Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The batsman cometh

Distantly, the ice shudders and cracks. The heavy clouds, purple as iceberg bottoms, lift just a shade. Days and days and days without sun, under chilly bone-scraping fog, seem at an end. Could winter be over?

Who'm I kidding? Winter never came to Northern California. The warmth and sun are creeping me out.

The only demarcation of spring is the chipper call of  Jon Miller, your friend and mine, welcoming everyone to another season of San Francisco Giants baseball on the radio, and the first day the Giants defend their 2012 World Series title.

That happened Saturday, the first broadcast from spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., the Giants beating the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (real name!) 4-1. Pitchers are getting their arms back, hitters their bats, broadcasters their voices, and I my ears. As keen as I was to catch the first game, I found it hard to jam it into my winter routine, and multiple innings went by before I remembered to listen.
Don't worry. Like the players and broadcasters, I'll be ready for the season opener.

I don't need much preparation. This is how I'll look (above), in fact. A picture of contentment for the next eight months.

Look, The Giants have won two World Series championships in three years. They're bringing back almost all the players from last year's roster, and strengthening here and there in the bullpen. They retrieved from New York's purgatory one of the truly good guys, Andres Torres, who will vie for left field with Gregor Blanco. In Saturday's first game, second baseman Marco Scutaro did exactly what he did to help win the World Series — hit the ball exactly where he wanted to, just when he needed to, scooting a runner into scoring position.

One day Scutaro will be scrutinized for some kind of drug that makes him the ideal, unreal, baseball player.

This is how I'll look, amused but unfazed by Marty Lurie's relentless hours-long pestering and tweaking on KNBR. When baseball comes, KNBR's format is three hours of baseball play-by-play, bracketed by 21 hours of Marty Lurie analyzing it.

Lurie exhibits mid-season form. He baits us, the unwashed and uninformed, to tell him on the air our meaningless answers to his meaningless questions: Which prospect has the best chance to make the club? Which Giant do you want to introduce the World Series pennant to fans on Opening Day? Will Manager Bruce Bochy go with four lefthanders in the bullpen? Catsup on your hot dog — OK, or abomination? What are the Giants' chances to become the only National Leaguers to win three world titles in four years?

Don't know. Don't care.

Don't care if the Giants win another World Series. They proved they can. This time I'm just going to lie back and enjoy this season, let the broadcasters' buttery voices wash over my ears, let them tell me the stories of players scrapping, competing, going hard against a strengthening National League West. Win or lose, I don't care.

Who'm I kidding?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sucking on a toothache

Most editorial cartoonists in the United States forget how good they've got it.

As cartoonists elsewhere face firing, beating and even death for their vivid opinions, cartoonists here, in full-throated freedom, too often cough up hairballs.

Yet each day I follow their phlegmy siren song, made easier by Internet aggregation, hoping this day — maybe this day! — I'll find something worthwhile. Usually, though: Crash …

I know the current excuse; I just don't accept it: Editorial cartoonists are the newspaper environment's indicator species, signaling by their attrition the continuing demise of print. Keeping a job is hard enough, let alone profferring a controversial opinion in the process.

All the more reason, I say, for them to go down swinging. But just like always, too many cartoonists fancy themselves the Jay Lenos or Jimmy Fallons of family newspapers, Johnny-Carson-on-the-spot with a current-events joke.

Syndication enables this milquetoast behavior, allowing editors to treat cartoons as a visual break. They're just little candy kisses for your supposedly having read all the heavy gray erudite stolid —serious! — opinion surrounding the 'toons. Good reader! Here's a joke.

At best, newspapers use syndicated cartoons as window dressing for syndicated opinion columns. Fit tab A liberal cartoon into slot B liberal column on the same topic, and so on.

At worst, many cartoonists become the poster painters for their political affiliation, simply illustrating party talking points, without an opinion of their own.

Cartoonists should work without fear or favor, without deference to any political flag. Their credo should be "When our leaders do us wrong, waste our money, act out of hypocrisy, no matter who they are, I will shame them and bring them down."

Cartoonists should do all in their power to effect change — to correct the shamed, or compel readers to vote or criticize their leaders. With their immense power of visual immediacy, they should do this, every time.

They should also educate us, bringing to light issues we may not be aware of, and daring us to form opinions.

Their work should stand alone on the opinion pages, without tether to the newspapers. Editors should leave them alone, let them be accountable for their own opinions.

