Monday, April 05, 2010

Unemployment Benefits Cut + Baseball's Back + Poems: Shin Yu Pai

I hate to start on a down note, but today 400,000 Americans will lose their unemployment insurance, because members of the Senate GOP--first Kentucky's former baseball player Jim Bunning (see below), and now Oklahoma's gift to the country, Tom Coburn, MD, who reportedly committed Medicaid fraud and also reportedly performed a tubal ligation on a woman against her will--see fit to play games with their lives. Their hobbyhorse, never once raised during the votes for the unfunded Bush tax cuts, which destroyed the surplus President Bill Clinton left and added over $1 trillion to the deficit, or the rush to send troops to raze and occupy Iraq, or blow money on Medicare Advantage, a multibillion-dollar boondoggle, is that any spending must be "paid for."

As anyone who has ever been unemployed and relies on unemployment insurance knows, this little bit of money can be the only thing keeping a roof over your head, food in your stomach, and your lights on. But to Tom Coburn, Jim Bunning, and others in the GOP, the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people, including their children and elderly relatives, who'll also suffer, doesn't matter.

Won't you join me and urge others in calling Tom Coburn to let him know that he is playing games with people's lives, and you don't like it?

Washington: Main: 202-224-5754
Tulsa: 918-581-7651
Oklahoma City: 405-231-4941

And if you have a Democratic Senator or two, why not call them and tell them to stop whining and take drastic action to stop the suffering of fellow Americans. They can give tax cuts to the richest people at the drop of a hat, but can only cry and rend their garments and complain about the the terrible GOP when people really need help--and the money that's due them. And you can always call GOP Senators, if they represent you, to urge them to put pressure on Coburn to stop his dangerous, cruel games.


Bunning's mention, acrid though it is, provokes another, more pleasant thought: baseball's back. Yes, the national and now an international pastime began last night with the Boston Red Sox--of all teams--defeating the defending World Series Champion New York Yankees 9-7.  Ugh!  I won't read the Red Sox victory as a (bad) omen, especially for the Yankees, who stayed right in the thick of the game, but rather as the stats suggest, as a breakdown by middle-reliever and former starter Chan Ho Park. 161 more games to go, guys, it can only get better.

Now that a baseball team--or a semblance of one--is back in Washington, the president is once again throwing out the first pitch. Barack Obama's inaugural gesture today really stirred up the fans. First, to honor his local team, he donned a Chicago White Sox cap, which hardly pleased the Senators spectators. Then, he threw an eephus pitch that managed to flutter somewhere west of the plate. Now that was an omen!  But it was all in good fun, the Senators faced and, unsurprisingly, were walloped by the Philadelphia Phillies. The Senators, like their football counterparts (with the offensive name, no less), are, once again, a bit of a high-paid mess.

The Saint Louis Cardinals played one of their longstanding divisional rivals, the Cincinnati Reds, and looked like the best American League team in the National League. Cardinals star and reigning NL MVP Albert Pujols hit two home runs, going 4-5 on the day and tying a team record, while catcher Yadier Molina smashed a grand slam in the 9th inning and pitcher Chris Carpenter survived one shaky inning where he also gave up two home runs, leading the Cardinals romped to an 11-6 romp. Here's to hoping that they continue to play like this all season long. Go Cardinals!

Cardinal Albert Pujols, hitting a home run hits a home run in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ball Park on March 5, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The New York Mets' starting pitcher and former Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, one of the best in the game, allowed 1 run in 6 innings, with 5 strikeouts, to trump the Florida Marlin's young 6'7" phenomenon, Josh Johnson. The Mets' 2009 season unfolded like a bad serial, full of unexpected injuries, disaffected players, and a GM who didn't seem to know what he was doing (he still has his job, though), so perhaps after doing penance for releasing Willie Randolph two years ago, they'll turn out to be notably better. Just not good enough to keep the Cards out of the World Series, that is.


(© Kent Barker)
And now, for today's poems, here are two tiny ones by Shin Yu Pai, dealing with sports.  Shin Yu and I share a wonderful publisher, 1913 Press, which published her collection of formally innovative and politically trenchant poems, Sightings: Selected Works [2000-2005], in 2006.  Pai's collection includes lots of poems that also function as visual art, while not exactly being concrete, but here are two, from the section "Unnecessary Roughness," all of which riff off sports themes, clichés and metaphors, that appear to be fairly straightforward, at least in terms of form, while also addressing other issues, with a witty edge, if you read carefully.  (You can hear her reading at Reed College here.)

breakfast of champions

egged on
by the public
that guy owes
me some bacon
served up over
easy with a side
of milquetoast
buttered and laid
in a dish of milk
the one who speaks
softly, gets
first, with
a big stick


play pitcher
or catcher
take popshots
than hit
the showers
drill and suit
up for more
bras and
athletic supporters
fitting in
off sides
everyone's a winner

Copyright © Shin Yu Pai, from Sightings: Collected Poems (2000-2005), 1913 Press, 2006, 2010. All rights reserved.

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