Giant Jesus Burns!

Hey, all.  I’m in Put in Bay today, but I could not believe this happened.  Giant Jesus, aka Touchdown Jesus, or officially King of Kings, was struck by lightning Monday night during some intense storms that blew through Southwest Ohio.  The statue caught fire and was reduced to its metal frame.

There are a number of explanations that will float around over the next few weeks: God was angry at such a blatant display of idolatry. The End Times have begun (and never mind Revelations says nothing about a giant statue of the Son of Man along an interstate going up in flames. Not. One. Word.) However, most likely it was the material Giant Jesus was made of: Fiberglass and styrofoam. True, there were lightning resistance devices in place, but in the end, the statue was, in fact, flammable. So odds are, if the weather conditions are right, no matter how holy your intentions, your flammable statue could get reduced to this simply by the laws of physics.

Solid Rock Church, which commissioned the statue, says it will rebuild.

MTM Cincinnati: Major League’s Oldest Team

In 1869, an amateur baseball team did something no other athletic team had done in American history:  They got paid.  That year, the Cincinnati Reds became the first professional baseball team.  Known as the Red Stockings back then, they had actually been in existence since 1866, the year after the Civil War.  In other words, they’ve been around about as long as the Roebling Suspension Bridge.

The Red Stockings became charter members of the American Association, one of the original major leagues, in 1882, but defected to the National League in 1890.

Shortly after the 1870 season, many of the Red Stockings’ best players relocated to Boston to become the Boston Red Stockings.  The Cincinnat team carried on, keeping the name and forcing the Boston team to adopt the name “Pilgrims” and later “Red Sox.”  During the 1890’s, the team shortened its name to the Reds.

In 1912, the team moved to its most famous stadium, a concrete-and-steel structure near Union Terminal named Redland Field, better known as Crosley Field.  There, the team’s fortunes rose, and by 1919, the team won the pennant and the World Series.  Their Series victory was tainted, however, by the infamous Black Sox scandal, where eight Chicago White Sox players were accused of throwing the Series at the behest of gamblers.

The Black Sox scandal dogged the Reds up until the 1930’s, when the team was nearly bankrupt and the stadium in horrible condition.  In 1933, local electronics magnate Powell Crosley, Jr., scooped up the franchise at a bargain basement price and turned it around.  He introduced night games, Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks (who still do the team’s pyrotechnics), and regular radio broadcasts.  The Reds’ most famous player from the 1930’s was Johnny Vander Meer, who pitched two shutouts back to back in 1938.

During World War II, when most regular baseball players were overseas fighting, teams turned to stunt players such as the St. Louis Browns putting a midget in the lineup.  The Reds signed local phenom Joe Nuxhall at the age of 15.  Until the 1970’s, Nuxhall held the record for the youngest pitcher in the Major Leagues.  By the time the record had been broken, Nuxie had retired from playing and moved into the broadcast booth as the Reds’ longtime analyst.

During the 1950’s, the Reds changed their name to “Redlegs” in order to avoid communist overtones in the paranoia of the McCarthy Era.  However, once they returned to their real name in the 1960’s, the farm system began producing some major talent:  Hal McRae, Tommy Helms, Pete Rose, and Johnny Bench.  The nucleus of the most famous Reds team was taking shape.  Soon, they would move into the venerable Riverfront Stadium, which they would share with new football team, the Bengals.

At Riverfront, the Big Red Machine emerged, winning four pennants and back-to-back World Series in 1975 and 76.

In the 1980’s, the farm system was rebuilt under ownership of the eccentric and controversial Marge Schott.  A new crop of farm system phenoms emerged in Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, Chris Sabo, and the Nasty Boys – Norm Charlton and Rob Dibble.  In 1990, the team came out of the gate strong and went wire-to-wire to win the pennant and sweep the Oakland A’s in the World Series.

Since then, the Reds have struggled.  Ownership passed from Schott to local financier Carl Lindner to current owner Bob Castellini.  In 2003, the Reds moved to their current home at Great American Ball Park, signing Ken Griffey, Jr., who wanted to come home and play for his dad’s team.

Under Castellini’s ownership and Dusty Baker’s management, the Reds have gelled into another promising team.

Once Again, Boehner Entertains

Speaking of BP, John Boehner wants you to know he’s on top of the oil spill situation.  Unlike President Obama or even fellow Republican Bobby Jindahl, Boehner (R-First Unlicked Window on the Right) hasn’t been wasting his time sunning himself in Louisiana.  After all, God made orange spray-on tans and tanning booths for a reason.  No, John goes right to the heart of the matter.

“I think the people responsible in the oil spill–BP and the federal government–should take full responsibility for what’s happening there,”

In short, it’s not just BP’s fault that they took dangerous shortcuts on safety precautions that would have prevented this.  Oh, no.  John, normally a deficit hound, wants the government to pay for it.

You know, the government you and I pay for with our taxes.

Because, after all, if we hadn’t wasted a year debating things like – Oh, I dunno.  The economy?  Healthcare?  Trivial stuff like that – BP would never have blown a gas well and wrecked the Gulf Coast for years to come.

Never mind that John is part of that same federal government he wants to pay for BP’s mess.

And never mind that this was not a government operation, the type John loves to say never works.

I think a little less spray-on tan is in order, John.  Those fumes are going straight to your head.

A Not-So-Modest Proposal

BP continues to balk and evade as the crude spreads throughout the Gulf.  They whine when Senators suggest lifting caps on liability so oil companies feel the pain when something like this happens.  Yesterday, the government sent BP an ultimatum:  Within 72 hours, come up with a contingency plan to shut down future spills, and no, BP cannot suspend operations on the current spill to do it.

