Sunday, September 24th, 2017 12:47 am
So I watched the movie Kung Fu Killer (AKA Kung Fu Jungle--it's the one with Donnie Yen) the other weekend and it was fabulous. It's really less a kung fu movie and more a serial killer movie--only, with really good kung fu! The climactic battle is freaking amazing, one of the best I've seen. Edge of my seat.

And just last night I saw Rise of the Legend, which let me tell you is my new Wong Fei Hung headcanon right there. And someone better write me an Everyone Lives OT4, let me tell you what.

In less successful media news, I got the new Fresh Romance anthology off kickstarter and... I dunno, there are only four stories in it, a couple of them are cute, but I really enjoyed the first volume and this one I enjoyed not really as much. I mean, I guess that's what happens sometimes, but I was really hoping to see some of the stories from volume one continued, and that just didn't happen? I'm not sure what went on behind the scenes but I'm kind of disappointed.

(My) Immortal: The Web Series got rejected, unfortunately. (I can't remember if it was ever allowed in previous years--it's definitely been in Festivids, since I got a vid out of it! But I don't think it was allowed in Yuletide.) I am understanding but I reserve the right to be sad about it!
Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 07:47 am
Yesterday I spent my whole afternoon listening to seven different Native activists, including Louise Erdrich and Edgar Heap of Birds, talk about their activism. It was such a challenging, important experience. And while I am walking away from it with a lot of thoughts, and a lot of books i need to read, and a lot of concrete actions I can take, I took away one thing overall that I need to keep at the forefront of my mind.

When I say / think / complain that this present political situation is unbearable, or words to the effect, I am showing my white privilege. To listen to these seven activists talk about what their families have experienced within the last five generations is staggering. I knew much of it intellectually, but yesterday it hit me with full emotional force. So shut up, white girl. I barely know what it is to hurt.
Friday, September 22nd, 2017 12:05 am
1) Yuletiiiide. Two of my noms have been approved! I'm still waiting on (My) Immortal. The mods are doing so much work, I am trying to be patient.

2) I took Tuesday as a mental health day after getting all my grading done at the last minute nearly killed me, and then I woke up with a sore throat on Wednesday and with a nasty back spasm today. Ugh. I wound up sleeping until nearly 5pm, but I felt better after that. My shoulder/back still hurts like damn, though.

3) I've been playing through Stellaris but the patch drop screwed up my civ's economics pretty badly, so I may just start a new game. It's fun and addictive and I'm really glad I finally started playing, but man. I'm also not all that good at it yet, which is occasionally frustrating! But I like the sound of the stuff in the new update. I may purchase it for cashmoney when my paycheck comes in.

Of course, I also really want to buy Heat Signature, we'll see how that goes. I really want to dual-boot my system with a Windows disk, so we'll see if I can get that up and running, since HS doesn't have a Linux port yet.
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 12:22 pm
Last night, R and I watched a bunch of documentaries, including one on Willie Nelson, which referenced his smash album Red Headed Stranger.

R: In the RV park, Red Headed Stranger is the only album I feel comfortable playing over my external speaker system. It’s the only music everyone can agree they like.

Sam: Isn’t Red Headed Stranger a concept album about going on the run after murdering your family?

R: People can relate. 

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Tuesday, September 19th, 2017 02:07 pm
Come in, please, come in. I can’t entertain you shipboard as I once could, but there is tea and plenty of food, and I understand you’ve done well for yourself at the gambling tables. I suppose I can afford to lose a little now and then. My late first husband was a wealthy man and I magnified his wealth – well, you know how.

I think there should be discipline in everything, you know, even lawlessness. When I ruled the sea and the Red Flag Fleet, no one disobeyed me. Literally. Those who did were beheaded. But, on the other hand, I think my rule was mainly benificent. Did you know I forbade those under my command to steal from villagers who supplied us? That only made sense, of course. Death was also the sentence for any assault on a female captive. One makes these laws when one grows up as I did.

I also insisted that anything taken from town or ship was to be presented, registered, and given out amongst all – oh, the original taker got a percentage, and twenty percent is better than nothing, you know. That’s how you keep a sailor happy.

My dear second husband, he also issued some laws, I suppose, but they weren’t written down or very well enforced. What were they? Who knows. What does it matter? My laws were what mattered.

