Sports: Fun and games

Dr. Keith Ablow often appears on TV.

Dr. Keith Ablow often appears on TV.

How come we pay so much attention to sports at the expense of everything else? It's a question we ought to think about now and then.

Television personality Dr. Keith Ablow did just that the other day. He wrote an online commentary on why the behavior of the basketball coach at Rutgers was tolerated for so long before he was suspended and then fired. The reason, he said, was that we have gone way overboard in idolizing winning sports figures even though in the light of everything else that has consequences in the world, who wins a game matters not at all.

Dr. Ablow, 51, is a forensic psychiatrist in Massachusetts and New York who also is an author and appears as a commentator on Fox cable news. Here's one of the things he said about all kinds of sports: "They are fun, entertaining, money-making activities that showcase the human spirit of competition at an exquisite level and that don’t matter to the world, in the long run, when it comes down to it, at all. Not one bit. Not an iota."

Maybe it's natural to lose ourselves in following elite sports when we're otherwise surrounded by many problems that never get solved. But now and then it's worth for devoted fans to remind themselves that sports are fun and games, and that's all. (hh)

Book titles and big names

Clancy, Griffin and Ludlum didn't write these.

Clancy, Griffin and Ludlum? Not quite.

The late Robert B. Parker wrote dozens of splendid detective stories, many of them centered on Boston private eye Spenser. He also wrote three notable westerns. The other day I spotted a new Parker western at the downtown Albany library. How could that be, I briefly wondered, since Mr. Parker died  in 2010.

Turns out that the dust jacket was misleading at first glance. "Robert B. Parker's Ironhorse," it said in big letters. The actual author, Robert Knott, was in much smaller type. The novel featured the same main characters as the other three, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, made famous by the movie "Appaloosa." And it was an entertaining read. But it was not quite the same as genuine Parker.

You may have noticed that this has become common, this practice of putting out new titles under the names of popular writers who have quit writing, enlisted helpers or died. Somebody, for example, is still milking the Bourne phenomenon created by Robert Ludlum. Tom Clancy's name, too, appears on books written at least partly by somebody else.

I suppose there's nothing wrong with exploiting commercial success. Any business based on the written word needs all the help it can get. But you'd think that authors good enough to emulate Parker or the other big names in popular fiction would want to think up characters and story lines of their own. (hh)

Nancy Sturm responds (via Facebook):  I quit reading Robert B. Parker when other names started to appear on the dust jackets.  Per Amazon, there have been four.

A bike idea from SoCal

An illustration from Long Beach's Bike Saturdays.

An illustration from Long Beach's Bike Saturdays.

Want to encourage more people to ride bikes in and around Albany? Check out what "Bike Long Beach" publicizes there, in Southern California.

Not too long ago Jim Lawrence, a member of the Albany Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission, was wondering what else could be done to encourage more routine bike transportation around town. I was thinking of that when I came across a reference on the blog "BikingInLA." The reference was to Bike Saturday in Long Beach. There, the local bicycle advocacy group has arranged for dozens of businesses all over town to offer discounts and other special deals to customers who come on their bikes on Saturdays.

The organization's website has maps showing the locations of all those places, ranging from coffee houses and barber shops to interior decorating stores and anything else you can think of. Each site details the nature of the offer, usually 10 to 20 percent off. Participating businesses have decals, so cyclists can find them even without the map.

Don't tell me -- I know: We're not in California and Albany is not Long Beach. We have nasty weather to worry about, among other things. Still, businesses looking for a gimmick to draw customers might want to check out Long Beach's Bike Saturday. What could it hurt?

Answer to debt limit unveiled


cityhalldoorThis is how the Albany City Council plans to deal with voter approval of the debt limit initiative last month: At a work session on Monday afternoon it will preview the draft of an ordinance which the council could then enact on Wednesday. The outlines of the draft were agreed on -- though not formally -- at an executive session earlier.

The draft accepts the election result but says the debt measure cannot be placed in the charter because it did not get an absolute majority of all city voters. It further declares the council's intention to abide by the terms of the measure while it starts work, with a citizens committee, to draft a new charter amendment to be voted on in November.

The amendment would fix problems with the wording -- especially the word "electors," defined in law as all eligible voters -- because as written, the measure would prevent the city from ever again incurring "full faith and credit" obligations even if voters approve. An absolute majority in favor of a money measure has never been achieved in a local election and is forever out of reach.

You can read the complete ordinance draft in the Monday council agenda on The council's approach looks reasonable -- at least to me -- because it honors the intent of the voters and avoids going to court. (hh)

City Councilor Ray Kopczynski responds: "The council's approach looks reasonable -- at least to me -- because it honors the intent of the voters and avoids going to court." That IS the intent - to avoid having to go to court.  Litigation would take a LOT of time & a LOT of money...  If someone doesn't beat me to it, I will be suggesting that the collaborative work group (as suggested by Tom Cordier) definitely include him to help formulate some of the undefined definitions to try and bring them into the realm of what would be legal as per the Oregon Constitution and what the bond attorney so eloquently outlined in an hour-plus discussion.  As you yourself pointedly asked him that evening, even the re-funding of the water bond issue would not have had the same result subject to the way the current measure requires...

Tom Cordier responds: It appears a decision was reached at the Council's exec. session on 3/27. My understanding is that discussions can be held in private but that decisions are to be made in public. It seems like two competing ordinances should be placed before the Council to show choices available. Because only one is presented it looks like the decision is already made-in exec session.
If the Council promises to abide by the language for an interim period--they should say the measure passed. Unless they do that there is no significant driving force to refer another measure (requiring voter approval of increasing debt including revenue bonds) before the voters in November. That choice should be placed before the Council.

Gun hearing: Did testimony matter?

A native Cuban, now a U.S. citizen, cited freedom as a reason against the bills.

A native Cuban, now a U.S. citizen, cited freedom as a reason against the bills.

You almost have to feel sorry for legislators when they have to sit through endless public hearings even though their minds are made up on the issue at hand. With rare exceptions, witness after witness says pretty much the same thing, and legislators have to sit there and pretend to look interested. Friday's four-hour hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Salem was an example of this.

At issue were four bills restricting the rights of citizens concerning gun ownership. The outcome is hardly in doubt. Democrats signed on to the bills and plan to advance them. Republicans are opposed but don't have the votes to stop them. And yet, a long parade of witnesses felt obligated to make themselves heard.

None of the supporters of the restrictions zeroed in on the central questions: What is the particular problem that these bills are intended to fix? Requiring more background checks would stop gun thieves from doing what? Threatening to make felons of concealed handgun license holders carrying in school is a response to what actual harm? Adding live-fire tests to CHL qualifications would remedy what actual problem?

None of the proposed complications for gun owners has any relevance to the shootings that prompted the bills. But to the backers it doesn't matter. They just want more control. (hh)

Guy March responds: I agree with your comments about the hearings.  I would add:
Judging by the comments by some of these gun control advocates, they really don't know a lot about guns.  That tells me they probably have never been around them nor taught to use and respect them.  What that means is that they are afraid of them.  If they don't know and understand them they fear them and they want to legislate them away.
Sadly we are a society that is afraid of many things.  And we are continually trying to legislate away those things we are afraid of.
Soon it will be against the law to die.
It is easy to be afraid of a chainsaw, if you don't know how to use it and respect it.

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