Some cartoonists do this. Most don't. Here's a sampling: 

• The Good

I've waxed enough about Pat Oliphant, my favorite, so I'll move on.

Matt Bors

Like Ted Rall, Bors comes out of the independent weekly newspaper ranks, with the look and ethos of independent comics, and has garnered wider recognition through syndication. Like Rall, Bors trends liberal but doesn't hesitate to attack people and issues from what might be considered his own camp.

He's tenacious, for example, about the U.S. use of remotely operated aircraft, or drones, and particularly President Obama's predilection for them, and what they mean for our right to privacy and protection from our government.

Sometimes The Sacramento Bee, my hometown newspaper with a liberal muckraker leaning, will run Bors' 'toons. But not often.

Jeff Danziger

He's old school, a Vietnam veteran who has never lost his anger or power to offend with a jab and a smile.

Here he exposes the hypocrisy of Senators attempting to block the confirmation of Sen. Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary.

Sens. Graham and McCain dismissed pointed investigation into the fabricated causes of the Iraq War, but have held up Hagel's hearing until they get answers about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Danziger wanted to point that out, just in case you're voting next election.

• The Bad 

Steve Breen

Breen is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and I don't know why.

His work the first time 'round, 1998, was sharper than the work he did 11 years later for his second prize. But that's not saying much.

This example shows the devolution of his work. It's a comment on a former San Diego mayor alleged to have won and lost $1 billion gambling her husband's foundation money.

So … what are we to do about it? What action? The sum is outrageous, the gambling sad, but other than that … I think he flashed on voting booth levers and jackpot levers (they're similar!) and bim-bam-boom, cartoon done, now off to work on his syndicated comic strip "Grand Avenue," where the one-note punchlines come lamely from a mile away. Where is the justice?

Michael Ramirez

Nobody approaches Ramirez for technical mastery; his drawing skills are a wonder, his use of color painterly.

But the same opinion, always from the far right, always some variation on whatever-Obama-does-is-wrong.

Case in point, this recent cartoon. Caduceus, Year of the Snake — clever juxtaposition — to bang the same drum: Obamacare BAD! No particular reason, no nuance, no call to action, just Obamacare BAD!

This cartoon, as most of Ramirez' work, brought to you by Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell.

Another two-time Pulitzer Prize winner.

• The Ugly

Chuck Asay
I'm never quite sure of Asay's point. It's right-of-Tea-Party conservative, but that's not revealing. He's old school, too, though not like Danziger. More like a guy on his front porch, shaking his fist and screaming about the gummit dammit! I guess he's retired, but still syndicates. Here's a recent 'toon.

I think he's saying that the problem can't be solved by addressing the causes of crime, but by reading the Bible and doing as God says. Why this is pertinent specifically to black-on-black crime, if at all, I'm not sure.

The Proverbs verses referred to are, according to the King James Bible:
"These six things doth the Lord hate: Yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."
I say this, it's an opinion, all right. I think. And he did make me look it up, so there's that.

Yeah, I too noticed all my "good" examples are liberal, while all my "bad" and "ugly" examples are conservative. I don't care what way cartoonists lean, except that their side can't always be good and the other bad. Hypocrisy and evil cross all lines, and the cartoonists should say so. Thump the Bible, the Koran, what have you, but be willing to badmouth the beam in your own eye, and have the guts to say something meaningful.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

To the wonderment of all

The great Willie Mays was already gone to the Mets
by the time I saw this illustration.
Behold, a serendipitous dip from my fountain of youth:

I give you — the works of Dave Beronio.

This is the stuff I promised to show way back when I wrote about my first baseball game 41 years ago.

The Giants split a doubleheader with the Cubs, and Dad, after a quiet sigh of "fer cryin' out loud," I bet, had split open his wallet for the dollar for the program.

Or yearbook, as the Giants were calling it. The Giants had won the National League West pennant the season before, and the yearbook basked in the glow, with a special logo befitting the design zeitgeist, and an out-of-focus photo of the great Willie Mays sliding into second base against what looks like the St. Louis Cardinals.

Half the fuzzy photo comprises the blue-green artificial turf that covered the field at Candlestick Park, and the year 1972 is printed in black over the green field.
The cover photo may have been prophetic, because Willie Mays was soon out of the picture, traded to the Mets in May, a month before my first ballgame. By June, the Giants had all but guaranteed they wouldn't defend their pennant.