Eventually, of course, it became easier just to tax the local cities than to keep sacking them. Nicer for all concerned and not so much work for us. Bureaucracy will have its day, sooner or later, always.

That is how I came to be here, you know; several years ago, after I defeated their entire Navy, the government offered amnesty to pirates. Well they might; what other option did they have? But I was wealthy, so why should I continue to work when I was no longer a criminal? It was in 1810 that I left crime behind forever and opened this little gambling house. Here I am content, you know, and I think I will be until I die. Hopefully not for a long, long time!

Oh, I am called many things. I was born Shi Xianggu, and I am called Cheng I Sao, sometimes, but mostly I am known as Ching Shih – the Widow Ching, wife of two pirates, but a pirate empress myself.

(After all, it’s Talk Like A Pirate day, not Talk Like Every Pirate day. I chose Ching Shih.)

(Also if you enjoyed this, consider dropping some spare change in my Ko-Fi!)

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Monday, September 18th, 2017 07:45 am
Good morning everyone, and welcome to Radio Free Monday!

Before we start, a quick note because I've had a handful of issues with this lately -- if you want to bring a cause to my attention the best way to go about it is to fill out the Radio Free Monday form (also linked from the sidebar of my tumblr page). It's not just that I might not see a post tagged to me or that it saves me a ton of time, but also that it makes sure I get the information I need to describe the situation, link the appropriate pages, and name and gender people correctly.

The form doesn't ask many questions, doesn't pull any metadata (literally it doesn't even record the date you entered the information), and is as anonymous as you want it to be -- there are options for complete or partial anonymity for the person submitting the item.

Ways To Give:

[tumblr.com profile] prismatic-bell linked to a fundraiser for Congregation Beth Yeshurun and their attached day school, which were flooded by Hurricane Harvey, which hit two Jewish neighborhoods in Houston especially hard. The families are currently attending Temple Brith Israel, and the children from the day school have had to scatter among several schools temporarily. You can read more about the damage here, reblog here, give directly to the rebuilding fund, or purchase toys and learning materials or replacement books for the school directly through Amazon.

[tumblr.com profile] reesa-chan is preparing for surgery and gathering supplies to make recovery go as smoothly as possible, but they're coming up short on a few things and surgery is looming. They have a Amazon Wishlist available here and have their paypal giving page here.

Anon linked to a fundraiser for [tumblr.com profile] poplitealqueen, who is trying to help her mother get some experimental medical treatment which might allow her mobility without the use of a wheelchair. You can read more and reblog here (including links at the top to Patreon and Ko-fi) or give directly to their Ko-Fi here.

[tumblr.com profile] quinfirefrorefiddle linked to a fundraiser for [tumblr.com profile] niines9s, who is trying to escape an abusive home and needs funding for housing after graduation. They are offering commissions and also taking donations; you can read more, reblog, and find paypal information at their post.

Anon linked to news about a Christian group, Faithfully LGBT, who are fundraising to aid transgender people with gender-confirming surgeries as a way of atoning for religious discrimination against transgender people. You can read and reblog the story here or give directly to the Tithe Campaign here.

[tumblr.com profile] rilee16 is struggling to cover medical expenses after two head injuries last year, and has a fundraiser running to cover living expenses, previous medical bills, and a recent rent increase. You can read more and help out here.

News To Know:

Anon linked to a post called Saving Your Grades From A Mental Health Crisis, which is about what to do if you're in college and dealing with mental illness.

And this has been Radio Free Monday! Thank you for your time. You can post items for my attention at the Radio Free Monday submissions form. If you're not sure how to proceed, here is a little more about what I do and how you can help (or ask for help!). If you're new to fundraising, you may want to check out my guide to fundraising here.
Sunday, September 17th, 2017 09:45 pm
Someone did an awesome remix of one of my stories - and since I know for a fact I was a pinch hit I am extra impressed!

Transparent (1734 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Star Trek: Alternate Original Series (Movies)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: James T. Kirk/Leonard "Bones" McCoy, past Leonard "Bones" McCoy/Jocelyn McCoy - Relationship
Characters: James T. Kirk, Joanna McCoy, Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Jocelyn McCoy, Winona Kirk (mentions)
Additional Tags: James T. Kirk & Joanna McCoy - Freeform, Overbearing Parents, Heart-to-Heart Conversations, Divorced parents, Starfleet Academy
Summary:
The one where Joanna and Uncle Jim have a heart-to-heart, and Joanna realises there are much worse things in life than an overbearing parent.