I say take it a step further.

BP’s incompetence has killed marine life in the Gulf, fouled the coast of the United States, and severely damaged the economy of Louisiana and Florida.  This strikes me as an act of terrorism.

Which makes BP executives terrorists.

Or as our former president likes to call them, “enemy combatants.”  Now, while I’m against that particular concept in principle, it is currently the law of the land in America.  Therefore, we should declare BP executives to be terrorists (Hey, they caused terror and panic on the Gulf, didn’t they?), pack off BP executives to supermax indefinitely without trial or counsel, and seize the company’s assets.  Not only will that pay for the clean up, but it might actually knock out a big chunk of the deficit.

There are, of course, serious Constitutional questions this brings up, not the least of which involve the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments, all of which I’m very fond of.  But these are oil company executives.  No one cares if they rot in supermax while the courts sort it all out, least of all, Exxon and Shell executives, who would be happy to take BP’s assets off the federal government’s hands.  Use the profits to subsidize new nuke, wind, and solar plants to get us off oil sooner rather than later.

And if the US has to give back all of BP’s assets, no problem.  By then, they will have ground up AIG into itty-bitty insurance bits to pay them back with.  See?  Problem solved.

I suggest putting BP’s CEO in the same cell as Jeff Skilling.  Oh, wait.  Enron’s execs got stuck in medium security, which is sort of like detention with bars.  See, they just lied about money.  BP lies about everything else.

Has It Really Been Six Years?

Yes, it has.  I remember my first Bouchercon in Toronto, 2004, where I was introduced to a new crime fiction magazine:  Crimespree.  Produced by the Jordan clan – Jon, wife Ruth, and sister Jennifer – Crimespree has become a fixture for those of us who follow crime fiction.

Now through the end of July, Crimespree will be offering back issues for $3 each in celebration of their 6th anniversary.

What I wanna know is what they plan to do for ten years.  Well, Jon?  Get crackin’!  Only got four years to figure it out.

But Who Would Pay For It?

In the 1970’s, when recordable cassettes came out, many in the music industry – never the brightest bulbs in the big media bunch – worried that albums were dead because everyone would simply tape their friends’ albums.  That didn’t happen, even when CD’s emerged, allowing you to make commercial-quality mix tapes.

The VTR’s of old, which were luxury devices at best, gave way in 1979 to the Betamax, then VHS, and the television networks worried it would be the end of television, since no one would pay for it.  But television is now on Hulu and Netflix and iTunes and lasted long enough for us to figure out TiVo.  Television is now written around TiVo.  Do you think Lost or Battlestar Galactica would have lasted more than half a season in the pre-TiVo world?

Then came Napster, which was going to destroy the recording industry, allowing Sony to perform criminal hacking of your hard drive.  (Incidentally, that makes Sony execs slightly lower than BP executives on the evolutionary ladder.  Maybe someday, they will surpass genital wart or toenail fungus, but I’m not holding my breath.)  Never mind that cheap commercial broadband and the CD burner had been around in viable form since 1994.

And yet iTunes and Amazon and Rhapsody continue to grow.

So now some are worried that ebooks mean authors will no longer make money because the Kindle and the iPad will magically make content free.

Rubbish.

For starters, the Kindle and the iPad are merely pad computers.  They’ve been around for a decade or so, but Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Sony found a dedicated use for them and made them something Microsoft could never quite get them to be:  useful.  Apple, in turn, saw that the time had come for a genuine pad computer, for which we now know the iPhone was merely a tiny prototype.  If anything, Apple is exploiting the iPad to make it easier to charge for content.  Why?

People will pay for content if you don’t make them jump through twenty hoops to get at it.  This is why virtually all DRM schemes not based in the cloud are doomed to failure.  Apple’s original solution was to make stripping the DRM labor-intensive.  Think I’m going to share my backups of all my Tom Waits albums with you?  Get your own, cheapskate!

So how’s this apply to ebooks?  Simple.  Google is building a bookstore.  Apple has a bookstore.  We already know about Amazon, Sony, and Barnes & Noble.  And print is not dead, merely in flux.

But, of course, there is no shortage of luddites with every tech revolution, crying that the sky is falling.  Usually, it’s someone frustrated that they already weren’t earning what they wanted from publishing (not the hardest thing to do when gauging buyers’ tastes is little more than a crap shoot anyway) or doesn’t quite understand the technology very well.  (Hey, I like books, too!  No battery life issues, loss of content, etc.)  But the fact is no one wants to watch lousy television.  (For our purposes, lousy is a purely subjective term.  Reality television is all lousy, but I still watch for the quality train wrecks it provides.)  No one wants to hear bad music, at least in the long run.  (Why The Beatles and the Stones endure, but nowhere near as many remember Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods.)  Make good content easy to pay for, and people will pay for it.

It all comes down to writing a good book.  The ones that grab more people will sell more copies.

And let’s be honest here.  Writing careers are purely luck.  You can have all kinds of luck early on, then crash and burn, or spend twenty years becoming an overnight success.  I’ve seen both.

MTM Cincinnati: The Latest On Queen City Square

Since the building reached its top story at the beginning of the year, Queen City Square has irrevocably changed the Cincinnati skyline forever.  Coming into downtown on I-71, the building now appears between the towers of Procter & Gamble headquarters.

This shot is from in front of Chiquita Center on Sycamore and Fifth, a block away from the new building.  As you can see, the tiara is taking shape.

More at the My Town Monday blog.