Willie Mays was still the franchise at press time, though, and as I thumbed through the program, past the color photo essays and beer ads, I came upon Dave Beronio's drawing of Mays.

Candlestick Park and the rest of the world suddenly melted away. I sat bewitched. Somehow, with careful and yet carefree application of pencil — the same kind I pushed around a paper in maddening struggle — emerged Willie Mays, all life and light and likeness, exactly the man I had seen on TV and in photos.

Only moreso, somehow.

How did Dave Beronio mold the face just so, the shade here and light there, to make it dazzle? It was the best kind of magic. In the moment, and ever since, I have desperately wanted to draw like this.

"Sudden" Sam McDowell
The yearbook showcased Beronio's treatment of the Giants stars, including the starter acquired from the Cleveland Indians the year before, "Sudden" Sam McDowell:

Beronio was wise not to compose the lefty in a Giants hat, but to let the rockabilly hair and sideburns unfurl.

Beronio used black pencil on coquille board, a heavy paper with a pebbled surface. The pencil catches on the pebble shapes and creates a kind of dot pattern that made print reproduction easier.

Coquille board is somewhat old-school, popular in the mid 20th century among editorial cartoonists and newspaper illustrators.

Old-school would describe Dave Beronio, coming out of that fine time, before my time, when illustration daily graced the sports pages.

A closeup of the coquille board texture.
Noting Beronio's 75th birthday in 1996 from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. George Miller said the athletic reporter and editor would spar with the boxing greats of the time, interview them for stories — then have them sit for portraits.

As an editor for his hometown Vallejo Times Herald and the Vacaville Reporter, Beronio did so frequently, which is how the Giants called on him to draw for the 1972 program.

Beronio was a gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress during World War II, flying 35 missions and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross.

He was distinguished for a special commemoration on the walls of Candlestick Park, the lone writer among pro athletes. And he introduced his friend Bob St. Clair when the San Francisco 49er was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

Juan Marichal
And he drew me these wonderful pictures for me for a dollar.

Thumbing through the program again, I am still enthralled by Beronio's drawings. Occasionally I'll find gestural cross hatching, just a hint of looseness. For the most part Beronio showed great patience and economy of style.

He drew just enough, until the work was just right. His subjects shone as a result.

Should you stumble upon this blog and know about Dave Beronio and his work, I'd love to learn more, the man and his process. His body of work seems so far to have eluded the magnet of the Internet.

Until then, I'm grateful for the magic.

"Keystone Kids" Chris Speier at shorstop (my favorite) and Tito Fuentes at second base. Speier, in his
second season in the pros, was that day's Brandon Crawford. Speier's only sin is that he's now
the bench coach for the Cincinnati Reds.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

How I swim cold water

Today's temperature in Lake Natoma, which I swim at least four times a week, is 46.9 degrees Fahrenheit, or 8.3 degrees Celsius.

The temperature is rising, from a mid-January low of 44.3 degrees F (6.8 C).

To swim it this time of year, I imagine blue flame blooming from my arms, about 80 strokes in. The prickling becomes the delicate flames igniting and spreading, jacketing my arms. The stinging intensifies until, 40 or so strokes later, it levels off, the flames hold, their tendrils snapping off into the green water, and I can go on.

Except …

For some reason, I haven't needed to visualize the flames this winter, even though the water has been colder longer than the last two winters. Last year, the temperature dipped to 47 F for just one mid-January day before steadily rising. The same thing happened the year before, except the temperature dropped to 46.

Besides falling below 45 this year, the water temperature has held steady for more than a month, rarely rising above 47 before dipping again.

I don't know whether my mind has grown to know exactly what to expect when I dive in now, or I've gotten used to swimming immediately on entering the water (instead of wading a while, as I used to), but the low temperatures I had dreaded for two months don't bother me.

This is nothing, though. Through facebook™®©, I've come to know many swimmers — mostly in England and Ireland — who swim regularly in much colder water. Several of them abide by "channel rules:" Goggles, a single latex cap and a swimsuit, no wetsuit, as required of swimmers who brave the English Channel, the Mount Everest for long-distance swimmers.

I swim "channel rules light," with a neoprene cap and two slightly thicker silicone caps. No wetsuit, but my head is warm.