Written for Remix Revival 2017.


I cried, ngl.

Done:
* Coursera Style week 2 story (600/600 on the dot)
* Coursera Style week 3 story, cutting the prior week's story in half (300/300)
* PODSA/SGA crossover:
The Ninth Space Wedding (Is the Charm) (3579 words) by celli
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Pod Save America (RPF), Stargate Atlantis
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Jon Favreau/Jon Lovett
Characters: Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Tommy Vietor, DeRay Mckesson
Additional Tags: Crossover, Alternate Universe - Fusion, space weddings, Soulmates, Tropes
Summary:
Weddings have consequences. Especially space weddings.


New:
* Coursera Style week 4 story (0/600)

Progress made:
* PODSA gift story (1069/whatever)

Other:
* basic income contest story (124/5000)
* PODSA mpreg (2062/whatever)
* Star Wars auction fic, two scenes left (704/1000+)
* AIRPF AU with [personal profile] rajkumari905 (3316/whatever)
* AIRPF auction fic (0/1000+)
Saturday, September 16th, 2017 09:52 pm
Wow, you guys, the me of 2014 was such a good bro, he bought an extra three years of premium-level warranty coverage on his laptop.

I wasn’t even looking for whether I was still covered by warranty, I just assumed I wasn’t, but I went to Dell’s website to get the model number of my laptop so I could look up how to open it up properly and fix the terrible groaning noise my fan is making. And Dell was like hey, here’s your model number, also your warranty is good through June of 2018. 

I’m still gonna try to open it up and fix the fan myself, but if I can’t, I can send it in and get the fan fixed AND get a repair on the housing that’s starting to crack. 

Good job, 2014 Sam. You had no idea the crazy shit that was ahead of you but by god you knew you’d need three years of warranty. You and me, buddy, we’re fucking killing it in the adulting department lately. 

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Saturday, September 16th, 2017 12:22 am
Me: R’s in town this weekend so we may meet up.

Mum: Send me a picture of you and R when you’re hanging out!

Me: Not sure when it’ll be yet but I’ll do my best. It’s a little uncertain right now.

Mum: If it were certain, I’d be worried it wasn’t really R.

She knows us both so well. 

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Thursday, September 14th, 2017 11:29 pm
I wound up nomming things for Yuletide: I nominated Bloodsport, Ninja Assassin, and (My) Immortal: The Web Series. I posted on the evidence post about that last one, but I wouldn't be surprised if the mods decide it's too much work to disambiguate and nix it. I hope, I'd really like some Enoby/Hermione or Enoby&Hermione fic, but we'll have to see!

In any case, it's a good excuse to rewatch the episodes, which is always fun! I still have trouble following what happens in Season 2, but it's still SUPER ADORABLE, OMG, all these dorks I love them all. Even Tom.

Ugh, week is almost over. I have a metric ton of grading to do, but once that's done it's just RESEARCH. I can focus on quantum mechanics all the time! It's all I want from life, really.
Thursday, September 14th, 2017 06:24 pm
They close tomorrow so hurry and get your nominations in!

Mine are:

Witcher: Geralt, Emhyr, Ciri, Dandelion (duh)

Dragonriders of Pern: Menolly, Robinton (I totally want Menolly/Robinton NOT SORRY)

Dune (the book): Paul, Jessica, Stilgar, Feyd -- I don't know exactly what I want here, I think I want some outsider POV on Paul maybe?

My runners-up were:

Rome: Pullo, Vorenus, maybe Octavian -- man, I would love a story that undid what the show did to Octavian in S2 so much

Gladiator: Maximus, Commodus

Brimstone: Ezekiel, The Devil

Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon: Eric, Hank, Sheila, Venger

Battle of the Planets: Mark, Jason

and my perennial hope-springs-eternal Dracula: the Series: Lucard (hope doesn't really spring very far lol)

I am totally not mentioning these here in hopes that someone has a spare nom they wouldn't mind using on one of these. ;)
Tags:
Wednesday, September 13th, 2017 05:16 pm
Mini talk in 45 minutes, I haven't rehearsed anything, I wanted to leave the house an hour ago, and I'm sitting here watching graphics render on my machine. Or rather, not render.

