the acqua alta (or high water) is affecting the city more and more frequently and is getting higher and higher with each passing year. The high water yesterday was reportedly over a meter deep in St. Mark’s square.

Another problem is the over-commericalization of Venice. People (Venitians and outsiders) think that the city is becoming “Veniceland” and ceasing to be a city. They contend that the 20 million tourists that flood the city by day in the warm weather months are driving out reasonably priced apartments, grocers, and many of the people and businesses that make a city a city. The population of Venice has declined to between 50,000-60,000 (from a late 1950s popluation of nearly 130,000). Without some way of keeping prices down in the city more citizens will leave and eventually Venice could become a tourist city with the workers coming in by train or boat from their homes on terra firma and leaving after the tourists in the evening.

In the over-commericalization vein, the costs of keeping up the city continue to skyrocket. Many people are complaining about how the city is auctioning off advertising space on scaffolding around historic buildings in Venice (including this ghastly ad for Coke - a product your Maximum Leader completely endorses - on the side of the Doge’s Palace). Sadly, your Maximum Leader isn’t sure that there are many other choices for preserving the city. With a dwindling tax-base you have to sell the assests you can to raise money to preserve the landmarks that draw in the tourists. The mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, earlier this year proposed a tax on tourists. The proposal was that every tourist who enters the city, but does not spend the night in the city, should pay a 10 Euro tax. The city would then spend the tax on keeping up the city buildings and services. Frankly, your Maximum Leader is all for this proposal. 10 Euros a person and 20 million tourists. Let’s say that 2 million of those tourists spend the night (which seems a little high, but he’s going with it anyway) that is still 180 million Euros in revenue gained. That seems like a reasonable visitation tax with a worthwhile purpose.

But even with all the talk of overcommericalization, sinking and crowds of tourists, your Maximum Leader feels the city is pulling at his soul. The city calls him to visit. He hopes that his visit will be like the one he recently read about on-line in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (although the piece is orginally from the New York Times - your Maximum Leader doesn’t read the NY Times as a matter of policy, unless he is in New York City). In the piece Rachel Donadio relates her first visit to Venice in many years. It is a great travel piece that your Maximum Leader will commend to you. Here is a taste:

I HADN’T been back to Venice in years when I found myself there on assignment. It was November; the city’s scattered trees had begun to turn brown. The light, as always, was beyond compare and there was a watery chill in the air. I loved it immediately.

Or rather, I remembered how much I loved it. Italy can do strange things to your perspective. Memories of a place become more real than the place itself. I had lived for years with the Venice of my recollections — traveling there at 19, drinking peach iced tea in the July heat, discovering Giorgione — and then last November I was back. I was older, so was Venice.

The visit whetted my appetite, and not long afterward I returned one freezing January weekend, armed with several sweaters, boots and a well-worn copy of “Watermark,” Joseph Brodsky’s marvelous prose poem about Venice in winter, which would be my guide. It is an emotional guidebook more than a practical one, but, I would argue, just as reliable. In Venice, maps fail. As everyone knows, to be in that floating city is to be forever lost and disoriented, as if in a labyrinth.

On that November foray, I had listened to a group of American college students talking as they wandered around near the Rialto Bridge. “I don’t mind if we’re, like, lost all day,” one told his friends. “Dude,” another replied, “I don’t think we have a choice.”

Goethe could not have put it better. Venice, as he famously wrote, can be compared only to itself. So many wonderful writers have captured Venice, from Goethe to Henry James to Evelyn Waugh, that it is all the more remarkable that in 1992 Brodsky, in “Watermark,” managed to create a truly original piece of writing about this cliché-worn city.

Your Maximum Leader read “Watermark” last Christmas. It is one of the most lyrical short books he’s ever read. Brodsky could really turn a phrase and capture a moment in poetic prose. If you can, pick up a copy and read it. It will take you a short afternoon (or a long one if you savor the words).

Anyhoo… Venice is on your Maximum Leader’s mind.