One London swimmer, John Donald, reports almost daily on facebook®©™ of swimming more than a mile, "channel rules," in his stainless steel community pool (or lido, pronounced LIE-doe … the things one learns on facebook™©®), where the temperature is 3 degrees Celsius, or 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

I encouraged him to get in touch with the International Ice Swimming Association (yes, it's a sport!), which has documented a small number of people worldwide who have swum a mile in temperatures 41 F and below.

It's a big deal, requiring a doctor's documentation of the swimmer's heart health, careful temperature readings of the watercourse, and layers of safety and recording and certification. Local long-distance swimmer Brad Schindler swam an ice mile unofficially last year at Lake Tahoe, and plans to repeat the event soon for keeps.

This London swimmer achieves this feat almost every day, apparently, with no attention save for a bitty post on a facebook®™© group page for swimmers.

The painting above illustrates, literally and figuratively:
  • I look at my hand too much. With my head positioned correctly, I should barely be able to see my arm pass in peripheral view, and I try hard not to look. But on a long swim, I can't help but imagine the world below the dark green of the water, and how clear my arm looks in the void;
  • I need to work on my watercolor skills. Or Photoshop®™© skills. Probably both.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Morally straitened

Trouble brews at the Boy Scouts.

Bring it.

And bring your hip waders. The irony and hypocrisy flow thickly.

Boy Scouts of America's governing board last week delayed until its annual May meeting a decision whether to include gay Scouts and Scout leaders.

Last week's was supposed to be a private board discussion, just a consideration of the possibility of lifting its ban, The New York Times reports, until news of it leaked and the planned discussion took on the public weight of an imminent decision.

Foes and friends of the policy flooded BSA with consternation after the leak. Now all sides stake positions for the next three months.

I predict BSA will ultimately hold fast — for now. But change is gonna come, sooner now. Be prepared. It has to.

As a private organization, BSA has a right to decide who its members are, and the Supreme Court has affirmed it. So, no homosexuals in the ranks. Pedophiles yes, it turns out tragically, and BSA is moving grudgingly and glacially to eradicate that horror, but no homosexuals.

But Scouting wants it both ways. It wants to be America's citizenship laboratory, but just for some boys. It positions itself as the foundation for America's future leaders, but only for heterosexual leaders. As it helps to mold men for an American society that becomes daily more complex, it is only molding some, preparing them partway for what they'll face. Like banks we deem too big to fail, Boy Scouts of America fancies itself too American to mess with.

In upholding BSA's policy, Gov. Rick Perry, an Eagle Scout, unwittingly gives credence to change.
"Scouting is not a place where sexuality should be the intersection of," Perry told reporters before addressing Texas Scouts visiting the State legislature. "Scouting is about teaching a substantial amount of life lessons. Sexuality is not one of them. It never has been. Doesn't need to be."
He's right: Scouting is not about sexuality. Nevermind the old gay-bait card Perry seems to toss, that if you let gays in, the banners and pamphlets come out and recruitment ensues. Scouting is about the great and wonderful outdoors, the laboratory in which those life lessons play out. Lessons in self-reliance, preparedness, stewardship, and working with other people.

Sexuality wasn't an issue when I was a Scout leader. Once in a while it came up: Adult leaders talk of high school Scouts being overcome by fumes — perfumes and car fumes — during the long climb to Eagle rank. And once in a while an adult leader might talk with Scouts casually about prom or events in Scouts' lives. Other than that, we didn't raise the issue; it never seemed germain to our mission.
[These are the observations of one dad/Scoutmaster/former kid who wishes he had been a Scout. Beware the narrow view and lack of perspective. Pick from the bones what you will.]
And there's the Scout oath, in which Scouts pledge to keep themselves "physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight." Time has bent "morally straight" into an unintended connotation. 

I'm not so naive to discount that sex talk goes on among Scouts away from leaders' hearing, the kind of wildly erroneous talk that kids talk.
It reminds me of when Bill José told the other kids on our block a dirty joke. When he got squints and stares and not the laughs he expected (I was in fourth grade, maybe), he tried to salvage the joke by explaining the mechanics of sex and the existence of pubic hair. When we told Bill that was the most outrageous and unbelievable lie we had ever heard, rendering his joke inert, he gave up telling us dirty jokes.
I've heard Scouts throw around "gay" as an adjective to mean "lame," and I'd tell them it's not cool. Scouting is indeed a reflection of society, and left to their own devices — at recess, on a campout — kids carry out their own varyingly cruel versions of "Lord of the Flies."