(Argh)

Should I nominate something for Yuletide this year? (I should probably check out the nominations first.) I mean, on the one hand, I haven't written anything since last Yuletide. On the other hand, I wound up writing something for Yuletide anyway, since I picked up a PH, and I should have more time this year since I won't be TAing and I'll just have research to focus on.

I'm also not currently signed up to the Pinch Hit list because it's on Google Groups now, and I haven't figured out how to make Google Groups play nice with a non-google address while you're signed in to a google account. I don't want fandom things going to my realname address, seriously. (It's more of a utility thing than a compartmentalization thing, the nice thing about not being in a public-facing job is not worrying so much about random people finding your pornography. Then again, if I wind up being a teacher, I'll have to worry all over again about people finding my pornography. UGH, more reasons to not want to teach ever. I would hate it as a career.)

The way I tend to handle Yuletide nominations is to go back through my Dear Author letters and look for prompts I'm excited about that didn't get written. We shall see if that winds up happening. I can always ask for or write more Middleman stuff...
Tuesday, September 12th, 2017 08:58 pm
I gave a lecture to the gen chem lab class on Monday, which was fun and went well, and then I TA'ed lab today, which was fun and went well... and now I'm sitting frustrated at my computer watching Mathematica attempt to multiply a bunch of matrices together and plot the results. Rrrrrgh. I am seriously considering cutting my losses and heading home, where I know I won't get anything else done but I could give it a shot on my home desktop machine, which I'm pretty sure has more oomph than this one. At the very least it has a more impressive GPU, which I really want to use to play Stellaris instead of multiply matrices.

Mmmm, Stellaris.

This week is the end of the summer quarter, which means lab practical and grading for TAing, and presenting my work to the rest of the group for summer research. I don't feel as though I have a lot I've accomplished, though the newly-minted PhD in our group indicated that I've actually made some progress. What I've been working on seems to be mostly for my own benefit rather than the advancement of Science, but then again the work of the lab is fairly intense theory and I've only had one year of grad school level quantum mechanics so far, so it's going to take me a while to catch up. Also... while I feel like I should already know how to do what I'm doing, the fact is I'm really doing it for the first time, so even going through the motions is teaching me things. I didn't know how to work in a tensor basis! (Still... don't, really!) I didn't know how to construct a wavepacket in two dimensions! (That one I figured out, mostly.) I didn't know how to diagonalize the Hamiltonian of a system where the variables couldn't be separated! (I still don't, I had Mathematica do it for me.) And so on.

Oh well, hopefully I can have Mathematica give me some pretty pictures before showing off for group tomorrow, and if not... maybe I can chalk talk it. I'm sure it'll be fine!

It will be fine, everyone in my group is super nice. It's one reason I'm glad I joined.

Then I need a thesis committee. Ha ha ha...
Monday, September 11th, 2017 11:45 pm
You guys today I researched someone who is such a rank evil motherfucker that the person who was going to meet them to ask for money came over to my desk after seeing my research and was like “What a rank evil motherfucker.” 

And I was like I DIDN’T EVEN PUT THE WORST OF IT IN BECAUSE WE CAN’T PROVE THE WORST STUFF SINCE IT’S ALL TECHNICALLY SPECULATION BY LIBERAL WATCHDOG GROUPS BUT I KNOW THEY DID IT. They gave millions of dollars to climate-change denial (which I learned today is referred to as CLIMATE INACTIVISM) two weeks ago. 

But I am heartened that a) the fundraiser saw through my VERY CAREFULLY professionally neutral report to the truth of the matter and b) they called their boss and were like “I’m not taking this meeting” and THEIR BOSS read my report and said “Yeah this is a PR disaster waiting to happen, don’t take the meeting.”

And normally I’d be like “yes take their money, take it all, take them for everything you can wring from them” but what makes this one so unsettling is that their donations always come with creepy post-contract strings. If we take the money, we’re gonna pay for it down the line, so I’m just as glad we aren’t. 

Once in a while in my profession I come across someone who is such a force for destruction on an international scale that I genuinely hope they will die in some very public and ironic way. I yearn for the day I read of their demise.

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Monday, September 11th, 2017 07:40 am
Good morning everyone, and welcome to Radio Free Monday!

Ways To Give:

Anon linked to a fundraiser for Melissa, a trans girl who recently escaped an abusive home and is struggling to make ends meet. She has been unable to get car insurance, and is also recovering from expenses and injuries from a recent accident. You can read more and help out here.

