Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2 sets up, then loses 2 sets, then --- the comeback

Andy Murray showed the comeback character it takes to defeat a prodigious opponent.  Hats off to the new U.S. Open champion.

Wins 2 sets.
Loses 2 sets.

Comes back to win the match and the championship  in set 5.  Long time coming, well deserved.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Football Mogul Passes

Art Modell, former Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns owner, dies at 87 - chicagotribune.com

A life filled with ups and downs, setbacks and comebacks.

Mental toughness

Yesterday, at the U.S. Open (tennis), we saw Maria Sharapova do it yet again:  come back and win in the third set.

The world's highest paid female athlete is the poster child for mental toughness.  She simply wills herself to win, and so far this year, she has never missed.  Her 2012 three set record:  12-0.  Not long ago she was ailing from a shoulder injury, then recovering from surgery.  Now she is all the way back.

This came on a day when icon Roger Federer was eliminated by Tomas Berdyrch in four sets, and Andy Roddick met the same fate from Juan Martin del Potro, putting him into retirement.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A place to stand

"I don't know if I would have lived had I not found poetry."

- Jimmy Santiago Baca


 We just finished a rather remarkable volume, A Place to Stand, a memoir by poet Jimmy Santiago Baca.  We heard him interviewed on NPR, and got hold of his book, and several volumes of his poetry.  A Place to Stand tells of a life that starts in poverty, and descends into degradation, in this case, drug dealing, that winds our protagonist up in prison.  It covers the several years he spends there, up to and through his release at approximately age 25.

What is the comeback?  Stealing a book from a sadistic guard who was also a college student, Baca teaches himself to read, grasps the power of the image, the power of literature, especially poetry, and sorts out his life.  Eventually, he becomes a celebrated poet, but that happens later.

The book is variously described in various places as "raw," "searing," "violent."  It is all these things and more.  It has the most important quality of a book:  it is extremely difficult to put down.  The author is so transparent and forthcoming with the gritty details of his life, he has you in his grip from the get-go.  Yet, a reservation or two, if I may.  The writer seems to take responsibility for his life, but almost imperceptibly, pulls back just a bit, i.e. there is always a reason.  Whenever possible, he lays off the blame for his crimes to abandonment, loss, heartache.  There is always a powerful rationalization process going on, 24/7 as it were, and it is presented to you, the reader, in such an appealing fashion, the enormity of his crimes, and the flotsam and jetsam of human lives he has ruined gets glossed over.  This is unfortunate, to say the least.

His depiction of prison life is eye-opening, unforgettable, and harrowing.  Whatever you think of criminals and their prison surroundings, you can conclude nothing other than that our system is deeply flawed, and destroys rather than rehabilitates.  This is a serious problem, and our society must address it.

This is an important book.  It is not new (first published 1979), but thankfully NPR brought it to their listener's attention.

Not often does a member of the criminal underclass express himself so artistically.  Even more rare:  this story of rising from a life of crime to one of productive member of society.  His book is being made into a documentary, according to his eponymous web site.  We look forward to seeing it.