Scouting is not about sexuality. It's about character, a wholly independent trait.

By barring gays from Scouting, its governors — and we involved at the grass roots — are saying gays are not worthy as people, that their contributions — as people — are unworthy.

Maybe we could declare that publicly over a music backdrop of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," arguably the most "American" of musical pieces. Aaron Copland, by the way, was gay.

Maybe Scouting can explain to Native Americans why, since BSA's early days as a merger of the Woodcraft Indians, it has picked and chosen elements of Indian culture and left out others. It isn't long before a Scout encounters BSA's version of Indian lore: Our Troop's favorite summer camp included membership in a "tribe" that bore no relation to native Californians that inhabited the site — and still an active community nearby — but more of a Disney-fied long-feathered-headdress-breechcloth-and-pidgin-English-noble-savage version.

One of the elements omitted from the vast diversity of Native American cultures is that some tribes had special roles for members who were homosexual, including as spirit messengers.

The BSA's aborted discussion was to touch on the trial idea of letting chartering organizations decide whether to admit gays.

The Troop my son and I belonged to, 328, is charted to a Catholic Parish. The Catholic Church finds homosexuality a sin, with a "hate the sin, love the sinner" policy.  I imagine the practical effect of a decentralized decision on gay membership would be:
  • The Troop would have to look elsewhere for a chartering organization and places to meet and stow their gear … of which the parish has been generous — the most likely scenario
  • The Troop might dissolve over dissension on this issue; 
  • All parties will decide it's no big deal, and life will go on;
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known also as the Mormons, would have major problems with a new policy. Boy Scouts is a kind of extended ministry for boys in the church, and operates with marked differences from most other Scouting units, including large gatherings among its own units.

On the other hand, public schools and civic groups with anti-discrimination policies would again open its facilities for meetings and events and equipment storage.

When — not if — the change comes, the fallout will be wild. Scout units will dissolve, others will move … private chartering organizations will be outraged, while others embrace the change. Recriminations and kudos alike will erupt all the way to the president's office and the steps of the Supreme Court.

Over time, Scouting in tatters, people will want an organization like Scouting, the nation's greatest steward of public lands. People will realize Scouting's potential for shaping citizens and leaders, and learning to work and live together.

They'll reinvent Scouting — truly too American to mess up.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bang the gun slowly

(I could pick many fitting examples at random, as you can see from today's news … I choose these):

On Saturday, police say, an Iraq War veteran shot and killed two other veterans at a Texas shooting range. They included Chris Kyle, a renowned Iraqi War veteran (author of "American Sniper," an account of his unprecedented success killing the enemy) who had devoted his civilian life to helping other veterans. 

He and Chad Littlefield had apparently been trying to help Eddie Ray Routh, a Marine reported to be suffering from post-tramautic stress disorder. Target shooting can be part of "exposure therapy" for afflicted veterans, affording them the familiarity of guns, and the cacophony — if not the danger and dizzying horror — of battle, to throttle back their anxieties as they return to the world.

Routh allegedly shot Kyle and Littlefield with a semiautomatic pistol, then fled in Kyle's pickup truck before he was captured near his home.

We elect leaders who fabricate causes for war — a tragic habit in my lifetime — and we go along with the plan, calling dissenters un-American. Next we count on a fraction of less than 1 percent of our fellow citizens to prosecute that war; we set it and forget it, forget them. The result not only costs us trillions of dollars we could spend on our crumbling society, but shreds the bodies and minds and hearts of the warriors who fight — and return to fight, time and again — in our stead. But we can't or won't give them the jobs, can't give them the breaks on their financial obligations while they're fighting for us, can't give warriors like Chris Kyle the support he needs to administer true healing to his brothers and sisters in arms — can't give Eddy Ray Routh aid and comfort. We count on Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield to do that for us.

And a gun was supposed to give him comfort.
Last week sometime in a foothill town two hours from here, a man shot and killed his teen son and daughter, then killed himself, sheriff's authorities report. The children were found shot in the head, sitting on a couch, and may have been sleeping.