[tumblr.com profile] nivcharayahel and her sister are raising funds for help with September's rent, to avoid eviction; they are dealing with recent unemployment and underemployment. You can read more and help out here.

[tumblr.com profile] butnotinthisone is dealing with fallout from hurricane Harvey, including being unable to return to their apartment due to continued flooding; their apartment is on the first floor and they will likely be facing property loss and damage from the water. You can read more and help out here.

[tumblr.com profile] rilee16 is struggling to cover medical expenses after two head injuries last year, and has a fundraiser running to cover living expenses, previous medical bills, and a recent rent increase. You can read more and help out here.

Help For Free:

[livejournal.com profile] rua_m linked to Zooniverse, specifically their Weather Rescue project, which allows you to help recover forgotten weather data by transcribing Ben Nevis observatory records. Zooniverse is a great site that lets people participate in citizen science and historical preservation by categorizing and transcribing documents; I'm actually a member and work on some of their animal-related stuff.

Anon linked to Halloween Lifestyle, a Halloween website recently put up (and so still a little sparse) by the mother of [tumblr.com profile] nextrrickanvils. You can read more and reblog here or go directly to the site here.

Housing:

[personal profile] in_the_bottle is looking for a new housemate in London, in Fulham SW6, bordering Hammersmith. Two professional females, at least one fandom friendly. You can read more and get in touch here; they also have an ad up on SpareRoom here with photos.


And this has been Radio Free Monday! Thank you for your time. You can post items for my attention at the Radio Free Monday submissions form. If you're not sure how to proceed, here is a little more about what I do and how you can help (or ask for help!). If you're new to fundraising, you may want to check out my guide to fundraising here.
Monday, September 11th, 2017 12:17 am
For the rest of my stay in PDX, I hung out at Palio and finished my presentation which I'm giving in approximately ten hours. I've still got to fix the things that online powerpoint can't do which real powerpoint can, but I'm planning on going in and making last-minute edits.

I got to see a bunch of people in PDX who I have missed dearly, but not nearly everyone, and I didn't get to spend enough time with any of them. I am desperately hoping that in the coming months I'll be able to get enough research done that I won't feel guilty running off to see people, because my social liiiiife.

In the meantime, I have to figure out how to survive going to a con rather than doing laundry this weekend. Erk. At least with the weather starting to change, maybe I can survive switching to some of my lighter winter wardrobe?

*checks weather for tomorrow*

... okay, what the fuck is up with Wunderground's UI? It's not giving me an hourly forecast no matter what I do.

Ugh, it's supposed to get up to 90F. Guess I'm not going with that plan!
Sunday, September 10th, 2017 10:36 pm
Last week was a difficult writing week. I had a hypomanic episode, and while for some people that's a creative time it's not for me. I am glad I got done what I got done. This week - well, I have a big work project, but I'll do my best.

Done:
* Remix is POSTED YAYE. :D

New:
* short story for this 'basic income' story contest (124/5000)

Progress made:
* story, vaguely plotted and partly written, for a Coursera course I'm now WAY behind on (160/600)

Other (sigh):
* PODSA gift story (340/whatever)
* PODSA/SGA crossover which needs two scenes fixed, er, still (3439/whatever)
* PODSA mpreg (2062/whatever)
* Star Wars auction fic, two scenes left (704/1000+)
* AIRPF AU with [personal profile] rajkumari905 (3316/whatever)
* AIRPF auction fic (0/1000+)
Sunday, September 10th, 2017 04:31 pm
I went to RCCC! I bought comics!

I got the first volume of The Meek, the hardcover collection of Small Favors, the omnibus edition (and Volume 3) of Decrypting Rita (so pretty), and a copy of Elements: Fire!

I didn't bring a con sketchbook because I wasn't expecting to make it to PDX for this one and kind of packed and went last-minute.
Sunday, September 10th, 2017 03:36 pm
On April 1, 1985, a piece by George Plimpton was published in Sports Illustrated, called “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch”. It presented a new rookie pitcher for the Mets: Sidd Finch, an aspirant Buddhist monk and French horn aficionado, who could throw a pitch around 160mph. If you’re not familiar with baseball, a 90mph pitch is a good ticket to the majors, and the fastest pitch on record is around 105mph. The article was a joke, of course – April Fool’s – but the reaction especially among Mets fans was electric. Within sports journalism it’s widely considered to be one of the best hoaxes of all time.