You know what other Italian thing is on your Maximum Leader’s mind? No? Well let him tell you. Mara Carfagna. Yes, the beautiful and talented Minister for Equal Opportunity in the Berlusconi government. Your Maximum Leader has read over the past year that Minister Carfagna had gotten a lot of press for trying to outlaw street prostitution and provide more protection for homosexuals and victims of rape. Right around Thanksgiving in the US your Maximum Leader read that Mara Carfagna (Bella Mara as the Italian papers seem to call her) was going to resign from her position. Your Maximum Leader had read about the ongoing garbage collector strike in Naples and the growing mountains of refuse in the city; but now that crisis had real impact to him. Carfagna was going to resign over the government’s inability to resolve that situation. Your Maximum Leader was going to lament that the world’s most beautiful government minister was going to resign over garbage. Apparently, and luckily for all involved, Carfagna and Berlusconi must have worked something out because she is going to stay on (for a while at least). If you would like a little news analysis on Mara Carfagna here is a nice piece in Spiegel International called: Neither Saints Nor Whores.

Well, that is about all the Italian stuff brewing around in your Maximum Leader’s brain right now. He’ll leave the blog now and check out some college football. Today he’s rooting for the USC Gamecocks to put the smackdown on Auburn (mainly because he wants to see TCU try for the National Championship) and the Virginia Tech Hokies in the ACC championship.

Carry on.

One… More… Game…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader predicted back in April that his beloved Washington Nationals Baseball Club could win at least 70 games and perhaps as many as 80 games. Well… The bloom wore off that rose in mid June. The Nats started off well, but then lost their way not quite half-way through the season.

The Nationals have finished the season 69-93.

Sure that is an improvement over last season. But your Maximum Leader is a little disappointed. Through the beginning of August he’d hoped that the Nats could win 70-75 games. Frankly, if the Nationals had played the Florida Marlins like they play the rest of the NL East then they would have crested 70 wins. Playing a little better on the road against any opponent (and here your Maximum Leader is looking directly at the pathetic Baltimore Orioles) then they would have perhaps crested 75 wins.

Of course, the Nationals have shown that they are on a track that is moving them (at a glaciers pace) upward. Your Maximum Leader hopes that the Nats will do the smart thing and sign Adam Dunn now that the season is over. Dunn, while something of a defensive liability, is a big bat in a lineup that needs offense. Dunn’s presence in the lineup makes Zimmerman, Willingham, and all the others better hitters. Nats management needs to show that they are willing to pony up a little money to give us some wins now. The Nats played pretty good at home over the season. Without Dunn and the offense he brings, the Nats might start to get boring at home. When the home town fans start to go it is hard to win them back (and you have to resort to inviting Philly fans down to fill seats). Please sign Dunn now.

So, your Maximum Leader is finding himself without a team to root for in the post season. He’ll likely pull for Texas in the AL just to pull for some team out there. In the end he’s an NL man and will root for any NL team over the AL team in the World Series, but for the moment it will be Texas…

In other sporting news… Hockey season starts this week… The Washington Capitals must play hard and make the playoffs (and avoid an embarassing first round exit). Not like there is any pressure there to win…

Carry on.

Some sport musings

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been spend a lot of time watching and thinking about baseball and football.

On the baseball side of things, your Maximum Leader’s son, the Wee Villain, has started to play organized ball. The Wee Villain has been enjoying himself very much at practice and is looking forward to the first game (which is Saturday). In terms of his skills, he has a good and reasonably accurate throwing arm, he is a slow runner, he is still somewhat afraid of balls hit in the air coming down and hitting him, he is good at fielding grounders, and his swing is terribly aggrevating. All in all he is a middling player in his group. Your Maximum Leader believes that he’d be much better if he could improve one element of his swing. When the ball comes at him he “steps out” with his front foot. He completely opens his stance and misses the ball. The motion causes him to lose the ball visually, it messes up his swing (which otherwise would be okay) and completely takes away any power he might have in the event he made contact. Your Maximum Leader has gone so far as to lay on the ground behind the Wee Villain and hold his ankles when he swings so he can’t move his feet at all.

