Friday, March 24, 2006

Choke artist

Who uses it: Sports fans and sportswriters
What it means: Players and teams who regularly lose important games; see Boston Red Sox, 1919-2004 and Chicago Cubs, 1908-present.
How you can use it: When your favorite team doesn't do as well as you expected.

Let's get it straight: Teams in the NCAA basketball tournament cannot be choke artists, at this point. They can blow games, they can disappoint expectations, but they cannot "choke." They've already won too many games, and how can anyone call getting to the Sweet Sixteen a failure?

I'm not in the best of moods this morning. I am panicked about my workload, my computer keeps shorting out, and I've thrown my back out again. Why do these things all seem to happen at once? I've had almost no time for reading anything that wasn't work-related, but one of those things was a very good book.

What I Read This Week

Lawrence Block, All the Flowers are Dying. Block's Matt Scudder books may have been the first "darker" detective novels I read, after plowing through all of Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham. Scudder has aged through the series, and must now be in his mid-60s; he's been sober for many years, and is happily married to Elaine, an ex-call girl. The books, however, remain as dark as ever, and this one is particularly disturbing. Scudder hunts a serial killer who tortured Elaine's best friend to death, and seems determined to wreak vengeance on Scudder himself. The book includes long passages narrated from the killer's point of view, which bothered me a great deal -- I know that was the point, but the almost-loving descriptions of rape, torture and murder are not what I read crime fiction for.

Merle Miller, Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman. Journalist Merle Miller conducted a series of interviews with former President Harry S. Truman, his friends and White House colleagues in preparation for a television series that never aired. Instead, Miller turned the interviews into this wonderful book. Harry Truman never worried about polls or politics. He cared about what was right, he did his research, and he had no desire for the perks of office. Public life never had many men like him, and now seems to have none at all. The Lechners love this book so much that they own two copies, and lent one to me.

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