Plimpton eventually expanded the article into a novel in 1987, and I finally got around to digging it up and reading it – it’s what I’ve been reading on the train to the last few Railcats games of the season. The Curious Case of Sidd Finch, as a novel, is in a way a time capsule; it captures a very weird era for the country and a pre-player’s strike, pre-Moneyball era for baseball. But it’s not really a book about baseball, despite Plimpton being primarily a sports journalist. It’s easily accessible if you don’t know a ton about the game, primarily because neither does Sidd Finch.

Rather, the book struck me as drawing heavily on what I think of as the “parable novel”, a genre popular in the seventies – part religious/philosophical treatise and part self-help book disguised as a fictional narrative (the most famous is probably Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach).

The novel’s narrator and fictional author is Robert Temple, a former journalist living in Florida and suffering from a decade-long writer’s block; he literally can’t write anything, including shopping lists and notes to self. (I’ll come back to this.) By a chance of fate he learns that the Mets have a rookie player named Sidd Fitch who can throw a 160mph fastball with uncanny accuracy, but who is still uncertain he actually wants to sign with the club. After getting thrown out of his boarding house for bringing a girl over, Sidd and his girlfriend Debbie Sue end up living with Temple at the request of the Mets, who hope Temple can convince him to sign with the team while he attends spring training in Florida.

It’s a really compelling read with enjoyable characters, and there’s some good tension set up in the question of whether Sidd will sign with the Mets, and whether it would be good for both Sidd and the sport as a whole for him to do so. And I appreciated that the one full pro game Sidd pitches isn’t the climax of the book – this is not a book about sport but a book that uses sport to meditate on other matters.

It does have its issues, however. Temple, the narrator, draws the reader in because we understand that he was a writer and no longer is, but we don’t know why – we know he’s suffered some terrible psychological blow, just not exactly what: 

If he had taken the time to check it out, he would have discovered that I was not capable of writing a paragraph, much less a line of copy. I was a completely defused member of the communications industry. 

[….]

I took my sister by the elbow afterward and I said, “Well, that’s my problem, isn’t it? I’m not really alive. I’m perhaps a quarter alive.”

“You’re coming along,” she said. 

I think it would have been best for that information to come out slowly in drips here and there, perhaps eventually being told more fully when Temple explains to Sidd or Debbie Sue why he can’t write. Instead we get an early-on chapter about it – basically a brief autobiography where he goes to Vietnam to cover the war as a journalist, has a breakdown, and retires to Florida where he fills empty days with pointless tasks as a way of keeping himself alive. It’s…not the most interesting chapter. And then he can’t really explain it to the others because we’ve already sat through it once. 

This complicated history is also a problem with Sidd, our young pitcher – Sidd is struggling with both his faith and what his purpose in life should be, and that’s immediately something people can identify with. The issue is that Plimpton, the actual author, built on the biography he created for Sidd in the Sports Illustrated article, which was a joke and thus comedically complicated. Sidd is an orphan from England adopted by an English anthropologist who then died in a plane crash when Sidd was a teenager, and he found Buddhism while looking for his father in the Himalayas. Sidd also, randomly, is very good at the French horn. This is a complex backstory for a baseball player and it’s not entirely well-told within the boundaries of the book, though it’s also a pretty ripping adventure story as Sidd runs away from boarding school to look for his dad and eventually ends up an aspirant monk who uses Buddhists lung-gom teachings to train himself to throw a 160mph baseball.

We never really get to the heart of why Sidd walked up to a Mets talent scout one day and decided to get himself recruited; there are hints here and there, and it does lead to a masterful set of discussions about why baseball is a game for mystics:

“Why baseball?” Frank Cashen asked. “Why didn’t he go back to England and play cricket?” 

Dr. Burns put his fingertips together. “Baseball is the perfect game for the mystic mind. Cricket is unsatisfactory because it has time strictures. The clock is involved. Play is called. The players stop for tea. No! No! No!” Burns sounded quite petulant. “On the other hand, baseball is so open to infinity. No clocks. No one pressing the buttons on stopwatches. The foul lines stretch to infinity. In theory, the game of baseball can go on indefinitely.” 