It is going to take more and more practice. Then again, he is six…

As far as your Maximum Leader’s beloved Washington Nationals are concerned… There is all at once so much and so little to say. Your Maximum Leader had predicted that the Nats would win 70-75 games this year. That is still a possibility, but it is a little reach. Most of the Nats’ games are against NL East opponents; and we have a pennant race in the NL East. On the good side of the equation (for Nats’ fans) is that the Nats have played NL East teams that are not the Florida Marlins very well. So well in fact that they have a winning record against the NL East (except Florida). But the Phillies are highly motivated to play well to make sure they make the playoffs and have some “mo” working for them. It will be interesting to watch as the Nats could play the role of spoiler to some team.

In other Nationals news. Your Maximum Leader believes that the team should offer Adam Dunn a 3-4 year contract and keep him. If this season has shown us anything it is that you never know what will happen with your prospects. With that in mind, give the big lug a contract and let him stick around. Sure he isn’t a great fielder (and in a perfect world he’d be a DH for an AL team - a role he’d fit exactly) but he does pop the ball and he makes Ryan Zimmerman a better hitter. Keep him for his offence says your Maximum Leader. We like Adam Dunn and we’d like to see him stay on as a Nat.

Nyjer Morgan however… Your Maximum Leader has turned on Nyjer. Last year he was fun to watch and greatly entertaining. This year he is making mental errors and being a little more belligerent than he should be. His “baseball IQ” is not as advanced as others and he probably has been working himself out of a job in DC. If Morgan winds up being traded, your Maximum Leader wouldn’t shed a tear. The Nats have plenty of talent coming up that can play outfield and likely do better at it than Morgan is now.

So that is baseball…

As for football…

Your Maximum Leader has been souring on football more and more over the years. He can actually see himself not watching it at all within a few years. The problem for him now is head injury leading to early death. He finds himself wincing at hard hits and heads snapping back in blocks and tackles. All of the research coming out about the connection between head trauma and dementia, ALS and other problems has actually scared your Maximum Leader a bit.

Of course, your Maximum Leader doesn’t play football, hasn’t played organized football and has nothing to fear from injuries he’s never sustained. But at some level now that he knows what is going on out there he doesn’t like watching it as much. It was hard to watch his (beloved) Green Bay Packers play the Philadelphia Eagles. It was hard to watch because Aaron Rodgers was getting sacked quite a bit early on. With every sack your Maximum Leader wondered if a few months were taken off Rodger’s life - or the life of the defensive player who got the sack.

Because your Maximum Leader can’t let this subject go without some sort of snarky political comment… Here tis: You know that with nationalized health care coming up they will eventually have to outlaw (or othewise prohibit) football being played like this because it is too dangerous and the public cost will be too high to bear.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader hasn’t stopped watching football, but it is sort of hard. He can say this, the Wee Villain will never play football. EVER. That doesn’t stop others from sacraficing their sons to the allure of the gridiron… Your Maximum Leader is happy to let others do that…

All this angst aside, it was good to see the Packers win. Very good in fact. It made your Maximum Leader very happy.

Carry on.

Platonic Baseball

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been full of opinions and anxious to spew them forth into the ether of the interwebs. Sadly, this week has not been condusive to doing such. It is hard to explain just how strangely this week has in fact progressed. Very strange indeed.

Thanks to Robbo your Maximum Leader found this wonderful article by David Hart at First Things: A Perfect Game. Hart is a little over the top in some of his platonic analysis of baseball, but all in all he does capture some inchoate feelings your Maximum Leader has felt towards baseball for some time now. Robbo quoted a portion of the article near the beginning. But this one struck your Maximum Leader:

Now, of course, when I speak of baseball’s “idealism,” it is principally Platonism I have in mind: Greek rather than German idealism. But I have to admit that, as I have just described it, much of the game seems to speak not only of the finite’s power to reflect the infinite but also of a kind of fated, heroic human striving against the infinite. There are few spectacles in sport as splendid and pitiable as the batter defiantly poised before all that endless openness. We know that even the most majestic home run is as nothing in its vastness, that even the greatest hitter is a kind of Sisyphus, proudly indifferent to the divine mockery of that infinite horizon; and it is precisely this pathos that lends such moving splendor to those rare Homeric feats that linger on in our collective memory: Babe Ruth in Detroit in 1926, Frank Howard in Philadelphia in 1958, Mickey Mantle in New York in 1963, Frank Robinson in Baltimore in 1966 …

