Archive for September, 2005

It Has Come to This

Posted on September 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Yankees versus Red Sox. Three final games. The Yankees up by one. The Red Sox playing at Fenway, where they are tough to beat.

As I’ve said before, isn’t autumn baseball grand?

These are two terrific teams engaged in the best rivalry in sports. And there is nothing like baseball to ratchet up the tension. For the past month, this pennant race has been tightening…and tightening….and tightening. It’s getting hard to take. My brother, also a Yankees fan, insists that he would like nothing more than for the regular season to end in a tie, followed by a one-game playoff between the Yanks and Sox. I couldn’t take it, and I don’t know if most Sox fans could either. If the Yankees lost, we’d be subjected to millions of column inches about how the 1978 Bucky Dent homer has finally been erased. If the Yankees win, we’d lord it over Sox fans so brutally they’d never recover.

No…please. It’s bad for the heart. Let the Yanks win two out of three this weekend.

Herewith, a handy viewers’ guide to the most pertinent questions of the next three days.

1) How big a factor will Fenway be?
2) Whose middle-inning relief pitchers will hurt their team more?
3) Which Mike Mussina will show up on Sunday—the one who pitched a terrific game in his first start back from a sore elbow, or the one who lasted about an inning in his last start?
4) Will anyone pitch to David Ortiz after the sixth inning? Just walk the friggin’ guy, okay?
5) Can Tim Wakefield continue to pitch as brilliantly as he has the past couple of months? (Won’t that guy ever retire?)
6) Curt Schilling has been mediocre this year—except when pitching against the Yankees. Can he pull it off again, just as he did about three weeks ago, when he was masterful against the Yanks at the Stadium? Or will he bumble and fall?
7) Who’ll rise to the occasion more tonight: Yankee rookie pitcher Chien Ming Wang, who is as cool a customer as I’ve ever seen in a rookie, or the emotional, fiery David Wells—who famously fades near the end of a long season, particularly as he gets older and fatter. (Sorry, was the framing of that question biased?)
8) Who’ll manage better, Joe Torre or Terry Francona? Last year, Francona clearly outmanaged Torre in the championship series, making a series of moves that all paid off while Torre managed like a mime on Prozac.
9) Who wants the MVP more, David Ortiz or Alex Rodriguez? (Who says I never say anything good about the Red Sox? Unless something changes dramatically this weekend, I’d give the award to Ortiz, no matter which team finishes first. Rodriguez has been great for the Yankees…but it seems like every time the Red Sox come from behind and win, Ortiz is the reason. The guy is just great.)
10) Defense, defense, defense. Whose is better? I give a slight nod to the Yankees—particularly at third, where A-Rod has been astonishingly good.
11) As Gene Hackman famously said in the classic football film “The Replacements,” in order to win the big games, “you gotta have heart.” Which team wants it more?

Go Yankees!

Make the Money and Run

Posted on September 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Today marks Jack Meyer’s final day as head of the Harvard Management Corporation, the investment group that invests Harvard’s billions. Meyer has been wildly successful in the job, so the pressure is on his successor, which may be one reason why, despite an almost year-long search, his successor has not yet been named.

Vice-president for finance Ann Berman—herself heading for the exits—tells the Crimson that there will be “transitional leadership” at HMC until a final replacement for Meyer is named.

There remain those at Harvard who are hoping that phrase “transitional leadership” will apply to other areas of the university.

In any case, this is a hugely important story. More than its students, more than its professors, what drives the modern Harvard is money, and it could be argued that Jack Meyer has been the most important person in the creation of modern Harvard. It could also be argued that this will be the most important personnel decision Larry Summers will make as president.

In universities as in politics, the adage holds true: If you want to know the real story, follow the money.

I Expect It Would Be an Interesting Conversation

Posted on September 29th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The University of Michigan is initiating a series of undergraduate courses on ethics. Here’s one description:

“Forums to facilitate discussion about ethics are undefined right now, but their basic function is clear — providing a discussion setting on topics such as military action in Iraq and Harvard President Lawrence Summers’s controversial comments on women in science.”

It is an interesting moment in Harvard’s history—although not inherently a bad one—when its president has become a topic in other universities’ classes for a conversation about ethics.

Funnily enough, the Michigan program is taking shape just as Harvard seems to be phasing out its own undergraduate requirement in “moral reasoning”…..

Well, No One Ever Said He Was Fluent in English

Posted on September 29th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Here’s a line from the battle-cry of defiance posted on Tom DeLay’s website:

“Thank you for visiting and I look forward to keeping you up to date on our fight this out of control DA.”

It’s a classic story: Whenever you get indicted, the first thing that goes is your ability to write a sentence.

And on a Serious Note

Posted on September 29th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

David Brooks has a solid column in today’s Times about the DeLay situation. (I’d link to it, but because of the NYT’s foolish, influence-diminishing greed, I can’t.)

Here’s the critical graf:

“Will we learn from DeLay’s fall about the self-destructive nature of the team [partisan] mentality? Of course not. The Democrats have drawn the 10-years-out-of-date conclusion that in order to win, they need to be just like Tom DeLay. They need to rigidly hew to orthodoxy. They need Deaniac hyperpartisanship. They need to organize their hatreds around Bush the way the Republicans did around Clinton.”

Seems to me that Brooks is exactly right. While Democrats can revel in the Republicans’ current troubles, those troubles actually mask glaring Democratic weaknesses. It’s still unclear what the party stands for, other than a nip-at-his-heels opposition to Bush. The party lacks not only a vision, but also strong, charismatic leaders to communicate it. The closest the Dems come to such a figure—at least in terms of the 2008 election—is Hillary Clinton, and even though you can’t underestimate her, she does have an awful lot of baggage.