[…]

“I got very interested in the idea of causing a commotion at Point B when standing a long distance away at Point A. To throw an object that connects those two points is a very heady thing to be able to do…especially if you can do it time and time again with accuracy. It is something archers and hunters know all about – the trigonometric closing of lines.” 

[…]

I suddenly had a clear image of what Sidd was doing to the game. It was what the listeners were suggesting – he was changing the properties and the essence of the ball itself. It struck me how often the ball is inspected during a game, as if anyone who touches it has to make sure the ball has not changed its properties. If the ball disappears over the fence, another, like a youngster’s dream pinball game, emerges from a black sack at the umpire’s side. He looks at it and gives it to the catcher, who rubs it briefly, and after a glance fires it out to the pitcher; he looks at the ball and rubs it with both hands, his glove dangling from its wrist strap, and then, as he stares down at the catcher for the signal, his fingers maneuver over its surface feeling for the comfort of some response – yes, this time it will do exactly as he wishes! […] Football players do not have this kind of kinship with their ball. Most of the players don’t even touch the thing during the course of a game. It sits stolidly on the grass. The center comes up over the ball from the huddle and barely giving it a glance turns it under his hands; his eyes are staring across the line of scrimmage at the unpleasant visage of the nose guard opposite. A defensive tackle is so uncomfortable with the ball that if he chances to pick it up on the practice-field he tends to throw it end over end to get rid of it. […] Tennis balls are not kept on the mantlepiece. Too many of them around. Who cares?
 

But there’s never that moment where Sidd says, this is why I came to America to play baseball. Especially since he knows so little about it going in. I suppose Plimpton had to make him a foreigner so he wouldn’t know much about the sport, but honestly, you can grow up in America and not know much about baseball, especially at the pro level. Though I do enjoy some of the eccentricities of the game that Plimpton chose to focus on: 

“They have shown me the heavy ring that one slides on the bat to make it seem lighter. I had thought originally that the heavy ring was a talisman to bless the wood. No! One has only oneself to rely on within the confines of the batting box.” 

There’s also some pretty lowered stakes in this book because everyone, even Sidd, is wealthy. Temple can afford to do nothing all day for a decade while still seeing an expensive private therapist about his writer’s block (and eventually supporting Sidd and Debbie Sue when they move in) because his family is rich and supportive. Sidd, an innocent who travels with very little, still has access to his father’s fortune and has a mansion waiting for him in England. Debbie Sue, the free-spirited beach bum that Sidd falls in love with, comes from a wealthy family and was attending an ivy league school before she left it all behind to windsurf full-time in Florida. Even the most desperate people in the book, namely the coaching staff of the Mets, are only desperate to get Sidd to play. Nobody’s life or livelihood is riding on anything in the book, which to me makes it slightly less effective as a philosophical treatise because everyone starts from a place of wealth and comfort. On the other hand, it does allow the reader to engage fully with the psychological side of things, and there’s something to be said for not having to worry about where Sidd’s next meal is coming from:

Rather haltingly, Sidd asked me if I would come to New York and see him through August and September…perhaps share an apartment. He didn’t feel he was going to feel at ease in the city. Over the phone he made one of his brilliant vocal imitations – the sound of a taxi horn, a police siren, and the sigh of a bus pulling away from its passenger stop.

“There are no mantras,” he said, “to take care of this sort of thing.”

All that said, it is a really fun book. Everyone in it is charming and funny, Sidd’s bewilderment over the rituals of pro baseball is touching, and there’s an interesting hint of threesome-ness (probably unintentional) to the bond between Sidd, Debbie Sue, and Temple. As a baseball fan I appreciated the thought Plimpton put into how and where the characters and the sport interacted, and you can tell he has a genuine love of the game. He also appears to have done his research about Buddhism – it’s not just a stand in for woo-woo esotericism, the way it was a bit in the original article. There is some of that, but there is also a lot of genuine discussion of Buddhism which seems, in my admittedly very limited experience, to be correct.

Sidd smiled…very much as Dennis Brain probably had on the stage of the Jubilee Hall. “There’s a saying of Buddha,” he said. “Be earnest in cessation although there is nothing to cease; practice the cessation although there is nothing to practice.” 

So yeah, do recommend The Curious Case Of Sidd Finch if you’re interested in baseball or just in a pretty good story about a baseball player. 

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