Good stuff… (NB: Although your Maximum Leader will admit that the Homeric feat of Frank Howard in 1958 is lost on his collective memory. Your Maximum Leader seems to recall that Frank Howard (of the Washington Senators) had a great home run streak in 1968 (when Hondo hit something like 13 home runs in 20 at bats). Perhaps there is some other Frank Howard tale from 1958 with which your Maximum Leader is not familiar.)

Of course this essay by Mr Hart is made more wonderful by the fact that the Washington Nationals were able to pull out a win against the Red Stockings of Cincinnati this afternoon…

Carry on.

It is certainly Monday

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader isn’t in a particularly good mood right now. Where oh where to begin?

First off, your Maximum Leader is having a tough time seeing straight. That isn’t really true. He’s having a hard time seeing. Something happened to his glasses yesterday and they are causing him to have headaches if he wears them for more than a few minutes (as opposed to every waking minute - like normal). He went by the eye doctor to check up on his prescription and perhaps get some new lenses, but the eye doctor reminded your Maximum Leader that it has been 3 years since his last visit. It hardly seemed possible. Normally your Maximum Leader goes to for an eye exam every two years, but apparently the doctor’s office forgot to call and set up an appointment. Anyhoo… Your Maximum Leader will have to muddle through tomorrow without proper corrected vision. This is a pain in the arse.

When his eyes weren’t bothering him, his beloved Washington Nationals were bothering him. Sadly, they were bothering him right in front of his very own eyes (which were seeing just fine at the time).

Your Maximum Leader stopped blogging about the Nationals a few weeks ago. Around the same time he determined that he also would not view games on TV as religiously has he had from April on. He was going to try and be more casual about his fan-dom. Guess what happened then. The Nats actually would win games that your Maximum Leader wasn’t watching on TV, and they would lose games he was watching on TV.

As you surely know, baseball is a game of rhythms and streaks and superstitions. Your Maximum Leader determined that perhaps HE was the cause of some of the Nationals’ distress on the field. If he stopped watching then they might be better. That worked for a few games here and there, but that little streak came to an end. Then came this past weekend. Your Maximum Leader loves his baseball, but he rarely goes to games on consecutive days. This past Saturday and Sunday were the first time, in a very very long time that your Maximum Leader went to games on consecutive days.

Of course the Nats lost both games against the Giants of San Francisco. (Your Maximum Leader pointed out to his children that the only World Championship of Baseball won in the City of Washington DC was won by the Washington Senators over the then-Giants of New York.) The Saturday game was a real hard one. The Nationals led for most of the game 5-0. Then they started playing sloppy and giving up hits and then runs and next thing you know, they lose 10-5. Yesterday’s game got out of hand early (with a run in the first) and it was no looking back for the Giants. The Nats lost 6-2.

Oh yeah… Not only did the Nats lose, but your Maximum Leader got a sunburn. You might have seen him getting a sunburn on the TV actually, he was sitting just a few rows beyond Ryan Zimmerman. Mrs Villain (who was not attending yesterday’s game) mentioned that she thought she saw your Maximum Leader and Villainette #2 on the TV.

So let us recap a little shall we?

Glasses have had something go wrong with them and your Maximum Leader is having trouble seeing.

Your Maximum Leader has a sunburn.

The Nationals keep losing.

That just about covers the weekend situation.

Oh yes… One more thing… Although he doesn’t know how he did it, apparently your Maximum Leader has pulled a muscle in his back and it is causing a dull, yet constant, aching.

He’ll stop bitching now and let you get back to whatever you were doing.

Carry on.

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Now is the winter of your discontent, made glorious summer by your Maximum Leader…

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