My guess is that by the time 2008 rolls around, most Americans are going to want a fresh face from both parties. (Weirdly enough, 69-year-old John McCain, whose candor is always refreshing, fits the bill more than anyone else other than Barack Obama, who won’t be running this time.) Is there any Democratic candidate who fits that description? Because despite the GOP implosion, Democrats still lack a candidate they can proudly call their own.

Angelina Jolie=Gollum?

Posted on September 29th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

According to Jennifer Aniston, yes, says the gossip rag Star (via Gawker).

I must say that, as a former magazine editor, I admire the editor who came up with the idea of running a side-by-side comparison of a beautiful but slightly wacko movie bombshell and a hideous fictional movie monster torn apart by the corruption of power.

Yes, you need to do the serious stuff. (Maybe not at Star, though.) But sometimes, you need to have a little fun too….

And just for the record, in my opinion, Jennifer Aniston really ought to be annoyed at her ex-husband, not Angelina Jolie, who has two lovely adopted children.

I would add that there are other figures in our public life who may bear a greater resemblance to Gollum.

Proof That God Exists?

Posted on September 29th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Tom DeLay is indicted, the Red Sox lose, and the Yankees retake first place…on the same day. Coincidence? I think not.

Humor me, if you would, while I make a modest suggestion.

One of the many reasons I dislike the Sox is that, although they play in leftie Massachusetts, they are actually a Red State team. They have the most evangelical Christians of any team in baseball, even as they date college students (she’s a freshman?) and marry strippers. They are proudly anti-intellectual, calling themselves “the idiots.” They campaign for George W. Bush.

So isn’t it just possible that the fate of the Sox and the fate of the Republican Party are linked? And that the heavens have turned against both?

I know the season isn’t over. I know anything can happen, and overconfidence is a recipe for disaster. But I can still hope, right? Hope that just maybe this time, for once, God is on our side.

A Little Dark Humor with Your Giant Squid

Posted on September 28th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Here’s a funny/sad joke.

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing. He concludes by saying, “Yesterday, three Brasilians were killed.”

“OH NO!” the president says. “That’s terrible.”

His staff sits stunned at this rare display of emotion, nervously watching as the president sits, head in hands.

Finally, Bush looks up and asks, “How many is a brazillion?”

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P.S. Thanks, Kristen…

Harvard Natives Getting Restless

Posted on September 28th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Yesterday’s faculty meeting sounds like a hot one. First, Randy Matory led a discussion about Conrad Harper’s resignation from the Harvard Corporation, suggesting that “the secretive Corporation, which is Harvard’s highest governing body, is indifferent to faculty concerns and has shied away from confronting difficult questions regarding Summers’ leadership.”

Sounds about right to me, from what I hear.

A quick digression: I’m enjoying the fact that the default adjective the Crimson uses to describe the Corporation is “secretive.” Not “influential,” not “wise,” not “respected,” not even “powerful.” But “secretive.” The Crimson is correct: its secrecy is the most salient fact about the Harvard Corporation…and it is also part of the dynamic by which the Corporation’s very legitimacy is eroding. It fascinates me that a consequence of the Harvard Corporation secretly choosing Lawrence Summers to be Harvard’s president will ultimately mean a choice it doesn’t want to make: becoming more transparent, or losing its moral authority over Harvard. Are the alumni paying attention?

Okay, back to the faculty meeting.

Apparently an even hotter discussion revolved around the fact that FAS dean Bill Kirby announced that FAS is going to slow the hiring of new faculty. It’s not a freeze, Kirby insisted, just more modest growth to give FAS finances a chance to breathe.

Huh.

Here’s a question for some enterprising Crimson reporter: What is the real state of the university’s finances and fundraising?

Some relevant facts:
1) Harvard Management Corporation head Jack Meyer is quitting, and Harvard can’t seem to find a replacement for him.
2) Vice-president of finance Ann Berman is leaving Harvard to spend more time at her home in Italy.
3) The University reported that its fundraising last year was the highest since Larry Summers became president, which sounded, let’s say, counter-intuitive to me, because….
4) Harvard fundraisers simultaneously announced that they are postponing a long-planned capital campaign for another couple of years. The campaign was supposed to have started by now, but President Summers’ controversies have delayed its inception, and Harvard fundraisers say now that the delay is intended to help prioritize the Allston development.
5) And…FAS is slowing hiring, despite very public pledges by Bill Kirby to increase the size of the faculty. It would be interesting for someone to go back and look at his statements to this effect over the years and see how they jibe with his current announcement. It would also be interesting to see how many of those new hires are senior faculty, how many are part-time or junior, and how many more faculty are taking leaves of absence under the university’s recent, more generous leave policy.
6) Meanwhile, as some at the faculty meeting apparently pointed out, the university is spending $50 million in diversity efforts as a result of Summers’ unfortunate remarks about women in science.

Sounds to me like there’s a story there…and an important one. I suggest a three-part series.
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P.S. I’m grateful to the Crimson for reporting on the faculty meeting, but it’s a little hard to tell from your relatively brief stories what really goes on. Can’t you guys post a transcript? Or at least the minutes?

Some Giant Squid with Your Coffee?

Posted on September 28th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Two Japanese scientists filmed a giant squid 900 meters underwater off the Ogasawara Islands in the North Pacific. How cool is that? No one’s ever photographed a giant squid before. And to make it even cooler, “Architeuthis”—that’s the squid—”appears to be a much more active predator than previously suspected, using its elongate feeding tentacles to strike and tangle prey.”

Excellent!

Here’s their report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.