The father Philip Marshall, had been a pilot who said he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and the Drug Enforcement Administration, and wrote books describing what he called a Saudi conspiracy behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Divorce and child custody issues with his ex-wife had been contentious.
It's impossible to know the depths and degree of anger, despair, delusion, disillusionment, rage, impairment — impossible to know what unleashed this devastation. Except that it did, and a gun solved it.
On Sunday, The Sacramento Bee wrote extensively about the Lemon Hill section of South Sacramento, telling the not-uncommon account of a community in fear of guns. Residents spoke of hearing gunfire daily … of forbidding their children from playing in parks for fear of gunfire … of school providing brief safe haven from the drugs and crimes and gunfire. 

Several residents told Bee reporters they doubted gun control would help them, because the guns on these streets are likely illegal, stolen, untraced and untraceable. Criminals will still get the guns, these residents said.
[By the way, when we lose newspapers such as The Sacramento Bee, we lose their power to stand up for us in matters that matter. We lose their power to be the Fourth Estate, our watchdog.

[Many readers badmouth The Bee — that's a newspaper's lot — but Bee reporters found suspicious conduct in tests on the safety of the new Bay Bridge under construction … and discovered more than $50 million in taxpayer funds that California State Parks officials squirreled away while parks were closing over budget shortfalls (money, by the way, that individual parks can't get in cash, only in in-kind service, because doing so under state law would constitute an unconstitutional gift. thank you, squirrel-brained parks officials …) … among many other costly secrets that would have remained secrets without the reporters' vigilance.

[But. I. Digress.]

On tour of the Sacramento Underground this week, a fourth grader asked if people in Gold Rush Sacramento had guns.

"Oh yes," I said.

"Oh," he said. "You know what? I'm a hunter."

He wasn't bragging or taking a stand, just relating to a historical discovery. It was the result, I take it, of a family discussion which concluded that reasonable people can own guns.

When it comes to solving the gun crisis — wherever you stand, it's a crisis — I'm well toward the back of the line with a working solution. It isn't long before the complexity of gun use, gun crime and gun ownership in America makes me weary, makes me marvel at those who carry on in hopes of drafting a solution.

What I know — what I've always known — is that if nothing is done, then Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield, a distraught family in the quiet Sierra foothills, a hellish city neighborhood are the prices we will continue to pay for it.

We must ask if that's what we accept.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

About face

Hello, my name is Shawn, and I'm an emoticon addict.

It started with the small stuff, just a little tweak to take the edge off. I swear, no harm was gonna come to this sweet, innocent logo:

The realistic bits — the Fred Flintstone nose, the Charles Nelson Reilly glasses, the Opie Taylor T-shirt, eyes floating flounderish on one side of my head — would all grow back.

I just needed something to boost the mood for my blog posts, in case I wasn't making myself clear. A pick-me-up … or a bring-me-down. Whatever.

They were gonna be like little postage stamps, just to reinforce, "I'm outraged! …"
Or, "My bad! …"
Or, "WTF?!"
Or, "How dare you!? …"

Or, "Um …"
Or, "We are not amused …"
That was gonna be it. Just a nice little stash of emoticons. Use 'em every once in a while, that's all. Just when I really, really needed them. I was in control.

No, I WASN'T! Who am I kidding? It wasn't enough! It's never enough. I needed more! I needed them bigger! These just weren't doing the trick anymore.

None of these could say what I wanted about El Día de los Muertos, for example, because suddenly I needed to say something about El Día de los Muertos:
Then it was swimming. Swimming this, swimming that. You're sick of me talk about swimming, I know, but I couldn't stop myself:

Enough to make your eyes bleed. Look if you must:

I disintegrated. After a while, it lost all context (I was admiring swimmers from around the world here. OK?! What's so wrong with that??):

Then I found out the high was higher on the rocks:

When that lost its thrill, baseball came along. Damn you, Giants:

It got, well, ridiculous. I'm ashamed …

I'm not gonna lie. The Giants had me on a roller coaster for a long time. It was a gooooooood ride:

Then it was baseball and Halloween. I was getting into some dangerous mixing:

It wasn't long before I crashed:

The time came for serious self-examination:
And reflection … 

I went through the five stages of grief:

OK, it was mostly anger:

Eventually, though, I may have found a new way of life:

Keep your fingers crossed — I think … I may be … on the road to recovery:

 And I can quit anytime I want:
(Hey kids! Print this out and make your own Shawn face flipbook! The first hit is free!)